Infomotions, Inc.Tales of Trail and Town / Harte, Bret, 1836-1902



Author: Harte, Bret, 1836-1902
Title: Tales of Trail and Town
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): atherly; lady elfrida; johnny; helen; peter; dick; peter atherly
Contributor(s): Scott-Moncrieff, C. K. (Charles Kenneth), 1889-1930 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 67,966 words (short) Grade range: 10-12 (high school) Readability score: 59 (average)
Identifier: etext2550
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Title: Tales of Trail and Town

Author: Bret Harte

Release Date: May 18, 2006 [EBook #2550]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK TALES OF TRAIL AND TOWN ***




Produced by Donald Lainson





TALES OF TRAIL AND TOWN


By Bret Harte




CONTENTS


THE ANCESTORS OF PETER ATHERLY

TWO AMERICANS

THE JUDGMENT OF BOLINAS PLAIN

THE STRANGE EXPERIENCE OF ALKALI DICK

A NIGHT ON THE DIVIDE

THE YOUNGEST PROSPECTOR IN CALAVERAS

A TALE OF THREE TRUANTS




TALES OF TRAIL AND TOWN




THE ANCESTORS OF PETER ATHERLY


CHAPTER I


It must be admitted that the civilizing processes of Rough and Ready
were not marked by any of the ameliorating conditions of other improved
camps. After the discovery of the famous "Eureka" lead, there was the
usual influx of gamblers and saloon-keepers; but that was accepted as a
matter of course. But it was thought hard that, after a church was built
and a new school erected, it should suddenly be found necessary to have
doors that locked, instead of standing shamelessly open to the criticism
and temptation of wayfarers, or that portable property could no longer
be left out at night in the old fond reliance on universal brotherhood.
The habit of borrowing was stopped with the introduction of more money
into the camp, and the establishment of rates of interest; the poorer
people either took what they wanted, or as indiscreetly bought on
credit. There were better clothes to be seen in its one long straggling
street, but those who wore them generally lacked the grim virtue of the
old pioneers, and the fairer faces that were to be seen were generally
rouged. There was a year or two of this kind of mutation, in which the
youthful barbarism of Rough and Ready might have been said to struggle
with adult civilized wickedness, and then the name itself disappeared.
By an Act of the Legislature the growing town was called "Atherly,"
after the owner of the Eureka mine,--Peter Atherly,--who had given
largess to the town in its "Waterworks" and a "Gin Mill," as the new
Atherly Hotel and its gilded bar-rooms were now called. Even at the last
moment, however, the new title of "Atherly" hung in the balance. The
romantic daughter of the pastor had said that Mr. Atherly should
be called "Atherly of Atherly," an aristocratic title so strongly
suggestive of an innovation upon democratic principles that it was not
until it was discreetly suggested that everybody was still free to call
him "Atherly, late of Rough and Ready," that opposition ceased.

Possibly this incident may have first awakened him to the value of his
name, and some anxiety as to its origin. Roughly speaking, Atherly's
father was only a bucolic emigrant from "Mizzouri," and his mother had
done the washing for the camp on her first arrival. The Atherlys had
suffered on their overland journey from drought and famine, with the
addition of being captured by Indians, who had held them captive for ten
months. Indeed, Mr. Atherly, senior, never recovered from the effects
of his captivity, and died shortly after Mrs. Atherly had given birth
to twins, Peter and Jenny Atherly. This was scant knowledge for Peter
in the glorification of his name through his immediate progenitors; but
"Atherly of Atherly" still sounded pleasantly, and, as the young lady
had said, smacked of old feudal days and honors. It was believed
beyond doubt, even in their simple family records,--the flyleaf of a
Bible,--that Peter Atherly's great-grandfather was an Englishman who
brought over to his Majesty's Virginian possessions his only son, then
a boy. It was not established, however, to what class of deportation
he belonged: whether he was suffering exile from religious or judicial
conviction, or if he were only one of the articled "apprentices"
who largely made up the American immigration of those days. Howbeit,
"Atherly" was undoubtedly an English name, even suggesting respectable
and landed ancestry, and Peter Atherly was proud of it. He looked
somewhat askance upon his Irish and German fellow citizens, and talked
a good deal about "race." Two things, however, concerned him: he was not
in looks certainly like any type of modern Englishman as seen either
on the stage in San Francisco, or as an actual tourist in the mining
regions, and his accent was undoubtedly Southwestern. He was tall and
dark, with deep-set eyes in a singularly immobile countenance; he had
an erect but lithe and sinewy figure even for his thirty odd years,
and might easily have been taken for any other American except for the
single exception that his nose was distinctly Roman, and gave him a
distinguished air. There was a suggestion of Abraham Lincoln (and even
of Don Quixote) in his tall, melancholy figure and length of limb, but
nothing whatever that suggested an Englishman.

It was shortly after the christening of Atherly town that an incident
occurred which at first shook, and then the more firmly established, his
mild monomania. His widowed mother had been for the last two years
an inmate of a private asylum for inebriates, through certain habits
contracted while washing for the camp in the first year of her
widowhood. This had always been a matter of open sympathy to Rough and
Ready; but it was a secret reproach hinted at in Atherly, although
it was known that the rich Peter Atherly kept his mother liberally
supplied, and that both he and his sister "Jinny" or Jenny Atherly
visited her frequently. One day he was telegraphed for, and on going to
the asylum found Mrs. Atherly delirious and raving. Through her son's
liberality she had bribed an attendant, and was fast succumbing to a
private debauch. In the intervals of her delirium she called Peter
by name, talked frenziedly and mysteriously of his "high
connections"--alluded to himself and his sister as being of the
"true breed"--and with a certain vigor of epithet, picked up in the
familiarity of the camp during the days when she was known as "Old Ma'am
Atherly" or "Aunt Sally," declared that they were "no corn-cracking
Hoosiers," "hayseed pikes," nor "northern Yankee scum," and that she
should yet live to see them "holding their own lands again and the lands
of their forefathers." Quieted at last by opiates, she fell into a more
lucid but scarcely less distressing attitude. Recognizing her son again,
as well as her own fast failing condition, she sarcastically thanked
him for coming to "see her off," congratulated him that he would soon be
spared the lie and expense of keeping her here on account of his pride,
under the thin pretext of trying to "cure" her. She knew that Sally
Atherly of Rough and Ready wasn't considered fit company for "Atherly of
Atherly" by his fine new friends. This and much more in a voice mingling
maudlin sentiment with bitter resentment, and with an ominous glitter in
her bloodshot and glairy eyes. Peter winced with a consciousness of the
half-truth of her reproaches, but the curiosity and excitement awakened
by the revelations of her frenzy were greater than his remorse. He said
quickly:--

"You were speaking of father!--of his family--his lands and possessions.
Tell me again!"

"Wot are ye givin' us?" she ejaculated in husky suspicion, opening upon
him her beady eyes, in which the film of death was already gathering.

"Tell me of father,--my father and his family! his
great-grandfather!--the Atherlys, my relations--what you were saying.
What do you know about them?"

"THAT'S all ye wanter know--is it? THAT'S what ye'r' comin' to the old
washer-woman for--is it?" she burst out with the desperation of disgust.
"Well--give it up! Ask me another!"

"But, mother--the old records, you know! The family Bible--what you once
told us--me and Jinny!"

Something gurgled in her throat like a chuckle. With the energy of
malevolence, she stammered: "There wasn't no records--there wasn't no
family Bible! it's all a lie--you hear me! Your Atherly that you're so
proud of was just a British bummer who was kicked outer his family in
England and sent to buzz round in Americky. He honey-fogled me--Sally
Magregor--out of a better family than his'n, in Kansas, and skyugled me
away, but it was a straight out marriage, and I kin prove it. It was
in the St. Louis papers, and I've got it stored away safe enough in
my trunk! You hear me! I'm shoutin'! But he wasn't no old settler in
Mizzouri--he wasn't descended from any settler, either! He was a new man
outer England--fresh caught--and talked down his throat. And he fooled
ME--the darter of an old family that was settled on the right bank
of the Mizzouri afore Dan'l Boone came to Kentucky--with his new
philanderings. Then he broke up, and went all to pieces when we struck
Californy, and left ME--Sally Magregor, whose father had niggers of his
own--to wash for Rough and Ready! THAT'S your Atherly! Take him! I don't
want him--I've done with him! I was done with him long afore--afore"--a
cough checked her utterance,--"afore"--She gasped again, but the words
seemed to strangle in her throat. Intent only on her words and scarcely
heeding her sufferings, Peter was bending over her eagerly, when the
doctor rudely pulled him away and lifted her to a sitting posture. But
she never spoke again. The strongest restoratives quickly administered
only left her in a state of scarcely breathing unconsciousness.

"Is she dying? Can't you bring her to," said the anxious Peter, "if only
for a moment, doctor?"

"I'm thinkin'," said the visiting doctor, an old Scotch army surgeon,
looking at the rich Mr. Atherly with cool, professional contempt, "that
your mother willna do any more washing for me as in the old time, nor
give up her life again to support her bairns. And it isna my eentention
to bring her back to pain for the purposes of geeneral conversation!"

Nor, indeed, did she ever come back to any purpose, but passed away with
her unfinished sentence. And her limbs were scarcely decently composed
by the attendants before Peter was rummaging the trunk in her room for
the paper she had spoken of. It was in an old work-box--a now faded
yellow clipping from a newspaper, lying amidst spoils of cotton thread,
buttons, and beeswax, which he even then remembered to have seen upon
his mother's lap when she superadded the sewing on of buttons to her
washing of the miners' shirts. And his dark and hollow cheek glowed with
gratified sentiment as he read the clipping.

"We hear with regret of the death of Philip Atherly, Esq., of Rough and
Ready, California. Mr. Atherly will be remembered by some of our readers
as the hero of the romantic elopement of Miss Sallie Magregor, daughter
of Colonel 'Bob' Magregor, which created such a stir in well-to-do
circles some thirty years ago. It was known vaguely that the young
couple had 'gone West,'--a then unknown region,--but it seems that
after severe trials and tribulations on the frontier with savages, they
emigrated early to Oregon, and then, on the outbreak of the gold fever,
to California. But it will be a surprise to many to know that it has
just transpired that Mr. Atherly was the second son of Sir Ashley
Atherly, an English baronet, and by the death of his brother might have
succeeded to the property and title."

He remained for some moments looking fixedly at the paper, until the
commonplace paragraph imprinted itself upon his brain as no line of
sage or poet had ever done, and then he folded it up and put it in his
pocket. In his exaltation he felt that even the mother he had never
loved was promoted to a certain respect as his father's wife, although
he was equally conscious of a new resentment against her for her
contemptuous allusions to HIS father, and her evident hopeless inability
to comprehend his position. His mother, he feared, was indeed low!--but
HE was his father's son! Nevertheless, he gave her a funeral at Atherly,
long remembered for its barbaric opulence and display. Thirty carriages,
procured from Sacramento at great expense, were freely offered to his
friends to join in the astounding pageant. A wonderful casket of
iron and silver, brought from San Francisco, held the remains of the
ex-washerwoman of Rough and Ready. But a more remarkable innovation was
the addition of a royal crown to the other ornamentation of the casket.
Peter Atherly's ideas of heraldry were very vague,--Sacramento at that
time offered him no opportunity of knowing what were the arms of the
Atherlys,--and the introduction of the royal crown seemed to satisfy
Peter's mind as to what a crest MIGHT be, while to the ordinary
democratic mind it simply suggested that the corpse was English!
Political criticism being thus happily averted, Mrs. Atherly's body
was laid in the little cemetery, not far away from certain rude wooden
crosses which marked the burial-place of wanderers whose very names were
unknown, and in due time a marble shaft was erected over it. But
when, the next day, the county paper contained, in addition to
the column-and-a-half description of the funeral, the more formal
announcement of the death of "Mrs. Sallie Atherly, wife of the late
Philip Atherly, second son of Sir Ashley Atherly, of England," criticism
and comment broke out. The old pioneers of Rough and Ready felt that
they had been imposed upon, and that in some vague way the unfortunate
woman had made them the victims of a huge practical joke during all
these years. That she had grimly enjoyed their ignorance of her position
they did not doubt. "Why, I remember onct when I was sorter bullyraggin'
her about mixin' up my duds with Doc Simmons's, and sendin' me Whiskey
Dick's old rags, she turned round sudden with a kind of screech, and ran
out into the brush. I reckoned, at the time, that it was either 'drink'
or feelin's, and could hev kicked myself for being sassy to the
old woman, but I know now that all this time that air critter--that
barrownet's daughter-in-law--was just laughin' herself into fits in the
brush! No, sir, she played this yer camp for all it was worth, year in
and out, and we just gave ourselves away like speckled idiots! and now
she's lyin' out thar in the bone yard, and keeps on p'intin' the joke,
and a-roarin' at us in marble."

Even the later citizens in Atherly felt an equal resentment against her,
but from different motives. That her drinking habits and her powerful
vocabulary were all the effect of her aristocratic alliance they never
doubted. And, although it brought the virtues of their own superior
republican sobriety into greater contrast, they felt a scandal at having
been tricked into attending this gilded funeral of dissipated rank.
Peter Atherly found himself unpopular in his own town. The sober who
drank from his free "Waterworks," and the giddy ones who imbibed at
his "Gin Mill," equally criticised him. He could not understand it; his
peculiar predilections had been accepted before, when they were mere
presumptions; why should they not NOW, when they were admitted facts?
He was conscious of no change in himself since the funeral! Yet the
criticism went on. Presently it took the milder but more contagious form
of ridicule. In his own hotel, built with his own money, and in his own
presence, he had heard a reckless frequenter of the bar-room decline
some proffered refreshment on the ground that "he only drank with his
titled relatives." A local humorist, amidst the applause of an admiring
crowd at the post-office window, had openly accused the postmaster of
withholding letters to him from his only surviving brother, "the Dook of
Doncherknow." "The ole dooky never onct missed the mail to let me
know wot's goin' on in me childhood's home," remarked the humorist
plaintively; "and yer's this dod-blasted gov'ment mule of a postmaster
keepin' me letters back!" Letters with pretentious and gilded coats of
arms, taken from the decorated inner lining of cigar-boxes, were posted
to prominent citizens. The neighboring and unregenerated settlement of
Red Dog was more outrageous in its contribution. The Red Dog "Sentinel,"
in commenting on the death of "Haulbowline Tom," a drunken English
man-o'-war's man, said: "It may not be generally known that our
regretted fellow citizen, while serving on H. M. S. Boxer, was secretly
married to Queen Kikalu of the Friendly Group; but, unlike some of
our prosperous neighbors, he never boasted of his royal alliance, and
resisted with steady British pluck any invitation to share the throne.
Indeed, any allusion to the subject affected him deeply. There are those
among us who will remember the beautiful portrait of his royal bride
tattooed upon his left arm with the royal crest and the crossed flags of
the two nations." Only Peter Atherly and his sister understood the sting
inflicted either by accident or design in the latter sentence. Both
he and his sister had some singular hieroglyphic branded on their
arms,--probably a reminiscence of their life on the plains in their
infant Indian captivity. But there was no mistaking the general
sentiment. The criticisms of a small town may become inevasible. Atherly
determined to take the first opportunity to leave Rough and Ready. He
was rich; his property was secure; there was no reason why he should
stay where his family pretensions were a drawback. And a further
circumstance determined his resolution.

He was awaiting his sister in his new house on a little crest above
the town. She had been at the time of her mother's death, and since, a
private boarder in the Sacred Heart Convent at Santa Clara, whence she
had been summoned to the funeral, but had returned the next day. Few
people had noticed in her brother's carriage the veiled figure which
might have belonged to one of the religious orders; still less did they
remember the dark, lank, heavy-browed girl who had sometimes been seen
about Rough and Ready. For she had her brother's melancholy, and greater
reticence, and had continued of her own free will, long after her
girlish pupilage at the convent, to live secluded under its maternal
roof without taking orders. A general suspicion that she was either a
religious "crank," or considered herself too good to live in a mountain
mining town, had not contributed to her brother's popularity. In her
abstraction from worldly ambitions she had, naturally, taken no part
in her brother's family pretensions. He had given her an independent
allowance, and she was supposed to be equally a sharer in his good
fortune. Yet she had suddenly declared her intention of returning
to Atherly, to consult him on affairs of importance. Peter was both
surprised and eager; there was but little affection between them, but,
preoccupied with his one idea, he was satisfied that she wanted to talk
about the family.

But he was amazed, disappointed, and disconcerted. For Jenny Atherly,
the sober recluse of Santa Clara, hidden in her sombre draperies at the
funeral, was no longer to be recognized in the fashionable, smartly but
somewhat over-dressed woman he saw before him. In spite of her large
features and the distinguishing Roman nose, like his own, she looked
even pretty in her excitement. She had left the convent, she was tired
of the life there, she was satisfied that a religious vocation would not
suit her. In brief, she intended to enjoy herself like other women.
If he really felt a pride in the family he ought to take her out, like
other brothers, and "give her a show." He could do it there if he liked,
and she would keep house for him. If he didn't want to, she must have
enough money to keep her fashionably in San Francisco. But she wanted
excitement, and that she WOULD HAVE! She wanted to go to balls,
theatres, and entertainments, and she intended to! Her voice grew quite
high, and her dark cheek glowed with some new-found emotion.

Astounded as he was, Peter succumbed. It was better that she should
indulge her astounding caprice under his roof than elsewhere. It
would not do for the sister of an Atherly to provoke scandal. He gave
entertainments, picnics, and parties, and "Jinny" Atherly plunged into
these mild festivities with the enthusiasm of a schoolgirl. She not only
could dance with feverish energy all night, but next day could mount
a horse--she was a fearless rider--and lead the most accomplished
horsemen. She was a good shot, she walked with the untiring foot of a
coyote, she threaded the woods with the instinct of a pioneer. Peter
regarded her with a singular mingling of astonishment and fear. Surely
she had not learned this at school! These were not the teachings nor the
sports of the good sisters! He once dared to interrogate her regarding
this change in her habits. "I always FELT like it," she answered
quickly, "but I kept it down. I used sometimes to feel that I couldn't
stand it any longer, but must rush out and do something," she said
passionately; "but," she went on with furtive eyes, and a sudden wild
timidity like that of a fawn, "I was afraid! I was afraid IT WAS LIKE
MOTHER! It seemed to me to be HER blood that was rising in me, and I
kept it down,--I didn't want to be like her,--and I prayed and struggled
against it. Did you," she said, suddenly grasping his hand, "ever feel
like that?"

But Peter never had. His melancholy faith in his father's race had
left no thought of his mother's blood mingling with it. "But," he said
gravely, "believing this, why did you change?"

"Because I could hold out no longer. I should have gone crazy. Times I
wanted to take some of those meek nuns, some of those white-faced pupils
with their blue eyes and wavy flaxen hair, and strangle them. I couldn't
strive and pray and struggle any longer THERE, and so I came here to
let myself out! I suppose when I get married--and I ought to, with my
money--it may change me! You don't suppose," she said, with a return of
her wild-animal-like timidity, "it is anything that was in FATHER, in
those ATHERLYS,--do you?"

But Peter had no idea of anything but virtue in the Atherly blood; he
had heard that the upper class of Europeans were fond of field
sports and of hunting; it was odd that his sister should inherit this
propensity and not he. He regarded her more kindly for this evidence of
race. "You think of getting married?" he said more gently, yet with a
certain brotherly doubt that any man could like her enough, even
with her money. "Is there any one here would--suit you?" he added
diplomatically.

"No--I hate them all!" she burst out. "There isn't one I don't despise
for his sickening, foppish, womanish airs."

Nevertheless, it was quite evident that some of the men were attracted
by her singular originality and a certain good comradeship in her ways.
And it was on one of their riding excursions that Peter noticed that she
was singled out by a good-looking, blond-haired young lawyer of the town
for his especial attentions. As the cavalcade straggled in climbing
the mountain, the young fellow rode close to her saddle-bow, and as
the distance lengthened between the other stragglers, they at last were
quite alone. When the trail became more densely wooded, Peter quite
lost sight of them. But when, a few moments later, having lost the
trail himself, they again appeared in the distance before him, he was
so amazed that he unconsciously halted. For the two horses were walking
side by side, and the stranger's arm was round his sister's waist.

Had Peter any sense of humor he might have smiled at this weakness in
his Amazonian sister, but he saw only the serious, practical side of
the situation, with, of course, its inevitable relation to his one
controlling idea. The young man was in good practice, and would have
made an eligible husband to any one else. But was he fit to mate with an
Atherly? What would those as yet unknown and powerful relatives say
to it? At the same time he could not help knowing that "Jinny," in
the eccentricities of her virgin spinsterhood, might be equally
objectionable to them, as she certainly was a severe trial to him here.
If she were off his hands he might be able to prosecute his search for
his relatives with more freedom. After all, there were mesalliances in
all families, and being a woman she was not in the direct line. Instead,
therefore, of spurring forward to join them, he lingered a little until
they passed out of sight, and until he was joined by a companion from
behind. Him, too, he purposely delayed. They were walking slowly,
breathing their mustangs, when his companion suddenly uttered a cry of
alarm, and sprang from his horse. For on the trail before them lay the
young lawyer quite unconscious, with his riderless steed nipping the
young leaves of the underbrush. He was evidently stunned by a fall,
although across his face was a livid welt which might have been caused
by collision with the small elastic limb of a sapling, or a blow from
a riding-whip; happily the last idea was only in Peter's mind. As they
lifted him up he came slowly to consciousness. He was bewildered and
dazed at first, but as he began to speak the color came back freshly to
his face. He could not conceive, he stammered, what had happened. He
was riding with Miss Atherly, and he supposed his horse had slipped upon
some withered pine needles and thrown him! A spasm of pain crossed his
face suddenly, and he lifted his hand to the top of his head. Was he
hurt THERE? No, but perhaps his hair, which was flowing and curly, had
caught in the branches--like Absalom's! He tried to smile, and even
begged them to assist him to his horse that he might follow his fair
companion, who would be wondering where he was; but Peter, satisfied
that he had received no serious injury, hurriedly enjoined him to stay,
while he himself would follow his sister. Putting spurs to his horse,
he succeeded, in spite of the slippery trail, in overtaking her near
the summit. At the sound of his horse's hoofs she wheeled quickly, came
dashing furiously towards him, and only pulled up at the sound of his
voice. But she had not time to change her first attitude and expression,
which was something which perplexed and alarmed him. Her long lithe
figure was half crouching, half clinging to the horse's back, her
loosened hair flying over her shoulders, her dark eyes gleaming with an
odd nymph-like mischief. Her white teeth flashed as she recognized
him, but her laugh was still mocking and uncanny. He took refuge in
indignation.

"What has happened?" he said sharply.

"The fool tried to kiss me!" she said simply. "And I--I--let out at
him--like mother!"

Nevertheless, she gave him one of those shy, timid glances he had
noticed before, and began coiling something around her fingers, with
a suggestion of coy embarrassment, indescribably inconsistent with her
previous masculine independence.

"You might have killed him," said Peter angrily.

"Perhaps I might! OUGHT I have killed him, Peter?" she said anxiously,
yet with the same winning, timid smile. If she had not been his sister,
he would have thought her quite handsome.

"As it is," he said impetuously, "you have made a frightful scandal
here."

"HE won't say anything about it--will he?" she inquired shyly, still
twisting the something around her finger.

Peter did not reply; perhaps the young lawyer really loved her and would
keep her secret! But he was vexed, and there was something maniacal in
her twisting fingers. "What have you got there?" he said sharply.

She shook the object in the air before her with a laugh. "Only a lock of
his hair," she said gayly; "but I didn't CUT it off!"

"Throw it away, and come here!" he said angrily.

But she only tucked the little blond curl into her waist belt and shook
her head. He urged his horse forward, but she turned and fled, laughing
as he pursued her. Being the better rider she could easily evade him
whenever he got too near, and in this way they eventually reached the
town and their house long before their companions. But she was far
enough ahead of her brother to be able to dismount and hide her trophy
with childish glee before he arrived.

She was right in believing that her unfortunate cavalier would make no
revelation of her conduct, and his catastrophe passed as an accident.
But Peter could not disguise the fact that much of his unpopularity
was shared by his sister. The matrons of Atherly believed that she was
"fast," and remembered more distinctly than ever the evil habits of her
mother. That she would, in the due course of time, "take to drink," they
never doubted. Her dancing was considered outrageous in its unfettered
freedom, and her extraordinary powers of endurance were looked upon as
"masculine" by the weaker girls whose partners she took from them. She
reciprocally looked down upon them, and made no secret of her contempt
for their small refinements and fancies. She affected only the society
of men, and even treated them with a familiarity that was both fearless
and scornful. Peter saw that it was useless to face the opposition;
Miss Atherly did not seem to encourage the renewal of the young lawyer's
attentions, although it was evident that he was still attracted by her,
nor did she seem to invite advances from others. He must go away--and
he would have to take her with him. It seemed ridiculous that a woman of
thirty, of masculine character, should require a chaperon in a brother
of equal age; but Peter knew the singular blending of childlike
ignorance with this Amazonian quality. He had made his arrangements
for an absence from Atherly of three or four years, and they departed
together. The young fair-haired lawyer came to the stage-coach office to
see them off. Peter could detect no sentiment in his sister's familiar
farewell of her unfortunate suitor. At New York, however, it was
arranged that "Jinny" should stay with some friends whom they had made
en route, and that, if she wished, she could come to Europe later, and
join him in London.

Thus relieved of one, Peter Atherly of Atherly started on his cherished
quest of his other and more remote relations.


CHAPTER II


Peter Atherly had been four months in England, but knew little of the
country until one summer afternoon when his carriage rolled along the
well-ordered road between Nonningsby Station and Ashley Grange.

In that four months he had consulted authorities, examined records,
visited the Heralds' College, written letters, and made a few friends. A
rich American, tracing his genealogical tree, was not a new thing--even
in that day--in London; but there was something original and simple in
his methods, and so much that was grave, reserved, and un-American in
his personality, that it awakened interest. A recognition that he was a
foreigner, but a puzzled doubt, however, of his exact nationality, which
he found everywhere, at first pained him, but he became reconciled to
it at about the same time that his English acquaintances abandoned their
own reserve and caution before the greater reticence of this melancholy
American, and actually became the questioners! In this way his quest
became known only as a disclosure of his own courtesy, and offers
of assistance were pressed eagerly upon him. That was why Sir Edward
Atherly found himself gravely puzzled, as he sat with his family
solicitor one morning in the library of Ashley Grange.

"Humph!" said Sir Edward. "And you say he has absolutely no other
purpose in making these inquiries?"

"Positively none," returned the solicitor. "He is even willing to sign a
renunciation of any claim which might arise out of this information. It
is rather a singular case, but he seems to be a rich man and quite able
to indulge his harmless caprices."

"And you are quite sure he is Philip's son?"

"Quite, from the papers he brings me. Of course I informed him that
even if he should be able to establish a legal marriage he could expect
nothing as next of kin, as you had children of your own. He seemed to
know that already, and avowed that his only wish was to satisfy his own
mind."

"I suppose he wants to claim kinship and all that sort of thing for
society's sake?"

"I do not think so," said the solicitor dryly. "I suggested an interview
with you, but he seemed to think it quite unnecessary, if I could give
him the information he required."

"Ha!" said Sir Edward promptly, "we'll invite him here. Lady Atherly can
bring in some people to see him. Is he--ahem--What is he like? The usual
American, I suppose?"

"Not at all. Quite foreign-looking--dark, and rather like an Italian.
There is no resemblance to Mr. Philip," he said, glancing at the
painting of a flaxen-haired child fondling a greyhound under the elms of
Ashley Park.

"Ah! Yes, yes! Perhaps the mother was one of those Southern creoles, or
mulattoes," said Sir Edward with an Englishman's tolerant regard for
the vagaries of people who were clearly not English; "they're rather
attractive women, I hear."

"I think you do quite well to be civil to him," said the solicitor. "He
seems to take an interest in the family, and being rich, and apparently
only anxious to enhance the family prestige, you ought to know him. Now,
in reference to those mortgages on Appleby Farm, if you could get"--

"Yes, yes!" said Sir Edward quickly; "we'll have him down here; and, I
say! YOU'LL come too?"

The solicitor bowed. "And, by the way," continued Sir Edward, "there was
a girl too,--wasn't there? He has a sister, I believe?"

"Yes, but he has left her in America."

"Ah, yes!--very good--yes!--of course. We'll have Lord Greyshott and
Sir Roger and old Lady Everton,--she knows all about Sir Ashley and the
family. And--er--is he young or old?"

"About thirty, I should say, Sir Edward."

"Ah, well! We'll have Lady Elfrida over from the Towers."

Had Peter known of these preparations he might have turned back to
Nonningsby without even visiting the old church in Ashley Park, which
he had been told held the ashes of his ancestors. For during these four
months the conviction that he was a foreigner and that he had little or
nothing in common with things here had been clearly forced upon him. He
could recognize some kinship in the manners and customs of the people to
those he had known in the West and on the Atlantic coast, but not to his
own individuality, and he seemed even more a stranger here--where he had
expected to feel the thrill of consanguinity--than in the West. He
had accepted the invitation of the living Atherly for the sake of the
Atherlys long dead and forgotten. As the great quadrangle of stone
and ivy lifted itself out of the park, he looked longingly towards the
little square tower which peeped from between the yews nearer the road.
As the carriage drove up to the carved archway whence so many Atherlys
had issued into the world, he could not believe that any of his blood
had gone forth from it, or, except himself, had ever entered it before.
Once in the great house he felt like a prisoner as he wandered through
the long corridors to his room; even the noble trees beyond his
mullioned windows seemed of another growth than those he had known.

There was no doubt that he created a sensation at Ashley Grange, not
only from his singular kinship, but from his striking individuality. The
Atherlys and their guests were fascinated and freely admiring. His very
originality, which prevented them from comparing him with any English
or American standard of excellence, gave them a comfortable assurance
of safety in their admiration. His reserve, his seriousness, his
simplicity, very unlike their own, and yet near enough to suggest a
delicate flattery, was in his favor. So was his naive frankness in
regard to his status in the family, shown in the few words of greeting
with Sir Ashley, and in his later simple yet free admissions regarding
his obscure youth, his former poverty, and his present wealth. He
boasted of neither; he was disturbed by neither. Standing alone, a
stranger, for the first time in an assemblage of distinguished and
titled men and women, he betrayed no consciousness; surrounded for the
first time by objects which he knew his wealth could not buy, he showed
the most unmistakable indifference,--the indifference of temperament.
The ladies vied with each other to attack this unimpressible
nature,--this profound isolation from external attraction. They
followed him about, they looked into his dark, melancholy eyes; it was
impossible, they thought, that he could continue this superb acting
forever. A glance, a smile, a burst of ingenuous confidence, a covert
appeal to his chivalry would yet catch him tripping. But the melancholy
eyes that had gazed at the treasures of Ashley Grange and the
opulent ease of its guests without kindling, opened to their first
emotion,--wonder! At which Lady Elfrida, who had ingenuously admired
him, hated him a little, as the first step towards a kindlier feeling.

The next day, having declared his intention of visiting Ashley Church,
and, as frankly, his intention of going there alone, he slipped out in
the afternoon and made his way quietly through the park to the square
ivied tower he had first seen. In this tranquil level length of the wood
there was the one spot, the churchyard, where, oddly enough, the green
earth heaved into little billows as if to show the turbulence of that
life which those who lay below them had lately quitted. It was a
relief to the somewhat studied and formal monotony of the well-ordered
woodland,--every rood, of which had been paced by visitors, keepers, or
poachers,--to find those decrepit and bending tombstones, lurching
at every angle, or deeply sinking into the green sea of forgetfulness
around them. All this, and the trodden paths of the villagers towards
that common place of meeting, struck him as being more human than
anything he had left behind him at the Grange.

He entered the ivy-grown porch and stared for a moment at the half-legal
official parochial notices posted on the oaken door,--his first
obtrusive intimation of the combination of church and state,--and
hesitated. He was not prepared to find that this last resting-place of
his people had something to do with taxes and tithes, and that a certain
material respectability and security attended his votive sigh. God and
the reigning sovereign of the realm preserved a decorous alliance in the
royal arms that appeared above the official notices. Presently he pushed
open the door gently and entered the nave. For a moment it seemed to him
as if the arched gloom of the woods he had left behind was repeated
in the dim aisle and vaulted roof; there was an earthy odor, as if the
church itself, springing from the fertilizing dust below, had taken root
in the soil; the chequers of light from the faded stained-glass windows
fell like the flicker of leaves on the pavement. He paused before the
cold altar, and started, for beside him lay the recumbent figure of
a warrior pillowed on his helmet with the paraphernalia of his trade
around him. A sudden childish memory of the great Western plains, and
the biers of the Indian "braves" raised on upright poles against the
staring sky and above the sunbaked prairie, rushed upon him. There,
too, had lain the weapons of the departed chieftain; there, too, lay the
Indian's "faithful hound," here simulated by the cross-legged
crusader's canine effigy. And now, strangest of all, he found that this
unlooked-for recollection and remembrance thrilled him more at that
moment than the dead before him. Here they rested,--the Atherlys of
centuries; recumbent in armor or priestly robes, upright in busts that
were periwigged or hidden in long curls, above the marble record of
their deeds and virtues. Some of these records were in Latin,--an
unknown tongue to Peter,--some in a quaint English almost as
unintelligible; but none as foreign to him as the dead themselves. Their
banners waved above his head; their voices filled the silent church, but
fell upon his vacant eye and duller ear. He was none of them.

Presently he was conscious of a footstep, so faint, so subtle, that it
might have come from a peregrinating ghost. He turned quickly and saw
Lady Elfrida, half bold, yet half frightened, halting beside a pillar
of the chancel. But there was nothing of the dead about her: she was
radiating and pulsating with the uncompromising and material freshness
of English girlhood. The wild rose in the hedgerow was not more tangible
than her cheek, nor the summer sky more clearly cool and blue than her
eyes. The vigor of health and unfettered freedom of limb was in her
figure from her buckled walking-shoe to her brown hair topped by a
sailor hat. The assurance and contentment of a well-ordered life, of
secured position and freedom from vain anxieties or expectations, were
visible in every line of her refined, delicate, and evenly quiescent
features. And yet Lady Elfrida, for the first time in her girlhood, felt
a little nervous.

Yet she was frank, too, with the frankness of those who have no thought
of being misunderstood. She said she had come there out of curiosity to
see how he would "get on" with his ancestors. She had been watching him
from the chancel ever since he came,--and she was disappointed. As far
as emotion went she thought he had the advantage of the stoniest and
longest dead of them all. Perhaps he did not like them? But he must be
careful what he SAID, for some of her own people were there,--manifestly
this one. (She put the toe of her buckled shoe on the crusader Peter had
just looked at.) And then there was another in the corner. So she had a
right to come there as well as he,--and she could act as cicerone! This
one was a De Brecy, one of King John's knights, who married an Atherly.
(She swung herself into a half-sitting posture on the effigy of the
dead knight, composed her straight short skirt over her trim ankles,
and looked up in Peter's dark face.) That would make them some kind of
relations,--wouldn't it? He must come over to Bentley Towers and see the
rest of the De Brecys in the chapel there to-morrow. Perhaps there might
be some he liked better, and who looked more like him. For there was no
one here or at the Grange who resembled him in the least.

He assented to the truth of this with such grave, disarming courtesy,
and yet with such undisguised wonder,--as she appeared to talk with
greater freedom to a stranger than an American girl would,--that she at
once popped off the crusader, and accompanied him somewhat more demurely
around the church. Suddenly she stopped with a slight exclamation.

They had halted before a tablet to the memory of a later Atherly,
an officer of his Majesty's 100th Foot, who was killed at Braddock's
defeat. The tablet was supported on the one side by a weeping Fame,
and on the other by a manacled North American Indian. She stammered and
said: "You see there are other Atherlys who went to America even before
your father," and then stopped with a sense of having made a slip.

A wild and inexplicable resentment against this complacent historical
outrage suddenly took possession of Peter. He knew that his rage was
inconsistent with his usual calm, but he could not help it! His swarthy
cheek glowed, his dark eyes flashed, he almost trembled with excitement
as he hurriedly pointed out to Lady Elfrida that the Indians were
VICTORIOUS in that ill-fated expedition of the British forces, and that
the captive savage was an allegorical lie. So swift and convincing was
his emotion that the young girl, knowing nothing of the subject and
caring less, shared his indignation, followed him with anxious eyes, and
their hands for an instant touched in innocent and generous sympathy.
And then--he knew not how or why--a still more wild and terrible idea
sprang up in his fancy. He knew it was madness, yet for a moment he
could only stand and grapple with it silently and breathlessly. It
was to seize this young and innocent girl, this witness of his
disappointment, this complacent and beautiful type of all they valued
here, and bear her away--a prisoner, a hostage--he knew not why--on a
galloping horse in the dust of the prairie--far beyond the seas! It was
only when he saw her cheek flush and pale, when he saw her staring at
him with helpless, frightened, but fascinated eyes,--the eyes of the
fluttering bird under the spell of the rattlesnake,--that he drew his
breath and turned bewildered away. "And do you know, dear," she said
with naive simplicity to her sister that evening, "that although he was
an American, and everybody says that they don't care at all for those
poor Indians, he was so magnanimous in his indignation that I fancied
he looked like one of Cooper's heroes himself rather than an Atherly. It
was such a stupid thing for me to show him that tomb of Major Atherly,
you know, who fought the Americans,--didn't he?--or was it later?--but I
quite forgot he was an American." And with this belief in her mind, and
in the high expiation of a noble nature, she forbore her characteristic
raillery, and followed him meekly, manacled in spirit like the
allegorical figure, to the church porch, where they separated, to meet
on the morrow. But that morrow never came.

For late in the afternoon a cable message reached him from California
asking him to return to accept a nomination to Congress from his own
district. It determined his resolution, which for a moment at the church
porch had wavered under the bright eyes of Lady Elfrida. He telegraphed
his acceptance, hurriedly took leave of his honestly lamenting kinsman,
followed his dispatch to London, and in a few days was on the Atlantic.

How he was received in California, how he found his sister married to
the blond lawyer, how he recovered his popularity and won his election,
are details that do not belong to this chronicle of his quest. And that
quest seems to have terminated forever with his appearance at Washington
to take his seat as Congressman.

It was the night of a levee at the White House. The East Room was
crowded with smartly dressed men and women of the capital, quaintly
simple legislators from remote States in bygone fashions, officers in
uniform, and the diplomatic circle blazing with orders. The invoker
of this brilliant assembly stood in simple evening dress near the
door,--unattended and hedged by no formality. He shook the hand of
the new Congressman heartily, congratulated him by name, and turned
smilingly to the next comer. Presently there was a slight stir at one
of the opposite doors, the crowd fell back, and five figures stalked
majestically into the centre of the room. They were the leading chiefs
of an Indian reservation coming to pay their respects to their
"Great Father," the President. Their costumes were a mingling of the
picturesque with the grotesque; of tawdriness with magnificence; of
artificial tinsel and glitter with the regal spoils of the chase; of
childlike vanity with barbaric pride. Yet before these the glittering
orders and ribbons of the diplomats became dull and meaningless, the
uniforms of the officers mere servile livery. Their painted, immobile
faces and plumed heads towered with grave dignity above the meaner
crowd; their inscrutable eyes returned no response to the timid
glances directed towards them. They stood by themselves, alone and
impassive,--yet their presence filled the room with the sense of kings.
The unostentatious, simple republican court suddenly seemed to have
become royal. Even the interpreter who stood between their remote
dignity and the nearer civilized world acquired the status of a court
chamberlain.

When their "Great Father," apparently the less important personage, had
smilingly received them, a political colleague approached Peter and took
his arm. "Gray Eagle would like to speak with you. Come on! Here's your
chance! You may be put on the Committee on Indian Relations, and pick up
a few facts. Remember we want a firm policy; no more palaver about the
'Great Father' and no more blankets and guns! You know what we used to
say out West, 'The only "Good Indian" is a dead one.' So wade in, and
hear what the old plug hat has to say."

Peter permitted himself to be led to the group. Even at that moment he
remembered the figure of the Indian on the tomb at Ashley Grange, and
felt a slight flash of satisfaction over the superior height and bearing
of Gray Eagle.

"How!" said Gray Eagle. "How!" said the other four chiefs. "How!"
repeated Peter instinctively. At a gesture from Gray Eagle the
interpreter said: "Let your friend stand back; Gray Eagle has nothing to
say to him. He wishes to speak only with you."

Peter's friend reluctantly withdrew, but threw a cautioning glance
towards him. "Ugh!" said Gray Eagle. "Ugh!" said the other chiefs. A few
guttural words followed to the interpreter, who turned, and facing Peter
with the monotonous impassiveness which he had caught from the chiefs,
said: "He says he knew your father. He was a great chief,--with many
horses and many squaws. He is dead."

"My father was an Englishman,--Philip Atherly!" said Peter, with an odd
nervousness creeping over him.

The interpreter repeated the words to Grey Eagle, who, after a guttural
"Ugh!" answered in his own tongue.

"He says," continued the interpreter with a slight shrug, yet relapsing
into his former impassiveness, "that your father was a great chief,
and your mother a pale face, or white woman. She was captured with an
Englishman, but she became the wife of the chief while in captivity. She
was only released before the birth of her children, but a year or two
afterwards she brought them as infants to see their father,--the Great
Chief,--and to get the mark of their tribe. He says you and your sister
are each marked on the left arm."

Then Gray Eagle opened his mouth and uttered his first English sentence.
"His father, big Injin, take common white squaw! Papoose no good,--too
much white squaw mother, not enough big Injin father! Look! He big man,
but no can bear pain! Ugh!"

The interpreter turned in time to catch Peter. He had fainted.


CHAPTER III


A hot afternoon on the plains. A dusty cavalcade of United States
cavalry and commissary wagons, which from a distance preserved a certain
military precision of movement, but on nearer view resolved itself into
straggling troopers in twos and fours interspersed between the wagons,
two noncommissioned officers and a guide riding ahead, who had already
fallen into the cavalry slouch, but off to the right, smartly erect and
cadet-like, the young lieutenant in command. A wide road that had the
appearance of being at once well traveled and yet deserted, and that,
although well defined under foot, still seemed to disappear and lose
itself a hundred feet ahead in the monotonous level. A horizon that
in that clear, dry, hazeless atmosphere never mocked you, yet never
changed, but kept its eternal rim of mountains at the same height and
distance from hour to hour and day to day. Dust--a parching alkaline
powder that cracked the skin--everywhere, clinging to the hubs and
spokes of the wheels, without being disturbed by movement, incrusting
the cavalryman from his high boots to the crossed sabres of his cap;
going off in small puffs like explosions under the plunging hoofs of the
horses, but too heavy to rise and follow them. A reeking smell of horse
sweat and boot leather that lingered in the road long after the train
had passed. An external silence broken only by the cough of a jaded
horse in the suffocating dust, or the cracking of harness leather.
Within one of the wagons that seemed a miracle of military neatness and
methodical stowage, a lazy conversation carried on by a grizzled driver
and sunbrowned farrier.

"'Who be you?' sezee. 'I'm Philip Atherly, a member of Congress,' sez
the long, dark-complected man, sezee, 'and I'm on a commission
for looking into this yer Injin grievance,' sezee. 'You may be God
Almighty,' sez Nebraska Bill, sezee, 'but you look a d--d sight
more like a hoss-stealin' Apache, and we don't want any of your
psalm-singing, big-talkin' peacemakers interferin' with our ways of
treatin' pizen,--you hear me? I'm shoutin',' sezee. With that the
dark-complected man's eyes began to glisten, and he sorter squirmed all
over to get at Bill, and Bill outs with his battery.--Whoa, will ye;
what's up with YOU now?" The latter remark was directed to the young
spirited near horse he was driving, who was beginning to be strangely
excited.

"What happened then?" said the farrier lazily.

"Well," continued the driver, having momentarily quieted his horse, "I
reckoned it was about time for me to wheel into line, for fellers of the
Bill stripe, out on the plains, would ez leave plug a man in citizen's
clothes, even if he was the President himself, as they would drop on
an Injin or a nigger. 'Look here, Bill,' sez I, 'I'm escortin' this
stranger under gov'ment orders, and I'm responsible for him. I ain't
allowed to waste gov'ment powder and shot on YOUR kind onless I've
orders, but if you'll wait till I strip off this shell* I'll lam the
stuffin' outer ye, afore the stranger.' With that Bill just danced with
rage, but dassent fire, for HE knew, and I knew, that if he'd plugged me
he'd been a dead frontiersman afore the next mornin'."

     * Cavalry jacket.

"But you'd have had to give him up to the authorities, and a jury of his
own kind would have set him free."

"Not much! If you hadn't just joined, you'd know that ain't the way o'
30th Cavalry," returned the driver. "The kernel would have issued his
orders to bring in Bill dead or alive, and the 30th would have managed
to bring him in DEAD! Then your jury might have sat on him! Tell you
what, chaps of the Bill stripe don't care overmuch to tackle the yaller
braid."*

     * Characteristic trimming of cavalry jacket.

"But what's this yer Congressman interferin' for, anyway?"

"He's a rich Californian. Thinks he's got a 'call,' I reckon, to look
arter Injins, just as them Abolitionists looked arter slaves. And get
hated just as they was by the folks here,--and as WE are, too, for the
matter of that."

"Well, I dunno," rejoined the farrier, "it don't seem nateral for white
men to quarrel with each other about the way to treat an Injin, and that
Injin lyin' in ambush to shoot 'em both. And ef gov'ment would only make
up its mind how to treat 'em, instead of one day pretendin' to be
their 'Great Father' and treatin' them like babies, and the next makin'
treaties with 'em like as they wos forriners, and the next sendin' out
a handful of us to lick ten thousand of them--Wot's the use of ONE
regiment--even two--agin a nation--on their own ground?"

"A nation,--and on their own ground,--that's just whar you've hit it,
Softy. That's the argument of that Congressman Atherly, as I've heard
him talk with the kernel."

"And what did the kernel say?"

"The kernel reckoned it was his business to obey orders,--and so should
you. So shut your head! If ye wanted to talk about gov'ment ye might
say suthin' about its usin' us to convoy picnics and excursion parties
around, who come out here to have a day's shootin', under some big-wig
of a political boss or a railroad president, with a letter to the
general. And WE'RE told off to look arter their precious skins, and
keep the Injins off 'em,--and they shootin' or skeerin' off the Injins'
nat'ral game, and our provender! Darn my skin ef there'll be much to
scout for ef this goes on. And b'gosh!--of they aren't now ringin' in
a lot of titled forriners to hunt 'big game,' as they call it,--Lord
This-and-That and Count So-and-So,--all of 'em with letters to the
general from the Washington cabinet to show 'hospitality,' or from
millionaires who've bin hobnobbin' with 'em in the old country. And darn
my skin ef some of 'em ain't bringin' their wives and sisters along too.
There was a lord and lady passed through here under escort last week,
and we're goin' to pick up some more of 'em at Fort Biggs tomorrow,--and
I reckon some of us will be told off to act as ladies' maids or
milliners. Nothin' short of a good Injin scare, I reckon, would send
them and us about our reg'lar business. Whoa, then, will ye? At it
again, are ye? What's gone of the d--d critter?"

Here the fractious near horse was again beginning to show signs of
disturbance and active terror. His quivering nostrils were turned
towards the wind, and he almost leaped the centre pole in his frantic
effort to avoid it. The eyes of the two men were turned instinctively in
that direction. Nothing was to be seen,--the illimitable plain and
the sinking sun were all that met the eye. But the horse continued to
struggle, and the wagon stopped. Then it was discovered that the horse
of an adjacent trooper was also laboring under the same mysterious
excitement, and at the same moment wagon No. 3 halted. The infection
of some inexplicable terror was spreading among them. Then two
non-commissioned officers came riding down the line at a sharp canter,
and were joined quickly by the young lieutenant, who gave an order.
The trumpeter instinctively raised his instrument to his lips, but was
stopped by another order.

And then, as seen by a distant observer, a singular spectacle was
unfolded. The straggling train suddenly seemed to resolve itself into a
large widening circle of horsemen, revolving round and partly hiding
the few heavy wagons that were being rapidly freed from their struggling
teams. These, too, joined the circle, and were driven before the
whirling troopers. Gradually the circle seemed to grow smaller under the
"winding-up" of those evolutions, until the horseless wagons reappeared
again, motionless, fronting the four points of the compass, thus making
the radii of a smaller inner circle, into which the teams of the wagons
as well as the troopers' horses were closely "wound up" and densely
packed together in an immovable mass. As the circle became smaller the
troopers leaped from their horses,--which, however, continued to blindly
follow each other in the narrower circle,--and ran to the wagons,
carbines in hand. In five minutes from the time of giving the order
the straggling train was a fortified camp, the horses corralled in the
centre, the dismounted troopers securely posted with their repeating
carbines in the angles of the rude bastions formed by the deserted
wagons, and ready for an attack. The stampede, if such it was, was
stopped.

And yet no cause for it was to be seen! Nothing in earth or sky
suggested a reason for this extraordinary panic, or the marvelous
evolution that suppressed it. The guide, with three men in open order,
rode out and radiated across the empty plain, returning as empty of
result. In an hour the horses were sufficiently calmed and fed, the camp
slowly unwound itself, the teams were set to and were led out of the
circle, and as the rays of the setting sun began to expand fanlike
across the plain the cavalcade moved on. But between them and the
sinking sun, and visible through its last rays, was a faint line of haze
parallel with their track. Yet even this, too, quickly faded away.

Had the guide, however, penetrated half a mile further to the west
he would have come upon the cause of the panic, and a spectacle more
marvelous than that he had just witnessed. For the illimitable plain
with its monotonous prospect was far from being level; a hundred yards
further on he would have slowly and imperceptibly descended into
a depression nearly a mile in width. Here he not only would have
completely lost sight of his own cavalcade, but have come upon another
thrice its length. For here was a trailing line of jog-trotting dusky
shapes, some crouching on dwarf ponies half their size, some trailing
lances, lodge-poles, rifles, women and children after them, all moving
with a monotonous rhythmic motion as marked as the military precision
of the other cavalcade, and always on a parallel line with it. They had
done so all day, keeping touch and distance by stealthy videttes that
crept and crawled along the imperceptible slope towards the unconscious
white men. It was, no doubt, the near proximity of one of those watchers
that had touched the keen scent of the troopers' horses.

The moon came up; the two cavalcades, scarcely a mile apart, moved on
in unison together. Then suddenly the dusky caravan seemed to arise,
stretch itself out, and swept away like a morning mist towards the west.
The bugles of Fort Biggs had just rung out.

*****

Peter Atherly was up early the next morning pacing the veranda of the
commandant's house at Fort Biggs. It had been his intention to visit
the new Indian Reservation that day, but he had just received a letter
announcing an unexpected visit from his sister, who wished to join him.
He had never told her the secret of their Indian paternity, as it had
been revealed to him from the scornful lips of Gray Eagle a year ago;
he knew her strangely excitable nature; besides, she was a wife now, and
the secret would have to be shared with her husband. When he himself
had recovered from the shock of the revelation, two things had impressed
themselves upon his reserved and gloomy nature: a horror of his previous
claim upon the Atherlys, and an infinite pity and sense of duty towards
his own race. He had devoted himself and his increasing wealth to this
one object; it seemed to him at times almost providential that his
position as a legislator, which he had accepted as a whim or fancy,
should have given him this singular opportunity.

Yet it was not an easy task or an enviable position. He was obliged to
divorce himself from his political party as well as keep clear of the
wild schemes of impractical enthusiasts, too practical "contractors,"
and the still more helpless bigotry of Christian civilizers, who would
have regenerated the Indian with a text which he did not understand
and they were unable to illustrate by example. He had expected the
opposition of lawless frontiersmen and ignorant settlers--as roughly
indicated in the conversation already recorded; indeed he had felt
it difficult to argue his humane theories under the smoking roof of
a raided settler's cabin, whose owner, however, had forgotten his
own repeated provocations, or the trespass of which he was proud. But
Atherly's unaffected and unobtrusive zeal, his fixity of purpose,
his undoubted courage, his self-abnegation, and above all the gentle
melancholy and half-philosophical wisdom of this new missionary, won
him the respect and assistance of even the most callous or the most
skeptical of officials. The Secretary of the Interior had given him
carte blanche; the President trusted him, and it was said had granted
him extraordinary powers. Oddly enough it was only his own Californian
constituency, who had once laughed at what they deemed his early
aristocratic pretensions, who now found fault with his democratic
philanthropy. That a man who had been so well received in England--the
news of his visit to Ashley Grange had been duly recorded--should sink
so low as "to take up with the Injins" of his own country galled their
republican pride. A few of his personal friends regretted that he had
not brought back from England more conservative and fashionable graces,
and had not improved his opportunities. Unfortunately there was no
essentially English policy of trusting aborigines that they knew of.

In his gloomy self-scrutiny he had often wondered if he ought not to
openly proclaim his kinship with the despised race, but he was always
deterred by the thought of his sister and her husband, as well as by the
persistent doubt whether his advocacy of Indian rights with his fellow
countrymen would be as well served by such a course. And here again he
was perplexed by a singular incident of his early missionary efforts
which he had at first treated with cold surprise, but to which later
reflection had given a new significance. After Gray Eagle's revelation
he had made a pilgrimage to the Indian country to verify the statements
regarding his dead father,--the Indian chief Silver Cloud. Despite
the confusion of tribal dialects he was amazed to find that the Indian
tongue came back to him almost as a forgotten boyish memory, so that
he was soon able to do without an interpreter; but not until that
functionary, who knew his secret, appeared one day as a more significant
ambassador. "Gray Eagle says if you want truly to be a brother to his
people you must take a wife among them. He loves you--take one of his!"
Peter, through whose veins--albeit of mixed blood--ran that Puritan ice
so often found throughout the Great West, was frigidly amazed. In
vain did the interpreter assure him that the wife in question, Little
Daybreak, was a wife only in name, a prudent reserve kept by Gray
Eagle in the orphan daughter of a brother brave. But Peter was adamant.
Whatever answer the interpreter returned to Gray Eagle he never knew.
But to his alarm he presently found that the Indian maiden Little
Daybreak had been aware of Gray Eagle's offer, and had with pathetic
simplicity already considered herself Peter's spouse. During his stay
at the encampment he found her sitting before his lodge every morning.
A girl of sixteen in years, a child of six in intellect, she flashed
her little white teeth upon him when he lifted his tent flap, content
to receive his grave, melancholy bow, or patiently trotted at his side
carrying things he did not want, which she had taken from the lodge.
When he sat down to work, she remained seated at a distance, looking at
him with glistening beady eyes like blackberries set in milk, and softly
scratching the little bare brown ankle of one foot with the turned-in
toes of the other, after an infantine fashion. Yet after he had left--a
still single man, solely though his interpreter's diplomacy, as he
always believed--he was very worried as to the wisdom of his course.
Why should he not in this way ally himself to his unfortunate race
irrevocably? Perhaps there was an answer somewhere in his consciousness
which he dared not voice to himself. Since his visit to the English
Atherlys, he had put resolutely aside everything that related to that
episode, which he now considered was an unhappy imposture. But there
were times when a vision of Lady Elfrida, gazing at him with wondering,
fascinated eyes, passed across his fancy; even the contact with his own
race and his thoughts of their wrongs recalled to him the tomb of the
soldier Atherly and the carven captive savage supporter. He could not
pass the upright supported bier of an Indian brave--slowly desiccating
in the desert air--without seeing in the dead warrior's paraphernalia of
arms and trophies some resemblance to the cross-legged crusader on whose
marble effigy SHE had girlishly perched herself as she told the story of
her ancestors. Yet only the peaceful gloom and repose of the old church
touched him now; even she, too, with all her glory of English girlhood,
seemed to belong to that remote past. She was part of the restful quiet
of the church; the yews in the quaint old churchyard might have waved
over her as well.

Still, he was eager to see his sister, and if he should conclude to
impart to her his secret, she might advise him. At all events, he
decided to delay his departure until her arrival, a decision with which
the commanding officer concurred, as a foraging party had that morning
discovered traces of Indians in the vicinity of the fort, and the lately
arrived commissary train had reported the unaccountable but promptly
prevented stampede.

Unfortunately, his sister Jenny appeared accompanied by her husband, who
seized an early opportunity to take Peter aside and confide to him his
anxiety about her health, and the strange fits of excitement under which
she occasionally labored. Remembering the episode of the Californian
woods three years ago, Peter stared at this good-natured, good-looking
man, whose life he had always believed she once imperiled, and wondered
more than ever at their strange union.

"Do you ever quarrel?" asked Peter bluntly.

"No," said the good-hearted fellow warmly, "never! We have never had a
harsh word; she's the dearest girl,--the best wife in the world to me,
but"--he hesitated, "you know there are times when I think she confounds
me with somebody else, and is strange! Sometimes when we are in company
she stands alone and stares at everybody, without saying a word, as
if she didn't understand them. Or else she gets painfully excited and
dances all night until she is exhausted. I thought, perhaps," he added
timidly, "that you might know, and would tell me if she had any singular
experience as a child,--any illness, or," he went on still more gently,
"if perhaps her mother or father"--

"No," interrupted Peter almost brusquely, with the sudden conviction
that this was no time for revelation of his secret, "no, nothing."

"The doctor says," continued Lascelles with that hesitating, almost
mystic delicacy with which most gentlemen approach a subject upon which
their wives talk openly, "that it may be owing to Jenny's peculiar state
of health just now, you know, and that if--all went well, you know, and
there should be--don't you see--a little child"--

Peter interrupted him with a start. A child! Jenny's child! Silver
Cloud's grandchild! This was a complication he had not thought of.
No! It was too late to tell his secret now. He only nodded his head
abstractedly and said coldly, "I dare say he is right."

Nevertheless, Jenny was looking remarkably well. Perhaps it was the
excitement of travel and new surroundings; but her tall, lithe figure,
nearly half a head taller than her husband's, was a striking one among
the officers' wives in the commandant's sitting-room. Her olive cheek
glowed with a faint illuminating color; there was something even
patrician in her slightly curved nose and high cheek bones, and her
smile, rare even in her most excited moments, was, like her brother's,
singularly fascinating. The officers evidently thought so too, and when
the young lieutenant of the commissary escort, fresh from West Point
and Flirtation Walk, gallantly attached himself to her, the ladies were
slightly scandalized at the naive air of camaraderie with which Mrs.
Lascelles received his attentions. Even Peter was a little disturbed.
Only Lascelles, delighted with his wife's animation, and pleased at her
success, gazed at her with unqualified admiration. Indeed, he was
so satisfied with her improvement, and so sanguine of her ultimate
recovery, that he felt justified in leaving her with her brother and
returning to Omaha by the regular mail wagon next day. There was no
danger to be apprehended in her accompanying Peter; they would have
a full escort; the reservation lay in a direction unfrequented by
marauding tribes; the road was the principal one used by the government
to connect the fort with the settlements, and well traveled; the
officers' wives had often journeyed thither.

The childish curiosity and high spirits which Jenny showed on the
journey to the reservation was increased when she reached it and drew
up before the house of the Indian agent. Peter was relieved; he had been
anxious and nervous as to any instinctive effect which might be produced
on her excitable nature by a first view of her own kinsfolk, although
she was still ignorant of her relationship. Her interest and curiosity,
however, had nothing abnormal in it. But he was not prepared for the
effect produced upon THEM at her first appearance. A few of the braves
gathered eagerly around her, and one even addressed her in his own
guttural tongue, at which she betrayed a slight feeling of alarm; and
Peter saw with satisfaction that she drew close to him. Knowing that his
old interpreter and Gray Eagle were of a different and hostile tribe a
hundred miles away, and that his secret was safe with them, he simply
introduced her as his sister. But he presently found that the braves had
added to their curiosity a certain suspiciousness and sullen demeanor,
and he was glad to resign his sister into the hands of the agent's wife,
while he prosecuted his business of examination and inspection. Later,
on his return to the cabin, he was met by the agent, who seemed to be
with difficulty suppressing a laugh.

"Your sister is exciting quite a sensation here," he said. "Do you know
that some of these idiotic braves and the Medicine Man insist upon it
that she's A SQUAW, and that you're keeping her in captivity against
your plighted faith to them! You'll excuse me," he went on with an
attempt to recover his gravity, "troubling you with their d--d fool
talk, and you won't say anything to HER about it, but I thought you
ought to know it on account of your position among 'em. You don't want
to lose their confidence, and you know how easily their skeery faculties
are stampeded with an idea!"

"Where is she now?" demanded Peter, with a darkening face.

"Somewhere with the squaws, I reckon. I thought she might be a little
skeered of the braves, and I've kept them away. SHE'S all right, you
know; only if you intend to stay here long I'd"--

But Peter was already striding away in the direction of a thicket of
cottonwood where he heard the ripple of women's and children's voices.
When he had penetrated it, he found his sister sitting on a stump,
surrounded by a laughing, gesticulating crowd of young girls and old
women, with a tightly swaddled papoose in her lap. Some of them had
already half mischievously, half curiously possessed themselves of her
dust cloak, hat, parasol, and gloves, and were parading before her
in their grotesque finery, apparently as much to her childish excited
amusement as their own. She was even answering their gesticulations with
equivalent gestures in her attempt to understand them, and trying amidst
shouts of laughter to respond to the monotonous chant of the old women
who were zigzagging a dance before her. With the gayly striped blankets
lying on the ground, the strings of beads, wampum, and highly colored
feathers hanging from the trees, and the flickering lights and shadows,
it was an innocent and even idyllic picture, but the more experienced
Peter saw in the performances only the uncertain temper and want of
consecutive idea of playing animals, and the stolid unwinking papoose in
his sister's lap gave his sentiment a momentary shock.

Seeing him approach she ran to meet him, the squaws and children
slinking away from his grave face. "I have had such a funny time, Peter!
Only to think of it, I believe they've never seen men or women with
decent clothes before,--of course the settlers' wives don't dress
much,--and I believe they'd have had everything I possess if you hadn't
come. But they're TOO funny for anything. It was killing to see them put
on my hat wrong side before, and try to make one out of my parasol. But
I like them a great deal better than those gloomy chiefs, and I think I
understand them almost. And do you know, Peter, somehow I seem to have
known them all before. And those dear little papooses, aren't they
ridiculously lovely. I only wish"--she stopped, for Peter had somewhat
hurriedly taken the Indian boy from her arms and restored it to the
frightened mother. A singular change came over her face, and she glanced
at him quickly. But she resumed, with a heightened color, "I like it
ever so much better here than down at the fort. And ever so much better
than New York. I don't wonder that you like them so much, Peter, and
are so devoted to them. Don't be angry, dear, because I let them have
my things; I'm sure I never cared particularly for them, and I think
it would be such fun to dress as they do." Peter remembered keenly his
sudden shock at her precipitate change to bright colors after leaving
her novitiate at the Sacred Heart. "I do hope," she went on eagerly,
"that we are going to stay a long time here."

"We are leaving to-morrow," he said curtly. "I find I have urgent
business at the fort."

And they did leave. None too soon, thought Peter and the Indian agent,
as they glanced at the faces of the dusky chiefs who had gathered around
the cabin. Luckily the presence of their cavalry escort rendered any
outbreak impossible, and the stoical taciturnity of the race kept
Peter from any verbal insult. But Mrs. Lascelles noticed their lowering
dissatisfaction, and her eyes flashed. "I wonder you don't punish them,"
she said simply.

For a few days after their return she did not allude to her visit, and
Peter was beginning to think that her late impressions were as volatile
as they were childlike. He devoted himself to his government report, and
while he kept up his communications with the reservation and the agent,
for the present domiciled himself at the fort.

Colonel Bryce, the commandant though doubtful of civilians, was not
slow to appreciate the difference of playing host to a man of Atherly's
wealth and position and even found in Peter's reserve and melancholy an
agreeable relief to the somewhat boisterous and material recreations of
garrison life, and a gentle check upon the younger officers. For, while
Peter did not gamble or drink, there was yet an unobtrusive and gentle
dignity in his abstention that relieved him from the attitude of a
prig or an "example." Mrs. Lascelles was popular with the officers,
and accepted more tolerantly by the wives, since they recognized her
harmlessness. Once or twice she was found apparently interested in
the gesticulations of a few "friendlies" who had penetrated the parade
ground of the fort to barter beads and wampum. The colonel was obliged
at last to caution her against this, as it was found that in her
inexperience she had given them certain articles that were contraband of
the rules, and finally to stop them from an intrusion which was becoming
more frequent and annoying. Left thus to herself, she relieved her
isolation by walks beyond the precincts of the garrison, where she
frequently met those "friendly" wanderers, chiefly squaws and children.
Here she was again cautioned by the commander,--

"Don't put too much faith in those creatures, Mrs. Lascelles."

Jenny elevated her black brows and threw up her arched nose like a
charger. "I'm not afraid of old women and children," she said loftily.

"But I am," said the colonel gravely. "It's a horrible thing to think
of, but these feeble old women and innocent children are always selected
to torture the prisoners taken by the braves, and, by Jove, they seem to
like it."

Thus restricted, Mrs. Lascelles fell back upon the attentions of
Lieutenant Forsyth, whose gallantry was always as fresh as his smart
cadet-like tunics, and they took some rides together. Whether it was
military caution or the feminine discretion of the colonel's wife,--to
the quiet amusement of the other officers,--a trooper was added to the
riding party by the order of the colonel, and thereafter it consisted
of three. One night, however, the riders did not appear at dinner, and
there was considerable uneasiness mingled with some gossip throughout
the garrison. It was already midnight before they arrived, and then with
horses blown and trembling with exhaustion, and the whole party bearing
every sign of fatigue and disturbance. The colonel said a few sharp,
decisive words to the subaltern, who, pale and reticent, plucked at his
little moustache, but took the whole blame upon himself. HE and Mrs.
Lascelles had, he said, outridden the trooper and got lost; it was late
when Cassidy (the trooper) found them, but it was no fault of HIS, and
they had to ride at the top of their speed to cover the ground between
them and the fort. It was noticed that Mrs. Lascelles scarcely spoke to
Forsyth, and turned abruptly away from the colonel's interrogations and
went to her room.

Peter, absorbed in his report, scarcely noticed the incident, nor
the singular restraint that seemed to fall upon the little military
household for a day or two afterwards. He had accepted the lieutenant's
story without comment or question; he knew his own sister too well to
believe that she had lent herself to a flirtation with Forsyth; indeed,
he had rather pitied the young officer when he remembered Lascelles'
experience in his early courtship. But he was somewhat astonished one
afternoon to find the trooper Cassidy alone in his office.

"Oi thought Oi'd make bould to have a word wid ye, sorr," he said,
recovering from a stiff salute with his fingers nipping the cord of his
trousers. "It's not for meeself, sorr, although the ould man was
harrd on me, nor for the leddy, your sister, but for the sake of the
leftenant, sorr, who the ould man was harrdest on of all. Oi was of the
parrty that rode with your sister."

"Yes, yes, I remember, I heard the story," said Peter. "She and Mr.
Forsyth got lost."

"Axin' your pardin, sorr, she didn't. Mr. Forsyth loid. Loid like an
officer and a jintleman--as he is, God bless him--to save a leddy, more
betoken your sister, sorr. They never got lost, sorr. We was all three
together from the toime we shtarted till we got back, and it's the love
av God that we ever got back at all. And it's breaking me hearrt, sorr,
to see HIM goin' round with the black looks of everybody upon him, and
he a-twirlin' his moustache and purtending not to mind."

"What do you mean?" said Peter, uneasily.

"Oi mane to be tellin' you what happened, sorr," said Cassidy stoutly.
"When we shtarted out Oi fell three files to the rear, as became me,
so as not to be in the way o' their colloguing, but sorra a bit o'
stragglin' was there, and Oi kept them afore me all the toime. When we
got to Post Oak Bottom the leddy p'ints her whip off to the roight,
and sez she: 'It's a fine bit of turf there, Misther Forsyth,' invitin'
like, and with that she gallops away to the right. The leftenant follys
her, and Oi closed up the rear. So we rides away innoshent like amongst
the trees, me thinkin' only it wor a mighty queer place for manoovrin',
until we seed, just beyond us in the hollow, the smoke of an Injin camp
and a lot of women and childer. And Mrs. Lascelles gets off and goes
to discoursin' and blarneying wid 'em: and Oi sees Mr. Forsyth glancin'
round and lookin' oneasy. Then he goes up and sez something to your
sister, and she won't give him a hearin'. And then he tells her she must
mount and be off. And she turns upon him, bedad, like a tayger, and bids
him be off himself. Then he comes to me and sez he, 'Oi don't like the
look o' this, Cassidy,' sez he; 'the woods behind is full of braves,'
sez he. 'Thrue for you, leftenant,' sez Oi, 'it's into a trap that the
leddy hez led us, God save her!' 'Whisht,' he sez, 'take my horse, it's
the strongest. Go beside her, and when Oi say the word lift her up into
the saddle before ye, and gallop like blazes. Oi'll bring up the rear
and the other horse.' Wid that we changed horses and cantered up to
where she was standing, and he gives the word when she isn't lookin',
and Oi grabs her up--she sthrugglin' like mad but not utterin' a
cry--and Oi lights out for the trail agin. And sure enough the braves
made as if they would folly, but the leftenant throws the reins of her
horse over the horn of his saddle, and whips out his revolver and houlds
'em back till I've got well away to the trail again. And then they let
fly their arrows, and begorra the next thing a BULLET whizzes by him.
And then he knows they have arrms wid 'em and are 'hostiles,' and he
rowls the nearest one over, wheelin' and fightin' and coverin' our
retreat till we gets to the road agin. And they daren't folly us out of
cover. Then the lady gets more sinsible, and the leftenant pershuades
her to mount her horse agin. But before we comes to the fort, he sez to
me: 'Cassidy,' sez he, 'not a word o' this on account of the leddy.'
And I was mum, sorr, while he was shootin' off his mouth about him bein'
lost and all that, and him bein' bully-ragged by the kernel, and me
knowin' that but for him your sister wouldn't be between these walls
here, and Oi wouldn't be talkin' to ye. And shure, sorr, ye might be
tellin's the kernel as how the leddy was took by the hysterics, and was
that loony that she didn't know whatever she was sayin', and so get the
leftenant in favor again."

"I will speak with the colonel to-night," said Peter gloomily.

"Lord save yer honor," returned the trooper gratefully, "and if ye could
be sayin' that the LEDDY tould you,--it would only be the merest taste
of a loi ye'd be tellin',--and you'd save me from breakin' me word to
the leftenant."

"I shall of course speak to my sister first," returned Peter, with a
guilty consciousness that he had accepted the trooper's story mainly
from his previous knowledge of his sister's character. Nevertheless, in
spite of this foregone conclusion, he DID speak to her. To his
surprise she did not deny it. Lieutenant Forsyth,--a vain and conceited
fool,--whose silly attentions she had accepted solely that she might get
recreation beyond the fort,--had presumed to tell her what SHE must do!
As if SHE was one of those stupid officers' wives or sisters! And
it never would have happened if he--Peter--had let her remain at the
reservation with the Indian agent's wife, or if "Charley" (the gentle
Lascelles) were here! HE would have let her go, or taken her there.
Besides all the while she was among friends; HIS, Peter's own
friends,--the people whose cause he was championing! In vain did Peter
try to point out to her that these "people" were still children in mind
and impulse, and capable of vacillation or even treachery. He remembered
he was talking to a child in mind and impulse, who had shown the same
qualities, and in trying to convince her of her danger he felt he was
only voicing the common arguments of his opponents.

He spoke also to the colonel, excusing her through her ignorance, her
trust in his influence with the savages, and the general derangement of
her health. The colonel, relieved of his suspicions of a promising
young officer, was gentle and sympathetic, but firm as to Peter's future
course. In a moment of caprice and willfulness she might imperil the
garrison as she had her escort, and, more than that, she was imperiling
Peter's influence with the Indians. Absurd stories had come to his ears
regarding the attitude of the reservation towards him. He thought she
ought to return home as quickly as possible. Fortunately an opportunity
offered. The general commanding had advised him of the visit to the fort
of a party of English tourists who had been shooting in the vicinity,
and who were making the fort the farthest point of their western
excursion. There were three or four ladies in the party, and as they
would be returning to the line of railroad under escort, she could
easily accompany them. This, added Colonel Carter, was also Mrs.
Carter's opinion,--she was a woman of experience, and had a married
daughter of her own. In the mean time Peter had better not broach the
subject to his sister, but trust to the arrival of the strangers,
who would remain for a week, and who would undoubtedly divert Mrs.
Lascelles' impressible mind, and eventually make the proposition more
natural and attractive.

In the interval Peter revisited the reservation, and endeavored to
pacify the irritation that had sprung from his previous inspection.
The outrage at Post Oak Bottom he was assured had no relation to the
incident at the reservation, but was committed by some stragglers from
other tribes who had not yet accepted the government bounty, yet had not
been thus far classified as "hostile." There had been no "Ghost Dancing"
nor other indication of disturbance. The colonel had not deemed
it necessary to send out an exemplary force, or make a counter
demonstration. The incident was allowed to drop. At the reservation
Peter had ignored the previous conduct of the chiefs towards him;
had with quiet courage exposed himself fully--unarmed and
unattended--amongst them, and had as fully let it be known that this
previous incident was the reason that his sister had not accompanied him
on his second visit. He left them at the close of the second day more
satisfied in his mind, and perhaps in a more enthusiastic attitude
towards his report.

As he came within sound of the sunset bugles, he struck a narrower trail
which led to the fort, through an oasis of oaks and cottonwoods and
a small stream or "branch," which afterwards lost itself in the dusty
plain. He had already passed a few settler's cabins, a sutler's shop,
and other buildings that had sprung up around this armed nucleus of
civilization--which, in due season, was to become a frontier town. But
as yet the brief wood was wild and secluded; frequented only by the
women and children of the fort, within whose protecting bounds it
stood, and to whose formal "parade," and trim white and green cottage
"quarters," it afforded an agreeable relief. As he rode abstractedly
forward under the low cottonwood vault he felt a strange influence
stealing over him, an influence that was not only a present experience
but at the same time a far-off memory. The concave vault above deepened;
the sunset light from the level horizon beyond streamed through the
leaves as through the chequers of stained glass windows; through the two
shafts before him stretched the pillared aisles of Ashley Church! He
was riding as in a dream, and when a figure suddenly slipped across his
pathway from a column-like tree trunk, he woke with the disturbance and
sense of unreality of a dream. For he saw Lady Elfrida standing before
him!

It was not a mere memory conjured up by association, for although the
figure, face, and attitude were the same, there were certain changes
of costume which the eye of recollection noticed. In place of the smart
narrow-brimmed sailor hat he remembered, she was wearing a slouched
cavalry hat with a gold cord around its crown, that, with all its
becomingness and picturesque audacity, seemed to become characteristic
and respectable, as a crest to her refined head, and as historic as a
Lely canvas. She wore a flannel shirt, belted in at her slight waist
with a band of yellow leather, defining her small hips, and short
straight pleatless skirts that fell to her trim ankles and buckled
leather shoes. She was fresh and cool, wholesome and clean, free and
unfettered; indeed, her beauty seemed only an afterthought or accident.
So much so that when Peter saw her afterwards, amidst the billowy,
gauzy, and challenging graces of the officer's wives, who were dressed
in their best and prettiest frocks to welcome her, the eye turned
naturally from that suggestion of enhancement to the girl who seemed to
defy it. She was clearly not an idealized memory, a spirit or a ghost,
but naturalistic and rosy; he thought a trifle rosier, as she laughingly
addressed him:--

"I suppose it isn't quite fair to surprise you like that," she said,
with an honest girlish hand-shake, "for you see I know all about you
now, and what you are doing here, and even when you were expected; and
I dare say you thought we were still in England, if you remembered us
at all. And we haven't met since that day at Ashley Church when I put my
foot in it,--or rather on your pet protege's, the Indian's: you remember
Major Atherly's tomb? And to think that all the while we didn't know
that you were a public man and a great political reformer, and had a fad
like this. Why, we'd have got up meetings for you, and my father would
have presided,--he's always fond of doing these things,--and we'd have
passed resolutions, and given you subscriptions, and Bibles, and flannel
shirts, and revolvers--but I believe you draw the line at that. My
brother was saying only the other day that you weren't half praised
enough for going in for this sort of thing when you were so rich,
and needn't care. And so that's why you rushed away from Ashley
Grange,--just to come here and work out your mission?"

His whole life, his first wild Californian dream, his English visit, the
revelation of Gray Eagle, the final collapse of his old beliefs, were
whirling through his brain to the music of this clear young voice. And
by some cruel irony of circumstance it seemed now to even mock his later
dreams of expiation as it also called back his unhappy experience of the
last week.

"Have you--have you"--he stammered with a faint smile, "seen my sister?"

"Not yet," said Lady Elfrida. "I believe she is not well and is confined
to her room; you will introduce me, won't you?" she added eagerly. "Of
course, when we heard that there was an Atherly here we inquired about
you; and I told them you were a relation of ours," she went on with a
half-mischievous shyness,--"you remember the de Bracys,--and they seemed
surprised and rather curious. I suppose one does not talk so much about
these things over here, and I dare say you have so much to occupy your
mind you don't talk of us in England." With the quickness of a refined
perception she saw a slight shade in his face, and changed the subject.
"And we have had such a jolly time; we have met so many pleasant people;
and they've all been so awfully good to us, from the officials and
officers down to the plainest working-man. And all so naturally too--so
different from us. I sometimes think we have to work ourselves up to
be civil to strangers." "No," she went on gayly, in answer to his
protesting gesture, and his stammered reminder of his own reception.
"No. You came as a sort of kinsman, and Sir Edward knew all about you
before he asked you down to the Grange--or even sent over for me from
the Towers. No! you Americans take people on their 'face value,' as
my brother Reggy says, and we always want to know what are the
'securities.' And then American men are more gallant, though," she
declared mischievously, "I think you are an exception in that way.
Indeed," she went on, "the more I see of your countrymen the less you
seem like them. You are more like us,--more like an Englishman--indeed,
more like an Englishman than most Englishmen,--I mean in the matter of
reserve and all that sort of thing, you know. It's odd,--isn't it? Is
your sister like you?"

"You shall judge for yourself," said Peter with a gayety that was forced
in proportion as his forebodings became more gloomy. Would his sister's
peculiarities--even her secret--be safe from the clear eyes of the young
girl?

"I know I shall like her," said Lady Elfrida, simply. "I mean to make
friends with her before we leave, and I hope to see a great deal of her;
and," she said with a naive non sequitur, that, however, had its painful
significance to Peter, "I do want you to show me some Indians--your
Indians, you know YOUR friends. I've seen some of them, of course; I
am afraid I am a little prejudiced, for I did not like them. You see
my taste has to be educated, I suppose; but I thought them so foolishly
vain and presuming."

"That is their perfect childishness," said Peter quickly. "It is not, I
believe, considered a moral defect," he added bitterly.

Lady Elfrida laughed, and yet at the same moment a look of appeal that
was in itself quite as childlike shone in her blue eyes. "There, I
have blundered again, I know; but I told you I have such ridiculous
prejudices! And I really want to like them as you do. Only," she laughed
again, "it seems strange that YOU, of all men, should have interested
yourself in people so totally different to you. But what will be the
result if your efforts are successful? Will they remain a distinct race?
Will you make citizens, soldiers, congressmen, governors of them? Will
they intermarry with the whites? Is that a part of your plan? I hope
not!"

It was a part of Peter's sensitive excitement that even through the
unconscious irony of this speech he was noticing the difference between
the young English girl's evident interest in a political problem and the
utter indifference of his own countrywomen. Here was a girl scarcely out
of her teens, with no pretension to being a blue stocking, with half
the aplomb of an American girl of her own age, gravely considering
a question of political economy. Oddly enough, it added to his other
irritation, and he said almost abruptly, "Why not?"

She took the question literally and with a little youthful timidity.
"But these mixed races never attain to anything, do they? I thought that
was understood. But," she added with feminine quickness, "and I suppose
it's again only a PERSONAL argument, YOU wouldn't like your sister to
have married an Indian, would you?"

The irony of the situation had reached its climax to Peter. It didn't
seem to be his voice that said, "I can answer by an argument still more
personal. I have even thought myself of marrying an Indian woman."

It seemed to him that what he said was irrevocable, but he was
desperate. It seemed to him that in a moment more he would have told her
his whole secret. But the young girl drew back from him with a slight
start of surprise. There may have been something in the tone of his
voice and in his manner that verged upon a seriousness she was never
contemplating in her random talk; it may have been an uneasiness of
some youthful imprudence in pressing the subject upon a man of his
superiority, and that his abrupt climax was a rebuke. But it was only
for a moment; her youthful buoyancy, and, above all, a certain common
sense that was not incompatible to her high nature, came to her rescue.
"But that," she said with quick mischievousness, "would be a SACRIFICE
taken in the interest of these people, don't you see; and being a
sacrifice, it's no argument."

Peter saw his mistake, but there was something so innocent and
delightful in the youthful triumph of this red-lipped logician, that
he was forced to smile. I have said that his smile was rare and
fascinating, a concession wrung from his dark face and calm beardless
lips that most people found irresistible, but it was odd, nevertheless,
that Lady Elfrida now for the first time felt a sudden and not
altogether unpleasant embarrassment over the very subject she had
approached with such innocent fearlessness. There was a new light in her
eyes, a fresher color in her cheeks as she turned her face--she knew not
why--away from him. But it enabled her to see a figure approaching them
from the fort. And I grieve to say that, perhaps for the first time in
her life, Lady Elfrida was guilty of an affected start.

"Oh, here's Reggy coming to look for me. I'd quite forgotten, but I'm
so glad. I want you to know my brother Reggy. He was always so sorry he
missed you at the Grange."

The tall, young, good-looking brown Englishman who had sauntered up
bestowed a far more critical glance upon Peter's horse than upon Peter,
but nevertheless grasped his hand heartily as his sister introduced him.
Perhaps both men were equally undemonstrative, although the reserve of
one was from temperament and the other from education. Nevertheless Lord
Reginald remarked, with a laugh, that it was awfully jolly to be there,
and that it had been a beastly shame that he was in Scotland when
Atherly was at the Grange. That none of them had ever suspected till
they came to the fort that he, Atherly, was one of those government
chappies, and so awfully keen on Indian politics. "Friddy" had been
the first to find it out, but they thought she was chaffing. At which
"Friddy," who had suddenly resolved herself into the youthfulest of
schoolgirls in the presence of her brother, put her parasol like an
Indian club behind her back, and still rosy, beamed admiringly upon
Reggy. Then the three, Peter leading his horse, moved on towards the
fort, presently meeting "Georgy," the six-foot Guardsman cousin in
extraordinary tweeds and flannel shirt; Lord Runnybroke, uncle
of Friddy, middle-aged and flannel-shirted, a mighty hunter; Lady
Runnybroke, in a brown duster, but with a stately head that suggested
ostrich feathers; Moyler-Spence, M. P., with an eyeglass, and the Hon.
Evelyn Kayne, closely attended by the always gallant Lieutenant Forsyth.
Peter began to feel a nervous longing to be alone on the burning plain
and the empty horizon beyond them, until he could readjust himself to
these new conditions, and glanced half-wearily around him. But his eye
met Friddy's, who seemed to have evoked this gathering with a wave of
her parasol, like the fairy of a pantomime, and he walked on in silence.

A day or two of unexpected pleasure passed for Peter. In these new
surroundings he found he could separate Lady Elfrida from his miserable
past, and the conventional restraint of Ashley Grange. Again, the
revelation of her familiar name Friddy seemed to make her more
accessible and human to him than her formal title, and suited the
girlish simplicity that lay at the foundation of her character, of which
he had seen so little before. At least so he fancied, and so excused
himself; it was delightful to find her referring to him as an older
friend; pleasant, indeed, to see that her family tacitly recognized it,
and frequently appealed to him with the introduction, "Friddy says you
can tell us," or "You and Friddy had better arrange it between you."
Even the dreaded introduction of his sister was an agreeable surprise,
owing to Lady Elfrida's frank and sympathetic prepossession, which Jenny
could not resist. In a few moments they were walking together in serious
and apparently confidential conversation. For to Peter's wonder it was
the "Lady Elfrida" side of the English girl's nature that seemed to
have attracted Jenny, and not the playfulness of "Friddy," and he was
delighted to see that the young girl had assumed a grave chaperonship
of the tall Mrs. Lascelles that would have done credit to Mrs. Carter
or Lady Runnybroke. Had he been less serious he might have been amused,
too, at the importance of his own position in the military outpost,
through the arrival of the strangers. That this grave political
enthusiast and civilian should be on familiar terms with a young
Englishwoman of rank was at first inconceivable to the officers.
And that he had never alluded to it before seemed to them still more
remarkable.

Nevertheless, there was much liveliness and good fellowship at the fort.
Captains and lieutenants down to the youngest "cub," Forsyth, vied
with each other to please the Englishmen, supplied them with that
characteristic American humor and anecdote which it is an Englishman's
privilege to bring away with him, and were picturesquely and
chivalrously devoted in their attentions to the ladies, who were pleased
and amused by it, though it is to be doubted if it increased their
respect for the giver, although they were more grateful for it than
the average American woman. Lady Elfrida found the officers very
entertaining and gallant. Accustomed to the English officer, and his
somewhat bored way of treating his profession and his duties, she may
have been amused at the zeal, earnestness, and enthusiasm of these
youthful warriors, who aspired to appear as nothing but soldiers, when
she contrasted them with her Guardsmen relatives who aspired to
be everything else but that; but she kept it to herself. It was a
recognized, respectable, and even superior occupation for gentlemen in
England; what it might be in America,--who knows? She certainly found
Peter, the civilian, more attractive, for there really was nothing
English to compare him with, and she had something of the same feeling
in her friendship for Jenny, except the patronage which Jenny seemed to
solicit, and perhaps require, as a foreigner.

One afternoon the English guests, accompanied by a few of their hosts
and a small escort, were making a shooting expedition to the vicinity of
Green Spring, when Peter, plunged in his report, looked up to find his
sister entering his office. Her face was pale, and there was something
in her expression which reawakened his old anxiety. Nevertheless he
smiled, and said gently:--

"Why are you not enjoying yourself with the others?"

"I have a headache," she said, languidly, "but," lifting her eyes
suddenly to his, "why are YOU not? You are their good friend, you
know,--even their relation."

"No more than you are," he returned, with affected gayety. "But look at
the report--it is only half finished! I have already been shirking it
for them."

"You mustn't let your devotion to the Indians keep you from your older
friends," said Mrs. Lascelles, with an odd laugh. "But you never told
me about these people before, Peter; tell me now. They were very kind to
you, weren't they, on account of your relationship?"

"Entirely on account of that," said Peter, with a sudden bitterness he
could not repress. "But they are very pleasant," he added quickly, "and
very simple and unaffected, in spite of their rank; perhaps I ought to
say, BECAUSE of it."

"You mean they are kind to us because they feel themselves
superior,--just as you are kind to the Indians, Peter."

"I am afraid they have no such sense of political equality towards us,
Jenny, as impels me to be just to the Indian," he said with affected
lightness. "But Lady Elfrida sympathizes with the Indians--very much."

"She!" The emphasis which his sister put upon the personal pronoun was
unmistakable, but Peter ignored it, and so apparently did she, as she
said the next moment in a different voice, "She's very pretty, don't you
think?"

"Very," said Peter coldly.

There was a long pause. Peter slightly fingered one of the sheets of his
delayed report on his desk. His sister looked up. "I'm afraid I'm as bad
as Lady Elfrida in keeping you from your Indians; but I had something to
say to you. No matter, another time will do when you're not so busy."

"Please go on now," said Peter, with affected unconcern, yet with a
feeling of uneasiness creeping over him.

"It was only this," said Jenny, seating herself with her elbow on the
desk and her chin in a cup-like hollow of her hand, "did you ever think
that in the interests of these poor Indians, you know, purely for the
sake of your belief in them, and just to show that you were above vulgar
prejudices,--did you ever think you could marry one of them?"

Two thoughts flashed quickly on Peter's mind,--first, that Lady Elfrida
had repeated something of their conversation to his sister; secondly,
that some one had told her of Little Daybreak. Each was equally
disturbing. But he recovered himself quickly and said, "I might if I
thought it was required. But even a sacrifice is not always an example."

"Then you think it would be a sacrifice?" she said, slowly raising her
dark eyes to his.

"If I did something against received opinion, against precedent, and
for aught I know against even the prejudices of those I wish to serve,
however lofty my intention was and however great the benefit to them in
the end, it would still be a sacrifice in the present." He saw his own
miserable logic and affected didactics, but he went on lightly, "But
why do you ask such a question? You haven't any one in your mind for me,
have you?"

She had risen thoughtfully and was moving towards the door. Suddenly she
turned with a quick, odd vivacity: "Perhaps I had. Oh, Peter, there was
such a lovely little squaw I saw the last time I was at Oak Bottom! She
was no darker than I am, but so beautiful. Even in her little cotton
gown and blanket, with only a string of beads around her throat, she
was as pretty as any one here. And I dare say she could be educated and
appear as well as any white woman. I should so like to have you see her.
I would have tried to bring her to the fort, but the braves are very
jealous of their wives or daughters seeing white men, you know, and I
was afraid of the colonel."

She had spoken volubly and with a strange excitement, but even at the
moment her face changed again, and as she left the office, with a quick
laugh and parting gesture, there were tears in her eyes.

Accustomed to her moods and caprices, Peter thought little of the
intrusion, relieved as he was of his first fears. She had come to him
from loneliness and curiosity, and, perhaps, he thought with a sad
smile, from a little sisterly jealousy of the young girl who had evinced
such an interest in him, and had known him before. He took up his pen
and continued the interrupted paragraph of his report.

"I am satisfied that much of the mischievous and extravagant prejudice
against the half breed and all alliances of the white and red
races springs from the ignorance of the frontiersman and his hasty
generalization of facts. There is no doubt that an intermixture of blood
brings out purely superficial contrasts the more strongly, and that
against the civilizing habits and even costumes of the half breed,
certain Indian defects appear the more strongly as in the case of the
color line of the quadroon and octoroon, but it must not be forgotten
that these are only the contrasts of specific improvement, and the
inference that the borrowed defects of a half breed exceed the original
defects of the full-blooded aborigine is utterly illogical." He stopped
suddenly and laid down his pen with a heightened color; the bugle had
blown, the guard was turning out to receive the commandant and his
returning party, among whom was Friddy.

*****

Through the illusions of depression and distance the "sink" of Butternut
Creek seemed only an incrustation of blackish moss on the dull gray
plain. It was not until one approached within half a mile of it that it
resolved itself into a copse of butternut-trees sunken below the distant
levels. Here once, in geological story, the waters of Butternut Creek,
despairing of ever crossing the leagues of arid waste before them, had
suddenly disappeared in the providential interposition of an area of
looser soil, and so given up the effort and the ghost forever, their
grave being marked by the butternut copse, chance-sown by bird or beast
in the saturated ground. In Indian legend the "sink" commemorated the
equally providential escape of a great tribe who, surrounded by enemies,
appealed to the Great Spirit for protection, and was promptly conveyed
by subterraneous passages to the banks of the Great River a hundred
miles away. Its outer edges were already invaded by the dust of the
plain, but within them ran cool recesses, a few openings, and the
ashes of some long-forgotten camp-fires. To-day its sombre shadows were
relieved by bright colored dresses, the jackets of the drivers of a
large sutler's wagon, whose white canvas head marked the entrance of the
copse, and all the paraphernalia of a picnic. It was a party gotten up
by the foreign guests to the ladies of the fort, prepared and arranged
by the active Lady Elfrida, assisted by the only gentleman of the party,
Peter Atherly, who, from his acquaintance with the locality, was allowed
to accompany them. The other gentlemen, who with a large party of
officers and soldiers were shooting in the vicinity, were sufficiently
near for protection. They would rejoin the ladies later.

"It does not seem in the least as if we were miles away from any town
or habitation," said Lady Runnybroke, complacently seating herself on a
stump, "and I shouldn't be surprised to see a church tower through those
trees. It's very like the hazel copse at Longworth, you know. Not at all
what I expected."

"For the matter of that neither are the Indians," said the Hon. Evelyn
Rayne. "Did you ever see such grotesque creatures in their cast-off
boots and trousers? They're no better than gypsies. I wonder what Mr.
Atherly can find in them."

"And he a rich man, too,--they say he's got a mine in California worth
a million,--to take up a craze like this," added the lively Mrs. Captain
Joyce, "that's what gets me! You know," she went on confidentially,
"that cranks and reformers are always poor--it's quite natural; but
I don't see what he, a rich man, expects to make by his reforms, I'm
sure."

"He'll get over it in time," said the Hon. Evelyn Kayne, "they all do.
At least he expects to get the reforms he wants in a year, and then he's
coming over to England again."

"Indeed, how very nice," responded Lady Runnybroke quickly. "Did he say
so?"

"No. But Friddy says he is."

The two officers' wives glanced at each other. Lady Runnybroke put up
her eyeglass in default of ostrich feathers, and said didactically, "I'm
sure Mr. Atherly is very much in earnest, and sincerely devoted to his
work. And in a man of his wealth and position here it's most estimable.
My dear," she said, getting up and moving towards Mrs. Lascelles, "we
were just saying how good and unselfish your brother was in his work for
these poor people."

But Jenny Lascelles must have been in one of those abstracted moods
which so troubled her husband, for she seemed to be staring straight
before her into the recesses of the wood. In her there was a certain
resemblance to the attitude of a listening animal.

"I wish Mr. Atherly was a little more unselfish to US poor people,"
said the Hon. Evelyn Kayne, "for he and Friddy have been nearly an hour
looking for a place to spread our luncheon baskets. I wish they'd leave
the future of the brown races to look after itself and look a little
more after us. I'm famished."

"I fancy they find it difficult to select a clear space for so large
a party as we will be when the gentlemen come in," returned Lady
Runnybroke, glancing in the direction of Jenny's abstracted eyes.

"I suppose you must feel like chicken and salad, too, Lady Runnybroke,"
suggested Mrs. Captain Joyce.

"I don't think I quite know HOW chicken and salad feel, dear," said
Lady Runnybroke with a puzzled air, "but if that's one of your husband's
delightful American stories, do tell us. I never CAN get Runnybroke to
tell me any, although he roars over them all. And I dare say he gets
them all wrong. But look, here comes our luncheon."

Peter and Lady Elfrida were advancing towards them. The scrutiny of a
dozen pairs of eyes--wondering, mischievous, critical, impertinent, or
resentful--would have been a trying ordeal to any errant couple; but
there was little if any change in Peter's grave and gentle demeanor,
albeit his dark eyes were shining with a peculiar light, and Lady
Elfrida had only the animation, color, and slight excitability that
became the responsible leader of the little party. They neither
apologized or alluded to their delay. They had selected a spot on the
other side of the copse, and the baskets could be sent around by the
wagon; they had seen a slight haze on the plain towards the east which
betokened the vicinity of the rest of the party, and they were about to
propose that as the gentlemen were so near they had better postpone
the picnic until they came up. Lady Runnybroke smiled affably; the only
thing she had noticed was that Lady Elfrida in joining them had gone
directly to the side of the abstracted Jenny, and placed her arm around
her waist. At which Lady Runnybroke airily joined them.

The surmises of Peter and Friddy appeared to be correct. The transfer
of the provisions and the party to the other side was barely concluded
before they could see the gentlemen coming; they were riding a little
more rapidly than when they had set out, and were arriving fully
three hours before their time. They burst upon the ladies a little
boisterously but gayly; they had had a glorious time, but little sport;
they had hurried back to join the ladies so as to be able to return with
them betimes. They were ravenously hungry; they wanted to fall to at
once. Only the officers' wives noticed that the two files of troopers
DID NOT DISMOUNT, but filed slowly before the entrance to the woods.
Lady Elfrida as hostess was prettily distressed by it, but was told by
Captain Joyce that it was "against rules," and that she could "feed"
them at the fort. The officers' wives put a few questions in whispers,
and were promptly frowned down. Nevertheless, the luncheon was a
successful festivity: the gentlemen were loud in the praises of their
gracious hostess; the delicacies she had provided by express from
distant stations, and much that was distinctly English and despoiled
from her own stores, were gratefully appreciated by the officers of
a remote frontier garrison. Lady Elfrida's health was toasted by
the gallant colonel in a speech that was the soul of chivalry. Lord
Runnybroke responded, perhaps without the American abandon, but with
the steady conscientiousness of an hereditary legislator, but the M. P.
summed up a slightly exaggerated but well meaning episode by pointing
out that it was on occasions like this that the two nations showed their
common ancestry by standing side by side. Only one thing troubled the
rosy, excited, but still clear-headed Friddy; the plates were whisked
away like magic after each delicacy, by the military servants, and
vanished; the tables were in the same mysterious way cleared as rapidly
as they were set, and any attempt to recall a dish was met by the
declaration that it was already packed away in the wagon. As they
at last rose from the actually empty board, and saw even the tables
disappear, Lady Elfrida plaintively protested that she felt as if she
had been presiding over an Arabian Nights entertainment, served by
genii, and she knew that they would all awaken hungry when they were
well on their way back. Nevertheless, in spite of this expedition, the
officers lounged about smoking until every trace of the festivity had
vanished. Reggy found himself standing near Peter. "You know," he said,
confidentially, "I don't think the colonel has a very high opinion of
your pets,--the Indians. And, by Jove, if the 'friendlies' are as nasty
towards you as they were to us this morning, I wonder what you call the
'hostile' tribes."

"Did you have any difficulty with them?" said Peter quickly.

"No, not exactly, don't you know--we were too many, I fancy; but, by
Jove, the beggars whenever we met them,--and we met one or two gypsy
bands of them,--you know, they seemed to look upon us as TRESPASSERS,
don't you know."

"And you were, in point of fact," said Peter, smiling grimly.

"Oh, I say, come now!" said Reggy, opening his eyes. After a moment he
laughed. "Oh, yes, I see--of course, looking at it from their point
of view. By Jove, I dare say the beggars were right, you know; all the
same,--don't you see,--YOUR people were poaching too."

"So we were," said Peter gravely.

But here, at a word from the major, the whole party debouched from
the woods. Everything appeared to be awaiting them,--the large covered
carryall for the guests, and the two saddle horses for Mrs. Lascelles
and Lady Elfrida, who had ridden there together. Peter, also mounted,
accompanied the carryall with two of the officers; the troopers and
wagons brought up the rear.

It was very hot, with little or no wind. On this part of the plain the
dust seemed lighter and finer, and rose with the wheels of the carryall
and the horses of the escort, trailing a white cloud over the cavalcade
like the smoke of an engine over a train. It was with difficulty the
troopers could be kept from opening out on both sides of the highway to
escape it. The whole atmosphere seemed charged with it; it even appeared
in a long bank to the right, rising and obscuring the declining sun. But
they were already within sight of the fort and the little copse beside
it. Then trooper Cassidy trotted up to the colonel, who was riding in a
dusty cloud beside the carryall, "Captain Fleetwood's compliments, sorr,
and there are two sthragglers,--Mrs. Lascelles and the English lady." He
pointed to the rapidly flying figures of Jenny and Friddy making towards
the wood.

The colonel made a movement of impatience. "Tell Mr. Forsyth to bring
them back at once," he said.

But here a feminine chorus of excuses and expostulations rose from
the carryall. "It's only Mrs. Lascelles going to show Friddy where the
squaws and children bathe," said Lady Runnybroke, "it's near the fort,
and they'll be there as quick as we shall."

"One moment, colonel," said Peter, with mortified concern. "It's another
folly of my sister's! pray let me take it upon myself to bring them
back."

"Very well, but see you don't linger, and," turning to Cassidy, as Peter
galloped away, he added, "you follow him."

Peter kept the figures of the two women in view, but presently saw
them disappear in the wood. He had no fear for their safety, but he was
indignant at this last untimely caprice of his sister. He knew the idea
had originated with her, and that the officers knew it, and yet she had
made Lady Elfrida bear an equal share of the blame. He reached the edge
of the copse, entered the first opening, but he had scarcely plunged
into its shadow and shut out the plain behind him before he felt his
arms and knees quickly seized from behind. So sudden and unexpected was
the attack that he first thought his horse had stumbled against a coil
of wild grapevine and was entangled, but the next moment he smelled the
rank characteristic odor and saw the brown limbs of the Indian who had
leaped on his crupper, while another rose at his horse's head. Then a
warning voice in his ear said in the native tongue:--

"If the great white medicine man calls to his fighting men, the
pale-faced girl and the squaw he calls his sister die! They are here, he
understands."

But Peter had neither struggled nor uttered a cry. At that touch, and
with the accents of that tongue in his ears, all his own Indian blood
seemed to leap and tingle through his veins. His eyes flashed; pinioned
as he was he drew himself erect and answered haughtily in his captor's
own speech:--

"Good! The great white medicine man obeys, for he and his sister have
no fear. But if the pale-face girl is not sent back to her people before
the sun sets, then the yellow jackets will swarm the woods, and they
will follow her trail to the death. My brother is wise; let the girl go.
I have spoken."

"My brother is very cunning too. He would call to his fighting men
through the lips of the pale-face girl."

"He will not. The great white medicine man does not lie to his red
brother. He will tell the pale-face girl to say to the chief of the
yellow jackets that he and his sister are with his brothers, and all is
peace. But the pale-face girl must not see the great white medicine man
in these bonds, nor as a captive! I have spoken."

The two Indians fell back. There was so much of force and dignity in the
man, so much of their own stoic calmness, that they at once mechanically
loosened the thongs of plaited deer hide with which they had bound him,
and side by side led him into the recesses of the wood.

*****

There was some astonishment, although little alarm at the fort, when
Lady Elfrida returned accompanied by the orderly who had followed Peter
to the wood, but without Peter and his sister. The reason given was
perfectly natural and conceivable. Mrs. Lascelles had preceded Lady
Elfrida in entering the wood and taken another opening, so that Lady
Elfrida had found herself suddenly lost, and surrounded by two or three
warriors in dreadful paint. They motioned her to dismount, and said
something she did not understand, but she declined, knowing that she had
heard Mr. Atherly and the orderly following her, and feeling no fear.
And sure enough Mr. Atherly presently came up with a couple of braves,
apologized to her for their mistake, but begged her to return to the
fort at once and assure the colonel that everything was right, and that
he and his sister were safe. He was perfectly cool and collected and
like himself; she blushed slightly, as she said she thought that he
wished to impress upon her, for some reason she could not understand,
that he did not want the colonel to send any assistance. She was
positive of that. She told her story unexcitedly; it was evident that
she had not been frightened, but Lady Runnybroke noticed that there was
a shade of anxious abstraction in her face.

When the officers were alone the colonel took hurried counsel of them.
"I think," said Captain Fleetwood, "that Lady Elfrida's story quite
explains itself. I believe this affair is purely a local one, and has
nothing whatever to do with the suspicious appearances we noticed this
afternoon, or the presence of so large a body of Indians near Butternut.
Had this been a hostile movement they would have scarcely allowed so
valuable a capture as Lady Elfrida to escape them."

"Unless they kept Atherly and his sister as a hostage," said Captain
Joyce.

"But Atherly is one of their friends; indeed he is their mediator
and apostle, a non-combatant, and has their confidence," returned the
colonel. "It is much more reasonable to suppose that Atherly has noticed
some disaffection among these 'friendlies,' and he fears that our
sending a party to his assistance might precipitate a collision. Or he
may have reason to believe that this stopping of the two women under
the very walls of the fort is only a feint to draw our attention from
something more serious. Did he know anything of our suspicions of the
conduct of those Indians this morning?"

"Not unless he gathered it from what Lord Reginald foolishly told
him. We said nothing, of course," returned Captain Fleetwood, with a
soldier's habitual distrust of the wisdom of the civil arm.

"That will do, gentlemen," said the colonel, as the officers dispersed;
"send Cassidy here."

The colonel was alone on the veranda as Cassidy came up.

"You followed Mr. Atherly to-day?"

"Yes sorr."

"And you saw him when he gave the message to the young lady?"

"Yes sorr."

"Did you form any opinion from anything else you saw, of his object in
sending that message?"

"Only from what I saw of HIM."

"Well, what was that?"

"I saw him look afther the young leddy as she rode away, and then wheel
about and go straight back into the wood."

"And what did you think of that?" said the colonel, with a half smile.

"I thought it was shacrifice, sorr."

"What do you mean?" said the colonel sharply.

"I mane, sorr," said Cassidy stoutly, "that he was givin' up hisself and
his sister for that young leddy."

The colonel looked at the sergeant. "Ask Mr. Forsyth to come to me
privately, and return here with him."

As darkness fell, some half a dozen dismounted troopers, headed by
Forsyth and Cassidy, passed quietly out of the lower gate and entered
the wood. An hour later the colonel was summoned from the dinner table,
and the guests heard the quick rattle of a wagon turning out of the road
gate--but the colonel did not return. An indefinable uneasiness crept
over the little party, which reached its climax in the summoning of the
other officers, and the sudden flashing out of news. The reconnoitring
party had found the dead bodies of Peter Atherly and his sister on the
plains at the edge of the empty wood.

The women were gathered in the commandant's quarters, and for the
moment seemed to have been forgotten. The officers' wives talked with
professional sympathy and disciplined quiet; the English ladies were
equally sympathetic, but collected. Lady Elfrida, rather white, but
patient, asked a few questions in a voice whose contralto was rather
deepened. One and all wished to "do something"--anything "to help"--and
one and all rebelled that the colonel had begged them to remain within
doors. There was an occasional quick step on the veranda, or the
clatter of a hoof on the parade, a continued but subdued murmur from the
whitewashed barracks, but everywhere a sense of keen restraint.

When they emerged on the veranda again, the whole aspect of the garrison
seemed to have changed in that brief time. In the faint moonlight they
could see motionless files of troopers filling the parade, the officers
in belted tunics and slouched hats,--but apparently not the same men;
the half lounging ease and lazy dandyism gone, a grim tension in all
their faces, a set abstraction in all their acts. Then there was the
rolling of heavy wheels in the road, and the two horses of the ambulance
appeared. The sentries presented arms; the colonel took off his hat;
the officers uncovered; the wagon wheeled into the parade; the surgeon
stepped out. He exchanged a single word with the colonel, and lifted the
curtain of the ambulance.

As the colonel glanced within, a deep but embarrassed voice fell
upon his ear. He turned quickly. It was Lord Reginald, flushed and
sympathetic.

"He was a friend,--a relation of ours, you know," he stammered. "My
sister would like--to look at him again."

"Not now," said the colonel in a low voice. The surgeon added something
in a voice still lower, which scarcely reached the veranda.

Lord Reginald turned away with a white face.

"Fall back there!" Captain Fleetwood rode up.

"All ready, sir."

"One moment, captain," said the colonel quietly. "File your first half
company before that ambulance, and bid the men look in."

The singular order was obeyed. The men filed slowly forward, each in
turn halting before the motionless wagon and its immobile freight. They
were men inured to frontier bloodshed and savage warfare; some halted
and hurried on; others lingered, others turned to look again. One man
burst into a short laugh, but when the others turned indignantly upon
him, they saw that in his face that held them in awe. What they saw in
the ambulance did not transpire; what they felt was not known. Strangely
enough, however, what they repressed themselves was mysteriously
communicated to their horses, who snorted and quivered with eagerness
and impatience as they rode back again. The horse of the trooper who
had laughed almost leaped into the air. Only Sergeant Cassidy was
communicative; he took a larger circuit in returning to his place, and
managed to lean over and whisper hoarsely in the ear of a camp follower
spectator, "Tell the young leddy that the torturin' divvils couldn't
take the smile off him!"

The little column filed out of the gateway into the road. As Captain
Fleetwood passed Colonel Carter the two men's eyes met. The colonel said
quietly, "Good night, captain. Let us have a good report from you."

The captain replied only with his gauntleted hand against the brim of
his slouched hat, but the next moment his voice was heard strong and
clear enough in the road. The little column trotted away as evenly as on
parade. But those who climbed the roof of the barracks a quarter of an
hour later saw, in the moonlight, a white cloud drifting rapidly across
the plain towards the west. It was a small cloud in that bare,
menacing, cruel, and illimitable waste; but in its breast was crammed a
thunderbolt.

It fell thirty miles away, blasting and scattering a thousand warriors
and their camp, giving and taking no quarter, vengeful, exterminating,
and complete. Later there were different opinions about it and the
horrible crime that had provoked it: the opposers of Peter's policy
jubilant over the irony of the assassination of the Apostle of
Peace, Peter's disciples as actively deploring the merciless and
indiscriminating vengeance of the military; and so the problem that
Peter had vainly attempted to solve was left an open question. There
were those, too, who believed that Peter had never sacrificed himself
and his sister for the sake of another, but had provoked and incensed
the savages by the blind arrogance of a reformer. There were wild
stories by scouts and interpreters how he had challenged his fate by
an Indian bravado; how himself and his sister had met torture with
an Indian stoicism, and how the Indian braves themselves at last in a
turmoil of revulsion had dipped their arrows and lances in the heroic
heart's blood of their victims, and worshiped their still palpitating
flesh.

But there was one honest loyal little heart that carried back--three
thousand miles--to England the man as it had known and loved him. Lady
Elfrida Runnybroke never married; neither did she go into retirement,
but lived her life and fulfilled her duties in her usual clear-eyed
fashion. She was particularly kind to all Americans,--barring, I fear, a
few pretty-faced, finely-frocked title-hunters,--told stories of the
Far West, and had theories of a people of which they knew little, cared
less, and believed to be vulgar. But I think she found a new pleasure in
the old church at Ashley Grange, and loved to linger over the effigy of
the old Crusader,--her kinsman, the swashbuckler De Bracy,--with a vague
but pretty belief that devotion and love do not die with brave men, but
live and flourish even in lands beyond the seas.




TWO AMERICANS


Perhaps if there was anything important in the migration of the Maynard
family to Europe it rested solely upon the singular fact that Mr.
Maynard did not go there in the expectation of marrying his daughter to
a nobleman. A Charleston merchant, whose house represented two honorable
generations, had, thirty years ago, a certain self-respect which did
not require extraneous aid and foreign support, and it is exceedingly
probable that his intention of spending a few years abroad had no
ulterior motive than pleasure seeking and the observation of many
things--principally of the past--which his own country did not possess.
His future and that of his family lay in his own land, yet with
practical common sense he adjusted himself temporarily to his new
surroundings. In doing so, he had much to learn of others, and others
had something to learn of him; he found that the best people had a
high simplicity equal to his own; he corrected their impressions that a
Southerner had more or less negro blood in his veins, and that, although
a slave owner, he did not necessarily represent an aristocracy. With a
distinguishing dialect of which he was not ashamed, a frank familiarity
of approach joined to an invincible courtesy of manner, which made even
his republican "Sir" equal to the ordinary address to royalty, he
was always respected and seldom misunderstood. When he was--it was
unfortunate for those who misunderstood him. His type was as distinctive
and original as his cousin's, the Englishman, whom it was not the
fashion then to imitate. So that, whether in the hotel of a capital,
the Kursaal of a Spa, or the humbler pension of a Swiss village, he was
always characteristic. Less so was his wife, who, with the chameleon
quality of her transplanted countrywomen, was already Parisian in
dress; still less so his daughter, who had by this time absorbed the
peculiarities of her French, German, and Italian governesses. Yet
neither had yet learned to evade their nationality--or apologize for it.

Mr. Maynard and his family remained for three years in Europe, his stay
having been prolonged by political excitement in his own State of
South Carolina. Commerce is apt to knock the insularity out of people;
distance from one's own distinctive locality gives a wider range to the
vision, and the retired merchant foresaw ruin in his State's politics,
and from the viewpoint of all Europe beheld instead of the usual
collection of individual States--his whole country. But the excitement
increasing, he was finally impelled to return in a faint hope of
doing something to allay it, taking his wife with him, but leaving
his daughter at school in Paris. At about this time, however, a single
cannon shot fired at the national flag on Fort Sumter shook the whole
country, reverberated even in Europe, sending some earnest hearts back
to do battle for State or country, sending others less earnest into
inglorious exile, but, saddest of all! knocking over the school bench
of a girl at the Paris pensionnat. For that shot had also sunk Maynard's
ships at the Charleston wharves, scattered his piled Cotton bales
awaiting shipment at the quays, and drove him, a ruined man, into the
"Home Guard" against his better judgment. Helen Maynard, like a good
girl, had implored her father to let her return and share his risks. But
the answer was "to wait" until this nine days' madness of an uprising
was over. That madness lasted six years, outlived Maynard, whose gray,
misdoubting head bit the dust at Ball's Bluff; outlived his colorless
widow, and left Kelly a penniless orphan.

Yet enough of her country was left in her to make her courageous and
independent of her past. They say that when she got the news she cried
a little, and then laid the letter and what was left of her last
monthly allowance in Madame Ablas' lap. Madame was devastated. "But you,
impoverished and desolated angel, what of you?" "I shall get some of
it back," said the desolated angel with ingenuous candor, "for I speak
better French and English than the other girls, and I shall teach THEM
until I can get into the Conservatoire, for I have a voice. You yourself
have told papa so." From such angelic directness there was no appeal.
Madame Ablas had a heart,--more, she had a French manageress's
discriminating instinct. The American schoolgirl was installed in a
teacher's desk; her bosom friends and fellow students became her pupils.
To some of the richest, and they were mainly of her own country, she
sold her smartest, latest dresses, jewels, and trinkets at a very good
figure, and put the money away against the Conservatoire in the future.
She worked hard, she endured patiently everything but commiseration.
"I'd have you know, Miss," she said to Miss de Laine, daughter of the
famous house of Musslin, de Laine & Co., of New York, "that whatever my
position HERE may be, it is not one to be patronized by a tapeseller's
daughter. My case is not such a very 'sad one,' thank you, and I prefer
not to be spoken of as having seen 'better days' by people who haven't.
There! Don't rap your desk with your pencil when you speak to me, or
I shall call out 'Cash!' before the whole class." So regrettable an
exhibition of temper naturally alienated certain of her compatriots who
were unduly sensitive of their origin, and as they formed a considerable
colony who were then reveling in the dregs of the Empire and the last
orgies of a tottering court, eventually cost her her place. A republican
so aristocratic was not to be tolerated by the true-born Americans who
paid court to De Morny for the phosphorescent splendors of St. Cloud
and the Tuileries, and Miss Helen lost their favor. But she had already
saved enough money for the Conservatoire and a little attic in a very
tall house in a narrow street that trickled into the ceaseless flow
of the Rue Lafayette. Here for four years she trotted backwards
and forwards regularly to work with the freshness of youth and the
inflexible set purpose of maturity. Here, rain or shine, summer or
winter, in the mellow season when the large cafes expanded under the
white sunshine into an overflow of little tables on the pavement, or
when the red glow of the Brasserie shone through frosty panes on the
turned-up collars of pinched Parisians who hurried by, she was always to
be seen.

Half Paris had looked into her clear, gray eyes and passed on; a smaller
and not very youthful portion of Paris had turned and followed her with
small advantage to itself and happily no fear to her. For even in her
young womanhood she kept her child's loving knowledge of that great
city; she even had an innocent camaraderie with street sweepers, kiosk
keepers, and lemonade venders, and the sternness of conciergedom
melted before her. In this wholesome, practical child's experience she
naturally avoided or overlooked what would not have interested a child,
and so kept her freshness and a certain national shrewd simplicity
invincible. There is a story told of her girlhood that, one day playing
in the Tuileries gardens, she was approached by a gentleman with a waxed
mustache and a still more waxen cheek beneath his heavy-lidded eyes.
There was an exchange of polite amenities.

"And your name, ma petite?"

"Helen," responded the young girl naively. "What's yours?"

"Ah," said the kind gentleman, gallantly pulling at his mustache, "if
you are Helen I am Paris."

The young girl raised her clear eyes to his and said gravely, "I reckon
your majesty is FRANCE!"

She retained this childish fearlessness as the poor student of the
Conservatoire; went alone all over Paris with her maiden skirts
untarnished by the gilded dust of the boulevards or the filth of
by-ways; knew all the best shops for her friends, and the cheapest for
her own scant purchases; discovered breakfasts for a few sous with pale
sempstresses, whose sadness she understood, and reckless chorus girls,
whose gayety she didn't; she knew where the earliest chestnut buds were
to be found in the Bois, when the slopes of the Buttes Chaumont were
green, and which was the old woman who sold the cheapest flowers before
the Madeleine. Alone and independent, she earned the affection of
Madame Bibelot, the concierge, and, what was more, her confidence. Her
outgoings and incomings were never questioned. The little American could
take care of herself. Ah, if her son Jacques were only as reasonable!
Miss Maynard might have made more friends had she cared; she might have
joined hands with the innocent and light-hearted poverty of the coterie
of her own artistic compatriots, but something in her blood made her
distrust Bohemianism; her poverty was something to her too sacred for
jest or companionship; her own artistic aim was too long and earnest
for mere temporary enthusiasms. She might have found friends in her own
profession. Her professor opened the sacred doors of his family circle
to the young American girl. She appreciated the delicacy, refinement,
and cheerful equal responsibilities of that household, so widely
different from the accepted Anglo-Saxon belief, but there were certain
restrictions that rightly or wrongly galled her American habits of
girlish freedom, and she resolutely tripped past the first etage four or
five flights higher to her attic, the free sky, and independence! Here
she sometimes met another kind of independence in Monsieur Alphonse,
aged twenty two, and she who ought to have been Madame Alphonse, aged
seventeen, and they often exchanged greetings on the landing with great
respect towards each other, and, oddly enough, no confusion or distrait.
Later they even borrowed each other's matches without fear and without
reproach, until one day Monsieur Alphonse's parents took him away,
and the desolated soi-disant Madame Alphonse, in a cheerful burst of
confidence, gave Helen her private opinion of monsieur, and from her
seventeen years' experience warned the American infant of twenty against
possible similar complications.

One day--it was near the examination for prizes, and her funds were
running low--she was obliged to seek one of those humbler restaurants
she knew of for her frugal breakfast. But she was not hungry, and after
a few mouthfuls left her meal unfinished as a young man entered and half
abstractedly took a seat at her table. She had already moved towards
the comptoir to pay her few sous, when, chancing to look up in a mirror
which hung above the counter, reflecting the interior of the cafe, she
saw the stranger, after casting a hurried glance around him, remove
from her plate the broken roll and even the crumbs she had left, and
as hurriedly sweep them into his pocket-handkerchief. There was nothing
very strange in this; she had seen something like it before in these
humbler cafes,--it was a crib for the birds in the Tuileries Gardens,
or the poor artist's substitute for rubber in correcting his crayon
drawing! But there was a singular flushing of his handsome face in the
act that stirred her with a strange pity, made her own cheek hot with
sympathy, and compelled her to look at him more attentively. The back
that was turned towards her was broad-shouldered and symmetrical, and
showed a frame that seemed to require stronger nourishment than the
simple coffee and roll he had ordered and was devouring slowly. His
clothes, well made though worn, fitted him in a smart, soldier-like way,
and accentuated his decided military bearing. The singular use of his
left hand in lifting his cup made her uneasy, until a slight movement
revealed the fact that his right sleeve was empty and pinned to his
coat. He was one-armed. She turned her compassionate eyes aside, yet
lingered to make a few purchases at the counter, as he paid his bill and
walked away. But she was surprised to see that he tendered the waiter
the unexampled gratuity of a sou. Perhaps he was some eccentric
Englishman; he certainly did not look like a Frenchman.

She had quite forgotten the incident, and in the afternoon had strolled
with a few fellow pupils into the galleries of the Louvre. It was
"copying-day," and as her friends loitered around the easels of the
different students with the easy consciousness of being themselves
"artists," she strolled on somewhat abstractedly before them. Her own
art was too serious to permit her much sympathy with another, and in
the chatter of her companions with the young painters a certain levity
disturbed her. Suddenly she stopped. She had reached a less frequented
room; there was a single easel at one side, but the stool before it was
empty, and its late occupant was standing in a recess by the window,
with his back towards her. He had drawn a silk handkerchief from
his pocket. She recognized his square shoulders, she recognized the
handkerchief, and as he unrolled it she recognized the fragments of her
morning's breakfast as he began to eat them. It was the one-armed man.

She remained so motionless and breathless that he finished his scant
meal without noticing her, and even resumed his place before the easel
without being aware of her presence. The noise of approaching feet
gave a fresh impulse to her own, and she moved towards him. But he was
evidently accustomed to these interruptions, and worked on steadily
without turning his head. As the other footsteps passed her she was
emboldened to take a position behind him and glance at his work. It
was an architectural study of one of Canaletto's palaces. Even her
inexperienced eyes were struck with its vigor and fidelity. But she was
also conscious of a sense of disappointment. Why was he not--like the
others--copying one of the masterpieces? Becoming at last aware of
a motionless woman behind him, he rose, and with a slight gesture of
courtesy and a half-hesitating "Vous verrez mieux la, mademoiselle,"
moved to one side.

"Thank you," said Miss Maynard in English, "but I did not want to
disturb you."

He glanced quickly at her face for the first time. "Ah, you are
English!" he said.

"No. I am American."

His face lightened. "So am I."

"I thought so," she said.

"From my bad French?"

"No. Because you did not look up to see if the woman you were polite to
was old or young."

He smiled. "And you, mademoiselle,--you did not murmur a compliment to
the copy over the artist's back."

She smiled, too, yet with a little pang over the bread. But she was
relieved to see that he evidently had not recognized her. "You are
modest," she said; "you do not attempt masterpieces."

"Oh, no! The giants like Titian and Corregio must be served with both
hands. I have only one," he said half lightly, half sadly.

"But you have been a soldier," she said with quick intuition.

"Not much. Only during our war,--until I was compelled to handle nothing
larger than a palette knife. Then I came home to New York, and, as I was
no use there, I came here to study."

"I am from South Carolina," she said quietly, with a rising color.

He put his palette down, and glanced at her black dress. "Yes," she went
on doggedly, "my father lost all his property, and was killed in battle
with the Northerners. I am an orphan,--a pupil of the Conservatoire." It
was never her custom to allude to her family or her lost fortunes; she
knew not why she did it now, but something impelled her to rid her mind
of it to him at once. Yet she was pained at his grave and pitying face.

"I am very sorry," he said simply. Then, after a pause, he added, with
a gentle smile, "At all events you and I will not quarrel here under the
wings of the French eagles that shelter us both."

"I only wanted to explain why I was alone in Paris," she said, a little
less aggressively.

He replied by unhooking his palette, which was ingeniously fastened by a
strap over his shoulder under the missing arm, and opened a portfolio of
sketches at his side. "Perhaps they may interest you more than the
copy, which I have attempted only to get at this man's method. They are
sketches I have done here."

There was a buttress of Notre Dame, a black arch of the Pont Neuf, part
of an old courtyard in the Faubourg St. Germain,--all very fresh and
striking. Yet, with the recollection of his poverty in her mind, she
could not help saying, "But if you copied one of those masterpieces, you
know you could sell it. There is always a demand for that work."

"Yes," he replied, "but these help me in my line, which is architectural
study. It is, perhaps, not very ambitious," he added thoughtfully,
"but," brightening up again, "I sell these sketches, too. They are quite
marketable, I assure you."

Helen's heart sank again. She remembered now to have seen such
sketches--she doubted not they were his--in the cheap shops in the
Rue Poissoniere, ticketed at a few francs each. She was silent as he
patiently turned them over. Suddenly she uttered a little cry.

He had just uncovered a little sketch of what seemed at first sight only
a confused cluster of roof tops, dormer windows, and chimneys, level
with the sky-line. But it was bathed in the white sunshine of Paris,
against the blue sky she knew so well. There, too, were the gritty
crystals and rust of the tiles, the red, brown, and greenish mosses
of the gutters, and lower down the more vivid colors of geraniums and
pansies in flower-pots under the white dimity curtains which hid the
small panes of garret windows; yet every sordid detail touched and
transfigured with the poetry and romance of youth and genius.

"You have seen this?" she said.

"Yes; it is a study from my window. One must go high for such effects.
You would be surprised if you could see how different the air and
sunshine"--

"No," she interrupted gently, "I HAVE seen it."

"You?" he repeated, gazing at her curiously.

Helen ran the point of her slim finger along the sketch until it
reached a tiny dormer window in the left-hand corner, half-hidden by an
irregular chimney-stack. The curtains were closely drawn. Keeping her
finger upon the spot, she said, interrogatively, "And you saw THAT
window?"

"Yes, quite plainly. I remember it was always open, and the room seemed
empty from early morning to evening, when the curtains were drawn."

"It is my room," she said simply.

Their eyes met with this sudden confession of their equal poverty. "And
mine," he said gayly, "from which this view was taken, is in the rear
and still higher up on the other street."

They both laughed as if some singular restraint had been removed; Helen
even forgot the incident of the bread in her relief. Then they compared
notes of their experiences, of their different concierges, of their
housekeeping, of the cheap stores and the cheaper restaurants of
Paris,--except one. She told him her name, and learned that his was
Philip, or, if she pleased, Major Ostrander. Suddenly glancing at her
companions, who were ostentatiously lingering at a little distance,
she became conscious for the first time that she was talking quite
confidentially to a very handsome man, and for a brief moment wished,
she knew not why, that he had been plainer. This momentary restraint was
accented by the entrance of a lady and gentleman, rather distingue in
dress and bearing, who had stopped before them, and were eying
equally the artist, his work, and his companion with somewhat insolent
curiosity. Helen felt herself stiffening; her companion drew himself up
with soldierly rigidity. For a moment it seemed as if, under that banal
influence, they would part with ceremonious continental politeness, but
suddenly their hands met in a national handshake, and with a frank smile
they separated.

Helen rejoined her companions.

"So you have made a conquest of the recently acquired but unknown
Greek statue?" said Mademoiselle Renee lightly. "You should take up
a subscription to restore his arm, ma petite, if there is a modern
sculptor who can do it. You might suggest it to the two Russian
cognoscenti, who have been hovering around him as if they wanted to buy
him as well as his work. Madame La Princesse is rich enough to indulge
her artistic taste."

"It is a countryman of mine," said Helen simply.

"He certainly does not speak French," said mademoiselle mischievously.

"Nor think it," responded Helen with equal vivacity. Nevertheless, she
wished she had seen him alone.

She thought nothing more of him that day in her finishing exercises. But
the next morning as she went to open her window after dressing, she
drew back with a new consciousness, and then, making a peephole in the
curtain, looked over the opposite roofs. She had seen them many times
before, but now they had acquired a new picturesqueness, which as her
view was, of course, the reverse of the poor painter's sketch, must have
been a transfigured memory of her own. Then she glanced curiously along
the line of windows level with hers. All these, however, with their
occasional revelations of the menage behind them, were also familiar to
her, but now she began to wonder which was his. A singular instinct at
last impelled her to lift her eyes. Higher in the corner house, and so
near the roof that it scarcely seemed possible for a grown man to stand
upright behind it, was an oeil de boeuf looking down upon the other
roofs, and framed in that circular opening like a vignette was the
handsome face of Major Ostrander. His eyes seemed to be turned towards
her window. Her first impulse was to open it and recognize him with a
friendly nod. But an odd mingling of mischief and shyness made her turn
away quickly.

Nevertheless, she met him the next morning walking slowly so near her
house that their encounter might have been scarcely accidental on his
part. She walked with him as far as the Conservatoire. In the light
of the open street she thought he looked pale and hollow-cheeked;
she wondered if it was from his enforced frugality, and was trying to
conceive some elaborate plan of obliging him to accept her hospitality
at least for a single meal, when he said:--

"I think you have brought me luck, Miss Maynard."

Helen opened her eyes wonderingly.

"The two Russian connoisseurs who stared at us so rudely were pleased,
however, to also stare at my work. They offered me a fabulous sum for
one or two of my sketches. It didn't seem to me quite the square thing
to old Favel the picture-dealer, whom I had forced to take a lot at one
fifteenth the price, so I simply referred them to him."

"No!" said Miss Helen indignantly; "you were not so foolish?"

Ostrander laughed.

"I'm afraid what you call my folly didn't avail, for they wanted what
they saw in my portfolio."

"Of course," said Helen. "Why, that sketch of the housetop alone was
worth a hundred times more than what you"--She stopped; she did not like
to reveal what he got for his pictures, and added, "more than what any
of those usurers would give."

"I am glad you think so well of it, for I do not mean to sell it," he
said simply, yet with a significance that kept her silent.

She did not see him again for several days. The preparation for her
examination left her no time, and her earnest concentration in her work
fully preoccupied her thoughts. She was surprised, but not disturbed, on
the day of the awards to see him among the audience of anxious parents
and relations. Miss Helen Maynard did not get the first prize, nor
yet the second; an accessit was her only award. She did not know until
afterwards that this had long been a foregone conclusion of her teachers
on account of some intrinsic defect in her voice. She did not know until
long afterwards that the handsome painter's nervousness on that occasion
had attracted even the sympathy of some of those who were near him. For
she herself had been calm and collected. No one else knew how crushing
was the blow which shattered her hopes and made her three years of labor
and privation a useless struggle. Yet though no longer a pupil she could
still teach; her master had found her a small patronage that saved her
from destitution. That night she circled up quite cheerfully in her
usual swallow flight to her nest under the eaves, and even twittered on
the landing a little over the condolences of the concierge--who knew,
mon Dieu! what a beast the director of the Conservatoire was and how he
could be bribed; but when at last her brown head sank on her pillow she
cried--just a little.

But what was all this to that next morning--the glorious spring morning
which bathed all the roofs of Paris with warmth and hope, rekindling
enthusiasm and ambition in the breast of youth, and gilding even much
of the sordid dirt below. It seemed quite natural that she should meet
Major Ostrander not many yards away as she sallied out. In that bright
spring sunshine and the hopeful spring of their youth they even laughed
at the previous day's disappointment. Ah! what a claque it was, after
all! For himself, he, Ostrander, would much rather see that satin-faced
Parisian girl who had got the prize smirking at the critics from the
boards of the Grand Opera than his countrywoman! The Conservatoire
settled things for Paris, but Paris wasn't the world! America would
come to the fore yet in art of all kinds--there was a free academy
there now--there should be a Conservatoire of its own. Of course, Paris
schooling and Paris experience weren't to be despised in art; but, thank
heaven! she had THAT, and no directors could take it from her! This and
much more, until, comparing notes, they suddenly found that they were
both free for that day. Why should they not take advantage of that rare
weather and rarer opportunity to make a little suburban excursion? But
where? There was the Bois, but that was still Paris. Fontainebleau? Too
far; there were always artists sketching in the forest, and he would
like for that day to "sink the shop." Versailles? Ah, yes! Versailles!

Thither they went. It was not new to either of them. Ostrander knew
it as an artist and as an American reader of that French historic
romance--a reader who hurried over the sham intrigues of the Oeil de
Boeuf, the sham pastorals of the Petit Trianon, and the sham heroics of
a shifty court, to get to Lafayette. Helen knew it as a child who had
dodged these lessons from her patriotic father, but had enjoyed the
woods, the parks, the terraces, and particularly the restaurant at the
park gates. That day they took it like a boy and girl,--with the amused,
omniscient tolerance of youth for a past so inferior to the present.
Ostrander thought this gray-eyed, independent American-French girl far
superior to the obsequious filles d'honneur, whose brocades had rustled
through those quinquonces, and Helen vaguely realized the truth of her
fellow pupil's mischievous criticism of her companion that day at the
Louvre. Surely there was no classical statue here comparable to the
one-armed soldier-painter!

All this was as yet free from either sentiment or passion, and was only
the frank pride of friendship. But, oddly enough, their mere presence
and companionship seemed to excite in others that tenderness they had
not yet felt themselves. Family groups watched the handsome pair in
their innocent confidences, and, with French exuberant recognition of
sentiment, thought them the incarnation of Love. Something in
their manifest equality of condition kept even the vainest and
most susceptible of spectators from attempted rivalry or cynical
interruption. And when at last they dropped side by side on a sun-warmed
stone bench on the terrace, and Helen, inclining her brown head towards
her companion, informed him of the difficulty she had experienced in
getting gumbo soup, rice and chicken, corn cakes, or any of her favorite
home dishes in Paris, an exhausted but gallant boulevardier rose from a
contiguous bench, and, politely lifting his hat to the handsome couple,
turned slowly away from what he believed were tender confidences he
would not permit himself to hear.

But the shadow of the trees began to lengthen, casting broad bars across
the alle, and the sun sank lower to the level of their eyes. They were
quite surprised, on looking around a few moments later, to discover that
the gardens were quite deserted, and Ostrander, on consulting his watch,
found that they had just lost a train which the other pleasure-seekers
had evidently availed themselves of. No matter; there was another train
an hour later; they could still linger for a few moments in the brief
sunset and then dine at the local restaurant before they left. They both
laughed at their forgetfulness, and then, without knowing why, suddenly
lapsed into silence. A faint wind blew in their faces and trilled the
thin leaves above their heads. Nothing else moved. The long windows
of the palace in that sunset light seemed to glisten again with the
incendiary fires of the Revolution, and then went out blankly and
abruptly. The two companions felt that they possessed the terrace and
all its memories as completely as the shadows who had lived and died
there.

"I am so glad we have had this day together," said the painter, with
a very conscious breaking of the silence, "for I am leaving Paris
to-morrow."

Helen raised her eyes quickly to his.

"For a few days only," he continued. "My Russian customers--perhaps I
ought to say my patrons--have given me a commission to make a study of
an old chateau which the princess lately bought."

A swift recollection of her fellow pupil's raillery regarding the
princess's possible attitude towards the painter came over her and gave
a strange artificiality to her response.

"I suppose you will enjoy it very much," she said dryly.

"No," he returned with the frankness that she had lacked. "I'd much
rather stay in Paris, but," he added with a faint smile, "it's a
question of money, and that is not to be despised. Yet I--I--somehow
feel that I am deserting you,--leaving you here all alone in Paris."

"I've been all alone for four years," she said, with a bitterness she
had never felt before, "and I suppose I'm accustomed to it."

Nevertheless she leaned a little forward, with her fawn-colored lashes
dropped over her eyes, which were bent upon the ground and the point
of the parasol she was holding with her little gloved hands between her
knees. He wondered why she did not look up; he did not know that it
was partly because there were tears in her eyes and partly for another
reason. As she had leaned forward his arm had quite unconsciously moved
along the back of the bench where her shoulders had rested, and she
could not have resumed her position except in his half embrace.

He had not thought of it. He was lost in a greater abstraction. That
infinite tenderness,--far above a woman's,--the tenderness of strength
and manliness towards weakness and delicacy, the tenderness that looks
down and not up, was already possessing him. An instinct of protection
drew him nearer this bowed but charming figure, and if he then noticed
that the shoulders were pretty, and the curves of the slim waist
symmetrical, it was rather with a feeling of timidity and a
half-consciousness of unchivalrous thought. Yet why should he not try to
keep the brave and honest girl near him always? Why should he not claim
the right to protect her? Why should they not--they who were alone in a
strange land--join their two lonely lives for mutual help and happiness?

A sudden perception of delicacy, the thought that he should have
spoken before her failure at the Conservatoire had made her feel her
helplessness, brought a slight color to his cheek. Would it not seem
to her that he was taking an unfair advantage of her misfortune? Yet
it would be so easy now to slip a loving arm around her waist, while he
could work for her and protect her with the other. THE OTHER! His eye
fell on his empty sleeve. Ah, he had forgotten that! He had but ONE arm!

He rose up abruptly,--so abruptly that Helen, rising too, almost touched
the arm that was hurriedly withdrawn. Yet in that accidental contact,
which sent a vague tremor through the young girl's frame, there was
still time for him to have spoken. But he only said:--

"Perhaps we had better dine."

She assented quickly,--she knew not why,--with a feeling of relief. They
walked very quietly and slowly towards the restaurant. Not a word of
love had been spoken; not even a glance of understanding had passed
between them. Yet they both knew by some mysterious instinct that a
crisis of their lives had come and gone, and that they never again could
be to each other as they were but a brief moment ago. They talked very
sensibly and gravely during their frugal meal; the previous spectator
of their confidences would have now thought them only simple friends and
have been as mistaken as before. They talked freely of their hopes and
prospects,--all save one! They even spoke pleasantly of repeating their
little expedition after his return from the country, while in their
secret hearts they had both resolved never to see each other again.
Yet by that sign each knew that this was love, and were proud of each
other's pride, which kept it a secret.

The train was late, and it was past ten o'clock when they at last
appeared before the concierge of Helen's home. During their journey,
and while passing though the crowds at the station and in the streets,
Ostrander had exhibited a new and grave guardianship over the young
girl, and, on the first landing, after a scrutinizing and an almost
fierce glance at one or two of Helen's odd fellow lodgers, he had
extended his protection so far as to accompany her up the four flights
to the landing of her apartment. Here he took leave of her with a grave
courtesy that half pained, half pleased her. She watched his broad
shoulders and dangling sleeve as he went down the stairs, and then
quickly turned, entered her room, and locked the door. The smile had
faded from her lips. Going to the window, she pressed her hot forehead
against the cool glass and looked out upon the stars nearly level with
the black roofs around her. She stood there some moments until another
star appeared higher up against the roof ridge, the star she was looking
for. But here the glass pane before her eyes became presently dim with
moisture; she was obliged to rub it out with her handkerchief; yet,
somehow, it soon became clouded, at which she turned sharply away and
went to bed.

But Miss Helen did not know that when she had looked after the
retreating figure of her protector as he descended the stairs that night
that he was really carrying away on those broad shoulders the character
she had so laboriously gained during her four years' solitude. For when
she came down the next morning the concierge bowed to her with an air
of easy, cynical abstraction, the result of a long conversation with his
wife the night before. He had taken Helen's part with a kindly
cynicism. "Ah! what would you--it was bound to come. The affair of
the Conservatoire had settled that. The poor child could not starve;
penniless, she could not marry. Only why consort with other swallows
under the eaves when she could have had a gilded cage on the first
etage?" But girls were so foolish--in their first affair; then it was
always LOVE! The second time they were wiser. And this maimed warrior
and painter was as poor as she. A compatriot, too; well, perhaps
that saved some scandal; one could never know what the Americans were
accustomed to do. The first floor, which had been inclined to be civil
to the young teacher, was more so, but less respectful; one or two young
men were tentatively familiar until they looked in her gray eyes and
remembered the broad shoulders of the painter. Oddly enough, only
Mademoiselle Fifine, of her own landing, exhibited any sympathy with
her, and for the first time Helen was frightened. She did not show it,
however, only she changed her lodgings the next day. But before she left
she had a few moments' conversation with the concierge and an exchange
of a word or two with some of her fellow lodgers. I have already hinted
that the young lady had great precision of statement; she had a pretty
turn for handling colloquial French and an incisive knowledge of French
character. She left No. 34, Rue de Frivole, working itself into a white
rage, but utterly undecided as to her real character.

But all this and much more was presently blown away in the hot breath
that swept the boulevards at the outburst of the Franco-German War,
and Miss Helen Maynard disappeared from Paris with many of her fellow
countrymen. The excitement reached even a quaint old chateau in Brittany
where Major Ostrander was painting. The woman who was standing by his
side as he sat before his easel on the broad terrace observed that he
looked disturbed.

"What matters?" she said gently. "You have progressed so well in your
work that you can finish it elsewhere. I have no great desire to stay
in France with a frontier garrisoned by troops while I have a villa
in Switzerland where you could still be my guest. Paris can teach you
nothing more, my friend; you have only to create now--and be famous."

"I must go to Paris," he said quietly. "I have
friends--countrymen--there, who may want me now."

"If you mean the young singer of the Rue de Frivole, you have
compromised her already. You can do her no good."

"Madame!"

The pretty face which he had been familiar with for the past six weeks
somehow seemed to change its character. Under the mask of dazzling skin
he fancied he saw the high cheek-bones and square Tartar angle; the
brilliant eyes were even brighter than before, but they showed more of
the white than he had ever seen in them.

Nevertheless she smiled, with an equally stony revelation of her white
teeth, yet said, still gently, "Forgive me if I thought our friendship
justified me in being frank,--perhaps too frank for my own good."

She stopped as if half expecting an interruption; but as he remained
looking wonderingly at her, she bit her lip, and went on: "You have
a great career before you. Those who help you must do so without
entangling you; a chain of roses may be as impeding as lead. Until you
are independent, you--who may in time compass everything yourself--will
need to be helped. You know," she added with a smile, "you have but one
arm."

"In your kindness and appreciation you have made me forget it," he
stammered. Yet he had a swift vision of the little bench at Versailles
where he had NOT forgotten it, and as he glanced around the empty
terrace where they stood he was struck with a fateful resemblance to it.

"And I should not remind you now of it," she went on, "except to say
that money can always take its place. As in the fairy story, the prince
must have a new arm made of gold." She stopped, and then suddenly coming
closer to him said, hurriedly and almost fiercely, "Can you not see that
I am advising you against my interests,--against myself? Go, then, to
Paris, and go quickly, before I change my mind. Only if you do not find
your friends there, remember you have always ONE here." Before he could
reply, or even understand that white face, she was gone.

He left for Paris that afternoon. He went directly to the Rue de
Frivole; his old resolution to avoid Helen was blown to the winds in
the prospect of losing her utterly. But the concierge only knew that
mademoiselle had left a day or two after monsieur had accompanied her
home. And, pointedly, there was another gentleman who had inquired
eagerly--and bountifully as far as money went--for any trace of
the young lady. It was a Russe. The concierge smiled to himself at
Ostrander's flushed cheek. It served this one-armed, conceited American
poseur right. Mademoiselle was wiser in this SECOND affair.

Ostrander did not finish his picture. The princess sent him a cheque,
which he coldly returned. Nevertheless he had acquired through his
Russian patronage a local fame which stood him well with the picture
dealers,--in spite of the excitement of the war. But his heart was no
longer in his work; a fever of unrest seized him, which at another time
might have wasted itself in mere dissipation. Some of his fellow artists
had already gone into the army. After the first great reverses he
offered his one arm and his military experience to that Paris which
had given him a home. The old fighting instinct returned to him with a
certain desperation he had never known before. In the sorties from
Paris the one-armed American became famous, until a few days before the
capitulation, when he was struck down by a bullet through the lung, and
left in a temporary hospital. Here in the whirl and terror of Commune
days he was forgotten, and when Paris revived under the republic he had
disappeared as completely as his compatriot Helen.

But Miss Helen Maynard had been only obscured and not extinguished. At
the first outbreak of hostilities a few Americans had still kept giddy
state among the ruins of the tottering empire. A day or two after she
left the Rue de Frivole she was invited by one of her wealthy former
schoolmates to assist with her voice and talent at one of their
extravagant entertainments. "You will understand, dear," said Miss de
Laine, with ingenious delicacy, as she eyed her old comrade's well-worn
dress, "that Poppa expects to pay you professional prices, and it may be
an opening for you among our other friends."

"I should not come otherwise, dear," said Miss Helen with equal
frankness. But she played and sang very charmingly to the fashionable
assembly in the Champs Elysees,--so charmingly, indeed, that Miss de
Laine patronizingly expatiated upon her worth and her better days in
confidence to some of the guests.

"A most deserving creature," said Miss de Laine to the dowager duchess
of Soho, who was passing through Paris on her way to England; "you would
hardly believe that Poppa knew her father when he was one of the richest
men in South Carolina."

"Your father seems to have been very fortunate," said the duchess
quietly, "and so are YOU. Introduce me."

This not being exactly the reply that Miss de Laine expected, she
momentarily hesitated: but the duchess profited by it to walk over to
the piano and introduce herself. When she rose to go she invited Helen
to luncheon with her the next day. "Come early, my dear, and we'll have
a long talk." Helen pointed out hesitatingly that she was practically
a guest of the de Laines. "Ah, well, that's true, my dear; then you may
bring one of them with you."

Helen went to the luncheon, but was unaccompanied. She had a long talk
with the dowager. "I am not rich, my dear, like your friends, and cannot
afford to pay ten napoleons for a song. Like you I have seen 'better
days.' But this is no place for you, child, and if you can bear with an
old woman's company for a while I think I can find you something to
do." That evening Helen left for England with the duchess, a piece of
"ingratitude, indelicacy, and shameless snobbery," which Miss de Laine
was never weary of dilating upon. "And to think I introduced her, though
she was a professional!"

*****

It was three years after. Paris, reviving under the republic, had
forgotten Helen and the American colony; and the American colony,
emigrating to more congenial courts, had forgotten Paris.

It was a bleak day of English summer when Helen, standing by the window
of the breakfast-room at Hamley Court, and looking over the wonderful
lawn, kept perennially green by humid English skies, heard the
practical, masculine voice of the duchess in her ear at the same moment
that she felt the gentle womanly touch of her hand on her shoulder.

"We are going to luncheon at Moreland Hall to-day, my dear."

"Why, we were there only last week!" said Helen.

"Undoubtedly," returned the duchess dryly, "and we may luncheon there
next week and the next following. And," she added, looking into her
companion's gray eyes, "it rests with YOU to stay there if you choose."

Helen stared at her protector.

"My dear," continued the duchess, slipping her arm around Helen's waist,
"Sir James has honored ME--as became my relations to YOU--with his
confidences. As you haven't given me YOURS I suppose you have none, and
that I am telling you news when I say that Sir James wishes to marry
you."

The unmistakable astonishment in the girl's eye satisfied the duchess
even before her voice.

"But he scarcely knows me or anything of me!" said the young girl
quickly.

"On the contrary, my dear, he knows EVERYTHING about you. I have been
particular in telling him all I know--and some things even YOU don't
know and couldn't tell him. For instance, that you are a very nice
person. Come, my dear, don't look so stupefied, or I shall really think
there's something in it that I don't know. It's not a laughing nor a
crying matter yet--at present it's only luncheon again with a civil
man who has three daughters and a place in the county. Don't make the
mistake, however, of refusing him before he offers--whatever you do
afterwards."

"But"--stammered Helen.

"But--you are going to say that you don't love him and have never
thought of him as a husband," interrupted the duchess; "I read it in
your face,--and it's a very proper thing to say."

"It is so unexpected," urged Helen.

"Everything is unexpected from a man in these matters," said the
duchess. "We women are the only ones that are prepared."

"But," persisted Helen, "if I don't want to marry at all?"

"I should say, then, that it is a sign that you ought; if you were
eager, my dear, I should certainly dissuade you." She paused, and then
drawing Helen closer to her, said, with a certain masculine tenderness,
"As long as I live, dear, you know that you have a home here. But I
am an old woman living on the smallest of settlements. Death is as
inevitable to me as marriage should be to you."

Nevertheless, they did not renew the conversation, and later received
the greetings of their host at Moreland Hall with a simplicity and
frankness that were, however, perfectly natural and unaffected in both
women. Sir James,--a tall, well-preserved man of middle age, with
the unmistakable bearing of long years of recognized and unchallenged
position,--however, exhibited on this occasion that slight consciousness
of weakness and susceptibility to ridicule which is apt to indicate the
invasion of the tender passion in the heart of the average Briton. His
duty as host towards the elder woman of superior rank, however, covered
his embarrassment, and for a moment left Helen quite undisturbed to gaze
again upon the treasures of the long drawing-room of Moreland Hall with
which she was already familiar. There were the half-dozen old masters,
whose respectability had been as recognized through centuries as
their owner's ancestors; there were the ancestors themselves,--wigged,
ruffled, and white-handed, by Vandyke, Lely, Romney, and Gainsborough;
there were the uniform, expressionless ancestresses in stiff brocade
or short-waisted, clinging draperies, but all possessing that brilliant
coloring which the gray skies outside lacked, and which seemed to have
departed from the dresses of their descendants. The American girl had
sometimes speculated upon what might have been the appearance of the
lime-tree walk, dotted with these gayly plumaged folk, and wondered if
the tyranny of environment had at last subdued their brilliant colors.
And a new feeling touched her. Like most of her countrywomen, she was
strongly affected by the furniture of life; the thought that all that
she saw there MIGHT BE HERS; that she might yet stand in succession to
these strange courtiers and stranger shepherdesses, and, like them, look
down from the canvas upon the intruding foreigner, thrilled her for a
moment with a half-proud, half-passive sense of yielding to what seemed
to be her fate. A narrow-eyed, stiff-haired Dutch maid of honor before
whom she was standing gazed at her with staring vacancy. Suddenly
she started. Before the portrait upon a fanciful easel stood a small
elaborately framed sketch in oils. It was evidently some recently
imported treasure. She had not seen it before. As she moved quickly
forward, she recognized at a glance that it was Ostrander's sketch from
the Paris grenier.

The wall, the room, the park beyond, even the gray sky, seemed to fade
away before her. She was standing once more at her attic window looking
across the roofs and chimney stacks upward to the blue sky of Paris.
Through a gap in the roofs she could see the chestnut-trees trilling in
the little square; she could hear the swallows twittering in the leaden
troughs of the gutter before her; the call of the chocolate vender
or the cry of a gamin floated up to her from the street below, or
the latest song of the cafe chantant was whistled by the blue-bloused
workman on the scaffolding hard by. The breath of Paris, of youth, of
blended work and play, of ambition, of joyous freedom, again filled her
and mingled with the scent of the mignonette that used to stand on the
old window-ledge.

"I am glad you like it. I have only just put it up."

It was the voice of Sir James--a voice that had regained a little of
its naturalness--a calm, even lazy English voice--confident from the
experience of years of respectful listeners. Yet it somehow jarred upon
her nerves with its complacency and its utter incongruousness to her
feelings. Nevertheless, the impulse to know more about the sketch was
the stronger.

"Do you mean you have just bought it?" asked Helen. "It's not English?"

"No," said Sir James, gratified with his companion's interest. "I bought
it in Paris just after the Commune."

"From the artist?" continued Helen, in a slightly constrained voice.

"No," said Sir James, "although I knew the poor chap well enough. You
can easily see that he was once a painter of great promise. I rather
think it was stolen from him while he was in hospital by those
incendiary wretches. I recognized it, however, and bought for a few
francs from them what I would have paid HIM a thousand for."

"In hospital?" repeated Helen dazedly.

"Yes," said Sir James. "The fact is it was the ending of the usual
Bohemian artist's life. Though in this case the man was a real
artist,--and I believe, by the way, was a countryman of yours."

"In hospital?" again repeated Helen. "Then he was poor?"

"Reckless, I should rather say; he threw himself into the fighting
before Paris and was badly wounded. But it was all the result of the
usual love affair--the girl, they say, ran off with the usual richer
man. At all events, it ruined him for painting; he never did anything
worth having afterwards."

"And now?" said Helen in the same unmoved voice.

Sir James shrugged his shoulders. "He disappeared. Probably he'll turn
up some day on the London pavement--with chalks. That sketch, by the
way, was one that had always attracted me to his studio--though he never
would part with it. I rather fancy, don't you know, that the girl had
something to do with it. It's a wonderfully realistic sketch, don't you
see; and I shouldn't wonder if it was the girl herself who lived behind
one of those queer little windows in the roof there."

"She did live there," said Helen in a low voice.

Sir James uttered a vague laugh. Helen looked around her. The duchess
had quietly and unostentatiously passed into the library, and in full
view, though out of hearing, was examining, with her glass to her eye,
some books upon the shelves.

"I mean," said Helen, in a perfectly clear voice, "that the young girl
did NOT run away from the painter, and that he had neither the right nor
the cause to believe her faithless or attribute his misfortunes to her."
She hesitated, not from any sense of her indiscretion, but to recover
from a momentary doubt if the girl were really her own self--but only
for a moment.

"Then you knew the painter, as I did?" he said in astonishment.

"Not as YOU did," responded Helen. She drew nearer the picture, and,
pointing a slim finger to the canvas, said:--

"Do you see that small window with the mignonette?"

"Perfectly."

"That was MY room. His was opposite. He told me so when I first saw the
sketch. I am the girl you speak of, for he knew no other, and I believe
him to have been a truthful, honorable man."

"But what were you doing there? Surely you are joking?" said Sir James,
with a forced smile.

"I was a poor pupil at the Conservatoire, and lived where I could afford
to live."

"Alone?"

"Alone."

"And the man was"--

"Major Ostrander was my friend. I even think I have a better right to
call him that than you had."

Sir James coughed slightly and grasped the lapel of his coat. "Of
course; I dare say; I had no idea of this, don't you know, when I
spoke." He looked around him as if to evade a scene. "Ah! suppose we
ask the duchess to look at the sketch; I don't think she's seen it." He
began to move in the direction of the library.

"She had better wait," said Helen quietly.

"For what?"

"Until"--hesitated Helen smilingly.

"Until? I am afraid I don't understand," said Sir James stiffly,
coloring with a slight suspicion.

"Until you have APOLOGIZED."

"Of course," said Sir James, with a half-hysteric laugh. "I do. You
understand I only repeated a story that was told me, and had no idea of
connecting YOU with it. I beg your pardon, I'm sure. I er--er--in fact,"
he added suddenly, the embarrassed smile fading from his face as he
looked at her fixedly, "I remember now it must have been the concierge
of the house, or the opposite one, who told me. He said it was a Russian
who carried off that young girl. Of course it was some made-up story."

"I left Paris with the duchess," said Helen quietly, "before the war."

"Of course. And she knows all about your friendship with this man."

"I don't think she does. I haven't told her. Why should I?" returned
Helen, raising her clear eyes to his.

"Really, I don't know," stammered Sir James. "But here she is. Of course
if you prefer it, I won't say anything of this to her."

Helen gave him her first glance of genuine emotion; it happened,
however, to be scorn.

"How odd!" she said, as the duchess leisurely approached them, her glass
still in her eye. "Sir James, quite unconsciously, has just been showing
me a sketch of my dear old mansarde in Paris. Look! That little window
was my room. And, only think of it, Sir James bought it of an old friend
of mine, who painted it from the opposite attic, where he lived. And
quite unconsciously, too."

"How very singular!" said the duchess; "indeed, quite romantic!"

"Very!" said Sir James.

"Very!" said Helen.

The tone of their voices was so different that the duchess looked from
one to the other.

"But that isn't all," said Helen with a smile, "Sir James actually
fancied"--

"Will you excuse me for a moment?" said Sir James, interrupting, and
turning hastily to the duchess with a forced smile and a somewhat
heightened color. "I had forgotten that I had promised Lady Harriet to
drive you over to Deep Hill after luncheon to meet that South American
who has taken such a fancy to your place, and I must send to the
stables."

As Sir James disappeared, the duchess turned to Helen. "I see what has
happened, dear; don't mind me, for I frankly confess I shall now eat my
luncheon less guiltily than I feared. But tell me, HOW did you refuse
him?"

"I didn't refuse him," said Helen. "I only prevented his asking me."

"How?"

Then Helen told her all,--everything except her first meeting with
Ostrander at the restaurant. A true woman respects the pride of those
she loves more even than her own, and while Helen felt that although
that incident might somewhat condone her subsequent romantic passion in
the duchess's eyes, she could not tell it.

The duchess listened in silence.

"Then you two incompetents have never seen each other since?" she asked.

"No."

"But you hope to?"

"I cannot speak for HIM," said Helen.

"And you have never written to him, and don't know whether he is alive
or dead?"

"No."

"Then I have been nursing in my bosom for three years at one and the
same time a brave, independent, matter-of-fact young person and the most
idiotic, sentimental heroine that ever figured in a romantic opera or a
country ballad." Helen did not reply. "Well, my dear," said the duchess
after a pause, "I see that you are condemned to pass your days with
me in some cheap hotel on the continent." Helen looked up wonderingly.
"Yes," she continued, "I suppose I must now make up my mind to sell my
place to this gilded South American, who has taken a fancy to it. But
I am not going to spoil my day by seeing him NOW. No; we will excuse
ourselves from going to Deep Hill to-day, and we will go back home
quietly after luncheon. It will be a mercy to Sir James."

"But," said Helen earnestly, "I can go back to my old life, and earn my
own living."

"Not if I can help it," said the duchess grimly. "Your independence has
made you a charming companion to me, I admit; but I shall see that it
does not again spoil your chances of marrying. Here comes Sir James.
Really, my dear, I don't know which one of you looks the more relieved."

On their way back through the park Helen again urged the duchess to give
up the idea of selling Hamley Court, and to consent to her taking up
her old freedom and independence once more. "I shall never, never
forget your loving kindness and protection," continued the young girl,
tenderly. "You will let me come to you always when you want me; but
you will let me also shape my life anew, and work for my living." The
duchess turned her grave, half humorous face towards her. "That means
you have determined to seek HIM. Well! Perhaps if you give up your other
absurd idea of independence, I may assist you. And now I really believe,
dear, that there is that dreadful South American," pointing to a figure
that was crossing the lawn at Hamley Court, "hovering round like a
vulture. Well, I can't see him to-day if he calls, but YOU may. By the
way, they say he is not bad-looking, was a famous general in the South
American War, and is rolling in money, and comes here on a secret
mission from his government. But I forget--the rest of our life is to
be devoted to seeking ANOTHER. And I begin to think I am not a good
matchmaker."

Helen was in no mood for an interview with the stranger, whom, like the
duchess, she was inclined to regard as a portent of fate and sacrifice.
She knew her friend's straitened circumstances, which might make such
a sacrifice necessary to insure a competency for her old age, and,
as Helen feared also, a provision for herself. She knew the strange
tenderness of this masculine woman, which had survived a husband's
infidelities and a son's forgetfulness, to be given to her, and her
heart sank at the prospect of separation, even while her pride demanded
that she should return to her old life again. Then she wondered if the
duchess was right; did she still cherish the hope of meeting Ostrander
again? The tears she had kept back all that day asserted themselves
as she flung open the library door and ran across the garden into the
myrtle walk. "In hospital!" The words had been ringing in her ears
though Sir James's complacent speech, through the oddly constrained
luncheon, through the half-tender, half-masculine reasoning of her
companion. He HAD loved her--he had suffered and perhaps thought her
false. Suddenly she stopped. At the further end of the walk the ominous
stranger whom she wished to avoid was standing looking towards the
house.

How provoking! She glanced again; he was leaning against a tree and was
obviously as preoccupied as she was herself. He was actually sketching
the ivy-covered gable of the library. What presumption! And he was
sketching with his left hand. A sudden thrill of superstition came over
her. She moved eagerly forward for a better view of him. No! he had two
arms!

But his quick eye had already caught sight of her, and before she could
retreat she could see that he had thrown away his sketch-book and was
hastening eagerly toward her. Amazed and confounded she would have
flown, but her limbs suddenly refused their office, and as he at last
came near her with the cry of "Helen!" upon his lips, she felt herself
staggering, and was caught in his arms.

"Thank God," he said. "Then she HAS let you come to me!"

She disengaged herself slowly and dazedly from him and stood looking at
him with wondering eyes. He was bronzed and worn; there was the second
arm: but still it was HE. And with the love, which she now knew he had
felt, looking from his honest eyes!

"SHE has let me come!" she repeated vacantly. "Whom do you mean?"

"The duchess."

"The duchess?"

"Yes." He stopped suddenly, gazing at her blank face, while his own grew
ashy white. "Helen! For God's sake tell me! You have not accepted him?"

"I have accepted no one," she stammered, with a faint color rising to
her cheeks. "I do not understand you."

A look of relief came over him. "But," he said amazedly, "has not the
duchess told you how I happen to be here? How, when you disappeared from
Paris long ago--with my ambition crushed, and nothing left to me but
my old trade of the fighter--I joined a secret expedition to help the
Chilian revolutionists? How I, who might have starved as a painter,
gained distinction as a partisan general, and was rewarded with an
envoyship in Europe? How I came to Paris to seek you? How I found that
even the picture--your picture, Helen--had been sold. How, in tracing it
here, I met the duchess at Deep Hill, and learning you were with her, in
a moment of impulse told her my whole story. How she told me that though
she was your best friend, you had never spoken of me, and how she begged
me not to spoil your chance of a good match by revealing myself, and so
awakening a past--which she believed you had forgotten. How she implored
me at least to let her make a fair test of your affections and your
memory, and until then to keep away from you--and to spare you, Helen;
and for your sake, I consented. Surely she has told this, NOW!"

"Not a word," said Helen blankly.

"Then you mean to say that if I had not haunted the park to-day, in the
hope of seeing you, believing that as you would not recognize me with
this artificial arm, I should not break my promise to her,--you would
not have known I was even living."

"No!--yes!--stay!" A smile broke over her pale face and left it rosy. "I
see it all now. Oh, Philip, don't you understand? She wanted only to try
us!"

There was a silence in the lonely wood, broken only by the trills of a
frightened bird whose retreat was invaded.

"Not now! Please! Wait! Come with me!"

The next moment she had seized Philip's left hand, and, dragging him
with her, was flying down the walk towards the house. But as they neared
the garden door it suddenly opened on the duchess, with her glasses to
her eyes, smiling.

The General Don Felipe Ostrander did not buy Hamley Court, but he and
his wife were always welcome guests there. And Sir James, as became an
English gentleman,--amazed though he was at Philip's singular return,
and more singular incognito,--afterwards gallantly presented Philip's
wife with Philip's first picture.





THE JUDGMENT OF BOLINAS PLAIN


The wind was getting up on the Bolinas Plain. It had started the fine
alkaline dust along the level stage road, so that even that faint track,
the only break in the monotony of the landscape, seemed fainter than
ever. But the dust cloud was otherwise a relief; it took the semblance
of distant woods where there was no timber, of moving teams where there
was no life. And as Sue Beasley, standing in the doorway of One Spring
House that afternoon, shading her sandy lashes with her small red hand,
glanced along the desolate track, even HER eyes, trained to the dreary
prospect, were once or twice deceived.

"Sue!"

It was a man's voice from within. Sue took no notice of it, but remained
with her hand shading her eyes.

"Sue! Wot yer yawpin' at thar?"

"Yawpin'" would seem to have been the local expression for her
abstraction, since, without turning her head, she answered slowly and
languidly: "Reckoned I see'd som' un on the stage road. But 'tain't
nothin' nor nobody."

Both voices had in their accents and delivery something of the sadness
and infinite protraction of the plain. But the woman's had a musical
possibility in its long-drawn cadence, while the man's was only
monotonous and wearying. And as she turned back into the room again,
and confronted her companion, there was the like difference in their
appearance. Ira Beasley, her husband, had suffered from the combined
effects of indolence, carelessness, misadventure, and disease. Two of
his fingers had been cut off by a scythe, his thumb and part of his left
ear had been blown away by an overcharged gun; his knees were crippled
by rheumatism, and one foot was lame from ingrowing nails,--deviations
that, however, did not tend to correct the original angularities of his
frame. His wife, on the other hand, had a pretty figure, which still
retained--they were childless--the rounded freshness of maidenhood. Her
features were irregular, yet not without a certain piquancy of outline;
her hair had the two shades sometimes seen in imperfect blondes, and
her complexion the sallowness of combined exposure and alkaline
assimilation.

She had lived there since, an angular girl of fifteen, she had been
awkwardly helped by Ira from the tail-board of the emigrant wagon in
which her mother had died two weeks before, and which was making its
first halt on the Californian plains, before Ira's door. On the second
day of their halt Ira had tried to kiss her while she was drawing water,
and had received the contents of the bucket instead,--the girl knowing
her own value. On the third day Ira had some conversation with
her father regarding locations and stock. On the fourth day this
conversation was continued in the presence of the girl; on the fifth day
the three walked to Parson Davies' house, four miles away, where Ira
and Sue were married. The romance of a week had taken place within the
confines of her present view from the doorway; the episode of her life
might have been shut in in that last sweep of her sandy lashes.

Nevertheless, at that moment some instinct, she knew not what, impelled
her when her husband left the room to put down the dish she was washing,
and, with the towel lapped over her bare pretty arms, to lean once more
against the doorpost, lazily looking down the plain. A cylindrical
cloud of dust trailing its tattered skirt along the stage road suddenly
assaulted the house, and for an instant enveloped it. As it whirled away
again something emerged, or rather dropped from its skirts behind the
little cluster of low bushes which encircled the "One Spring." It was a
man.

"Thar! I knew it was suthin'," she began aloud, but the words somehow
died upon her lips. Then she turned and walked towards the inner
door, wherein her husband had disappeared,--but here stopped again
irresolutely. Then she suddenly walked through the outer door into the
road and made directly for the spring. The figure of a man crouching,
covered with dust, half rose from the bushes when she reached them. She
was not frightened, for he seemed utterly exhausted, and there was a
singular mixture of shame, hesitation, and entreaty in his broken voice
as he gasped out:--

"Look here!--I say! hide me somewhere, won't you? Just for a little.
You see--the fact is--I'm chased! They're hunting me now,--they're
just behind me. Anywhere will do till they go by! Tell you all about it
another time. Quick! Please do!"

In all this there was nothing dramatic nor even startling to her. Nor
did there seem to be any present danger impending to the man. He did
not look like a horse-thief nor a criminal. And he had tried to laugh,
half-apologetically, half-bitterly,--the consciousness of a man who had
to ask help of a woman at such a moment.

She gave a quick glance towards the house. He followed her eyes,
and said hurriedly: "Don't tell on me. Don't let any one see me. I'm
trusting you.

"Come," she said suddenly. "Get on THIS side."

He understood her, and slipped to her side, half-creeping,
half-crouching like a dog behind her skirts, but keeping her figure
between him and the house as she moved deliberately towards the barn,
scarce fifty yards away. When she reached it she opened the half-door
quickly, said: "In there--at the top--among the hay"--closed it, and was
turning away, when there came a faint rapping from within. She opened
the door again impatiently; the man said hastily: "Wanted to tell
you--it was a man who insulted a WOMAN! I went for him, you see--and"--

But she shut the door sharply. The fugitive had made a blunder. The
importation of her own uncertain sex into the explanation did not help
him. She kept on towards the house, however, without the least trace
of excitement or agitation in her manner, entered the front door again,
walked quietly to the door of the inner room, glanced in, saw that her
husband was absorbed in splicing a riata, and had evidently not missed
her, and returned quietly to her dish-washing. With this singular
difference: a few moments before she had seemed inattentive and careless
of what she was doing, as if from some abstraction; now, when she
was actually abstracted, her movements were mechanically perfect and
deliberate. She carefully held up a dish and examined it minutely for
cracks, rubbing it cautiously with the towel, but seeing all the while
only the man she had left in the barn. A few moments elapsed. Then there
came another rush of wind around the house, a drifting cloud of dust
before the door, the clatter of hoofs, and a quick shout.

Her husband reached the door, from the inner room, almost as quickly as
she did. They both saw in the road two armed mounted men--one of whom
Ira recognized as the sheriff's deputy.

"Has anybody been here, just now?" he asked sharply.

"No."

"Seen anybody go by?" he continued.

"No. What's up?"

"One of them circus jumpers stabbed Hal Dudley over the table in Dolores
monte shop last night, and got away this morning. We hunted him into the
plain and lost him somewhere in this d----d dust."

"Why, Sue reckoned she saw suthin' just now," said Ira, with a flash of
recollection. "Didn't ye, Sue?"

"Why the h-ll didn't she say it before?--I beg your pardon, ma'am;
didn't see you; you'll excuse haste."

Both the men's hats were in their hands, embarrassed yet gratified
smiles on their faces, as Sue came forward. There was the faintest of
color in her sallow cheek, a keen brilliancy in her eyes; she looked
singularly pretty. Even Ira felt a slight antenuptial stirring through
his monotonously wedded years.

The young woman walked out, folding the towel around her red hands and
forearms--leaving the rounded whiteness of bared elbow and upper arm
in charming contrast--and looked gravely past the admiring figures that
nearly touched her own. "It was somewhar over thar," she said lazily,
pointing up the road in the opposite direction to the barn, "but I ain't
sure it WAS any one."

"Then he'd already PASSED the house afore you saw him?" said the deputy.

"I reckon--if it WAS him," returned Sue.

"He must have got on," said the deputy; "but then he runs like a deer;
it's his trade."

"Wot trade?"

"Acrobat."

"Wot's that?"

The two men were delighted at this divine simplicity. "A man who runs,
jumps, climbs--and all that sort, in the circus."

"But isn't he runnin', jumpin', and climbin' away from ye now?" she
continued with adorable naivete.

The deputy smiled, but straightened in the saddle. "We're bound to come
up with him afore he reaches Lowville; and between that and this house
it's a dead level, where a gopher couldn't leave his hole without your
spottin' him a mile off! Good-by!" The words were addressed to Ira,
but the parting glance was directed to the pretty wife as the two men
galloped away.

An odd uneasiness at this sudden revelation of his wife's prettiness and
its evident effect upon his visitors came over Ira. It resulted in his
addressing the empty space before his door with, "Well, ye won't ketch
much if ye go on yawpin' and dawdlin' with women-folks like this;" and
he was unreasonably delighted at the pretty assent of disdain and scorn
which sparkled in his wife's eyes as she added:--

"Not much, I reckon!"

"That's the kind of official trash we have to pay taxes to keep up,"
said Ira, who somehow felt that if public policy was not amenable to
private sentiment there was no value in free government. Mrs. Beasley,
however, complacently resumed her dish-washing, and Ira returned to his
riata in the adjoining room. For quite an interval there was no sound
but the occasional click of a dish laid upon its pile, with fingers
that, however, were firm and untremulous. Presently Sue's low voice was
heard.

"Wonder if that deputy caught anything yet. I've a good mind to meander
up the road and see."

But the question brought Ira to the door with a slight return of his
former uneasiness. He had no idea of subjecting his wife to another
admiring interview. "I reckon I'll go myself," he said dubiously; "YOU'D
better stay and look after the house."

Her eyes brightened as she carried a pile of plates to the dresser;
it was possible she had foreseen this compromise. "Yes," she said
cheerfully, "you could go farther than me."

Ira reflected. He could also send them about their business if they
thought of returning. He lifted his hat from the floor, took his rifle
down carefully from its pegs, and slouched out into the road. Sue
watched him until he was well away, then flew to the back door, stopping
only an instant to look at her face in a small mirror on the wall,--yet
without noticing her new prettiness,--then ran to the barn. Casting
a backward glance at the diminishing figure of her husband in the
distance, she threw open the door and shut it quickly behind her.
At first the abrupt change from the dazzling outer plain to the deep
shadows of the barn bewildered her. She saw before her a bucket half
filled with dirty water, and a quantity of wet straw littering the
floor; then lifting her eyes to the hay-loft, she detected the figure of
the fugitive, unclothed from the waist upward, emerging from the loose
hay in which he had evidently been drying himself. Whether it was the
excitement of his perilous situation, or whether the perfect symmetry
of his bared bust and arms--unlike anything she had ever seen
before--clothed him with the cold ideality of a statue, she could not
say, but she felt no shock of modesty; while the man, accustomed to
the public half-exposure in tights and spangles, was more conscious of
detected unreadiness than of shame.

"Gettin' the dust off me," he said, in hurried explanation; "be down
in a second." Indeed, in another moment he had resumed his shirt and
flannel coat, and swung himself to the floor with a like grace and
dexterity, that was to her the revelation of a descending god. She found
herself face to face with him,--his features cleansed of dirt and grime,
his hair plastered in wet curls on his low forehead. It was a face
of cheap adornment, not uncommon in his profession--unintelligent,
unrefined, and even unheroic; but she did not know that. Overcoming a
sudden timidity, she nevertheless told him briefly and concisely of the
arrival and departure of his pursuers.

His low forehead wrinkled. "Thar's no getting away until they come
back," he said without looking at her. "Could ye keep me in here
to-night?"

"Yes," she returned simply, as if the idea had already occurred to her;
"but you must lie low in the loft."

"And could you"--he hesitated, and went on with a forced smile--"you
see, I've eaten nothing since last night. Could you"--

"I'll bring you something," she said quickly, nodding her head.

"And if you had"--he went on more hesitatingly, glancing down at his
travel-torn and frayed garments--"anything like a coat, or any other
clothing? It would disguise me also, you see, and put 'em off the
track."

She nodded her head again rapidly: she had thought of that too; there
was a pair of doeskin trousers and a velvet jacket left by a Mexican
vaquero who had bought stock from them two years ago. Practical as she
was, a sudden conviction that he would look well in the velvet jacket
helped her resolve.

"Did they say"--he said, with his forced smile and uneasy glance--"did
they--tell you anything about me?"

"Yes," she said abstractedly, gazing at him.

"You see," he began hurriedly, "I'll tell you how it was."

"No, don't!" she said quickly. She meant it. She wanted no facts to
stand between her and this single romance of her life. "I must go and
get the things," she added, turning away, "before he gets back."

"Who's HE?" asked the man.

She was about to reply, "My husband," but without knowing why stopped
and said, "Mr. Beasley," and then ran off quickly to the house.

She found the vaquero's clothes, took some provisions, filled a flask of
whiskey in the cupboard, and ran back with them, her mouth expanded to
a vague smile, and pulsating like a schoolgirl. She even repressed
with difficulty the ejaculation "There!" as she handed them to him. He
thanked her, but with eyes fixed and fascinated by the provisions. She
understood it with a new sense of delicacy, and saying, "I'll come again
when he gets back," ran off and returned to the house, leaving him alone
to his repast.

Meantime her husband, lounging lazily along the high road, had
precipitated the catastrophe he wished to avoid. For his slouching
figure, silhouetted against the horizon on that monotonous level, had
been the only one detected by the deputy sheriff and the constable, his
companion, and they had charged down within fifty yards of him before
they discovered their mistake. They were not slow in making this an
excuse for abandoning their quest as far as Lowville: in fact, after
quitting the distraction of Mrs. Beasley's presence they had, without in
the least suspecting the actual truth, become doubtful if the fugitive
had proceeded so far. He might at that moment be snugly ensconced behind
some low wire-grass ridge, watching their own clearly defined figures,
and waiting only for the night to evade them. The Beasley house seemed a
proper place of operation in beating up the field. Ira's cold reception
of the suggestion was duly disposed of by the deputy. "I have the RIGHT,
ye know," he said, with a grim pleasantry, "to summon ye as my posse
to aid and assist me in carrying out the law; but I ain't the man to
be rough on my friends, and I reckon it will do jest as well if I
'requisition' your house." The dreadful recollection that the deputy had
the power to detail him and the constable to scour the plain while he
remained behind in company with Sue stopped Ira's further objections.
Yet, if he could only get rid of her while the deputy was in the
house,--but then his nearest neighbor was five miles away! There was
nothing left for him to do but to return with the men and watch his
wife keenly. Strange to say, there was a certain stimulus in this which
stirred his monotonous pulses and was not without a vague pleasure.
There is a revelation to some natures in newly awakened jealousy that is
a reincarnation of love.

As they came into the house a slight circumstance, which an hour ago
would have scarcely touched his sluggish sensibilities, now appeared to
corroborate his fear. His wife had changed her cuffs and collar, taken
off her rough apron, and evidently redressed her hair. This, with the
enhanced brightness of her eyes, which he had before noticed, convinced
him that it was due to the visit of the deputy. There was no doubt that
the official was equally attracted and fascinated by her prettiness, and
although her acceptance of his return was certainly not a cordial one,
there was a kind of demure restraint and over-consciousness in her
manner that might be coquetry. Ira had vaguely observed this quality in
other young women, but had never experienced it in his brief courtship.
There had been no rivalry, no sexual diplomacy nor insincerity in his
capture of the motherless girl who had leaped from the tail-board of her
father's wagon almost into his arms, and no man had since come between
them. The idea that Sue should care for any other than himself had been
simply inconceivable to his placid, matter-of-fact nature. That their
sacrament was final he had never doubted. If his two cows, bought
with his own money or reared by him, should suddenly have developed
an inclination to give milk to a neighbor, he would not have been more
astonished. But THEY could have been brought back with a rope, and
without a heart throb.

Passion of this kind, which in a less sincere society restricts its
expression to innuendo or forced politeness, left the rustic Ira only
dumb and lethargic. He moved slowly and abstractedly around the room,
accenting his slight lameness more than ever, or dropped helplessly into
a chair, where he sat, inanely conscious of the contiguity of his
wife and the deputy, and stupidly expectant of--he knew not what.
The atmosphere of the little house seemed to him charged with some
unwholesome electricity. It kindled his wife's eyes, stimulating the
deputy and his follower to coarse playfulness, enthralled his own limbs
to the convulsive tightening of his fingers around the rungs of his
chair. Yet he managed to cling to his idea of keeping his wife occupied,
and of preventing any eyeshot between her and her guests, or the
indulgence of dangerously flippant conversation, by ordering her to
bring some refreshment. "What's gone o' the whiskey bottle?" he said,
after fumbling in the cupboard.

Mrs. Beasley did not blench. She only gave her head a slight toss. "Ef
you men can't get along with the coffee and flapjacks I'm going to give
ye, made with my own hands, ye kin just toddle right along to the
first bar, and order your tangle-foot there. Ef it's a barkeeper you're
looking for, and not a lady, say so!"

The novel audacity of this speech, and the fact that it suggested
that preoccupation he hoped for, relieved Ira for a moment, while it
enchanted the guests as a stroke of coquettish fascination. Mrs. Beasley
triumphantly disappeared in the kitchen, slipped off her cuffs and set
to work, and in a few moments emerged with a tray bearing the cakes and
steaming coffee. As neither she nor her husband ate anything (possibly
owing to an equal preoccupation) the guests were obliged to confine
their attentions to the repast before them. The sun, too, was already
nearing the horizon, and although its nearly level beams acted like a
powerful search-light over the stretching plain, twilight would soon
put an end to the quest. Yet they lingered. Ira now foresaw a new
difficulty: the cows were to be brought up and fodder taken from the
barn; to do this he would be obliged to leave his wife and the deputy
together. I do not know if Mrs. Beasley divined his perplexity, but she
carelessly offered to perform that evening function herself. Ira's heart
leaped and sank again as the deputy gallantly proposed to assist her.
But here rustic simplicity seemed to be equal to the occasion. "Ef I
propose to do Ira's work," said Mrs. Beasley, with provocative archness,
"it's because I reckon he'll do more good helpin' you catch your
man than you'll do helpin' ME! So clear out, both of ye!" A feminine
audacity that recalled the deputy to himself, and left him no choice but
to accept Ira's aid. I do not know whether Mrs. Beasley felt a pang of
conscience as her husband arose gratefully and limped after the deputy;
I only know that she stood looking at them from the door, smiling and
triumphant.

Then she slipped out of the back door again, and ran swiftly to the
barn, fastening on her clean cuffs and collar as she ran. The fugitive
was anxiously awaiting her, with a slight touch of brusqueness in his
eagerness.

"Thought you were never coming!" he said.

She breathlessly explained, and showed him through the half-opened door
the figures of the three men slowly spreading and diverging over the
plain, like the nearly level sun-rays they were following. The sunlight
fell also on her panting bosom, her electrified sandy hair, her red,
half-opened mouth, and short and freckled upper lip. The relieved
fugitive turned from the three remoter figures to the one beside him,
and saw, for the first time, that it was fair. At which he smiled, and
her face flushed and was irradiated.

Then they fell to talk,--he grateful, boastful,--as the distant figures
grew dim; she quickly assenting, but following his expression rather
than his words, with her own girlish face and brightening eyes. But what
he said, or how he explained his position, with what speciousness he
dwelt upon himself, his wrongs, and his manifold manly virtues, is not
necessary for us to know, nor was it, indeed, for her to understand.
Enough for her that she felt she had found the one man of all the world,
and that she was at that moment protecting him against all the world! He
was the unexpected, spontaneous gift to her, the companion her childhood
had never known, the lover she had never dreamed of, even the child of
her unsatisfied maternal yearnings. If she could not comprehend all his
selfish incoherences, she felt it was her own fault; if she could not
follow his ignorant assumptions, she knew it was SHE who was deficient;
if she could not translate his coarse speech, it was because it was the
language of a larger world from which she had been excluded. To this
world belonged the beautiful limbs she gazed on,--a very different
world from that which had produced the rheumatic deformities and useless
mayhem of her husband, or the provincially foppish garments of the
deputy. Sitting in the hayloft together, where she had mounted for
greater security, they forgot themselves in his monologue of cheap
vaporing, broken only by her assenting smiles and her half-checked
sighs. The sharp spices of the heated pine-shingles over their heads
and the fragrance of the clover-scented hay filled the close air around
them. The sun was falling with the wind, but they heeded it not; until
the usual fateful premonition struck the woman, and saying "I must go
now," she only half-unconsciously precipitated the end. For, as she
rose, he caught first her hand and then her waist, and attempted to
raise the face that was suddenly bending down as if seeking to hide
itself in the hay. It was a brief struggle, ending in a submission as
sudden, and their lips met in a kiss, so eager that it might have been
impending for days instead of minutes.

"Oh, Sue! where are ye?"

It was her husband's voice, out of a darkness that they only then
realized. The man threw her aside with a roughness that momentarily
shocked her above any sense of surprise or shame: SHE would have
confronted her husband in his arms,--glorified and translated,--had he
but kept her there. Yet she answered, with a quiet, level voice that
astonished her lover, "Here! I'm just coming down!" and walked coolly
to the ladder. Looking over, and seeing her husband with the deputy
standing in the barnyard, she quickly returned, put her finger to her
lips, made a gesture for her companion to conceal himself in the hay
again, and was turning away, when, perhaps shamed by her superior
calmness, he grasped her hand tightly and whispered, "Come again
tonight, dear; do!" She hesitated, raised her hand suddenly to her lips,
and then quickly disengaging it, slipped down the ladder.

"Ye haven't done much work yet as I kin see," said Ira wearily. "Whitey
and Red Tip [the cows] are hangin' over the corral, just waitin'."

"The yellow hen we reckoned was lost is sittin' in the hayloft, and
mustn't be disturbed," said Mrs. Beasley, with decision; "and ye'll have
to take the hay from the stack to-night. And," with an arch glance at
the deputy, "as I don't see that you two have done much either, you're
just in time to help fodder down."

Setting the three men to work with the same bright audacity, the task
was soon completed--particularly as the deputy found no opportunity for
exclusive dalliance with Mrs. Beasley. She shut the barn door herself,
and led the way to the house, learning incidentally that the deputy had
abandoned the chase, was to occupy a "shake-down" on the kitchen-floor
that night with the constable, and depart at daybreak. The gloom of
her husband's face had settled into a look of heavy resignation and
alternate glances of watchfulness, which only seemed to inspire her
with renewed vivacity. But the cooking of supper withdrew her disturbing
presence for a time from the room, and gave him some relief. When
the meal was ready he sought further surcease from trouble in copious
draughts of whiskey, which she produced from a new bottle, and even
pressed upon the deputy in mischievous contrition for her previous
inhospitality.

"Now I know that it wasn't whiskey only ye came for, I'll show you that
Sue Beasley is no slouch of a barkeeper either," she said.

Then, rolling her sleeves above her pretty arms, she mixed a cocktail in
such delightful imitation of the fashionable barkeeper's dexterity that
her guests were convulsed with admiration. Even Ira was struck with
this revelation of a youthfulness that five years of household care had
checked, but never yet subdued. He had forgotten that he had married a
child. Only once, when she glanced at the cheap clock on the mantel,
had he noticed another change, more remarkable still from its very
inconsistency with her burst of youthful spirits. It was another face
that he saw,--older and matured with an intensity of abstraction that
struck a chill to his heart. It was not HIS Sue that was standing there,
but another Sue, wrought, as it seemed to his morbid extravagance, by
some one else's hand.

Yet there was another interval of relief when his wife, declaring she
was tired, and even jocosely confessing to some effect of the liquor she
had pretended to taste, went early to bed. The deputy, not finding the
gloomy company of the husband to his taste, presently ensconced himself
on the floor, before the kitchen fire, in the blankets that she had
provided. The constable followed his example. In a few moments the house
was silent and sleeping, save for Ira sitting alone, with his head sunk
on his chest and his hands gripping the arms of his chair before the
dying embers of his hearth.

He was trying, with the alternate quickness and inaction of an
inexperienced intellect and an imagination morbidly awakened, to grasp
the situation before him. The common sense that had hitherto governed
his life told him that the deputy would go to-morrow, and that there was
nothing in his wife's conduct to show that her coquetry and aberration
would not pass as easily. But it recurred to him that she had never
shown this coquetry or aberration to HIM during their own brief
courtship,--that she had never looked or acted like this before. If this
was love, she had never known it; if it was only "women's ways," as he
had heard men say, and so dangerously attractive, why had she not shown
it to him? He remembered that matter-of-fact wedding, the bride without
timidity, without blushes, without expectation beyond the transference
of her home to his. Would it have been different with another man?--with
the deputy, who had called this color and animation to her face? What
did it all mean? Were all married people like this? There were the
Westons, their neighbors,--was Mrs. Weston like Sue? But he remembered
that Mrs. Weston had run away with Mr. Weston from her father's house.
It was what they called "a love match." Would Sue have run away with
him? Would she now run away with--?

The candle was guttering as he rose with a fierce start--his first
impulse of anger--from the table. He took another gulp of whiskey. It
tasted like water; its fire was quenched in the greater heat of his
blood. He would go to bed. Here a new and indefinable timidity took
possession of him; he remembered the strange look in his wife's face. It
seemed suddenly as if the influence of the sleeping stranger in the next
room had not only isolated her from him, but would make his presence
in her bedroom an intrusion on their hidden secrets. He had to pass the
open door of the kitchen. The head of the unconscious deputy was close
to Ira's heavy boot. He had only to lift his heel to crush that ruddy,
good-looking, complacent face. He hurried past him, up the creaking
stairs. His wife lay still on one side of the bed, apparently asleep,
her face half-hidden in her loosened, fluffy hair. It was well; for in
the vague shyness and restraint that was beginning to take possession
of him he felt he could not have spoken to her, or, if he had, it would
have been only to voice the horrible, unformulated things that seemed to
choke him. He crept softly to the opposite side of the bed, and began to
undress. As he pulled off his boots and stockings, his eye fell upon
his bare, malformed feet. This caused him to look at his maimed hand,
to rise, drag himself across the floor to the mirror, and gaze upon his
lacerated ear. She, this prettily formed woman lying there, must have
seen it often; she must have known all these years that he was not like
other men,--not like the deputy, with his tight riding-boots, his soft
hand, and the diamond that sparkled vulgarly on his fat little finger.
A cold sweat broke over him. He drew on his stockings again, lifted the
outer counterpane, and, half undressed, crept under it, wrapping its
corner around his maimed hand, as if to hide it from the light. Yet he
felt that he saw things dimly; there was a moisture on his cheeks and
eyelids he could not account for; it must be the whiskey "coming out."

His wife lay very still; she scarcely seemed to breathe. What if she
should never breathe again, but die as the old Sue he knew, the lanky
girl he had married, unchanged and uncontaminated? It would be better
than this. Yet at the same moment the picture was before him of her
pretty simulation of the barkeeper, of her white bared arms and laughing
eyes, all so new, so fresh to him! He tried to listen to the slow
ticking of the clock, the occasional stirring of air through the house,
and the movement, like a deep sigh, which was the regular, inarticulate
speech of the lonely plain beyond, and quite distinct from the evening
breeze. He had heard it often, but, like so many things he had learned
that day, he never seemed to have caught its meaning before. Then,
perhaps, it was his supine position, perhaps some cumulative effect of
the whiskey he had taken, but all this presently became confused and
whirling. Out of its gyrations he tried to grasp something, to hear
voices that called him to "wake," and in the midst of it he fell into a
profound sleep.

The clock ticked, the wind sighed, the woman at his side lay motionless
for many minutes.

Then the deputy on the kitchen floor rolled over with an appalling
snort, struggled, stretched himself, and awoke. A healthy animal, he had
shaken off the fumes of liquor with a dry tongue and a thirst for water
and fresh air. He raised his knees and rubbed his eyes. The water bucket
was missing from the corner. Well, he knew where the spring was, and a
turn out of the close and stifling kitchen would do him good. He
yawned, put on his boots softly, opened the back door, and stepped out.
Everything was dark, but above and around him, to the very level of his
feet, all apparently pricked with bright stars. The bulk of the barn
rose dimly before him on the right, to the left was the spring. He
reached it, drank, dipped his head and hands in it, and arose refreshed.
The dry, wholesome breath that blew over this flat disk around him,
rimmed with stars, did the rest. He began to saunter slowly back,
the only reminiscence of his evening's potations being the figure he
recalled of his pretty hostess, with bare arms and lifted glasses,
imitating the barkeeper. A complacent smile straightened his yellow
mustache. How she kept glancing at him and watching him, the little
witch! Ha! no wonder! What could she find in the surly, slinking, stupid
brute yonder? (The gentleman here alluded to was his host.) But the
deputy had not been without a certain provincial success with the fair.
He was true to most men, and fearless to all. One may not be too hard
upon him at this moment of his life.

For as he was passing the house he stopped suddenly. Above the dry,
dusty, herbal odors of the plain, above the scent of the new-mown hay
within the barn, there was distinctly another fragrance,--the smell of
a pipe. But where? Was it his host who had risen to take the outer air?
Then it suddenly flashed upon him that Beasley did NOT smoke, nor
the constable either. The smell seemed to come from the barn. Had he
followed out the train of ideas thus awakened, all might have been well;
but at this moment his attention was arrested by a far more exciting
incident to him,--the draped and hooded figure of Mrs. Beasley was just
emerging from the house. He halted instantly in the shadow, and held
his breath as she glided quickly across the intervening space and
disappeared in the half-opened door of the barn. Did she know he
was there? A keen thrill passed over him; his mouth broadened into a
breathless smile. It was his last! for, as he glided forward to the
door, the starry heavens broke into a thousand brilliant fragments
around him, the earth gave way beneath his feet, and he fell forward
with half his skull shot away.

Where he fell there he lay without an outcry, with only one
movement,--the curved and grasping fingers of the fighter's hand towards
his guarded hip. Where he fell there he lay dead, his face downwards,
his good right arm still curved around across his back. Nothing of him
moved but his blood,--broadening slowly round him in vivid color, and
then sluggishly thickening and darkening until it stopped too, and sank
into the earth, a dull brown stain. For an instant the stillness of
death followed the echoless report, then there was a quick and feverish
rustling within the barn, the hurried opening of a window in the loft,
scurrying footsteps, another interval of silence, and then out of the
farther darkness the sounds of horse-hoofs in the muffled dust of the
road. But not a sound or movement in the sleeping house beyond.


The stars at last paled slowly, the horizon lines came back,--a thin
streak of opal fire. A solitary bird twittered in the bush beside the
spring. Then the back door of the house opened, and the constable came
forth, half-awakened and apologetic, and with the bewildered haste of a
belated man. His eyes were level, looking for his missing leader as he
went on, until at last he stumbled and fell over the now cold and rigid
body. He scrambled to his feet again, cast a hurried glance around
him,--at the half-opened door of the barn, at the floor littered with
trampled hay. In one corner lay the ragged blouse and trousers of the
fugitive, which the constable instantly recognized. He went back to the
house, and reappeared in a few moments with Ira, white, stupefied, and
hopelessly bewildered; clear only in his statement that his wife had
just fainted at the news of the catastrophe, and was equally helpless in
her own room. The constable--a man of narrow ideas but quick action--saw
it all. The mystery was plain without further evidence. The deputy had
been awakened by the prowling of the fugitive around the house in search
of a horse. Sallying out, they had met, and Ira's gun, which stood in
the kitchen, and which the deputy had seized, had been wrested from him
and used with fatal effect at arm's length, and the now double assassin
had escaped on the sheriff's horse, which was missing. Turning the body
over to the trembling Ira, he saddled his horse and galloped to Lowville
for assistance.

These facts were fully established at the hurried inquest which met that
day. There was no need to go behind the evidence of the constable, the
only companion of the murdered man and first discoverer of the body. The
fact that he, on the ground floor, had slept through the struggle and
the report, made the obliviousness of the couple in the room above
a rational sequence. The dazed Ira was set aside, after half a dozen
contemptuous questions; the chivalry of a Californian jury excused the
attendance of a frightened and hysterical woman confined to her room.
By noon they had departed with the body, and the long afternoon shadows
settled over the lonely plain and silent house. At nightfall Ira
appeared at the door, and stood for some moments scanning the plain; he
was seen later by two packers, who had glanced furtively at the scene
of the late tragedy, sitting outside his doorway, a mere shadow in the
darkness; and a mounted patrol later in the night saw a light in the
bedroom window where the invalid Mrs. Beasley was confined. But no one
saw her afterwards. Later, Ira explained that she had gone to visit a
relative until her health was restored. Having few friends and fewer
neighbors, she was not missed; and even the constable, the sole
surviving guest who had enjoyed her brief eminence of archness and
beauty that fatal night, had quite forgotten her in his vengeful quest
of the murderer. So that people became accustomed to see this lonely man
working in the fields by day, or at nightfall gazing fixedly from his
doorway. At the end of three months he was known as the recluse or
"hermit" of Bolinas Plain; in the rapid history-making of that epoch it
was forgotten that he had ever been anything else.

But Justice, which in those days was apt to nod over the affairs of the
average citizen, was keenly awake to offenses against its own officers;
and it chanced that the constable, one day walking through the streets
of Marysville, recognized the murderer and apprehended him. He was
removed to Lowville. Here, probably through some modest doubt of the
ability of the County Court, which the constable represented, to deal
with purely circumstantial evidence, he was not above dropping a hint to
the local Vigilance Committee, who, singularly enough, in spite of his
resistance, got possession of the prisoner. It was the rainy season, and
business was slack; the citizens of Lowville were thus enabled to
give so notorious a case their fullest consideration, and to assist
cheerfully at the ultimate hanging of the prisoner, which seemed to be a
foregone conclusion.

But herein they were mistaken. For when the constable had given his
evidence, already known to the county, there was a disturbance in the
fringe of humanity that lined the walls of the assembly room where the
committee was sitting, and the hermit of Bolinas Plain limped painfully
into the room. He had evidently walked there: he was soaked with rain
and plastered with mud; he was exhausted and inarticulate. But as he
staggered to the witness-bench, and elbowed the constable aside, he
arrested the attention of every one. A few laughed, but were
promptly silenced by the court. It was a reflection upon its only
virtue,--sincerity.

"Do you know the prisoner?" asked the judge.

Ira Beasley glanced at the pale face of the acrobat, and shook his head.

"Never saw him before," he said faintly.

"Then what are you doing here?" demanded the judge sternly.

Ira collected himself with evident effort, and rose to his halting feet.
First he moistened his dry lips, then he said, slowly and distinctly,
"Because I killed the deputy of Bolinas."

With the thrill which ran through the crowded room, and the relief that
seemed to come upon him with that utterance, he gained strength and even
a certain dignity.

"I killed him," he went on, turning his head slowly around the circle of
eager auditors with the rigidity of a wax figure, "because he made
love to my wife. I killed him because he wanted to run away with her. I
killed him because I found him waiting for her at the door of the barn
at the dead o' night, when she'd got outer bed to jine him. He hadn't no
gun. He hadn't no fight. I killed him in his tracks. That man," pointing
to the prisoner, "wasn't in it at all." He stopped, loosened his collar,
and, baring his rugged throat below his disfigured ear, said: "Now take
me out and hang me!"

"What proof have we of this? Where's your wife? Does she corroborate
it?"

A slight tremor ran over him.

"She ran away that night, and never came back again. Perhaps," he added
slowly, "because she loved him and couldn't bear me; perhaps, as I've
sometimes allowed to myself, gentlemen, it was because she didn't want
to bear evidence agin me."

In the silence that followed the prisoner was heard speaking to one that
was near him. Then he rose. All the audacity and confidence that the
husband had lacked were in HIS voice. Nay, there was even a certain
chivalry in his manner which, for the moment, the rascal really
believed.

"It's true!" he said. "After I stole the horse to get away, I found that
woman running wild down the road, cryin' and sobbin'. At first I thought
she'd done the shooting. It was a risky thing for me to do, gentlemen;
but I took her up on the horse and got her away to Lowville. It was that
much dead weight agin my chances, but I took it. She was a woman and--I
ain't a dog!"

He was so exalted and sublimated by his fiction that for the first time
the jury was impressed in his favor. And when Ira Beasley limped across
the room, and, extending his maimed hand to the prisoner, said, "Shake!"
there was another dead silence.

It was broken by the voice of the judge addressing the constable.

"What do you know of the deputy's attentions to Mrs. Beasley? Were they
enough to justify the husband's jealousy? Did he make love to her?"

The constable hesitated. He was a narrow man, with a crude sense of
the principles rather than the methods of justice. He remembered the
deputy's admiration; he now remembered, even more strongly, the object
of that admiration, simulating with her pretty arms the gestures of
the barkeeper, and the delight it gave them. He was loyal to his
dead leader, but he looked up and down, and then said, slowly and
half-defiantly: "Well, judge, he was a MAN."

Everybody laughed. That the strongest and most magic of all human
passions should always awake levity in any public presentment of or
allusion to it was one of the inconsistencies of human nature which even
a lynch judge had to admit. He made no attempt to control the tittering
of the court, for he felt that the element of tragedy was no longer
there. The foreman of the jury arose and whispered to the judge amid
another silence. Then the judge spoke:--

"The prisoner and his witness are both discharged. The prisoner to leave
the town within twenty-four hours; the witness to be conducted to his
own house at the expense of, and with the thanks of, the Committee."

They say that one afternoon, when a low mist of rain had settled over
the sodden Bolinas Plain, a haggard, bedraggled, and worn-out woman
stepped down from a common "freighting wagon" before the doorway where
Beasley still sat; that, coming forward, he caught her in his arms and
called her "Sue;" and they say that they lived happily together ever
afterwards. But they say--and this requires some corroboration--that
much of that happiness was due to Mrs. Beasley's keeping forever in her
husband's mind her own heroic sacrifice in disappearing as a witness
against him, her own forgiveness of his fruitless crime, and the
gratitude he owed to the fugitive.




THE STRANGE EXPERIENCE OF ALKALI DICK


He was a "cowboy." A reckless and dashing rider, yet mindful of his
horse's needs; good-humored by nature, but quick in quarrel; independent
of circumstance, yet shy and sensitive of opinion; abstemious by
education and general habit, yet intemperate in amusement; self-centred,
yet possessed of a childish vanity,--taken altogether, a characteristic
product of the Western plains, which he never should have left.

But reckless adventure after adventure had brought him into
difficulties, from which there was only one equally adventurous escape:
he joined a company of Indians engaged by Buffalo Bill to simulate
before civilized communities the sports and customs of the uncivilized.
In divers Christian arenas of the nineteenth century he rode as a
northern barbarian of the first might have disported before the Roman
populace, but harmlessly, of his own free will, and of some little
profit to himself. He threw his lasso under the curious eyes of languid
men and women of the world, eager for some new sensation, with admiring
plaudits from them and a half contemptuous egotism of his own. But
outside of the arena he was lonely, lost, and impatient for excitement.

An ingenious attempt to "paint the town red" did not commend itself as a
spectacle to the householders who lived in the vicinity of Earl's Court,
London, and Alkali Dick was haled before a respectable magistrate by a
serious policeman, and fined as if he had been only a drunken coster. A
later attempt at Paris to "incarnadine" the neighborhood of the Champs
de Mars, and "round up" a number of boulevardiers, met with a more
disastrous result,--the gleam of steel from mounted gendarmes, and a
mandate to his employers.

So it came that one night, after the conclusion of the performance,
Alkali Dick rode out of the corral gate of the Hippodrome with his
last week's salary in his pocket and an imprecation on his lips. He had
shaken the sawdust of the sham arena from his high, tight-fitting boots;
he would shake off the white dust of France, and the effeminate soil
of all Europe also, and embark at once for his own country and the Far
West!

A more practical and experienced man would have sold his horse at the
nearest market and taken train to Havre, but Alkali Dick felt himself
incomplete on terra firma without his mustang,--it would be hard enough
to part from it on embarking,--and he had determined to ride to the
seaport.

The spectacle of a lithe horseman, clad in a Rembrandt sombrero, velvet
jacket, turnover collar, almost Van Dyke in its proportions, white
trousers and high boots, with long curling hair falling over his
shoulders, and a pointed beard and mustache, was a picturesque one, but
still not a novelty to the late-supping Parisians who looked up under
the midnight gas as he passed, and only recognized one of those men whom
Paris had agreed to designate as "Booflo-bils," going home.

At three o'clock he pulled up at a wayside cabaret, preferring it to
the publicity of a larger hotel, and lay there till morning. The slight
consternation of the cabaret-keeper and his wife over this long-haired
phantom, with glittering, deep-set eyes, was soothed by a royally-flung
gold coin, and a few words of French slang picked up in the arena,
which, with the name of Havre, comprised Dick's whole knowledge of
the language. But he was touched with their ready and intelligent
comprehension of his needs, and their genial if not so comprehensive
loquacity. Luckily for his quick temper, he did not know that they had
taken him for a traveling quack-doctor going to the Fair of Yvetot, and
that madame had been on the point of asking him for a magic balsam to
prevent migraine.

He was up betimes and away, giving a wide berth to the larger towns;
taking byways and cut-offs, yet always with the Western pathfinder's
instinct, even among these alien, poplar-haunted plains, low-banked
willow-fringed rivers, and cloverless meadows. The white sun shining
everywhere,--on dazzling arbors, summer-houses, and trellises; on light
green vines and delicate pea-rows; on the white trousers, jackets, and
shoes of smart shopkeepers or holiday makers; on the white headdresses
of nurses and the white-winged caps of the Sisters of St. Vincent,--all
this grew monotonous to this native of still more monotonous wastes. The
long, black shadows of short, blue-skirted, sabotted women and short,
blue-bloused, sabotted men slowly working in the fields, with slow oxen,
or still slower heavy Norman horses; the same horses gayly bedecked,
dragging slowly not only heavy wagons, but their own apparently more
monstrous weight over the white road, fretted his nervous Western
energy, and made him impatient to get on.

At the close of the second day he found some relief on entering a
trackless wood,--not the usual formal avenue of equidistant trees,
leading to nowhere, and stopping upon the open field,--but apparently
a genuine forest as wild as one of his own "oak bottoms." Gnarled roots
and twisted branches flung themselves across his path; his mustang's
hoofs sank in deep pits of moss and last year's withered leaves;
trailing vines caught his heavy-stirruped feet, or brushed his broad
sombrero; the vista before him seemed only to endlessly repeat the same
sylvan glade; he was in fancy once more in the primeval Western forest,
and encompassed by its vast, dim silences. He did not know that he had
in fact only penetrated an ancient park which in former days resounded
to the winding fanfare of the chase, and was still, on stated occasions,
swept over by accurately green-coated Parisians and green-plumed
Dianes, who had come down by train! To him it meant only unfettered and
unlimited freedom.

He rose in his stirrups, and sent a characteristic yell ringing down
the dim aisles before him. But, alas! at the same moment, his mustang,
accustomed to the firmer grip of the prairie, in lashing out, stepped
upon a slimy root, and fell heavily, rolling over his clinging and still
unlodged rider. For a few moments both lay still. Then Dick extricated
himself with an oath, rose giddily, dragged up his horse,--who,
after the fashion of his race, was meekly succumbing to his reclining
position,--and then became aware that the unfortunate beast was badly
sprained in the shoulder, and temporarily lame. The sudden recollection
that he was some miles from the road, and that the sun was sinking,
concentrated his scattered faculties. The prospect of sleeping out in
that summer woodland was nothing to the pioneer-bred Dick; he could
make his horse and himself comfortable anywhere--but he was delaying his
arrival at Havre. He must regain the high road,--or some wayside inn.
He glanced around him; the westering sun was a guide for his general
direction; the road must follow it north or south; he would find a
"clearing" somewhere. But here Dick was mistaken; there seemed no
interruption of, no encroachment upon this sylvan tract, as in his
western woods. There was no track or trail to be found; he missed even
the ordinary woodland signs that denoted the path of animals to water.
For the park, from the time a Northern Duke had first alienated it from
the virgin forest, had been rigidly preserved.

Suddenly, rising apparently from the ground before him, he saw the high
roof-ridges and tourelles of a long, irregular, gloomy building. A few
steps further showed him that it lay in a cup-like depression of the
forest, and that it was still a long descent from where he had wandered
to where it stood in the gathering darkness. His mustang was moving
with great difficulty; he uncoiled his lariat from the saddle-horn,
and, selecting the most open space, tied one end to the trunk of a large
tree,--the forty feet of horsehair rope giving the animal a sufficient
degree of grazing freedom.

Then he strode more quickly down the forest side towards the building,
which now revealed its austere proportions, though Dick could see that
they were mitigated by a strange, formal flower-garden, with quaint
statues and fountains. There were grim black allees of clipped trees, a
curiously wrought iron gate, and twisted iron espaliers. On one side the
edifice was supported by a great stone terrace, which seemed to him as
broad as a Parisian boulevard. Yet everywhere it appeared sleeping in
the desertion and silence of the summer twilight. The evening breeze
swayed the lace curtains at the tall windows, but nothing else moved. To
the unsophisticated Western man it looked like a scene on the stage.

His progress was, however, presently checked by the first sight of
preservation he had met in the forest,--a thick hedge, which interfered
between him and a sloping lawn beyond. It was up to his waist, yet he
began to break his way through it, when suddenly he was arrested by the
sound of voices. Before him, on the lawn, a man and woman, evidently
servants, were slowly advancing, peering into the shadows of the wood
which he had just left. He could not understand what they were saying,
but he was about to speak and indicate by signs his desire to find the
road when the woman, turning towards her companion, caught sight of his
face and shoulders above the hedge. To his surprise and consternation,
he saw the color drop out of her fresh cheeks, her round eyes fix in
their sockets, and with a despairing shriek she turned and fled
towards the house. The man turned at his companion's cry, gave the
same horrified glance at Dick's face, uttered a hoarse "Sacre!" crossed
himself violently, and fled also.

Amazed, indignant, and for the first time in his life humiliated,
Dick gazed speechlessly after them. The man, of course, was a sneaking
coward; but the woman was rather pretty. It had not been Dick's
experience to have women run from him! Should he follow them, knock the
silly fellow's head against a tree, and demand an explanation? Alas,
he knew not the language! They had already reached the house and
disappeared in one of the offices. Well! let them go--for a mean
"lowdown" pair of country bumpkins:--HE wanted no favors from them!

He turned back angrily into the forest to seek his unlucky beast. The
gurgle of water fell on his ear; hard by was a spring, where at least he
could water the mustang. He stooped to examine it; there was yet light
enough in the sunset sky to throw back from that little mirror the
reflection of his thin, oval face, his long, curling hair, and his
pointed beard and mustache. Yes! this was his face,--the face that
many women in Paris had agreed was romantic and picturesque. Had those
wretched greenhorns never seen a real man before? Were they idiots,
or insane? A sudden recollection of the silence and seclusion of the
building suggested certainly an asylum,--but where were the keepers?

It was getting darker in the wood; he made haste to recover his horse,
to drag it to the spring, and there bathe its shoulder in the water
mixed with whiskey taken from his flask. His saddle-bag contained enough
bread and meat for his own supper; he would camp for the night where he
was, and with the first light of dawn make his way back through the
wood whence he came. As the light slowly faded from the wood he rolled
himself in his saddle-blanket and lay down.

But not to sleep. His strange position, the accident to his horse,
an unusual irritation over the incident of the frightened
servants,--trivial as it might have been to any other man,--and, above
all, an increasing childish curiosity, kept him awake and restless.
Presently he could see also that it was growing lighter beyond the
edge of the wood, and that the rays of a young crescent moon, while it
plunged the forest into darkness and impassable shadow, evidently was
illuminating the hollow below. He threw aside his blanket, and made his
way to the hedge again. He was right; he could see the quaint, formal
lines of the old garden more distinctly,--the broad terrace, the queer,
dark bulk of the house, with lights now gleaming from a few of its open
windows.

Before one of these windows opening on the terrace was a small, white,
draped table with fruits, cups, and glasses, and two or three chairs. As
he gazed curiously at these new signs of life and occupation, he became
aware of a regular and monotonous tap upon the stone flags of the
terrace. Suddenly he saw three figures slowly turn the corner of the
terrace at the further end of the building, and walk towards the table.
The central figure was that of an elderly woman, yet tall and stately
of carriage, walking with a stick, whose regular tap he had heard,
supported on the one side by an elderly Cure in black soutaine, and on
the other by a tall and slender girl in white.

They walked leisurely to the other end of the terrace, as if performing
a regular exercise, and returned, stopping before the open French
window; where, after remaining in conversation a few moments, the
elderly lady and her ecclesiastical companion entered. The young girl
sauntered slowly to the steps of the terrace, and leaning against a huge
vase as she looked over the garden, seemed lost in contemplation. Her
face was turned towards the wood, but in quite another direction from
where he stood.

There was something so gentle, refined, and graceful in her figure, yet
dominated by a girlish youthfulness of movement and gesture, that Alkali
Dick was singularly interested. He had probably never seen an ingenue
before; he had certainly never come in contact with a girl of that caste
and seclusion in his brief Parisian experience. He was sorely tempted
to leave his hedge and try to obtain a nearer view of her. There was a
fringe of lilac bushes running from the garden up the slope; if he could
gain their shadows, he could descend into the garden. What he should do
after his arrival he had not thought; but he had one idea--he knew not
why--that if he ventured to speak to her he would not be met with the
abrupt rustic terror he had experienced at the hands of the servants.
SHE was not of that kind! He crept through the hedge, reached the
lilacs, and began the descent softly and securely in the shadow. But at
the same moment she arose, called in a youthful voice towards the open
window, and began to descend the steps. A half-expostulating reply
came from the window, but the young girl answered it with the laughing,
capricious confidence of a spoiled child, and continued her way into the
garden. Here she paused a moment and hung over a rose-tree, from which
she gathered a flower, afterwards thrust into her belt. Dick paused,
too, half-crouching, half-leaning over a lichen-stained, cracked stone
pedestal from which the statue had long been overthrown and forgotten.

To his surprise, however, the young girl, following the path to the
lilacs, began leisurely to ascend the hill, swaying from side to side
with a youthful movement, and swinging the long stalk of a lily at her
side. In another moment he would be discovered! Dick was frightened; his
confidence of the moment before had all gone; he would fly,--and yet, an
exquisite and fearful joy kept him motionless. She was approaching him,
full and clear in the moonlight. He could see the grace of her delicate
figure in the simple white frock drawn at the waist with broad satin
ribbon, and its love-knots of pale blue ribbons on her shoulders; he
could see the coils of her brown hair, the pale, olive tint of her oval
cheek, the delicate, swelling nostril of her straight, clear-cut nose;
he could even smell the lily she carried in her little hand. Then,
suddenly, she lifted her long lashes, and her large gray eyes met his.

Alas! the same look of vacant horror came into her eyes, and fixed
and dilated their clear pupils. But she uttered no outcry,--there was
something in her blood that checked it; something that even gave a
dignity to her recoiling figure, and made Dick flush with admiration.
She put her hand to her side, as if the shock of the exertion of her
ascent had set her heart to beating, but she did not faint. Then her
fixed look gave way to one of infinite sadness, pity, and pathetic
appeal. Her lips were parted; they seemed to be moving, apparently in
prayer. At last her voice came, wonderingly, timidly, tenderly: "Mon
Dieu! c'est donc vous? Ici? C'est vous que Marie a crue voir! Que
venez-vous faire ici, Armand de Fontonelles? Repondez!"

Alas, not a word was comprehensible to Dick; nor could he think of
a word to say in reply. He made an uncouth, half-irritated,
half-despairing gesture towards the wood he had quitted, as if to
indicate his helpless horse, but he knew it was meaningless to the
frightened yet exalted girl before him. Her little hand crept to her
breast and clutched a rosary within the folds of her dress, as her soft
voice again arose, low but appealingly:

"Vous souffrez! Ah, mon Dieu! Peuton vous secourir? Moi-meme--mes
prieres pourraient elles interceder pour vous? Je supplierai le ciel de
prendre en pitie l'ame de mon ancetre. Monsieur le Cure est la,--je lui
parlerai. Lui et ma mere vous viendront en aide."

She clasped her hands appealingly before him.

Dick stood bewildered, hopeless, mystified; he had not understood a
word; he could not say a word. For an instant he had a wild idea of
seizing her hand and leading her to his helpless horse, and then came
what he believed was his salvation,--a sudden flash of recollection that
he had seen the word he wanted, the one word that would explain all, in
a placarded notice at the Cirque of a bracelet that had been LOST,--yes,
the single word "PERDU." He made a step towards her, and in a voice
almost as faint as her own, stammered, "PERDU!"

With a little cry, that was more like a sigh than an outcry, the girl's
arms fell to her side; she took a step backwards, reeled, and fainted
away.

Dick caught her as she fell. What had he said!--but, more than all, what
should he do now? He could not leave her alone and helpless,--yet how
could he justify another disconcerting intrusion? He touched her hands;
they were cold and lifeless; her eyes were half closed; her face as pale
and drooping as her lily. Well, he must brave the worst now, and carry
her to the house, even at the risk of meeting the others and terrifying
them as he had her. He caught her up,--he scarcely felt her weight
against his breast and shoulder,--and ran hurriedly down the slope to
the terrace, which was still deserted. If he had time to place her on
some bench beside the window within their reach, he might still fly
undiscovered! But as he panted up the steps of the terrace with his
burden, he saw that the French window was still open, but the light
seemed to have been extinguished. It would be safer for her if he could
place her INSIDE the house,--if he but dared to enter. He was desperate,
and he dared!

He found himself alone, in a long salon of rich but faded white and gold
hangings, lit at the further end by two tall candles on either side of
the high marble mantel, whose rays, however, scarcely reached the window
where he had entered. He laid his burden on a high-backed sofa. In
so doing, the rose fell from her belt. He picked it up, put it in
his breast, and turned to go. But he was arrested by a voice from the
terrace:--

"Renee!"

It was the voice of the elderly lady, who, with the Cure at her side,
had just appeared from the rear of the house, and from the further end
of the terrace was looking towards the garden in search of the young
girl. His escape in that way was cut off. To add to his dismay, the
young girl, perhaps roused by her mother's voice, was beginning to show
signs of recovering consciousness. Dick looked quickly around him.
There was an open door, opposite the window, leading to a hall which, no
doubt, offered some exit on the other side of the house. It was his only
remaining chance! He darted through it, closed it behind him, and
found himself at the end of a long hall or picture-gallery, strangely
illuminated through high windows, reaching nearly to the roof, by the
moon, which on that side of the building threw nearly level bars of
light and shadows across the floor and the quaint portraits on the wall.

But to his delight he could see at the other end a narrow, lance-shaped
open postern door showing the moonlit pavement without--evidently the
door through which the mother and the Cure had just passed out. He ran
rapidly towards it. As he did so he heard the hurried ringing of bells
and voices in the room he had quitted--the young girl had evidently
been discovered--and this would give him time. He had nearly reached the
door, when he stopped suddenly--his blood chilled with awe! It was his
turn to be terrified--he was standing, apparently, before HIMSELF!

His first recovering thought was that it was a mirror--so accurately
was every line and detail of his face and figure reflected. But a second
scrutiny showed some discrepancies of costume, and he saw it was a
panelled portrait on the wall. It was of a man of his own age, height,
beard, complexion, and features, with long curls like his own, falling
over a lace Van Dyke collar, which, however, again simulated the
appearance of his own hunting-shirt. The broad-brimmed hat in the
picture, whose drooping plume was lost in shadow, was scarcely
different from Dick's sombrero. But the likeness of the face to Dick was
marvelous--convincing! As he gazed at it, the wicked black eyes seemed
to flash and kindle at his own,--its lip curled with Dick's own sardonic
humor!

He was recalled to himself by a step in the gallery. It was the Cure who
had entered hastily, evidently in search of one of the servants.
Partly because it was a man and not a woman, partly from a feeling of
bravado--and partly from a strange sense, excited by the picture, that
he had some claim to be there, he turned and faced the pale priest with
a slight dash of impatient devilry that would have done credit to the
portrait. But he was sorry for it the next moment!

The priest, looking up suddenly, discovered what seemed to him to be the
portrait standing before its own frame and glaring at him. Throwing
up his hands with an averted head and an "EXORCIS--!" he wheeled and
scuffled away. Dick seized the opportunity, darted through the narrow
door on to the rear terrace, and ran, under cover of the shadow of
the house, to the steps into the garden. Luckily for him, this new and
unexpected diversion occupied the inmates too much with what was going
on in the house to give them time to search outside. Dick reached the
lilac hedge, tore up the hill, and in a few moments threw himself,
panting, on his blanket. In the single look he had cast behind, he had
seen that the half-dark salon was now brilliantly lighted--where no
doubt the whole terrified household was now assembled. He had no fear
of being followed; since his confrontation with his own likeness in
the mysterious portrait, he understood everything. The apparently
supernatural character of his visitation was made plain; his ruffled
vanity was soothed--his vindication was complete. He laughed to himself
and rolled about, until in his suppressed merriment the rose fell from
his bosom, and--he stopped! Its freshness and fragrance recalled
the innocent young girl he had frightened. He remembered her gentle,
pleading voice, and his cheek flushed. Well, he had done the best he
could in bringing her back to the house--at the risk of being taken for
a burglar--and she was safe now! If that stupid French parson didn't
know the difference between a living man and a dead and painted one, it
wasn't his fault. But he fell asleep with the rose in his fingers.

He was awake at the first streak of dawn. He again bathed his horse's
shoulder, saddled, but did not mount him, as the beast, although better,
was still stiff, and Dick wished to spare him for the journey to still
distant Havre, although he had determined to lie over that night at the
first wayside inn. Luckily for him, the disturbance at the chateau had
not extended to the forest, for Dick had to lead his horse slowly and
could not have escaped; but no suspicion of external intrusion seemed to
have been awakened, and the woodland was, evidently, seldom invaded.

By dint of laying his course by the sun and the exercise of a little
woodcraft, in the course of two hours he heard the creaking of a
hay-cart, and knew that he was near a traveled road. But to his
discomfiture he presently came to a high wall, which had evidently
guarded this portion of the woods from the public. Time, however, had
made frequent breaches in the stones; these had been roughly filled in
with a rude abatis of logs and treetops pointing towards the road. But
as these were mainly designed to prevent intrusion into the park rather
than egress from it, Dick had no difficulty in rolling them aside and
emerging at last with his limping steed upon the white high-road.
The creaking cart had passed; it was yet early for traffic, and Dick
presently came upon a wine-shop, a bakery, a blacksmith's shop, laundry,
and a somewhat pretentious cafe and hotel in a broader space which
marked the junction of another road.

Directly before it, however, to his consternation, were the massive, but
timeworn, iron gates of a park, which Dick did not doubt was the one
in which he had spent the previous night. But it was impossible to go
further in his present plight, and he boldly approached the restaurant.
As he was preparing to make his usual explanatory signs, to his great
delight he was addressed in a quaint, broken English, mixed with
forgotten American slang, by the white-trousered, black-alpaca coated
proprietor. More than that--he was a Social Democrat and an enthusiastic
lover of America--had he not been to "Bos-town" and New York, and
penetrated as far west as "Booflo," and had much pleasure in that
beautiful and free country? Yes! it was a "go-a-'ed" country--you
"bet-your-lif'." One had reason to say so: there was your
electricity--your street cars--your "steambots"--ah! such steambots--and
your "r-rail-r-roads." Ah! observe! compare your r-rail-r-roads and the
buffet of the Pullman with the line from Paris, for example--and where
is one? Nowhere! Actually, positively, without doubt, nowhere!

Later, at an appetizing breakfast--at which, to Dick's great
satisfaction, the good man had permitted and congratulated himself to
sit at table with a free-born American--he was even more loquacious.
For what then, he would ask, was this incompetence, this imbecility, of
France? He would tell. It was the vile corruption of Paris, the grasping
of capital and companies, the fatal influence of the still clinging
noblesse, and the insidious Jesuitical power of the priests. As for
example, Monsieur "the Booflo-bil" had doubtless noticed the great gates
of the park before the cafe? It was the preserve,--the hunting-park of
one of the old grand seigneurs, still kept up by his descendants, the
Comtes de Fontonelles--hundreds of acres that had never been tilled,
and kept as wild waste wilderness,--kept for a day's pleasure in a year!
And, look you! the peasants starving around its walls in their small
garden patches and pinched farms! And the present Comte de Fontonelles
cascading gold on his mistresses in Paris; and the Comtesse, his mother,
and her daughter living there to feed and fatten and pension a brood
of plotting, black-cowled priests. Ah, bah! where was your Republican
France, then? But a time would come. The "Booflo-bil" had, without
doubt, noticed, as he came along the road, the breaches in the wall of
the park?

Dick, with a slight dry reserve, "reckoned that he had."

"They were made by the scythes and pitchforks of the peasants in the
Revolution of '93, when the count was emigre, as one says with reason
'skedadelle,' to England. Let them look the next time that they burn not
the chateau,--'bet your lif'!'"

"The chateau," said Dick, with affected carelessness. "Wot's the blamed
thing like?"

It was an old affair,--with armor and a picture-gallery,--and bricabrac.
He had never seen it. Not even as a boy,--it was kept very secluded
then. As a man--you understand--he could not ask the favor. The Comtes
de Fontonelles and himself were not friends. The family did not like a
cafe near their sacred gates,--where had stood only the huts of their
retainers. The American would observe that he had not called it "Cafe de
Chateau," nor "Cafe de Fontonelles,"--the gold of California would not
induce him. Why did he remain there? Naturally, to goad them! It was a
principle, one understood. To GOAD them and hold them in check! One kept
a cafe,--why not? One had one's principles,--one's conviction,--that was
another thing! That was the kind of "'air-pin"--was it not?--that HE,
Gustav Ribaud, was like!

Yet for all his truculent socialism, he was quick, obliging, and
charmingly attentive to Dick and his needs. As to Dick's horse, he
should have the best veterinary surgeon--there was an incomparable one
in the person of the blacksmith--see to him, and if it were an affair of
days, and Dick must go, he himself would be glad to purchase the
beast, his saddle, and accoutrements. It was an affair of business,--an
advertisement for the cafe! He would ride the horse himself before the
gates of the park. It would please his customers. Ha! he had learned a
trick or two in free America.

Dick's first act had been to shave off his characteristic beard and
mustache, and even to submit his long curls to the village barber's
shears, while a straw hat, which he bought to take the place of his
slouched sombrero, completed his transformation. His host saw in the
change only the natural preparation of a voyager, but Dick had really
made the sacrifice, not from fear of detection, for he had recovered his
old swaggering audacity, but from a quick distaste he had taken to his
resemblance to the portrait. He was too genuine a Westerner, and too
vain a man, to feel flattered at his resemblance to an aristocratic
bully, as he believed the ancestral De Fontonelles to be. Even his
momentary sensation as he faced the Cure in the picture-gallery was
more from a vague sense that liberties had been taken with his, Dick's,
personality, than that he had borrowed anything from the portrait.

But he was not so clear about the young girl. Her tender, appealing
voice, although he knew it had been addressed only to a vision, still
thrilled his fancy. The pluck that had made her withstand her fear
so long--until he had uttered that dreadful word--still excited his
admiration. His curiosity to know what mistake he had made--for he knew
it must have been some frightful blunder--was all the more keen, as he
had no chance to rectify it. What a brute she must have thought him--or
DID she really think him a brute even then?--for her look was one more
of despair and pity! Yet she would remember him only by that last word,
and never know that he had risked insult and ejection from her friends
to carry her to her place of safety. He could not bear to go across the
seas carrying the pale, unsatisfied face of that gentle girl ever before
his eyes! A sense of delicacy--new to Dick, but always the accompaniment
of deep feeling--kept him from even hinting his story to his host,
though he knew--perhaps BECAUSE he knew--that it would gratify his
enmity to the family. A sudden thought struck Dick. He knew her house,
and her name. He would write her a note. Somebody would be sure to
translate it for her.

He borrowed pen, ink, and paper, and in the clean solitude of his fresh
chintz bedroom, indited the following letter:--


DEAR MISS FONTONELLES,--Please excuse me for having skeert you. I hadn't
any call to do it, I never reckoned to do it--it was all jest my
derned luck; I only reckoned to tell you I was lost--in them blamed
woods--don't you remember?--"lost"--PERDOO!--and then you up and
fainted! I wouldn't have come into your garden, only, you see, I'd just
skeered by accident two of your helps, reg'lar softies, and I wanted to
explain. I reckon they allowed I was that man that that picture in the
hall was painted after. I reckon they took ME for him--see? But he ain't
MY style, nohow, and I never saw the picture at all until after I'd
toted you, when you fainted, up to your house, or I'd have made my
kalkilations and acted according. I'd have laid low in the woods, and
got away without skeerin' you. You see what I mean? It was mighty mean
of me, I suppose, to have tetched you at all, without saying, "Excuse
me, miss," and toted you out of the garden and up the steps into your
own parlor without asking your leave. But the whole thing tumbled so
suddent. And it didn't seem the square thing for me to lite out and
leave you lying there on the grass. That's why! I'm sorry I skeert that
old preacher, but he came upon me in the picture hall so suddent, that
it was a mighty close call, I tell you, to get off without a shindy.
Please forgive me, Miss Fontonelles. When you get this, I shall be going
back home to America, but you might write to me at Denver City, saying
you're all right. I liked your style; I liked your grit in standing up
to me in the garden until you had your say, when you thought I was
the Lord knows what--though I never understood a word you got off--not
knowing French. But it's all the same now. Say! I've got your rose!

Yours very respectfully,

RICHARD FOUNTAINS.


Dick folded the epistle and put it in his pocket. He would post it
himself on the morning before he left. When he came downstairs he found
his indefatigable host awaiting him, with the report of the veterinary
blacksmith. There was nothing seriously wrong with the mustang, but it
would be unfit to travel for several days. The landlord repeated his
former offer. Dick, whose money was pretty well exhausted, was fain to
accept, reflecting that SHE had never seen the mustang and would not
recognize it. But he drew the line at the sombrero, to which his host
had taken a great fancy. He had worn it before HER!

Later in the evening Dick was sitting on the low veranda of the cafe,
overlooking the white road. A round white table was beside him, his
feet were on the railing, but his eyes were resting beyond on the high,
mouldy iron gates of the mysterious park. What he was thinking of did
not matter, but he was a little impatient at the sudden appearance of
his host--whom he had evaded during the afternoon--at his side. The
man's manner was full of bursting loquacity and mysterious levity.

Truly, it was a good hour when Dick had arrived at Fontonelles,--"just
in time." He could see now what a world of imbeciles was France. What
stupid ignorance ruled, what low cunning and low tact could achieve,--in
effect, what jugglers and mountebanks, hypocritical priests and
licentious and lying noblesse went to make up existing society.
Ah, there had been a fine excitement, a regular coup d'theatre at
Fontonelles,--the chateau yonder; here at the village, where the news
was brought by frightened grooms and silly women! He had been in the
thick of it all the afternoon! He had examined it,--interrogated them
like a juge d'instruction,--winnowed it, sifted it. And what was it
all? An attempt by these wretched priests and noblesse to revive in the
nineteenth century--the age of electricity and Pullman cars--a miserable
mediaeval legend of an apparition, a miracle! Yes; one is asked to
believe that at the chateau yonder was seen last night three times the
apparition of Armand de Fontonelles!

Dick started. "Armand de Fontonelles!" He remembered that she had
repeated that name.

"Who's he?" he demanded abruptly.

"The first Comte de Fontonelles! When monsieur knows that the first
comte has been dead three hundred years, he will see the imbecility of
the affair!"

"Wot did he come back for?" growled Dick.

"Ah! it was a legend. Consider its artfulness! The Comte Armand had been
a hard liver, a dissipated scoundrel, a reckless beast, but a mighty
hunter of the stag. It was said that on one of these occasions he had
been warned by the apparition of St. Hubert; but he had laughed,--for,
observe, HE always jeered at the priests too; hence this story!--and
had declared that the flaming cross seen between the horns of the sacred
stag was only the torch of a poacher, and he would shoot it! Good! the
body of the comte, dead, but without a wound, was found in the wood the
next day, with his discharged arquebus in his hand. The Archbishop of
Rouen refused his body the rites of the Church until a number of masses
were said every year and--paid for! One understands! one sees their
'little game;' the count now appears,--he is in purgatory! More
masses,--more money! There you are. Bah! One understands, too, that
the affair takes place, not in a cafe like this,--not in a public
place,--but at a chateau of the noblesse, and is seen by--the
proprietor checked the characters on his fingers--TWO retainers; one
young demoiselle of the noblesse, daughter of the chatelaine herself;
and, my faith, it goes without saying, by a fat priest, the Cure! In
effect, two interested ones! And the priest,--his lie is magnificent!
Superb! For he saw the comte in the picture-gallery,--in effect,
stepping into his frame!"

"Oh, come off the roof," said Dick impatiently; "they must have seen
SOMETHING, you know. The young lady wouldn't lie!"

Monsieur Ribaud leaned over, with a mysterious, cynical smile, and
lowering his voice said:--

"You have reason to say so. You have hit it, my friend. There WAS a
something! And if we regard the young lady, you shall hear. The story of
Mademoiselle de Fontonelles is that she has walked by herself alone in
the garden,--you observe, ALONE--in the moonlight, near the edge of the
wood. You comprehend? The mother and the Cure are in the house,--for the
time effaced! Here at the edge of the wood--though why she continues,
a young demoiselle, to the edge of the wood does not make itself
clear--she beholds her ancestor, as on a pedestal, young, pale, but very
handsome and exalte,--pardon!"

"Nothing," said Dick hurriedly; "go on!"

"She beseeches him why! He says he is lost! She faints away, on the
instant, there--regard me!--ON THE EDGE OF THE WOOD, she says. But her
mother and Monsieur le Cure find her pale, agitated, distressed, ON
THE SOFA IN THE SALON. One is asked to believe that she is transported
through the air--like an angel--by the spirit of Armand de Fontonelles.
Incredible!"

"Well, wot do YOU think?" said Dick sharply.

The cafe proprietor looked around him carefully, and then lowered his
voice significantly:--

"A lover!"

"A what?" said Dick, with a gasp.

"A lover!" repeated Ribaud. "You comprehend! Mademoiselle has
no dot,--the property is nothing,--the brother has everything. A
Mademoiselle de Fontonelles cannot marry out of her class, and the
noblesse are all poor. Mademoiselle is young,--pretty, they say, of
her kind. It is an intolerable life at the old chateau; mademoiselle
consoles herself!"

Monsieur Ribaud never knew how near he was to the white road below the
railing at that particular moment. Luckily, Dick controlled himself, and
wisely, as Monsieur Ribaud's next sentence showed him.

"A romance,--an innocent, foolish liaison, if you like,--but, all the
same, if known of a Mademoiselle de Fontonelles, a compromising, a fatal
entanglement. There you are. Look! for this, then, all this story of
cock and bulls and spirits! Mademoiselle has been discovered with her
lover by some one. This pretty story shall stop their mouths!"

"But wot," said Dick brusquely, "wot if the girl was really skeert
at something she'd seen, and fainted dead away, as she said she
did,--and--and"--he hesitated--"some stranger came along and picked her
up?"

Monsieur Ribaud looked at him pityingly.

"A Mademoiselle de Fontonelle is picked up by her servants, by her
family, but not by the young man in the woods, alone. It is even more
compromising!"

"Do you mean to say," said Dick furiously, "that the ragpickers and
sneaks that wade around in the slumgallion of this country would dare to
spatter that young gal?"

"I mean to say, yes,--assuredly, positively yes!" said Ribaud,
rubbing his hands with a certain satisfaction at Dick's fury. "For you
comprehend not the position of la jeune fille in all France! Ah! in
America the young lady she go everywhere alone; I have seen her--pretty,
charming, fascinating--alone with the young man. But here, no, never!
Regard me, my friend. The French mother, she say to her daughter's
fiance, 'Look! there is my daughter. She has never been alone with a
young man for five minutes,--not even with you. Take her for your wife!'
It is monstrous! it is impossible! it is so!"

There was a silence of a few minutes, and Dick looked blankly at the
iron gates of the park of Fontonelles. Then he said: "Give me a cigar."

Monsieur Ribaud instantly produced his cigar case. Dick took a cigar,
but waved aside the proffered match, and entering the cafe, took from
his pocket the letter to Mademoiselle de Fontonelles, twisted it in a
spiral, lighted it at a candle, lit his cigar with it, and returning
to the veranda held it in his hand until the last ashes dropped on the
floor. Then he said, gravely, to Ribaud:--

"You've treated me like a white man, Frenchy, and I ain't goin' back
on yer--though your ways ain't my ways--nohow; but I reckon in this yer
matter at the shotto you're a little too previous! For though I don't
as a gin'ral thing take stock in ghosts, I BELIEVE EVERY WORD THAT THEM
FOLK SAID UP THAR. And," he added, leaning his hand somewhat heavily on
Ribaud's shoulder, "if you're the man I take you for, you'll believe it
too! And if that chap, Armand de Fontonelles, hadn't hev picked up that
gal at that moment, he would hev deserved to roast in hell another three
hundred years! That's why I believe her story. So you'll let these yer
Fontonelles keep their ghosts for all they're worth; and when you next
feel inclined to talk about that girl's LOVER, you'll think of me, and
shut your head! You hear me, Frenchy, I'm shoutin'! And don't you forget
it!"

Nevertheless, early the next morning, Monsieur Ribaud accompanied his
guest to the railway station, and parted from him with great effusion.
On his way back an old-fashioned carriage with a postilion passed him.
At a sign from its occupant, the postilion pulled up, and Monsieur
Ribaud, bowing to the dust, approached the window, and the pale, stern
face of a dignified, white-haired woman of sixty that looked from it.

"Has he gone?" said the lady.

"Assuredly, madame; I was with him at the station."

"And you think no one saw him?"

"No one, madame, but myself."

"And--what kind of a man was he?"

Monsieur Ribaud lifted his shoulders, threw out his hands despairingly,
yet with a world of significance, and said:--

"An American."

"Ah!"

The carriage drove on and entered the gates of the chateau. And Monsieur
Ribaud, cafe proprietor and Social Democrat, straightened himself in the
dust and shook his fist after it.




A NIGHT ON THE DIVIDE


With the lulling of the wind towards evening it came on to
snow--heavily, in straight, quickly succeeding flakes, dropping like
white lances from the sky. This was followed by the usual Sierran
phenomenon. The deep gorge, which, as the sun went down, had lapsed into
darkness, presently began to reappear; at first the vanished trail came
back as a vividly whitening streak before them; then the larches and
pines that ascended from it like buttresses against the hillsides
glimmered in ghostly distinctness, until at last the two slopes curved
out of the darkness as if hewn in marble. For the sudden storm, which
extended scarcely two miles, had left no trace upon the steep granite
face of the high cliffs above; the snow, slipping silently from them,
left them still hidden in the obscurity of night. In the vanished
landscape the gorge alone stood out, set in a chaos of cloud and storm
through which the moonbeams struggled ineffectually.

It was this unexpected sight which burst upon the occupants of a large
covered "station wagon" who had chanced upon the lower end of the gorge.
Coming from a still lower altitude, they had known nothing of the storm,
which had momentarily ceased, but had left a record of its intensity
in nearly two feet of snow. For some moments the horses floundered and
struggled on, in what the travelers believed to be some old forgotten
drift or avalanche, until the extent and freshness of the fall became
apparent. To add to their difficulties, the storm recommenced, and not
comprehending its real character and limit, they did not dare to attempt
to return the way they came. To go on, however, was impossible. In this
quandary they looked about them in vain for some other exit from the
gorge. The sides of that gigantic white furrow terminated in darkness.
Hemmed in from the world in all directions, it might have been their
tomb.

But although THEY could see nothing beyond their prison walls, they
themselves were perfectly visible from the heights above them. And Jack
Tenbrook, quartz miner, who was sinking a tunnel in the rocky ledge of
shelf above the gorge, stepping out from his cabin at ten o'clock
to take a look at the weather before turning in, could observe quite
distinctly the outline of the black wagon, the floundering horses, and
the crouching figures by their side, scarcely larger than pygmies on the
white surface of the snow, six hundred feet below him. Jack had courage
and strength, and the good humor that accompanies them, but he
contented himself for a few moments with lazily observing the travelers'
discomfiture. He had taken in the situation with a glance; he would have
helped a brother miner or mountaineer, although he knew that it could
only have been drink or bravado that brought HIM into the gorge in a
snowstorm, but it was very evident that these were "greenhorns," or
eastern tourists, and it served their stupidity and arrogance right! He
remembered also how he, having once helped an Eastern visitor catch the
mustang that had "bucked" him, had been called "my man," and presented
with five dollars; he recalled how he had once spread the humble
resources of his cabin before some straying members of the San Francisco
party who were "opening" the new railroad, and heard the audible wonder
of a lady that a civilized being could live so "coarsely"? With these
recollections in his mind, he managed to survey the distant struggling
horses with a fine sense of humor, not unmixed with self-righteousness.
There was no real danger in the situation; it meant at the worst a delay
and a camping in the snow till morning, when he would go down to their
assistance. They had a spacious traveling equipage, and were, no doubt,
well supplied with furs, robes, and provisions for a several hours'
journey; his own pork barrel was quite empty, and his blankets worn. He
half smiled, extended his long arms in a decided yawn, and turned back
into his cabin to go to bed. Then he cast a final glance around the
interior. Everything was all right; his loaded rifle stood against the
wall; he had just raked ashes over the embers of his fire to keep it
intact till morning. Only one thing slightly troubled him; a grizzly
bear, two-thirds grown, but only half tamed, which had been given to him
by a young lady named "Miggles," when that charming and historic girl
had decided to accompany her paralytic lover to the San Francisco
hospital, was missing that evening. It had been its regular habit to
come to the door every night for some sweet biscuit or sugar before
going to its lair in the underbrush behind the cabin. Everybody knew it
along the length and breadth of Hemlock Ridge, as well as the fact
of its being a legacy from the fair exile. No rifle had ever yet been
raised against its lazy bulk or the stupid, small-eyed head and ruff
of circling hairs made more erect by its well-worn leather collar.
Consoling himself with the thought that the storm had probably delayed
its return, Jack took off his coat and threw it on his bunk. But from
thinking of the storm his thoughts naturally returned again to the
impeded travelers below him, and he half mechanically stepped out in his
shirt-sleeves for a final look at them.

But here something occurred that changed his resolution entirely. He had
previously noticed only the three foreshortened, crawling figures
around the now stationary wagon bulk. They were now apparently making
arrangements to camp for the night. But another figure had been added
to the group, and as it stood perched upon a wagon seat laid on the snow
Jack could see that its outline was not bifurcated like the others.
But even that general suggestion was not needed! the little head, the
symmetrical curves visible even at that distance, were quite enough to
indicate that it was a woman! The easy smile faded from Jack's face, and
was succeeded by a look of concern and then of resignation. He had no
choice now; he MUST go! There was a woman there, and that settled it.
Yet he had arrived at this conclusion from no sense of gallantry, nor,
indeed, of chivalrous transport, but as a matter of simple duty to the
sex. He was giving up his sleep, was going down six hundred feet of
steep trail to offer his services during the rest of the night as much
as a matter of course as an Eastern man would have offered his seat in
an omnibus to a woman, and with as little expectation of return for his
courtesy.

Having resumed his coat, with a bottle of whiskey thrust into its
pocket, he put on a pair of india-rubber boots reaching to his thighs,
and, catching the blanket from his bunk, started with an axe and shovel
on his shoulder on his downward journey. When the distance was half
completed he shouted to the travelers below; the cry was joyously
answered by the three men; he saw the fourth figure, now unmistakably
that of a slender youthful woman, in a cloak, helped back into the
wagon, as if deliverance was now sure and immediate. But Jack on
arriving speedily dissipated that illusive hope; they could only get
through the gorge by taking off the wheels of the wagon, placing
the axle on rude sledge-runners of split saplings, which, with their
assistance, he would fashion in a couple of hours at his cabin and bring
down to the gorge. The only other alternative would be for them to
come to his cabin and remain there while he went for assistance to the
nearest station, but that would take several hours and necessitate a
double journey for the sledge if he was lucky enough to find one. The
party quickly acquiesced in Jack's first suggestion.

"Very well," said Jack, "then there's no time to be lost; unhitch your
horses and we'll dig a hole in that bank for them to stand in out of
the snow." This was speedily done. "Now," continued Jack, "you'll just
follow me up to my cabin; it's a pretty tough climb, but I'll want your
help to bring down the runners."

Here the man who seemed to be the head of the party--of middle age and a
superior, professional type--for the first time hesitated. "I forgot
to say that there is a lady with us,--my daughter," he began, glancing
towards the wagon.

"I reckoned as much," interrupted Jack simply, "and I allowed to carry
her up myself the roughest part of the way. She kin make herself warm
and comf'ble in the cabin until we've got the runners ready."

"You hear what our friend says, Amy?" suggested the gentleman,
appealingly, to the closed leather curtains of the wagon.

There was a pause. The curtain was suddenly drawn aside, and a charming
little head and shoulders, furred to the throat and topped with a
bewitching velvet cap, were thrust out. In the obscurity little could
be seen of the girl's features, but there was a certain willfulness and
impatience in her attitude. Being in the shadow, she had the advantage
of the others, particularly of Jack, as his figure was fully revealed in
the moonlight against the snowbank. Her eyes rested for a moment on his
high boots, his heavy mustache, so long as to mingle with the unkempt
locks which fell over his broad shoulders, on his huge red hands
streaked with black grease from the wagon wheels, and some blood,
stanched with snow, drawn from bruises in cutting out brambles in the
brush; on--more awful than all--a monstrous, shiny "specimen" gold ring
encircling one of his fingers,--on the whiskey bottle that shamelessly
bulged from his side pocket, and then--slowly dropped her dissatisfied
eyelids.

"Why can't I stay HERE?" she said languidly. "It's quite nice and
comfortable."

"Because we can't leave you alone, and we must go with this gentleman to
help him."

Miss Amy let the tail of her eye again creep shudderingly over this
impossible Jack. "I thought the--the gentleman was going to help US,"
she said dryly.

"Nonsense, Amy, you don't understand," said her father impatiently.
"This gentleman is kind enough to offer to make some sledge-runners for
us at his cabin, and we must help him."

"But I can stay here while you go. I'm not afraid."

"Yes, but you're ALONE here, and something might happen."

"Nothing could happen," interrupted Jack, quickly and cheerfully. He had
flushed at first, but he was now considering that the carrying of a lady
as expensively attired and apparently as delicate and particular as this
one might be somewhat difficult. "There's nothin' that would hurt ye
here," he continued, addressing the velvet cap and furred throat in the
darkness, "and if there was it couldn't get at ye, bein', so to
speak, in the same sort o' fix as you. So you're all right," he added
positively.

Inconsistently enough, the young lady did not accept this as gratefully
as might have been imagined, but Jack did not see the slight flash of
her eye as, ignoring him, she replied markedly to her father, "I'd much
rather stop here, papa."

"And," continued Jack, turning also to her father, "you can keep the
wagon and the whole gorge in sight from the trail all the way up. So you
can see that everything's all right. Why, I saw YOU from the first."
He stopped awkwardly, and added, "Come along; the sooner we're off the
quicker the job's over."

"Pray don't delay the gentleman and--the job," said Miss Amy sweetly.

Reassured by Jack's last suggestion, her father followed him with
the driver and the second man of the party, a youngish and somewhat
undistinctive individual, but to whose gallant anxieties Miss Amy
responded effusively. Nevertheless, the young lady had especially noted
Jack's confession that he had seen them when they first entered the
gorge. "And I suppose," she added to herself mentally, "that he
sat there with his boozing companions, laughing and jeering at our
struggles."

But when the sound of her companions' voices died away, and their
figures were swallowed up in the darkness behind the snow, she
forgot all this, and much else that was mundane and frivolous, in the
impressive and majestic solitude which seemed to descend upon her from
the obscurity above.

At first it was accompanied with a slight thrill of vague fear, but this
passed presently into that profound peace which the mountains alone can
give their lonely or perturbed children. It seemed to her that Nature
was never the same, on the great plains where men and cities always
loomed into such ridiculous proportions, as when the Great Mother raised
herself to comfort them with smiling hillsides, or encompassed them and
drew them closer in the loving arms of her mountains. The long white
canada stretched before her in a purity that did not seem of the earth;
the vague bulk of the mountains rose on either side of her in a mystery
that was not of this life. Yet it was not oppressive; neither was its
restfulness and quiet suggestive of obliviousness and slumber; on the
contrary, the highly rarefied air seemed to give additional keenness
to her senses; her hearing had become singularly acute; her eyesight
pierced the uttermost extremity of the gorge, lit by the full moon that
occasionally shone through slowly drifting clouds. Her nerves thrilled
with a delicious sense of freedom and a strange desire to run or climb.
It seemed to her, in her exalted fancy, that these solitudes should be
peopled only by a kingly race, and not by such gross and material churls
as this mountaineer who helped them. And, I grieve to say,--writing
of an idealist that WAS, and a heroine that IS to be,--she was getting
outrageously hungry.

There were a few biscuits in her traveling-bag, and she remembered that
she had been presented with a small jar of California honey at San Jose.
This she took out and opened on the seat before her, and spreading the
honey on the biscuits, ate them with a keen schoolgirl relish and a
pleasant suggestion of a sylvan picnic in spite of the cold. It was all
very strange; quite an experience for her to speak of afterwards. People
would hardly believe that she had spent an hour or two, all alone, in a
deserted wagon in a mountain snow pass. It was an adventure such as
one reads of in the magazines. Only something was lacking which
the magazines always supplied,--something heroic, something done by
somebody. If that awful-looking mountaineer--that man with the long hair
and mustache, and that horrible gold ring,--why such a ring?--was only
different! But he was probably gorging beefsteak or venison with her
father and Mr. Waterhouse,--men were always such selfish creatures!--and
had quite forgotten all about her. It would have been only decent for
them to have brought her down something hot; biscuits and honey were
certainly cloying, and somehow didn't agree with the temperature. She
was really half starved! And much they cared! It would just serve them
right if something DID happen to her,--or SEEM to happen to her,--if
only to frighten them. And the pretty face that was turned up in the
moonlight wore a charming but decided pout.

Good gracious, what was that? The horses were either struggling or
fighting in their snow shelters. Then one with a frightened neigh broke
from its halter and dashed into the road, only to be plunged snorting
and helpless into the drifts. Then the other followed. How silly!
Something had frightened them. Perhaps only a rabbit or a mole; horses
were such absurdly nervous creatures! However, it is just as well;
somebody would see them or hear them,--that neigh was quite human
and awful,--and they would hurry down to see what was the matter. SHE
couldn't be expected to get out and look after the horses in the snow.
Anyhow, she WOULDN'T! She was a good deal safer where she was; it might
have been rats or mice about that frightened them! Goodness!

She was still watching with curious wonder the continued fright of the
animals, when suddenly she felt the wagon half bumped, half lifted from
behind. It was such a lazy, deliberate movement that for a moment she
thought it came from the party, who had returned noiselessly with the
runners. She scrambled over to the back seat, unbuttoned the leather
curtain, lifted it, but nothing was to be seen. Consequently,
with feminine quickness, she said, "I see you perfectly, Mr.
Waterhouse--don't be silly!" But at this moment there was another shock
to the wagon, and from beneath it arose what at first seemed to her to
be an uplifting of the drift itself, but, as the snow was shaken away
from its heavy bulk, proved to be the enormous head and shoulders of a
bear!

Yet even then she was not WHOLLY frightened, for the snout that
confronted her had a feeble inoffensiveness; the small eyes were bright
with an eager, almost childish curiosity rather than a savage ardor,
and the whole attitude of the creature lifted upon its hind legs was
circus-like and ludicrous rather than aggressive. She was enabled to say
with some dignity, "Go away! Shoo!" and to wave her luncheon basket at
it with exemplary firmness. But here the creature laid one paw on the
back seat as if to steady itself, with the singular effect of collapsing
the whole side of the wagon, and then opened its mouth as if in some
sort of inarticulate reply. But the revelation of its red tongue,
its glistening teeth, and, above all, the hot, suggestive fume of its
breath, brought the first scream from the lips of Miss Amy. It was real
and convincing; the horses joined in it; the three screamed together!
The bear hesitated for an instant, then, catching sight of the honey-pot
on the front seat, which the shrinking-back of the young girl had
disclosed, he slowly reached forward his other paw and attempted to
grasp it. This exceedingly simple movement, however, at once doubled
up the front seat, sent the honey-pot a dozen feet into the air, and
dropped Miss Amy upon her knees in the bed of the wagon. The combined
mental and physical shock was too much for her; she instantly and
sincerely fainted; the last thing in her ears amidst this wreck of
matter being the "wheep" of a bullet and the sharp crack of a rifle.

*****

She recovered her consciousness in the flickering light of a fire of
bark, that played upon the rafters of a roof thatched with bark and upon
a floor of strewn and shredded bark. She even suspected she was lying
upon a mattress of bark underneath the heavy bearskin she could feel
and touch. She had a delicious sense of warmth, and, mingled with this
strange spicing of woodland freedom, even a sense of home protection.
And surely enough, looking around, she saw her father at her side.

He briefly explained the situation. They had been at first attracted by
the cry of the frightened horses and their plunging, which they could
see distinctly, although they saw nothing else. "But, Mr. Tenbrook"--

"Mr. Who?" said Amy, staring at the rafters.

"The owner of this cabin--the man who helped us--caught up his gun, and,
calling us to follow, ran like lightning down the trail. At first we
followed blindly, and unknowingly, for we could only see the struggling
horses, who, however, seemed to be ALONE, and the wagon from which you
did not seem to have stirred. Then, for the first time, my dear child,
we suddenly saw your danger. Imagine how we felt as that hideous brute
rose up in the road and began attacking the wagon. We called on Tenbrook
to fire, but for some inconceivable reason he did not, although he still
kept running at the top of his speed. Then we heard you shriek--"

"I didn't shriek, papa; it was the horses."

"My child, I knew your voice."

"Well, it was only a VERY LITTLE scream--because I had tumbled." The
color was coming back rapidly to her pink cheeks.

"And, then, at your scream, Tenbrook fired!--it was a wonderful shot for
the distance, so everybody says--and killed the bear, though Tenbrook
says it oughtn't to. I believe he wanted to capture the creature alive.
They've queer notions, those hunters. And then, as you were unconscious,
he brought you up here."

"WHO brought me?"

"Tenbrook; he's as strong as a horse. Slung you up on his shoulders like
a feather pillow."

"Oh!"

"And then, as the wagon required some repairing from the brute's attack,
we concluded to take it leisurely, and let you rest here for a while."

"And where is--where are THEY?"

"At work on the wagon. I determined to stay with you, though you are
perfectly safe here."

"I suppose I ought--to thank--this man, papa?"

"Most certainly, though of course, I have already done so. But he was
rather curt in reply. These half-savage men have such singular ideas.
He said the beast would never have attacked you except for the honey-pot
which it scented. That's absurd."

"Then it's all my fault?"

"Nonsense! How could YOU know?"

"And I've made all this trouble. And frightened the horses. And spoilt
the wagon. And made the man run down and bring me up here when he didn't
want to!"

"My dear child! Don't be idiotic! Amy! Well, really!"

For the idiotic one was really wiping two large tears from her lovely
blue eyes. She subsided into an ominous silence, broken by a single
sniffle. "Try to go to sleep, dear; you've had quite a shock to your
nerves, added her father soothingly. She continued silent, but not
sleeping.

"I smell coffee."

"Yes, dear."

"You've been having coffee, papa?"

"We DID have some, I think," said the wretched man apologetically,
though why he could not determine.

"Before I came up? while the bear was trying to eat me?"

"No, after."

"I've a horrid taste in my mouth. It's the honey. I'll never eat honey
again. Never!"

"Perhaps it's the whiskey."

"What?"

"The whiskey. You were quite faint and chilled, you know. We gave you
some."

"Out of--that--black--bottle?"

"Yes."

Another silence.

"I'd like some coffee. I don't think he'd begrudge me that, if he did
save my life."

"I dare say there's some left." Her father at once bestirred himself
and presently brought her some coffee in a tin cup. It was part of Miss
Amy's rapid convalescence, or equally of her debilitated condition,
that she made no comment on the vessel. She lay for some moments looking
curiously around the cabin; she had no doubt it had a worse look in the
daylight, but somehow the firelight brought out a wondrous luxury of
color in the bark floor and thatching. Besides, it was not "smelly," as
she feared it would be; on the contrary the spicy aroma of the woods
was always dominant. She remembered that it was this that always made a
greasy, oily picnic tolerable. She raised herself on her elbow, seeing
which her father continued confidently, "Perhaps, dear, if you sat up
for a few moments you might be strong enough presently to walk down with
me to the wagon. It would save time."

Amy instantly lay down again. "I don't know what you can be thinking of,
papa. After this shock really I don't feel as if I could STAND alone,
much less WALK. But, of course," with pathetic resignation, "if you
and Mr. Waterhouse supported me, perhaps I might crawl a few steps at a
time."

"Nonsense, Amy. Of course, this man Tenbrook will carry you down as he
brought you up. Only I thought,--but there are steps, they're coming
now. No!--only HE."

The sound of crackling in the underbrush was followed by a momentary
darkening of the open door of the cabin. It was the tall figure of the
mountaineer. But he did not even make the pretense of entering; standing
at the door he delivered his news to the interior generally. It was to
the effect that everything was ready, and the two other men were even
then harnessing the horses. Then he drew back into the darkness.

"Papa," said Amy, in a sudden frightened voice, "I've lost my bracelet."

"Haven't you dropped it somewhere there in the bunk?" asked her father.

"No. It's on the floor of the wagon. I remember now it fell off when I
tumbled! And it will be trodden upon and crushed! Couldn't you run down,
ahead of me, and warn them, papa, dear? Mr. Tenbrook will have to go
so slowly with me." She tumbled out of the bunk with singular alacrity,
shook herself and her skirts into instantaneous gracefulness, and fitted
the velvet cap on her straying hair. Then she said hurriedly, "Run
quick, papa dear, and as you go, call him in and say I am quite ready."

Thus adjured, the obedient parent disappeared in the darkness. With him
also disappeared Miss Amy's singular alacrity. Sitting down carefully
again on the edge of the bunk, she leaned against the post with a
certain indefinable languor that was as touching as it was graceful. I
need not tell any feminine readers that there was no dissimulation in
all this,--no coquetry, no ostentation,--and that the young girl was
perfectly sincere! But the masculine reader might like to know that the
simple fact was that, since she had regained consciousness, she had
been filled with remorse for her capricious and ungenerous rejection of
Tenbrook's proffered service. More than that, she felt she had periled
her life in that moment of folly, and that this man--this hero--had
saved her. For hero he was, even if he did not fulfill her ideal,--it
was only SHE that was not a heroine. Perhaps if he had been more like
what she wished she would have felt this less keenly; love leaves little
room for the exercise of moral ethics. So Miss Amy Forester, being a
good girl at bottom, and not exactly loving this man, felt towards him a
frank and tender consideration which a more romantic passion would have
shrunk from showing. Consequently, when Tenbrook entered a moment
later, he found Amy paler and more thoughtful, but, as he fancied,
much prettier than before, looking up at him with eyes of the sincerest
solicitude.

Nevertheless, he remained standing near the door, as if indicating a
possible intrusion, his face wearing a look of lowering abstraction. It
struck her that this might be the effect of his long hair and general
uncouthness, and this only spurred her to a fuller recognition of his
other qualities.

"I am afraid," she began, with a charming embarrassment, "that instead
of resting satisfied with your kindness in carrying me up here, I will
have to burden you again with my dreadful weakness, and ask you to carry
me down also. But all this seems so little after what you have just done
and for which I can never, NEVER hope to thank you!" She clasped her two
little hands together, holding her gloves between, and brought them down
upon her lap in a gesture as prettily helpless as it was unaffected.

"I have done scarcely anything," he said, glancing away towards the
fire, "and--your father has thanked me."

"You have saved my life!"

"No! no!" he said quickly. "Not that! You were in no danger, except from
my rifle, had I missed."

"I see," she said eagerly, with a little posthumous thrill at having
been after all a kind of heroine, "and it was a wonderful shot, for you
were so careful not to touch me."

"Please don't say any more," he said, with a slight movement of half
awkwardness, half impatience. "It was a rough job, but it's over now."

He stopped and chafed his red hands abstractedly together. She could see
that he had evidently just washed them--and the glaring ring was more in
evidence than ever. But the thought gave her an inspiration.

"You'll at least let me shake hands with you!" she said, extending both
her own with childish frankness.

"Hold on, Miss Forester," he said, with sudden desperation. "It ain't
the square thing! Look here! I can't play this thing on you!--I can't
let you play it on me any longer! You weren't in any danger,--you NEVER
were! That bear was only a half-wild thing I helped to ra'r myself! It's
taken sugar from my hand night after night at the door of this cabin
as it might have taken it from yours here if it was alive now. It slept
night after night in the brush, not fifty yards away. The morning's
never come yet--till now," he said hastily, to cover an odd break in
his voice, "when it didn't brush along the whole side of this cabin
to kinder wake me up and say 'So long,' afore it browsed away into the
canyon. Thar ain't a man along the whole Divide who didn't know it;
thar ain't a man along the whole Divide that would have drawn a bead or
pulled a trigger on it till now. It never had an enemy but the bees; it
never even knew why horses and cattle were frightened of it. It wasn't
much of a pet, you'd say, Miss Forester; it wasn't much to meet a lady's
eye; but we of the woods must take our friends where we find 'em and of
our own kind. It ain't no fault of yours, Miss, that you didn't know
it; it ain't no fault of yours what happened; but when it comes to your
THANKING me for it, why--it's--it's rather rough, you see--and gets me."
He stopped short as desperately and as abruptly as he had begun, and
stared blankly at the fire.

A wave of pity and shame swept over the young girl and left its high
tide on her cheek. But even then it was closely followed by the feminine
instinct of defence and defiance. The REAL hero--the GENTLEMAN--she
reasoned bitterly, would have spared her all this knowledge.

"But why," she said, with knitted brows, "why, if you knew it was so
precious and so harmless--why did you fire upon it?"

"Because," he said almost fiercely, turning upon her, "because you
SCREAMED, and THEN I KNEW IT HAD FRIGHTENED YOU!" He stopped instantly
as she momentarily recoiled from him, but the very brusqueness of his
action had dislodged a tear from his dark eyes that fell warm on the
back of her hand, and seemed to blot out the indignity. "Listen, Miss,"
he went on hurriedly, as if to cover up his momentary unmanliness.
"I knew the bear was missing to-night, and when I heard the horses
scurrying about I reckoned what was up. I knew no harm could come to
you, for the horses were unharnessed and away from the wagon. I pelted
down that trail ahead of them all like grim death, calkilatin' to get
there before the bear; they wouldn't have understood me; I was too high
up to call to the creature when he did come out, and I kinder hoped
you wouldn't see him. Even when he turned towards the wagon, I knew it
wasn't YOU he was after, but suthin' else, and I kinder hoped, Miss,
that you, being different and quicker-minded than the rest, would see
it too. All the while them folks were yellin' behind me to fire--as if
I didn't know my work. I was half-way down--and then you screamed! And
then I forgot everything,--everything but standing clear of hitting
you,--and I fired. I was that savage that I wanted to believe that he'd
gone mad, and would have touched you, till I got down there and found
the honey-pot lying alongside of him. But there,--it's all over now!
I wouldn't have let on a word to you only I couldn't bear to take YOUR
THANKS for it, and I couldn't bear to have you thinking me a brute
for dodgin' them." He stopped, walked to the fire, leaned against the
chimney under the shallow pretext of kicking the dull embers into
a blaze, which, however, had only the effect of revealing his two
glistening eyes as he turned back again and came towards her. "Well,"
he said, with an ineffectual laugh, "it's all over now, it's all in the
day's work, I reckon,--and now, Miss, if you're ready, and will just
fix yourself your own way so as to ride easy, I'll carry you down." And
slightly bending his strong figure, he dropped on one knee beside her
with extended arms.

Now it is one thing to be carried up a hill in temperate, unconscious
blood and practical business fashion by a tall, powerful man with
steadfast, glowering eyes, but quite another thing to be carried down
again by the same man, who has been crying, and when you are conscious
that you are going to cry too, and your tears may be apt to mingle. So
Miss Amy Forester said: "Oh, wait, please! Sit down a moment. Oh, Mr.
Tenbrook, I am so very, very sorry," and, clapping her hand to her eyes,
burst into tears.

"Oh, please, please don't, Miss Forester," said Jack, sitting down on
the end of the bunk with frightened eyes, "please don't do that! It
ain't worth it. I'm only a brute to have said anything."

"No, no! You are SO noble, SO forgiving!" sobbed Miss Forester, "and
I have made you go and kill the only thing you cared for, that was all
your own."

"No, Miss,--not all my own, either,--and that makes it so rough. For it
was only left in trust with me by a friend. It was her only companion."

"HER only companion?" echoed Miss Forester, sharply lifting her bowed
head.

"Except," said Jack hurriedly, miscomprehending the emphasis with
masculine fatuity,--"except the dying man for whom she lived and
sacrificed her whole life. She gave me this ring, to always remind me of
my trust. I suppose," he added ruefully, looking down upon it, "it's no
use now. I'd better take it off."

Then Amy eyed the monstrous object with angelic simplicity. "I certainly
should," she said with infinite sweetness; "it would only remind you of
your loss. But," she added, with a sudden, swift, imploring look of her
blue eyes, "if you could part with it to me, it would be such a reminder
and token of--of your forgiveness."

Jack instantly handed it to her. "And now," he said, "let me carry you
down."

"I think," she said hesitatingly, "that--I had better try to walk," and
she rose to her feet.

"Then I shall know that you have not forgiven me," said Jack sadly.

"But I have no right to trouble"--

Alas! she had no time to finish her polite objection, for the next
moment she felt herself lifted in the air, smelled the bark thatch
within an inch of her nose, saw the firelight vanish behind her, and
subsiding into his curved arms as in a hammock, the two passed forth
into the night together.

"I can't find, your bracelet anywhere, Amy," said her father, when they
reached the wagon.

"It was on the floor in the lint," said Amy reproachfully. "But, of
course, you never thought of that!"

*****

My pen halts with some diffidence between two conclusions to this
veracious chronicle. As they agree in result, though not in theory or
intention, I may venture to give them both. To one coming from the lips
of the charming heroine herself I naturally yield the precedence. "Oh,
the bear story! I don't really remember whether that was before I was
engaged to John or after. But I had known him for some time; father
introduced him at the Governor's ball at Sacramento. Let me see!--I
think it was in the winter of '56. Yes! it was very amusing; I always
used to charge John with having trained that bear to attack our carriage
so that he might come in as a hero! Oh, of course, there are a hundred
absurd stories about him,--they used to say that he lived all alone in
a cabin like a savage, and all that sort of thing, and was a friend of
a dubious woman in the locality, whom the common people made a heroine
of,--Miggles, or Wiggles, or some such preposterous name. But look
at John there; can you conceive it?" The listener, glancing at a very
handsome, clean-shaven fellow, faultlessly attired, could not conceive
such an absurdity. So I therefore simply give the opinion of Joshua
Bixley, Superintendent of the Long Divide Tunnel Company, for what it is
worth: "I never took much stock in that bear story, and its captivating
old Forester's daughter. Old Forester knew a thing or two, and when he
was out here consolidating tunnels, he found out that Jack Tenbrook was
about headed for the big lead, and brought him out and introduced him
to Amy. You see, Jack, clear grit as he was, was mighty rough style, and
about as simple as they make 'em, and they had to get up something to
account for that girl's taking a shine to him. But they seem to be happy
enough--and what are you going to do about it?"

And I transfer this philosophic query to the reader.



THE YOUNGEST PROSPECTOR IN CALAVERAS


He was scarcely eight when it was believed that he could have reasonably
laid claim to the above title. But he never did. He was a small boy,
intensely freckled to the roots of his tawny hair, with even a suspicion
of it in his almond-shaped but somewhat full eyes, which were the
greenish hue of a ripe gooseberry. All this was very unlike his parents,
from whom he diverged in resemblance in that fashion so often seen in
the Southwest of America, as if the youth of the boundless West had
struck a new note of independence and originality, overriding all
conservative and established rules of heredity. Something of this
was also shown in a singular and remarkable reticence and firmness of
purpose, quite unlike his family or schoolfellows. His mother was
the wife of a teamster, who had apparently once "dumped" his family,
consisting of a boy and two girls, on the roadside at Burnt Spring,
with the canvas roof of his wagon to cover them, while he proceeded to
deliver other freight, not so exclusively his own, at other stations
along the road, returning to them on distant and separate occasions with
slight additions to their stock, habitation, and furniture. In this way
the canvas roof was finally shingled and the hut enlarged, and, under
the quickening of a smiling California sky and the forcing of a teeming
California soil, the chance-sown seed took root and became known as
Medliker's Ranch, or "Medliker's," with its bursting garden patch and
its three sheds or "lean-to's."

The girls helped their mother in a childish, imitative way; the boy,
John Bunyan, after a more desultory and original fashion--when he was
not "going to" or ostensibly "coming from" school, for he was seldom
actually there. Something of this fear was in the mind of Mrs. Medliker
one morning as she looked up from the kettle she was scrubbing, with
premonition of "more worriting," to behold the Reverend Mr. Staples, the
local minister, hale John Bunyan Medliker into the shanty with one hand.
Letting Johnny go, he placed his back against the door and wiped his
face with a red handkerchief. Johnny dropped into a chair, furtively
glancing at the arm by which Mr. Staples had dragged him, and feeling it
with the other hand to see if it was really longer.

"I've been requested by the schoolmaster," said the Rev. Mr. Staples,
putting his handkerchief back into his broad felt hat with a gasping
smile, "to bring our young friend before you for a matter of counsel and
discipline. I have done so, Sister Medliker, with some difficulty,"--he
looked down at John Bunyan, who again felt his arm and was satisfied
that it WAS longer--"but we must do our dooty, even with difficulty
to ourselves, and, perhaps, to others. Our young friend, John Bunyan,
stands on a giddy height--on slippery places, and," continued Mr.
Staples, with a lofty disregard to consecutive metaphor, "his feet
are taking fast hold of destruction." Here the child drew a breath of
relief, possibly at the prospect of being on firm ground of any kind
at last; but Sister Medliker, to whom the Staples style of exordium had
only a Sabbath significance, turned to her offspring abruptly:--

"And what's these yer doin's now, John? and me a slavin' to send ye to
school?"

Thus appealed to, Johnny looked for a reply at his feet, at his arm, and
at the kettle. Then he said: "I ain't done nothin', but he"--indicating
Staples--"hez been nigh onter pullin' off my arm."

"It's now almost a week ago," continued Mr. Staples, waving aside the
interruption with a smile of painful Christian tolerance, "or perhaps
ten days--I won't be too sure--that the schoolmaster discovered
that Johnny had in his possession two or three flakes of fine river
gold--each of the value of half a dollar, or perhaps sixty-two and one
half cents. On being questioned where he got them he refused to say;
although subsequently he alleged that he had 'found' them. It being a
single instance, he was given the benefit of the doubt, and nothing more
was said about it. But a few days after he was found trying to pass off,
at Mr. Smith's store, two other flakes of a different size, and a small
nugget of the value of four or five dollars. At this point I was called
in; he repeated to me, I grieve to say, the same untruthfulness, and
when I suggested to him the obvious fact that he had taken it from one
of the miner's sluice boxes and committed the grievous sin of theft,
he wickedly denied it--so that we are prevented from carrying out the
Christian command of restoring it even ONE fold, instead of four or five
fold as the Mosaic Law might have required. We were, alas! unable to
ascertain anything from the miners themselves, though I grieve to say
they one and all agreed that their 'take' that week was not at all what
they had expected. I even went so far as to admit the possibility of his
own statement, and besought him at least to show me where he had found
it. He at first refused with great stubbornness of temper, but later
consented to accompany me privately this afternoon to the spot." Mr.
Staples paused, and sinking his voice gloomily, and with his eyes fixed
upon Johnny, continued slowly: "When I state that, after several times
trying to evade me on the way, he finally led me to the top of Bald
Hill, where there is not a scrap of soil, and not the slightest
indication, and still persisted that he found it THERE, you will
understand, Sister Medliker, the incorrigibility of his conduct, and
how he has added the sin of 'false witness' to his breaking the Eighth
Commandment. But I leave him to your Christian discipline! Let us hope
that if, through his stiff-necked obduracy, he has haply escaped the
vengeance of man's law, he will not escape the rod of the domestic
tabernacle."

"Ye kin leave him to me," said Mrs. Medliker, in her anxiety to get rid
of the parson, assuming a confidence she was far from feeling.

"So be it, Sister Medliker," said Staples, drawing a long, satisfactory
breath; "and let us trust that when you have rastled with his flesh
and spirit, you will bring us joyful tidings to Wednesday's Mother's
Meeting."

He clapped his soft hat on his head, cast another glance at the wicked
Johnny, opened the door with his hand behind him, and backed himself
into the road.

"Now, Johnny," said Mrs. Medliker, setting her lips together as the door
closed, "look me right in the face, and say where you stole that gold."

But Johnny evidently did not think that his mother's face at that moment
offered any moral support, for he did not look at her; but, after gazing
at the kettle, said slowly, "I didn't steal no gold."

"Then," said Mrs. Medliker triumphantly, "if ye didn't steal it, you'd
say right off HOW ye got it."

Children are often better logicians than their elders. To John Bunyan
the stealing of gold and the mere refusal to say where he got it were
two distinct and separate things; that the negation of the second
proposition meant the affirmation of the first he could not accept. But
then children are also imitative, and fearful of the older intellect. It
struck Johnny that his mother might be right, and that to her it really
meant the same thing. So, after a moment's silence he replied more
confidently, "I suppose I stoled it."

But he was utterly unprepared for the darkening change in his mother's
face, and her furious accents. "You stole it?--you STOLE it, you limb!
And you sit there and brazenly tell me! Who did you steal it from? Tell
me quick, afore I wring it out of you!"

Completely astounded and bewildered at this new turn of affairs, Johnny
again fell back upon the dreadful truth, and gasped, "I don't know."

"You don't know, you devil! Did you take it from Frazer's?"

"No."

"From the Simmons Brothers?"

"No."

"From the Blazing Star Company?"

"No."

"From a store?"

"No."

"Then, in created goodness!--WHERE did you get it?"

Johnny raised his brown-gooseberry eyes for a single instant to his
mother's and said, "I found it."

Mrs. Medliker gasped again and stared hopelessly at the ceiling. Yet she
was conscious of a certain relief. After all, it was POSSIBLE that he
had found it--liar as he undoubtedly was.

"Then why don't you say where, you awful child?"

"Don't want to!"

Johnny would have liked to add that he saw no reason why he should tell.
Other people who found gold were not obliged to tell. There was Jim
Brody, who had struck a lead and kept the locality secret. Nobody forced
him to tell. Nobody called him a thief; nobody had dragged him about by
the arm until he showed it. Why was it wrong that a little boy should
find gold? It wasn't agin the Commandments. Mr. Staples had never got up
and said, "Thou shalt not find gold!" His mother had never made him pray
not to find it! The schoolmaster had never read him awful stories of
boys who found gold and never said anything about it, and so came to a
horrid end. All this crowded his small boy's mind, and, crowding, choked
his small boy's utterance.

"You jest wait till your father comes home," said Mrs. Medliker, "and
he'll see whether you 'want to' or not. And now get yourself off to bed
and stay there."

Johnny knew that his father--whose teams had increased to five wagons,
and whose route extended forty miles further--was not due for a week,
and that the catastrophe was yet remote. His present punishment he had
expected. He went into the adjoining bedroom, which he occupied with
his sister, and began to undress. He lingered for some time over one
stocking, and finally cautiously removed from it a small piece of flake
gold which he had kept concealed all day under his big toe, to the
great discomfort of that member. But this was only a small, ordinary
self-martyrdom of boyhood. He scratched a boyish hieroglyphic on the
metal, and when his mother's back was turned scraped a small hole in the
adobe wall, inserted the gold in it, and covered it up with a plaster
made of the moistened debris. It was safe--so was his secret--for it
need not, perhaps, be stated here that Johnny HAD told the truth and HAD
honestly found the gold! But where?--yes, that was his own secret! And
now, Johnny, with the instinct of all young animals, dismissed the whole
subject from his mind, and, reclining comfortably upon his arm, fell
into an interesting study of the habits of the red ant as exemplified in
a crack of the adobe wall, and with the aid of a burnt match succeeded
in diverting for the rest of the afternoon the attention of a whole
laborious colony.

The next morning, however, brought trouble to him in the curiosity of
his sisters, heightened by their belief that he could at any moment be
taken off to prison--which was their understanding of their mother's
story. I grieve to say that to them this invested him with a certain
romantic heroism, from the gratification of which the hero himself was
not exempt. Nevertheless, he successfully evaded their questioning, and
on broader impersonal grounds. As girls, it was none of their business!
He wasn't a-going to tell them HIS secrets! And what did they know about
gold, anyway? They couldn't tell it from brass! The attitude of his
mother was, however, still perplexing. She was no longer actively
indignant, but treated him with a mysterious reserve that was the
more appalling. The fact was that she no longer believed in his
theft,--indeed, she had never seriously accepted it,--but his strange
reticence and secretiveness piqued her curiosity, and even made her a
little afraid of him. The capacity for keeping a secret she believed was
manlike, and reminded her--for no reason in the world--of Jim Medliker,
her husband, whom she feared. Well, she would let them fight it out
between them. More than that, she was finally obliged to sink her
reserve in employing him in the necessary "chores" for the house, and
he was sent on an errand to the country store at the cross-roads. But he
first extracted his gold-flake from the wall, and put it in his pocket.

On arriving at the store, it was plain even to his boyish perceptions
that the minister had circulated his miserable story. Two or three of
the customers spoke to each other in a whisper, and looked at him. More
than that, when he began his homeward journey he saw that two of the
loungers were evidently following him. Half in timidity and half in
boyish mischief he once or twice strayed from the direct road, and
snatched a fearful joy in observing their equal divergence. As he passed
Mr. Staples's house he saw that reverend gentleman sneak out of his
back gate, and, without seeing the two others, join in the inquisitorial
procession. But the events of the past day had had their quickening
effect upon Johnny's intellect. A brilliantly wicked thought struck him.
As he was passing a perfectly bare spot on the road he managed, without
being noticed, to cast his glittering flake of gold on the sterile
ground at the other side of the road, where the minister's path would
lie. Then, at a point where the road turned, he concealed himself in the
brush. The Reverend Mr. Staples hurried forward as he lost sight of
the boy in the sweep of the road, but halted suddenly. Johnny's heart
leaped. The minister looked around him, stooped, picked up the piece
of gold, thrust it hurriedly in his waistcoat pocket, and continued his
way. When he reached the turn of the road, before passing it, he availed
himself of his solitude to pause and again examine the treasure, and
again return it to his pocket. But, to Johnny's surprise, he here
turned back, walked quickly to the spot where he had found it, carefully
examined the locality, kicking the loose soil and stones around with his
feet until he had apparently satisfied himself that there was no more,
and no gold-bearing indications in the soil. At this moment, however,
the two other inquisitors came in sight, and Mr. Staples turned
quickly and hurried on. Before he had passed the brush where Johnny was
concealed, the two men overtook him and exchanged greetings. They both
spoke of "Johnny" and his crime; of having followed him with a view of
finding out where he went to procure his gold, and of his having again
evaded them. Mr. Staples agreed with their purpose, but, to Johnny's
intense astonishment, SAID NOTHING ABOUT HIS OWN FIND! When they had
passed on, the boy slipped from his place of concealment and followed
them at a distance until his own house came in view. Here the two men
diverged, but the minister continued on towards the other "store" and
post-office on the main road.

He would have told his mother what he had seen, and his surprise that
the minister had not spoken of finding the gold to the other men, but
he was checked, first by his mother's attitude towards him, which was
clearly the same as the minister's, and, second, by the knowledge
that she would have condemned his dropping the gold in the minister's
path,--though he knew not WHY,--or asked his reason for it, which he was
equally sure he could not formulate, though he also knew not why. But
that evening, as he was returning from the spring with water, he heard
the minister's voice in the kitchen. It had been a day of surprises and
revelations to Johnny, but the climax seemed to be reached as he entered
the room; and he now stood transfixed and open-mouthed as he heard Mr.
Staples say:--

"It's all very well, Sister Medliker, to comfort your heart with vain
hopes and delusions. A mother's leanin's is the soul's deceivin's,--and
yer leanin' on a broken reed. If the boy truly found that gold he'd have
come to ye and said: 'Behold, mother, I have found gold in the highways
and byways; rejoice and be exceedin' glad!' and hev poured it inter yer
lap. Yes," continued Mr. Staples aggressively to the boy, as he saw him
stagger back with his pail in hand, "yes, sir, THAT would have been the
course of a Christian child!"

For a moment Johnny felt the blood boiling in his ears, and a thousand
words seemed crowding in his throat. "Then"--he gasped and choked.
"Then"--he began again, and stopped with the suffocation of indignation.

But Mr. Staples saw in his agitation only an awakened conscience, and,
nudging Mrs. Medliker, leaned eagerly forward for a reply. "Then," he
repeated, with suave encouragement, "go on, Johnny! Speak it out!"

"Then," said Johnny, in a high, shrill falsetto that startled them,
"then wot for did YOU pick up that piece o' gold in the road this
arternoon, and say nothin' of it to the men who followed ye? Ye did;
I seed yer! And ye didn't say nothin' of it to anybody; and ye ain't
sayin' nothin' of it now ter maw! and ye've got it in yer vest! And it's
mine, and I dropped it! Gimme it."

Astonishment, confusion, and rage swelled and empurpled Staples' face.
It was HIS turn to gasp for breath. Yet in the same moment he made
an angry dash at the boy. But Mrs. Medliker interfered. This was an
entirely new feature in the case. Great is the power of gold. A single
glance at the minister's confusion had convinced her that Johnny's
accusation was true, and it was Johnny's MONEY--constructively
HERS--that the minister was concealing. His mere possession of that gold
had more effect in straightening out her loose logic than any sense of
hypocrisy.

"You leave the boy be, Brother Staples," said Mrs. Medliker sharply. "I
reckon wot's his is hisn, spite of whar he got it."

Mr. Staples saw his mistake, and smiled painfully as he fumbled in his
waistcoat pocket. "I believe I DID pick up something," he said, "that
may or may not have been gold, but I have dropped it again or thrown
it away; and really it is of little concern in our moral lesson. For we
have only HIS word that it was really his! How do we KNOW it?"

"Cos it has my marks on it," said Johnny quickly; "it had a criss-cross
I scratched on it. I kin tell it good enuf."

Mr. Staples turned suddenly pale and rose. "Of course," he said to Mrs.
Medliker with painful dignity, "if you set so much value upon a mere
worldly trifle, I will endeavor to find it. It may be in my other
pocket." He backed out of the door in his usual fashion, but instantly
went over to the post-office, where, as he afterwards alleged, he had
changed the ore for coin in a moment of inadvertence. But Johnny's
hieroglyphics were found on it, and in some mysterious way the story got
about. It had two effects that Johnny did not dream of. It had forced
his mother into an attitude of complicity with him; it had raised up for
him a single friend. Jake Stielitzer, quartz miner, had declared that
Burnt Spring was "playing it low down" on Johnny! That if they really
believed that the boy took gold from their sluice boxes, it was their
duty to watch their CLAIMS and not the boy. That it was only their
excuse for "snooping" after him, and they only wanted to find his
"strike," which was as much his as their claims were their own! All
this with great proficiency of epithet, but also a still more recognized
proficiency with the revolver, which made the former respected.

"That's the real nigger in the fence, Johnny," said Jake, twirling his
huge mustache, "and they only want to know where your lead is,--and
don't yer tell 'em! Let 'em bile over with waitin' first, and that'll
put the fire out. Does yer pop know?"

"No," said Johnny.

"Nor yer mar?"

"No."

Jake whistled. "Then it's only YOU, yourself?"

Johnny nodded violently, and his brown eyes glistened.

"It's a heap of information to be packed away in a chap of your size,
Johnny. Makes you feel kinder crowded inside, eh? MUST keep it to
yourself, eh?"

"Have to," said Johnny with a gasp that was a little like a sigh.

It caused Jake to look at him attentively. "See here, Johnny," he said,
"now ef ye wanted to tell somebody about it,--somebody as was a friend
of yours,--ME, f'r instance?"

Johnny slowly withdrew the freckled, warty little hand that had been
resting confidingly in Jake's and gently sidled away from him. Jake
burst into a loud laugh.

"All right, Johnny boy," he said with a hearty slap upon the boy's back,
"keep yer head shut ef yer wanter! Only ef anybody else comes bummin'
round ye, like this, jest turn him over TO ME, and I'll lift him outer
his boots!"

Jake kept his word, and his distance thereafter. Indeed, it was after
this first and last conversation with him that the influence of his
powerful protection was so strong that all active criticisms of Johnny
ceased, and only a respectful surveillance of his movements lingered in
the settlement. I do not know that this was altogether distasteful to
the child; it would have been strange, indeed, if he had not felt
at times exalted by this mysterious influence that he seemed to
have acquired over his fellow creatures. If he were merely hunting
blackberries in the brush, he was always sure, sooner or later, to find
a ready hand offered to help and accompany him; if he trapped a squirrel
or tracked down a wild bees' hoard, he generally found a smiling face
watching him. Prospectors sometimes stopped him with: "Well, Johnny, as
a chipper and far-minded boy, now WHAR would YOU advise us to dig?" I
grieve to say that Johnny was not above giving his advice,--and that it
was invariably of not the smallest use to the recipient.

And so the days passed. Mr. Medliker's absence was protracted, and
the hour of retribution and punishment still seemed far away. The
blackberries ripened and dried upon the hillside, and the squirrels
had gathered their hoards; the bees no longer came and went through
the thicket, but Johnny was still in daily mysterious possession of
his grains of gold! And then one day--after the fate of all heroic
humanity--his secret was imperilled by the blandishments and
machinations of the all-powerful sex.

Florry Fraser was a little playmate of Johnny's. Why, with his doubts of
his elder sister's intelligence and integrity, he should have selected a
child two years younger, and of singular simplicity, was, like his other
secret, his own. What SHE saw in him to attract her was equally strange;
possibly it may have been his brown-gooseberry eyes or his warts; but
she was quite content to trot after him, like a young squaw, carrying
his "bow-arrow," or his "trap," supremely satisfied to share his
woodland knowledge or his scanter confidences. For nobody who knew
Johnny suspected that she was privy to his great secret. Howbeit,
wherever his ragged straw hat, thatched with his tawny hair, was
detected in the brush, the little nankeen sunbonnet of Florry was sure
to be discerned not far behind. For two weeks they had not seen each
other. A fell disease, nurtured in ignorance, dirt, and carelessness,
was striking right and left through the valleys of the foothills,
and Florry, whose sister had just recovered from an attack, had been
sequestered with her. But one morning, as Johnny was bringing his wood
from the stack behind the house, he saw, to his intense delight, a
picket of the road fence slipped aside by a small red hand, and a moment
after Florry squeezed herself through the narrow opening. Her round
cheeks were slightly flushed, and there was a scrap of red flannel
around her plump throat that heightened the whiteness of her skin.

"My!" said Johnny, with half-real, half-affected admiration, "how
splendiferous!"

"Sore froat," said Florry, in a whisper, trying to insert her two chubby
fingers between the bandage and her chin. "I mussent go outer the garden
patch! I mussent play in the woods, for I'll be seed! I mussent stay
long, for they'll ketch me outer bed!"

"Outer bed?" repeated Johnny, with intense admiration, as he perceived
for the first time that Florry was in a flannel nightgown, with bare
legs and feet.

"Ess."

Whereupon these two delightful imps chuckled and wagged their heads with
a sincere enjoyment that this mere world could not give! Johnny slipped
off his shoes and stockings and hurriedly put them on the infant Florry,
securing them from falling off with a thick cord. This added to their
enjoyment.

"We can play cubby house in the stone heap," whispered Florry.

"Hol' on till I tote in this wood," said Johnny. "You hide till I come
back."

Johnny swiftly delivered his load with an alacrity he had never shown
before. Then they played "cubby house"--not fifty feet from the cabin,
with a hushed but guilty satisfaction. But presently it palled. Their
domain was too circumscribed for variety. "Robinson Crusoe up the tree"
was impossible, as being visible from the house windows. Johnny was at
his wits' end. Florry was fretful and fastidious. Then a great thought
struck him and left him cold. "If I show you a show, you won't tell?" he
said suddenly.

"No."

"Wish yer-ma-die?"

"Ess."

"Got any penny?"

"No."

"Got any slate pencil?"

"No."

"Ain't got any pins nor nuthin'? You kin go in for a pin."

But Florry had none of childhood's fluctuating currency with her,
having, so to speak, no pockets.

"Well," said Johnny, brightening up, "ye kin go in for luv."

The child clipped him with her small arms and smiled, and, Johnny
leading the way, they crept on all fours through the thick ferns until
they paused before a deep fissure in the soil half overgrown with
bramble. In its depths they could hear the monotonous trickle of water.
It was really the source of the spring that afterwards reappeared fifty
yards nearer the road, and trickled into an unfailing pool known as the
Burnt Spring, from the brown color of the surrounding bracken. It
was the water supply of the ranch, and the reason for Mr. Medliker's
original selection of that site. Johnny lingered for an instant, looked
carefully around, and then lowered himself into the fissure. A moment
later he reached up his arms to Florry, lowered her also, and both
disappeared from view. Yet from time to time their voices came faintly
from below--with the gurgle of water--as of festive gnomes at play.

At the end of ten minutes they reappeared, a little muddy, a little
bedraggled, but flushed and happy. There were two pink spots on Florry's
cheeks, and she clasped something tightly in her little red fist.

"There," said Johnny, when they were seated in the straw again, "now
mind you don't tell."

But here suddenly Florry's lips began to quiver, and she gave vent to a
small howl of anguish.

"You ain't bit by a trant'ler nor nuthin'?" said Johnny anxiously. "Hush
up!"

"N--o--o! But"--

"But what?" said Johnny.

"Mar said I MUST tell! Mar said I was to fin' out where you get the
truly gold! Mar said I was to get you to take me," howled Florry, in an
agony of remorse.

Johnny gasped. "You Injin!" he began.

"But I won't--Johnny!" said Florry, clutching his leg frantically. "I
won't and I sha'n't! I ain't no Injin!"

Then, between her sobs, she told him how her mother and Mr. Staples had
said that she was to ask Johnny the next time they met to take her where
they found the "truly gold," and she was to remember where it was and
to tell them. And they were going to give her a new dolly and a hunk of
gingerbread. "But I won't--and I sha'n't!" she said passionately. She
was quite pale again.

Johnny was convinced, but thoughtful. "Tell 'em," he said hoarsely,
"tell 'em a big whopper! They won't know no better. They'll never guess
where." And he briefly recounted the wild-goose chase he had given the
minister.

"And get the dolly and the cake," said Florry, her eyes shining through
her tears.

"In course," said Johnny. "They'll get the dolly back, but you kin have
eated the cake first." They looked at each other, and their eyes danced
together over this heaven-sent inspiration. Then Johnny took off her
shoes and stockings, rubbed her cold feet with his dirty handkerchief,
and said: "Now you trot over to your mar!"

He helped her through the loose picket of the fence and was turning away
when her faint voice again called him.

"Johnny!"

He turned back; she was standing on the other side of the fence holding
out her arms to him. He went to her with shining eyes, lifted her up,
and from her hot but loving little lips took a fatal kiss.

For only an hour later Mrs. Fraser found Florry in her bed, tossing with
a high fever and a light head. She was talking of "Johnny" and "gold,"
and had a flake of the metal in her tiny fist. When Mr. Staples was sent
for, and with the mother and father, hung anxiously above her bed, to
their eager questioning they could only find out that Florry had been to
a high mountain, ever so far away, and on the top of it there was gold
lying around, and a shining figure was giving it away to the people.

"And who were the people, Florry dear," said Mr. Staples persuasively;
"anybody ye know here?"

"They woz angels," said Florry, with a frightened glance over her
shoulder.

I grieve to say that Mr. Staples did not look as pleased at the
celestial vision as he might have, and poor Mrs. Fraser probably saw
that in her child's face which drove other things from her mind. Yet Mr.
Staples persisted:--

"And who led you to this beautiful mountain? Was it Johnny?"

"No."

"Who then?"

Florry opened her eyes on the speaker. "I fink it was Dod," she said,
and closed them again.

But here Dr. Duchesne hurried in, and after a single glance at the child
hustled Mr. Staples from the room. For there were grave complications
that puzzled him, Florry seemed easier and quieter under his kindly
voice and touch, but did not speak again,--and so, slowly sinking,
passed away that night in a dreamless sleep. This was followed by a mad
panic at Burnt Spring the next day, and Mrs. Medliker fled with her two
girls to Sacramento, leaving Johnny, ostensibly strong and active, to
keep house until his father's return. But Mr. Medliker's return was
again delayed, and in the epidemic, which had now taken a fast hold of
the settlement, Johnny's secret--and indeed the boy himself--was quite
forgotten. It was only on Mr. Medliker's arrival it was known that he
had been lying dangerously ill, alone, in the abandoned house. In his
strange reticence and firmness of purpose he had kept his sufferings to
himself,--as he had his other secret,--and they were revealed only in
the wasted, hollow figure that feebly opened the door to his father.

On which intelligence Mr. Staples was, as usual, promptly on the spot
with his story of Johnny's secret to the father, and his usual eager
questioning to the fast-sinking boy. "And now, Johnny," he said, leaning
over the bed, "tell us ALL. There is One from whom no secrets are hid.
Remember, too, that dear Florry, who is now with the angels, has already
confessed."

Perhaps it was because Johnny, even at that moment, hated the man;
perhaps it was because at that moment he loved and believed in Florry,
or perhaps it was only that because at that moment he was nearer the
greater Truth than his questioner, but he said, in a husky voice, "You
lie!"

Staples drew back with a flushed face, but lips that writhed in a
pained and still persistent eagerness. "But, Johnny, at least tell us
where--wh--wow--wow."

I am obliged to admit that these undignified accents came from Mr.
Staples' own lips, and were due to the sudden pressure of Mr. Medliker's
arm around his throat. The teamster was irascible and prompt through
much mule-driving, and his arm was, from the same reason, strong and
sinewy. Mr. Staples felt himself garroted and dragged from the room,
and only came to under the stars outside, with the hoarse voice of Mr.
Medliker in his ears:--

"You're a minister of the gospel, I know, but ef ye say another word to
my Johnny, I'll knock the gospel stuffin' out of ye. Ye hear me! I'VE
DRIVEN MULES AFORE!"

He then strode back into the room. "Ye needn't answer, Johnny, he's
gone."

But so, too, had Johnny, for he never answered the question in this
world, nor, please God, was he required to in the next. He lay still and
dead. The community was scandalized the next day when Mr. Medliker sent
for a minister from Sacramento to officiate at his child's funeral, in
place of Mr. Staples, and then the subject was dropped.

*****

But the influence of Johnny's hidden treasure still remained as a
superstition in the locality. Prospecting parties were continually made
up to discover the unknown claim, but always from evidence and data
altogether apocryphal. It was even alleged that a miner had one night
seen the little figures of Johnny and Florry walking over the hilltop,
hand in hand, but that they had vanished among the stars at the very
moment he thought he had discovered their secret. And then it was
forgotten; the prosperous Mr. Medliker, now the proprietor of a
stage-coach route, moved away to Sacramento; Medliker's Ranch became a
station for changing horses, and, as the new railway in time superseded
even that, sank into a blacksmith's shop on the outskirts of the new
town of Burnt Spring. And then one day, six years after, news fell as a
bolt from the blue!

It was thus recorded in the county paper: "A piece of rare good fortune,
involving, it is said, the development of a lead of extraordinary
value, has lately fallen to the lot of Mr. John Silsbee, the popular
blacksmith, on the site of the old Medliker Ranch. In clearing out the
failing water-course known as Burnt Spring, Mr. Silsbee came upon a rich
ledge or pocket at the actual source of the spring,--a fissure in the
ground a few rods from the road. The present yield has been estimated
to be from eight to ten thousand dollars. But the event is considered
as one of the most remarkable instances of the vagaries of 'prospecting'
ever known, as this valuable 'pot-hole' existed undisturbed for EIGHT
YEARS not FIFTY YARDS from the old cabin that was in former times the
residence of J. Medliker, Esq., and the station of the Pioneer Stage
Company, and was utterly unknown and unsuspected by the previous
inhabitants! Verily truth is stranger than fiction!"




A TALE OF THREE TRUANTS


The schoolmaster at Hemlock Hill was troubled that morning. Three of his
boys were missing. This was not only a notable deficit in a roll-call of
twenty, but the absentees were his three most original and distinctive
scholars. He had received no preliminary warning or excuse. Nor could he
attribute their absence to any common local detention or difficulty of
travel. They lived widely apart and in different directions. Neither
were they generally known as "chums," or comrades, who might have
entered into an unhallowed combination to "play hookey."

He looked at the vacant places before him with a concern which his other
scholars little shared, having, after their first lively curiosity, not
unmixed with some envy of the derelicts, apparently forgotten them. He
missed the cropped head and inquisitive glances of Jackson Tribbs on
the third bench, the red hair and brown eyes of Providence Smith in
the corner, and there was a blank space in the first bench where Julian
Fleming, a lanky giant of seventeen, had sat. Still, it would not do
to show his concern openly, and, as became a man who was at least three
years the senior of the eldest, Julian Fleming, he reflected that they
were "only boys," and that their friends were probably ignorant of the
good he was doing them, and so dismissed the subject. Nevertheless, it
struck him as wonderful how the little world beneath him got on without
them. Hanky Rogers, bully, who had been kept in wholesome check by
Julian Fleming, was lively and exuberant, and his conduct was quietly
accepted by the whole school; Johnny Stebbins, Tribbs's bosom friend,
consorted openly with Tribbs's particular enemy; some of the girls
were singularly gay and conceited. It was evident that some superior
masculine oppression had been removed.

He was particularly struck by this last fact, when, the next morning,
no news coming of the absentees, he was impelled to question his flock
somewhat precisely concerning them. There was the usual shy silence
which follows a general inquiry from the teacher's desk; the children
looked at one another, giggled nervously, and said nothing.

"Can you give me any idea as to what might have kept them away?" said
the master.

Hanky Rogers looked quickly around, began, "Playin' hook--" in a loud
voice, but stopped suddenly without finishing the word, and became
inaudible. The master saw fit to ignore him.

"Bee-huntin'," said Annie Roker vivaciously.

"Who is?" asked the master.

"Provy Smith, of course. Allers bee-huntin'. Gets lots o' honey. Got two
full combs in his desk last week. He's awful on bees and honey. Ain't
he, Jinny?" This in a high voice to her sister.

The younger Miss Roker, thus appealed to, was heard to murmur that of
all the sneakin' bee-hunters she had ever seed, Provy Smith was the
worst. "And squirrels--for nuts," she added.

The master became attentive,--a clue seemed probable here. "Would Tribbs
and Fleming be likely to go with him?" he asked.

A significant silence followed. The master felt that the children
recognized a doubt of this, knowing the boys were not "chums;"
possibly they also recognized something incriminating to them, and with
characteristic freemasonry looked at one another and were dumb.

He asked no further questions, but, when school was dismissed, mounted
his horse and started for the dwelling of the nearest culprit, Jackson
Tribbs, four miles distant. He had often admired the endurance of the
boy, who had accomplished the distance, including the usual meanderings
of a country youth, twice a day, on foot, in all weathers, with no
diminution of spirits or energy. He was still more surprised when he
found it a mountain road, and that the house lay well up on the ascent
of the pass. Autumn was visible only in a few flaming sumacs set
among the climbing pines, and here, in a little clearing to the right,
appeared the dwelling he was seeking.

"Tribbses," or "Tribbs's Run," was devoted to the work of cutting
down the pines midway on a long regularly sloping mountain-side, which
allowed the trunks, after they were trimmed and cut into suitable
lengths, to be slid down through rude runs, or artificial channels, into
the valley below, where they were collected by teams and conveyed to the
nearest mills. The business was simple in the extreme, and was carried
on by Tribbs senior, two men with saws and axes, and the natural laws of
gravitation. The house was a long log cabin; several sheds roofed with
bark or canvas seemed consistent with the still lingering summer and the
heated odors of the pines, but were strangely incongruous to those white
patches on the table-land and the white tongue stretching from the ridge
to the valley. But the master was familiar with those Sierran contrasts,
and as he had never ascended the trail before, it might be only the
usual prospect of the dwellers there. At this moment Mr. Tribbs appeared
from the cabin, with his axe on his shoulder. Nodding carelessly to the
master, he was moving away, when the latter stopped him.

"Is Jackson here?" he asked.

"No," said the father, half impatiently, still moving on. "Hain't seen
him since yesterday."

"Nor has he been at school," said the master, "either yesterday or
to-day."

Mr. Tribbs looked puzzled and grieved. "Now I reckoned you had kep' him
in for some devilment of his'n, or lessons."

"Not ALL NIGHT!" said the master, somewhat indignant at this presumption
of his arbitrary functions.

"Humph!" said Mr. Tribbs. "Mariar!" Mrs. Tribbs made her appearance in
the doorway. "The schoolmaster allows that Jackson ain't bin to school
at all." Then, turning to the master, he added, "Thar! you settle it
between ye," and quietly walked away.

Mrs. Tribbs looked by no means satisfied with or interested in the
proposed tete-a-tete. "Hev ye looked in the bresh" (i. e., brush or
underwood) "for him?" she said querulously.

"No," said the master, "I came here first. There are two other boys
missing,--Providence Smith and Julian Fleming. Did either of them"--

But Mrs. Tribbs had interrupted him with a gesture of impatient relief.
"Oh, that's all, is it? Playin' hookey together, in course. 'Scuse me,
I must go back to my bakin'." She turned away, but stopped suddenly,
touched, as the master fondly believed, by some tardy maternal
solicitude. But she only said: "When he DOES come back, you just give
him a whalin', will ye?" and vanished into her kitchen.

The master rode away, half ashamed of his foolish concern for the
derelicts. But he determined to try Smith's father, who owned a small
rancho lower down on a spur of the same ridge. But the spur was really
nearer Hemlock Hill, and could have been reached more directly by a road
from there. He, however, kept along the ridge, and after half an hour's
ride was convinced that Jackson Tribbs could have communicated with
Provy Smith without coming nearer Hemlock Hill, and this revived his
former belief that they were together. He found the paternal Smith
engaged in hoeing potatoes in a stony field. The look of languid
curiosity with which he had regarded the approach of the master changed
to one of equally languid aggression as he learned the object of his
visit.

"Wot are ye comin' to ME for? I ain't runnin' your school," he said
slowly and aggressively. "I started Providence all right for it mornin'
afore last, since when I never set eyes on him. That lets ME out. My
business, young feller, is lookin' arter the ranch. Yours, I reckon, is
lookin' arter your scholars."

"I thought it my business to tell you your son was absent from school,"
said the master coldly, turning away. "If you are satisfied, I have
nothing more to say." Nevertheless, for the moment he was so startled
by this remarkable theory of his own responsibility in the case that
he quite accepted the father's callousness,--or rather it seemed to him
that his unfortunate charges more than ever needed his protection. There
was still the chance of his hearing some news from Julian Fleming's
father; he lived at some distance, in the valley on the opposite side
of Hemlock Hill; and thither the master made his way. Luckily he had not
gone far before he met Mr. Fleming, who was a teamster, en route. Like
the fathers of the other truants, he was also engaged in his vocation.
But, unlike the others, Fleming senior was jovial and talkative. He
pulled up his long team promptly, received the master's news with amused
interest, and an invitation to spirituous refreshment from a demijohn in
his wagon.

"Me and the ole woman kind o' spekilated that Jule might hev been over
with Aunt Marthy; but don't you worry, Mr. Schoolmaster. They're limbs,
every one o' them, but they'll fetch up somewhere, all square! Just
you put two fingers o' that corn juice inside ye, and let 'em slide. Ye
didn't hear what the 'lekshun news was when ye was at Smith's, did ye?"

The master had not inquired. He confessed he had been worried about the
boys. He had even thought that Julian might have met with an accident.

Mr. Fleming wiped his mouth, with a humorous affectation of concern.
"Met with an ACCIDENT? Yes, I reckon not ONE accident, but TWO of 'em.
These yer accidents Jule's met with had two legs, and were mighty lively
accidents, you bet, and took him off with 'em; or mebbe they had four
legs, and he's huntin' 'em yet. Accidents! Now I never thought o' that!
Well, when you come across him and THEM ACCIDENTS, you just whale 'em,
all three! And ye won't take another drink? Well, so long, then! Gee
up!" He rolled away, with a laugh, in the heavy dust kicked up by his
plunging mules, and the master made his way back to the schoolhouse. His
quest for that day was ended.

But the next morning he was both astounded and relieved, at the
assembling of school, to find the three truants back in their places.
His urgent questioning of them brought only the one and same response
from each: "Got lost on the ridge." He further gathered that they had
slept out for two nights, and were together all the time, but nothing
further, and no details were given. The master was puzzled. They
evidently expected punishment; that was no doubt also the wish of their
parents; but if their story was true, it was a serious question if he
ought to inflict it. There was no means of testing their statement;
there was equally none by which he could controvert it. It was evident
that the whole school accepted it without doubt; whether they were in
possession of details gained from the truants themselves which they
had withheld from him, or whether from some larger complicity with the
culprits, he could not say. He told them gravely that he should withhold
equally their punishment and their pardon until he could satisfy himself
of their veracity, and that there had been no premeditation in their
act. They seemed relieved, but here, again, he could not tell whether
it sprang from confidence in their own integrity or merely from youthful
hopefulness that delayed retribution never arrived!

It was a month before their secret was fully disclosed. It was slowly
evolved from corroborating circumstances, but always with a shy
reluctance from the boys themselves, and a surprise that any one should
think it of importance. It was gathered partly from details picked up at
recess or on the playground, from the voluntary testimony of teamsters
and packers, from a record in the county newspaper, but always shaping
itself into a consecutive and harmonious narrative.

It was a story so replete with marvelous escape and adventure that the
master hesitated to accept it in its entirety until after it had
long become a familiar history, and was even forgotten by the actors
themselves. And even now he transcribes it more from the circumstances
that surrounded it than from a hope that the story will be believed.


WHAT HAPPENED

Master Provy Smith had started out that eventful morning with the
intention of fighting Master Jackson Tribbs for the "Kingship" of
Table Ridge--a trifling territory of ten leagues square--Tribbs having
infringed on his boundaries and claimed absolute sovereignty over
the whole mountain range. Julian Fleming was present as referee and
bottle-holder. The battle ground selected was the highest part of the
ridge. The hour was six o'clock, which would allow them time to reach
school before its opening, with all traces of their conflict removed.
The air was crisp and cold,--a trifle colder than usual,--and there was
a singular thickening of the sun's rays on the ridge, which made the
distant peaks indistinct and ghostlike. However, the two combatants
stripped "to the buff," and Fleming patronizingly took position at the
"corner," leaning upon a rifle, which, by reason of his superior years,
and the wilderness he was obliged to traverse in going to school, his
father had lent him to carry. It was that day a providential weapon.

Suddenly, Fleming uttered the word, "Sho!" The two combatants paused in
their first "squaring off" to see, to their surprise, that their referee
had faced round, with his gun in his hand, and was staring in another
direction.

"B'ar!" shouted the three voices together. A huge bear, followed by its
cubs, was seen stumbling awkwardly away to the right, making for the
timber below. In an instant the boys had hurried into their jackets
again, and the glory of fight was forgotten in the fever of the chase.
Why should they pound each other when there was something to really
KILL? They started in instant pursuit, Julian leading.

But the wind was now keen and bitter in their faces, and that peculiar
thickening of the air which they had noticed had become first a dark
blue and then a whitening pall, in which the bear was lost. They still
kept on. Suddenly Julian felt himself struck between the eyes by what
seemed a snowball, and his companions were as quickly spattered by gouts
of monstrous clinging snowflakes. Others as quickly followed--it was
not snowing, it was snowballing. They at first laughed, affecting
to retaliate with these whirling, flying masses shaken like clinging
feathers from a pillow; but in a few seconds they were covered from head
to foot by snow, their limbs impeded or pinioned against them by its
weight, their breath gone. They stopped blindly, breathlessly. Then,
with a common instinct, they turned back. But the next moment they heard
Julian cry, "Look out!" Coming towards them out of the storm was
the bear, who had evidently turned back by the same instinct. An
ungovernable instinct seized the younger boys, and they fled. But Julian
stopped with leveled rifle. The bear stopped too, with sullen, staring
eyes. But the eyes that glanced along the rifle were young, true, and
steady. Julian fired. The hot smoke was swept back by the gale into his
face, but the bear turned and disappeared in the storm again. Julian ran
on to where his companions had halted at the report, a little ashamed of
their cowardice. "Keep on that way!" he shouted hoarsely. "No use tryin'
to go where the b'ar couldn't. Keep on!"

"Keep on--whar? There ain't no trail--no nuthin'!" said Jackson
querulously, to hold down a rising fear. It was true. The trail had long
since disappeared; even their footprints of a moment before were filled
up by the piling snow; they were isolated in this stony upland, high in
air, without a rock or tree to guide them across its vast white level.
They were bitterly cold and benumbed. The stimulus of the storm and
chase had passed, but Julian kept driving them before him, himself
driven along by the furious blast, yet trying to keep some vague
course along the waste. So an hour passed. Then the wind seemed to have
changed, or else they had traveled in a circle--they knew not which, but
the snow was in their faces now. But, worst of all, the snow had changed
too; it no longer fell in huge blue flakes, but in millions of stinging
gray granules. Julian's face grew hard and his eyes bright. He knew it
was no longer a snow-squall, but a lasting storm. He stopped; the boys
tumbled against him. He looked at them with a strange smile.

"Hev you two made up?" he said.

"No--o!"

"Make up, then."

"What?"

"Shake hands."

They clasped each other's red, benumbed fingers and laughed, albeit a
little frightened at Julian. "Go on!" he said, curtly.

They went on dazedly, stupidly, for another hour.

Suddenly Provy Smith's keen eyes sparkled. He pointed to a singular
irregular mound of snow before them, plainly seen above the dreary
level. Julian ran to it with a cry, and began wildly digging. "I knew I
hit him," he cried, as he brushed the snow from a huge and hairy leg.
It was the bear--dead, but not yet cold. He had succumbed with his huge
back to the blast, the snow piling a bulwark behind him, where it had
slowly roofed him in. The half-frozen lads threw themselves fearlessly
against his furry coat and crept between his legs, nestling themselves
beneath his still warm body with screams of joy. The snow they had
thrown back increased the bulwark, and drifting over it, in a few
moments inclosed them in a thin shell of snow. Thoroughly exhausted,
after a few grunts of satisfaction, a deep sleep fell upon them, from
which they were awakened only by the pangs of hunger. Alas! their
dinners--the school dinners--had been left on the inglorious
battlefield. Nevertheless, they talked of eating the bear if it came to
the worst. They would have tried it even then, but they were far above
the belt of timber; they had matches--what boy has not?--but no WOOD.
Still, they were reassured, and even delighted, with this prospect, and
so fell asleep again, stewing with the dead bear in the half-impervious
snow, and woke up in the morning ravenous, yet to see the sun shining in
their faces through the melted snow, and for Jackson Tribbs to quickly
discover, four miles away as the crow flies, the cabin of his father
among the flaming sumacs.

They started up in the glare of the sun, which at first almost blinded
them. They then discovered that they were in a depression of the
table-land that sloped before them to a deep gully in the mountainside,
which again dropped into the canyon below. The trail they had lost, they
now remembered, must be near this edge. But it was still hidden, and
in seeking it there was danger of some fatal misstep in the treacherous
snow. Nevertheless, they sallied out bravely, although they would fain
have stopped to skin the bear, but Julian's mandate was peremptory. They
spread themselves along the ridge, at times scraping the loose snow away
in their search for the lost trail.

Suddenly they all slipped and fell, but rose again quickly, laughing.
Then they slipped and fell again, but this time with the startling
consciousness that it was not THEY who had slipped, but THE SNOW! As
they regained their feet they could plainly see now that a large crack
on the white field, some twenty feet in width, extended between them and
the carcass of the bear, showing the glistening rock below. Again
they were thrown down with a sharp shock. Jackson Tribbs, who had been
showing a strange excitement, suddenly gave a cry of warning. "Lie flat,
fellers! but keep a-crawlin' and jumpin'. We're goin' down a slide!" And
the next moment they were sliding and tossing, apparently with the whole
snow-field, down towards the gullied precipice.

What happened after this, and how long it lasted, they never knew.
For, hurried along with increasing momentum, but always mechanically
clutching at the snow, and bounding from it as they swept on, they
sometimes lost breath, and even consciousness. At times they were half
suffocated in rolling masses of drift, and again free and skimming over
its arrested surface, but always falling, as it seemed to them, almost
perpendicularly. In one of these shocks they seemed to be going through
a thicket of underbrush; but Provy Smith knew that they were the tops of
pine-trees. At last there was one shock longer and lasting, followed by
a deepening thunder below them. The avalanche had struck a ledge in the
mountain side, and precipitated its lower part into the valley.

Then everything was still, until Provy heard Julian's voice calling. He
answered, but there was no response from Tribbs. Had he gone over
into the valley? They set up a despairing shout! A voice--a smothered
one--that might be his, came apparently from the snow beneath them. They
shouted again; the voice, vague and hollow, responded, but it was now
surely his.

"Where are you?" screamed Provy.

"Down the chimbley."

There was a black square of adobe sticking out of the snow near them.
They ran to it. There was a hole. They peered down, but could see
nothing at first but a faint glimmer.

"Come down, fellows! It ain't far!" said Tribbs's voice.

"Wot yer got there?" asked Julian cautiously.

"Suthin' to eat."

That was enough. In another instant Julian and Provy went down the
chimney. What was a matter of fifteen feet after a thousand? Tribbs had
already lit a candle by which they could see that they were in the cabin
of some tunnel-man at work on the ridge. He had probably been in the
tunnel when the avalanche fell, and escaped, though his cabin was
buried. The three discoverers helped themselves to his larder. They
laughed and ate as at a picnic, played cards, pretended it was a
robber's cave, and finally, wrapping themselves in the miner's blankets,
slept soundly, knowing where they were, and confident also that they
could find the trail early the next morning. They did so, and without
going to their homes came directly to school--having been absent about
fifty hours. They were in high spirits, except for the thought
of approaching punishment, never dreaming to evade it by anything
miraculous in their adventures.


Such was briefly their story. Its truth was corroborated by the
discovery of the bear's carcass, by the testimony of the tunnel-man, who
found his larder mysteriously ransacked in his buried cabin, and, above
all, by the long white tongue that for many months hung from the ledge
into the valley. Nobody thought the lanky Julian a hero,--least of all
himself. Nobody suspected that Jackson Tribbs's treatment of a "slide"
had been gathered from experiments in his father's "runs"--and he was
glad they did not. The master's pardon obtained, the three truants cared
little for the opinion of Hemlock Hill. They knew THEMSELVES, that was
enough.





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