Part 1 out of 2
A MILLIONAIRE OF ROUGH-AND-READY
by BRET HARTE
There was no mistake this time: he had struck gold at last!
It had lain there before him a moment ago--a misshapen piece of
brown-stained quartz, interspersed with dull yellow metal; yielding
enough to have allowed the points of his pick to penetrate its
honeycombed recesses, yet heavy enough to drop from the point of
his pick as he endeavored to lift it from the red earth.
He was seeing all this plainly, although he found himself, he knew
not why, at some distance from the scene of his discovery, his
heart foolishly beating, his breath impotently hurried. Yet he was
walking slowly and vaguely; conscious of stopping and staring at
the landscape, which no longer looked familiar to him. He was
hoping for some instinct or force of habit to recall him to
himself; yet when he saw a neighbor at work in an adjacent claim,
he hesitated, and then turned his back upon him. Yet only a moment
before he had thought of running to him, saying, "By Jingo! I've
struck it," or "D--n it, old man, I've got it"; but that moment had
passed, and now it seemed to him that he could scarce raise his
voice, or, if he did, the ejaculation would appear forced and
artificial. Neither could he go over to him coolly and tell his
good fortune; and, partly from this strange shyness, and partly
with a hope that another survey of the treasure might restore him
to natural expression, he walked back to his tunnel.
Yes; it was there! No mere "pocket" or "deposit," but a part of
the actual vein he had been so long seeking. It was there, sure
enough, lying beside the pick and the debris of the "face" of the
vein that he had exposed sufficiently, after the first shock of
discovery, to assure himself of the fact and the permanence of his
fortune. It was there, and with it the refutation of his enemies'
sneers, the corroboration of his friends' belief, the practical
demonstration of his own theories, the reward of his patient
labors. It was there, sure enough. But, somehow, he not only
failed to recall the first joy of discovery, but was conscious of a
vague sense of responsibility and unrest. It was, no doubt, an
enormous fortune to a man in his circumstances: perhaps it meant a
couple of hundred thousand dollars, or more, judging from the value
of the old Martin lead, which was not as rich as this, but it
required to be worked constantly and judiciously. It was with a
decided sense of uneasiness that he again sought the open sunlight
of the hillside. His neighbor was still visible on the adjacent
claim; but he had apparently stopped working, and was
contemplatively smoking a pipe under a large pine-tree. For an
instant he envied him his apparent contentment. He had a sudden
fierce and inexplicable desire to go over to him and exasperate his
easy poverty by a revelation of his own new-found treasure. But
even that sensation quickly passed, and left him staring blankly at
the landscape again.
As soon as he had made his discovery known, and settled its value,
he would send for his wife and her children in the States. He
would build a fine house on the opposite hillside, if she would
consent to it, unless she preferred, for the children's sake, to
live in San Francisco. A sense of a loss of independence--of a
change of circumstances that left him no longer his own master--
began to perplex him, in the midst of his brightest projects.
Certain other relations with other members of his family, which had
lapsed by absence and his insignificance, must now be taken up
anew. He must do something for his sister Jane, for his brother
William, for his wife's poor connections. It would be unfair to
him to say that he contemplated those things with any other
instinct than that of generosity; yet he was conscious of being
already perplexed and puzzled.
Meantime, however, the neighbor had apparently finished his pipe,
and, knocking the ashes out of it, rose suddenly, and ended any
further uncertainty of their meeting by walking over directly
towards him. The treasure-finder advanced a few steps on his side,
and then stopped irresolutely.
"Hollo, Slinn!" said the neighbor, confidently.
"Hollo, Masters," responded Slinn, faintly. From the sound of the
two voices a stranger might have mistaken their relative condition.
"What in thunder are you mooning about for? What's up?" Then,
catching sight of Slinn's pale and anxious face, he added abruptly,
"Are you sick?"
Slinn was on the point of telling him his good fortune, but
stopped. The unlucky question confirmed his consciousness of his
physical and mental disturbance, and he dreaded the ready ridicule
of his companion. He would tell him later; Masters need not know
WHEN he had made the strike. Besides, in his present vagueness, he
shrank from the brusque, practical questioning that would be sure
to follow the revelation to a man of Masters' temperament.
"I'm a little giddy here," he answered, putting his hand to his
head, "and I thought I'd knock off until I was better."
Masters examined him with two very critical gray eyes. "Tell ye
what, old man!--if you don't quit this dog-goned foolin' of yours
in that God-forsaken tunnel you'll get loony! Times you get so
tangled up in follerin' that blind lead o' yours you ain't
Here was the opportunity to tell him all, and vindicate the justice
of his theories! But he shrank from it again; and now, adding to
the confusion, was a singular sense of dread at the mental labor of
explanation. He only smiled painfully, and began to move away.
"Look you!" said Masters, peremptorily, "ye want about three
fingers of straight whiskey to set you right, and you've got to
take it with me. D--n it, man, it may be the last drink we take
together! Don't look so skeered! I mean--I made up my mind about
ten minutes ago to cut the whole d--d thing, and light out for
fresh diggings. I'm sick of getting only grub wages out o' this
bill. So that's what I mean by saying it's the last drink you and
me'll take together. You know my ways: sayin' and doin' with me's
the same thing."
It was true. Slinn had often envied Masters' promptness of
decision and resolution. But he only looked at the grim face of
his interlocutor with a feeble sense of relief. He was GOING. And
he, Slinn, would not have to explain anything!
He murmured something about having to go over to the settlement on
business. He dreaded lest Masters should insist upon going into
"I suppose you want to mail that letter," said Masters, drily.
"The mail don't go till to-morrow, so you've got time to finish it,
and put it in an envelope."
Following the direction of Masters' eyes, Slinn looked down and
saw, to his utter surprise, that he was holding an unfinished
pencilled note in his hand. How it came there, when he had written
it, he could not tell; he dimly remembered that one of his first
impulses was to write to his wife, but that he had already done so
he had forgotten. He hastily concealed the note in his breast-
pocket, with a vacant smile. Masters eyed him half contemptuously,
"Don't forget yourself and drop it in some hollow tree for a
letter-box," be said. "Well--so long!--since you won't drink.
Take care of yourself," and, turning on his heel, Masters walked
Slinn watched him as he crossed over to his abandoned claim, saw
him gather his few mining utensils, strap his blanket over his
back, lift his hat on his long-handled shovel as a token of
farewell, and then stride light-heartedly over the ridge.
He was alone now with his secret and his treasure. The only man in
the world who knew of the exact position of his tunnel had gone
away forever. It was not likely that this chance companion of a
few weeks would ever remember him or the locality again; he would
now leave his treasure alone--for even a day perhaps--until he had
thought out some plan and sought out some friend in whom to
confide. His secluded life, the singular habits of concentration
which had at last proved so successful had, at the same time, left
him few acquaintances and no associates. And in all his well-laid
plans and patiently-digested theories for finding the treasure, the
means and methods of working it and disposing of it had never
And now, at the hour when he most needed his faculties, what was
the meaning of this strange benumbing of them!
Patience! He only wanted a little rest--a little time to recover
himself. There was a large boulder under a tree in the highway of
the settlement--a sheltered spot where he had often waited for the
coming of the stage-coach. He would go there, and when he was
sufficiently rested and composed he would go on.
Nevertheless, on his way he diverged and turned into the woods, for
no other apparent purpose than to find a hollow tree. "A hollow
tree." Yes! that was what Masters had said; he remembered it
distinctly; and something was to be done there, but what it was, or
why it should be done, he could not tell. However, it was done,
and very luckily, for his limbs could scarcely support him further,
and reaching that boulder he dropped upon it like another stone.
And now, strange to say, the uneasiness and perplexity which had
possessed him ever since he had stood before his revealed wealth
dropped from him like a burden laid upon the wayside. A
measureless peace stole over him, in which visions of his new-found
fortune, no longer a trouble and perplexity, but crowned with
happiness and blessing to all around him, assumed proportions far
beyond his own weak, selfish plans. In its even-handed
benefaction, his wife and children, his friends and relations, even
his late poor companion of the hillside, met and moved harmoniously
together; in its far-reaching consequences there was only the
influence of good. It was not strange that this poor finite mind
should never have conceived the meaning of the wealth extended to
him; or that conceiving it he should faint and falter under the
revelation. Enough that for a few minutes he must have tasted a
joy of perfect anticipation that years of actual possession might
The sun seemed to go down in a rosy dream of his own happiness, as
he still sat there. Later, the shadows of the trees thickened and
surrounded him, and still later fell the calm of a quiet evening
sky with far-spaced passionless stars, that seemed as little
troubled by what they looked upon as he was by the stealthy
creeping life in the grasses and underbrush at his feet. The dull
patter of soft little feet in the soft dust of the road, the gentle
gleam of moist and wondering little eyes on the branches and in the
mossy edges of the boulder, did not disturb him. He sat patiently
through it all, as if he had not yet made up his mind.
But when the stage came with the flashing sun the next morning, and
the irresistible clamor of life and action, the driver suddenly
laid his four spirited horses on their haunches before the quiet
spot. The express messenger clambered down from the box, and
approached what seemed to be a heap of cast-off clothes upon the
"He don't seem to be drunk," he said, in reply to a querulous
interrogation from the passengers. "I can't make him out. His
eyes are open, but he cannot speak or move. Take a look at him,
A rough unprofessional-looking man here descended from the inside
of the coach, and, carelessly thrusting aside the other curious
passengers, suddenly leant over the heap of clothes in a
"He is dead," said one of the passengers.
The rough man let the passive head sink softly down again. "No
such luck for him," he said curtly, but not unkindly. "It's a
stroke of paralysis--and about as big as they make 'em. It's a
toss-up if he ever speaks or moves again as long as he lives."
When Alvin Mulrady announced his intention of growing potatoes and
garden "truck" on the green slopes of Los Gatos, the mining
community of that region, and the adjacent hamlet of "Rough-and-
Ready," regarded it with the contemptuous indifference usually
shown by those adventurers towards all bucolic pursuits. There was
certainly no active objection to the occupation of two hillsides,
which gave so little promise to the prospector for gold that it was
currently reported that a single prospector, called "Slinn," had
once gone mad or imbecile through repeated failures. The only
opposition came, incongruously enough, from the original pastoral
owner of the soil, one Don Ramon Alvarado, whose claim for seven
leagues of hill and valley, including the now prosperous towns of
Rough-and-Ready and Red Dog, was met with simple derision from the
squatters and miners. "Looks ez ef we woz goin' to travel three
thousand miles to open up his d--d old wilderness, and then pay for
the increased valoo we give it--don't it? Oh, yes, certainly!" was
their ironical commentary. Mulrady might have been pardoned for
adopting this popular opinion; but by an equally incongruous
sentiment, peculiar, however, to the man, he called upon Don Ramon,
and actually offered to purchase the land, or "go shares" with him
in the agricultural profits. It was alleged that the Don was so
struck with this concession that he not only granted the land, but
struck up a quaint reserved friendship for the simple-minded
agriculturist and his family. It is scarcely necessary to add that
this intimacy was viewed by the miners with the contempt that it
deserved. They would have been more contemptuous, however, had
they known the opinion that Don Ramon entertained of their
particular vocation, and which he early confided to Mulrady.
"They are savages who expect to reap where they have not sown; to
take out of the earth without returning anything to it but their
precious carcasses; heathens, who worship the mere stones they dig
up." "And was there no Spaniard who ever dug gold?" asked Mulrady,
simply. "Ah, there are Spaniards and Moors," responded Don Ramon,
sententiously. "Gold has been dug, and by caballeros; but no good
ever came of it. There were Alvarados in Sonora, look you, who had
mines of SILVER, and worked them with peons and mules, and lost
their money--a gold mine to work a silver one--like gentlemen! But
this grubbing in the dirt with one's fingers, that a little gold
may stick to them, is not for caballeros. And then, one says
nothing of the curse."
"The curse!" echoed Mary Mulrady, with youthful feminine
superstition. "What is that?"
"You knew not, friend Mulrady, that when these lands were given to
my ancestors by Charles V., the Bishop of Monterey laid a curse
upon any who should desecrate them. Good! Let us see! Of the
three Americanos who founded yonder town, one was shot, another
died of a fever--poisoned, you understand, by the soil--and the
last got himself crazy of aguardiente. Even the scientifico,* who
came here years ago and spied into the trees and the herbs: he was
afterwards punished for his profanation, and died of an accident in
other lands. But," added Don Ramon, with grave courtesy, "this
touches not yourself. Through me, YOU are of the soil."
* Don Ramon probably alluded to the eminent naturalist Douglas, who
visited California before the gold excitement, and died of an
accident in the Sandwich Islands.
Indeed, it would seem as if a secure if not a rapid prosperity was
the result of Don Ramon's manorial patronage. The potato patch and
market garden flourished exceedingly; the rich soil responded with
magnificent vagaries of growth; the even sunshine set the seasons
at defiance with extraordinary and premature crops. The salt pork
and biscuit consuming settlers did not allow their contempt of
Mulrady's occupation to prevent their profiting by this opportunity
for changing their diet. The gold they had taken from the soil
presently began to flow into his pockets in exchange for his more
modest treasures. The little cabin, which barely sheltered his
family--a wife, son, and daughter--was enlarged, extended, and
refitted, but in turn abandoned for a more pretentious house on the
opposite hill. A whitewashed fence replaced the rudely-split
rails, which had kept out the wilderness. By degrees, the first
evidences of cultivation--the gashes of red soil, the piles of
brush and undergrowth, the bared boulders, and heaps of stone--
melted away, and were lost under a carpet of lighter green, which
made an oasis in the tawny desert of wild oats on the hillside.
Water was the only free boon denied this Garden of Eden; what was
necessary for irrigation had to be brought from a mining ditch at
great expense, and was of insufficient quantity. In this emergency
Mulrady thought of sinking an artesian well on the sunny slope
beside his house; not, however, without serious consultation and
much objection from his Spanish patron. With great austerity Don
Ramon pointed out that this trifling with the entrails of the earth
was not only an indignity to Nature almost equal to shaft-sinking
and tunneling, but was a disturbance of vested interests. "I and
my fathers, San Diego rest them!" said Don Ramon, crossing himself,
"were content with wells and cisterns, filled by Heaven at its
appointed seasons; the cattle, dumb brutes though they were, knew
where to find water when they wanted it. But thou sayest truly,"
he added, with a sigh, "that was before streams and rain were
choked with hellish engines, and poisoned with their spume. Go on,
friend Mulrady, dig and bore if thou wilt, but in a seemly fashion,
and not with impious earthquakes of devilish gunpowder."
With this concession Alvin Mulrady began to sink his first artesian
shaft. Being debarred the auxiliaries of steam and gunpowder, the
work went on slowly. The market garden did not suffer meantime, as
Mulrady had employed two Chinamen to take charge of the ruder
tillage, while he superintended the engineering work of the well.
This trifling incident marked an epoch in the social condition of
the family. Mrs. Mulrady at once assumed a conscious importance
among her neighbors. She spoke of her husband's "men"; she alluded
to the well as "the works"; she checked the easy frontier
familiarity of her customers with pretty Mary Mulrady, her
seventeen-year-old daughter. Simple Alvin Mulrady looked with
astonishment at this sudden development of the germ planted in all
feminine nature to expand in the slightest sunshine of prosperity.
"Look yer, Malviny; ain't ye rather puttin' on airs with the boys
that want to be civil to Mamie? Like as not one of 'em may be
makin' up to her already." "You don't mean to say, Alvin Mulrady,"
responded Mrs. Mulrady, with sudden severity, "that you ever
thought of givin' your daughter to a common miner, or that I'm
goin' to allow her to marry out of our own set?" "Our own set!"
echoed Mulrady feebly, blinking at her in astonishment, and then
glancing hurriedly across at his freckle-faced son and the two
Chinamen at work in the cabbages. "Oh, you know what I mean," said
Mrs. Mulrady sharply; "the set that we move in. The Alvarados and
their friends! Doesn't the old Don come here every day, and ain't
his son the right age for Mamie? And ain't they the real first
families here--all the same as if they were noblemen? No, leave
Mamie to me, and keep to your shaft; there never was a man yet had
the least sabe about these things, or knew what was due to his
family." Like most of his larger minded, but feebler equipped sex,
Mulrady was too glad to accept the truth of the latter proposition,
which left the meannesses of life to feminine manipulation, and
went off to his shaft on the hillside. But during that afternoon
he was perplexed and troubled. He was too loyal a husband not to
be pleased with this proof of an unexpected and superior foresight
in his wife, although he was, like all husbands, a little startled
by it. He tried to dismiss it from his mind. But looking down
from the hillside upon his little venture, where gradual increase
and prosperity had not been beyond his faculties to control and
understand, he found himself haunted by the more ambitious projects
of his helpmate. From his own knowledge of men, he doubted if Don
Ramon, any more than himself, had ever thought of the possibility
of a matrimonial connection between the families. He doubted if he
would consent to it. And unfortunately it was this very doubt
that, touching his own pride as a self-made man, made him first
seriously consider his wife's proposition. He was as good as Don
Ramon, any day! With this subtle feminine poison instilled in his
veins, carried completely away by the logic of his wife's illogical
premises, he almost hated his old benefactor. He looked down upon
the little Garden of Eden, where his Eve had just tempted him with
the fatal fruit, and felt a curious consciousness that he was
losing its simple and innocent enjoyment forever.
Happily, about this time Don Ramon died. It is not probable that
he ever knew the amiable intentions of Mrs. Mulrady in regard to
his son, who now succeeded to the paternal estate, sadly
partitioned by relatives and lawsuits. The feminine Mulradys
attended the funeral, in expensive mourning from Sacramento; even
the gentle Alvin was forced into ready-made broadcloth, which
accented his good-natured but unmistakably common presence. Mrs.
Mulrady spoke openly of her "loss"; declared that the old families
were dying out; and impressed the wives of a few new arrivals at
Red Dog with the belief that her own family was contemporary with
the Alvarados, and that her husband's health was far from perfect.
She extended a motherly sympathy to the orphaned Don Caesar.
Reserved, like his father, in natural disposition, he was still
more gravely ceremonious from his loss; and, perhaps from the
shyness of an evident partiality for Mamie Mulrady, he rarely
availed himself of her mother's sympathizing hospitality. But he
carried out the intentions of his father by consenting to sell to
Mulrady, for a small sum, the property he had leased. The idea of
purchasing had originated with Mrs. Mulrady.
"It'll be all in the family," had observed that astute lady, "and
it's better for the looks of the things that we shouldn't he his
It was only a few weeks later that she was startled by hearing her
husband's voice calling her from the hillside as he rapidly
approached the house. Mamie was in her room putting on a new pink
cotton gown, in honor of an expected visit from young Don Caesar,
and Mrs. Mulrady was tidying the house in view of the same event.
Something in the tone of her good man's voice, and the unusual
circumstance of his return to the house before work was done,
caused her, however, to drop her dusting cloth, and run to the
kitchen door to meet him. She saw him running through the rows of
cabbages, his face shining with perspiration and excitement, a
light in his eyes which she had not seen for years. She recalled,
without sentiment, that he looked like that when she had called
him--a poor farm hand of her father's--out of the brush heap at the
back of their former home, in Illinois, to learn the consent of her
parents. The recollection was the more embarrassing as he threw
his arms around her, and pressed a resounding kiss upon her sallow
"Sakes alive! Mulrady!" she said, exorcising the ghost of a blush
that had also been recalled from the past with her housewife's
apron, "what are you doin', and company expected every minit?"
"Malviny, I've struck it; and struck it rich!"
She disengaged herself from his arms, without excitement, and
looked at him with bright but shrewdly observant eyes.
"I've struck it in the well--the regular vein that the boys have
been looking fer. There's a fortin' fer you and Mamie: thousands
and tens of thousands!"
"Wait a minit."
She left him quickly, and went to the foot of the stairs. He could
hear her wonderingly and distinctly. "Ye can take off that new
frock, Mamie," she called out.
There was a sound of undisguised expostulation from Mamie.
"I'm speaking," said Mrs. Mulrady, emphatically.
The murmuring ceased. Mrs. Mulrady returned to her husband. The
interruption seemed to have taken off the keen edge of his
enjoyment. He at once abdicated his momentary elevation as a
discoverer, and waited for her to speak.
"Ye haven't told any one yet?" she asked.
"No. I was alone, down in the shaft. Ye see, Malviny, I wasn't
expectin' of anything." He began, with an attempt at fresh
enjoyment, "I was just clearin' out, and hadn't reckoned on
"You see, I was right when I advised you taking the land," she
said, without heeding him.
Mulrady's face fell. "I hope Don Caesar won't think"--he began,
hesitatingly. "I reckon, perhaps, I oughter make some sorter
"Stuff!" said Mrs. Mulrady, decidedly. "Don't be a fool. Any gold
discovery, anyhow, would have been yours--that's the law. And you
bought the land without any restrictions. Besides, you never had
any idea of this!"--she stopped, and looked him suddenly in the
Mulrady opened his honest, pale-gray eyes widely.
"Why, Malviny! You know I hadn't. I could swear!"
"Don't swear, and don't let on to anybody but what you DID know it
was there. Now, Alvin Mulrady, listen to me." Her voice here took
the strident form of action. "Knock off work at the shaft, and
send your man away at once. Put on your things, catch the next
stage to Sacramento at four o'clock, and take Mamie with you."
"Mamie!" echoed Mulrady, feebly.
"You want to see Lawyer Cole and my brother Jim at once," she went
on, without heeding him, "and Mamie wants a change and some proper.
clothes. Leave the rest to me and Abner. I'll break it to Mamie,
and get her ready."
Mulrady passed his hands through his tangled hair, wet with
perspiration. He was proud of his wife's energy and action; he did
not dream of opposing her, but somehow he was disappointed. The
charming glamour and joy of his discovery had vanished before he
could fairly dazzle her with it; or, rather, she was not dazzled
with it at all. It had become like business, and the expression
"breaking it" to Mamie jarred upon him. He would have preferred to
tell her himself; to watch the color come into her delicate oval
face, to have seen her soft eyes light with an innocent joy he had
not seen in his wife's; and he felt a sinking conviction that his
wife was the last one to awaken it.
"You ain't got any time to lose," she said, impatiently, as he
Perhaps it was her impatience that struck harshly upon him;
perhaps, if she had not accepted her good fortune so confidently,
he would not have spoken what was in his mind at the time; but he
said gravely, "Wait a minit, Malviny; I've suthin' to tell you
'bout this find of mine that's sing'lar."
"Go on," she said, quickly.
"Lyin' among the rotten quartz of the vein was a pick," he said,
constrainedly; "and the face of the vein sorter looked ez if it had
been worked at. Follering the line outside to the base of the hill
there was signs of there having been an old tunnel; but it had
fallen in, and was blocked up."
"Well?" said Mrs. Mulrady, contemptuously.
"Well," returned her husband, somewhat disconnectedly, "it kinder
looked as if some feller might have discovered it before."
"And went away, and left it for others! That's likely--ain't it?"
interrupted his wife, with ill-disguised intolerance. "Everybody
knows the hill wasn't worth that for prospectin'; and it was
abandoned when we came here. It's your property and you've paid
for it. Are you goin' to wait to advertise for the owner, Alvin
Mulrady, or are you going to Sacramento at four o'clock to-day?"
Mulrady started. He had never seriously believed in the
possibility of a previous discovery; but his conscientious nature
had prompted him to give it a fair consideration. She was probably
right. What he might have thought had she treated it with equal
conscientiousness he did not consider. "All right," he said
simply. "I reckon we'll go at once."
"And when you talk to Lawyer Cole and Jim, keep that silly stuff
about the pick to yourself. There's no use of putting queer ideas
into other people's heads because you happen to have 'em yourself."
When the hurried arrangements were at last completed, and Mr.
Mulrady and Mamie, accompanied by a taciturn and discreet Chinaman,
carrying their scant luggage, were on their way to the high road to
meet the up stage, the father gazed somewhat anxiously and
wistfully into his daughter's face. He had looked forward to those
few moments to enjoy the freshness and naivete of Mamie's youthful
delight and enthusiasm as a relief to his wife's practical, far-
sighted realism. There was a pretty pink suffusion in her delicate
cheek, the breathless happiness of a child in her half-opened
little mouth, and a beautiful absorption in her large gray eyes
that augured well for him.
"Well, Mamie, how do we like bein' an heiress? How do we like
layin' over all the gals between this and 'Frisco?"
She had not heard him. The tender beautiful eyes were engaged in
an anticipatory examination of the remembered shelves in the "Fancy
Emporium" at Sacramento; in reading the admiration of the clerks;
in glancing down a little criticisingly at the broad cowhide
brogues that strode at her side; in looking up the road for the
stage-coach; in regarding the fit of her new gloves--everywhere but
in the loving eyes of the man beside her.
He, however, repeated the question, touched with her charming
preoccupation, and passing his arm around her little waist.
"I like it well enough, pa, you know!" she said, slightly
disengaging his arm, but adding a perfunctory little squeeze to his
elbow to soften the separation. "I always had an idea SOMETHING
would happen. I suppose I'm looking like a fright," she added;
"but ma made me hurry to get away before Don Caesar came."
"And you didn't want to go without seeing him?" he added, archly.
"I didn't want him to see me in this frock," said Mamie, simply.
"I reckon that's why ma made me change," she added, with a slight
"Well I reckon you're allus good enough for him in any dress," said
Mulrady, watching her attentively; "and more than a match for him
NOW," he added, triumphantly.
"I don't know about that," said Mamie. "He's been rich all the
time, and his father and grandfather before him; while we've been
poor and his tenants."
His face changed; the look of bewilderment, with which he had
followed her words, gave way to one of pain, and then of anger.
"Did he get off such stuff as that?" he asked, quickly.
"No. I'd like to catch him at it," responded Mamie, promptly.
"There's better nor him to be had for the asking now."
They had walked on a few moments in aggrieved silence, and the
Chinaman might have imagined some misfortune had just befallen
them. But Mamie's teeth shone again between her parted lips. "La,
pa! it ain't that! He cares everything for me, and I do for him;
and if ma hadn't got new ideas--" She stopped suddenly.
"What new ideas?" queried her father, anxiously.
"Oh, nothing! I wish, pa, you'd put on your other boots!
Everybody can see these are made for the farrows. And you ain't a
market gardener any more."
"What am I, then?" asked Mulrady, with a half-pleased, half-uneasy
"You're a capitalist, I say; but ma says a landed proprietor."
Nevertheless, the landed proprietor, when he reached the boulder on
the Red Dog highway, sat down in somewhat moody contemplation, with
his head bowed over the broad cowhide brogues, that seemed to have
already gathered enough of the soil to indicate his right to that
title. Mamie, who had recovered her spirits, but had not lost her
preoccupation, wandered off by herself in the meadow, or ascended
the hillside, as her occasional impatience at the delay of the
coach, or the following of some ambitious fancy, alternately
prompted her. She was so far away at one time that the stage-
coach, which finally drew up before Mulrady, was obliged to wait
When she was deposited safely inside, and Mulrady had climbed to
the box beside the driver, the latter remarked, curtly,--
"Ye gave me a right smart skeer, a minit ago, stranger."
"Well, about three years ago, I was comin' down this yer grade, at
just this time, and sittin' right on that stone, in just your
attitude, was a man about your build and years. I pulled up to let
him in, when, darn my skin! if he ever moved, but sorter looked at
me without speakin'. I called to him, and he never answered, 'cept
with that idiotic stare. I then let him have my opinion of him, in
mighty strong English, and drove off, leavin' him there. The next
morning, when I came by on the up-trip, darn my skin! if he wasn't
thar, but lyin' all of a heap on the boulder. Jim drops down and
picks him up. Doctor Duchesne, ez was along, allowst it was a
played-out prospector, with a big case of paralysis, and we
expressed him through to the County Hospital, like so much dead
freight. I've allus been kinder superstitious about passin' that
rock, and when I saw you jist now, sittin' thar, dazed like, with
your head down like the other chap, it rather threw me off my
In the inexplicable and half-superstitious uneasiness that this
coincidence awakened in Mulrady's unimaginative mind, he was almost
on the point of disclosing his good fortune to the driver, in order
to prove how preposterous was the parallel, but checked himself in
"Did you find out who he was?" broke in a rash passenger. "Did you
ever get over it?" added another unfortunate.
With a pause of insulting scorn at the interruption, the driver
resumed, pointedly, to Mulrady: "The pint of the whole thing was my
cussin' a helpless man, ez could neither cuss back nor shoot; and
then afterwards takin' you for his ghost layin' for me to get
even." He paused again, and then added, carelessly, "They say he
never kem to enuff to let on who he was or whar he kem from; and he
was eventooally taken to a 'Sylum for Doddering Idjits and Gin'ral
and Permiskus Imbeciles at Sacramento. I've heerd it's considered
a first-class institooshun, not only for them ez is paralyzed and
can't talk, as for them ez is the reverse and is too chipper.
Now," he added, languidly turning for the first time to his
miserable questioners, "how did YOU find it?"
When the news of the discovery of gold in Mulrady shaft was finally
made public, it created an excitement hitherto unknown in the
history of the country. Half of Red Dog and all Rough-and-Ready
were emptied upon the yellow hills surrounding Mulrady's, until
their circling camp fires looked like a besieging army that had
invested his peaceful pastoral home, preparatory to carrying it by
assault. Unfortunately for them, they found the various points of
vantage already garrisoned with notices of "preemption" for mining
purposes in the name of the various members of the Alvarado family.
This stroke of business was due to Mrs. Mulrady, as a means of
mollifying the conscientious scruples of her husband and of
placating the Alvarados, in view of some remote contingency. It is
but fair to say that this degradation of his father's Castilian
principles was opposed by Don Caesar. "You needn't work them
yourself, but sell out to them that will; it's the only way to keep
the prospectors from taking it without paying for it at all,"
argued Mrs. Mulrady. Don Caesar finally assented; perhaps less to
the business arguments of Mulrady's wife than to the simple
suggestion of Mamie's mother. Enough that he realized a sum in
money for a few acres that exceeded the last ten years' income of
Don Ramon's seven leagues.
Equally unprecedented and extravagant was the realization of the
discovery in Mulrady's shaft. It was alleged that a company,
hastily formed in Sacramento, paid him a million of dollars down,
leaving him still a controlling two-thirds interest in the mine.
With an obstinacy, however, that amounted almost to a moral
conviction, he refused to include the house and potato-patch in the
property. When the company had yielded the point, he declined,
with equal tenacity, to part with it to outside speculators on even
the most extravagant offers. In vain Mrs. Mulrady protested; in
vain she pointed out to him that the retention of the evidence of
his former humble occupation was a green blot upon their social
"If you will keep the land, build on it, and root up the garden."
But Mulrady was adamant.
"It's the only thing I ever made myself, and got out of the soil
with my own hands; it's the beginning of my fortune, and it may be
the end of it. Mebbee I'll be glad enough to have it to come back
to some day, and be thankful for the square meal I can dig out of
By repeated pressure, however, Mulrady yielded the compromise that
a portion of it should be made into a vineyard and flower-garden,
and by a suitable coloring of ornament and luxury obliterate its
vulgar part. Less successful, however, was that energetic woman in
another effort to mitigate the austerities of their earlier state.
It occurred to her to utilize the softer accents of Don Caesar in
the pronunciation of their family name, and privately had "Mulrade"
take the place of Mulrady on her visiting card. "It might be
Spanish," she argued with her husband. "Lawyer Cole says most
American names are corrupted, and how do you know that yours
ain't?" Mulrady, who would not swear that his ancestors came from
Ireland to the Carolinas in '98, was helpless to refute the
assertion. But the terrible Nemesis of an un-Spanish, American
provincial speech avenged the orthographical outrage at once. When
Mrs. Mulrady began to be addressed orally, as well as by letter, as
"Mrs. Mulraid," and when simple amatory effusions to her daughter
rhymed with "lovely maid," she promptly refused the original vowel.
But she fondly clung to the Spanish courtesy which transformed her
husband's baptismal name, and usually spoke of him--in his absence--
as "Don Alvino." But in the presence of his short, square figure,
his orange tawny hair, his twinkling gray eyes, and retrousse nose,
even that dominant woman withheld his title. It was currently
reported at Red Dog that a distinguished foreigner had one day
approached Mulrady with the formula, "I believe I have the honor of
addressing Don Alvino Mulrady?" "You kin bet your boots, stranger,
that's me," had returned that simple hidalgo.
Although Mrs. Mulrady would have preferred that Mamie should remain
at Sacramento until she could join her, preparatory to a trip to
"the States" and Europe, she yielded to her daughter's desire to
astonish Rough-and-Ready, before she left, with her new wardrobe,
and unfold in the parent nest the delicate and painted wings with
which she was to fly from them forever. "I don't want them to
remember me afterwards in those spotted prints, ma, and like as not
say I never had a decent frock until I went away." There was
something so like the daughter of her mother in this delicate
foresight that the touched and gratified parent kissed her, and
assented. The result was gratifying beyond her expectation. In
that few weeks' sojourn at Sacramento, the young girl seemed to
have adapted and assimilated herself to the latest modes of fashion
with even more than the usual American girl's pliancy and taste.
Equal to all emergencies of style and material, she seemed to
supply, from some hitherto unknown quality she possessed, the grace
and manner peculiar to each. Untrammeled by tradition, education,
or precedent, she had the Western girl's confidence in all things
being possible, which made them so often probable. Mr. Mulrady
looked at his daughter with mingled sentiments of pride and awe.
Was it possible that this delicate creature, so superior to him
that he seemed like a degenerate scion of her remoter race, was his
own flesh and blood? Was she the daughter of her mother, who even
in her remembered youth was never equipped like this? If the
thought brought no pleasure to his simple, loving nature, it at
least spared him the pain of what might have seemed ingratitude in
one more akin to himself. "The fact is, we ain't quite up to her
style," was his explanation and apology. A vague belief that in
another and a better world than this he might approximate and
understand this perfection somewhat soothed and sustained him.
It was quite consistent, therefore, that the embroidered cambric
dress which Mamie Mulrady wore one summer afternoon on the hillside
at Los Gatos, while to the critical feminine eye at once artistic
and expensive, should not seem incongruous to her surroundings or
to herself in the eyes of a general audience. It certainly did not
seem so to one pair of frank, humorous ones that glanced at her
from time to time, as their owner, a young fellow of five-and-
twenty, walked at her side. He was the new editor of the "Rough-
and-Ready Record," and, having been her fellow-passenger from
Sacramento, had already once or twice availed himself of her
father's invitation to call upon them. Mrs. Mulrady had not
discouraged this mild flirtation. Whether she wished to disconcert
Don Caesar for some occult purpose, or whether, like the rest of
her sex, she had an overweening confidence in the unheroic,
unseductive, and purely platonic character of masculine humor, did
"When I say I'm sorry you are going to leave us, Miss Mulrady,"
said the young fellow, lightly, "you will comprehend my
unselfishness, since I frankly admit your departure would be a
positive relief to me as an editor and a man. The pressure in the
Poet's Corner of the 'Record' since it was mistakingly discovered
that a person of your name might be induced to seek the 'glade' and
'shade' without being 'afraid,' 'dismayed,' or 'betrayed,' has been
something enormous, and, unfortunately, I am debarred from
rejecting anything, on the just ground that I am myself an
"It's dreadful to be placarded around the country by one's own full
name, isn't it?" said Mamie, without, however, expressing much
horror in her face.
"They think it much more respectful than to call you 'Mamie,'" he
responded, lightly; "and many of your admirers are middle-aged men,
with a mediaeval style of compliment. I've discovered that amatory
versifying wasn't entirely a youthful passion. Colonel Cash is
about as fatal with a couplet as with a double-barreled gun, and
scatters as terribly. Judge Butts and Dr. Wilson have both
discerned the resemblance of your gifts to those of Venus, and
their own to Apollo. But don't undervalue those tributes, Miss
Mulrady," he added, more seriously. "You'll have thousands of
admirers where you are going; but you'll be willing to admit in the
end, I think, that none were more honest and respectful than your
subjects at Rough-and-Ready and Red Dog." He stopped, and added in
a graver tone, "Does Don Caesar write poetry?"
"He has something better to do," said the young lady, pertly.
"I can easily imagine that," he returned, mischievously; "it must
be a pallid substitute for other opportunities."
"What did you come here for?" she asked, suddenly.
"To see you."
"Nonsense! You know what I mean. Why did you ever leave
Sacramento to come here? I should think it would suit you so much
better than this place."
"I suppose I was fired by your father's example, and wished to find
a gold mine."
"Men like you never do," she said, simply.
"Is that a compliment, Miss Mulrady?"
"I don't know. But I think that you think that it is."
He gave her the pleased look of one who had unexpectedly found a
sympathetic intelligence. "Do I? This is interesting. Let's sit
down." In their desultory rambling they had reached, quite
unconsciously, the large boulder at the roadside. Mamie hesitated
a moment, looked up and down the road, and then, with an already
opulent indifference to the damaging of her spotless skirt, sat
herself upon it, with her furled parasol held by her two little
hands thrown over her half-drawn-up knee. The young editor, half
sitting, half leaning, against the stone, began to draw figures in
the sand with his cane.
"On the contrary, Miss Mulrady, I hope to make some money here.
You are leaving Rough-and-Ready because you are rich. We are
coming to it because we are poor."
"We?" echoed Mamie, lazily, looking up the road.
"Yes. My father and two sisters."
"I am sorry. I might have known them if I hadn't been going away."
At the same moment, it flashed across her mind that, if they were
like the man before her, they might prove disagreeably independent
and critical. "Is your father in business?" she asked.
He shook his head. After a pause, he said, punctuating his
sentences with the point of his stick in the soft dust, "He is
paralyzed, and out of his mind, Miss Mulrady. I came to California
to seek him, as all news of him ceased three years since; and I
found him only two weeks ago, alone, friendless--an unrecognized
pauper in the county hospital."
"Two weeks ago? That was when I went to Sacramento."
"It must have been very shocking to you?"
"I should think you'd feel real bad?"
"I do, at times." He smiled, and laid his stick on the stone.
"You now see, Miss Mulrady, how necessary to me is this good
fortune that you don't think me worthy of. Meantime I must try to
make a home for them at Rough-and-Ready."
Miss Mulrady put down her knee and her parasol. "We mustn't stay
here much longer, you know."
"Why, the stage-coach comes by at about this time."
"And you think the passengers will observe us sitting here?"
"Of course they will."
"Miss Mulrady, I implore you to stay."
He was leaning over her with such apparent earnestness of voice and
gesture that the color came into her cheek. For a moment she
scarcely dared to lift her conscious eyes to his. When she did so,
she suddenly glanced her own aside with a flash of anger. He was
"If you have any pity for me, do not leave me now," he repeated.
"Stay a moment longer, and my fortune is made. The passengers will
report us all over Red Dog as engaged. I shall be supposed to be
in your father's secrets, and shall be sought after as a director
of all the new companies. The 'Record' will double its
circulation; poetry will drop out of its columns, advertising rush
to fill its place, and I shall receive five dollars a week more
salary, if not seven and a half. Never mind the consequences to
yourself at such a moment. I assure you there will be none. You
can deny it the next day--I will deny it--nay, more, the 'Record'
itself will deny it in an extra edition of one thousand copies, at
ten cents each. Linger a moment longer, Miss Mulrady. Fly, oh fly
not yet. They're coming--hark! oh! By Jove, it's only Don
It was, indeed, only the young scion of the house of Alvarado,
blue-eyed, sallow-skinned, and high-shouldered, coming towards them
on a fiery, half-broken mustang, whose very spontaneous lawlessness
seemed to accentuate and bring out the grave and decorous ease of
his rider. Even in his burlesque preoccupation the editor of the
"Record" did not withhold his admiration of this perfect
horsemanship. Mamie, who, in her wounded amour propre, would like
to have made much of it to annoy her companion, was thus estopped
any ostentatious compliment.
Don Caesar lifted his hat with sweet seriousness to the lady, with
grave courtesy to the gentleman. While the lower half of this
Centaur was apparently quivering with fury, and stamping the ground
in his evident desire to charge upon the pair, the upper half, with
natural dignity, looked from the one to the other, as if to leave
the privilege of an explanation with them. But Mamie was too wise,
and her companion too indifferent, to offer one. A slight shade
passed over Don Caesar's face. To complicate the situation at that
moment, the expected stagecoach came rattling by. With quick
feminine intuition, Mamie caught in the faces of the driver and the
expressman, and reflected in the mischievous eyes of her companion,
a peculiar interpretation of their meeting, that was not removed by
the whispered assurance of the editor that the passengers were
anxiously looking back "to see the shooting."
The young Spaniard, equally oblivious of humor or curiosity,
"You know Mr. Slinn, of the 'Record," said Mamie, "don't you?"
Don Caesar had never before met the Senor Esslinn. He was under
the impression that it was a Senor Robinson that was of the
"Oh, HE was shot," said Slinn. "I'm taking his place."
"Bueno! To be shot too? I trust not."
Slinn looked quickly and sharply into Don Caesar's grave face. He
seemed to be incapable of any double meaning. However, as he had
no serious reason for awakening Don Caesar's jealousy, and very
little desire to become an embarrassing third in this conversation,
and possibly a burden to the young lady, he proceeded to take his
leave of her. From a sudden feminine revulsion of sympathy, or
from some unintelligible instinct of diplomacy, Mamie said, as she
extended her hand, "I hope you'll find a home for your family near
here. Mamma wants pa to let our old house. Perhaps it might suit
you, if not too far from your work. You might speak to ma about
"Thank you; I will," responded the young man, pressing her hand
with unaffected cordiality.
Don Caesar watched him until he had disappeared behind the wayside
"He is a man of family--this one--your countryman?"
It seemed strange to her to have a mere acquaintance spoken of as
"her countryman"--not the first time nor the last time in her
career. As there appeared no trace or sign of jealousy in her
questioner's manner, she answered briefly but vaguely:
"Yes; it's a shocking story. His father disappeared some years
ago, and he has just found him--a helpless paralytic--in the
Sacramento Hospital. He'll have to support him--and they're very
"So, then, they are not independent of each other always--these
fathers and children of Americans!"
"No," said Mamie, shortly. Without knowing why, she felt inclined
to resent Don Caesar's manner. His serious gravity--gentle and
high-bred as it was, undoubtedly--was somewhat trying to her at
times, and seemed even more so after Slinn's irreverent humor. She
picked up her parasol, a little impatiently, as if to go.
But Don Caesar had already dismounted, and tied his horse to a tree
with a strong lariat that hung at his saddle-bow.
"Let us walk through the woods towards your home. I can return
alone for the horse when you shall dismiss me."
They turned in among the pines that, overcrowding the hollow, crept
partly up the side of the hill of Mulrady's shaft. A disused
trail, almost hidden by the waxen-hued yerba buena, led from the
highway, and finally lost itself in the undergrowth. It was a
lovers' walk; they were lovers, evidently, and yet the man was too
self-poised in his gravity, the young woman too conscious and
critical, to suggest an absorbing or oblivious passion.
"I should not have made myself so obtrusive to-day before your
friend," said Don Caesar, with proud humility, "but I could not
understand from your mother whether you were alone or whether my
company was desirable. It is of this I have now to speak, Mamie.
Lately your mother has seemed strange to me; avoiding any reference
to our affection; treating it lightly, and even as to-day, I fancy,
putting obstacles in the way of our meeting alone. She was
disappointed at your return from Sacramento where, I have been
told, she intended you to remain until you left the country; and
since your return I have seen you but twice. I may be wrong.
Perhaps I do not comprehend the American mother; I have--who
knows?--perhaps offended in some point of etiquette, omitted some
ceremony that was her due. But when you told me, Mamie, that it
was not necessary to speak to HER first, that it was not the
Mamie started, and blushed slightly.
"Yes," she said hurriedly, "certainly; but ma has been quite queer
of late, and she may think--you know--that since--since there has
been so much property to dispose of, she ought to have been
"Then let us consult her at once, dear child! And as to the
property, in Heaven's name, let her dispose of it as she will.
Saints forbid that an Alvarado should ever interfere. And what is
it to us, my little one? Enough that Dona Mameta Alvarado will
never have less state than the richest bride that ever came to Los
Mamie had not forgotten that, scarcely a month ago, even had she
loved the man before her no more than she did at present, she would
still have been thrilled with delight at these words! Even now she
was moved--conscious as she had become that the "state" of a bride
of the Alvarados was not all she had imagined, and that the bare
adobe court of Los Gatos was open to the sky and the free criticism
of Sacramento capitalists!
"Yes, dear," she murmured with a half childlike pleasure, that lit
up her face and eyes so innocently that it stopped any minute
investigation into its origin and real meaning. "Yes, dear; but we
need not have a fuss made about it at present, and perhaps put ma
against us. She wouldn't hear of our marrying now; and she might
forbid our engagement."
"But you are going away."
"I should have to go to New York or Europe FIRST, you know," she
answered, naively, "even if it were all settled. I should have to
get things! One couldn't be decent here."
With the recollection of the pink cotton gown, in which she had
first pledged her troth to him, before his eyes, he said, "But you
are charming now. You cannot be more so to me. If I am satisfied,
little one, with you as you are, let us go together, and then you
can get dresses to please others."
She had not expected this importunity. Really, if it came to this,
she might have engaged herself to some one like Slinn; he at least
would have understood her. He was much cleverer, and certainly
more of a man of the world. When Slinn had treated her like a
child, it was with the humorous tolerance of an admiring superior,
and not the didactic impulse of a guardian. She did not say this,
nor did her pretty eyes indicate it, as in the instance of her
brief anger with Slinn. She only said gently,--
"I should have thought you, of all men, would have been particular
about your wife doing the proper thing. But never mind! Don't let
us talk any more about it. Perhaps as it seems such a great thing
to you, and so much trouble, there may be no necessity for it at
I do not think that the young lady deliberately planned this
charmingly illogical deduction from Don Caesar's speech, or that
she calculated its effect upon him; but it was part of her nature
to say it, and profit by it. Under the unjust lash of it, his
pride gave way.
"Ah, do you not see why I wish to go with you?" he said, with
sudden and unexpected passion. "You are beautiful; you are good;
it has pleased Heaven to make you rich also; but you are a child in
experience, and know not your own heart. With your beauty, your
goodness, and your wealth, you will attract all to you--as you do
here--because you cannot help it. But you will be equally
helpless, little one, if THEY should attract YOU, and you had no
tie to fall back upon."
It was an unfortunate speech. The words were Don Caesar's; but the
thought she had heard before from her mother, although the
deduction had been of a very different kind. Mamie followed the
speaker with bright but visionary eyes. There must be some truth
in all this. Her mother had said it; Mr. Slinn had laughingly
admitted it. She HAD a brilliant future before her! Was she right
in making it impossible by a rash and foolish tie? He himself had
said she was inexperienced. She knew it; and yet, what was he
doing now but taking advantage of that inexperience? If he really
loved her, he would be willing to submit to the test. She did not
ask a similar one from him; and was willing, if she came out of it
free, to marry him just the same. There was something so noble in
this thought that she felt for a moment carried away by an impulse
of compassionate unselfishness, and smiled tenderly as she looked
up in his face.
"Then you consent, Mamie?" he said, eagerly, passing his arm around
"Not now, Caesar," she said, gently disengaging herself. "I must
think it over; we are both too young to act upon it rashly; it
would be unfair to you, who are so quiet and have seen so few
girls--I mean Americans--to tie yourself to the first one you have
known. When I am gone you will go more into the world. There are
Mr. Slinn's two sisters coming here--I shouldn't wonder if they
were far cleverer and talked far better than I do--and think how I
should feel if I knew that only a wretched pledge to me kept you
from loving them!" She stopped, and cast down her eyes.
It was her first attempt at coquetry, for, in her usual charming
selfishness, she was perfectly frank and open; and it might not
have been her last, but she had gone too far at first, and was not
prepared for a recoil of her own argument.
"If you admit that it is possible--that it is possible to you!" he
She saw her mistake. "We may not have many opportunities to meet
alone," she answered, quietly; "and I am sure we would be happier
when we meet not to accuse each other of impossibilities. Let us
rather see how we can communicate together, if anything should
prevent our meeting. Remember, it was only by chance that you were
able to see me now. If ma has believed that she ought to have been
consulted, our meeting together in this secret way will only make
matters worse. She is even now wondering where I am, and may be
suspicious. I must go back at once. At any moment some one may
come here looking for me."
"But I have so much to say," he pleaded. "Our time has been so
"You can write."
"But what will your mother think of that?" he said, in grave
She colored again as she returned, quickly, "Of course, you must
not write to the house. You can leave a letter somewhere for me--
say, somewhere about here. Stop!" she added, with a sudden girlish
gayety, "see, here's the very place. Look there!"
She pointed to the decayed trunk of a blasted sycamore, a few feet
from the trail. A cavity, breast high, half filled with skeleton
leaves and pine-nuts, showed that it had formerly been a squirrel's
hoard, but for some reason had been deserted.
"Look! it's a regular letter-box," she continued, gayly, rising on
tip-toe to peep into its recesses. Don Caesar looked at her
admiringly; it seemed like a return to their first idyllic love-
making in the old days, when she used to steal out of the cabbage
rows in her brown linen apron and sun-bonnet to walk with him in
the woods. He recalled the fact to her with the fatality of a
lover already seeking to restore in past recollections something
that was wanting in the present. She received it with the
impatience of youth, to whom the present is all sufficient.
"I wonder how you could ever have cared for me in that holland
apron," she said, looking down upon her new dress.
"Shall I tell you why?" he said, fondly, passing his arm around her
waist, and drawing her pretty head nearer his shoulder.
"No--not now!" she said, laughingly, but struggling to free
herself. "There's not time. Write it, and put it in the box.
There," she added, hastily, "listen!--what's that?"
"It's only a squirrel," he whispered reassuringly in her ear.
"No; it's somebody coming! I must go! Please! Caesar, dear!
She met his kiss half-way, released herself with a lithe movement
of her wrist and shoulder, and the next moment seemed to slip into
the woods, and was gone.
Don Caesar listened with a sigh as the last rustling ceased, cast a
look at the decayed tree as if to fix it in his memory, and then
slowly retraced his steps towards his tethered mustang.
He was right, however, in his surmise of the cause of that
interruption. A pair of bright eyes had been watching them from
the bough of an adjacent tree. It was a squirrel, who, having had
serious and prior intentions of making use of the cavity they had
discovered, had only withheld examination by an apparent courteous
discretion towards the intruding pair. Now that they were gone he
slipped down the tree and ran towards the decayed stump.
Apparently dissatisfied with the result of an investigation, which
proved that the cavity was unfit as a treasure hoard for a discreet
squirrel, whatever its value as a receptacle for the love-tokens of
incautious humanity, the little animal at once set about to put
things in order. He began by whisking out an immense quantity of
dead leaves, disturbed a family of tree-spiders, dissipated a drove
of patient aphides browsing in the bark, as well as their attendant
dairymen, the ants, and otherwise ruled it with the high hand of
dispossession and a contemptuous opinion of the previous
incumbents. It must not be supposed, however, that his proceedings
were altogether free from contemporaneous criticism; a venerable
crow sitting on a branch above him displayed great interest in his
occupation, and, hopping down a few moments afterwards, disposed of
some worm-eaten nuts, a few larvae, and an insect or two, with
languid dignity and without prejudice. Certain incumbrances,
however, still resisted the squirrel's general eviction; among them
a folded square of paper with sharply defined edges, that declined
investigation, and, owing to a nauseous smell of tobacco, escaped
nibbling as it had apparently escaped insect ravages. This, owing
to its sharp angles, which persisted in catching in the soft
decaying wood in his whirlwind of house-cleaning, he allowed to
remain. Having thus, in a general way, prepared for the coming
winter, the self-satisfied little rodent dismissed the subject from
his active mind.
His rage and indignation a few days later may be readily conceived,
when he found, on returning to his new-made home, another square of
paper, folded like the first, but much fresher and whiter, lying
within the cavity, on top of some moss which had evidently been
placed there for the purpose. This he felt was really more than he
could bear, but it was smaller, and with a few energetic kicks and
whisks of his tail he managed to finally dislodge it through the
opening, where it fell ignominiously to the earth. The eager eyes
of the ever-attendant crow, however, instantly detected it; he flew
to the ground, and, turning it over, examined it gravely. It was
certainly not edible, but it was exceedingly rare, and, as an old
collector of curios, he felt he could not pass it by. He lifted it
in his beak, and, with a desperate struggle against the
superincumbent weight, regained the branch with his prize. Here,
by one of those delicious vagaries of animal nature, he apparently
at once discharged his mind of the whole affair, became utterly
oblivious of it, allowed it to drop without the least concern, and
eventually flew away with an abstracted air, as if he had been
another bird entirely. The paper got into a manzanita bush, where
it remained suspended until the evening, when, being dislodged by a
passing wild-cat on its way to Mulrady's hen-roost, it gave that
delicately sensitive marauder such a turn that she fled into the
But the troubles of the squirrel were not yet over. On the
following day the young man who had accompanied the young woman
returned to the trunk, and the squirrel had barely time to make his
escape before the impatient visitor approached the opening of the
cavity, peered into it, and even passed his hand through its
recesses. The delight visible upon his anxious and serious face at
the disappearance of the letter, and the apparent proof that it had
been called for, showed him to have been its original depositor,
and probably awakened a remorseful recollection in the dark bosom
of the omnipresent crow, who uttered a conscious-stricken croak
from the bough above him. But the young man quickly disappeared
again, and the squirrel was once more left in undisputed
A week passed. A weary, anxious interval to Don Caesar, who had
neither seen nor heard from Mamie since their last meeting. Too
conscious of his own self-respect to call at the house after the
equivocal conduct of Mrs. Mulrady, and too proud to haunt the lanes
and approaches in the hope of meeting her daughter, like an
ordinary lover, he hid his gloomy thoughts in the monastic shadows
of the courtyard at Los Gatos, or found relief in furious riding at
night and early morning on the highway. Once or twice the up-stage
had been overtaken and passed by a rushing figure as shadowy as a
phantom horseman, with only the star-like point of a cigarette to
indicate its humanity. It was in one of these fierce recreations
that he was obliged to stop in early morning at the blacksmith's
shop at Rough-and-Ready, to have a loosend horseshoe replaced, and
while waiting picked up a newspaper. Don Caesar seldom read the
papers, but noticing that this was the "Record," he glanced at its
columns. A familiar name suddenly flashed out of the dark type
like a spark from the anvil. With a brain and heart that seemed to
be beating in unison with the blacksmith's sledge, he read as
"Our distinguished fellow-townsman, Alvin Mulrady, Esq., left town
day before yesterday to attend an important meeting of directors of
the Red Dog Ditch Company, in San Francisco. Society will regret
to hear that Mrs. Mulrady and her beautiful and accomplished
daughter, who are expecting to depart for Europe at the end of the
month, anticipated the event nearly a fortnight, by taking this
opportunity of accompanying Mr. Mulrady as far as San Francisco, on
their way to the East. Mrs. and Miss Mulrady intend to visit
London, Paris, and Berlin, and will be absent three years. It is
possible that Mr. Mulrady may join them later at one or other of
those capitals. Considerable disappointment is felt that a more
extended leave-taking was not possible, and that, under the
circumstances, no opportunity was offered for a 'send off' suitable
to the condition of the parties and the esteem in which they are
held in Rough-and-Ready."
The paper dropped from his hands. Gone! and without a word! No,
that was impossible! There must be some mistake; she had written;
the letter had miscarried; she must have sent word to Los Gatos,
and the stupid messenger had blundered; she had probably appointed
another meeting, or expected him to follow to San Francisco. "The
day before yesterday!" It was the morning's paper--she had been
gone scarcely two days--it was not too late yet to receive a
delayed message by post, by some forgetful hand--by--ah--the tree!
Of course it was in the tree, and he had not been there for a week!
Why had he not thought of it before? The fault was his, not hers.
Perhaps she had gone away, believing him faithless, or a country
"In the name of the Devil, will you keep me here till eternity!"
The blacksmith stared at him. Don Caesar suddenly remembered that
he was speaking, as he was thinking--in Spanish.
"Ten dollars, my friend, if you have done in five minutes!"
The man laughed. "That's good enough American," he said, beginning
to quicken his efforts. Don Caesar again took up the paper. There
was another paragraph that recalled his last interview with Mamie:--
"Mr. Harry Slinn, Jr., the editor of this paper, has just moved
into the pioneer house formerly occupied by Alvin Mulrady, Esq.,
which has already become historic in the annals of the county. Mr.
Slinn brings with him his father--H. J. Slinn, Esq.,--and his two
sisters. Mr. Slinn, Sen., who has been suffering for many years
from complete paralysis, we understand is slowly improving; and it
is by the advice of his physicians that he has chosen the
invigorating air of the foothills as a change to the debilitating
heat of Sacramento."
The affair had been quickly settled, certainly, reflected Don
Caesar, with a slight chill of jealousy, as he thought of Mamie's
interest in the young editor. But the next moment he dismissed it
from his mind; all except a dull consciousness that, if she really
loved him--Don Caesar--as he loved her, she could not have assisted
in throwing into his society the young sisters of the editor, who
she expected might be so attractive.
Within the five minutes the horse was ready, and Don Caesar in the
saddle again. In less than half an hour he was at the wayside
boulder. Here he picketed his horse, and took the narrow foot-
trail through the hollow. It did not take him long to reach their
old trysting-place. With a beating heart he approached the
decaying trunk and looked into the cavity. There was no letter
A few blackened nuts and some of the dry moss he had put there were
lying on the ground at its roots. He could not remember whether
they were there when he had last visited the spot. He began to
grope in the cavity with both hands. His fingers struck against
the sharp angles of a flat paper packet: a thrill of joy ran
through them and stopped his beating heart; he drew out the hidden
object, and was chilled with disappointment.
It was an ordinary-sized envelope of yellowish-brown paper,
bearing, besides the usual government stamp, the official legend of
an express company, and showing its age as much by this record of a
now obsolete carrying service as by the discoloration of time and
atmosphere. Its weight, which was heavier than that of any
ordinary letter of the same size and thickness, was evidently due
to some loose enclosures, that slightly rustled and could be felt
by the fingers, like minute pieces of metal or grains of gravel.
It was within Don Caesar's experience that gold specimens were
often sent in that manner. It was in a state of singular
preservation, except the address, which, being written in pencil,
was scarcely discernible, and even when deciphered appeared to be
incoherent and unfinished. The unknown correspondent had written
"dear Mary," and then "Mrs. Mary Slinn," with an unintelligible
scrawl following for the direction. If Don Caesar's mind had not
been lately preoccupied with the name of the editor, he would
hardly have guessed the superscription.
In his cruel disappointment and fully aroused indignation, he at
once began to suspect a connection of circumstances which at any
other moment he would have thought purely accidental, or perhaps
not have considered at all. The cavity in the tree had evidently
been used as a secret receptacle for letters before; did Mamie know
it at the time, and how did she know it? The apparent age of the
letter made it preposterous to suppose that it pointed to any
secret correspondence of hers with young Mr. Slinn; and the address
was not in her handwriting. Was there any secret previous intimacy
between the families? There was but one way in which he could
connect this letter with Mamie's faithlessness. It was an
infamous, a grotesquely horrible idea, a thought which sprang as
much from his inexperience of the world and his habitual
suspiciousness of all humor as anything else! It was that the
letter was a brutal joke of Slinn's--a joke perhaps concocted by
Mamie and himself--a parting insult that should at the last moment
proclaim their treachery and his own credulity. Doubtless it
contained a declaration of their shame, and the reason why she had
fled from him without a word of explanation. And the enclosure, of
course, was some significant and degrading illustration. Those
Americans are full of those low conceits; it was their national
He had the letter in his angry hand. He could break it open if he
wished and satisfy himself; but it was not addressed to HIM, and
the instinct of honor, strong even in his rage, was the instinct of
an adversary as well. No; Slinn should open the letter before him.
Slinn should explain everything, and answer for it. If it was
nothing--a mere accident--it would lead to some general
explanation, and perhaps even news of Mamie. But he would arraign
Slinn, and at once. He put the letter in his pocket, quickly
retraced his steps to his horse, and, putting spurs to the animal,
followed the high road to the gate of Mulrady's pioneer cabin.
He remembered it well enough. To a cultivated taste, it was
superior to the more pretentious "new house." During the first
year of Mulrady's tenancy, the plain square log-cabin had received
those additions and attractions which only a tenant can conceive
and actual experience suggest; and in this way the hideous right
angles were broken with sheds, "lean-to" extensions, until a
certain picturesqueness was given to the irregularity of outline,
and a home-like security and companionship to the congregated
buildings. It typified the former life of the great capitalist, as
the tall new house illustrated the loneliness and isolation that
wealth had given him. But the real points of vantage were the
years of cultivation and habitation that had warmed and enriched
the soil, and evoked the climbing vines and roses that already hid
its unpainted boards, rounded its hard outlines, and gave
projection and shadow from the pitiless glare of a summer's long
sun, or broke the steady beating of the winter rains. It was true
that pea and bean poles surrounded it on one side, and the only
access to the house was through the cabbage rows that once were the
pride and sustenance of the Mulradys. It was this fact, more than
any other, that had impelled Mrs. Mulrady to abandon its site; she
did not like to read the history of their humble origin reflected
in the faces of their visitors as they entered.
Don Caesar tied his horse to the fence, and hurriedly approached
the house. The door, however, hospitably opened when he was a few
paces from it, and when he reached the threshold he found himself
unexpectedly in the presence of two pretty girls. They were
evidently Slinn's sisters, whom he had neither thought of nor
included in the meeting he had prepared. In spite of his
preoccupation, he felt himself suddenly embarrassed, not only by
the actual distinction of their beauty, but by a kind of likeness
that they seemed to bear to Mamie.
"We saw you coming," said the elder, unaffectedly. "You are Don
Caesar Alvarado. My brother has spoken of you."
The words recalled Don Caesar to himself and a sense of courtesy.
He was not here to quarrel with these fair strangers at their first
meeting; he must seek Slinn elsewhere, and at another time. The
frankness of his reception and the allusion to their brother made
it appear impossible that they should be either a party to his
disappointment, or even aware of it. His excitement melted away
before a certain lazy ease, which the consciousness of their beauty
seemed to give them. He was able to put a few courteous inquiries,
and, thanks to the paragraph in the "Record," to congratulate them
upon their father's improvement.
"Oh, pa is a great deal better in his health, and has picked up
even in the last few days, so that he is able to walk round with
crutches," said the elder sister. "The air here seems to
invigorate him wonderfully."
"And you know, Esther," said the younger, "I think he begins to
take more notice of things, especially when he is out-of-doors. He
looks around on the scenery, and his eye brightens, as if he knew
all about it; and sometimes he knits his brows, and looks down so,
as if he was trying to remember."
"You know, I suppose," exclaimed Esther, "that since his seizure
his memory has been a blank--that is, three or four years of his
life seem to have been dropped out of his recollection."
"It might be a mercy sometimes, Senora," said Don Caesar, with a
grave sigh, as he looked at the delicate features before him, which
recalled the face of the absent Mamie.
"That's not very complimentary," said the younger girl, laughingly;
"for pa didn't recognize us, and only remembered us as little
"Vashti!" interrupted Esther, rebukingly; then, turning to Don
Caesar, she added, "My sister, Vashti, means that father remembers
more what happened before he came to California, when we were quite
young, than he does of the interval that elapsed. Dr. Duchesne
says it's a singular case. He thinks that, with his present
progress, he will recover the perfect use of his limbs; though his
memory may never come back again."
"Unless-- You forget what the doctor told us this morning,"
interrupted Vashti again, briskly.
"I was going to say it," said Esther, a little curtly. "UNLESS he
has another stroke. Then he will either die or recover his mind
Don Caesar glanced at the bright faces, a trifle heightened in
color by their eager recital and the slight rivalry of narration,
and looked grave. He was a little shocked at a certain lack of
sympathy and tenderness towards their unhappy parent. They seemed
to him not only to have caught that dry, curious toleration of
helplessness which characterizes even relationship in its
attendance upon chronic suffering and weakness, but to have
acquired an unconscious habit of turning it to account. In his
present sensitive condition, he even fancied that they flirted
mildly over their parent's infirmity.
"My brother Harry has gone to Red Dog," continued Esther; "he'll be
right sorry to have missed you. Mrs. Mulrady spoke to him about
you; you seem to have been great friends. I s'pose you knew her
daughter, Mamie; I hear she is very pretty."
Although Don Caesar was now satisfied that the Slinns knew nothing
of Mamie's singular behavior to him, he felt embarrassed by this
conversation. "Miss Mulrady is very pretty," he said, with grave
courtesy; "it is a custom of her race. She left suddenly," he
added with affected calmness.
"I reckon she did calculate to stay here longer--so her mother
said; but the whole thing was settled a week ago. I know my
brother was quite surprised to hear from Mr. Mulrady that if we
were going to decide about this house we must do it at once; he had
an idea himself about moving out of the big one into this when they
"Mamie Mulrady hadn't much to keep her here, considerin' the money
and the good looks she has, I reckon," said Vashti. "She isn't the
sort of girl to throw herself away in the wilderness, when she can
pick and choose elsewhere. I only wonder she ever come back from
Sacramento. They talk about papa Mulrady having BUSINESS at San
Francisco, and THAT hurrying them off! Depend upon it, that
'business' was Mamie herself. Her wish is gospel to them. If
she'd wanted to stay and have a farewell party, old Mulrady's
business would have been nowhere."
"Ain't you a little rough on Mamie," said Esther, who had been
quietly watching the young man's face with her large languid eyes,
"considering that we don't know her, and haven't even the right of
friends to criticise?"
"I don't call it rough," returned Vashti, frankly, "for I'd do the
same if I were in her shoes--and they're four-and-a-halves, for
Harry told me so. Give me her money and her looks, and you
wouldn't catch me hanging round these diggings--goin' to choir
meetings Saturdays, church Sundays, and buggy-riding once a month--
for society! No--Mamie's head was level--you bet!"
Don Caesar rose hurriedly. They would present his compliments to
their father, and he would endeavor to find their brother at Red
Dog. He, alas! had neither father, mother, nor sister, but if they
would receive his aunt, the Dona Inez Sepulvida, the next Sunday,
when she came from mass, she should be honored and he would be
delighted. It required all his self-possession to deliver himself
of this formal courtesy before he could take his leave, and on the
back of his mustang give way to the rage, disgust and hatred of
everything connected with Mamie that filled his heart. Conscious
of his disturbance, but not entirely appreciating their own share
in it, the two girls somewhat wickedly prolonged the interview by
following him into the garden.
"Well, if you MUST leave now," said Esther, at last, languidly, "it
ain't much out of your way to go down through the garden and take a
look at pa as you go. He's somewhere down there, near the woods,
and we don't like to leave him alone too long. You might pass the
time of day with him; see if he's right side up. Vashti and I have
got a heap of things to fix here yet; but if anything's wrong with
him, you can call us. So-long."
Don Caesar was about to excuse himself hurriedly; but that sudden
and acute perception of all kindred sorrow which belongs to refined
suffering, checked his speech. The loneliness of the helpless old
man in this atmosphere of active and youthful selfishness touched
him. He bowed assent, and turned aside into one of the long
perspectives of bean-poles. The girls watched him until out of
"Well," said Vashti, "don't tell ME. But if there wasn't something
between him and that Mamie Mulrady, I don't know a jilted man when
I see him."
"Well, you needn't have let him SEE that you knew it, so that any
civility of ours would look as if we were ready to take up with her
leavings," responded Esther, astutely, as the girls reentered the
Meantime, the unconscious object of their criticism walked sadly
down the old market-garden, whose rude outlines and homely details
he once clothed with the poetry of a sensitive man's first love.
Well, it was a common cabbage field and potato patch after all. In
his disgust he felt conscious of even the loss of that sense of
patronage and superiority which had invested his affection for a
girl of meaner condition. His self-respect was humiliated with his
love. The soil and dirt of those wretched cabbages had clung to
him, but not to her. It was she who had gone higher; it was he who
was left in the vulgar ruins of his misplaced passion.
He reached the bottom of the garden without observing any sign of
the lonely invalid. He looked up and down the cabbage rows, and
through the long perspective of pea-vines, without result. There
was a newer trail leading from a gap in the pines to the wooded
hollow, which undoubtedly intersected the little path that he and
Mamie had once followed from the high road. If the old man had
taken this trail he had possibly over-tasked his strength, and
there was the more reason why he should continue his search, and
render any assistance if required. There was another idea that
occurred to him, which eventually decided him to go on. It was
that both these trails led to the decayed sycamore stump, and that
the older Slinn might have something to do with the mysterious
letter. Quickening his steps through the field, he entered the
hollow, and reached the intersecting trail as he expected. To the
right it lost itself in the dense woods in the direction of the
ominous stump; to the left it descended in nearly a straight line
to the highway, now plainly visible, as was equally the boulder on
which he had last discovered Mamie sitting with young Slinn. If he
were not mistaken, there was a figure sitting there now; it was
surely a man. And by that half-bowed, helpless attitude, the
object of his search!
It did not take him long to descend the track to the highway and
approach the stranger. He was seated with his hands upon his
knees, gazing in a vague, absorbed fashion upon the hillside, now
crowned with the engine-house and chimney that marked the site of
Mulrady's shaft. He started slightly, and looked up, as Don Caesar
paused before him. The young man was surprised to see that the
unfortunate man was not as old as he had expected, and that his
expression was one of quiet and beatified contentment.
"Your daughters told me you were here," said Don Caesar, with
gentle respect. "I am Caesar Alvarado, your not very far neighbor;
very happy to pay his respects to you as he has to them."
"My daughters?" said the old man, vaguely. "Oh, yes! nice little
girls. And my boy Harry. Did you see Harry? Fine little fellow,
"I am glad to hear that you are better," said Don Caesar, hastily,
"and that the air of our country does you no harm. God benefit
you, senor," he added, with a profoundly reverential gesture,
dropping unconsciously into the religious habit of his youth. "May
he protect you, and bring you back to health and happiness!"
"Happiness?" said Slinn, amazedly. "I am happy--very happy! I
have everything I want: good air, good food, good clothes, pretty
little children, kind friends--" He smiled benignantly at Don
Caesar. "God is very good to me!"
Indeed, he seemed very happy; and his face, albeit crowned with
white hair, unmarked by care and any disturbing impression, had so
much of satisfied youth in it that the grave features of his
questioner made him appear the elder. Nevertheless, Don Caesar
noticed that his eyes, when withdrawn from him, sought the hillside
with the same visionary abstraction.
"It is a fine view, Senor Esslinn," said Don Caesar.
"It is a beautiful view, sir," said Slinn, turning his happy eyes
upon him for a moment, only to rest them again on the green slope
"Beyond that hill which you are looking at--not far, Senor Esslinn--
I live. You shall come and see me there--you and your family."
"You--you--live there?" stammered the invalid, with a troubled
expression--the first and only change to the complete happiness
that had hitherto suffused his face. "You--and your name is--is
"Alvarado," said Don Caesar, gently. Caesar Alvarado."
"You said Masters," said the old man, with sudden querulousness.
"No, good friend. I said Alvarado," returned Don Caesar, gravely.
"If you didn't say Masters, how could I say it? I don't know any
Don Caesar was silent. In another moment the happy tranquillity
returned to Slinn's face; and Don Caesar continued:--
"It is not a long walk over the hill, though it is far by the road.
When you are better you shall try it. Yonder little trail leads to
the top of the hill, and then--"
He stopped, for the invalid's face had again assumed its troubled
expression. Partly to change his thoughts, and partly for some
inexplicable idea that had suddenly seized him, Don Caesar
"There is a strange old stump near the trail, and in it a hole. In
the hole I found this letter." He stopped again--this time in
alarm. Slinn had staggered to his feet with ashen and distorted
features, and was glancing at the letter which Don Caesar had drawn
from his pocket. The muscles of his throat swelled as if he was
swallowing; his lips moved, but no sound issued from them. At
last, with a convulsive effort, he regained a disjointed speech, in
a voice scarcely audible.
"My letter! my letter! It's mine! Give it me! It's my fortune--
all mine! In the tunnel--hill! Masters stole it--stole my
fortune! Stole it all! See, see!"
He seized the letter from Don Caesar with trembling hands, and tore
it open forcibly: a few dull yellow grains fell from it heavily,
like shot, to the ground.
"See, it's true! My letter! My gold! My strike! My--my--my
A tremor passed over his face. The hand that held the letter
suddenly dropped sheer and heavy as the gold had fallen. The whole
side of his face and body nearest Don Caesar seemed to drop and
sink into itself as suddenly. At the same moment, and without a
word, he slipped through Don Caesar's outstretched hands to the
ground. Don Caesar bent quickly over him, but no longer than to
satisfy himself that he lived and breathed, although helpless. He
then caught up the fallen letter, and, glancing over it with
flashing eyes, thrust it and the few specimens in his pocket. He
then sprang to his feet, so transformed with energy and
intelligence that he seemed to have added the lost vitality of the
man before him to his own. He glanced quickly up and down the
highway. Every moment to him was precious now; but he could not
leave the stricken man in the dust of the road; nor could he carry
him to the house; nor, having alarmed his daughters, could he
abandon his helplessness to their feeble arms. He remembered that
his horse was still tied to the garden fence. He would fetch it,
and carry the unfortunate man across the saddle to the gate. He
lifted him with difficulty to the boulder, and ran rapidly up the
road in the direction of his tethered steed. He had not proceeded
far when he heard the noise of wheels behind him. It was the up
stage coming furiously along. He would have called to the driver
for assistance, but even through that fast-sweeping cloud of dust
and motion he could see that the man was utterly oblivious of
anything but the speed of his rushing chariot, and had even risen
in his box to lash the infuriated and frightened animals forward.
An hour later, when the coach drew up at the Red Dog Hotel, the
driver descended from the box, white, but taciturn. When he had
swallowed a glass of whiskey at a single gulp, he turned to the
astonished express agent, who had followed him in.
"One of two things, Jim, hez got to happen," he said, huskily.
"Either that there rock hez got to get off the road, or I have.
I've seed HIM on it agin!"
No further particulars of the invalid's second attack were known
than those furnished by Don Caesar's brief statement, that he had
found him lying insensible on the boulder. This seemed perfectly
consistent with the theory of Dr. Duchesne; and as the young
Spaniard left Los Gatos the next day, he escaped not only the
active reporter of the "Record," but the perusal of a grateful
paragraph in the next day's paper recording his prompt kindness and
courtesy. Dr. Duchesne's prognosis, however, seemed at fault; the
elder Slinn did not succumb to this second stroke, nor did he
recover his reason. He apparently only relapsed into his former
physical weakness, losing the little ground he had gained during
the last month, and exhibiting no change in his mental condition,
unless the fact that he remembered nothing of his seizure and the
presence of Don Caesar could be considered as favorable. Dr.
Duchesne's gravity seemed to give that significance to this
symptom, and his cross-questioning of the patient was characterized
by more than his usual curtness.
"You are sure you don't remember walking in the garden before you
were ill?" he said. "Come, think again. You must remember that."
The old man's eyes wandered restlessly around the room, but he
answered by a negative shake of his head. "And you don't remember
sitting down on a stone by the road?"
The old man kept his eyes resolutely fixed on the bedclothes before
him. "No!" he said, with a certain sharp decision that was new to
The doctor's eye brightened. "All right, old man; then don't."
On his way out he took the eldest Miss Slinn aside. "He'll do," he
said, grimly: "he's beginning to lie."
"Why, he only said he didn't remember," responded Esther.
"That was because he didn't want to remember," said the doctor,
authoritatively. "The brain is acting on some impression that is
either painful and unpleasant, or so vague that he can't formulate
it; he is conscious of it, and won't attempt it yet. It's a heap
better than his old self-satisfied incoherency."
A few days later, when the fact of Slinn's identification with the
paralytic of three years ago by the stage-driver became generally
known, the doctor came in quite jubilant.
"It's all plain now," he said, decidedly. "That second stroke was
caused by the nervous shock of his coming suddenly upon the very
spot where he had the first one. It proved that his brain still
retained old impressions, but as this first act of his memory was a
painful one, the strain was too great. It was mighty unlucky; but
it was a good sign."
"And you think, then--" hesitated Harry Slinn.
"I think," said Dr. Duchesne, "that this activity still exists, and
the proof of it, as I said before, is that he is trying now to
forget it, and avoid thinking of it. You will find that he will
fight shy of any allusion to it, and will be cunning enough to
dodge it every time."
He certainly did. Whether the doctor's hypothesis was fairly based
or not, it was a fact that, when he was first taken out to drive
with his watchful physician, he apparently took no notice of the
boulder--which still remained on the roadside, thanks to the later
practical explanation of the stage-driver's vision--and curtly
refused to talk about it. But, more significant to Duchesne, and
perhaps more perplexing, was a certain morose abstraction, which
took the place of his former vacuity of contentment, and an
intolerance of his attendants, which supplanted his old habitual
trustfulness to their care, that had been varied only by the
occasional querulousness of an invalid. His daughters sometimes
found him regarding them with an attention little short of
suspicion, and even his son detected a half-suppressed aversion in
his interviews with him.
Referring this among themselves to his unfortunate malady, his
children, perhaps, justified this estrangement by paying very
little attention to it. They were more pleasantly occupied. The
two girls succeeded to the position held by Mamie Mulrady in the
society of the neighborhood, and divided the attentions of Rough-
and-Ready. The young editor of the "Record" had really achieved,
through his supposed intimacy with the Mulradys, the good fortune
he had jestingly prophesied. The disappearance of Don Caesar was
regarded as a virtual abandonment of the field to his rival: and
the general opinion was that he was engaged to the millionaire's
daughter on a certain probation of work and influence in his
prospective father-in-law's interests. He became successful in one
or two speculations, the magic of the lucky Mulrady's name
befriending him. In the superstition of the mining community, much
of this luck was due to his having secured the old cabin.
"To think," remarked one of the augurs of Red Dog, French Pete, a
polyglot jester, "that while every fool went to taking up claims
where the gold had already been found no one thought of stepping
into the old man's old choux in the cabbage-garden!" Any doubt,
however, of the alliance of the families was dissipated by the
intimacy that sprang up between the elder Slinn and the
millionaire, after the latter's return from San Francisco.
It began in a strange kind of pity for the physical weakness of the
man, which enlisted the sympathies of Mulrady, whose great strength
had never been deteriorated by the luxuries of wealth, and who was
still able to set his workmen an example of hard labor; it was
sustained by a singular and superstitious reverence for his mental
condition, which, to the paternal Mulrady, seemed to possess that
spiritual quality with which popular ignorance invests demented
"Then you mean to say that during these three years the vein o'
your mind, so to speak, was a lost lead, and sorter dropped out o'
sight or follerin'?" queried Mulrady, with infinite seriousness.
"Yes," returned Slinn, with less impatience than he usually showed
"And durin' that time, when you was dried up and waitin' for rain,
I reckon you kinder had visions?"
A cloud passed over Slinn's face.
"Of course, of course!" said Mulrady, a little frightened at his
tenacity in questioning the oracle. "Nat'rally, this was private,
and not to be talked about. I meant, you had plenty of room for
'em without crowdin'; you kin tell me some day when you're better,
and kin sorter select what's points and what ain't."
"Perhaps I may some day," said the invalid, gloomily, glancing in
the direction of his preoccupied daughters; "when we're alone."
When his physical strength had improved, and his left arm and side
had regained a feeble but slowly gathering vitality, Alvin Mulrady
one day surprised the family by bringing the convalescent a pile of
letters and accounts, and spreading them on a board before Slinn's
invalid chair, with the suggestion that he should look over,
arrange, and docket them. The idea seemed preposterous, until it
was found that the old man was actually able to perform this
service, and exhibited a degree of intellectual activity and
capacity for this kind of work that was unsuspected. Dr. Duchesne
was delighted, and divided with admiration between his patient's
progress and the millionaire's sagacity. "And there are envious
people," said the enthusiastic doctor, "who believe that a man like
him, who could conceive of such a plan for occupying a weak
intellect without taxing its memory or judgment, is merely a lucky
fool! Look here. May be it didn't require much brains to stumble
on a gold mine, and it is a gift of Providence. But, in my
experience, Providence don't go round buyin' up d--d fools, or
investin' in dead beats."
When Mr. Slinn, finally, with the aid of crutches, was able to
hobble every day to the imposing counting-house and the office of
Mr. Mulrady, which now occupied the lower part of the new house,
and contained some of its gorgeous furniture, he was installed at a
rosewood desk behind Mr. Mulrady's chair, as his confidential clerk
and private secretary. The astonishment of Red Dog and Rough-and-
Ready at this singular innovation knew no bounds; but the boldness
and novelty of the idea carried everything before it. Judge Butts,
the oracle of Rough-and-Ready, delivered its decision: "He's got a
man who's physically incapable of running off with his money, and
has no memory to run off with his ideas. How could he do better?"
Even his own son, Harry, coming upon his father thus installed, was
for a moment struck with a certain filial respect, and for a day or
two patronized him.
In this capacity Slinn became the confidant not only of Mulrady's
business secrets, but of his domestic affairs. He knew that young
Mulrady, from a freckle-faced slow country boy, had developed into
a freckle-faced fast city man, with coarse habits of drink and
gambling. It was through the old man's hands that extravagant
bills and shameful claims passed on their way to be cashed by
Mulrady; it was he that at last laid before the father one day his
signature perfectly forged by the son.
"Your eyes are not ez good ez mine, you know, Slinn," said Mulrady,
gravely. "It's all right. I sometimes make my Y's like that. I'd
clean forgot to cash that check. You must not think you've got the
monopoly of disremembering," he added, with a faint laugh.
Equally through Slinn's hands passed the record of the lavish
expenditure of Mrs. Mulrady and the fair Mamie, as well as the
chronicle of their movements and fashionable triumphs. As Mulrady
had already noticed that Slinn had no confidence with his own
family, he did not try to withhold from them these domestic
details, possibly as an offset to the dreary catalogue of his son's
misdeeds, but more often in the hope of gaining from the taciturn
old man some comment that might satisfy his innocent vanity as
father and husband, and perhaps dissipate some doubts that were
"Twelve hundred dollars looks to be a good figger for a dress,
ain't it? But Malviny knows, I reckon, what ought to be worn at
the Tooilleries, and she don't want our Mamie to take a back seat
before them furrin' princesses and gran' dukes. It's a slap-up
affair, I kalkilate. Let's see. I disremember whether it's an
emperor or a king that's rulin' over thar now. It must be suthin'
first class and A 1, for Malviny ain't the woman to throw away
twelve hundred dollars on any of them small-potato despots! She
says Mamie speaks French already like them French Petes. I don't
quite make out what she means here. She met Don Caesar in Paris,
and she says, 'I think Mamie is nearly off with Don Caesar, who has
followed her here. I don't care about her dropping him TOO
suddenly; the reason I'll tell you hereafter. I think the man
might be a dangerous enemy.' Now, what do you make of this? I
allus thought Mamie rather cottoned to him, and it was the old
woman who fought shy, thinkin' Mamie would do better. Now, I am
agreeable that my gal should marry any one she likes, whether it's
a dook or a poor man, as long as he's on the square. I was ready
to take Don Caesar; but now things seem to have shifted round. As
to Don Caesar's being a dangerous enemy if Mamie won't have him,
that's a little too high and mighty for me, and I wonder the old
woman don't make him climb down. What do you think?"
"Who is Don Caesar?" asked Slinn.
"The man what picked you up that day. I mean," continued Mulrady,
seeing the marks of evident ignorance on the old man's face,--"I
mean a sort of grave, genteel chap, suthin' between a parson and a
circus-rider. You might have seen him round the house talkin' to
But Slinn's entire forgetfulness of Don Caesar was evidently
unfeigned. Whatever sudden accession of memory he had at the time
of his attack, the incident that caused it had no part in his
recollection. With the exception of these rare intervals of
domestic confidences with his crippled private secretary, Mulrady
gave himself up to money-getting. Without any especial faculty for
it--an easy prey often to unscrupulous financiers--his unfailing
luck, however, carried him safely through, until his very mistakes
seemed to be simply insignificant means to a large significant end
and a part of his original plan. He sank another shaft, at a great