Part 1 out of 2
This etext was prepared by Donald Lainson, email@example.com.
A Phyllis Of The Sierras
by Bret Harte
Where the great highway of the Sierras nears the summit, and the
pines begin to show sterile reaches of rock and waste in their
drawn-up files, there are signs of occasional departures from the
main road, as if the weary traveller had at times succumbed to the
long ascent, and turned aside for rest and breath again. The tired
eyes of many a dusty passenger on the old overland coach have gazed
wistfully on those sylvan openings, and imagined recesses of
primeval shade and virgin wilderness in their dim perspectives.
Had he descended, however, and followed one of these diverging
paths, he would have come upon some rude wagon track, or "logslide,"
leading from a clearing on the slope, or the ominous saw-mill, half
hidden in the forest it was slowly decimating. The woodland hush
might have been broken by the sound of water passing over some
unseen dam in the hollow, or the hiss of escaping steam and throb of
an invisible engine in the covert.
Such, at least, was the experience of a young fellow of five-and-
twenty, who, knapsack on back and stick in hand, had turned aside
from the highway and entered the woods one pleasant afternoon in
July. But he was evidently a deliberate pedestrian, and not a
recent deposit of the proceeding stage-coach; and although his
stout walking-shoes were covered with dust, he had neither the
habitual slouch and slovenliness of the tramp, nor the hurried
fatigue and growing negligence of an involuntary wayfarer. His
clothes, which were strong and serviceable, were better fitted for
their present usage than the ordinary garments of the Californian
travellers, which were too apt to be either above or below their
requirements. But perhaps the stranger's greatest claim to
originality was the absence of any weapon in his equipment. He
carried neither rifle nor gun in his hand, and his narrow leathern
belt was empty of either knife or revolver.
A half-mile from the main road, which seemed to him to have dropped
out of sight the moment he had left it, he came upon a half-cleared
area, where the hastily-cut stumps of pines, of irregular height,
bore an odd resemblance to the broken columns of some vast and
ruined temple. A few fallen shafts, denuded of their bark and
tessellated branches, sawn into symmetrical cylinders, lay beside
the stumps, and lent themselves to the illusion. But the freshly-
cut chips, so damp that they still clung in layers to each other as
they had fallen from the axe, and the stumps themselves, still wet
and viscous from their drained life-blood, were redolent of an odor
of youth and freshness.
The young man seated himself on one of the logs and deeply inhaled
the sharp balsamic fragrance--albeit with a slight cough and a
later hurried respiration. This, and a certain drawn look about
his upper lip, seemed to indicate, in spite of his strength and
color, some pulmonary weakness. He, however, rose after a moment's
rest with undiminished energy and cheerfulness, readjusted his
knapsack, and began to lightly pick his way across the fallen
timber. A few paces on, the muffled whir of machinery became more
audible, with the lazy, monotonous command of "Gee thar," from some
unseen ox-driver. Presently, the slow, deliberately-swaying heads
of a team of oxen emerged from the bushes, followed by the clanking
chain of the "skids" of sawn planks, which they were ponderously
dragging with that ostentatious submissiveness peculiar to their
species. They had nearly passed him when there was a sudden hitch
in the procession. From where he stood he could see that a
projecting plank had struck a pile of chips and become partly
imbedded in it. To run to the obstruction and, with a few
dexterous strokes and the leverage of his stout stick, dislodge the
plank was the work not only of the moment but of an evidently
energetic hand. The teamster looked back and merely nodded his
appreciation, and with a "Gee up! Out of that, now!" the skids
"Much obliged, there!" said a hearty voice, as if supplementing the
teamster's imperfect acknowledgment.
The stranger looked up. The voice came from the open, sashless,
shutterless window of a rude building--a mere shell of boards and
beams half hidden in the still leafy covert before him. He had
completely overlooked it in his approach, even as he had ignored
the nearer throbbing of the machinery, which was so violent as to
impart a decided tremor to the slight edifice, and to shake the
speaker so strongly that he was obliged while speaking to steady
himself by the sashless frame of the window at which he stood. He
had a face of good-natured and alert intelligence, a master's
independence and authority of manner, in spite of his blue jean
overalls and flannel shirt.
"Don't mention it," said the stranger, smiling with equal but more
deliberate good-humor. Then, seeing that his interlocutor still
lingered a hospitable moment in spite of his quick eyes and the
jarring impatience of the machinery, he added hesitatingly, "I
fancy I've wandered off the track a bit. Do you know a Mr.
The stranger's hesitation seemed to be more from some habitual
conscientiousness of statement than awkwardness. The man in the
window replied, "I'm Bradley."
"Ah! Thank you: I've a letter for you--somewhere. Here it is." He
produced a note from his breast-pocket. Bradley stooped to a
sitting posture in the window. "Pitch it up." It was thrown and
caught cleverly. Bradley opened it, read it hastily, smiled and
nodded, glanced behind him as if to implore further delay from the
impatient machinery, leaned perilously from the window, and said,--
"Look here! Do you see that silver-fir straight ahead?"
"A little to the left there's a trail. Follow it and skirt along
the edge of the canyon until you see my house. Ask for my wife--
that's Mrs. Bradley--and give her your letter. Stop!" He drew a
carpenter's pencil from his pocket, scrawled two or three words
across the open sheet and tossed it back to the stranger. "See you
at tea! Excuse me--Mr. Mainwaring--we're short-handed--and--the
engine--" But here he disappeared suddenly.
Without glancing at the note again, the stranger quietly replaced
it in his pocket, and struck out across the fallen trunks towards
the silver-fir. He quickly found the trail indicated by Bradley,
although it was faint and apparently worn by a single pair of feet
as a shorter and private cut from some more travelled path. It was
well for the stranger that he had a keen eye or he would have lost
it; it was equally fortunate that he had a mountaineering instinct,
for a sudden profound deepening of the blue mist seen dimly through
the leaves before him caused him to slacken his steps. The trail
bent abruptly to the right; a gulf fully two thousand feet deep was
at his feet! It was the Great Canyon.
At the first glance it seemed so narrow that a rifle-shot could
have crossed its tranquil depths; but a second look at the
comparative size of the trees on the opposite mountain convinced
him of his error. A nearer survey of the abyss also showed him
that instead of its walls being perpendicular they were made of
successive ledges or terraces to the valley below. Yet the air was
so still, and the outlines so clearly cut, that they might have
been only the reflections of the mountains around him cast upon
the placid mirror of a lake. The spectacle arrested him, as it
arrested all men, by some occult power beyond the mere attraction
of beauty or magnitude; even the teamster never passed it without
the tribute of a stone or broken twig tossed into its immeasurable
Reluctantly leaving the spot, the stranger turned with the trail
that now began to skirt its edge. This was no easy matter, as the
undergrowth was very thick, and the foliage dense to the perilous
brink of the precipice. He walked on, however, wondering why
Bradley had chosen so circuitous and dangerous a route to his
house, which naturally would be some distance back from the canyon.
At the end of ten minutes' struggling through the "brush," the
trail became vague, and, to all appearances, ended. Had he
arrived? The thicket was as dense as before; through the
interstices of leaf and spray he could see the blue void of the
canyon at his side, and he even fancied that the foliage ahead of
him was more symmetrical and less irregular, and was touched here
and there with faint bits of color. To complete his utter
mystification, a woman's voice, very fresh, very youthful, and by
no means unmusical, rose apparently from the circumambient air. He
looked hurriedly to the right and left, and even hopelessly into
the trees above him.
"Yes," said the voice, as if renewing a suspended conversation, "it
was too funny for anything. There were the two Missouri girls from
Skinner's, with their auburn hair ringleted, my dear, like the old
'Books of Beauty'--in white frocks and sashes of an unripe greenish
yellow, that puckered up your mouth like persimmons. One of them
was speechless from good behavior, and the other--well! the other
was so energetic she called out the figures before the fiddler did,
and shrieked to my vis-a-vis to dance up to the entire stranger--
meaning ME, if you please."
The voice appeared to come from the foliage that overhung the
canyon, and the stranger even fancied he could detect through the
shimmering leafy veil something that moved monotonously to and fro.
Mystified and impatient, he made a hurried stride forward, his foot
struck a wooden step, and the next moment the mystery was made
clear. He had almost stumbled upon the end of a long veranda that
projected over the abyss before a low, modern dwelling, till then
invisible, nestling on its very brink. The symmetrically-trimmed
foliage he had noticed were the luxuriant Madeira vines that hid
the rude pillars of the veranda; the moving object was a rocking-
chair, with its back towards the intruder, that disclosed only the
brown hair above, and the white skirts and small slippered feet
below, of a seated female figure. In the mean time, a second voice
from the interior of the house had replied to the figure in the
chair, who was evidently the first speaker:--
"It must have been very funny; but as long as Jim is always
bringing somebody over from the mill, I don't see how I can go to
those places. You were lucky, my dear, to escape from the new
Division Superintendent last night; he was insufferable to Jim with
his talk of his friend the San Francisco millionaire, and to me
with his cheap society airs. I do hate a provincial fine
The situation was becoming embarrassing to the intruder. At the
apparition of the woman, the unaffected and simple directness he
had previously shown in his equally abrupt contact with Bradley had
fled utterly; confused by the awkwardness of his arrival, and
shocked at the idea of overhearing a private conversation, he
stepped hurriedly on the veranda.
"Well? go on!" said the second voice impatiently. "Well, who else
was there? WHAT did you say? I don't hear you. What's the
The seated figure had risen from her chair, and turned a young and
pretty face somewhat superciliously towards the stranger, as she
said in a low tone to her unseen auditor, "Hush! there is somebody
The young man came forward with an awkwardness that was more boyish
than rustic. His embarrassment was not lessened by the simultaneous
entrance from the open door of a second woman, apparently as young
as and prettier than the first.
"I trust you'll excuse me for--for--being so wretchedly stupid," he
stammered, "but I really thought, you know, that--that--I was
following the trail to--to--the front of the house, when I stumbled
Long before he had finished, both women, by some simple feminine
intuition, were relieved and even prepossessed by his voice and
manner. They smiled graciously. The later-comer pointed to the
empty chair. But with his habit of pertinacious conscientiousness
the stranger continued, "It was regularly stupid, wasn't it?--and I
ought to have known better. I should have turned back and gone
away when I found out what an ass I was likely to be, but I was--
afraid--you know, of alarming you by the noise."
"Won't you sit down?" said the second lady, pleasantly.
"Oh, thanks! I've a letter here--I"--he transferred his stick and
hat to his left hand as he felt in his breast-pocket with his right.
But the action was so awkward that the stick dropped on the veranda.
Both women made a movement to restore it to its embarrassed owner,
who, however, quickly anticipated them. "Pray don't mind it," he
continued, with accelerated breath and heightened color. "Ah,
here's the letter!" He produced the note Bradley had returned to
him. "It's mine, in fact--that is, I brought it to Mr. Bradley. He
said I was to give it to--to--to--Mrs. Bradley." He paused,
glancing embarrassedly from the one to the other.
"I'm Mrs. Bradley," said the prettiest one, with a laugh. He
handed her the letter. It ran as follows:--
"DEAR BRADLEY--Put Mr. Mainwaring through as far as he wants to go,
or hang him up at The Lookout, just as he likes. The Bank's behind
him, and his hat's chalked all over the Road; but he don't care
much about being on velvet. That ain't his style--and you'll like
him. He's somebody's son in England. B."
Mrs. Bradley glanced simply at the first sentence. "Pray sit down,
Mr. Mainwaring," she said gently; "or, rather, let me first
introduce my cousin--Miss Macy."
"Thanks," said Mainwaring, with a bow to Miss Macy, "but I--I--I--
think," he added conscientiously, "you did not notice that your
husband had written something across the paper."
Mrs. Bradley smiled, and glanced at her husband's indorsement--"All
right. Wade in." "It's nothing but Jim's slang," she said, with a
laugh and a slightly heightened color. "He ought not to have sent
you by that short cut; it's a bother, and even dangerous for a
stranger. If you had come directly to US by the road, without
making your first call at the mill," she added, with a touch of
coquetry, "you would have had a pleasanter walk, and seen US
sooner. I suppose, however, you got off the stage at the mill?"
"I was not on the coach," said Mainwaring, unfastening the strap of
his knapsack. "I walked over from Lone Pine Flat."
"Walked!" echoed both women in simultaneous astonishment.
"Yes," returned Mainwaring simply, laying aside his burden and
taking the proffered seat. "It's a very fine bit of country."
"Why, it's fifteen miles," said Mrs. Bradley, glancing horror-
stricken at her cousin. "How dreadful! And to think Jim could
have sent you a horse to Lone Pine. Why, you must be dead!"
"Thanks, I'm all right! I rather enjoyed it, you know."
"But," said Miss Macy, glancing wonderingly at his knapsack, "you
must want something, a change--or some refreshment--after fifteen
"Pray don't disturb yourself," said Mainwaring, rising hastily, but
not quickly enough to prevent the young girl from slipping past him
into the house, whence she rapidly returned with a decanter and
"Perhaps Mr. Mainwaring would prefer to go into Jim's room and wash
his hands and put on a pair of slippers?" said Mrs. Bradley, with
"Thanks, no. I really am not tired. I sent some luggage yesterday
by the coach to the Summit Hotel," he said, observing the women's
eyes still fixed upon his knapsack. "I dare say I can get them if
I want them. I've got a change here," he continued, lifting the
knapsack as if with a sudden sense of its incongruity with its
surroundings, and depositing it on the end of the veranda.
"Do let it remain where it is," said Mrs. Bradley, greatly amused,
"and pray sit still and take some refreshment. You'll make
yourself ill after your exertions," she added, with a charming
assumption of matronly solicitude.
"But I'm not at all deserving of your sympathy," said Mainwaring,
with a laugh. "I'm awfully fond of walking, and my usual
constitutional isn't much under this."
"Perhaps you were stronger than you are now," said Mrs. Bradley,
gazing at him with a frank curiosity that, however, brought a faint
deepening of color to his cheek.
"I dare say you're right," he said suddenly, with an apologetic
smile. "I quite forgot that I'm a sort of an invalid, you know,
travelling for my health. I'm not very strong here," he added,
lightly tapping his chest, that now, relieved of the bands of his
knapsack, appeared somewhat thin and hollow in spite of his broad
shoulders. His voice, too, had become less clear and distinct.
Mrs. Bradley, who was still watching him, here rose potentially.
"You ought to take more care of yourself," she said. "You should
begin by eating this biscuit, drinking that glass of whiskey, and
making yourself more comfortable in Jim's room until we can get the
spare room fixed a little."
"But I am not to be sent to bed--am I?" asked Mainwaring, in half-
real, half-amused consternation.
"I'm not so sure of that," said Mrs. Bradley, with playful precision.
"But for the present we'll let you off with a good wash and a nap
afterwards in that rocking-chair, while my cousin and I make some
little domestic preparations. You see," she added with a certain
proud humility, "we've got only one servant--a Chinaman, and there
are many things we can't leave to him."
The color again rose in Mainwaring's cheek, but he had tact enough
to reflect that any protest or hesitation on his part at that
moment would only increase the difficulties of his gentle
entertainers. He allowed himself to be ushered into the house by
Mrs. Bradley, and shown to her husband's room, without perceiving
that Miss Macy had availed herself of his absence to run to the end
of the veranda, mischievously try to lift the discarded knapsack to
her own pretty shoulder, but, failing, heroically stagger with it
into the passage and softly deposit it at his door. This done, she
pantingly rejoined her cousin in the kitchen.
"Well," said Mrs. Bradley, emphatically. "DID you ever? Walking
fifteen miles for pleasure--and with such lungs!"
"And that knapsack!" added Louise Macy, pointing to the mark in her
little palm where the strap had imbedded itself in the soft flesh.
"He's nice, though; isn't he?" said Mrs. Bradley, tentatively.
"Yes," said Miss Macy, "he isn't, certainly, one of those
provincial fine gentlemen you object to. But DID you see his
shoes? I suppose they make the miles go quickly, or seem to
measure less by comparison."
"They're probably more serviceable than those high-heeled things
that Captain Greyson hops about in."
"But the Captain always rides--and rides very well--you know," said
Louise, reflectively. There was a moment's pause.
"I suppose Jim will tell us all about him," said Mrs. Bradley,
dismissing the subject, as she turned her sleeves back over her
white arms, preparatory to grappling certain culinary difficulties.
"Jim," observed Miss Macy, shortly, "in my opinion, knows nothing
more than his note says. That's like Jim."
"There's nothing more to know, really," said Mrs. Bradley, with a
superior air. "He's undoubtedly the son of some Englishman of
fortune, sent out here for his health."
Miss Macy had heard a step in the passage. It halted at last, half
irresolutely, before the open door of the kitchen, and the stranger
appeared with an embarrassed air.
But in his brief absence he seemed to have completely groomed
himself, and stood there, the impersonation of close-cropped,
clean, and wholesome English young manhood. The two women
appreciated it with cat-like fastidiousness.
"I beg your pardon; but really you're going to let a fellow do
something for you," he said, "just to keep him from looking like a
fool. I really can do no end of things, you know, if you'll try
me. I've done some camping-out, and can cook as well as the next
The two women made a movement of smiling remonstrance, half
coquettish, and half superior, until Mrs. Bradley, becoming
conscious of her bare arms and the stranger's wandering eyes,
colored faintly, and said with more decision:--
"Certainly not. You'd only be in the way. Besides, you need rest
more than we do. Put yourself in the rocking-chair in the veranda,
and go to sleep until Mr. Bradley comes."
Mainwaring saw that she was serious, and withdrew, a little ashamed
at his familiarity into which his boyishness had betrayed him. But
he had scarcely seated himself in the rocking-chair before Miss
Macy appeared, carrying with both hands a large tin basin of
"There," she said pantingly, placing her burden in his lap, "if you
really want to help, there's something to do that isn't very
fatiguing. You may shell these peas."
"SHELL them--I beg pardon, but how?" he asked, with smiling
"How? Why, I'll show you--look."
She frankly stepped beside him, so close that her full-skirted
dress half encompassed him and the basin in a delicious confusion,
and, leaning over his lap, with her left hand picked up a pea-cod,
which, with a single movement of her charming little right thumb,
she broke at the end, and stripped the green shallow of its tiny
He watched her with smiling eyes; her own, looking down on him,
were very bright and luminous. "There; that's easy enough," she
said, and turned away.
"But--one moment, Miss--Miss--?"
"Macy," said louise.
"Where am I to put the shells?"
"Oh! throw them down there--there's room enough."
She was pointing to the canyon below. The veranda actually
projected over its brink, and seemed to hang in mid air above it.
Mainwaring almost mechanically threw his arm out to catch the
incautious girl, who had stepped heedlessly to its extreme edge.
"How odd! Don't you find it rather dangerous here?" he could not
help saying. "I mean--you might have had a railing that wouldn't
intercept the view and yet be safe?"
"It's a fancy of Mr. Bradley's," returned the young girl
carelessly. "It's all like this. The house was built on a ledge
against the side of the precipice, and the road suddenly drops down
"It's tremendously pretty, all the same, you know," said the young
man thoughtfully, gazing, however, at the girl's rounded chin above
"Yes," she replied curtly. "But this isn't working. I must go
back to Jenny. You can shell the peas until Mr. Bradley comes
home. He won't be long."
She turned away, and re-entered the house. Without knowing why, he
thought her withdrawal abrupt, and he was again feeling his ready
color rise with the suspicion of either having been betrayed by
the young girl's innocent fearlessness into some unpardonable
familiarity, which she had quietly resented, or of feeling an ease
and freedom in the company of these two women that were inconsistent
with respect, and should be restrained.
He, however, began to apply himself to the task given to him with
his usual conscientiousness of duty, and presently acquired a
certain manual dexterity in the operation. It was "good fun" to
throw the cast-off husks into the mighty unfathomable void before
him, and watch them linger with suspended gravity in mid air for a
moment--apparently motionless--until they either lost themselves, a
mere vanishing black spot in the thin ether, or slid suddenly at a
sharp angle into unknown shadow. How deuced odd for him to be
sitting here in this fashion! It would be something to talk of
hereafter, and yet,--he stopped--it was not at all in the line of
that characteristic adventure, uncivilized novelty, and barbarous
freedom which for the last month he had sought and experienced. It
was not at all like his meeting with the grizzly last week while
wandering in a lonely canyon; not a bit in the line of his chance
acquaintance with that notorious ruffian, Spanish Jack, or his
witnessing with his own eyes that actual lynching affair at Angels.
No! Nor was it at all characteristic, according to his previous
ideas of frontier rural seclusion--as for instance the Pike County
cabin of the family where he stayed one night, and where the
handsome daughter asked him what his Christian name was. No!
These two young women were very unlike her; they seemed really
quite the equals of his family and friends in England,--perhaps
more attractive,--and yet, yes, it was this very attractiveness
that alarmed his inbred social conservatism regarding women. With
a man it was very different; that alert, active, intelligent
husband, instinct with the throbbing life of his saw-mill, creator
and worker in one, challenged his unqualified trust and admiration.
He had become conscious for the last minute or two of thinking
rapidly and becoming feverishly excited; of breathing with greater
difficulty, and a renewed tendency to cough. The tendency
increased until he instinctively put aside the pan from his lap and
half rose. But even that slight exertion brought on an accession
of coughing. He put his handkerchief to his lips, partly to keep
the sound from disturbing the women in the kitchen, partly because
of a certain significant taste in his mouth which he unpleasantly
remembered. When he removed the handkerchief it was, as he
expected, spotted with blood. He turned quickly and re-entered the
house softly, regaining the bedroom without attracting attention.
An increasing faintness here obliged him to lie down on the bed
until it should pass.
Everything was quiet. He hoped they would not discover his absence
from the veranda until he was better; it was deucedly awkward that
he should have had this attack just now--and after he had made so
light of his previous exertions. They would think him an
effeminate fraud, these two bright, active women and that alert,
energetic man. A faint color came into his cheek at the idea, and
an uneasy sense that he had been in some way foolishly imprudent
about his health. Again, they might be alarmed at missing him from
the veranda; perhaps he had better have remained there; perhaps he
ought to tell them that he had concluded to take their advice and
lie down. He tried to rise, but the deep blue chasm before the
window seemed to be swelling up to meet him, the bed slowly sinking
into its oblivious profundity. He knew no more.
He came to with the smell and taste of some powerful volatile
spirit, and the vague vision of Mr. Bradley still standing at the
window of the mill and vibrating with the machinery; this changed
presently to a pleasant lassitude and lazy curiosity as he
perceived Mr. Bradley smile and apparently slip from the window of
the mill to his bedside. "You're all right now," said Bradley,
He was feeling Mainwaring's pulse. Had he really been ill and was
Bradley a doctor?
Bradley evidently saw what was passing in his mind. "Don't be
alarmed," he said gayly. "I'm not a doctor, but I practise a
little medicine and surgery on account of the men at the mill, and
accidents, you know. You're all right now; you've lost a little
blood: but in a couple of weeks in this air we'll have that
tubercle healed, and you'll be as right as a trivet."
"In a couple of weeks!" echoed Mainwaring, in faint astonishment.
"Why, I leave here to-morrow."
"You'll do nothing of the kind" said Mrs. Bradley, with smiling
peremptoriness, suddenly slipping out from behind her husband.
"Everything is all perfectly arranged. Jim has sent off messengers
to your friends, so that if you can't come to them, they can come
to you. You see you can't help yourself! If you WILL walk fifteen
miles with such lungs, and then frighten people to death, you must
abide by the consequences."
"You see the old lady has fixed you," said Bradley, smiling; "and
she's the master here. Come, Mainwaring, you can send any other
message you like, and have who and what you want here; but HERE you
must stop for a while."
"But did I frighten you really?" stammered Mainwaring, faintly, to
"Frighten us!" said Mrs. Bradley. "Well, look there!"
She pointed to the window, which commanded a view of the veranda.
Miss Macy had dropped into the vacant chair, with her little feet
stretched out before her, her cheeks burning with heat and fire,
her eyes partly closed, her straw hat hanging by a ribbon round her
neck, her brown hair clinging to her ears and forehead in damp
tendrils, and an enormous palm-leaf fan in each hand violently
playing upon this charming picture of exhaustion and abandonment.
"She came tearing down to the mill, bare-backed on our half-broken
mustang, about half an hour ago, to call me 'to help you,'"
explained Bradley. "Heaven knows how she managed to do it!"
The medication of the woods was not overestimated by Bradley.
There was surely some occult healing property in that vast
reservoir of balmy and resinous odors over which The Lookout
beetled and clung, and from which at times the pure exhalations of
the terraced valley seemed to rise. Under its remedial influence
and a conscientious adherence to the rules of absolute rest and
repose laid down for him, Mainwaring had no return of the
hemorrhage. The nearest professional medical authority, hastily
summoned, saw no reason for changing or for supplementing Bradley's
intelligent and simple treatment, although astounded that the
patient had been under no more radical or systematic cure than
travel and exercise. The women especially were amazed that
Mainwaring had taken "nothing for it," in their habitual experience
of an unfettered pill-and-elixir-consuming democracy. In their
knowledge of the thousand "panaceas" that filled the shelves of the
general store, this singular abstention of their guest seemed to
indicate a national peculiarity.
His bed was moved beside the low window, from which he could not
only view the veranda but converse at times with its occupants, and
even listen to the book which Miss Macy, seated without, read aloud
to him. In the evening Bradley would linger by his couch until
late, beguiling the tedium of his convalescence with characteristic
stories and information which he thought might please the invalid.
For Mainwaring, who had been early struck with Bradley's ready and
cultivated intelligence, ended by shyly avoiding the discussion of
more serious topics, partly because Bradley impressed him with a
suspicion of his own inferiority, and partly because Mainwaring
questioned the taste of Bradley's apparent exhibition of his
manifest superiority. He learned accidentally that this mill-owner
and backwoodsman was a college-bred man; but the practical
application of that education to the ordinary affairs of life was
new to the young Englishman's traditions, and grated a little
harshly on his feelings. He would have been quite content if
Bradley had, like himself and fellows he knew, undervalued his
training, and kept his gifts conservatively impractical. The
knowledge also that his host's education naturally came from some
provincial institution unlike Oxford and Cambridge may have
unconsciously affected his general estimate. I say unconsciously,
for his strict conscientiousness would have rejected any such
Another trifle annoyed him. He could not help noticing also that
although Bradley's manner and sympathy were confidential and almost
brotherly, he never made any allusion to Mainwaring's own family or
connections, and, in fact, gave no indication of what he believed
was the national curiosity in regard to strangers. Somewhat
embarrassed by this indifference, Mainwaring made the occasion of
writing some letters home an opportunity for laughingly alluding to
the fact that he had made his mother and his sisters fully aware of
the great debt they owed the household of The Lookout.
"They'll probably all send you a round robin of thanks, except,
perhaps, my next brother, Bob."
Bradley contented himself with a gesture of general deprecation,
and did not ask WHY Mainwaring's young brother should contemplate
his death with satisfaction. Nevertheless, some time afterwards
Miss Macy remarked that it seemed hard that the happiness of one
member of a family should depend upon a calamity to another. "As
for instance?" asked Mainwaring, who had already forgotten the
circumstance. "Why, if you had died and your younger brother
succeeded to the baronetcy, and become Sir Robert Mainwaring,"
responded Miss Macy, with precision. This was the first and only
allusion to his family and prospective rank. On the other hand, he
had--through naive and boyish inquiries, which seemed to amuse his
entertainers--acquired, as he believed, a full knowledge of the
history and antecedents of the Bradley household. He knew how
Bradley had brought his young wife and her cousin to California
and abandoned a lucrative law practice in San Francisco to take
possession of this mountain mill and woodland, which he had
acquired through some professional service.
"Then you are a barrister really?" said Mainwaring, gravely.
Bradley laughed. "I'm afraid I've had more practice--though not as
lucrative a one--as surgeon or doctor."
"But you're regularly on the rolls, you know; you're entered as
Counsel, and all that sort of thing?" continued Mainwaring, with
"Well, yes," replied Bradley, much amused. "I'm afraid I must
plead guilty to that."
"It's not a bad sort of thing," said Mainwaring, naively, ignoring
Bradley's amusement. "I've got a cousin who's gone in for the law.
Got out of the army to do it--too. He's a sharp fellow."
"Then you DO allow a man to try many trades--over there," said Miss
"Yes, sometimes," said Mainwaring, graciously, but by no means
certain that the case was at all analogous.
Nevertheless, as if relieved of certain doubts of the conventional
quality of his host's attainments, he now gave himself up to a very
hearty and honest admiration of Bradley. "You know it's awfully
kind of him to talk to a fellow like me who just pulled through,
and never got any prizes at Oxford, and don't understand the half
of these things," he remarked confidentially to Mrs. Bradley. "He
knows more about the things we used to go in for at Oxford than
lots of our men, and he's never been there. He's uncommonly
"Jim was always very brilliant," returned Mrs. Bradley,
indifferently, and with more than even conventionally polite wifely
deprecation; "I wish he were more practical."
"Practical! Oh, I say, Mrs. Bradley! Why, a fellow that can go in
among a lot of workmen and tell them just what to do--an all-round
chap that can be independent of his valet, his doctor, and his--
banker! By Jove--THAT'S practical!"
"I mean," said Mrs. Bradley, coldly, "that there are some things
that a gentleman ought not to be practical about nor independent
of. Mr. Bradley would have done better to have used his talents in
some more legitimate and established way."
Mainwaring looked at her in genuine surprise. To his inexperienced
observation Bradley's intelligent energy and, above all, his
originality, ought to have been priceless in the eyes of his wife--
the American female of his species. He felt that slight shock
which most loyal or logical men feel when first brought face to
face with the easy disloyalty and incomprehensible logic of the
feminine affections. Here was a fellow, by Jove, that any woman
ought to be proud of, and--and--he stopped blankly. He wondered if
Miss Macy sympathized with her cousin.
Howbeit, this did not affect the charm of their idyllic life at The
Lookout. The precipice over which they hung was as charming as
ever in its poetic illusions of space and depth and color; the
isolation of their comfortable existence in the tasteful yet
audacious habitation, the pleasant routine of daily tasks and
amusements, all tended to make the enforced quiet and inaction of
his convalescence a lazy recreation. He was really improving; more
than that, he was conscious of a certain satisfaction in this
passive observation of novelty that was healthier and perhaps TRUER
than his previous passion for adventure and that febrile desire for
change and excitement which he now felt was a part of his disease.
Nor were incident and variety entirely absent from this tranquil
experience. He was one day astonished at being presented by
Bradley with copies of the latest English newspapers, procured from
Sacramento, and he equally astonished his host, after profusely
thanking him, by only listlessly glancing at their columns. He
estopped a proposed visit from one of his influential countrymen;
in the absence of his fair entertainers at their domestic duties,
he extracted infinite satisfaction from Foo-Yup, the Chinese
servant, who was particularly detached for his service. From his
invalid coign of vantage at the window he was observant of all that
passed upon the veranda, that al-fresco audience-room of The
Lookout, and he was good-humoredly conscious that a great many
eccentric and peculiar visitors were invariably dragged thither by
Miss Macy, and goaded into characteristic exhibition within sight
and hearing of her guest, with a too evident view, under the
ostentatious excuse of extending his knowledge of national
character or mischievously shocking him.
"When you are strong enough to stand Captain Gashweiler's opinions
of the Established Church and Chinamen," said Miss Macy, after one
of these revelations, "I'll get Jim to bring him here, for really he
swears so outrageously that even in the broadest interests of
international understanding and good-will neither Mrs. Bradley nor
myself could be present."
On another occasion she provokingly lingered before his window for
a moment with a rifle slung jauntily over her shoulder. "If you
hear a shot or two don't excite yourself, and believe we're having
a lynching case in the woods. It will be only me. There's some
creature--confess, you expected me to say 'critter'--hanging round
the barn. It may be a bear. Good-by." She missed the creature,--
which happened to be really a bear,--much to Mainwaring's illogical
satisfaction. "I wonder why," he reflected, with vague uneasiness,
"she doesn't leave all that sort of thing to girls like that tow-
headed girl at the blacksmith's."
It chanced, however, that this blacksmith's tow-headed daughter,
who, it may be incidentally remarked, had the additional
eccentricities of large black eyes and large white teeth, came to
the fore in quite another fashion. Shortly after this, Mainwaring
being able to leave his room and join the family board, Mrs.
Bradley found it necessary to enlarge her domestic service, and
arranged with her nearest neighbor, the blacksmith, to allow his
daughter to come to The Lookout for a few days to "do the chores"
and assist in the housekeeping, as she had on previous occasions.
The day of her advent Bradley entered Mainwaring's room, and,
closing the door mysteriously, fixed his blue eyes, kindling with
mischief, on the young Englishman.
"You are aware, my dear boy," he began with affected gravity, "that
you are now living in a land of liberty, where mere artificial
distinctions are not known, and where Freedom from her mountain
heights generally levels all social positions. I think you have
graciously admitted that fact."
"I know I've been taking a tremendous lot of freedom with you and
yours, old man, and it's a deuced shame," interrupted Mainwaring,
with a faint smile.
"And that nowhere," continued Bradley, with immovable features,
"does equality exist as perfectly as above yonder unfathomable
abyss, where you have also, doubtless, observed the American eagle
proudly soars and screams defiance."
"Then that was the fellow that kept me awake this morning, and made
me wonder if I was strong enough to hold a gun again."
"That wouldn't have settled the matter," continued Bradley,
imperturbably. "The case is simply this: Miss Minty Sharpe, that
blacksmith's daughter, has once or twice consented, for a slight
emolument, to assist in our domestic service for a day or two, and
she comes back again to-day. Now, under the aegis of that noble
bird whom your national instincts tempt you to destroy, she has on
all previous occasions taken her meals with us, at the same table,
on terms of perfect equality. She will naturally expect to do the
same now. Mrs. Bradley thought it proper, therefore, to warn you,
that, in case your health was not quite equal to this democratic
simplicity, you could still dine in your room."
"It would be great fun--if Miss Sharpe won't object to my
"But it must not be 'great fun,'" returned Bradley, more seriously;
"for Miss Minty's perception of humor is probably as keen as yours,
and she would be quick to notice it. And, so far from having any
objection to you, I am inclined to think that we owe her consent to
come to her desire of making your acquaintance."
"She will find my conduct most exemplary," said Mainwaring,
"Let us hope so," concluded Bradley, with unabated gravity. "And,
now that you have consented, let me add from my own experience that
Miss Minty's lemon-pies alone are worthy of any concession.
The dinner-hour came. Mainwaring, a little pale and interesting,
leaning on the arm of Bradley, crossed the hall, and for the first
time entered the dining-room of the house where he had lodged for
three weeks. It was a bright, cheerful apartment, giving upon the
laurels of the rocky hillside, and permeated, like the rest of the
house, with the wholesome spice of the valley--an odor that, in its
pure desiccating property, seemed to obliterate all flavor of alien
human habitation, and even to dominate and etherealize the
appetizing smell of the viands before them. The bare, shining,
planed, boarded walls appeared to resent any decoration that might
have savored of dust, decay, or moisture. The four large windows
and long, open door, set in scanty strips of the plainest spotless
muslin, framed in themselves pictures of woods and rock and sky of
limitless depth, color, and distance, that made all other adornment
impertinent. Nature, invading the room at every opening, had
banished Art from those neutral walls.
"It's like a picnic, with comfort," said Mainwaring, glancing round
him with boyish appreciation. Miss Minty was not yet there; the
Chinaman was alone in attendance. Mainwaring could not help
whispering, half mischievously, to Louise, "You draw the line at
Chinamen, I suppose?"
"WE don't, but HE does," answered the young girl. "He considers us
his social inferiors. But--hush!"
Minty Sharpe had just entered the room, and was advancing with
smiling confidence towards the table. Mainwaring was a little
startled; he had seen Minty in a holland sun-bonnet and turned up
skirt crossing the veranda, only a moment before; in the brief
instant between the dishing-up of dinner and its actual announcement
she had managed to change her dress, put on a clean collar, cuffs,
and a large jet brooch, and apply some odorous unguent to her
rebellious hair. Her face, guiltless of powder or cold cream, was
still shining with the healthy perspiration of her last labors as
she promptly took the vacant chair beside Mainwaring.
"Don't mind me, folks," she said cheerfully, resting her plump
elbow on the table, and addressing the company generally, but
gazing with frank curiosity into the face of the young man at her
side. "It was a keen jump, I tell yer, to get out of my old duds
inter these, and look decent inside o' five minutes. But I reckon
I ain't kept yer waitin' long--least of all this yer sick stranger.
But you're looking pearter than you did. You're wonderin' like ez
not where I ever saw ye before?" she continued, laughing. "Well,
I'll tell you. Last week! I'd kem over yer on a chance of seein'
Jenny Bradley, and while I was meanderin' down the veranda I saw
you lyin' back in your chair by the window drowned in sleep, like a
baby. Lordy! I mout hev won a pair o' gloves, but I reckoned you
were Loo's game, and not mine."
The slightly constrained laugh which went round the table after
Miss Minty's speech was due quite as much to the faint flush that
had accented Mainwaring's own smile as to the embarrassing remark
itself. Mrs. Bradley and Miss Macy exchanged rapid glances.
Bradley, who alone retained his composure, with a slight flicker of
amusement in the corner of his eye and nostril, said quickly: "You
see, Mainwaring, how nature stands ready to help your convalescence
at every turn. If Miss Minty had only followed up her healing
opportunity, your cure would have been complete."
"Ye mout hev left some o' that pretty talk for HIM to say," said
Minty, taking up her knife and fork with a slight shrug, "and you
needn't call me MISS Minty either, jest because there's kempeny
"I hope you won't look upon me as company, Minty, or I shall be
obliged to call you 'Miss' too," said Mainwaring, unexpectedly
regaining his usual frankness.
Bradley's face brightened; Miss Minty raised her black eyes from
her plate with still broader appreciation.
"There's nothin' mean about that," she said, showing her white
teeth. "Well, what's YOUR first name?"
"Not as pretty as yours, I'm afraid. It's Frank."
"No it ain't, it's Francis! You reckon to be Sir Francis some
day," she said gravely. "You can't play any Frank off on me. You
wouldn't do it on HER," she added, indicating Louise with her
A momentous silence followed. The particular form that Minty's
vulgarity had taken had not been anticipated by the two other
women. They had, not unreasonably, expected some original audacity
or gaucherie from the blacksmith's daughter, which might astonish
yet amuse their guest, and condone for the situation forced upon
them. But they were not prepared for a playfulness that involved
themselves in a ridiculous indiscretion. Mrs. Bradley's eyes
sought her husband's meaningly; Louise's pretty mouth hardened.
Luckily the cheerful cause of it suddenly jumped up from the table,
and saying that the stranger was starving, insisted upon bringing a
dish from the other side and helping him herself plentifully.
Mainwaring rose gallantly to take the dish from her hand, a slight
scuffle ensued which ended in the young man being forced down in
his chair by the pressure of Minty's strong plump hand on his
shoulder. "There," she said, "ye kin mind your dinner now, and I
reckon we'll give the others a chance to chip into the conversation,"
and at once applied herself to the plate before her.
The conversation presently became general, with the exception that
Minty, more or less engrossed by professional anxiety in the
quality of the dinner and occasional hurried visits to the kitchen,
briefly answered the few polite remarks which Mainwaring felt
called upon to address to her. Nevertheless, he was conscious,
malgre her rallying allusions to Miss Macy, that he felt none of
the vague yet half pleasant anxiety with which Louise was beginning
to inspire him. He felt at ease in Minty's presence, and believed,
rightly or wrongly, that she understood him as well as he
understood her. And there were certainly points in common between
his two hostesses and their humbler though proud dependent. The
social evolution of Mrs. Bradley and Louise Macy from some previous
Minty was neither remote nor complete; the self-sufficient
independence, ease, and quiet self-assertion were alike in each.
The superior position was still too recent and accidental for
either to resent or criticise qualities that were common to both.
At least, this was what he thought when not abandoning himself to
the gratification of a convalescent appetite; to the presence of
two pretty women, the sympathy of a genial friend, the healthy
intoxication of the white sunlight that glanced upon the pine
walls, the views that mirrored themselves in the open windows, and
the pure atmosphere in which The Lookout seemed to swim. Wandering
breezes of balm and spice lightly stirred the flowers on the table,
and seemed to fan his hair and forehead with softly healing breath.
Looking up in an interval of silence, he caught Bradley's gray eyes
fixed upon him with a subdued light of amusement and affection, as
of an elder brother regarding a schoolboy's boisterous appetite at
some feast. Mainwaring laid down his knife and fork with a
laughing color, touched equally by Bradley's fraternal kindliness
and the consciousness of his gastronomical powers.
"Hang it, Bradley; look here! I know my appetite's disgraceful,
but what can a fellow do? In such air, with such viands and such
company! It's like the bees getting drunk on Hybla and Hymettus,
you know. I'm not responsible!"
"It's the first square meal I believe you've really eaten in six
months," said Bradley, gravely. "I can't understand why your
doctor allowed you to run down so dreadfully."
"I reckon you ain't as keerful of yourself, you Britishers, ez us,"
said Minty. "Lordy! Why there's Pop invests in more patent
medicines in one day than you have in two weeks, and he'd make two
of you. Mebbe your folks don't look after you enough."
"I'm a splendid advertisement of what YOUR care and your medicines
have done," said Mainwaring, gratefully, to Mrs. Bradley; "and if
you ever want to set up a 'Cure' here, I'm ready with a ten-page
"Have a care, Mainwaring," said Bradley, laughing, "that the ladies
don't take you at your word. Louise and Jenny have been doing
their best for the last year to get me to accept a flattering offer
from a Sacramento firm to put up a hotel for tourists on the site
of The Lookout. Why, I believe that they have already secretly in
their hearts concocted a flaming prospectus of 'Unrivalled Scenery'
and 'Health-giving Air,' and are looking forward to Saturday night
hops on the piazza."
"Have you really, though?" said Mainwaring, gazing from the one to
"We should certainly see more company than we do now, and feel a
little less out of the world," said Louise, candidly. "There are
no neighbors here--I mean the people at the Summit are not," she
added, with a slight glance towards Minty.
"And Mr. Bradley would find it more profitable--not to say more
suitable to a man of his position--than this wretched saw-mill and
timber business," said Mrs. Bradley, decidedly.
Mainwaring was astounded; was it possible they considered it more
dignified for a lawyer to keep a hotel than a saw-mill? Bradley,
as if answering what was passing in his mind, said mischievously,
"I'm not sure, exactly, what my position is, my dear, and I'm
afraid I've declined the hotel on business principles. But, by the
way, Mainwaring, I found a letter at the mill this morning from Mr.
Richardson. He is about to pay us the distinguished honor of
visiting The Lookout, solely on your account, my dear fellow."
"But I wrote him that I was much better, and it wasn't necessary
for him to come," said Mainwaring.
"He makes an excuse of some law business with me. I suppose he
considers the mere fact of his taking the trouble to come here, all
the way from San Francisco, a sufficient honor to justify any
absence of formal invitation," said Bradley, smiling.
"But he's only--I mean he's my father's banker," said Mainwaring,
correcting himself, "and--you don't keep a hotel."
"Not yet," returned Bradley, with a mischievous glance at the two
women, "but The Lookout is elastic, and I dare say we can manage to
put him up."
A silence ensued. It seemed as if some shadow, or momentary
darkening of the brilliant atmosphere; some film across the mirror-
like expanse of the open windows, or misty dimming of their
wholesome light, had arisen to their elevation. Mainwaring felt
that he was looking forward with unreasoning indignation and
uneasiness to this impending interruption of their idyllic life;
Mrs. Bradley and Louise, who had become a little more constrained
and formal under Minty's freedom, were less sympathetic; even the
irrepressible Minty appeared absorbed in the responsibilities of
Bradley alone preserved his usual patient good-humor. "We'll take
our coffee on the veranda, and the ladies will join us by and by,
Mainwaring; besides, I don't know that I can allow you, as an
invalid, to go entirely through Minty's bountiful menu at present.
You shall have the sweets another time."
When they were alone on the veranda, he said, between the puffs of
his black brier-wood pipe,--a pet aversion of Mrs. Bradley,--"I
wonder how Richardson will accept Minty!"
"If I can, I think he MUST," returned Mainwaring, dryly. "By Jove,
it will be great fun to see him; but"--he stopped and hesitated--"I
don't know about the ladies. I don't think, you know, that they'll
stand Minty again before another stranger."
Bradley glanced quickly at the young man; their eyes met, and they
both joined in a superior and, I fear, disloyal smile. After a
pause Bradley, as if in a spirit of further confidence, took his
pipe from his mouth and pointed to the blue abyss before them.
"Look at that profundity, Mainwaring, and think of it ever being
bullied and overawed by a long veranda-load of gaping, patronizing
tourists, and the idiotic flirting females of their species. Think
of a lot of over-dressed creatures flouting those severe outlines
and deep-toned distances with frippery and garishness. You know
how you have been lulled to sleep by that delicious, indefinite,
far-off murmur of the canyon at night--think of it being broken by
a crazy waltz or a monotonous german--by the clatter of waiters and
the pop of champagne corks. And yet, by thunder, those women are
capable of liking both and finding no discord in them!"
"Dancing ain't half bad, you know," said Mainwaring, conscientiously,
"if a chap's got the wind to do it; and all Americans, especially
the women, dance better than we do. But I say, Bradley, to hear you
talk, a fellow wouldn't suspect you were as big a Vandal as anybody,
with a beastly, howling saw-mill in the heart of the primeval
forest. By Jove, you quite bowled me over that first day we met,
when you popped your head out of that delirium tremens shaking mill,
like the very genius of destructive improvement."
"But that was FIGHTING Nature, not patronizing her; and it's a
business that pays. That reminds me that I must go back to it,"
said Bradley, rising and knocking the ashes from his pipe.
"Not AFTER dinner, surely!" said Mainwaring, in surprise. "Come
now, that's too much like the bolting Yankee of the travellers'
"There's a heavy run to get through tonight. We're working against
time," returned Bradley. Even while speaking he had vanished
within the house, returned quickly--having replaced his dark suit
by jean trousers tucked in heavy boots, and a red flannel shirt
over his starched white one--and, nodding gayly to Mainwaring,
stepped from the lower end of the veranda. "The beggar actually
looks pleased to go," said Mainwaring to himself in wonderment.
"Oh! Jim," said Mrs. Bradley, appearing at the door.
"Yes," said Bradley, faintly, from the bushes.
"Minty's ready. You might take her home."
"All right. I'll wait."
"I hope I haven't frightened Miss Sharpe away," said Mainwaring.
"She isn't going, surely?"
"Only to get some better clothes, on account of company. I'm
afraid you are giving her a good deal of trouble, Mr. Mainwaring,"
said Mrs. Bradley, laughing.
"She wished me to say good-by to you for her, as she couldn't come
on the veranda in her old shawl and sun-bonnet," added Louise, who
had joined them. "What do you really think of her, Mr. Mainwaring?
I call her quite pretty, at times. Don't you?"
Mainwaring knew not what to say. He could not understand why they
could have any special interest in the girl, or care to know what
he, a perfect stranger, thought of her. He avoided a direct reply,
however, by playfully wondering how Mrs. Bradley could subject her
husband to Miss Minty's undivided fascinations.
"Oh, Jim always takes her home--if it's in the evening. He gets
along with these people better than we do," returned Mrs. Bradley,
dryly. "But," she added, with a return of her piquant Quaker-like
coquettishness, "Jim says we are to devote ourselves to you to-
night--in retaliation, I suppose. We are to amuse you, and not let
you get excited; and you are to be sent to bed early."
It is to be feared that these latter wise precautions--invaluable
for all defenceless and enfeebled humanity--were not carried out:
and it was late when Mainwaring eventually retired, with brightened
eyes and a somewhat accelerated pulse. For the ladies, who had
quite regained that kindly equanimity which Minty had rudely
interrupted, had also added a delicate and confidential sympathy in
their relations with Mainwaring,--as of people who had suffered in
common,--and he experienced these tender attentions at their hands
which any two women are emboldened by each other's saving presence
to show any single member of our sex. Indeed, he hardly knew
if his satisfaction was the more complete when Mrs. Bradley,
withdrawing for a few moments, left him alone on the veranda with
Louise and the vast, omnipotent night.
For a while they sat silent, in the midst of the profound and
measureless calm. Looking down upon the dim moonlit abyss at their
feet, they themselves seemed a part of this night that arched above
it; the half-risen moon appeared to linger long enough at their
side to enwrap and suffuse them with its glory; a few bright stars
quietly ringed themselves around them, and looked wonderingly into
the level of their own shining eyes. For some vague yearning to
humanity seemed to draw this dark and passionless void towards
them. The vast protecting maternity of Nature leant hushed and
breathless over the solitude. Warm currents of air rose
occasionally from the valley, which one might have believed were
sighs from its full and overflowing breast, or a grateful coolness
swept their cheeks and hair when the tranquil heights around them
were moved to slowly respond. Odors from invisible bay and laurel
sometimes filled the air; the incense of some rare and remoter
cultivated meadow beyond their ken, or the strong germinating
breath of leagues of wild oats, that had yellowed the upland by
day. In the silence and shadow, their voices took upon themselves,
almost without their volition, a far-off confidential murmur, with
intervals of meaning silence--rather as if their thoughts had
spoken for themselves, and they had stopped wonderingly to listen.
They talked at first vaguely to this discreet audience of space and
darkness, and then, growing bolder, spoke to each other and of
themselves. Invested by the infinite gravity of nature, they had
no fear of human ridicule to restrain their youthful conceit or the
extravagance of their unimportant confessions. They talked of
their tastes, of their habits, of their friends and acquaintances.
They settled some points of doctrine, duty, and etiquette, with the
sweet seriousness of youth and its all-powerful convictions. The
listening vines would have recognized no flirtation or love-making
in their animated but important confidences; yet when Mrs. Bradley
reappeared to warn the invalid that it was time to seek his couch,
they both coughed slightly in the nervous consciousness of some
unaccustomed quality in their voices, and a sense of interruption
far beyond their own or the innocent intruder's ken.
"Well?" said Mrs. Bradley, in the sitting-room as Mainwaring's
steps retreated down the passage to his room.
"Well," said Louise with a slight yawn, leaning her pretty
shoulders languidly against the door-post, as she shaded her
moonlight-accustomed eyes from the vulgar brilliancy of Mrs.
Bradley's bedroom candle. "Well--oh, he talked a great deal about
'his people' as he called them, and I talked about us. He's very
nice. You know in some things he's really like a boy."
"He looks much better."
"Yes; but he is far from strong yet."
Meantime, Mainwaring had no other confidant of his impressions than
his own thoughts. Mingled with his exaltation, which was the more
seductive that it had no well-defined foundation for existing, and
implied no future responsibility, was a recurrence of his uneasiness
at the impending visit of Richardson the next day. Strangely enough,
it had increased under the stimulus of the evening. Just as he was
really getting on with the family, he felt sure that this visitor
would import some foreign element into their familiarity, as Minty
had done. It was possible they would not like him: now he
remembered there was really something ostentatiously British and
insular about this Richardson--something they would likely resent.
Why couldn't this fellow have come later--or even before? Before
what? But here he fell asleep, and almost instantly slipped from
this veranda in the Sierras, six thousand miles away, to an ancient
terrace, overgrown with moss and tradition, that overlooked the
sedate glory of an English park. Here he found himself, restricted
painfully by his inconsistent night-clothes, endeavoring to impress
his mother and sisters with the singular virtues and excellences of
his American host and hostesses--virtues and excellences that he
himself was beginning to feel conscious had become more or less
apocryphal in that atmosphere. He heard his mother's voice saying
severely, "When you learn, Francis, to respect the opinions and
prejudices of your family enough to prevent your appearing before
them in this uncivilized aboriginal costume, we will listen to what
you have to say of the friends whose habits you seem to have
adopted;" and he was frantically indignant that his efforts to
convince them that his negligence was a personal oversight, and not
a Californian custom, were utterly futile. But even then this
vision was brushed away by the bewildering sweep of Louise's pretty
skirt across the dreamy picture, and her delicate features and
softly-fringed eyes remained the last to slip from his fading
The moon rose higher and higher above the sleeping house and softly
breathing canyon. There was nothing to mar the idyllic repose of
the landscape; only the growing light of the last two hours had
brought out in the far eastern horizon a dim white peak, that
gleamed faintly among the stars, like a bridal couch spread between
the hills fringed with fading nuptial torches. No one would have
believed that behind that impenetrable shadow to the west, in the
heart of the forest, the throbbing saw-mill of James Bradley was
even at that moment eating its destructive way through the
conserved growth of Nature and centuries, and that the refined
proprietor of house and greenwood, with the glow of his furnace
fires on his red shirt, and his alert, intelligent eyes, was the
genie of that devastation, and the toiling leader of the shadowy,
toiling figures around him.
Amid the beauty of the most uncultivated and untrodden wilderness
there are certain localities where the meaner and mere common
processes of Nature take upon themselves a degrading likeness to
the slovenly, wasteful, and improvident processes of man. The
unrecorded land-slip disintegrating a whole hillside will not only
lay bare the delicate framework of strata and deposit to the vulgar
eye, but hurl into the valley a debris so monstrous and unlovely as
to shame even the hideous ruins left by dynamite, hydraulic, or
pick and shovel; an overflown and forgotten woodland torrent will
leave in some remote hollow a disturbed and ungraceful chaos of
inextricable logs, branches, rock, and soil that will rival the
unsavory details of some wrecked or abandoned settlement. Of
lesser magnitude and importance, there are certain natural dust-
heaps, sinks, and cesspools, where the elements have collected the
cast-off, broken, and frayed disjecta of wood and field--the
sweepings of the sylvan household. It was remarkable that Nature,
so kindly considerate of mere human ruins, made no attempt to cover
up or disguise these monuments of her own mortality: no grass grew
over the unsightly landslides, no moss or ivy clothed the stripped
and bleached skeletons of overthrown branch and tree; the dead
leaves and withered husks rotted in their open grave uncrossed by
vine and creeper. Even the animals, except the lower organizations,
shunned those haunts of decay and ruin.
It was scarcely a hundred yards from one of those dreary
receptacles that Mr. Bradley had taken leave of Miss Minty Sharpe.
The cabin occupied by her father, herself, and a younger brother
stood, in fact, on the very edge of the little hollow, which was
partly filled with decayed wood, leaves, and displacements of the
crumbling bank, with the coal dust and ashes which Mr. Sharpe had
added from his forge, that stood a few paces distant at the corner
of a cross-road. The occupants of the cabin had also contributed
to the hollow the refuse of their household in broken boxes,
earthenware, tin cans, and cast-off clothing; and it is not
improbable that the site of the cabin was chosen with reference to
this convenient disposal of useless and encumbering impedimenta.
It was true that the locality offered little choice in the way of
beauty. An outcrop of brown granite--a portent of higher
altitudes--extended a quarter of a mile from the nearest fringe of
dwarf laurel and "brush" in one direction; in the other an advanced
file of Bradley's woods had suffered from some long-forgotten fire,
and still raised its blackened masts and broken stumps over the
scorched and arid soil, swept of older underbrush and verdure. On
the other side of the road a dark ravine, tangled with briers and
haunted at night by owls and wild cats, struggled wearily on, until
blundering at last upon the edge of the Great Canyon, it slipped
and lost itself forever in a single furrow of those mighty flanks.
When Bradley had once asked Sharpe why he had not built his house
in the ravine, the blacksmith had replied: "That until the Lord had
appointed his time, he reckoned to keep his head above ground and
the foundations thereof." Howbeit, the ravine, or the "run," as it
was locally known, was Minty's only Saturday afternoon resort for
recreation or berries. "It was," she had explained, "pow'ful
soothin', and solitary."
She entered the house--a rude, square building of unpainted boards--
containing a sitting-room, a kitchen, and two bedrooms. A glance
at these rooms, which were plainly furnished, and whose canvas-
colored walls were adorned with gorgeous agricultural implement
circulars, patent medicine calendars, with polytinted chromos and
cheaply-illuminated Scriptural texts, showed her that a certain
neatness and order had been preserved during her absence; and,
finding the house empty, she crossed the barren and blackened
intervening space between the back door and her father's forge, and
entered the open shed. The light was fading from the sky; but the
glow of the forge lit up the dusty road before it, and accented the
blackness of the rocky ledge beyond. A small curly-headed boy,
bearing a singular likeness to a smudged and blackened crayon
drawing of Minty, was mechanically blowing the bellows and obviously
intent upon something else; while her father--a powerfully built
man, with a quaintly dissatisfied expression of countenance--was
with equal want of interest mechanically hammering at a horseshoe.
Without noticing Minty's advent, he lazily broke into a querulous
drawling chant of some vague religious character:
"O tur-ren, sinner; tur-ren.
For the Lord bids you turn--ah!
O tur-ren, sinner; tur-ren.
Why will you die?"
The musical accent adapted itself to the monotonous fall of the
sledge-hammer; and at every repetition of the word "turn" he suited
the action to the word by turning the horseshoe with the iron in
his left hand. A slight grunt at the end of every stroke, and the
simultaneous repetition of "turn" seemed to offer him amusement and
relief. Minty, without speaking, crossed the shop, and administered
a sound box on her brother's ear. "Take that, and let me ketch you
agen layin' low when my back's turned, to put on your store pants."
"The others had fetched away in the laig," said the boy, opposing a
knee and elbow at acute angle to further attack.
"You jest get and change 'em," said Minty.
The sudden collapse of the bellows broke in upon the soothing
refrain of Mr. Sharpe, and caused him to turn also.
"It's Minty," he said, replacing the horseshoe on the coals, and
setting his powerful arms and the sledge on the anvil with an
exaggerated expression of weariness.
"Yes; it's me," said Minty, "and Creation knows it's time I DID
come, to keep that boy from ruinin' us with his airs and conceits."
"Did ye bring over any o' that fever mixter?"
"No. Bradley sez you're loading yerself up with so much o' that
bitter bark--kuinine they call it over there--that you'll lift the
ruff off your head next. He allows ye ain't got no ague; it's jest
wind and dyspepsy. He sez yer's strong ez a hoss."
"Bradley," said Sharpe, laying aside his sledge with an aggrieved
manner which was, however, as complacent as his fatigue and
discontent, "ez one of them nat'ral born finikin skunks ez I
despise. I reckon he began to give p'ints to his parents when he
was about knee-high to Richelieu there. He's on them confidential
terms with hisself and the Almighty that he reckons he ken run a
saw-mill and a man's insides at the same time with one hand tied
behind him. And this finikin is up to his conceit: he wanted to
tell me that that yer handy brush dump outside our shanty was
unhealthy. Give a man with frills like that his own way and he'd
be a sprinkling odor cologne and peppermint all over the country."
"He set your shoulder as well as any doctor," said Minty.
"That's bone-settin', and a nat'ral gift," returned Sharpe, as
triumphantly as his habitual depression would admit; "it ain't
conceit and finikin got out o' books! Well," he added, after a
pause, "wot's happened?"
Minty's face slightly changed. "Nothin'; I kem back to get some
things," she said shortly, moving away.
"And ye saw HIM?"
"Ye-e-s," drawled Minty, carelessly, still retreating.
"Bixby was along here about noon. He says the stranger was suthin'
high and mighty in his own country, and them 'Frisco millionaires
are quite sweet on him. Where are ye goin'?"
"In the house."
"Well, look yer, Minty. Now that you're here, ye might get up a
batch o' hot biscuit for supper. Dinner was that promiscous and
experimental to-day, along o' Richelieu's nat'ral foolin', that I
think I could git outside of a little suthin' now, if only to prop
up a kind of innard sinkin' that takes me. Ye ken tell me the news
Later, however, when Mr. Sharpe had quitted his forge for the night
and, seated at his domestic board, was, with a dismal presentiment
of future indigestion, voraciously absorbing his favorite meal of
hot saleratus biscuits swimming in butter, he had apparently
forgotten his curiosity concerning Mainwaring and settled himself
to a complaining chronicle of the day's mishaps. "Nat'rally,
havin' an extra lot o' work on hand and no time for foolin', what
does that ornery Richelieu get up and do this mornin'? Ye know
them ridiklus specimens that he's been chippin' outer that ledge
that the yearth slipped from down the run, and litterin' up the
whole shanty with 'em. Well, darn my skin! if he didn't run a heap
of 'em, mixed up with coal, unbeknowned to me, in the forge, to
make what he called a 'fire essay' of 'em. Nat'rally, I couldn't
get a blessed iron hot, and didn't know what had gone of the fire,
or the coal either, for two hours, till I stopped work and raked
out the coal. That comes from his hangin' round that saw-mill in
the woods, and listenin' to Bradley's high-falutin' talk about
rocks and strata and sich."
"But Bradley don't go a cent on minin', Pop," said Minty. "He sez
the woods is good enough for him; and there's millions to be made
when the railroad comes along, and timber's wanted."
"But until then he's got to keep hisself, to pay wages, and keep
the mill runnin'. Onless it's, ez Bixby says, that he hopes to get
that Englishman to rope in some o' them 'Frisco friends of his to
take a hand. Ye didn't have any o' that kind o' talk, did ye?"
"No; not THAT kind o' talk," said Minty.
"Not THAT kind o' talk!" repeated her father with aggrieved
curiosity, "Wot kind, then?"
"Well," said Minty, lifting her black eyes to her father's; "I
ain't no account, and you ain't no account either. You ain't got
no college education, ain't got no friends in 'Frisco, and ain't
got no high-toned style; I can't play the pianner, jabber French,
nor get French dresses. We ain't got no fancy 'Shallet,' as they
call it, with a first-class view of nothing; but only a shanty on
dry rock. But, afore I'D take advantage of a lazy, gawky boy--for
it ain't anything else, though he's good meanin' enough--that
happened to fall sick in MY house, and coax and cosset him, and
wrap him in white cotton, and mother him, and sister him, and Aunt
Sukey him, and almost dry-nuss him gin'rally, jist to get him sweet
on me and on mine, and take the inside track of others--I'D be an
Injin! And if you'd allow it, Pop, you'd be wuss nor a nigger!"
"Sho!" said her father, kindling with that intense gratification
with which the male receives any intimation of alien feminine
weakness. "It ain't that, Minty, I wanter know!"
"It's jist that, Pop; and I ez good ez let 'em know I seed it. I
ain't a fool, if some folks do drop their eyes and pertend to wipe
the laugh out of their noses with a handkerchief when I let out to
speak. I mayn't be good enough kempany--"
"Look yer, Minty," interrupted the blacksmith, sternly, half rising
from his seat with every trace of his former weakness vanished from
his hardset face; "do you mean to say that they put on airs to ye--
to MY darter?"
"No," said Minty quickly; "the men didn't; and don't you, a man,
mix yourself up with women's meannesses. I ken manage 'em, Pop,
with one hand."
Mr. Sharpe looked at his daughter's flashing black eyes. Perhaps
an uneasy recollection of the late Mrs. Sharpe's remarkable
capacity in that respect checked his further rage.
"No. Wot I was sayin'," resumed Minty, "ez that I mayn't be
thought by others good enough to keep kempany with baronetts ez is
to be--though baronetts mightn't object--but I ain't mean enough to
try to steal away some ole woman's darling boy in England, or snatch
some likely young English girl's big brother outer the family
without sayin' by your leave. How'd you like it if Richelieu was
growed up, and went to sea,--and it would be like his peartness,--
and he fell sick in some foreign land, and some princess or other
skyulged HIM underhand away from us?"
Probably owing to the affair of the specimens, the elder Sharpe did
not seem to regard the possible mesalliance of Richelieu with
extraordinary disfavor. "That boy is conceited enough with hair
ile and fine clothes for anything," he said plaintively. "But
didn't that Louise Macy hev a feller already--that Captain Greyson?
Wot's gone o' him?"
"That's it," said Minty: "he kin go out in the woods and whistle
now. But all the same, she could hitch him in again at any time if
the other stranger kicked over the traces. That's the style over
there at The Lookout. There ain't ez much heart in them two women
put together ez would make a green gal flush up playin' forfeits.
It's all in their breed, Pop. Love ain't going to spile their
appetites and complexions, give 'em nose-bleed, nor put a drop o'
water into their eyes in all their natural born days. That's wot
makes me mad. Ef I thought that Loo cared a bit for that child I
wouldn't mind; I'd just advise her to make him get up and get--pack
his duds out o' camp, and go home and not come back until he had a
written permit from his mother, or the other baronet in office."
"Looks sorter ef some one orter interfere," said the blacksmith,
reflectively. "'Tain't exackly a case for a vigilance committee,
tho' it's agin public morals, this sorter kidnappin' o' strangers.
Looks ez if it might bring the country into discredit in England."
"Well, don't YOU go and interfere and havin' folks say ez my nose
was put out o' jint over there," said Minty, curtly. "There's
another Englishman comin' up from 'Frisco to see him to-morrow. Ef
he ain't scooped up by Jenny Bradley he'll guess there's a nigger
in the fence somewhere. But there, Pop, let it drop. It's a bad
aig, anyway," she concluded, rising from the table, and passing her
hands down her frock and her shapely hips, as if to wipe off
further contamination of the subject. "Where's Richelieu agin?"
"Said he didn't want supper, and like ez not he's gone over to see
that fammerly at the Summit. There's a little girl thar he's
sparkin', about his own age."
"His own age!" said Minty, indignantly. "Why, she's double that,
if she's a day. Well--if he ain't the triflinest, conceitednest
little limb that ever grew! I'd like to know where he got it from--
it wasn't mar's style."
Mr. Sharpe smiled darkly. Richelieu's precocious gallantry
evidently was not considered as gratuitous as his experimental
metallurgy. But as his eyes followed his daughter's wholesome,
Phyllis-like figure, a new idea took possession of him: needless to
say, however, it was in the line of another personal aggrievement,
albeit it took the form of religious reflection.
"It's curous, Minty, wot's foreordained, and wot ain't. Now, yer's
one of them high and mighty fellows, after the Lord, ez comes
meanderin' around here, and drops off--ez fur ez I kin hear--in a
kind o' faint at the first house he kems to, and is taken in and
lodged and sumptuously fed; and, nat'rally, they gets their reward
for it. Now wot's to hev kept that young feller from coming HERE
and droppin' down in my forge, or in this very room, and YOU a
tendin' him, and jist layin' over them folks at The Lookout?"
"Wot's got hold o' ye, Pop? Don't I tell ye he had a letter to Jim
Bradley?" said Minty, quickly, with an angry flash of color in her
"That ain't it," said Sharpe confidently; "it's cos he WALKED.
Nat'rally, you'd think he'd RIDE, being high and mighty, and that's
where, ez the parson will tell ye, wot's merely fi-nite and human
wisdom errs! Ef that feller had ridden, he'd have had to come by
this yer road, and by this yer forge, and stop a spell like any
other. But it was foreordained that he should walk, jest cos it
wasn't generally kalkilated and reckoned on. So, YOU had no show."
For a moment, Minty seemed struck with her father's original
theory. But with a vigorous shake of her shoulders she threw it
off. Her eyes darkened.
"I reckon you ain't thinking, Pop--" she began.
"I was only sayin' it was curous," be rejoined quietly.
Nevertheless, after a pause, he rose, coughed, and going up to the
young girl, as she leaned over the dresser, bent his powerful arm
around her, and, drawing her and the plate she was holding against
his breast, laid his bearded cheek for an instant softly upon her
rebellious head. "It's all right, Minty," he said; "ain't it,
pet?" Minty's eyelids closed gently under the familiar pressure.
"Wot's that in your hair, Minty?" he said tactfully, breaking an
"Bar's grease, father," murmured Minty, in a child's voice--the
grown-up woman, under that magic touch, having lapsed again into
her father's motherless charge of ten years before.
"It's pow'ful soothin', and pretty," said her father.
"I made it myself--do you want some?" asked Minty.
"Not now, girl!" For a moment they slightly rocked each other in
that attitude--the man dexterously, the woman with infinite
tenderness--and then they separated.
Late that night, after Richelieu had returned, and her father
wrestled in his fitful sleep with the remorse of his guilty
indulgence at supper, Minty remained alone in her room, hard at
work, surrounded by the contents of one of her mother's trunks and
the fragments of certain ripped-up and newly-turned dresses. For
Minty had conceived the bold idea of altering one of her mother's
gowns to the fashion of a certain fascinating frock worn by Louise
Macy. It was late when her self-imposed task was completed. With
a nervous trepidation that was novel to her, Minty began to disrobe
herself preparatory to trying on her new creation. The light of a
tallow candle and a large swinging lantern, borrowed from her
father's forge, fell shyly on her milky neck and shoulders, and
shone in her sparkling eyes, as she stood before her largest
mirror--the long glazed door of a kitchen clock which she had
placed upon her chest of drawers. Had poor Minty been content with
the full, free, and goddess-like outlines that it reflected, she
would have been spared her impending disappointment. For, alas!
the dress of her model had been framed upon a symmetrically
attenuated French corset, and the unfortunate Minty's fuller and
ampler curves had under her simple country stays known no more
restraining cincture than knew the Venus of Milo. The alteration
was a hideous failure, it was neither Minty's statuesque outline
nor Louise Macy's graceful contour. Minty was no fool, and the
revelation of this slow education of the figure and training of
outline--whether fair or false in art--struck her quick intelligence
with all its full and hopeless significance. A bitter light sprang
to her eyes; she tore the wretched sham from her shoulders, and then
wrapping a shawl around her, threw herself heavily and sullenly on
the bed. But inaction was not a characteristic of Minty's emotion;
she presently rose again, and, taking an old work-box from her
trunk, began to rummage in its recesses. It was an old shell-
incrusted affair, and the apparent receptacle of such cheap odds and
ends of jewelry as she possessed; a hideous cameo ring, the property
of the late Mrs. Sharpe, was missing. She again rapidly explored
the contents of the box, and then an inspiration seized her, and she
darted into her brother's bedroom.
That precocious and gallant Lovelace of ten, despite all sentiment,
had basely succumbed to the gross materialism of youthful slumber.
On a cot in the corner, half hidden under the wreck of his own
careless and hurried disrobing, with one arm hanging out of the
coverlid, Richelieu lay supremely unconscious. On the forefinger
of his small but dirty hand the missing cameo was still glittering
guiltily. With a swift movement of indignation Minty rushed with
uplifted palm towards the tempting expanse of youthful cheek that
lay invitingly exposed upon the pillow. Then she stopped suddenly.
She had seen him lying thus a hundred times before. On the pillow
near him an indistinguishable mass of golden fur--the helpless bulk
of a squirrel chained to the leg of his cot; at his feet a wall-
eyed cat, who had followed his tyrannous caprices with the long-
suffering devotion of her sex; on the shelf above him a loathsome
collection of flies and tarantulas in dull green bottles: a slab of
ginger-bread for light nocturnal refection, and her own pot of
bear's grease. Perhaps it was the piteous defencelessness of
youthful sleep, perhaps it was some lingering memory of her
father's caress; but as she gazed at him with troubled eyes, the
juvenile reprobate slipped back into the baby-boy that she had
carried in her own childish arms such a short time ago, when the
maternal responsibility had descended with the dead mother's ill-
fitting dresses upon her lank girlish figure and scant virgin
breast--and her hand fell listlessly at her side.
The sleeper stirred slightly and awoke. At the same moment, by
some mysterious sympathy, a pair of beady bright eyes appeared in
the bulk of fur near his curls, the cat stretched herself, and even
a vague agitation was heard in the bottles on the shelf. Richelieu's
blinking eyes wandered from the candle to his sister, and then
the guilty hand was suddenly withdrawn under the bedclothes.
"No matter, dear," said Minty; "it's mar's, and you kin wear it
when you like, if you'll only ask for it."
Richelieu wondered if he was dreaming! This unexpected mildness--
this inexplicable tremor in his sister's voice: it must be some
occult influence of the night season on the sisterly mind, possibly
akin to a fear of ghosts! He made a mental note of it in view of
future favors, yet for the moment he felt embarrassedly gratified.
"Ye ain't wantin' anything, Minty," he said affectionately; "a pail
o' cold water from the far spring--no nothin'?" He made an
ostentatious movement as if to rise, yet sufficiently protracted to
prevent any hasty acceptance of his prodigal offer.
"No, dear," she said, still gazing at him with an absorbed look in
her dark eyes.
Richelieu felt a slight creepy sensation under that lonely far-off
gaze. "Your eyes look awful big at night, Minty," he said. He
would have added "and pretty," but she was his sister, and he had
the lofty fraternal conviction of his duty in repressing the
inordinate vanity of the sex. "Ye're sure ye ain't wantin'
"Not now, dear." She paused a moment, and then said deliberately:
"But you wouldn't mind turnin' out after sun-up and runnin' an
errand for me over to The Lookout?"
Richelieu's eyes sparkled so suddenly that even in her absorption
Minty noticed the change. "But ye're not goin' to tarry over
there, ner gossip--you hear? Yer to take this yer message. Yer to
say 'that it will be onpossible for me to come back there, on
account--on account of--'"
"Important business," suggested Richelieu; "that's the perlite
"Ef you like." She leaned over the bed and put her lips to his
forehead, still damp with the dews of sleep, and then to his long-
lashed lids. "Mind Nip!"--the squirrel--he practically suggested.
For an instant their blond curls mingled on the pillow. "Now go to
sleep," she said curtly.
But Richelieu had taken her white neck in the short strangulatory
hug of the small boy, and held her fast. "Ye'll let me put on my
"And wear that ring?"
"Yes"--a little sadly.
"Then yer kin count me in, Minty; and see here"--his voice sank to
a confidential whisper--"mebbee some day ye'll be beholden to ME
for a lot o' real jewelry."
She returned slowly to her room, and, opening the window, looked
out upon the night. The same moon that had lent such supererogatory
grace to the natural beauty of The Lookout, here seemed to have
failed; as Minty had, in disguising the relentless limitations of
Nature or the cruel bonds of custom. The black plain of granite,
under its rays, appeared only to extend its poverty to some remoter
barrier; the blackened stumps of the burnt forest stood bleaker
against the sky, like broken and twisted pillars of iron. The
cavity of the broken ledge where Richelieu had prospected was a
hideous chasm of bluish blackness, over which a purple vapor seemed
to hover; the "brush dump" beside the house showed a cavern of
writhing and distorted objects stiffened into dark rigidity. She
had often looked upon the prospect: it had never seemed so hard and
changeless; yet she accepted it, as she had accepted it before.
She turned away, undressed herself mechanically, and went to bed.
She had an idea that she had been very foolish; that her escape
from being still more foolish was something miraculous, and in some
measure connected with Providence, her father, her little brother,
and her dead mother, whose dress she had recklessly spoiled. But
that she had even so slightly touched the bitterness and glory of
renunciation--as written of heroines and fine ladies by novelists
and poets--never entered the foolish head of Minty Sharpe, the
It was a little after daybreak next morning that Mainwaring awoke
from the first unrefreshing night he had passed at The Lookout. He
was so feverish and restless that he dressed himself at sunrise, and
cautiously stepped out upon the still silent veranda. The chairs
which he and Louise Macy had occupied were still, it seemed to him,
conspicuously confidential with each other, and he separated them,
but as he looked down into the Great Canyon at his feet he was
conscious of some undefinable change in the prospect. A slight mist
was rising from the valley, as if it were the last of last night's
illusions; the first level sunbeams were obtrusively searching, and
the keen morning air had a dryly practical insistence which
irritated him, until a light footstep on the farther end of the
veranda caused him to turn sharply.
It was the singular apparition of a small boy, bearing a surprising
resemblance to Minty Sharpe, and dressed in an unique fashion. On
a tumbled sea of blond curls a "chip" sailor hat, with a broad red
ribbon, rode jauntily. But here the nautical suggestion changed,
as had the desire of becoming a pirate which induced it. A red
shirt, with a white collar, and a yellow plaid ribbon tie, that
also recalled Minty Sharpe, lightly turned the suggestion of his
costume to mining. Short black velvet trousers, coming to his
knee, and ostentatiously new short-legged boots, with visible
straps like curling ears, completed the entirely original character
of his lower limbs.
Mainwaring, always easily gentle and familiar with children and his
inferiors, looked at him with an encouraging smile. Richelieu--for
it was he--advanced gravely and held out his hand, with the cameo
ring apparent. Mainwaring, with equal gravity, shook it warmly,
and removed his hat. Richelieu, keenly observant, did the same.
"Is Jim Bradley out yet?" asked Richelieu, carelessly.
"No; I think not. But I'm Frank Mainwaring. Will I do?"
Richelieu smiled. The dimples, the white teeth, the dark, laughing
eyes, were surely Minty's?
"I'm Richelieu," he rejoined with equal candor.
"Yes. That Frenchman--the Lord Cardinal--you know. Mar saw
Forrest do him out in St. Louis."
"Yes, in the theayter."
With a confused misconception of his meaning, Mainwaring tried to
recall the historical dress of the great Cardinal and fit it to the
masquerader--if such he were--before him. But Richelieu relieved
him by adding,--
"Oh, that's your NAME!" said Mainwaring, cheerfully. "Then you're
Miss Minty's brother. I know her. How jolly lucky!"
They both shook hands again. Richelieu, eager to get rid of the
burden of his sister's message, which he felt was in the way of
free-and-easy intercourse with this charming stranger, looked
uneasily towards the house.
"I say," said Mainwaring, "if you're in a hurry, you'd better go in
there and knock. I hear some one stirring in the kitchen."
Richelieu nodded, but first went back to the steps of the veranda,
picked up a small blue knotted handkerchief, apparently containing
some heavy objects, and repassed Mainwaring.
"What! have you cut it, Richelieu, with your valuables? What have
you got there?"
"Specimins," said Richelieu, shortly, and vanished.
He returned presently. "Well, Cardinal, did you see anybody?"
"Mrs. Bradley; but Jim's over to the mill. I'm goin' there."
"Did you see Miss Macy?" continued Mainwaring, carelessly.
"No. She's philanderin' with Captain Greyson."
"Philandering with Greyson?" echoed Mainwaring, in wonder.
"Yes; on horseback on the ridge."
"You mean she's riding out with Mr.--with Captain Greyson?"
"Yes; ridin' AND philanderin'," persisted Richelieu.
"And what do you call philandering?"
"Well; I reckon you and she oughter know," returned Richelieu, with
a precocious air.
"Certainly," said Mainwaring, with a faint smile. Richelieu really
was like Minty.
There was a long silence. This young Englishman was becoming
exceedingly uninteresting. Richelieu felt that he was gaining
neither profit nor amusement, and losing time. "I'm going," he
"Good morning," said Mainwaring, without looking up.
Richelieu picked up his specimens, thoroughly convinced of the
stranger's glittering deceitfulness, and vanished.
It was nearly eight o'clock when Mrs. Bradley came from the house.
She apologized, with a slightly distrait smile, for the tardiness
of the household. "Mr. Bradley stayed at the mill all night, and
will not be here until breakfast, when he brings your friend Mr.
Richardson with him"--Mainwaring scarcely repressed a movement of
impatience--"who arrives early. It's unfortunate that Miss Sharpe
can't come to-day."
In his abstraction Mainwaring did not notice that Mrs. Bradley
slightly accented Minty's formal appellation, and said carelessly,--
"Oh, that's why her brother came over here so early!"
"Did YOU see him?" asked Mrs. Bradley, almost abruptly.
"Yes. He is an amusing little beggar; but I think he shares his
sister's preference for Mr. Bradley. He deserted me here in the
veranda for him at the mill."
"Louise will keep you company as soon as she has changed her
dress," continued Mrs. Bradley. "She was out riding early this
morning with a friend. She's very fond of early morning rides."
"AND philandering," repeated Mainwaring to himself. It was quite
natural for Miss Macy to ride out in the morning, after the fashion
of the country, with an escort; but why had the cub insisted on the
"philandering"? He had said, "AND philandering," distinctly. It
was a nasty thing for him to say. Any other fellow but he,
Mainwaring, might misunderstand the whole thing. Perhaps he ought
to warn her--but no! he could not repeat the gossip of a child, and
that child the brother of one of her inferiors. But was Minty an
inferior? Did she and Minty talk together about this fellow
Greyson? At all events, it would only revive the awkwardness of
the preceding day, and he resolved to say nothing.
He was rewarded by a half-inquiring, half-confiding look in
Louise's bright eyes, when she presently greeted him on the
veranda. "She had quite forgotten," she said, "to tell him last
night of her morning's engagement; indeed, she had half forgotten
IT. It used to be a favorite practice of hers, with Captain
Greyson; but she had lately given it up. She believed she had not
"Since when?" asked Mainwaring.
"Well, since you were ill," she said frankly.
A quick pleasure shone in Mainwaring's cheek and eye; but Louise's
pretty lids did not drop, nor her faint, quiet bloom deepen.
Breakfast was already waiting when Mr. Richardson arrived alone.
He explained that Mr. Bradley had some important and unexpected
business which had delayed him, but which, he added, "Mr. Bradley
says may prove interesting enough to you to excuse his absence this
morning." Mainwaring was not displeased that his critical and
observant host was not present at their meeting. Louise Macy was,
however, as demurely conscious of the different bearing of the two
compatriots. Richardson's somewhat self-important patronage of
the two ladies, and that Californian familiarity he had acquired,
changed to a certain uneasy deference towards Mainwaring; while the
younger Englishman's slightly stiff and deliberate cordiality was,
nevertheless, mingled with a mysterious understanding that appeared
innate and unconscious. Louise was quick to see that these two
men, more widely divergent in quality than any two of her own
countrymen, were yet more subtly connected by some unknown sympathy
than the most equal of Americans. Minty's prophetic belief of the
effect of the two women upon Richardson was certainly true as
regarded Mrs. Bradley. The banker--a large material nature--was
quickly fascinated by the demure, puritanic graces of that lady,
and was inclined to exhibit a somewhat broad and ostentatious
gallantry that annoyed Mainwaring. When they were seated alone
on the veranda, which the ladies had discreetly left to them,
"Odd I didn't hear of Bradley's wife before. She seems a spicy,
pretty, comfortable creature. Regularly thrown away with him up
Mainwaring replied coldly that she was "an admirable helpmeet of a
very admirable man," not, however, without an uneasy recollection
of her previous confidences respecting her husband. "They have
been most thoroughly good and kind to me; my own brother and sister
could not have done more. And certainly not with better taste or
delicacy," he added, markedly.
"Certainly, certainly," said Richardson, hurriedly. "I wrote to
Lady Mainwaring that you were taken capital care of by some very
honest people; and that--"
"Lady Mainwaring already knows what I think of them, and what she
owes to their kindness," said Mainwaring, dryly.
"True, true," said Richardson, apologetically. "Of course you must
have seen a good deal of them. I only know Bradley in a business
way. He's been trying to get the Bank to help him to put up some
new mills here; but we didn't see it. I dare say he is good
company--rather amusing, eh?"
Mainwaring had the gift of his class of snubbing by the polite and
forgiving oblivion of silence. Richardson shifted uneasily in his
chair, but continued with assumed carelessness:--
"No; I only knew of this cousin, Miss Macy. I heard of her when
she was visiting some friends in Menlo Park last year. Rather an
attractive girl. They say Colonel Johnson, of Sacramento, took
quite a fancy to her--it would have been a good match, I dare say,
for he is very rich--but the thing fell through in some way. Then,
they say, SHE wanted to marry that Spaniard, young Pico, of the
Amador Ranche; but his family wouldn't hear of it. Somehow, she's
deuced unlucky. I suppose she'll make a mess of it with Captain
Greyson she was out riding with this morning."
"Didn't the Bank think Bradley's mills a good investment?" asked
Mainwaring quietly, when Richardson paused.
"Not with him in it; he is not a business man, you know."
"I thought he was. He seems to me an energetic man, who knows his
work, and is not afraid to look after it himself."
"That's just it. He has got absurd ideas of co-operating with his
workmen, you know, and doing everything slowly and on a limited
scale. The only thing to be done is to buy up all the land on this
ridge, run off the settlers, freeze out all the other mills, and
put it into a big San Francisco company on shares. That's the only
way we would look at it."
"But you don't consider the investment bad, even from HIS point of
"And you only decline it because it isn't big enough for the Bank?"
"Richardson," said Mainwaring, slowly rising, putting his hands in
his trousers pockets, and suddenly looking down upon the banker
from the easy level of habitual superiority, "I wish you'd attend
to this thing for me. I desire to make some return to Mr. Bradley
for his kindness. I wish to give him what help he wants--in his
own way--you understand. I wish it, and I believe my father wishes
it, too. If you'd like him to write to you to that effect--"
"By no means, it's not at all necessary," said Richardson, dropping
with equal suddenness into his old-world obsequiousness. "I shall
certainly do as you wish. It is not a bad investment, Mr.
Mainwaring, and as you suggest, a very proper return for their
kindness. And, being here, it will come quite naturally for me to
take up the affair again."
"And--I say, Richardson."