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A Ward of the Golden Gate by Bret Harte

Part 3 out of 3

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"I think its purchasing value would include even the gnadige Frau,"
said Paul, who had laughed only to hide the uneasiness that Yerba's
approach to the tabooed subject had revived in him. She shook her
head; then, recovering her tone of gentle banter, said, "There--
I've made a confession. If the colonel talks to you again about my
conquests, you will know that at present my affections are centred
on the Baron's mother. I admit it's a strong point in his--in
ANYBODY'S--favor, who can show an unblemished maternal pedigree.
What a pity it is you are an orphan, like myself, Mr. Hathaway!
For I fancy your mother must have been a very perfect woman. A
great deal of her tact and propriety has descended to you. Only it
would have been nicer if she had given it to you, like pocket
money, as occasion required--which you might have shared with me--
than leaving it to you in one thumping legacy."

It was impossible to tell how far the playfulness of her brown eyes
suggested any ulterior meaning, for as Paul again eagerly drew
towards her, she sent her horse into a rapid canter before him.
When he was at her side again, she said, "There is still the ruin
to see on our way home. It is just off here to the right. But if
you wish to go over it we will have to dismount at the foot of the
slope and walk up. It hasn't any story or legend that I know of; I
looked over the guide-book to cram for it before you came, but
there was nothing. So you can invent what you like."

They dismounted at the beginning of a gentle acclivity, where an
ancient wagon-road, now grass-grown, rose smooth as a glacis.
Tying their horses to two moplike bushes, they climbed the slope
hand in hand like children. There were a few winding broken steps,
part of a fallen archway, a few feet of vaulted corridor, a sudden
breach--the sky beyond--and that was all! Not all; for before
them, overlooked at first, lay a chasm covering half an acre, in
which the whole of the original edifice--tower turrets, walls, and
battlements--had been apparently cast, inextricably mixed and
mingled at different depths and angles, with here and there, like
mushrooms from a dust-heap, a score of trees upspringing.

"This is not Time--but gunpowder," said Paul, leaning over a
parapet of the wall and gazing at the abyss, with a slight grimace.

"It don't look very romantic, certainly," said Yerba. "I only saw
it from the road before. I'm dreadfully sorry," she added, with
mock penitence. "I suppose, however, SOMETHING must have happened
here."

"There may have been nobody in the house at the time," said Paul
gravely. "The family may have been at the baths."

They stood close together, their elbows resting upon the broken
wall, and almost touching. Beyond the abyss and darker forest they
could see the more vivid green and regular lines of the plane-trees
of Strudle Bad, the glitter of a spire, or the flash of a dome.
From the abyss itself arose a cool odor of moist green leaves, the
scent of some unseen blossoms, and around the baking vines on the
hot wall the hum of apparently taskless and disappointed bees.
There was nobody in sight in the forest road, no one working in the
bordering fields, and no suggestion of the present. There might
have been three or four centuries between them and Strudle Bad.

"The legend of this place," said Paul, glancing at the long brown
lashes and oval outline of the cheek so near his own, "is simple,
yet affecting. A cruel, remorseless, but fascinating Hexie was
once loved by a simple shepherd. He had never dared to syllable
his hopeless affection, or claim from her a syllabled--perhaps I
should say a one-syllabled--reply. He had followed her from remote
lands, dumbly worshiping her, building in his foolish brain an air-
castle of happiness, which by reason of her magic power she could
always see plainly in his eyes. And one day, beguiling him in the
depths of the forest, she led him to a fair-seeming castle, and,
bidding him enter its portals, offered to show him a realization of
his dream. But, lo! even as he entered the stately corridor it
seemed to crumble away before him, and disclosed a hideous abyss
beyond, in which the whole of that goodly palace lay in heaped and
tangled ruins--the fitting symbol of his wrecked and shattered
hopes."

She drew back a little way from him, but still holding on to the
top of the broken wall with one slim gauntleted hand, and swung
herself to one side, while she surveyed him with smiling, parted
lips and conscious eyelids. He promptly covered her hand with his
own, but she did not seem to notice it.

"That is not the story," she said, in a faint voice that even her
struggling sauciness could not make steadier. "The true story is
called 'The Legend of the Goose-Girl of Strudle Bad, and the
enterprising Gosling.' There was once a goose-girl of the plain who
tried honestly to drive her geese to market, but one eccentric and
willful gosling-- Mr. Hathaway! Stop--please--I beg you let me
go!"

He had caught her in his arms--the one encircling her waist, the
other hand still grasping hers. She struggled, half laughing;
yielded for a breathless moment as his lips brushed her cheek, and--
threw him off. "There!" she said, "that will do: the story was
not illustrated."

"But, Yerba," he said, with passionate eagerness, "hear me--it is
all God's truth.--I love you!"

She drew back farther, shaking the dust of the wall from the folds
of her habit. Then, with a lower voice and a paler cheek, as if
his lips had sent her blood and utterance back to her heart, she
said, "Come, let us go."

"But not until you've heard me, Yerba."

"Well, then--I believe you--there!" she said, looking at him.

"You believe me?" he repeated eagerly, attempting to take her hand
again.

She drew back still farther. "Yes," she said, "or I shouldn't be
here now. There! that must suffice you. And if you wish me still
to believe you, you will not speak of this again while we are out
together. Come, let us go back to the horses."

He looked at her with all his soul. She was pale, but composed,
and--he could see--determined. He followed her without a word.
She accepted his hand to support her again down the slope without
embarrassment or reminiscent emotion. The whole scene through
which she had just passed might have been buried in the abyss and
ruins behind her. As she placed her foot in his hand to remount,
and for a moment rested her weight on his shoulder, her brown eyes
met his frankly and without a tremor.

Nor was she content with this. As Paul at first rode on silently,
his heart filled with unsatisfied yearning, she rallied him
mischievously. Was it kind in him on this, their first day
together, to sulk in this fashion? Was it a promise for their
future excursions? Did he intend to carry this lugubrious visage
through the Allee and up to the courtyard of the hotel to proclaim
his sentimental condition to the world? At least, she trusted he
would not show it to Milly, who might remember that this was only
the SECOND TIME they had met each other. There was something so
sweetly reasonable in this, and withal not without a certain
hopefulness for the future, to say nothing of the half-mischievous,
half-reproachful smile that accompanied it, that Paul exerted
himself, and eventually recovered his lost gayety. When they at
last drew up in the courtyard, with the flush of youth and exercise
in their faces, Paul felt he was the object of envy to the
loungers, and of fresh gossip to Strudle Bad. It struck him less
pleasantly that two dark faces, which had been previously regarding
him in the gloom of the corridor and vanished as he approached,
reappeared some moments later in Yerba's salon as Don Caesar and
Dona Anna, with a benignly different expression. Dona Anna
especially greeted him with so much of the ostentatious archness of
a confident and forgiving woman to a momentarily recreant lover,
that he felt absurdly embarrassed in Yerba's presence. He was
thinking how he could excuse himself, when he noticed a beautiful
basket of flowers on the table and a tiny note bearing a baron's
crest. Yerba had put it aside with--as it seemed to him at the
moment--an almost too pronounced indifference--and an indifference
that was strongly contrasted to Dona Anna's eagerly expressed
enthusiasm over the offering, and her ultimate supplications to
Paul and her brother to admire its beauties and the wonderful taste
of the donor.

All this seemed so incongruous with Paul's feelings, and above all
with the recollection of his scene with Yerba, that he excused
himself from dining with the party, alleging an engagement with his
old fellow-traveler the German officer, whose acquaintance he had
renewed. Yerba did not press him; he even fancied she looked
relieved. Colonel Pendleton was coming; Paul was not loath, in his
present frame of mind, to dispense with his company. A conviction
that the colonel's counsel was not the best guide for Yerba, and
that in some vague way their interests were antagonistic, had begun
to force itself upon him. He had no intention of being disloyal to
her old guardian, but he felt that Pendleton had not been frank
with him since his return from Rosario. Had he ever been so with
HER? He sometimes doubted his disclaimer.

He was lucky in finding the General disengaged, and together they
dined at a restaurant and spent the evening at the Kursaal. Later,
at the Residenz Club, the General leaned over his beer-glass and
smilingly addressed his companion.

"So I hear you, too, are a conquest of the beautiful South
American."

For an instant Paul, recognizing only Dona Anna under that epithet,
looked puzzled.

"Come, my friend," said the General regarding him with some
amusement, "I am an older man than you, yet I hardly think I could
have ridden out with such a goddess without becoming her slave."

Paul felt his face flush in spite of himself. "Ah! you mean Miss
Arguello," he said hurriedly, his color increasing at his own
mention of that name as if he were imposing it upon his honest
companion. "She is an old acquaintance of mine--from my own State--
California."

"Ah, so," said the General, lifting his eyebrows in profound
apology. "A thousand pardons."

"Surely," said Paul, with a desperate attempt to recover his
equanimity, "YOU ought to know our geography better."

"So, I am wrong. But still the name--Arguello--surely that is not
American? Still, they say she has no accent, and does not look
like a Mexican."

For an instant Paul was superstitiously struck with the fatal
infelicity of Yerba's selection of a foreign name, that now seemed
only to invite that comment and criticism which she should have
avoided. Nor could he explain it at length to the General without
assisting and accenting the deception, which he was always hoping
in some vague way to bring to an end. He was sorry he had
corrected the General; he was furious that he had allowed himself
to be confused.

Happily his companion had misinterpreted his annoyance, and with
impulsive German friendship threw himself into what he believed to
be Paul's feelings. "Donnerwetter! Your beautiful countrywoman is
made the subject of curiosity just because that stupid baron is
persistent in his serious attentions. That is quite enough, my
good friend, to make Klatschen here among those animals who do not
understand the freedom of an American girl, or that an heiress may
have something else to do with her money than to expend it on the
Baron's mortgages. But"--he stopped, and his simple, honest face
assumed an air of profound and sagacious cunning--"I am glad to
talk about it with you, who of course are perfectly familiar with
the affair. I shall now be able to know what to say. My word, my
friend, has some weight here, and I shall use it. And now you
shall tell me WHO is our lovely friend, and WHO were her parents
and her kindred in her own home. Her associates here, you possibly
know, are an impossible colonel and his never-before-approached
valet, with some South American Indian planters, and, I believe, a
pork-butcher's daughter. But of THEM--it makes nothing. Tell me
of HER people."

With his kindly serious face within a few inches of Paul's, and
sympathizing curiosity beaming from his pince-nez, he obliged the
wretched and conscience-stricken Hathaway to respond with a
detailed account of Yerba's parentage as projected by herself and
indorsed by Colonel Pendleton. He dwelt somewhat particularly on
the romantic character of the Trust, hoping to draw the General's
attention away from the question of relationship, but he was
chagrined to find that the honest warrior evidently confounded the
Trust with some eleemosynary institution and sympathetically
glossed it over. "Of course," he said, "the Mexican Minister at
Berlin would know all about the Arguello family: so there would be
no question there."

Paul was not sorry when the time came to take leave of his friend;
but once again in the clear moonlight and fresh, balmy air of the
Allee, he forgot the unpleasantness of the interview. He found
himself thinking only of his ride with Yerba. Well! he had told
her that he loved her. She knew it now, and although she had
forbidden him to speak further, she had not wholly rejected it. It
must be her morbid consciousness of the mystery of her birth that
withheld a return of her affections,--some half-knowledge, perhaps,
that she would not divulge, yet that kept her unduly sensitive of
accepting his love. He was satisfied there was no entanglement;
her heart was virgin. He even dared to hope that she had ALWAYS
cared for him. It was for HIM to remove all obstacles--to prevail
upon her to leave this place and return to America with him as her
husband, the guardian of her good name, and the custodian of her
secret. At times the strains of a dreamy German waltz, played in
the distance, brought back to him the brief moment that his arm had
encircled her waist by the crumbling wall, and his pulses grew
languid, only to leap firmer the next moment with more desperate
resolve. He would win her, come what may! He could never have
been in earnest before: he loathed and hated himself for his
previous passive acquiescence to her fate. He had been a weak tool
of the colonel's from the first: he was even now handicapped by a
preposterous promise he had given him! Yes, she was right to
hesitate--to question his ability to make her happy! He had found
her here, surrounded by stupidity and cupidity--to give it no other
name--so patent that she was the common gossip, and had offered
nothing but a boyish declaration! As he strode into the hotel that
night it was well that he did not meet the unfortunate colonel on
the staircase!

It was very late, although there was still visible a light in
Yerba's salon, shining on her balcony, which extended before and
included his own window. From time to time he could hear the
murmur of voices. It was too late to avail himself of the
invitation to join them, even if his frame of mind had permitted
it. He was too nervous and excited to go to bed, and, without
lighting his candle, he opened the French window that gave upon the
balcony, drew a chair in the recess behind the curtain, and gazed
upon the night. It was very quiet; the moon was high, the square
was sleeping in a trance of checkered shadows, like a gigantic
chessboard, with black foreshortened trees for pawns. The click of
a cavalry sabre, the sound of a footfall on the pavement of the
distant Konigsstrasse, were distinctly audible; a far-off railway
whistle was startling in its abruptness. In the midst of this calm
the opening of the door of the salon, with the sudden uplifting of
voices in the hall, told Paul that Yerba's guests were leaving. He
heard Dona Anna's arch accents--arch even to Colonel Pendleton's
monotonous baritone!--Milly's high, rapid utterances, the suave
falsetto of Don Caesar, and HER voice, he thought a trifle
wearied,--the sound of retiring footsteps, and all was still again.

So still that the rhythmic beat of the distant waltz returned to
him, with a distinctiveness that he could idly follow. He thought
of Rosario and the rose-breath of the open windows with a strange
longing, and remembered the half-stifled sweetness of her happy
voice rising with it from the veranda. Why had he ever let it pass
from him then and waft its fragrance elsewhere? Why-- What was
that?

The slight turning of a latch! The creaking of the French window
of the salon, and somebody had slipped softly half out on the
balcony. His heart stopped beating. From his position in the
recess of his own window, with his back to the partition of the
salon, he could see nothing. Yet he did not dare to move. For
with the quickened senses of a lover he felt the diffused and
perfumed aura of HER presence, of HER garments, of HER flesh, flow
in upon him through the open window, and possess his whole
breathless being! It was SHE! Like him, perhaps, longing to enjoy
the perfect night--like him, perhaps, thinking of--

"So you ar-range to get rid of me--ha! lik thees? To tur-rn me off
from your heels like a dog who have follow you--but without a word--
without a--a--thanks--without a 'ope! Ah!--we have ser-rved you--
me and my sister; we are the or-range dry--now we can go! Like the
old shoe, we are to be flung away! Good! But I am here again--you
see. I shall speak, and you shall hear-r."

Don Caesar's voice--alone with her! Paul gripped his chair and sat
upright.

"Stop! Stay where you are! How dared you return here?" It was
Yerba's voice, on the balcony, low and distinct.

"Shut the window! I shall speak with you what you will not the
world to hear."

"I prefer to keep where I am, since you have crept into this room
like a thief!"

"A thief! Good!" He broke out in Spanish, and, as if no longer
fearful of being overheard, had evidently drawn nearer to the
window. "A thief. Ha! muy bueno--but it is not I, you understand--
I, Caesar Briones, who am the thief! No! It is that swaggering
espadachin--that fanfarron of a Colonel Pendleton--that pattern of
an official, Mr. Hathaway--that most beautiful heiress of the
Californias, Miss ARGUELLO--that are thieves! Yes--of a NAME--Miss
Arguello--of a NAME! The name of Arguello!"

Paul rose to his feet.

"Ah, so! You start--you turn pale--you flash your eyes, senora,
but you think you have deceived me all these years. You think I
did not see your game at Rosario--yes, even when that foolish
Castro muchacha first put that idea in your head. Who furnished
you the facts you wanted? I--Mother of God! SUCH FACTS!--I, who
knew the Arguello pedigree--I, who know it was as impossible for
you to be a daughter of them as--what? let me think--as--as it is
impossible for you to be the wife of that baron whom you would
deceive with the rest! Ah, yes; it was a high flight for you,
Mees--Mees--Dona Fulana--a noble game for you to bring down!"

Why did she not speak? What was she doing? If she had but uttered
a single word of protest, of angry dismissal, Paul would have flown
to her side. It could not be the paralysis of personal fear: the
balcony was wide; she could easily pass to the end; she could even
see his open window.

"Why did I do this? Because I loved you, senora--and you knew it!
Ah! you can turn your face away now; you can pretend to
misunderstand me, as you did a moment ago; you can part from me now
like a mere acquaintance--but it was not always so! No, it was YOU
who brought me here; your eyes that smiled into mine--and drove
home the colonel's request that I and my sister should accompany
you. God! I was weak then! You smile, senora; you think you have
succeeded--you and your pompous colonel and your clever governor!
You think you have compromised me, and perjured ME, because of
this. You are wrong! You think I dare not speak to this puppet of
a baron, and that I have no proofs. You are wrong!"

"And even if you can produce them, what care I?" said Yerba
unexpectedly, yet in a voice so free from excitement and passion
that the weariness which Paul had at first noticed seemed to be the
only dominant tone. "Suppose you prove that I am not an Arguello.
Good! you have yet to show that a connection with any of your race
would be anything but a disgrace."

"Ah! you defy me, little one! Caramba! Listen, then! You do not
know all! When you thought I was only helping you to fabricate
your claim to the Arguellos' name, I was finding out WHO YOU REALLY
WERE! Ah! It was not so difficult as you fondly hope, senora. We
were not all brutes and fools in the early days, though we stood
aside to let your people run their vulgar course. It was your
hired bully--your respected guardian--this dog of an espadachin,
who let out a hint of the secret--with a prick of his blade--and a
scandal. One of my peon women was a servant at the convent when
you were a child, and recognized the woman who put you there and
came to see you as a friend. She overheard the Mother Superior say
it was your mother, and saw a necklace that was left for you to
wear. Ah! you begin to believe! When I had put this and that
together I found that Pepita could not identify you with the child
that she had seen. But you, senora, you YOURSELF supplied the
missing proof! Yes! you supplied it with the NECKLACE that you
wore that evening at Rosario, when you wished to do honor to this
young Hathaway--the guardian who had always thrown you off! Ah!--
you now suspect why, perhaps! It was your mother's necklace that
you wore, and you said so! That night I sent the good Pepita to
identify it; to watch through the window from the garden when you
were wearing it; to make it sure as the Creed. I sent her to your
room late that night when you had changed your dress, that she
might examine it among your jewels. And she did and will swear--
look you!--SWEAR that it is the one given you as a child by the
woman at the convent, who was your mother! And who was that woman--
eh? Who was the mother of the Arguello de la Yerba Buena?--who
this noble ancestress?"

"Excuse me--but perhaps you are not aware that you are raising your
voice in a lady's drawing-room, and that although you are speaking
a language no one here understands, you are disturbing the hotel."

It was Paul, quiet, pale in the moonlight, erect on the balcony
before the window. As Yerba, with a start, retreated quickly into
the room, Don Caesar stepped forward angrily and suspiciously
towards the window. He had his hand reached forward towards the
handle as if to close the swinging sash against the intruder, when
in an instant he was seized by Paul, tightly locked in a desperate
grip, and whirled out on the balcony. Before he could gain breath
to utter a cry, Hathaway had passed his right arm around the
Mexican's throat, effectively stopping his utterance, and, with a
supreme effort of strength, dragged him along the wall, falling
with him into the open window of his own room. As he did so, to
his inexpressible relief he heard the sash closed and the bolt
drawn of the salon window, and regained his feet, collected, quiet,
and triumphant.

"I am sorry," he said, coolly dusting his clothes, "to have been
obliged to change the scene of this discussion so roughly, but you
will observe that you can speak more freely HERE, and that any
altercation WE may have in this room will be less likely to attract
comment."

"Assassin!" said Don Caesar chokingly, as he struggled to his feet.

"Thank you. Relieve your feelings as much as you like here; in
fact, if you would speak a little louder you would oblige me. The
guests are beginning to be awake," continued Paul, with a wicked
smile, indicating the noise of an opening door and footsteps in the
passage, "and are now able to locate without difficulty the scene
of the disturbance."

Briones apparently understood his meaning and the success of his
stratagem. "You think you have saved HER from disgrace," he said,
with a livid smile, in a lower tone and a desperate attempt to
imitate Paul's coolness. "For the present--ah--yees! perhaps in
this hotel and this evening. But you have not stop my mouth for--
a--to-morrow--and the whole world, Mr. Hathaway."

"Well," said Paul, looking at him critically, "I don't know about
that. Of course, there's the equal chance that you may kill me--
but that's a question for to-morrow, too."

The Mexican cast a quick glance at the door and window. Paul, as
if carelessly, changed the key of the former from one pocket to the
other, and stepped before the window.

"So this is a plot to murder me! Have a care! You are not in your
own brigand California!"

"If you think so, alarm the house. They will find us quarreling,
and you will only precipitate matters by receiving the insult that
will make you fight--before them."

"I am r-ready, sir, when and where you will," said Briones, with a
swaggering air but a shifting, furtive eye. "Open--a--the door."

"Pardon me. We will leave this room TOGETHER in an hour for the
station. We will board the night express that will take us in
three hours beyond the frontier, where we can each find a friend."

"But my affairs here--my sister--I must see her."

"You shall write a note to her at that table, saying that important
business--a dispatch--has called you away, and we will leave it
with the porter to be delivered IN THE MORNING. Or--I do not
restrict you--you can say what you like, provided she don't get it
until we have left."

"And you make of me a prisoner, sir?"

"No; a visitor, Don Caesar--a visitor whose conversation is so
interesting that I am forced to detain him to hear more. You can
pass the time pleasantly by finishing the story I was obliged to
interrupt a moment ago. Do you know this mother of Miss Yerba, of
whom you spoke?"

"That's m--my affair."

"That means you don't know her. If you did, you'd have had her
within call. And, as she is the only person who is able to say
that Miss Yerba is NOT an Arguello, you have been very remiss."

"Ah, bah! I am not one of your--a--lawyers."

"No; or you would know that, with no better evidence than you have,
you might be sued for slander."

"Ah! Why does not Miss Yerba sue, then?"

"Because she probably expects that somebody will shoot you."

"As YOU for instance?"

"Perhaps."

"And if you do NOT--eh?--you have not stop my mouth, but your own.
And if you DO, you help her to marry the Baron, your rival. You
are not wise, friend Hathaway."

"May I remind you that you have not yet written to your sister, and
you may prefer to do it carefully and deliberately?"

Don Caesar arose with a vindictive glance at Paul, and pulled a
chair before the table, as the latter placed pen, ink, and paper
before him. "Take your time," he added, folding his arms and
walking towards the window. "Say what you like, and don't let my
presence restrain you."

The Mexican began to write furiously, then spasmodically, then
slowly and reluctantly. "I war-r-n you, I shall expose all," he
said suddenly.

"As you please."

"And shall say that if I disappear, you are my murderer--you
understand--my MURDERER!"

"Don't consult me on a question of epithets, but go on."

Don Caesar recommenced his writing with a malign smile. There was
a sudden sharp rap at the door.

Don Caesar leaped to his feet, grasped his papers, and rushed to
the door; but Paul was before him. "Who is there?" he demanded.

"Pendleton."

At the sound of the colonel's voice Don Caesar fell back. Paul
opened the door, admitted the tall figure of the colonel, and was
about to turn the key again. But Pendleton lifted his hand in grim
deprecation.

"That will do, Mr. Hathaway. I know all. But I wish to speak with
Briones elsewhere, alone."

"Excuse me, Colonel Pendleton," said Paul firmly, "but I have the
prior claim. Words have passed between this gentleman and myself
which we are now on our way to the station and the frontier to
settle. If you are willing to accompany us, I shall give you every
opportunity to converse with him alone, and arrange whatever
business you may have with him, provided it does not interfere with
mine."

"My business," said Pendleton, "is of a personal nature, that will
not interfere with any claim of yours that Mr. Briones may choose
to admit, but is of a private quality that must be transacted
between us now." His face was pale, and his voice, although steady
and self-controlled, had that same strange suggestion of sudden age
in it which Paul had before noticed. Whether Don Caesar detected
it, or whether he had some other instinctive appreciation of
greater security, Paul could not tell. He seemed to recover his
swagger again, as he said,--

"I shall hear what Colonel Pendleton has to say first. But I shall
hold myself in readiness to meet you afterwards--you shall not
fear, sir!"

Paul remained looking from the one to the other without speaking.
It was Don Caesar who returned his glance boldly and defiantly,
Colonel Pendleton who, with thin white fingers pulling his
moustache, evaded it. Then Paul unlocked the door, and said
slowly, "In five minutes I leave this house for the station. I
shall wait there until the train arrives. If this gentleman does
not join me, I shall be better able to understand all this and take
measures accordingly."

"And I tell to you, Meester Hathaway, sir," said Don Caesar,
striking an attitude in the doorway, "you shall do as I please--
Caramba!--and shall beg"--

"Hold your tongue, sir--or, by the Eternal!"--burst out Pendleton
suddenly, bringing down his thin hand on the Mexican's shoulder.
He stopped as suddenly. "Gentlemen, this is childish. Go, sir!"
to Don Caesar, pointing with a gaunt white finger into the darkened
hall. "I will follow you. Mr. Hathaway, as an older man, and one
who has seen a good deal of foolish altercation, I regret, sir,
deeply regret, to be a witness to this belligerent quality in a
law-maker and a public man; and I must deprecate, sir--deprecate,
your demand on that gentleman for what, in the folly of youth, you
are pleased to call personal satisfaction."

As he moved with dignity out of the room, Paul remained blankly
staring after him. Was it all a dream?--or was this Colonel
Pendleton the duelist? Had the old man gone crazy, or was he
merely acting to veil some wild purpose? His sudden arrival showed
that Yerba must have sent for him and told him of Don Caesar's
threats; would he be wild enough to attempt to strangle the man in
some remote room or in the darkness of the passage? He stepped
softly into the hall: he could still hear the double tread of the
two men: they had reached the staircase--they were DESCENDING! He
heard the drowsy accents of the night porter and the swinging of
the door--they were in the street!

Wherever they were going, or for what purpose, HE must be at the
station, as he had warned them he would be. He hastily threw a few
things into his valise, and prepared to follow them. When he went
downstairs he informed the porter that owing to an urgent call of
business he should try to catch the through express at three
o'clock, but they must retain his room and luggage until they heard
from him. He remembered Don Caesar's letter. Had either of the
gentlemen, his friends who had just gone out, left a letter or
message? No, Excellency; the gentlemen were talking earnestly--he
believed, in the South American language--and had not spoken to
him.

Perhaps it was this that reminded Paul, as he crossed the square
again, that he had made no preparation for any possible fatal issue
to himself in this adventure. SHE would know it, however, and why
he had undertaken it. He tried to think that perhaps some interest
in himself had prompted her to send the colonel to him. Yet,
mingled with this was an odd sense of a certain ridiculousness in
his position: there was the absurdity of his prospective antagonist
being even now in confidential consultation with his own friend and
ally, whose functions he had usurped, and in whose interests he was
about to risk his life. And as he walked away through the silent
streets, the conviction more than once was forced upon him that he
was going to an appointment that would not be kept.

He reached the station some ten minutes before the train was due.
Two or three half-drowsy, wrapped-up passengers were already on the
platform; but neither Don Caesar nor Colonel Pendleton was among
them. He explored the waiting-rooms and even the half-lit buffet,
but with no better success. Telling the Bahnhof Inspector that his
passage was only contingent upon the arrival of one or two
companions, and describing them minutely to prevent mistakes, he
began gloomily to pace before the ticket-office. Five minutes
passed--the number of passengers did not increase; ten minutes; a
distant shriek--the hoarse inquiry of the inspector--had the Herr's
companions yet gekommt? the sudden glare of a Cyclopean eye in the
darkness, the ongliding of the long-jointed and gleaming spotted
serpent, the train--a hurried glance around the platform, one or
two guttural orders, the slamming of doors, the remounting of black
uniformed figures like caryatides along the marchepieds, a puff of
vapor, and the train had come and gone without them.

Yet he would give his adversary fifteen minutes more to allow for
accident or delay, or the possible arrival of the colonel with an
explanation, and recommenced his gloomy pacing, as the Bahnhof sank
back into half-lit repose. At the end of five minutes there was
another shriek. Paul turned quickly to the inspector. Ah, then,
there was another train? No; it was only the up express for Basle,
going the other way and stopping at the Nord Station, half a mile
away. It would not stop here, but the Herr would see it pass in a
few moments at full speed.

It came presently, with a prolonged despairing shriek, out of the
darkness; a flash, a rush and roar at his side, a plunge into the
darkness again with the same despairing cry; a flutter of something
white from one of the windows, like a loosened curtain, that at
last seemed to detach itself, and, after a wild attempt to follow,
suddenly soared aloft, whirled over and over, dropped, and drifted
slowly, slantwise, to the ground.

The inspector had seen it, ran down the line, and picked it up.
Then he returned with it to Paul with a look of sympathizing
concern. It was a lady's handkerchief, evidently some signal waved
to the well-born Herr, who was the only passenger on the platform.
So, possibly, it might be from his friends, who by some stupid
mischance had gone to the wrong station, and--Gott im Himmel!--it
was hideously stupid, yet possible, got on the wrong train!

The Herr, a little pale, but composed, thought it WAS possible.
No; he would not telegraph to the next station--not yet--he would
inquire.

He walked quickly away, reaching the hotel breathlessly, yet in a
space that seemed all too brief for his disconnected thought.
There were signs of animation in the hall, and an empty carriage
was just reentering the courtyard. The hall-porter met him with
demonstrative concern and apology. Ah! if he had only understood
his Excellency better, he could have saved him all this trouble.
Evidently his Excellency was going with the Arguello party, who had
ordered a carriage, doubtless, for the same important journey, an
hour before, yet had left only a few moments after his Excellency,
and his Excellency, it would appear, had gone to the wrong station.

Paul pushed hurriedly past the man and ascended to his room. Both
windows were open, and in the faint moonlight he could see that
something white was pinned to his pillow. With nervous fingers he
relit his candles, and found it was a note in Yerba's handwriting.
As he opened it, a tiny spray of the vine that had grown on the
crumbling wall fell at his feet. He picked it up, pressed it to
his lips, and read, with dim eyes, as follows:--

"You know now why I spoke to you as I did to-day, and why the other
half of this precious spray is the only memory I care to carry with
me out of this crumbling ruin of all my hopes. You were right,
Paul: my taking you there WAS AN OMEN--not to you, who can never be
anything but proud, beloved, and true--but to ME of all the shame
and misery. Thank you for all you have done--for all you would do,
my friend, and don't think me ungrateful, only because I am
unworthy of it. Try to forgive me, but don't forget me, even if
you must hate me. Perhaps, if you knew all--you might still love a
little the poor girl to whom you have already given the only name
she can ever take from you--YERBA BUENA!

CHAPTER VII.

It was already autumn, and in the city of New York an early Sunday
morning breeze was sweeping up the leaves that had fallen from the
regularly planted ailantus trees before the brown-stone frontage of
a row of monotonously alike five-storied houses on one of the
principal avenues. The Pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church,
that uplifted its double towers on the corner, stopped before one
of these dwellings, ran up the dozen broad steps, and rang the
bell. He was presently admittted to the sombre richness of a hall
and drawing-room with high-backed furniture of dark carved woods,
like cathedral stalls, and, hat in hand, somewhat impatiently
awaited the arrival of his hostess and parishioner. The door
opened to a tall, white-haired woman in lustreless black silk. She
was regular and resolute in features, of fine but unbending
presence, and, though somewhat past middle age, showed no signs of
either the weakness or mellowness of years.

"I am sorry to disturb your Sabbath morning meditations, Sister
Argalls, nor would I if it were not in the line of Christian duty;
but Sister Robbins is unable today to make her usual Sabbath
hospital visit, and I thought if you were excused from the Foreign
Missionary class and Bible instruction at three you might undertake
her functions. I know, my dear old friend," he continued, with
bland deprecation of her hard-set eyes, "how distasteful this
promiscuous mingling with the rough and ungodly has always been to
you, and how reluctant you are to be placed in the position of
being liable to hear coarse, vulgar, or irreverent speech. I
think, too, in our long and pleasant pastoral relations, you have
always found me mindful of it. I admit I have sometimes regretted
that your late husband had not more generally familiarized you with
the ways of the world. But so it is--we all have our weaknesses.
If not one thing, another. And as Envy and Uncharitableness
sometimes find their way in even Christian hearts, I should like
you to undertake this office for the sake of example. There are
some, dear Sister Argalls, who think that the rich widow who is
most liberal in the endowment of the goods that Providence has
intrusted to her hands claims therefore to be exempt from labor in
the Christian vineyard. Let us teach them how unjust they are."

"I am willing," said the lady, with a dry, determined air. "I
suppose these patients are not professedly bad characters?"

"By no means. A few, perhaps; but the majority are unfortunates--
dependent either upon public charity or some small provision made
by their friends."

"Very well."

"And you understand that though they have the privilege of
rejecting your Christian ministrations, dear Sister Argalls, you
are free to judge when you may be patient or importunate with
them?"

"I understand."

The Pastor was not an unkindly man, and, as he glanced at the
uncompromising look in Mrs. Argalls's eyes, felt for a moment some
inconsistency between his humane instincts and his Christian duty.
"Some of them may require, and be benefited by, a stern monitress,
and Sister Robbins, I fear, was weak," he said consolingly to
himself, as he descended the steps again.

At three o'clock Mrs. Argalls, with a reticule and a few tracts,
was at the door of St. John's Hospital. As she displayed her
testimonials and announced that she had taken Mrs. Robbins's place,
the officials received her respectfully, and gave some instructions
to the attendants, which, however, did not stop some individual
comments.

"I say, Jim, it doesn't seem the square thing to let that grim old
girl loose among them poor convalescents."

"Well, I don't know: they say she's rich and gives a lot o' money
away, but if she tackles that swearing old Kentuckian in No. 3,
she'll have her hands full."

However, the criticism was scarcely fair, for Mrs. Argalls,
although moving rigidly along from bed to bed of the ward, equipped
with a certain formula of phrases, nevertheless dropped from time
to time some practical common-sense questions that showed an almost
masculine intuition of the patients' needs and requirements. Nor
did she betray any of that over-sensitive shrinking from coarseness
which the good Pastor had feared, albeit she was quick to correct
its exhibition. The languid men listened to her with half-
aggressive, half-amused interest, and some of the satisfaction of
taking a bitter but wholesome tonic. It was not until she reached
the bed at the farther end of the ward that she seemed to meet with
any check.

It was occupied by a haggard man, with a long white moustache and
features that seemed wasted by inward struggle and fever. At the
first sound of her voice he turned quickly towards her, lifted
himself on his elbow, and gazed fixedly in her face.

"Kate Howard--by the Eternal!" he said, in a low voice.

Despite her rigid self-possession the woman started, glanced
hurriedly around, and drew nearer to him.

"Pendleton!" she said, in an equally suppressed voice, "What, in
God's name, are you doing here?"

"Dying, I reckon--sooner or later," he said grimly, "that's what
they do here."

"But--what," she went on hurriedly, still glancing over her
shoulder as if she suspected some trick--"what has brought you to
this?"

"YOU!" said the colonel, dropping back exhaustedly on his pillow.
"You and your daughter."

"I don't understand you," she said quickly, yet regarding him with
stern rigidity. "You know perfectly well I have NO daughter. You
know perfectly well that I've kept the word I gave you ten years
ago, and that I have been dead to her as she has been to me."

"I know," said the colonel, "that within the last three months I
have paid away my last cent to keep the mouth of an infernal
scoundrel shut who KNOWS that you are her mother, and threatens to
expose her to her friends. I know that I'm dying here of an old
wound that I got when I shut the mouth of another hound who was
ready to bark at her two years after you disappeared. I know that
between you and her I've let my old nigger die of a broken heart,
because I couldn't keep him to suffer with me, and I know that I'm
here a pauper on the State. I know that, Kate, and when I say it I
don't regret it. I've kept my word to YOU, and, by the Eternal,
your daughter's worth it! For if there ever was a fair and
peerless creature--it's your child!"

"And she--a rich woman--unless she squandered the fortune I gave
her--lets you lie here!" said the woman grimly.

"She don't know it."

"She SHOULD know it! Have you quarreled?" She was looking at him
keenly.

"She distrusts me, because she half suspects the secret, and I
hadn't the heart to tell her all."

"All? What does she know? What does this man know? What has been
told her?" she said rapidly.

"She only knows that the name she has taken she has no right to."

"Right to? Why, it was written on the Trust--Yerba Buena."

"No, not that. She thought it was a mistake. She took the name of
Arguello."

"What?" said Mrs. Argalls, suddenly grasping the invalid's wrist
with both hands. "What name?" her eyes were startled from their
rigid coldness, her lips were colorless.

"Arguello! It was some foolish schoolgirl fancy which that hound
helped to foster in her. Why--what's the matter, Kate?"

The woman dropped the helpless man's wrist, then, with an effort,
recovered herself sufficiently to rise, and, with an air of
increased decorum, as if the spiritual character of their interview
excluded worldly intrusion, adjusted the screen around his bed, so
as partly to hide her own face and Pendleton's. Then, dropping
into the chair beside him, she said, in her old voice, from which
the burden of ten long years seemed to have been lifted,--

"Harry, what's that you're playing on me?"

"I don't understand you," said Pendleton amazedly.

"Do you mean to say you don't know it, and didn't tell her
yourself?" she said curtly.

"What? Tell her what?" he repeated impatiently.

"That Arguello WAS her father!"

"Her father?" He tried to struggle to his elbow again, but she
laid her hand masterfully upon his shoulder and forced him back.
"Her father!" he repeated hurriedly. "Jose Arguello! Great God!--
are you sure?"

Quietly and yet mechanically gathering the scattered tracts from
the coverlet, and putting them back, one by one in her reticule,
she closed it and her lips with a snap as she uttered--"Yes."

Pendleton remained staring at her silently, "Yes," he muttered, "it
may have been some instinct of the child's, or some diabolical
fancy of Briones'. But," he said bitterly, "true or not, she has
no right to his name."

"And I say she HAS."

She had risen to her feet, with her arms folded across her breast,
in an attitude of such Puritan composure that the distant
spectators might have thought she was delivering an exordium to the
prostrate man.

"I met Jose Arguello, for the second time, in New Orleans," she
said slowly, "eight years ago. He was still rich, but ruined in
health by dissipation. I was tired of my way of life. He proposed
that I should marry him to take care of him and legitimatize our
child. I was forced to tell him what I had done with her, and that
the Trust could not be disturbed until she was of age and her own
mistress. He assented. We married, but he died within a year. He
died, leaving with me his acknowledgment of her as his child, and
the right to claim her if I chose."

"And?"--interrupted the colonel with sparkling eyes.

"I DON'T CHOOSE.

"Hear me!" she continued firmly. "With his name and my own
mistress, and the girl, as I believed, properly provided for and
ignorant of my existence, I saw no necessity for reopening the
past. I resolved to lead a new life as his widow. I came north.
In the little New England town where I first stopped, the country
people contracted my name to Mrs. Argalls. I let it stand so. I
came to New York and entered the service of the Lord and the bonds
of the Church, Henry Pendleton, as Mrs. Argalls, and have remained
so ever since."

"But you would not object to Yerba knowing that you lived, and
rightly bore her father's name?" said Pendleton eagerly.

The woman looked at him with compressed lips. "I should. I have
buried all my past, and all its consequences. Let me not seek to
reopen it or recall them."

"But if you knew that she was as proud as yourself, and that this
very uncertainty as to her name and parentage, although she has
never known the whole truth, kept her from taking the name and
becoming the wife of a man whom she loves?"

"Whom she loves!"

"Yes; one of her guardians---Hathaway--to whom you intrusted her
when she was a child."

"Paul Hathaway--but HE knew it."

"Yes. But SHE does not know he does. He has kept the secret
faithfully, even when she refused him."

She was silent for a moment, and then said,--

"So be it. I consent."

"And you'll write to her?" said the colonel eagerly.

"No. But YOU may, and if you want them I will furnish you with
such proofs as you may require."

"Thank you." He held out his hand with such a happy yet childish
gratitude upon his worn face that her own trembled slightly as she
took it. "Good-by!"

"I shall see you soon," she said.

"I shall be here," he said grimly.

"I think not," she returned, with the first relaxation of her
smileless face, and moved away.

As she passed out she asked to see the house surgeon. How soon did
he think the patient she had been conversing with could be removed
from the hospital with safety? Did Mrs. Argalls mean "far?" Mrs.
Argalls meant as far as THAT--tendering her card and eminently
respectable address. Ah!--perhaps in a week. Not before? Perhaps
before, unless complications ensued; the patient had been much run
down physically, though, as Mrs. Argalls had probably noticed, he
was singularly strong in nervous will force. Mrs. Argalls HAD
noticed it, and considered it an extraordinary case of conviction--
worthy of the closest watching and care. When he was able to be
moved she would send her own carriage and her own physician to
superintend his transfer. In the mean time he was to want for
nothing. Certainly, he had given very little trouble, and, in
fact, wanted very little. Just now he had only asked for paper,
pens, and ink.

CHAPTER VIII.

As Mrs. Argalls's carriage rolled into Fifth Avenue, it for a
moment narrowly grazed another carriage, loaded with luggage,
driving up to a hotel. The abstracted traveler within it was Paul
Hathaway, who had returned from Europe that morning.

Paul entered the hotel, and, going to the register mechanically,
turned its leaves for the previous arrivals, with the same hopeless
patience that had for the last six weeks accompanied this habitual
preliminary performance on his arrival at the principal European
hotels. For he had lost all trace of Yerba, Pendleton, Milly, and
the Briones from the day of their departure. The entire party
seemed to have separated at Basle, and, in that eight-hours' start
they had of him, to have disappeared to the four cardinal points.
He had lingered a few days in London to transact some business; he
would linger a few days longer in New York before returning to San
Francisco.

The daily papers already contained his name in the list of the
steamer passengers who arrived that morning. It might meet HER
eye, although he had been haunted during the voyage by a terrible
fancy that she was still in Europe, and had either hidden herself
in some obscure provincial town with the half-crazy Pendleton, or
had entered a convent, or even, in reckless despair, had accepted
the name and title of some penniless nobleman. It was this
miserable doubt that had made his homeward journey at times seem
like a cruel desertion of her, while at other moments the
conviction that Milly's Californian relatives might give him some
clew to her whereabouts made him feverishly fearful of delaying an
hour on his way to San Francisco. He did not believe that she had
tolerated the company of Briones a single moment after the scene at
the Bad Hof, and yet he had no confidence in the colonel's attitude
towards the Mexican. Hopeless of the future as her letter seemed,
still its naive and tacit confession of her feelings at the moment
was all that sustained him.

Two days passed, and he still lingered aimlessly in New York. In
two days more the Panama steamer would sail--yet in his hesitation
he had put off securing his passage. He visited the offices of the
different European steamer lines, and examined the recent passenger
lists, but there was no record of any of the party. What made his
quest seem the more hopeless was his belief that, after Briones'
revelation, she had cast off the name of Arguello and taken some
other. She might even be in New York under that new name now.

On the morning of the third day, among his letters was one that
bore the postmark of a noted suburban settlement of wealthy villa-
owners on the Hudson River. It was from Milly Woods, stating that
her father had read of his arrival in the papers, and begged he
would dine and stay the next night with them at "Under Cliff," if
he "still had any interest in the fortunes of old friends. Of
course," added the perennially incoherent Milly, "if it bores you
we sha'n't expect you." The quick color came to Paul's careworn
cheek. He telegraphed assent, and at sunset that afternoon stepped
off the train at a little private woodland station--so abnormally
rustic and picturesque in its brown-bark walls covered with scarlet
Virginia creepers that it looked like a theatrical erection.

Mr. Woods's station wagon was in waiting, but Paul, handing the
driver his valise, and ascertaining the general direction of the
house, and that it was not far distant, told him to go on and he
would follow afoot. The tremor of vague anticipation had already
come upon him; something that he knew not whether he feared or
longed for, only that it was inevitable, had begun to possess him.
He would soon recover himself in the flaring glory of this
woodland, and the invigoration of this hale October air.

It was a beautiful and brilliant sunset, yet not so beautiful and
brilliant but that the whole opulent forest around him seemed to
challenge and repeat its richest as well as its most delicate dyes.
The reddening west, seen through an opening of scarlet maples, was
no longer red; the golden glory of the sun, sinking over a
promontory of gleaming yellow sumach that jutted out into the noble
river, was shorn of its intense radiance; at times in the thickest
woods he seemed surrounded by a yellow nimbus; at times so luminous
was the glow of these translucent leaves that the position of the
sun itself seemed changed, or the shadows cast in defiance of its
glory. As he walked on, long reaches of the lordly placid stream
at his side were visible, as far as the terraces of the opposite
shore, lifted on basaltic columns, themselves streaked and veined
with gold and fire. Paul had seen nothing like this since his
boyhood; for an instant the great heroics of the Sierran landscape
were forgotten in this magnificent harlequinade.

A dim footpath crossed the road in the direction of the house,
which for the last few moments had been slowly etching itself as a
soft vignette in a tinted aureole of walnut and maple upon the
steel blue of the river. He was hesitating whether to take this
short cut or continue on by the road, when he heard the rustling of
quick footsteps among the fallen leaves of the variegated thicket
through which it stole. He stopped short, the leafy screen
shivered and parted, and a tall graceful figure, like a draped and
hidden Columbine, burst through its painted foliage. It was Yerba!

She ran quickly towards him, with parted lips, shining eyes, and a
few scarlet leaves clinging to the stuff of her worsted dress in a
way that recalled the pink petals of Rosario.

"When I saw you were not in the wagon and knew you were walking I
slipped out to intercept you, as I had something to tell you before
you saw the others. I thought you wouldn't mind." She stopped,
and suddenly hesitated.

What was this new strange shyness that seemed to droop her eyelids,
her proud head, and even the slim hand that had been so impulsively
and frankly outstretched towards him? And he--Paul--what was he
doing? Where was this passionate outburst that had filled his
heart for nights and days? Where this eager tumultuous questioning
that his feverish lips had rehearsed hour by hour? Where this
desperate courage that would sweep the whole world away if it stood
between them? Where, indeed? He was standing only a few feet from
her--cold, silent, and tremulous!

She drew back a step, lifted her head with a quick toss that seemed
to condense the moisture in her shining eyes, and sent what might
have been a glittering dew-drop flying into the loosed tendrils of
her hair. Calm and erect again, she put her little hand to her
jacket pocket.

"I only wanted you to read a letter I got yesterday," she said,
taking out an envelope.

The spell was broken. Paul caught eagerly at the hand that held
the letter, and would have drawn her to him; but she put him aside
gravely but sweetly.

"Read that letter!"

"Tell me of YOURSELF first!" he broke out passionately. "Why you
fled from me, and why I now find you here, by the merest chance,
without a word of summons from yourself, Yerba? Tell me who is
with you? Are you free and your own mistress--free to act for
yourself and me? Speak, darling--don't be cruel! Since that night
I have longed for you, sought for you, and suffered for you every
day and hour. Tell me if I find you the same Yerba who wrote"--

"Read that letter!"

"I care for none but the one you left me. I have read and reread
it, Yerba--carried it always with me. See! I have it here!" He
was in the act of withdrawing it from his breast-pocket, when she
put up her hand piteously.

"Please, Paul, please--read this letter first!"

There was something in her new supplicating grace, still retaining
the faintest suggestion of her old girlish archness, that struck
him. He took the letter and opened it. It was from Colonel
Pendleton.

Plainly, concisely, and formally, without giving the name of his
authority or suggesting his interview with Mrs. Argalls, he had
informed Yerba that he had documentary testimony that she was the
daughter of the late Jose de Arguello, and legally entitled to bear
his name. A copy of the instructions given to his wife,
recognizing Yerba Buena, the ward of the San Francisco Trust, as
his child and hers, and leaving to the mother the choice of making
it known to her and others, was inclosed.

Paul turned an unchanged face upon Yerba, who was watching him
eagerly, uneasily, almost breathlessly.

"And you think this concerns ME!" he said bitterly. "You think
only of this, when I speak of the precious letter that bade me
hope, and brought me to you?"

"Paul," said the girl, with wondering eyes and hesitating lips; "do
you mean to say that--that--this is--nothing to you?"

"Yes--but forgive me, darling!" he broke out again, with a sudden
vague remorsefulness, as he once more sought her elusive hand. "I
am a brute--an egotist! I forgot that it might be something to
YOU."

"Paul," continued the girl, her voice quivering with a strange joy,
"do you say that you--YOU yourself, care nothing for this?"

"Nothing," he answered, gazing at her transfigured face with
admiring wonder.

"And"--more timidly, as a faint aurora kindled in her checks--"that
you don't care--that--that--I am coming to you WITH A NAME, to give
you in--exchange?"

He started.

"Yerba, you are not mocking me? You will be my wife?"

She smiled, yet moving softly backwards with the grave stateliness
of a vanishing yet beckoning goddess, until she reached the sumach-
bush from which she had emerged. He followed. Another backward
step, and it yielded to let her through; but even as it did so she
caught him in her arms, and for a single moment it closed upon them
both, and hid them in its glory. A still lingering song-bird,
possibly convinced that he had mistaken the season, and that spring
had really come, flew out with a little cry to carry the message
south; but even then Paul and Yerba emerged with such innocent,
childlike gravity, and, side by side, walked so composedly towards
the house, that he thought better of it.

CHAPTER IX.

It was only the THIRD time they had ever met--did Paul consider
that when he thought her cold? Did he know now why she had not
understood him at Rosario? Did he understand now how calculating
and selfish he had seemed to her that night? Could he look her in
the face now--no, he must be quiet--they were so near the house,
and everybody could see them!--and say that he had ever believed
her capable of making up that story of the Arguellos? Could he not
have guessed that she had some memory of that name in her childish
recollections, how or where she knew not? Was it strange that a
daughter should have an instinct of her father? Was it kind to her
to know all this himself and yet reveal nothing? Because her
mother and father had quarreled, and her mother had run away with
somebody and left her a ward to strangers--was that to be concealed
from her, and she left without a name? This, and much more,
tenderly reproachful, bewildering and sweetly illogical, yet
inexpressibly dear to Paul, as they walked on in the gloaming.

More to the purpose, however, the fact that Briones, as far as she
knew, did not know her mother, and never before the night at
Strudle Bad had ever spoken of her. Still more to the purpose,
that he had disappeared after an interview with the colonel that
night, and that she believed always that the colonel had bought him
off. It was not with HER money. She had sometimes thought that
the colonel and he were in confidence, and that was why she had
lately distrusted Pendleton. But she had refused to take the name
of Arguello again after that scene, and had called herself only by
the name he had given her--would he forgive her for ever speaking
of it as she had?--Yerba Buena. But on shipboard, at Milly's
suggestion, and to keep away from Briones, her name had appeared on
the passenger list as Miss Good, and they had come, not to New
York, but Boston.

It was possible that the colonel had extracted the information he
sent her FROM Briones. They had parted from Pendleton in London,
as he was grumpy and queer, and, as Milly thought, becoming very
miserly and avaricious as he grew older, for he was always
quarreling over the hotel bills. But he had Mrs. Woods's New York
address at Under Cliff, and, of course, guessed where she was.
There was no address on his letter: he had said he would write
again.

Thus much until they reached the steps of the veranda, and Milly,
flying down, was ostentatiously overwhelmed with the unexpected
appearance of Mr. Paul Hathaway and Yerba, whom she had been
watching from the window for the last ten minutes. Then the
appearance of Mr. Woods, Californian and reminiscent, and Mrs.
Woods, metropolitan, languid, and forgetful, and the sudden and
formal retirement of the girls. An arch and indefinable mystery in
the air whenever Paul and Yerba appeared together--of which even
the servants were discreetly conscious.

At dinner Mr. Woods again became retrospective and Californian, and
dwelt upon the changes he had noticed. It appeared the old
pioneers had in few cases attained a comfortable fortune for their
old age. "I know," he added, "that your friend Colonel Pendleton
has dropped a good deal of money over in Europe. Somebody told me
that he actually was reduced to take a steerage passage home. It
looks as if he might gamble--it's an old Californian complaint."
As Paul, who had become suddenly grave again, did not speak, Mrs.
Woods reminded them that she had always doubted the colonel's moral
principles. Old as he was, he had never got over that freedom of
life and social opinion which he had imbibed in early days. For
her part, she was very glad he had not returned from Europe with
the girls, though, of course, the presence of Don Caesar and his
sister during their European sojourn was a corrective. As Paul's
face grew darker during this languid criticism, Yerba, who had been
watching it with a new and absorbing sympathy, seized the first
moment when they left the table to interrogate him with
heartbreaking eyes.

"You don't think, Paul, that the colonel is really poor?"

"God only knows," said Paul. "I tremble to think how that
scoundrel may have bled him."

"And all for me! Paul, dear, you know you were saying in the woods
that you would never, never touch my money. What"--exultingly--"if
we gave it to him?"

What answer Paul made did not transpire, for it seemed to have been
indicated by an interval of profound silence.

But the next morning, as he and Mr. Woods were closeted in the
library, Yerba broke in upon them with a pathetic face and a
telegram in her hand. "Oh, Paul--Mr. Hathaway--IT'S TRUE!"

Paul seized the telegram quickly: it had no signature, only the
line: "Colonel Pendleton is dangerously ill at St. John's
Hospital."

"I must go at once," said Paul, rising.

"Oh, Paul"--imploringly---"let me go with you! I should never
forgive myself if--AND IT'S ADDRESSED TO ME, and what would he
think if I didn't come?"

Paul hesitated. "Mrs. Woods will let Milly go with us and she can
stay at the hotel. Say yes," she continued, seeking his eyes
eagerly.

He consented, and in half an hour they were in the train for New
York. Leaving Milly at the hotel, ostensibly in deference to the
Woods's prejudices, but really to save the presence of a third
party at this meeting, Paul drove with Yerba rapidly to the
hospital. They were admitted to an anteroom. The house surgeon
received them respectfully, but doubtingly. The patient was a
little better this morning, but very weak. There was a lady now
with him--a member of a religious and charitable guild, who had
taken the greatest interest in him--indeed, she had wished to take
him to her own home--but he had declined at first, and now he was
too weak to be removed.

"But I received this telegram: it must have been sent at his
request," protested Yerba.

The house surgeon looked at the beautiful face. He was mortal. He
would see if the patient was able to stand another interview;
possibly the regular visitor might withdraw.

When he had gone, an attendant volunteered the information that the
old gentleman was perhaps a little excited at times. He was a
wonderful man; he had seen a great deal; he talked much of
California and the early days; he was very interesting. Ah, it
would be all right now if the doctor found him well enough, for the
lady was already going--that was she, coming through the hall.

She came slowly towards them--erect, gray, grim--a still handsome
apparition. Paul started. To his horror, Yerba ran impulsively
forward, and said eagerly: "Is he better? Can he see us now?"

The woman halted an instant, seemed to gather the prayer-book and
reticule she was carrying closer to her breast, but was otherwise
unchanged. Replying to Paul rather than the young girl, she said
rigidly: "The patient is able to see Mr. Hathaway and Miss Yerba
Buena," and passed slowly on. But as she reached the door she
unloosed her black mourning veil from her bonnet, and seemed to
drop it across her face with the gesture that Paul remembered she
had used twelve years ago.

"She frightens me!" said Yerba, turning a suddenly startled face on
Paul. "Oh, Paul, I hope it isn't an omen, but she looked like some
one from the grave!"

"Hush!" said Paul, turning away a face that was whiter than her
own. "They are coming now."

The house surgeon had returned a trifle graver. They might see him
now, but they must be warned that he wandered at times a little;
and, if he might suggest, if it was anything of family importance,
they had better make the most of their time and his lucid
intervals. Perhaps if they were old friends--VERY old friends--he
would recognize them. He was wandering much in the past--always in
the past.

They found him in the end of the ward, but so carefully protected
and partitioned off by screens that the space around his cot had
all the privacy and security of an apartment. He was very much
changed; they would scarcely have known him, but for the delicately
curved aquiline profile and the long white moustache--now so faint
and etherealized as to seem a mere spirit wing that rested on his
pillow. To their surprise he opened his eyes with a smile of
perfect recognition, and, with thin fingers beyond the coverlid,
beckoned to them to approach. Yet there was still a shadow of his
old reserve in his reception of Paul, and, although one hand
interlocked the fingers of Yerba--who had at first rushed
impulsively forward and fallen on her knees beside the bed--and the
other softly placed itself upon her head, his eyes were fixed upon
the young man's with the ceremoniousness due to a stranger.

"I am glad to see, sir," he began in a slow, broken, but perfectly
audible voice, "that now you are--satisfied with the right--of this
young lady--to bear the name of--Arguello--and her relationship--
sir--to one of the oldest"--

"But, my dear old friend," broke out Paul, earnestly, "I NEVER
cared for that--I beg you to believe"--

"He never--never--cared for it--dear, dear colonel," sobbed Yerba,
passionately: "it was all my fault--he thought only of me--you
wrong him!"

"I think otherwise," said the colonel, with grim and relentless
deliberation. "I have a vivid--impression--sir--of an--interview I
had with you--at the St. Charles--where you said"-- He was silent
for a moment, and then in a quite different voice called faintly--

"George!"

Paul and Yerba glanced quickly at each other.

"George, set out some refreshment for the Honorable Paul Hathaway.
The best, sir--you understand. . . . A good nigger, sir--a good
boy; and he never leaves me, sir. Only, by gad! sir, he will
starve himself and his family to be with me. I brought him with me
to California away back in the fall of 'forty-nine. Those were the
early days, sir--the early days."

His head had fallen back quite easily on the pillow now; but a
slight film seemed to be closing over his dark eyes, like the inner
lid of an eagle when it gazes upon the sun.

"They were the old days, sir--the days of Men--when a man's WORD
was enough for anything, and his trigger-finger settled any doubt.
When the Trust that he took from Man, Woman, or Child was never
broken. When the tide, sir, that swept through the Golden Gate
came up as far as Montgomery Street."

He did not speak again. But they who stood beside him knew that
the tide had once more come up to Montgomery Street, and was
carrying Harry Pendleton away with it.

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