Part 1 out of 4
by Frank Norris
IT had just struck nine from the cuckoo clock that hung over the
mantelpiece in the dining-room, when Victorine brought in the
halved watermelon and set it in front of Mr. Bessemer's plate.
Then she went down to the front door for the damp, twisted roll of
the Sunday morning's paper, and came back and rang the breakfast-
bell for the second time.
As the family still hesitated to appear, she went to the bay
window at the end of the room, and stood there for a moment
looking out. The view was wonderful. The Bessemers lived upon
the Washington Street hill, almost at its very summit, in a flat
in the third story of the building. The contractor had been
clever enough to reverse the position of kitchen and dining-room,
so that the latter room was at the rear of the house. From its
window one could command a sweep of San Francisco Bay and the
Contra Costa shore, from Mount Diablo, along past Oakland,
Berkeley, Sausalito, and Mount Tamalpais, out to the Golden Gate,
the Presidio, the ocean, and even--on very clear days--to the
For some time Victorine stood looking down at the great expanse of
land and sea, then faced about with an impatient exclamation.
On Sundays all the week-day regime of the family was deranged, and
breakfast was a movable feast, to be had any time after seven or
before half-past nine. As Victorine was pouring the ice-water,
Mr. Bessemer himself came in, and addressed himself at once to his
meal, without so much as a thought of waiting for the others.
He was a little round man. He wore a skull-cap to keep his bald
spot warm, and read his paper through a reading-glass. The
expression of his face, wrinkled and bearded, the eyes shadowed by
enormous gray eyebrows, was that of an amiable gorilla.
Bessemer was one of those men who seem entirely disassociated from
their families. Only on rare and intense occasions did his
paternal spirit or instincts assert themselves. At table he
talked but little. Though devotedly fond of his eldest daughter,
she was a puzzle and a stranger to him. His interests and hers
were absolutely dissimilar. The children he seldom spoke to but
to reprove; while Howard, the son, the ten-year-old and terrible
infant of the household, he always referred to as "that boy."
He was an abstracted, self-centred old man, with but two hobbies--
homoeopathy and the mechanism of clocks. But he had a strange way
of talking to himself in a low voice, keeping up a running, half-
whispered comment upon his own doings and actions; as, for
instance, upon this occasion: "Nine o'clock--the clock's a little
fast. I think I'll wind my watch. No, I've forgotten my watch.
Watermelon this morning, eh? Where's a knife? I'll have a little
salt. Victorine's forgot the spoons--ha, here's a spoon! No, it's
a knife I want."
After he had finished his watermelon, and while Victorine was
pouring his coffee, the two children came in, scrambling to their
places, and drumming on the table with their knife-handles.
The son and heir, Howard, was very much a boy. He played baseball
too well to be a very good boy, and for the sake of his own self-
respect maintained an attitude of perpetual revolt against his
older sister, who, as much as possible, took the place of the
mother, long since dead. Under her supervision, Howard blacked
his own shoes every morning before breakfast, changed his
underclothes twice a week, and was dissuaded from playing with the
dentist's son who lived three doors below and who had St. Vitus'
His little sister was much more tractable. She had been
christened Alberta, and was called Snooky. She promised to be
pretty when she grew up, but was at this time in that distressing
transitional stage between twelve and fifteen; was long-legged,
and endowed with all the awkwardness of a colt. Her shoes were
still innocent of heels; but on those occasions when she was
allowed to wear her tiny first pair of corsets she was exalted to
an almost celestial pitch of silent ecstasy. The clasp of the
miniature stays around her small body was like the embrace of a
little lover, and awoke in her ideas that were as vague, as
immature and unformed as the straight little figure itself.
When Snooky and Howard had seated themselves, but one chair--at
the end of the breakfast-table, opposite Mr. Bessemer--remained
"Is your sister--is Miss Travis going to have her breakfast now?
Is she got up yet?" inquired Victorine of Howard and Snooky, as
she pushed the cream pitcher out of Howard's reach. It was
significant of Mr. Bessemer's relations with his family that
Victorine did not address her question to him.
"Yes, yes, she's coming," said both the children, speaking
together; and Howard added: "Here she comes now."
Travis Bessemer came in. Even in San Francisco, where all women
are more or less beautiful, Travis passed for a beautiful girl.
She was young, but tall as most men, and solidly, almost heavily
built. Her shoulders were broad, her chest was deep, her neck
round and firm. She radiated health; there were exuberance and
vitality in the very touch of her foot upon the carpet, and there
was that cleanliness about her, that freshness, that suggested a
recent plunge in the surf and a "constitutional" along the beach.
One felt that here was stamina, good physical force, and fine
animal vigor. Her arms were large, her wrists were large, and her
fingers did not taper. Her hair was of a brown so light as to be
almost yellow. In fact, it would be safer to call it yellow from
the start--not golden nor flaxen, but plain, honest yellow. The
skin of her face was clean and white, except where it flushed to a
most charming pink upon her smooth, cool cheeks. Her lips were
full and red, her chin very round and a little salient. Curiously
enough, her eyes were small--small, but of the deepest, deepest
brown, and always twinkling and alight, as though she were just
ready to smile or had just done smiling, one could not say which.
And nothing could have been more delightful than these sloe-brown,
glinting little eyes of hers set off by her white skin and yellow
She impressed one as being a very normal girl: nothing morbid
about her, nothing nervous or false or overwrought. You did not
expect to find her introspective. You felt sure that her mental
life was not at all the result of thoughts and reflections
germinating from within, but rather of impressions and sensations
that came to her from without. There was nothing extraordinary
about Travis. She never had her vagaries, was not moody--
depressed one day and exalted the next. She was just a good,
sweet, natural, healthy-minded, healthy-bodied girl, honest,
strong, self-reliant, and good-tempered.
Though she was not yet dressed for church, there was style in her
to the pointed tips of her patent-leather slippers. She wore a
heavy black overskirt that rustled in delicious fashion over the
colored silk skirt beneath, and a white shirt-waist, striped
black, and starched to a rattling stiffness. Her neck was swathed
tight and high with a broad ribbon of white satin, while around
her waist, in place of a belt, she wore the huge dog-collar of a
St. Bernard--a chic little idea which was all her own, and of
which she was very proud.
She was as trig and trim and crisp as a crack yacht: not a pin was
loose, not a seam that did not fall in its precise right line; and
with every movement there emanated from her a barely perceptible
delicious feminine odor--an odor that was in part perfume, but
mostly a subtle, vague smell, charming beyond words, that came
from her hair, her neck, her arms--her whole sweet personality.
She was nineteen years old.
She sat down to breakfast and ate heartily, though with her
attention divided between Howard--who was atrociously bad, as
usual of a Sunday morning--and her father's plate. Mr. Bessemer
was as like as not to leave the table without any breakfast at all
unless his fruit, chops, and coffee were actually thrust under his
"Papum," she called, speaking clear and distinct, as though to the
deaf, "there's your coffee there at your elbow; be careful, you'll
tip it over. Victorine, push his cup further on the table. Is it
strong enough for you, Papum'"
"Eh? Ah, yes--yes--yes," murmured the old man, looking vaguely
about him; "coffee, to be sure"--and he emptied the cup at a
single draught, hardly knowing whether it was coffee or tea. "Now
I'll take a roll," he continued, in a monotonous murmur. "Where
are the rolls? Here they are. Hot rolls are bad for my digestion--
I ought to eat bread. I think I eat too much. Where's my place
in the paper?--always lose my place in the paper. Clever
editorials this fellow Eastman writes, unbiassed by party
prejudice--unbiassed--unbiassed." His voice died to a whisper.
The breakfast proceeded, Travis supervising everything that went
forward, even giving directions to Victorine as to the hour for
serving dinner. It was while she was talking to Victorine as to
this matter that Snooky began to whine.
"And tell Maggie," pursued Travis, "to fricassee her chicken, and
not to have it too well done--"
"Sto-o-op!" whined Snooky again.
"And leave the heart out for Papum. He likes the heart--"
"Unbiassed by prejudice," murmured Mr. Bessemer, "vigorous and to
the point. I'll have another roll."
"Pa, make Howard stop!"
"Howard!" exclaimed Travis; "what is it now?"
"Howard's squirting watermelon-seeds at me," whined Snooky, "and
Pa won't make him stop."
"Oh, I didn't so!" vociferated Howard. "I only held one between
my fingers, and it just kind of shot out."
"You'll come upstairs with me in just five minutes," announced
Travis, "and get ready for Sunday-school."
Howard knew that his older sister's decisions were as the laws of
the Persians, and found means to finish his breakfast within the
specified time, though not without protest. Once upstairs,
however, the usual Sunday morning drama of despatching him to
Sunday-school in presentable condition was enacted. At every
moment his voice could be heard uplifted in shrill expostulation
and debate. No, his hands were clean enough, and he didn't see
why he had to wear that little old pink tie; and, oh! his new
shoes were too tight and hurt his sore toe; and he wouldn't, he
wouldn't--no, not if he were killed for it, change his shirt. Not
for a moment did Travis lose her temper with him. But "very
well," she declared at length, "the next time she saw that little
Miner girl she would tell her that he had said she was his beau-
heart. NOW would he hold still while she brushed his hair?"
At a few minutes before eleven Travis and her father went to
church. They were Episcopalians, and for time out of mind had
rented a half-pew in the church of their denomination on
California Street, not far from Chinatown. By noon the family
reassembled. at dinner-table, where Mr. Bessemer ate his chicken-
heart--after Travis had thrice reminded him of it--and expressed
himself as to the sermon and the minister's theology: sometimes to
his daughter and sometimes to himself.
After dinner Howard and Snooky foregathered in the nursery with
their beloved lead soldiers; Travis went to her room to write
letters; and Mr. Bessemer sat in the bay window of the dining-room
reading the paper from end to end.
At five Travis bestirred herself. It was Victorine's afternoon
out. Travis set the table, spreading a cover of blue denim edged
with white braid, which showed off the silver and the set of
delft--her great and never-ending joy--to great effect. Then she
tied her apron about her, and went into the kitchen to make the
mayonnaise dressing for the potato salad, to slice the ham, and to
help the cook (a most inefficient Irish person, taken on only for
that month during the absence of the family's beloved and
venerated Sing Wo) in the matter of preparing the Sunday evening
Tea was had at half-past five. Never in the history of the family
had its menu varied: cold ham, potato salad, pork and beans,
canned fruit, chocolate, and the inevitable pitcher of ice-water.
In the absence of Victorine, Maggie waited on the table, very
uncomfortable in her one good dress and stiff white apron. She
stood off from the table, making awkward dabs at it from time to
time. In her excess of deference she developed a clumsiness that
was beyond all expression. She passed the plates upon the wrong
side, and remembered herself with a broken apology at inopportune
moments. She dropped a spoon, she spilled the ice-water. She
handled the delft cups and platters with an exaggerated
solicitude, as though they were glass bombs. She brushed the
crumbs into their laps instead of into the crumb-tray, and at
last, when she had sat even Travis' placid nerves in a jangle, was
dismissed to the kitchen, and retired with a gasp of unspeakable
Suddenly there came a prolonged trilling of the electric bell, and
Howard flashed a grin at Travis. Snooky jumped up and pushed
back, crying out: "I'll go! I'll go!"
Mr. Bessemer glanced nervously at Travis. "That's Mr. Rivers,
isn't it, daughter?" Travis smiled. "Well, I think I'll--I think
I'd better--" he began.
"No," said Travis, "I don't want you to, Papum; you sit right
where you are. How absurd!"
The old man dropped obediently back into his seat.
"That's all right, Maggie," said Travis as the cook reappeared
from the pantry. "Snooky went."
"Huh!" exclaimed Howard, his grin widening. "Huh!"
And remember one thing, Howard," remarked Travis calmly, "don't
you ever again ask Mr. Rivers for a nickel to put in your bank."
Mr. Bessemer roused up. "Did that boy do that?" he inquired
sharply of Travis.
"Well, well, he won't do it again," said Travis soothingly. The
old man glared for an instant at Howard, who shifted uneasily in
his seat. But meanwhile Snooky had clambered down to the outside
door, and before anything further could be said young Rivers came
into the dining-room.
FOR some reason, never made sufficiently clear, Rivers' parents
had handicapped him from the baptismal font with the prenomen of
Conde, which, however, upon Anglo-Saxon tongues, had been promptly
modified to Condy, or even, among his familiar and intimate
friends, to Conny. Asked as to his birthplace--for no Californian
assumes that his neighbor is born in the State--Condy was wont to
reply that he was "bawn 'n' rais'" in Chicago; "but," he always
added, "I couldn't help that, you know." His people had come West
in the early eighties, just in time to bury the father in alien
soil. Condy was an only child. He was educated at the State
University, had a finishing year at Yale, and a few months after
his return home was taken on the staff of the San Francisco "Daily
Times" as an associate editor of its Sunday supplement. For Condy
had developed a taste and talent in the matter of writing. Short
stories were his mania. He had begun by an inoculation of the
Kipling virus, had suffered an almost fatal attack of Harding
Davis, and had even been affected by Maupassant. He "went in" for
accuracy of detail; held that if one wrote a story involving
firemen one should have, or seem to have, every detail of the
department at his fingers' ends, and should "bring in" to the tale
all manner of technical names and cant phrases.
Much of his work on the Sunday supplement of "The Times" was of
the hack order--special articles, write-ups, and interviews.
About once a month, however, he wrote a short story, and of late,
now that he was convalescing from Maupassant and had begun to be
somewhat himself, these stories had improved in quality, and one
or two had even been copied in the Eastern journals. He earned
$100 a month.
When Snooky had let him in, Rivers dashed up the stairs of the
Bessemers' flat, two at a time, tossed his stick into a porcelain
cane-rack in the hall, wrenched off his overcoat with a single
movement, and precipitated himself, panting, into the dining-room,
tugging at his gloves.
He was twenty-eight years old--nearly ten years older than Travis;
tall and somewhat lean; his face smooth-shaven and pink all over,
as if he had just given it a violent rubbing with a crash towel.
Unlike most writing folk, he dressed himself according to
prevailing custom. But Condy overdid the matter. His scarfs and
cravats were too bright, his colored shirt-bosoms were too broadly
barred, his waistcoats too extreme. Even Travis, as she rose to
his abrupt entrance? told herself that of a Sunday evening a pink
shirt and scarlet tie were a combination hardly to be forgiven.
Condy shook her hand in both of his, then rushed over to Mr.
Bessemer, exclaiming between breaths: "Don't get up, sir--don't
THINK of it! Heavens! I'm disgustingly late. You're all through.
My watch--this beastly watch of mine--I can't imagine how I came
to be so late. You did quite right not to wait."
Then as his morbidly keen observation caught a certain look of
blankness on Travis' face, and his rapid glance noted no vacant
chair at table, he gave a quick gasp of dismay.
"Heavens and earth! didn't you EXPECT me?" he cried. "I thought
you said--I thought--I must have forgotten--I must have got it
mixed up somehow. What a hideous mistake, what a blunder! What a
fool I am!"
He dropped into a chair against the wall and mopped his forehead
with a blue-bordered handkerchief.
"Well, what difference does it make, Condy?" said Travis quietly.
"I'll put another place for you."
"No, no!" he vociferated, jumping up. "I won't hear of it, I
won't permit it! You'll think I did it on purpose!"
Travis ignored his interference, and made a place for him opposite
the children, and had Maggie make some more chocolate.
Condy meanwhile covered himself with opprobrium.
"And all this trouble--I always make trouble everywhere I go.
Always a round man in a square hole, or a square man in a round
He got up and sat down again, crossed and recrossed his legs,
picked up little ornaments from the mantelpiece, and replaced them
without consciousness of what they were, and finally broke the
crystal of his watch as he was resetting it by the cuckoo clock.
"Hello!" he exclaimed suddenly, "where did you get that clock?
Where did you get that clock? That's new to me. Where did that
"That cuckoo clock?" inquired Travis, with a stare. "Condy
Rivers, you've been here and in this room at least twice a week
for the last year and a half, and that clock, and no other, has
always hung there."
But already Condy had forgotten or lost interest in the clock.
"Is that so? is that so?" he murmured absent-mindedly, seating
himself at the table.
Mr. Bessemer was murmuring: "That clock's a little fast. I can
not make that clock keep time. Victorine has lost the key. I
have to wind it with a monkey-wrench. Now I'll try some more
beans. Maggie has put in too much pepper. I'll have to have a
new key made to-morrow."
"Hey? Yes--yes. Is that so?" answered Condy Rivers, bewildered,
wishing to be polite, yet unable to follow the old man's
"He's not talking to you," remarked Travis, without lowering her
voice. "You know how Papum goes on. He won't hear a word you
say. Well, I read your story in this morning's 'Times.'"
A few moments later, while Travers and Condy were still discussing
this story, Mr. Bessemer rose. "Well, Mr. Rivers," he announced,
"I guess I'll say good-night. Come, Snooky."
"Yes, take her with you, Papum," said Travis. "She'll go to sleep
on the lounge here if you don't. Howard, have you got your
lessons for to-morrow?"
It appeared that he had not. Snooky whined to stay up a little
longer, but at last consented to go with her father. They all
bade Condy good-night and took themselves away, Howard lingering a
moment in the door in the hope of the nickel he dared not ask for.
Maggie reappeared to clear away the table.
"Let's go in the parlor," suggested Travis, rising. "Don't you
The parlor was the front room overlooking the street, and was
reached by the long hall that ran the whole length of the flat,
passing by the door of each one of its eight rooms in turn.
Travis preceded Condy, and turned up one of the burners in colored
globe of the little brass chandelier.
The parlor was a small affair, peopled by a family of chairs and
sofas robed in white drugget. A gold-and-white effect had been
striven for throughout the room. The walls had been tinted
instead of papered, and bunches of hand-painted pink flowers tied
up with blue ribbons straggled from one corner of the ceiling.
Across one angle of the room straddled a brass easel upholding a
crayon portrait of Travis at the age of nine, "enlarged from a
photograph." A yellow drape ornamented one corner of the frame,
while another drape of blue depended from one end of the
The piano, upon which nobody ever played, balanced the easel in an
opposite corner. Over the mantelpiece hung in a gilded frame a
steel engraving of Priscilla and John Alden; and on the mantel
itself two bisque figures of an Italian fisher boy and girl kept
company with the clock, a huge timepiece, set in a red plush
palette, that never was known to go. But at the right of the
fireplace, and balancing the tuft of pampa-grass to the left, was
an inverted section of a sewer-pipe painted blue and decorated
with daisies. Into it was thrust a sheaf of cat-tails, gilded,
and tied with a pink ribbon.
Travis dropped upon the shrouded sofa, and Condy set himself
carefully down on one of the frail chairs with its spindling
golden legs, and they began to talk.
Condy had taken her to the theatre the Monday night of that week,
as had been his custom ever since he had known her well, and there
was something left for them to say on that subject. But in ten
minutes they had exhausted it. An engagement of a girl known to
both of them had just been announced. Condy brought that up, and
kept conversation going for another twenty minutes, and then
filled in what threatened to be a gap by telling her stories of
the society reporters, and how they got inside news by listening
to telephone party wires for days at a time. Travis' condemnation
of this occupied another five or ten minutes; and so what with
this and with that they reached nine o'clock. Then decidedly the
evening began to drag. It was too early to go. Condy could find
no good excuse for takng himself away, and, though Travis was
good-natured enough, and met him more than half-way, their talk
lapsed, and lapsed, and lapsed. The breaks became more numerous
and lasted longer. Condy began to wonder if he was boring her.
No sooner had the suspicion entered his head than it hardened into
a certainty, and at once what little fluency and freshness he yet
retained forsook him on the spot. What made matters worse was his
recollection of other evenings that of late he had failed in
precisely the same manner. Even while he struggled to save the
situation Condy was wondering if they two were talked out--if they
had lost charm for each other. Did he not know Travis through and
through by now--her opinions, her ideas, her convictions? Was
there any more freshness in her for him? Was their little
flirtation of the last eighteen months, charming as it had been,
about to end? Had they played out the play, had they come to the
end of each other's resources? He had never considered the
possibility of this before, but all at once as he looked at
Travis--looked fairly into her little brown-black eyes--it was
borne in upon him that she was thinking precisely the same thing.
Condy Rivers had met Travis at a dance a year and a half before
this, and, because she was so very pretty, so unaffected, and so
good-natured, had found means to see her three or four times a
week ever since. They two "went out" not a little in San
Francisco society, and had been in a measure identified with what
was known as the Younger Set; though Travis was too young to come
out, and Rivers too old to feel very much at home with girls of
twenty and boys of eighteen.
They had known each other in the conventional way (as
conventionality goes in San Francisco); during the season Rivers
took her to the theatres Monday nights, and called regularly
Wednesdays and Sundays. Then they met at dances, and managed to
be invited to the same houses for teas and dinners. They had
flirted rather desperately, and at times Condy even told himself
that he loved this girl so much younger than he--this girl with
the smiling eyes and robust figure and yellow hair, who was so
frank, so straightforward, and so wonderfully pretty.
But evidently they had come to the last move in the game, and as
Condy reflected that after all he had never known the real Travis,
that the girl whom he told himself he knew through and through was
only the Travis of dinner parties and afternoon functions, he was
suddenly surprised to experience a sudden qualm of deep and
genuine regret. He had never been NEAR to her, after all. They
were as far apart as when they had first met. And yet he knew
enough of her to know that she was "worth while." He had had
experience--all the experience he wanted--with other older women
and girls of society. They were sophisticated, they were all a
little tired, they had run the gamut of amusements--in a word,
they were jaded. But Travis, this girl of nineteen, who was not
yet even a debutante, had been fresh and unspoiled, had been new
and strong and young.
"Of course, you may call it what you like. He was nothing more
nor less than intoxicated--yes, drunk."
"Hah! who--what--wh--what are you talking about?" gasped Condy
sitting bolt upright.
"Jack Carter," answered Travis. "No," she added. shaking her
head at him helplessly, "he hasn't been listening to a word. I'm
talking about Jack Carter and the 'Saturday Evening' last night."
"No, no, I haven't heard. Forgive me; I was thinking--thinking of
something else. Who was drunk?"
Travis paused a moment, settling her side-combs in her hair; then:
"If you will try to listen, I'll tell it all over again, because
it's serious with me, and I'm going to take a very decided stand
about it. You know," she went on--"you know what the 'Saturday
Evening' is. Plenty of the girls who are not 'out' belong, and a
good many of last year's debutantes come, as well as the older
girls of three or four seasons' standing. You could call it
representative couldn't you? Well, they always serve punch; and
you know yourself that you have seen men there who have taken more
than they should."
"Yes, yes," admitted Condy. "I know Carter and the two Catlin
boys always do."
"It gets pretty bad sometimes, doesn't it?" she said.
"It does, it does--and it's shameful. But most of the girls--
MOST of them don't seem to mind."
Miss Bessemer stiffened a bit. "There are one or two girls that
do," she said quietly. "Frank Catlin had the decency to go home
last night," she continued; "and his brother wasn't any worse than
usual. But Jack Carter must have been drinking before he came.
He was very bad indeed--as bad," she said between her teeth, "as
he could be and yet walk straight. As you say, most of the girls
don't mind. They say, 'It's only Johnnie Carter; what do you
expect?' But one of the girls--you know her, Laurie Flagg--cut a
dance with him last night and told him exactly why. Of course,
Carter was furious. He was sober enough to think he had been
insulted; and what do you suppose he did?"
"What? what?" exclaimed Condy, breathless, leaning toward her.
"Went about the halls and dressing-rooms circulating some dirty
little lie about Laurie. Actually trying to--to"--Travis
hesitated--"to make a scandal about her."
Condy bounded in his seat. "Beast, cad, swine!" he exclaimed.
"I didn't think," said Travis, "that Carter would so much as dare
to ask me to dance with him--"
"Did he? did--did--"
"Wait," she interrupted. "So I wasn't at all prepared for what
happened. During the german, before I knew it, there he was in
front of me. It was a break, and he wanted it. I hadn't time to
think. The only idea I had was that if I refused him he might
tell some dirty little lie about me. I was all confused--mixed
up. I felt just as though it were a snake that I had to humor to
get rid of. I gave him the break."
Condy sat speechless. Suddenly he arose.
"Well, now, let's see," he began, speaking rapidly, his hands
twisting and untwisting till the knuckles cracked. "Now, let's
see. You leave it to me. I know Carter. He's going to be at a
stag dinner where I am invited to-morrow night, and I--I--"
"No, you won't, Condy," said Travis placidly. "You'll pay no
attention to it, and I'll tell you why. Suppose you should make a
scene with Mr. Carter--I don't know how men settle these things.
Well, it would be told in all the clubs and in all the newspaper
offices that two men had quarreled over a girl; and my name is
mentioned, discussed, and handed around from one crowd of men to
another, from one club to another; and then, of course, the papers
take it up. By that time Mr. Carter will have told his side of
the story and invented another dirty little lie, and I'm the one
who suffers the most in the end. And remember, Condy, that I
haven't any mother in such an affair, not even an older sister.
No, we'll just let the matter drop. It would be more dignified,
anyhow. Only I have made up my mind what I am going to do."
"I'm not coming out. If that's the sort of thing one has to put
up with in society"--Travis drew a little line on the sofa at her
side with her finger-tip--"I am going to--stop--right--there.
It's not"--Miss Bessemer stiffened again--"that I'm afraid of Jack
Carter and his dirty stories; I simply don't want to know the kind
of people who have made Jack Carter possible. The other girls
don't mind it, nor many men besides you, Condy; and I'm not going
to be associated with people who take it as a joke for a man to
come to a function drunk. And as for having a good time, I'll
find my amusements somewhere else. I'll ride a wheel, take long
walks, study something. But as for leading the life of a society
girl--no! And whether I have a good time or not, I'll keep my own
self-respect. At least I'll never have to dance with a drunken
man. I won't have to humiliate myself like that a second time."
"But I presume you will still continue to go out somewhere,"
protested Condy Rivers.
She shook her head.
"I have thought it all over, and I've talked about it with Papum.
There's no half way about it. The only way to stop is to stop
short. Just this afternoon I've regretted three functions for
next week, and I shall resign from the 'Saturday Evening.' Oh,
it's not the Jack Carter affair alone!" she exclaimed; "the whole
thing tires me. Mind, Condy," she exclaimed, "I'm not going to
break with it because I have any 'purpose in life,' or that sort
of thing. I want to have a good time, and I'm going to see if I
can't have it in my own way. If the kind of thing that makes Jack
Carter possible is conventionality, then I'm done with
conventionality for good. I am going to try, from this time on,
to be just as true to myself as I can be. I am going to be
sincere, and not pretend to like people and things that I don't
like; and I'm going to do the things that I like to do--just so
long as they are the things a good girl can do. See, Condy?"
"You're fine," murmured Condy breathless. "You're fine as gold,
Travis, and I--I love you all the better for it."
"Ah, NOW!" exclaimed Travis, with a brusque movement, "there's
mother thing we must talk about. No more foolishness between us.
We've had a jolly little flirtation, I know, and it's been good
fun while it lasted. I know you like me, and you know that I like
you; but as for loving each other, you know we don't. Yes, you
say that you love me and that I'm the only girl. That's part of
the game. I can play it"--her little eyes began to dance--"quite
as well as you. But it's playing with something that's quite too
serious to be played with--after all, isn't it, now? It's
insincere, and, as I tell you, from now on I'm going to be as true
and as sincere and as honest as I can."
"But I tell you that I DO love you," protested Condy, trying to
make the words ring true.
Travis looked about the room an instant as if in deliberation;
then abruptly: "Ah! what am I going to DO with such a boy as you
are, after all--a great big, overgrown boy? Condy Rivers, look at
me straight in the eye. Tell me, do you honestly love me? You
know what I mean when I say 'love.' Do you love me?"
"No, I don't!" he exclaimed blankly, as though he had just
discovered the fact.
"There!" declared Travis--"and I don't love you." They both began
"Now," added Travis, "we don't need to have the burden and trouble
of keeping up the pretences any more. We understand each other,
"This is queer enough," said Condy drolly.
"But isn't it an improvement?"
Condy scoured his head.
"Tell me the truth," she insisted; "YOU be sincere."
"I do believe it is. Why--why--Travis by Jingo! Travis, I think
I'm going to like you better than ever now."
"Never mind. Is it an agreement?"
"That we don't pretend to love each other any more?"
"All right--yes--you're right; because the moment I began to love
you I should like you so much less."
She put out her hand. "That's an agreement, then."
Condy took her hand in his. "Yes, it's an agreement." But when,
as had been his custom, he made as though to kiss her hand, Travis
drew it quickly away.
"No! no!" she said firmly, smiling for all that--"no more
"But--but," he protested, "it's not so radical as that, is it?
You're not going to overturn such time-worn, time-honored customs
as that? Why, this is a regular rebellion."
"No, sire," quoted Travis, trying not to laugh, "it is a
Although Monday was practically a holiday for the Sunday-
supplement staff of "The Times," Condy Rivers made a point to get
down to the office betimes the next morning. There were reasons
why a certain article descriptive of a great whaleback steamer
taking on grain for famine-stricken India should be written that
day, and Rivers wanted his afternoon free in order to go to Laurie
Flagg's coming-out tea.
But as he came into his room at "The Times" office, which he
shared with the exchange and sporting editors, and settled himself
at his desk, he suddenly remembered that, under the new order of
things, he need not expect to see Travis at the Flaggs'.
"Well," he muttered, "maybe it doesn't make so much difference,
after all. She was a corking fine girl, but--might as well admit
it--the play is played out. Of course, I don't love her--any more
whan she loves me. I'll see less and less of her now. It's
inevitable, and after a while we'll hardly even meet. In a way,
it's a pity; but, of course, one has to be sensible about these
things....Well, this whaleback now."
He rang up the Chamber of Commerce, and found out that the "City
of Everett," which was the whaleback's name, was at the Mission
Street wharf. This made it possible for him to write the article
in two ways. He either could fake his copy from a clipping on the
subject which the exchange editor had laid on his desk, or he
could go down in person to the wharf, interview the captain, and
inspect the craft for himself. The former was the short and easy
method. The latter was more troublesome, but would result in a
far more interesting article.
Condy debated the subject a few minutes, then decided to go down
to the wharf. San Francisco's water-front was always interesting,
and he might get hold of a photograph of the whaleback. All at
once the "idea" of the article struck him, the certain underlying
notion that would give importance and weight to the mere details
and descriptions. Condy's enthusiasm flared up in an instant.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed; "by Jove!"
He clapped on his hat wrong side foremost, crammed a sheaf of
copy-paper into his pocket, and was on the street again in another
moment. Then it occurred to him that he had forgotten to call at
his club that morning for his mail, as was his custom, on the way
to the office. He looked at his watch. It was early yet, and his
club was but two blocks' distance. He decided that he would get
his letters at the club, and read them on the way down to the
For Condy had joined a certain San Francisco club of artists,
journalists, musicians, and professional men that is one of the
institutions of the city, and, in fact, famous throughout the
United States. He was one of the younger members, but was popular
and well liked, and on more than one occasion had materially
contributed to the fun of the club's "low jinks."
In his box this morning he found one letter that he told himself
he must read upon the instant. It bore upon the envelope the name
of a New York publishing house to whom Condy had sent a collection
of his short stories about a month before. He took the letter
into the "round window" of the club, overlooking the street, and
tore it open excitedly. The fact that he had received a letter
from the firm without the return of his manuscript seemed a good
omen. This was what he read:
Conde Rivers, Esq., Bohemian Club, San Francisco, Cal.
DEAR SIR: We return to you by this mail the manuscript of your
stories, which we do not consider as available for publication at
the present moment. We would say, however, that we find in
several of them indications of a quite unusual order of merit.
The best-selling book just now is the short novel--say thirty
thousand words--of action and adventure. Judging from the stories
of your collection, we suspect that your talent lies in this
direction, and we would suggest that you write such a novel and
submit the same to us.
THE CENTENNIAL CO.,
Condy shoved the letter into his pocket and collapsed limply into
"What's the good of trying to do anything anyhow!" he muttered,
looking gloomily down into the street. "My level is just the
hack-work of a local Sunday supplement, and I am a fool to think
of anything else."
His enthusiasm in the matter of the "City of Everett" was cold and
dead in a moment. He could see no possibilities in the subject
whatever. His "idea" of a few minutes previous seemed ridiculous
and overwrought. He would go back to the office and grind out his
copy from the exchange editor's clipping.
Just then his eye was caught by a familiar figure in trim, well-
fitting black halted on the opposite corner waiting for the
passage of a cable car. It was Travis Bessemer. No one but she
could carry off such rigorous simplicity in the matter of dress so
well: black skirt, black Russian blouse, tiny black bonnet and
black veil, white kids with black stitching. Simplicity itself.
Yet the style of her, as Condy Rivers told himself, flew up and
hit you in the face; and her figure--was there anything more
perfect? and the soft pretty effect of her yellow hair seen
through the veil--could anything be more fetching? and her smart
carriage and the fling of her fine broad shoulders, and--no, it
was no use; Condy had to run down to speak to her.
"Come, come!" she said as he pretended to jostle against her on
the curbstone without noticing her; "you had best go to work.
Loafing at ten o'clock on the street corners--the idea!"
"It IS not--it can not be--and yet it is--it is SHE," he
burlesqued; "and after all these years!" Then in his natural
voice: "Hello T.B."
"Where are you going?'
"Home. I've just run down for half an hour to have the head of my
"If I put you on the car, will you expect me to pay your car-
Condy Rivers, I've long since got over the idea of ever expecting
you to have any change concealed about your person."
"Huh! no, it all goes for theatre tickets, and flowers, and boxes
of candy for a certain girl I know. But"--and he glared at her
significantly--"no more foolishness."
She laughed. "What are you 'on' this morning, Condy?"
Condy told her as they started to walk toward Kearney Street.
But why DON'T you go to the dock and see the vessel, if you can
make a better article that way?"
"Oh, what's the good! The Centennial people have turned down my
She commiserated him for this; then suddenly exclaimed:
"No, you must go down to the dock! You ought to, Condy Oh, I tell
you, let me go down with you!"
In an instant Condy leaped to the notion. "Splendid! splendid! no
reason why you shouldn't!" he exclaimed. And within fifteen
minutes the two were treading the wharves and quays of the city's
Ships innumerable nuzzled at the endless line of docks, mast
overspiring mast, and bowsprit overlapping bowsprit, till the eye
was bewildered, as if by the confusion of branches in a leafless
forest. In the distance the mass of rigging resolved itself into
a solid gray blur against the sky. The great hulks, green and
black and slate gray, laid themselves along the docks, straining
leisurely at their mammoth chains, their flanks opened, their
cargoes, as it were their entrails, spewed out in a wild disarray
of crate and bale and box. Sailors and stevedores swarmed them
like vermin. Trucks rolled along the wharves like peals of
ordnance, the horse-hoofs beating the boards like heavy drum-taps.
Chains clanked, a ship's dog barked incessantly from a
companionway, ropes creaked in complaining pulleys, blocks
rattled, hoisting-engines coughed and strangled, while all the air
was redolent of oakum, of pitch, of paint, of spices, of ripe
fruit, of clean cool lumber, of coffee, of tar, of bilge, and the
brisk, nimble odor of the sea.
Travis was delighted, her little brown eyes snapping, her cheeks
flushing, as she drank in the scene.
"To think," she cried, "where all these ships have come from! Look
at their names; aren't they perfect? Just the names, see: the
'Mary Baker,' Hull; and the 'Anandale,' Liverpool; and the 'Two
Sisters,' Calcutta, and see that one they're calking, the
'Montevideo,' Callao; and there, look! look! the very one you're
looking for, the 'City of Everett,' San Francisco."
The whaleback, an immense tube of steel plates, lay at her wharf,
sucking in entire harvests of wheat from the San Joaquin valley--
harvests that were to feed strangely clad skeletons on the
southern slopes of the Himalaya foot-hills. Travis and Condy
edged their way among piles of wheat-bags, dodging drays and
rumbling trucks, and finally brought up at the after gangplank,
where a sailor halted them. Condy exhibited his reporter's badge.
"I represent 'The Times,'" he said, with profound solemnity, "and
I want to see the officer in charge."
The sailor fell back upon the instant.
"Power of the press," whispered Condy to Travis as the two gained
A second sailor directed them to the mate, whom they found in the
chart-room, engaged, singularly enough, in trimming the leaves of
a scraggly geranium.
Condy explained his mission with flattering allusions to the
whaleback and the novelty of the construction. The mate--an old
man with a patriarchal beard--softened at once, asked them into
his own cabin aft, and even brought out a camp-stool for Travis,
brushing it with his sleeve before setting it down.
While Condy was interviewing the old fellow, Travis was examining,
with the interest of a child, the details of the cabin: the rack-
like bunk, the washstand, ingeniously constructed so as to shut
into the bulkhead when not in use, the alarm-clock screwed to the
wall, and the array of photographs thrust into the mirror between
frame and glass. One, an old daguerreotype, particularly caught
her fancy. It was the portrait of a very beautiful girl, wearing
the old-fashioned side curls and high comb of a half-century
previous. The old mate noticed the attention she paid to it, and,
as soon as he had done giving information to Condy, turned and
nodded to Travis, and said quietly: "She was pretty, wasn't she?"
"Oh, very! answered Travis, without looking away.
There was a silence. Then the mate, his eyes wide and thoughtful,
said with a long breath:
"And she was just about your age, miss, when I saw her; and you
favor her, too."
Condy and Travis held their breaths in attention. There in the
cabin of that curious nondescript whaleback they had come suddenly
to the edge of a romance--a romance that had been lived through
before they were born. Then Travis said in a low voice, and
"Before I ever set eyes on her, miss. That is, MAYBE she died. I
sometimes think--fact is, I really believe she's alive yet, and
waiting for me." He hesitated awkwardly. "I dunno," he said
pulling his beard. "I don't usually tell that story to strange
folk, but you remind me so of her that I guess I will."
Condy sat down on the edge of the bunk, and the mate seated
himself on the plush settle opposite the door, his elbows on his
knees, his eyes fixed on a patch of bright sunlight upon the deck
"I began life," he said, "as a deep-sea diver--began pretty young,
too. I first put on the armor when I was twenty, nothing but a
lad; but I could take the pressure up to seventy pounds even then.
One of my very first dives was off Trincomalee, on the coast of
Ceylon. A mail packet had gone down in a squall with all on
board. Six of the bodies had come up and had been recovered, but
the seventh hadn't. It was the body of the daughter of the
governor of the island, a beautiful young girl of nineteen, whom
everybody loved. I was sent for to go down and bring the body up.
Well, I went down. The packet lay in a hundred feet of water, and
that's a wonder deep dive. I had to go down twice. The first
time I couldn't find anything, though I went all through the
berth-deck. I came up to the wrecking-float and reported that I
had seen nothing. There were a lot of men there belonging to the
wrecking gang, and some correspondents of London papers. But they
would have it that she was below, and had me go down again. I
did, and this time I found her."
The mate paused a moment
"I'll have to tell you," he went on, "that when a body don't come
to the surface it will stand or sit in a perfectly natural
position until a current or movement of the water around touches
it. When that happens--well, you'd say the body was alive; and
old divers have a superstition--no, it AIN'T just a superstition,
I believe it's so--that drowned people really don't die till they
come to the surface, and the air touches them. We say that the
drowned who don't come up still have some sort of life of their
own way down there in all that green water...some kind of
life...surely...surely. When I went down the second time, I came
across the door of what I thought at first was the linen-closet.
But it turned out to be a little stateroom. I opened it. There
was the girl. She was sitting on the sofa opposite the door, with
a little hat on her head, and holding a satchel in her lap, just
as if she was ready to go ashore. Her eyes were wide open, and
she was looking right at me and smiling. It didn't seem terrible
or ghastly in the least. She seemed very sweet. When I opened
the door it set the water in motion, and she got up and dropped
the satchel, and came toward me smiling and holding out her arms.
"I stepped back quick and shut the door, and sat down in one of
the saloon chairs to fetch my breath, for it had given me a start.
The next thing to do was to send her up. But I began to think.
She seemed so pretty as she was. What was the use of bringing her
up--up there on the wrecking float with that crowd of men--up
where the air would get at her, and where they would put her in
the ground along o' the worms? If I left her there she'd always be
sweet and pretty--always be nineteen; and I remembered what old
divers said about drowned people living just so long as they
stayed below. You see, I was only a lad then, and things like
that impress you when you're young. Well, I signaled to be hauled
up. They asked me on the float if I'd seen anything, and I said
no. That was all there was to the affair. They never raised the
ship, and in a little while it was all forgotten.
"But I never forgot it, and I always remembered her, way down
there in all that still green water, waiting there in that little
state-room for me to come back and open the door. And I've growed
to be an old man remembering her; but she's always stayed just as
she was the first day I saw her, when she came toward me smiling
and holding out her arms. She's always stayed young and fresh and
pretty. I never saw her but that once. Only afterward I got her
picture from a native woman of Trincomalee who was house-keeper at
the Residency where the governor of the island lived. Somehow I
never could care for other women after that, and I ain't never
married for that reason."
"No, no, of course not! exclaimed Travis, in a low voice as the
old fellow paused.
"Fine, fine; oh, fine as gold!" murmured Condy, under his breath.
"Well," said the mate, getting up and rubbing his knee, "that's
the story. Now you know all about that picture. Will you have a
glass of Madeira, miss?"
He got out a bottle of wine bearing the genuine Funchal label and
filled three tiny glasses. Travis pushed up her veil, and she and
"This is to HER," said Travis gravely.
"Thank you, miss," answered the mate, and the three drank in
As Travis and Condy were going down the gangplank they met the
captain of the whaleback coming up.
"I saw you in there talking to old McPherson," he explained. "Did
you get what you wanted from him?"
"More, more!" exclaimed Condy.
"My hand in the fire, he told you that yarn about the girl who was
drowned off Trincomalee. Of course, I knew it. The old boy's
wits are turned on that subject. He WILL have it that the body
hasn't decomposed in all this time. Good seaman enough, and a
first-class navigator, but he's soft in that one spot."
"Oh, but the STORY of it!" exclaimed Condy as he and Travis
regained the wharf--"the story of it! Isn't it a ripper. Isn't it
a corker! His leaving her that way, and never caring for any other
"And so original," she commented, quite as enthusiastic as he.
"Original?--why, it's new as paint! It's--it's--Travis, I'll make
a story out of this that will be copied in every paper between the
They were so interested in the mate's story that they forgot to
take a car, and walked up Clay Street talking it over, suggesting,
rearranging, and embellishing; and Condy was astonished and
delighted to note that she "caught on" to the idea as quickly as
he, and knew the telling points and what details to leave out.
"And I'll make a bang-up article out of the whaleback herself,"
declared Condy. The "idea" of the article had returned to him,
and all his enthusiasm with it.
"And look here, he said, showing her the letter from the
Centennial Company. "They turned down my book, but see what they
"Quite an unusual order of merit!" cried Travis. "Why, that's
fine! Why didn't you show this to me before?--and asking you like
this to write them a novel of adventure! What MORE can you want?
Oh!" she exclaimed impatiently, "that's so like you; you would
tell everybody about your reverses, and carry on about them
yourself, but never say a word when you get a little boom. Have
you an idea for a thirty-thousand-word novel? Wouldn't that
diver's story do?"
"No, there's not enough in that for thirty thousand words. I
haven't any idea at all--never wrote a story of adventure--never
wrote anything longer than six thousand words. But I'll keep my
eye open for something that will do. By the way--by Jove! Travis,
where are we?"
They looked briskly around them, and the bustling, breezy water-
front faded from their recollections. They were in a world of
narrow streets, of galleries and overhanging balconies. Craziest
structures, riddled and honeycombed with stairways and passages,
shut out the sky, though here and there rose a building of
extraordinary richness and most elaborate ornamentation. Color
was everywhere. A thousand little notes of green and yellow, of
vermilion and sky blue, assaulted the eye. Here it was a doorway,
here a vivid glint of cloth or hanging, here a huge scarlet sign
lettered with gold, and here a kaleidoscopic effect in the
garments of a passer-by. Directly opposite, and two stories above
their heads, a sort of huge "loggia," one blaze of gilding and
crude vermilions, opened in the gray cement of a crumbling facade,
like a sudden burst of flame. Gigantic pot-bellied lanterns of
red and gold swung from its ceiling, while along its railing stood
a row of pots--brass, ruddy bronze, and blue porcelain--from which
were growing red saffron, purple, pink, and golden tulips without
number. The air was vibrant with unfamiliar noises. From one of
the balconies near at hand, though unseen, a gong, a pipe, and
some kind of stringed instrument wailed and thundered in unison.
There was a vast shuffling of padded soles and a continuous
interchange of singsong monosyllables, high-pitched and staccato,
while from every hand rose the strange aromas of the East--
sandalwood, punk, incense, oil, and the smell of mysterious
"Chinatown!" exclaimed Travis. "I hadn't the faintest idea we had
come up so far. Condy Rivers, do you know what time it is?" She
pointed a white kid finger through the doorway of a drug-store,
where, amid lacquer boxes and bronze urns of herbs and dried
seeds, a round Seth Thomas marked half-past two.
"And your lunch?" cried Condy. "Great heavens! I never thought."
"It's too late to get any at home. Never mind; I'll go somewhere
and have a cup of tea."
"Why not get a package of Chinese tea, now that you're down here,
and take it home with you?"
"Or drink it here."
"In one of the restaurants. There wouldn't be a soul there at
this hour. I know they serve tea any time. Condy, let's try it.
Wouldn't it be fun?"
Condy smote his thigh. "Fun!" he vociferated; "fun! It is--by
Jove--it would be HEAVENLY! Wait a moment. I'll tell you what we
will do. Tea won't be enough. We'll go down to Kearney Street,
or to the market, and get some crackers to go with it."
They hurried back to the California market, a few blocks distant,
and bought some crackers and a wedge of new cheese. On the way
back to Chinatown Travis stopped at a music store on Kearney
Street to get her banjo, which she had left to have its head
tightened; and thus burdened they regained the "town," Condy
grieving audibly at having to carry "brown-paper bundles through
"First catch your restaurant," said Travis as they turned into
Dupont Street with its thronging coolies and swarming, gayly clad
children. But they had not far to seek.
"Here you are!" suddenly exclaimed Condy, halting in front of a
wholesale tea-house bearing a sign in Chinese and English. "Come
They ascended two flights of a broad, brass-bound staircase
leading up from the ground floor, and gained the restaurant on the
top story of the building. As Travis had foretold, it was
deserted. She clasped her gloved hands gayly, crying: "Isn't it
delightful! We've the whole place to ourselves."
The restaurant ran the whole depth of the building, and was
finished off at either extremity with a gilded balcony, one
overlooking Dupont Street and the other the old Plaza. Enormous
screens of gilded ebony, intricately carved and set with colored
glass panes, divided the room into three, and one of these
divisions, in the rear part, from which they could step out upon
the balcony that commanded the view of the Plaza, they elected as
It was charming. At their backs they had the huge, fantastic
screen, brave and fine with its coat of gold. In front, through
the glass-paned valves of a pair of folding doors, they could see
the roofs of the houses beyond the Plaza, and beyond these the
blue of the bay with its anchored ships, and even beyond this the
faint purple of the Oakland shore. On either side of these doors,
in deep alcoves, were divans with mattings and head-rests for
opium smokers. The walls were painted blue and hung with vertical
Cantonese legends in red and silver, while all around the sides of
the room small ebony tables alternated with ebony stools, each
inlaid with a slab of mottled marble. A chandelier, all a-glitter
with tinsel, swung from the centre of the ceiling over a huge
round table of mahogany.
And not a soul was there to disturb them. Below them, out there
around the old Plaza, the city drummed through its work with a
lazy, soothing rumble. Nearer at hand, Chinatown sent up the
vague murmur of the life of the Orient. In the direction of the
Mexican quarter, the bell of the cathedral knolled at intervals.
The sky was without a cloud and the afternoon was warm.
Condy was inarticulate with the joy of what he called their
"discovery." He got up and sat down. He went out into the other
room and came back again. He dragged up a couple of the marble-
seated stools to the table. He took off his hat, lighted a
cigarette, let it go out, lighted it again, and burned his
fingers. He opened and closed the folding-doors, pushed the table
into a better light, and finally brought Travis out upon the
balcony to show her the "points of historical interest" in and
around the Plaza.
"There's the Stevenson memorial ship in the centre, see; and right
there, where the flagstaff is, General Baker made the funeral
oration over the body of Terry. Broderick killed him in a duel--
or was it Terry killed Broderick? I forget which. Anyhow, right
opposite, where that pawnshop is, is where the Overland stages
used to start in '49. And every other building that fronts on the
Plaza, even this one we're in now, used to be a gambling-house in
bonanza times; and, see, over yonder is the Morgue and the City
They turned back into the room, and a great, fat Chinaman brought
them tea on Condy's order. But besides tea, he brought dried
almonds, pickled watermelon rinds, candied quince, and "China
Travis cut the cheese into cubes with Condy's penknife, and
arranged the cubes in geometric figures upon the crackers.
"But, Condy," she complained, "why in the world did you get so
many crackers? There's hundreds of them here--enough to feed a
regiment. Why didn't you ask me?"
"Huh! what? what? I don't know. What's the matter with the
crackers? You were dickering with the cheese, and the man said,
'How many crackers?' I didn't know. I said, 'Oh, give me a
"And we couldn't possibly have eaten ten cents' worth! Oh, Condy,
you are--you are--But never mind, here's your tea. I wonder if
this green, pasty stuff is good."
They found that it was, but so sweet that it made their tea taste
bitter. The watermelon rinds were flat to their Western palates,
but the dried almonds were a great success. Then Condy promptly
got the hiccoughs from drinking his tea too fast, and fretted up
and down the room like a chicken with the pip till Travis grew
faint and weak with laughter.
"Oh, well," he exclaimed aggrievedly--"laugh, that's right! I
don't laugh. It isn't such fun when you've got 'em yoursel'--
"But sit down, for goodness' sake! You make me so nervous. You
can't walk them off. Sit down and hold your breath while you
count nine. Condy, I'm going to take off my gloves and veil.
What do you think?"
"Sure, of course; and I'll have a cigarette. Do you mind if I
"Well, what's that in your hand now?"
"By Jove, I have been smoking! I--I beg your pardon. I'm a
regular stable boy. I'll throw it away."
Travis caught his wrist. "What nonsense! I would have told you
before if I'd minded."
"But it's gone out!" he exclaimed. "I'll have another."
As he reached into his pocket for his case, his hand encountered a
paper-covered volume. and he drew it out in some perplexity.
"Now, how in the wide world did that book come in my pocket?" he
muttered, frowning. "What have I been carrying it around for?
I've forgotten. I declare I have."
"What book is it?"
"Hey? book?...h'm," he murmured, staring.
Travis pounded on the table. "Wake up, Condy, I'm talking to
you," she called.
"It's 'Life's Handicap,'" he answered, with a start; "but why and
but why have I--"
"What's it about? I never heard of it," she declared.
"You never heard of 'Life's Handicap'?" he shouted; "you never
heard--you never--you mean to say you never heard--but here, this
won't do. Sit right still, and I'll read you one of these yarns
before you're another minute older. Any one of them--open the
book at random. Here we are--'The Strange Ride of Morrowbie
Jukes'; and it's a stem-winder, too."
And then for the first time in her life, there in that airy,
golden Chinese restaurant, in the city from which he hasted to
flee, Travis Bessemer fell under the charm of the little
spectacled colonial, to whose song we all must listen and to whose
pipe we all must dance.
There was one "point" in the story of Jukes' strange ride that
Condy prided himself upon having discovered. So far as he knew,
all critics had overlooked it. It is where Jukes is describing
the man-trap of the City of the Dead who are alive, and mentions
that the slope of the inclosing sandhills was "about forty-five
degrees." Jukes was a civil engineer, and Condy held that it was a
capital bit of realism on the part of the author to have him speak
of the pitch of the hills in just such technical terms. At first
he thought he would call Travis' attention to this bit of
cleverness; but as he read he abruptly changed his mind. He would
see if she would find it out for herself. It would be a test of
her quickness, he told himself; almost an unfair test, because the
point was extremely subtle and could easily be ignored by the most
experienced of fiction readers. He read steadily on, working
himself into a positive excitement as he approached the passage.
He came to it and read it through without any emphasis, almost
slurring over it in his eagerness to be perfectly fair. But as he
began to read the next paragraph, Travis, her little eyes
sparkling with interest and attention, exclaimed:
"Just as an engineer would describe it. Isn't that good!"
"Glory hallelujah!" cried Condy, slamming down the book joyfully.
"Travis, you are one in a thousand!"
"What--what is it?' she inquired blankly.
"Never mind, never mind; you're a wonder, that's all"--and he
finished the tale without further explanation. Then, while he
smoked another cigarette and she drank another cup of tea, he read
to her "The Return of Imri" and the "Incarnation of Krishna
Mulvaney." He found her an easy and enrapt convert to the little
Englishman's creed, and for himself tasted the intense delight of
revealing to another an appreciation of a literature hitherto
"Isn't he strong!" cried Travis. "Just a LITTLE better than Marie
Corelli and the Duchess!"
"And to think of having all those stories to read! You haven't
read any of them yet?"
"Not a one. I've been reading only the novels we take up in the
"Lord!" muttered Condy.
Condy's spirits had been steadily rising since the incident aboard
the whaleback. The exhilaration of the water-front, his delight
over the story he was to make out of the old mate's yarn,
Chinatown, the charming unconventionality of their lunch in the
Chinese restaurant, the sparkling serenity of the afternoon, and
the joy of discovering Travis' appreciation of his adored and
venerated author, had put him into a mood bordering close upon
"The next event upon our interesting programme," he announced,
"will be a banjosephine obligato in A-sia minor, by that justly
renowned impresario, Signor Conde Tin-pani Rivers, specially
engaged for this performance; with a pleasing and pan-hellenic
song-and-dance turn by Miss Travis Bessemer, the infant
phenomenon, otherwise known as 'Babby Bessie.'"
"You're not going to play that banjo here?" said Travis, as he
stripped away the canvas covering.
"Order in the gallery!" cried Condy, beginning to tune up. Then
in a rapid, professional monotone: "Ladies-and-gentlemen - with -
your - kind - permission - I - will - endeavor - to - give - you -
an - imitation - of - a - Carolina - coon - song"--and without
more ado, singing the words to a rattling, catchy accompaniment,
swung off into--
"F--or MY gal's a high-born leddy,
SHE'S brack, but not too shady."
He did not sing loud, and the clack and snarl of the banjo carried
hardly further than the adjoining room; but there was no one to
hear, and, as he went along, even Travis began to hum the words,
but at that, Condy stopped abruptly, laid the instrument across
his knees with exaggerated solicitude, and said deliberately:
"Travis, you are a good, sweet girl, and what you lack in beauty
you make up in amiability, and I've no doubt you are kind to your
aged father; but you--can--not--sing."
Travis was cross in a moment, all the more so because Condy had
spoken the exact truth. It was quite impossible for her to carry
a tune half a dozen bars without entangling herself in as many
different keys. What voice she had was not absolutely bad; but as
she persisted in singing in spite of Condy's guying, he put back
his head and began a mournful and lugubrious howling.
"Ho!" she exclaimed, grabbing the banjo from his knees, "if I
can't sing, I can play better than some smart people."
"Yes, by note," rallied Condy, as Travis executed a banjo "piece"
of no little intricacy. "That's just like a machine--like a hand-
"Order in the gallery!" she retorted, without pausing in her
playing. She finished with a great flourish and gazed at him in
triumph, only to find him pretending a profound slumber. "O--o--
o!" she remarked between her teeth, "I just hate you, Condy
"There are others," he returned airily.
"Talk about slang."
"NOW what will we do?" he cried. "Let's DO something. Suppose we
break something--just for fun."
Then suddenly the gayety went out of his face, and he started up
and clapped his hand to his head with a gasp of dismay. "Great
Heavens!" he exclaimed.
"Condy," cried Travis in alarm, "what is it"'
"The Tea!" he vociferated. "Laurie Flagg's Tea. I ought to be
there--right this minute."
Travis fetched a sigh of relief. "Is that all?"
"All!" he retorted. "All! Why, it's past four now--and I'd
forgotten every last thing." Then suddenlly falling calm again,
and quietly resuming his seat: "I don't see as it makes any
difference. I won't go, that's all. Push those almonds here,
will you, Miss Lady?--But we aren't DOING anything," he exclaimed,
with a brusque return of exuberance. "Let's do things. What'll
we do? Think of something. Is there anything we can break?" Then,
without any transition, he vaulted upon the table and began to
declaim, with tremendous gestures:
"There once was a beast called an Ounce,
Who went with a spring and a bounce.
His head was as flat
As the head of a cat,
This quadrupetantical Ounce,
This quadrupetantical Ounce.
"You'd think from his name he was small,
But that was not like him at all.
He weighed, I'll be bound,
Three or four hundred pound,
And he looked most uncommonly tall,
And he looked most uncommonly tall."
"Bravo! bravo!" cried Travis, pounding on the table. "Hear, hear--
none, Brutus, none."
Condy sat down on the table and swung his legs But during the next
few moments, while they were eating the last of their cheese, his
good spirits fell rapidly away from him. He heaved a sigh, and
thrust both hands gloomily into his pockets.
"Cheese, Condy?" asked Travis.
He shook his head with a dark frown, muttering: "No cheese, no
"What's wrong, Condy--what's the matter?" asked Travis, with
For some time he would not tell her, answering all her inquiries
by closing his eyes and putting his chin in the air, nodding his
head in knowing fashion.
"But what is it?"
"You don't respect me," he muttered; and for a long time this was
all that could be got from him. No, no, she did not respect him;
no, she did not take him seriously.
"But of course I do. Why don't I? Condy Rivers, what's got into
"No, no; I know it. I can tell. You don't take me seriously.
You don't respect me."
"Make a blooming buffoon of myself," he mumbled tragically.
In great distress Travis labored to contradict him. Why, they had
just been having a good time, that was all. Why, she had been
just as silly as he. Condy caught at the word.
"Silly! There. I knew it. I told you. I'm silly. I'm a
buffoon.--But haven't we had a great afternoon?" he added, with a
"I never remember," announced Travis emphatically, "when I've had
a better time than I've had to-day; and I know just why it's been
such a success."
"Because we've had no foolishness. We've just been ourselves, and
haven't pretended we were in love with each other when we are not.
Condy, let's do this lots."
"Go round to queer little, interesting little places. We've had a
glorious time to-day, haven't we?--and we haven't been talked out
"As we were last night, for instance," he hazarded.
"I THOUGHT you felt it, the same as I did. It WAS a bit awful
"From now on, let's make a resolution. I know you've had a good
time to-day. Haven't you had a better time than if you had gone
to the Tea?'"
"Well, RATHER. I don't know when I've had a better, jollier
"Well, now, we're going to try to have lots more good times, but
just as chums. We've tried the other, and it failed. Now be
sincere; didn't it fail?"
"It worked out. It DID work out."
"Now from this time on, no more foolishness. We'll just be
"Chums it is. No more foolishness."
"The moment you begin to pretend you're in love with me, it will
spoil everything. It's funny," said Travis, drawing on her
gloves. "We're doing a funny thing, Condy. With ninety-nine
people out of one hundred, this little affair would have been all
ended after our 'explanation' of last night--confessing, as we
did, that we didn't love each other. Most couples would have
'drifted apart'; but here we are, planning to be chums, and have
good times in our own original, unconventional way--and we can do
it, too. There, there, he's a thousand miles away. He's not
heard a single word I've said. Condy, are you listening to me?"
"Blix," he murmured, staring at her vaguely. "Blix--you look that
way; I don't know, look kind of blix. Don't you feel sort of
blix?" he inquired anxiously.
He smote the table with his palm. "Capital!" he cried; "sounds
bully, and snappy, and crisp, and bright, and sort of sudden.
Sounds--don't you know, THIS way?"--and he snapped his fingers.
"Don't you see what I mean? Blix, that's who you are. You've
always been Blix, and I've just found it out. Blix," he added,
listening to the sound of the name. "Blix, Blix. Yes, yes;
that's your name."
"Blix?" she repeated; "but why Blix?"
"I don't know why not."
"Well, then," he declared, as though that settled the question.
They made ready to go, as it was growing late.
"Will you tie that for me, Condy," she asked, rising and turning
the back of her head toward him, the ends of the veil held under
her fingers. "Not too tight. Condy, don't pull it so tight.
There, there, that will do. Have you everything that belongs to
you? I know you'll go away and leave something here. There's your
cigarette case, and your book, and of course the banjo."
As if warned by a mysterious instinct, the fat Chinaman made his
appearance in the outer room. Condy put his fingers into his vest
pocket, then dropped back upon his stool with a suppressed
exclamation of horror.
"Condy!" exclaimed Blix in alarm, "are you sick?"--for he had
turned a positive white.
"I haven't a cent of money," he murmured faintly. "I spent my
last quarter for those beastly crackers. What's to be done? What
is to be done? I'll--I'll leave him my watch. Yes, that's the
Blix calmly took out her purse. "I expected it," she said
resignedly. "I knew this would happen sooner or later, and I
always have been prepared. How much is it, John?" she asked of
"I'll never be able to look you in the face again," protested
Condy. "I'll pay you back to-night. I will! I'll send it up by a
"Then you WOULD be a buffoon."
"Don't!" he exclaimed. "Don't, it humiliates me to the dust."
"Oh, come along and don't be so absurd. It must be after five."
Half-way down the brass-bound stairs, he clapped his hand to his
head with a start.
"And NOW what is it?" she inquired meekly.
"Forgotten, forgotten!" he exclaimed. "I knew I would forget
"I knew it, you mean."
He ran back, and returned with the great bag of crackers, and
thrust it into her hands. "Here, here, take these. We mustn't
leave these," he declared earnestly. "It would be a shameful
waste of money;" and in spite of all her protests, he insisted
upon taking the crackers along.
"I wonder," said Blix, as the two skirted the Plaza, going down to
Kearney Street; "I wonder if I ought to ask him to supper?"
"Ask who--me?--how funny to--"
"I wonder if we are talked out--if it would spoil the day?"
"Anyhow, I'm going to have supper at the Club; and I've got to
write my article some time to-night."
Blix fixed him with a swift glance of genuine concern. "Don't
play to-night, Condy," she said, with a sudden gravity.
"Fat lot I can play! What money have I got to play with?"
"You might get some somewheres. But, anyhow, promise me you won't
"Well, of course I'll promise. How can I, if I haven't any money?
And besides, I've got my whaleback stuff to write. I'll have
supper at the Club, and go up in the library and grind out copy
for a while."
"Condy," said Blix, "I think that diver's story is almost too good
for 'The Times.' Why don't you write it and send it East? Send it
to the Centennial Company, why don't you? They've paid some
attention to you now, and it would keep your name in their minds
if you sent the story to them, even if they didn't publish it.
Why don't you think of that?"
"Fine--great idea! I'll do that. Only I'll have to write it out
of business hours. It will be extra work."
"Never mind, you do it; and," she added, as he put her on the
cable car, "keep your mind on that thirty-thousand-word story of
adventure. Good-by, Condy; haven't we had the jolliest day that
"Couldn't have been better. Good-by, Blix."
Condy returned to his club., It was about six o'clock. In response
to his question, the hall-boy told him that Tracy Sargeant had
arrived a few moments previous, and had been asking for him.
The Saturday of the week before, Condy had made an engagement with
young Sargeant to have supper together that night, and perhaps go
to the theatre afterward. And now at the sight of Sargeant in the
"round window" of the main room, buried in the file of the "Gil
Blas," Condy was pleased to note that neither of them had
forgotten the matter.
Sargeant greeted him with extreme cordiality as he came up, and at
once proposed a drink. Sargeant was a sleek, well-groomed, well-
looking fellow of thirty, just beginning to show the effects of a
certain amount of dissipation in the little puffs under the eyes
and the faint blueness of the temples. The sudden death of his
father for which event Sargeant was still mourning, had left him
in such position that his monthly income was about five times as
large as Condy's salary. The two had supper together, and
Sargeant proposed the theatre.
"No, no; I've got to work to-night," asserted Condy.
After dinner, while they were smoking their cigars in a window of
the main room, one of the hall-boys came up and touched Condy on
"Mr. Eckert, and Mr. Hendricks, and Mr. George Hands, and several
other of those gentlemen are up in the card-room, and are asking
for you and Mr. Sargeant."
"Why, I didn't know the boys were here! They've got a game going,
Condy. Let's go up and get in. Shall we?"
Condy remembered that he had no money. "I'm flat broke, Tracy,"
he announced, for he knew Sargeant well enough to make the
confession without wincing. "No, I'll not get in; but I'll go up
and watch you a few minutes."
They ascended to the card-room, where the air was heavy and acrid
with cigar smoke, and where the silence was broken only by the
click of poker-chips. At the end of twenty minutes Condy was
playing, having borrowed enough money of Sargeant to start him in
Unusually talkative and restless, he had suddenly hardened and
stiffened to a repressed, tense calm; speechless, almost rigid in
his chair. Excitable under even ordinary circumstances, his every
faculty was now keyed to its highest pitch. The nervous strain
upon him was like the stretching and tightening of harp-strings,
too taut to quiver. The color left his face, and the moisture
fled his lips. His projected article, his promise to Blix, all
the jollity of the afternoon, all thought of time or place, faded
away as the one indomitable, evil passion of the man leaped into
life within him, and lashed and roweled him with excitement. His
world resolved itself to a round green table, columns of tri-
colored chips, and five ever-changing cards that came and went and
came again before his tired eyes like the changing, weaving colors
of the kaleidoscope. Midnight struck, then one o'clock, then two,
three, and four. Still his passion rode him like a hag, spurring
the jaded body, rousing up the wearied brain.
Finally, at half-past four, at a time when Condy was precisely
where he had started, neither winner nor loser by so much as a
dime, a round of Jack-pots was declared, and the game broke up.
Condy walked home to the uptown hotel where he lived with his
mother, and went to bed as the first milk-wagons began to make
their appearance and the newsboys to cry the morning papers.
Then, as his tired eyes closed at last, occurred that strange
trick of picture-making that the overtaxed brain plays upon the
retina. A swift series of pictures of the day's doings began to
whirl THROUGH rather than BEFORE the pupils of his shut eyes.
Condy saw again a brief vision of the street, and Blix upon the
corner waiting to cross; then it was the gay, brisk confusion of
the water-front, the old mate's cabin aboard the whaleback,
Chinatown, and a loop of vermilion cloth over a gallery rail, the
golden balcony, the glint of the Stevenson ship upon the green
Plaza, Blix playing the banjo, the delightful and picturesque
confusion of the deserted Chinese restaurant; Blix again, turning
her head for him to fasten her veil, holding the ends with her
white-kid fingers; Blix once more, walking at his side with her
trim black skirt, her round little turban hat, her yellow hair,
and her small dark, dancing eyes.
Then, suddenly, he remembered the promise he had made her in the
matter of playing that night. He winced sharply at this, and the
remembrance of his fault harried and harassed him. In spite of
himself, he felt contemptible. Yet he had broken his promises to
her in this very matter of playing before--before that day of
their visit to the Chinese restaurant--and had felt no great qualm
of self-reproach. Had their relations changed? Rather the reverse
for they had done with "foolishness."
"Never worried me before," muttered Condy, as he punched up his
pillow--"never worried me before. Why should it worry me now--
worry me like the devil;--and she caught on to that 'point' about
the slope of forty-five degrees."
Condy began his week's work for the supplement behindhand.
Naturally he overslept himself Tuesday morning, and, not having
any change in his pockets, was obliged to walk down to the office.
He arrived late, to find the compositors already fretting for
copy. His editor promptly asked for the whaleback stuff, and
Condy was forced into promising it within a half-hour. It was out
of the question to write the article according to his own idea in
so short a time; so Condy faked the stuff from the exchange
clipping, after all. His description of the boat and his comments
upon her mission--taken largely at second hand--served only to
fill space in the paper. They were lacking both in interest and
in point. There were no illustrations. The article was a
But Condy redeemed himself by a witty interview later in the week
with an emotional actress, and by a solemn article compiled after
an hour's reading in Lafcadio Hearn and the Encyclopedia--on the
"Industrial Renaissance in Japan."
But the idea of the diver's story came back to him again and
again, and Thursday night after supper he went down to his club,
and hid himself at a corner desk in the library, and, in a burst
of enthusiasm, wrote out some two thousand words of it. In order
to get the "technical details," upon which he set such store, he
consulted the Encyclopedias again, and "worked in" a number of
unfamiliar phrases and odd-sounding names. He was so proud of the
result that he felt he could not wait until the tale was finished
and in print to try its effect. He wanted appreciation and
encouragement upon the instant. He thought of Blix.
"She saw the point in Morrowbie Jukes' description of the slope of
the sandhill," he told himself; and the next moment had resolved
to go up and see her the next evening, and read to her what he had
This was on Thursday. All through that week Blix had kept much to
herself, and for the first time in two years had begun to spend
every evening at home. In the morning of each day she helped
Victorine with the upstairs work, making the beds, putting the
rooms to rights; or consulted with the butcher's and grocer's boys
at the head of the back stairs, or chaffered with urbane and
smiling Chinamen with their balanced vegetable baskets. She knew
the house and its management at her fingers' ends, and supervised
everything that went forward. Laurie Flagg coming to call upon
her, on Wednesday afternoon, to remonstrate upon her sudden
defection, found her in the act of tacking up a curtain across the
But Blix had the afternoons and evenings almost entirely to
herself. These hours, heretofore taken up with functions and the
discharge of obligations, dragged not a little during the week
that followed upon her declaration of independence. Wednesday
afternoon, however, was warm and fine, and she went to the Park
with Snooky. Without looking for it or even expecting it, Blix
came across a little Japanese tea-house, or rather a tiny Japanese
garden, set with almost toy Japanese houses and pavilions, where
tea was served and thin sweetish wafers for five cents. Blix and
Snooky went in. There was nobody about but the Japanese serving
woman. Snooky was in raptures, and Blix spent a delightful half-
hour there, drinking Japanese tea, and feeding the wafers to the
carp and gold-fish in the tiny pond immediately below where she
sat. A Chinaman, evidently of the merchant class, came in, with a
Chinese woman following. As he took his place and the Japanese
girl came up to get his order, Blix overheard him say in English:
"Bring tea for-um leddy."
"He had to speak in English to her," she whispered; "isn't that
splendid! Did you notice that, Snooky?"
On the way home Blix was wondering how she should pass her
evening. She was to have made one of a theatre party where Jack
Carter was to be present. Then she suddenly remembered "Morrowbie
Jukes," "The Return of Imri," and "Krishna Mulvaney." She
continued on past her home, downtown, and returned late for supper
with "Plain Tales" and "Many Inventions."
Toward half-past eight there came a titter of the electric bell.
At the moment Blix was in the upper chamber of the house of
Suddhoo, quaking with exquisite horror at the Seal-cutter's magic.
She looked up quickly as the bell rang. It was not Condy Rivers'
touch. She swiftly reflected that it was Wednesday night, and
that she might probably expect Frank Catlin. He was a fair
specimen of the Younger Set, a sort of modified Jack Carter, and
called upon her about once a fortnight. No doubt he would hint
darkly as to his riotous living during the past few days and refer
to his diet of bromo-seltzers. He would be slangy, familiar, call
her by her first name as many times as he dared, discuss the last
dance of the Saturday cotillion, and try to make her laugh over
Carter's drunkenness. Blix knew the type. Catlin was hardly out
of college; but the older girls, even the young women of twenty-
five or six, encouraged and petted these youngsters, driven to the
alternative by the absolute dearth of older men.
"I'm not at home, Victorine," announced Blix, intercepting the
maid in the hall. It chanced that it was not Frank Catlin, but
another boy of precisely the same breed; and Blix returned to
Suddhoo, Mrs. Hawksbee, and Mulvaney with a little cuddling
movement of satisfaction.
"There is only one thing I regret about this," she said to Condy
Rivers on the Friday night of that week; "that is, that I never
thought of doing it before." Then suddenly she put up her hand to
shield her eyes, as though from an intense light, turning away her
"I say, what is it? What--what's the matter?" he exclaimed.
Blix peeped at him fearfully from between her fingers. "He's got
it on," she whispered--"that awful crimson scarf."
"Hoh!" said Condy, touching his scarf nervously, "it's--it's very
swell. Is it too loud?" he asked uneasily.
Blix put her fingers in her ears; then:
"Condy, you're a nice, amiable young man, and, if you're not
brilliant, you're good and kind to your aged mother; but your
scarfs and neckties are simply impossible."
"Well, look at this room!" he shouted--they were in the parlor.
"You needn't talk about bad taste. Those drapes--oh-h! those
drapes!! Yellow, s'help me! And those bisque figures that you get
with every pound of tea you buy; and this, this, THIS," he
whimpered, waving his hands at the decorated sewer-pipe with its
gilded cat-tails. "Oh, speak to me of this; speak to me of art;
speak to me of aesthetics. Cat-tails, GILDED. Of course, why not
GILDED!" He wrung his hands. "'Somewhere people are happy.
Somewhere little children are at play--'"
"Oh, hush!" she interrupted. "I know it's bad; but we've always
had it so, and I won't have it abused. Let's go into the dining-
room, anyway. We'll sit in there after this. We've always been
stiff and constrained in here."
They went out into the dining-room, and drew up a couple of arm-
chairs into the bay window, and sat there looking out. Blix had
not yet lighted the gas--it was hardly dark enough for that; and
for upward of ten minutes they sat and watched the evening
dropping into night.
Below them the hill fell away so abruptly that the roofs of the
nearest houses were almost at their feet; and beyond these the
city tumbled raggedly down to meet the bay in a confused, vague
mass of roofs, cornices, cupolas, and chimneys, blurred and
indistinct in the twilight, but here and there pierced by a new-
lighted street lamp. Then came the bay. To the east they could
see Goat Island, and the fleet of sailing-ships anchored off the
water-front; while directly in their line of vision the island of
Alcatraz, with its triple crown of forts, started from the surface
of the water. Beyond was the Contra Costa shore, a vast streak of
purple against the sky. The eye followed its sky-line westward
till it climbed, climbed, climbed up a long slope that suddenly
leaped heavenward with the crest of Tamalpais, purple and still,
looking always to the sunset like a great watching sphinx. Then,
further on, the slope seemed to break like the breaking of an
advancing billow, and go tumbling, crumbling downward to meet the
Golden Gate--the narrow inlet of green tide-water with its
flanking Presidio. But, further than this, the eye was stayed.
Further than this there was nothing, nothing but a vast,
illimitable plain of green--the open Pacific. But at this hour
the color of the scene was its greatest charm. It glowed with all
the sombre radiance of a cathedral. Everything was seen through a
haze of purple--from the low green hills in the Presidio
Reservation to the faint red mass of Mount Diablo shrugging its
rugged shoulder over the Contra Costa foot-hills. As the evening
faded, the west burned down to a dull red glow that overlaid the
blue of the bay with a sheen of ruddy gold. The foot-hills of the
opposite shore, Diablo, and at last even Tamalpais, resolved
themselves in the velvet gray of the sky. Outlines were lost.
Only the masses remained, and these soon began to blend into one
another. The sky, and land, and the city's huddled roofs were
one. Only the sheen of dull gold remained, piercing the single
vast mass of purple like the blade of a golden sword.
"There's a ship!" said Blix in a low tone.
A four-master was dropping quietly through the Golden Gate,
swimming on that sheen of gold, a mere shadow, specked with lights
red and green. In a few moments her bows were shut from sight by
the old fort at the Gate. Then her red light vanished, then the
mainmast. She was gone. By midnight she would be out of sight of
land, rolling on the swell of the lonely ocean under the moon's
Condy and Blix sat quiet and without speech, not caring to break
the charm of the evening. For quite five minutes they sat thus,
watching the stars light one by one, and the immense gray night
settle and broaden and widen from mountain-top to horizon. They
did not feel the necessity of making conversation. There was no
constraint in their silence now.
Gently, and a little at a time, Condy turned his head and looked
at Blix. There was just light enough to see. She was leaning
back in her chair, her hands fallen into her lap, her head back
and a little to one side. As usual, she was in black; but now it
was some sort of dinner-gown that left her arms and neck bare.
The line of the chin and the throat and the sweet round curve of
the shoulder had in it something indescribable--something that was
related to music, and that eluded speech. Her hair was nothing
more than a warm colored mist without form or outline. The sloe-
brown of her little eyes and the flush of her cheek were mere