Part 2 out of 4
inferences--like the faintest stars that are never visible when
looked at directly; and it seemed to him that there was disengaged
from her something for which there was no name; something that
appealed to a mysterious sixth sense--a sense that only stirred at
such quiet moments as this; something that was now a dim, sweet
radiance, now a faint aroma, and now again a mere essence, an
influence, an impression--nothing more. It seemed to him as if
her sweet, clean purity and womanliness took a form of its own
which his accustomed senses were too gross to perceive. Only a
certain vague tenderness in him went out to meet and receive this
impalpable presence; a tenderness not for her only, but for all
the good things of the world. Often he had experienced the same
feeling when listening to music. Her sweetness, her goodness,
appealed to what he guessed must be the noblest in him. And she
was only nineteen. Suddenly his heart swelled, the ache came to
his throat and the smart to his eyes.
"Blixy," he said, just above a whisper; "Blixy, wish I was a
better sort of chap."
"That's the beginning of being better, isn't it, Condy?" she
answered, turning toward him, her chin on her hand.
"It does seem a pity," he went on, "that when you WANT to do the
right, straight thing, and be clean and fine, that you can't just
BE it, and have it over with. It's the keeping it up that's the
"But it's the keeping it up, Condy, that makes you WORTH BEING
GOOD when you finally get to be good; don't you think? It's the
keeping it up that makes you strong; and then when you get to be
good you can make your goodness count. What's a good man if he's
weak?--if his goodness is better than he is himself? It's the good
man who is strong--as strong as his goodness, and who can make his
goodness count--who is the right kind of man. That's what I
There's something in that, there's something in that." Then, after
a pause: "I played Monday night, after all, Blix, after promising
For a time she did not answer, and when she spoke, she spoke
quietly: "Well--I'm glad you told me"; and after a little she
added, "Can't you stop, Condy?"
"Why, yes--yes, of course--I--oh, Blix, sometimes I don't know!
You can't understand! How could a girl understand the power of it?
Other things, I don't say; but when it comes to gambling, there
seems to be another me that does precisely as he chooses, whether
I will or not. But I'm going to do my best. I haven't played
since, although there was plenty of chance. You see, this card
business is only a part of this club life, this city life--like
drinking and--other vices of men. If I didn't have to lead the
life, or if I didn't go with that crowd--Sargeant and the rest of
those men--it would be different; easier, maybe."
"But a man ought to be strong enough to be himself and master of
himself anywhere. Condy, IS there anything in the world better or
finer than a strong man?"
"Not unless it is a good woman, Blix."
"I suppose I look at it from a woman's point of view; but for me a
STRONG man--strong in everything--is the grandest thing in the
world. Women love strong men, Condy. They can forgive a strong
man almost anything."
Condy did not immediately answer, and in the interval an idea
occurred to Blix that at once hardened into a determination. But
she said nothing at the moment. The spell of the sunset was gone
and they had evidently reached the end of that subject of their
talk. Blix rose to light the gas. Will you promise me one thing,
Condy?" she said. "Don't if you don't want to. But will you
promise me that you will tell me whenever you do play?"
"That I'll promise you!" exclaimed Condy; "and I'll keep that,
"And now, let's hear the story--or what you've done of it."
They drew up to the dining-room table with its cover of blue denim
edged with white cord, and Condy unrolled his manuscript and read
through what he had written. She approved, and, as he had
foreseen, "caught on" to every one of his points. He was almost
ready to burst into cheers when she said:
"Any one reading that would almost believe you had been a diver
yourself, or at least had lived with divers. Those little details
count, don't they? Condy, I've an idea. See what you think of it.
Instead of having the story end with his leaving her down there
and going away, do it this way. Let him leave her there, and then
go back after a long time when he gets to be an old man. Fix it
up some way to make it natural. Have him go down to see her and
never come up again, see? And leave the reader in doubt as to
whether it was an accident or whether he did it on purpose."
Condy choked back a whoop and smote his knee. "Blix, you're the
eighth wonder! Magnificent--glorious! Say!"--he fixed her with a
glance of curiosity--"you ought to take to story-writing
"No, no," she retorted significantly. "I'll just stay with my
singing and be content with that. But remember that story don't
go to 'The Times' supplement. At least not until you have tried
it East--with the Centennial Company, at any rate."
"Well, I guess NOT!" snorted Condy. "Why, this is going to be one
of the best yarns I ever wrote."
A little later on he inquired with sudden concern: "Have you got
anything to eat in the house?"
"I never saw such a man!" declared Blix; "you are always hungry."
"I love to eat," he protested.
"Well, we'll make some creamed oysters; how would that do?"
Condy rolled his eyes. "Oh, speak to me of creamed oysters!"
Then, with abrupt solemnity: "Blix, I never in my life had as many
oysters as I could eat."
She made the creamed oysters in the kitchen over the gas-stove,
and they ate them there--Condy sitting on the washboard of the
sink, his plate in his lap.
Condy had a way of catching up in his hands whatever happened to
be nearest him, and, while still continuing to talk, examining it
with apparent deep interest. Just now it happened to be the
morning's paper that Victorine had left on the table. For five
minutes Condy had been picking it up and laying it down, frowning
abstractedly at it during the pauses in the conversation.
Suddenly he became aware of what it was, and instantly read aloud
the first item that caught his glance:
"'Personal.--Young woman, thirty-one, good housekeeper, desires
acquaintance respectable middle-aged gentleman. Object,
matrimony. Address K. D. B., this office.'--Hum!" he commented,
"nothing equivocal about K. D. B.; has the heroism to call herself
young at thirty-one. I'll bet she IS a good housekeeper. Right
to the point. If K. D. B. don't see what she wants, she asks for
"I wonder," mused Blix, "what kind of people they are who put
personals in the papers. K. D. B., for instance; who is she, and
what is she like?"
"They're not tough," Condy assured her. "I see 'em often down at
'The Times' office. They are usually a plain, matter-of-fact
sort, quite conscientious, you know; generally middle-aged--or
thirty-one; outgrown their youthful follies and illusions, and
want to settle down."
"Read some more," urged Blix. Condy went on.
"'Bachelor, good habits, twenty-five, affectionate disposition,
accomplishments, money, desires acquaintance pretty, refined girl.
Object, matrimony. McB., this office.'"
"No, I don't like McB.," said Blix. "He's too--ornamental,
"He wouldn't do for K. D. B., would he?"
"Oh, my, no! He'd make her very unhappy."
"'Widower, two children, home-loving disposition, desires
introduction to good, honest woman to make home for his children.
Matrimony, if suitable. B. P. T., Box A, this office.'"
"He's not for K. D. B., that's flat," declared Blix; "the idea,
'matrimony if suitable'--patronizing enough! I know just what kind
of an old man B. P. T. is. I know he would want K. D. B. to warm
his slippers, and would be fretful and grumpy. B. P. T., just an
abbreviation of bumptious. No, he can't have her."
Condy read the next two or three to himself, despite her protests.
"Condy, don't be mean! Read them to--"
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "here's one for K. D. B. Behold, the
bridegroom cometh! Listen."
"'Bachelor, thirty-nine, sober and industrious, retired sea
captain, desires acquaintance respectable young woman, good house-
keeper and manager. Object, matrimony. Address Captain Jack,
office this paper."
"I know he's got a wooden leg!" cried Blix. "Can't you just see
it sticking out between the lines? And he lives all alone
somewhere down near the bay with a parrot--"
"And makes a glass of grog every night."
"And smokes a long clay pipe."
"But he chews tobacco."
"Yes, isn't it a pity he will chew that nasty, smelly tobacco? But
K. D. B. will break him of that."
"Oh, is he for K. D. B.?"
"Sent by Providence!" declared Blix. "They were born for each
other. Just see, K. D. B. is a good housekeeper, and wants a
respectable middle-aged gentleman. Captain Jack is a respectable
middle-aged gentleman, and wants a good housekeeper. Oh, and
besides, I can read between the lines! I just feel they would be
congenial. If they know what's best for themselves, they would
write to each other right away."
"But wouldn't you love to be there and see them meet!" exclaimed
"Can't we fix it up some way," said Blix, "to bring these two
together--to help them out in some way?"
Condy smote the table and jumped to his feet.
"Write to 'em!" he shouted. "Write to K. D. B. and sign it
Captain Jack, and write to Captain Jack--"
"And sign it K. D. B.," she interrupted, catching his idea.
"And have him tell her, and her tell him," he added, "to meet at
some place; and then we can go to that place and hide, and watch."
"But how will we know them? How would they know each other?
They've never met."
"We'll tell them both to wear a kind of flower. Then we can know
them, and they can know each other. Of course as soon as they
began to talk they would find out they hadn't written."
"But they wouldn't care."
"No--they want to meet each other. They would be thankful to us
for bringing them together."
"Won't it be the greatest fun?"
"Fun! Why, it will be a regular drama. Only we are running the
show, and everything is real. Let's get at it!"
Blix ran into her room and returned with writing material. Condy
looked at the note-paper critically. "This kind's too swell. K.
D. B. wouldn't use Irish linen--never! Here, this is better,
glazed with blue lines and a flying bird stamped in the corner.
Now I'll write for the Captain, and you write for K. D. B."
"But where will we have them meet?"
This was a point. They considered the Chinese restaurant, the
Plaza, Lotta's fountain, the Mechanics' Library, and even the
cathedral over in the Mexican quarter, but arrived at no decision.
"Did you ever hear of Luna's restaurant?" said Condy. "By Jove,
it's just the place! It's the restaurant where you get Mexican
dinners; right in the heart of the Latin quarter; quiet little
old-fashioned place, below the level of the street, respectable as
a tomb. I was there just once. We'll have 'em meet there at
seven in the evening. No one is there at that hour. The place
isn't patronized much, and it shuts up at eight. You and I can go
there and have dinner at six, say, and watch for them to come."
Then they set to work at their letters.
"Now," said Condy, "we must have these sound perfectly natural,
because if either of these people smell the smallest kind of a
rat, you won't catch 'em. You must write not as YOU would write,
but as you think THEY would. This is an art, a kind of fiction,
don't you see? We must imagine a certain character, and write a
letter consistent with that character. Then it'll sound natural.
Now, K. D. B. Well, K. D. B., she's prim. Let's have her prim,
and proud of using correct, precise, 'elegant' language. I guess
she wears mits, and believes in cremation. Let's have her believe
in cremation. And Captain Jack; oh! he's got a terrible voice,
like this, ROW-ROW-ROW see? and whiskers, very fierce; and he
says, 'Belay there!' and 'Avast!' and is very grandiloquent and
orotund and gallant when it comes to women. Oh, he's the devil of
a man when it comes to women, is Captain Jack!"
After countless trials and failures, they evolved the two
following missives, which Condy posted that night:
"SIR:--I have perused with entire satisfaction your personal in
'The Times.' I should like to know more of you. I read between
the lines, and my perception ineradicably convinces me that you
are honest and respectable. I do not believe I should compromise
my self-esteem at all in granting you an interview. I shall be at
Luna's restaurant at seven precisely, next Monday eve, and will
bear a bunch of white marguerites. Will you likewise, and wear a
marguerite in your lapel?
"Trusting this will find you in health, I am
"K. D. B."
"Miss K. D. B.
"DEAR MISS:--From the modest and retiring description of your
qualities and character, I am led to believe that I will find in
you an agreeable life companion. Will you not accord me the great
favor of a personal interview? I shall esteem it a high honor. I
will be at Luna's Mexican restaurant at seven of the clock P.M. on
Monday evening next. May I express the fervent hope that you also
will be there? I name the locality because it is quiet and
respectable. I shall wear a white marguerite in my buttonhole.
Will you also carry a bunch of the same flower?
"Yours to command,
So great was her interest in the affair that Blix even went out
with Condy while he mailed the letters in the nearest box, for he
was quite capable of forgetting the whole matter as soon as he was
out of the house.
"Now let it work!" she exclaimed as the iron flap clanked down
upon the disappearing envelopes. But Condy was suddenly smitten
with nameless misgiving. "Now we've done it! now we've done it!"
he cried aghast. "I wish we hadn't. We're in a fine fix now."
Still uneasy, he saw Blix back to the flat, and bade her good-by
at the door.
But before she went to bed that night, Blix sought out her father,
who was still sitting up tinkering with the cuckoo clock, which he
had taken all to pieces under the pretext that it was out of order
and went too fast.
"Papum," said Blix, sitting down on the rug before him, "did you
ever--when you were a pioneer, when you first came out here in the
fifties--did you ever play poker?"
"I--oh, well! it was the only amusement the miners had for a long
"I want you to teach me."
The old man let the clock fall into his lap and stared. But Blix
explained her reasons.
The next day was Saturday, and Blix had planned a walk out to the
Presidio. But at breakfast, while she was debating whether she
should take with her Howard and Snooky, or "Many Inventions," she
received a note from Condy, sent by special messenger:
"'All our fun is spoiled,' he wrote. 'I've got ptomaine poisoning
from eating the creamed oysters last night, and am in for a solid
fortnight spent in bed. Have passed a horrible night. Can't you
look in at the hotel this afternoon? My mother will be here at the
"Ptomaine poisoning!" The name had an ugly sound, and Condy's use
of the term inferred the doctor's visit. Blix decided that she
would put off her walk until the afternoon, and call on Mrs.
Rivers at once, and ask how Condy did.
She got away from the flat about ten o'clock, but on the steps
outside met Condy dressed as if for bicycling, and smoking a
"I've got eleven dollars!" he announced cheerily.
"But I thought it was ptomaine poisoning!" she cried with sudden
"Pshaw! that's what the doctor says. He's a flapdoodle; nothing
but a kind of a sort of a pain. It's all gone now. I'm as fit as
a fiddle--and I've got eleven dollars. Let's go somewhere and do
"But your work?"
"They don't expect me. When I thought I was going to be sick, I
telephoned the office, and they said all right, that they didn't
need me. Now I've got eleven dollars, and there are three
holidays of perfect weather before us: to-day, to-morrow, and
Monday. What will we do? What must we do to be saved? Our
matrimonial objects don't materialize till Monday night. In the
meanwhile, what? Shall we go down to Chinatown--to the restaurant,
or to the water-front again? Maybe the mate on the whaleback would
invite us to lunch. Or," added Condy, his eye caught by a fresh-
fish peddler who had just turned into the street, "we can go
"For oysters, perhaps."
But the idea had caught Condy's fancy.
"Blix!" he exclaimed, "let's go fishing."
"I don't know. Where DO people fish around here? Where there's
water, I presume."
"No, is it possible?" she asked with deep concern. "I thought
they fished in their back yards, or in their front parlors
"Oh, you be quiet! you're all the time guying me," he answered.
"Let me think--let me think," he went on, frowning heavily,
scouring at his hair. Suddenly he slapped a thigh.
"Come on," he cried, "I've an idea!" He was already half-way down
the steps, when Blix called him back.
"Leave it all to me," he assured her; "trust me IMPLICITLY. Don't
you want to go?" he demanded with abrupt disappointment.
"Want to!" she exclaimed. "Why, it would be the very best kind of
"Well, then, come along."
They took a downtown car.
"I've got a couple of split bamboo rods," he explained as the car
slid down the terrific grade of the Washington-Street hill. "I
haven't used 'em in years--not since we lived East; but they're
hand-made, and are tip-top. I haven't any other kind of tackle;
but it's just as well, because the tackle will all depend upon
where we are going to fish."
"Don't know yet; am going down now to find out."
He took her down to the principal dealer in sporting goods on
Market Street. It was a delicious world, whose atmosphere and
charm were not to be resisted. There were shot-guns in rows,
their gray barrels looking like so many organ-pipes; sheaves of
fishing-rods, from the four-ounce whisp of the brook-trout up to
the rigid eighteen-ounce lance of the king-salmon and sea-bass;
showcases of wicked revolvers, swelling by calibres into the
thirty-eight and forty-four man-killers of the plainsmen and
Arizona cavalry; hunting knives and dirks, and the slender steel
whips of the fencers; files of Winchesters, sleeping quietly in
their racks, waiting patiently for the signal to speak the one
grim word they knew; swarms of artificial flies of every
conceivable shade, brown, gray, black, gray-brown, gray-black,
with here and there a brisk vermilion note; coils of line, from
the thickness of a pencil, spun to hold the sullen plunges of a
jew-fish off the Catalina Islands, down to the sea-green gossamers
that a vigorous fingerling might snap; hooks, snells, guts,
leaders, gaffs, cartridges, shells, and all the entrancing
munitions of the sportsman, that savored of lonely canons, deer-
licks, mountain streams, quail uplands, and the still reaches of
inlet and marsh grounds, gray and cool in the early autumn dawn.
Condy and Blix got the attention of a clerk, and Condy explained.
"I want to go fishing--we want to go fishing. We want some place
where we can go and come in the same day, and we want to catch
fair-sized fish--no minnows."
The following half-hour was charming. Never was there a clerk
more delightful. It would appear that his one object in life was
that Condy and Blix should catch fish. The affairs of the nation
stood still while he pondered, suggested, advised, and
deliberated. He told them where to go, how to get there, what
train to take coming back, and who to ask for when they arrived.
They would have to wait till Monday before going, but could return
long before the fated hour of 7 P.M.
"Ask for Richardson," said the clerk; "and here, give him my card.
He'll put you on to the good spots; some places are A-1 to-day,
and to-morrow in the same place you can't kill a single fish."
Condy nudged Blix as the Mentor turned away to get his card.
"Notice that," he whispered: "KILL a fish. You don't say 'catch,'
you say 'kill'--technical detail."
Then they bought their tackle: a couple of cheap reels, lines,
leaders, sinkers, a book of assorted flies that the delightful
clerk suggested, and a beautiful little tin box painted green, and
stenciled with a gorgeous gold trout upon the lid, in which they
were to keep the pint of salted shrimps to be used as bait in
addition to the flies. Blix would get these shrimps at a little
market near her home.
"But," said the clerk, "you got to get a permit to fish in that
lake. Have you got a pull with the Water Company? Are you a
Condy's face fell, and Blix gave a little gasp of dismay. They
looked at each other. Here was a check, indeed.
"Well," said the sublime being in shirt sleeves from behind the
counter, "see what you can do; and if you can't make it, come back
here an' lemmeno, and we'll fix you up in some other place. But
Lake San Andreas has been bang-up this last week--been some great
kills there; hope to the deuce you can make it."
Everything now hinged upon this permit. It was not until their
expedition had been in doubt that Condy and Blix realized how
alluring had been its prospects.
"Oh, I guess you can get a permit," said the clerk soothingly.
"An' if you make any good kills, lemmeno and I'll put it in the
paper. I'm the editor of the 'Sport-with-Gun-and-Rod' column in
'The Press,'" he added with a flush of pride.
Toward the middle of the afternoon Blix, who was waiting at home,
in great suspense, for that very purpose, received another
telegram from Condy:
"Tension of situation relieved. Unconditional permission
obtained. Don't forget the shrimps."
It had been understood that Condy was to come to the flat on
Sunday afternoon to talk over final arrangements with Blix. But
as it was, Saturday evening saw him again at the Bessemers.
He had been down at his club in the library, writing the last
paragraphs of his diver's story, when, just as he finished,
Sargeant discovered him.
"Why, Conny, old man, all alone here? Let's go downstairs and have
a cigar. Hendricks and George Hands are coming around in half an
hour. They told me not to let you get away."
Condy stirred nervously in his chair. He knew what that meant.
He had enough money in his pockets to play that night, and in an
instant the enemy was all awake. The rowel was in his flank
again, and the scourge at his back. Sargeant stood there, the
well-groomed clubman of thirty; a little cynical perhaps, but a
really good fellow for all that, and undeniably fond of Condy.
But somewhere with the eyes of some second self Condy saw the girl
of nineteen, part child and part woman; saw her goodness, her
fine, sweet feminine strength as it were a dim radiance; "What's a
good man worth, Condy," she had said, "if he's not a strong man?"
"I suppose we'll have a game going before midnight," admitted
Sargeant resignedly, smiling good-humoredly nevertheless.
Condy set his teeth. "I'll join you later. Wait a few moments,"
he said. He hurried to the office of the club, and sent a
despatch to Blix--the third since morning:
"Can I come up right away? It's urgent. Send answer by this
He got his answer within three-quarters of an hour, and left the
club as Hendricks and George Hands arrived by the elevator
Sitting in the bay window of the dining-room, he told Blix why he
"Oh, you were right!" she told him. "Always, ALWAYS come, when--
when you feel you must."
"It gets so bad sometimes, Blix," he confessed with abject self-
contempt, "that when I can't get some one to play against I'll sit
down and deal dummy hands, and bet on them. Just the touch of the
cards--just the FEEL of the chips. Faugh! it's shameful."
The day following, Sunday, Condy came to tea as usual; and after
the meal, as soon as the family and Victorine had left the pair
alone in the dining-room, they set about preparing for their
morrow's excursion. Blix put up their lunch--sandwiches of what
Condy called "devilish" ham, hard-boiled eggs, stuffed olives, and
a bottle of claret.
Condy took off his coat and made a great show of stringing the
tackle: winding the lines from the spools on to the reels, and
attaching the sinkers and flies to the leaders, smoking the while,
and scowling fiercely. He got the lines fearfully and wonderfully
snarled, he caught the hooks in the table-cloth, he lost the
almost invisible gut leaders on the floor and looped the sinkers
on the lines when they should have gone on the leaders. In the
end Blix had to help him out, disentangling the lines foot by foot
with a patience that seemed to Condy little short of superhuman.
At nine o'clock she said decisively:
"Do you know what time we must get up in the morning if we are to
have breakfast and get the seven-forty train? Quarter of six by
the latest, and YOU must get up earlier than that, because you're
at the hotel and have further to go. Come here for breakfast,
and--listen--be here by half-past six--are you LISTENING, Condy?--
and we'll go down to the depot from here. Don't forget to bring
"I'll wear my bicycle suit," he said, "and one of those golf
scarfs that wrap around your neck."
"No," she declared, "I won't have it. Wear the oldest clothes
you've got, but look fairly respectable, because we're to go to
Luna's when we get back, remember. And now go home; you need all
the sleep you can get if you are to get up at six o'clock."
Instead of being late, as Blix had feared, Condy was absurdly
ahead of time the next morning. For a wonder, he had not
forgotten the rods; but he was one tremor of nervousness. He
would eat no breakfast.
"We're going to miss that train," he would announce from time to
time; "I just know it. Blix, look what time it is. We ought to
be on the way to the depot now. Come on; you don't want any more
coffee. Have you got everything? Did you put the reels in the
lunch-basket?--and the fly-book? Lord, if we should forget the
He managed to get her to the depot over half an hour ahead of
time. The train had not even backed in, nor the ticket office
"I told you, Condy, I told you," complained Blix, sinking
helplessly upon a bench in the waiting-room.
"No--no--no," he answered vaguely, looking nervously about, his
head in the air. "We're none too soon--have more time to rest
now. I wonder what track the train leaves from. I wonder if it
stops at San Bruno. I wonder how far it is from San Bruno to Lake
San Andreas. I'm afraid it's going to rain. Heavens and earth,
Blix, we forgot the shrimps!"
"No, NO! Sit down, I've got the shrimps. Condy, you make me so
nervous I shall scream in a minute."
Some three-quarters of an hour later the train had set them down
at San Bruno--nothing more than a road-house, the headquarters for
duck-shooters and fishermen from the city. However, Blix and
Condy were the only visitors. Everybody seemed to be especially
nice to them on that wonderful morning. Even the supercilious
ticket-seller at the San Francisco depot had unbent, and wished
them good luck. The conductor of the train had shown himself
affable. The very brakeman had gone out of his way to apprise
them, quite five minutes ahead of time, that "the next stop was
their place." And at San Bruno the proprietor of the road-house
himself hitched up to drive them over to the lake, announcing that
he would call for them at "Richardson's" in time for the evening
"And he only asked me four bits for both trips," whispered Condy
to Blix as they jogged along.
The country was beautiful. It was hardly eight o'clock, and the
morning still retained much of the brisk effervescence of the
early dawn. Great bare, rolling hills of gray-green, thinly
scattered with live-oak, bore back from the road on either hand.
The sky was pale blue. There was a smell of cows in the air, and
twice they heard an unseen lark singing. It was very still. The
old buggy and complacent horse were embalmed in a pungent aroma of
old leather and of stables that was entrancing; and a sweet smell
of grass and sap came to them in occasional long whiffs. There
was exhilaration in the very thought of being alive on that
odorous, still morning. The young blood went spanking in the
veins. Blix's cheeks were ruddy, her little dark-brown eyes
fairly coruscating with pleasure.
"Condy, isn't it all splendid?" she suddenly burst out.
"I feel regularly bigger," he declared solemnly. "I could do
anything a morning like this."
Then they came to the lake, and to Richardson's, where the farmer
lived who was also the custodian of the lake. The complacent
horse jogged back, and Condy and Blix set about the serious
business of the day. Condy had no need to show Richardson the
delightful sporting clerk's card. The old Yankee--his twang and
dry humor singularly incongruous on that royal morning--was
solicitude itself. He picked out the best boat on the beach for
them, loaned them his own anchor of railroad iron, indicated
minutely the point on the opposite shore off which the last big
trout had been "killed," and wetted himself to his ankles as he
pushed off the boat.
Condy took the oars. Blix sat in the stern, jointing the rods and
running the lines through the guides. She even baited the hooks
with the salt shrimp herself, and by nine o'clock they were at
anchor some forty feet off shore, and fishing, according to
Richardson's advice, "a leetle mite off the edge o' the weeds."
"If we don't get a bite the whole blessed day," said Condy, as he
paid out his line to the ratchet music of the reel, "we'll have
fun just the same. Look around--isn't this great?"
They were absolutely alone. The day was young yet. The lake,
smooth and still as gray silk, widened to the west and south
without so much as a wrinkle to roughen the surface. Only to the
east, where the sun looked over a shoulder of a higher hill, it
flamed up into a blinding diamond iridescence. The surrounding
land lay between sky and water, hushed to a Sunday stillness. Far
off across the lake by Richardson's they heard a dog bark, and the
sound came fine and small and delicate. At long intervals the
boat stirred with a gentle clap-clapping of the water along its
sides. From the nearby shore in the growth of manzanita bushes
quail called and clucked comfortably to each other; a bewildered
yellow butterfly danced by over their heads, and slim blue dragon-
flies came and poised on their lines and fishing-rods, bowing
From his seat in the bow, Condy cast a glance at Blix. She was
holding her rod in both hands, absorbed, watchful, very intent.
She was as trim as ever, even in the old clothes she had worn for
the occasion. Her round, strong neck was as usual swathed high
and tight in white, and the huge dog-collar girdled her waist
according to her custom. She had taken off her hat. Her yellow
hair rolled back from her round forehead and cool pink cheeks like
a veritable nimbus, and for the fiftieth time Condy remarked the
charming contrast of her small, deep-brown eyes in the midst of
this white satin, yellow hair, white skin, and exquisite pink
An hour passed. Then two.
"No fish," murmured Condy, drawing in his line to examine the
bait. But, as he was fumbling with the flies he was startled by a
sharp exclamation from Blix.
He looked up just in time to see the tip of her rod twitch,
twitch, twitch. Then the whole rod arched suddenly, the reel
sang, the line tautened and cut diagonally through the water.
"You got him! you got him!" he shouted, palpitating with
excitement. "And he's a good one!"
Blix rose, reeling in as rapidly as was possible, the butt of the
twitching, living rod braced against her belt. All at once the
rod straightened out again, the strain was released, and the line
began to slant rapidly away from the boat.
"He's off!" she cried.
"Off, nothing! HE'S GOING TO JUMP. Look out for him, now!"
And then the two watching from the boat, tense and quivering with
the drama of the moment, saw that most inspiriting of sights--the
"break" of a salmon-trout. Up he went, from a brusque explosion
of ripples and foam--up into the gray of the morning from out the
gray of the water: scales all gleaming, hackles all a-bristle; a
sudden flash of silver, a sweep as of a scimitar in gray smoke,
with a splash, a turmoil, an abrupt burst of troubled sound that
stabbed through the silence of the morning, and in a single
instant dissipated all the placid calm of the previous hours.
"Keep the line taut," whispered Condy, gritting his teeth. "When
he comes toward you, reel him in; an' if he pulls too hard, give
him his head."
Blix was breathing fast, her cheeks blazing, her eyes all alight.
"Oh," she gasped, "I'm so afraid I'll lose him! Oh, look at that!"
she cried, as the trout darted straight for the bottom, bending
the rod till the tip was submerged. "Condy, I'll lose him--I know
I shall; you, YOU take the rod!"
"Not for a thousand dollars! Steady, there, he's away again! Oh,
talk about SPORT!"
Yard by yard Blix reeled in until they began to see the silver
glint of the trout's flanks through the green water. She brought
him nearer. Swimming parallel with the boat, he was plainly
visible from his wide-opened mouth--the hook and fly protruding
from his lower jaw--to the red, quivering flanges of the tail.
His sides were faintly speckled, his belly white as chalk. He was
almost as long as Condy's forearm.
"Oh, he's a beauty! Oh, isn't he a beauty!" murmured Condy. "Now,
careful, careful; bring him up to the boat where I can reach him;
e-easy, Blix. If he bolts again, let him run."
Twice the trout shied from the boat's shadow, and twice, as Blix
gave him his head, the reel sang and hummed like a watch-man's
rattle. But the third time he came to the surface and turned
slowly on his side, the white belly and one red fin out of the
water, the gills opening and shutting. He was tired out. A third
time Blix drew him gently to the boat's side. Condy reached out
and down into the water till his very shoulder was wet, hooked two
fingers under the distended gills, and with a long, easy movement
of the arm swung him into the boat.
Their exultation was that of veritable children. Condy whooped
like an Apache, throwing his hat into the air; Blix was hardly
articulate, her hands clasped, her hair in disarray, her eyes
swimming with tears of sheer excitement. They shook each other's
hands; they talked wildly at the same time: they pounded on the
boat's thwarts with their fists; they laughed at their own
absurdity; they looked at the trout again and again, guessed at
his weight, and recalled to each other details of the struggle.
"When he broke that time, wasn't it grand?"
"And when I first felt him bite! It was so sudden--why, it
actually frightened me. I never--no, never in my life!" exclaimed
Blix, "was so happy as I am at this moment. Oh, Condy, to think--
just to THINK!"
"Isn't it glory hallelujah?"
"Isn't it better than teas, and dancing, and functions?"
"Blix--how old are we?"
"I don't care how old we are; I think that trout will weigh two
When they were calm again, they returned to their fishing. The
morning passed, and it was noon before they were aware of it. By
half-past twelve Blix had caught three trout, though the first was
by far the heaviest. Condy had not had so much as a bite. At one
o'clock they rowed ashore and had lunch under a huge live-oak in a
little amphitheatre of manzanita.
Never had a lunch tasted so delicious. What if the wine was warm
and the stuffed olives oily? What if the pepper for the hard-
boiled eggs had sifted all over the "devilish" ham sandwiches?
What if the eggs themselves had not been sufficiently cooked, and
the corkscrew forgotten? They COULD not be anything else but
inordinately happy, sublimely gay. Nothing short of actual
tragedy could have marred the joy of that day.
But after they were done eating, and Blix had put away the forks
and spoons, and while Condy was stretched upon his back smoking a
cigar, she said to him:
"Now, Condy, what do you say to a little game of cards with me?"
The cigar dropped from Condy's lips, and he sat suddenly upright,
brushing the fallen leaves from his hair. Blix had taken a deck
of cards from the lunch-basket, and four rolls of chips wrapped in
tissue paper. He stared at her in speechless amazement.
"What do you say?" she repeated, looking at him and smiling.
"Why, Blix!" he exclaimed in amazement, "what do you mean?"
"Just what I say. I want you to play cards with me."
"I'll not to do it," he declared, almost coldly.
"Listen to me, Condy," answered Blix; and for quite five minutes,
while he interrupted and protested and pshawed and argued, she
talked to him calmly and quietly.
"I don't ask you to stop playing, Condy," she said, as she
finished; "I just ask you that when you feel you must play--or--I
mean, when you want to very bad, you will come and play with me,
instead of playing at your club."
"But it's absurd, it's preposterous. I hate to see a girl
gambling--and you of all girls!"
"It's no worse for me than it is for you and--well, do you suppose
I would play with any one else? Maybe you think I can't play well
enough to make it interesting for you," she said gayly. "Is that
it? I can soon show you, Condy Rivers--never mind when I learned
"But, Blix, you don't know how often we play, those men and I.
Why, it is almost every--you don't know how often we play."
"Condy, whenever you want to play, and will play with ME, no
matter what I've got in hand, I'll stop everything and play with
"Because I think, Condy, that THIS way perhaps you won't play
quite so often at first; and then little by little perhaps--
perhaps--well, never mind that now. I want to play; put it that
way. But I want you to promise me never to play with any one
else--say for six months."
And in the end, whipped by a sense of shame, Condy made her the
promise. They became very gay upon the instant.
"Hoh!" exclaimed Condy; "what do YOU know of poker? I think we had
best play old sledge or cassino."
Blix had dealt a hand and partitioned the chips.
"Straights and flushes BEFORE the draw," she announced calmly.
Condy started and stared; then, looking at her askance, picked up
"It's up to you."
"I'll make it five to play."
"Five? Very well. How many cards?"
"I'll take two."
"Bet you five more."
Blix looked at her hand. Then, without trace of expression in her
voice or face, said:
"There's your five, and I ll raise you five."
"And five better than that."
"Full house. Aces on tens," said Blix, throwing down her cards.
"Heavens! they're good as gold," muttered Condy as Blix gathered
in the chips.
An hour later she had won all the chips but five.
"Now we'll stop and get to fishing again; don't you want to?"
He agreed, and she counted the chips.
"Condy, you owe me seven dollars and a half," she announced.
Condy began to smile. "Well," he said jocosely, "I'll send you
around a check to-morrow."
But at this Blix was cross upon the instant. "You wouldn't do
that--wouldn't talk that way with one of your friends at the
club!" she exclaimed; "and it's not right to do it with me.
Condy, give me seven dollars and a half. When you play cards with
me it's just as though it were with another man. I would have
paid you if you had won."
"But I haven't got more than nine dollars. Who'll pay for the
supper to-night at Luna's, and our railroad fare going home?"
"But I--I can't afford to lose money this way."
"Shouldn't have played, then. I took the same chances as you.
Condy, I want my money."
"You--you--why you've regularly flimflammed me."
"Will you give me my money?"
"Oh, take your money then!"
Blix shut the money in her purse, and rose, dusting her dress.
"Now," she said--"now that the pastime of card-playing is over, we
will return to the serious business of life, which is the
catching--no, ' KILLING'of lake trout."
At five o'clock in the afternoon, Condy pulled up the anchor of
railroad iron and rowed back to Richardson's. Blix had six trout
to her credit, but Condy's ill-luck had been actually ludicrous.
"I can hold a string in the water as long as anybody," he
complained, "but I'd like to have the satisfaction of merely
changing the bait OCCASIONALLY. I've not had a single bite--not a
nibble, y' know, all day. Never mind, you got the big trout,
Blix; that first one. That five minutes was worth the whole day.
It's been glorious, the whole thing. We'll come down here once a
week right along now."
But the one incident that completed the happiness of that
wonderful day occurred just as they were getting out of the boat
on the shore by Richardson's. In a mud-hole between two rocks
they discovered a tiny striped snake, hardly bigger than a lead
pencil, in the act of swallowing a little green frog, and they
passed a rapt ten minutes in witnessing the progress of this
miniature drama, which culminated happily in the victim's escape,
and triumph of virtue.
"That," declared Blix as they climbed into the old buggy which was
to take them to the train, "was the one thing necessary. That
made the day perfect."
They reached the city at dusk, and sent their fish, lunch-basket,
and rods up to the Bessemers' flat by a messenger boy with an
explanatory note for Blix's father.
"Now," said Condy, "for Luna's and the matrimonial objects."
Luna's Mexican restaurant has no address. It is on no particular
street, at no particular corner; even its habitues, its most
enthusiastic devotees, are unable to locate it upon demand. It is
"over there in the quarter," "not far from the cathedral there."
One could find it if one started out with that intent; but to
direct another there--no, that is out of the question. It CAN be
reached by following the alleys of Chinatown. You will come out
of the last alley--the one where the slave girls are--upon the
edge of the Mexican quarter, and by going straight forward a block
or two and by keeping a sharp lookout to right and left you will
hit upon it. It is always to be searched for. Always to be
On that particular Monday evening Blix and Condy arrived at Luna's
some fifteen minutes before seven. Condy had lost himself and all
sense of direction in the strange streets of the quarter, and they
were on the very brink of despair when Blix discovered the sign
upon an opposite corner.
As Condy had foretold, they had the place to themselves. They
went into the back room with its one mirror, six tables, and
astonishing curtains of Nottingham lace; and the waiter, whose
name was Richard or Riccardo, according to taste, began to
officiate at the solemn rites of the "supper Mexican." Condy and
Blix ate with their eyes continually wandering to the door; and as
the FRIJOLES were being served, started simultaneously and
A man wearing two marguerites in the lapel of his coat had entered
abruptly, and sat down to a table close at hand.
Condy drew a breath of suppressed excitement.
"There he is," he whispered--"Captain Jack!"
They looked at the newcomer with furtive anxiety, and told
themselves that they were disappointed. For a retired sea captain
he was desperately commonplace. His hair was red, he was younger
than they had expected, and, worst of all, he did look tough.
"Oh, poor K. D. B.!" sighed Blix, shaking her head. "He'll never
do, I'm afraid. Perhaps he has a good heart, though; red-headed
people are SOMETIMES affectionate."
"They are impulsive," hazarded Condy.
As he spoke the words, a second man entered the little room. He,
too, sat down at a nearby table. He, too, ordered the "supper
Mexican." He, too, wore marguerites in his buttonhole.
"Death and destruction!" gasped Condy, turning pale.
Blix collapsed helplessly in her chair, her hands dropping in her
lap. They stared at each other in utter confusion.
"Here's a how-do-you-do," murmured Condy, pretending to strip a
TAMALE that Richard had just set before him. But Blix had pushed
"What does it mean?" whispered Condy across the table. "In
Heaven's name, what does it mean?"
"It can only mean one thing," Blix declared; "one of them is the
captain, and one is a coincidence. Anybody might wear a
marguerite; we ought to have thought of that."
"But which is which?"
"If K. D. B. should come now!"
"But the last man looks more like the captain."
The last man was a sturdy, broad-shouldered fellow, who might have
been forty. His heavy mustache was just touched with gray, and he
did have a certain vaguely "sober and industrious" appearance.
But the difference between the two men was slight, after all; the
red-headed man could easily have been a sea captain, and he
certainly was over thirty-five.
"Which? which? which?--how can we tell? We might think of some way
to get rid of the coincidence, if we could only tell which the
coincidence was. We owe it to K. D. B. In a way, Condy, it's our
duty. We brought her here, or we are going to, and we ought to
help her all we can; and she may be here at any moment. What time
is it now?"
"Five minutes after seven. But, Blix, I should think the right
one--the captain--would be all put out himself by seeing another
chap here wearing marguerites. Does either one of 'em seem put
out to you? Look. I should think the captain, whichever one he
is, would kind of GLARE at the coincidence."
Stealthily they studied the two men for a moment.
"No, no," murmured Blix, "you can't tell. Neither of them seems
to glare much. Oh, Condy"--her voice dropped to a faint whisper.
"The red-headed one has put his hat on a chair, just behind him,
notice? Do you suppose if you stood up you could see inside?"
"What good would that do?"
"He might have his initials inside the crown, or his whole name
even; and you could see if he had a 'captain' before it."
Condy made a pretence of rising to get a match in a ribbed,
truncated cone of china that stood upon an adjacent table, and
Blix held her breath as he glanced down into the depths of the
hat. He resumed his seat.
"Only initials," he breathed--"W. J. A. It might be Jack, that
J., and it might be Joe, or Jeremiah, or Joshua; and even if he
was a captain he might not use the title. We're no better off
than we were before."
"And K. D. B. may come at any moment. Maybe she has come already
and looked through the windows, and saw TWO men with marguerites
and went away. She'd be just that timid. What can we do?"
"Wait a minute, look here," murmured Condy. "I've an idea. I'LL
find out which the captain is. You see that picture, that chromo,
on the wall opposite?"
Blix looked as he indicated. The picture was a gorgeously colored
lithograph of a pilot-boat, schooner-rigged, all sails set,
dashing bravely through seas of emerald green color.
"You mean that schooner?" asked Blix.
"That schooner, exactly. Now, listen. You ask me in a loud voice
what kind of a boat that is; and when I answer, you keep your eye
on the two men."
"Why, what are you going to do?"
"You'll see. Try it now; we've no time to lose."
Blix shifted in her seat and cleared her throat. Then:
"What a pretty boat that is up there, that picture on the wall.
See over there, on the wall opposite? Do you notice it? Isn't she
pretty? Condy, tell me what kind of a boat is that?"
Condy turned about in his place with great deliberation, fixed the
picture with a judicial eye, and announced decisively:
"That?--why, that's a BARKENTINE."
Condy had no need to wait for Blix's report. The demonstration
came far too quickly for that. The red-headed man at his loud
declaration merely glanced in the direction of the chromo and
returned to his enchellados. But he of the black mustache
followed Condy's glance, noted the picture of which he spoke, and
snorted contemptuously. They even heard him mutter beneath his
"BARKENTINE your eye!"
"No doubt as to which is the captain now," whispered Condy so soon
as the other had removed from him a glance of withering scorn.
They could hardly restrain their gayety; but their gravity
promptly returned when Blix kicked Condy's foot under the table
and murmured: "He's looking at his watch, the captain is. K. D.
B. isn't here yet, and the red-headed man, the coincidence, is.
We MUST get rid of him. Condy, can't you think of something?"
"Well, he won't go till he's through his supper, you can depend
upon that. If he's here when K. D. B. arrives, it will spoil
everything. She wouldn't stay a moment. She wouldn't even come
"Isn't it disappointing? And I had so counted upon bringing these
two together! And Captain Jack is a nice man!"
"You can see that with one hand tied behind you," whispered Condy.
"The other chap's tough."
"Looks just like the kind of man to get into jail sooner or
"Maybe he's into some mischief now; you never can tell. And the
Mexican quarter of San Francisco is just the place for 'affairs.'
I'll warrant he's got PALS."
"Well, here he is--that's the main point--just keeping those
people apart, spoiling a whole romance. Maybe ruining their
lives. It's QUITE possible; really it is. Just stop and think.
This is a positive crisis we're looking at now."
"Can't we get rid of him SOMEHOW?"
"O-oh!" whispered Blix, all at once, in a quiver of excitement.
"There is a way, if we'd ever have the courage to do it. It might
work; and if it didn't, he'd never know the difference, never
would suspect us. Oh! but we wouldn't dare."
"What? what? In Heaven's name what is it, Blix?"
"We wouldn't dare--we couldn't. Oh! but it would be such--"
"K. D. B. may come in that door at any second."
"I'm half afraid, but all the same--Condy, let me have a pencil."
She dashed off a couple of lines on the back of the bill of fare,
and her hand trembled like a leaf as she handed him what she had
"Send him--the red-headed man--that telegram. There's an office
just two doors below here, next the drug-store. I saw it as we
came by. You know his initials: remember, you saw them in his
hat. W. J. A., Luna's restaurant. That's all you want."
"Lord," muttered Condy, as he gazed upon what Blix had written.
"Do you dare?" she whispered, with a little hysterical shudder.
"If it failed we've nothing to lose."
"And K. D. B. is coming nearer every instant!"
"But would he go--that is, at once?"
"We can only try. You won't be gone a hundred seconds. You can
leave me here that length of time. Quick, Condy; decide one way
or the other. It's getting desperate."
Condy reached for his hat.
"Give me some money, then," he said. "You won all of mine "
A few moments later he was back again and the two sat, pretending
to eat their chili peppers, their hearts in their throats, hardly
daring to raise their eyes from their plates. Condy was actually
sick with excitement, and all but tipped the seltzer bottle to the
floor when a messenger boy appeared in the outer room. The boy
and the proprietor held a conference over the counter. Then
Richard appeared between the portieres of Nottingham lace, the
telegram in his hand and the boy at his heels.
Evidently Richard knew the red-headed man, for he crossed over to
him at once with the words:
"I guess this is for you, Mr. Atkins?"
He handed him the despatch and retired. The red-headed man signed
the receipt; the boy departed. Blix and Condy heard the sound of
torn paper as the red-headed man opened the telegram.
Ten seconds passed, then fifteen, then twenty. There was a
silence. Condy dared to steal a glance at the red-headed man's
reflection in the mirror. He was studying the despatch, frowning
horribly. He put it away in his pocket, took it out again with a
fierce movement of impatience, and consulted it a second time.
His "supper Mexican" remained untasted before him; Condy and Blix
heard him breathing loud through his nose. That he was profoundly
agitated, they could not doubt for a single moment. All at once a
little panic terror seemed to take possession of him. He rose,
seized his hat, jammed it over his ears, slapped a half-dollar
upon the table, and strode from the restaurant.
This is what the read-headed man had read in the despatch; this is
what Blix had written:
"ALL IS DISCOVERED. FLY AT ONCE."
And never in all their subsequent rambles about the city did Blix
or Condy set eyes upon the red-headed man again, nor did Luna's
restaurant, where he seemed to have been a habitue, ever afterward
know his presence. He disappeared; he was swallowed up. He had
left the restaurant, true. Had he also left that neighborhood?
Had he fled the city, the State, the country even? What skeleton
in the red-headed man's closet had those six words called to life
and the light of day. Had they frightened him forth to spend the
rest of his days fleeing from an unnamed, unknown avenger--a
veritable wandering Jew? What mystery had they touched upon there
in the bald, bare back room of the Quarter's restaurant? What dark
door had they opened, what red-headed phantom had they evoked? Had
they broken up a plot, thwarted a conspiracy, prevented a crime?
They never knew. One thing only was certain. The red-headed man
had had a past.
Meanwhile the minutes were passing, and K. D. B. still failed to
appear. Captain Jack was visibly growing impatient, anxious. By
now he had come to the fiery liqueur called mescal. He was nearly
through his supper. At every moment he consulted his watch and
fixed the outside door with a scowl. It was already twenty
minutes after seven.
"I know the red-headed man spoiled it, after all," murmured Blix.
"K. D. B. saw the two of them in here and was frightened."
"We could send Captain Jack a telegram from her," suggested Condy.
"I'm ready for anything now."
"What could you say?"
"Oh, that she couldn't come. Make another appointment."
"He'd be offended with her. He'd never make another appointment.
Sea captains are always so punctilious, y' know."
Richard brought them their coffee and kirsch, and Condy showed
Blix how to burn a lump of sugar and sweeten the coffee with
syrup. But they were disappointed. Captain Jack was getting
ready to leave. K. D. B. had evidently broken the appointment.
Then all at once she appeared.
They knew it upon the instant by a brisk opening and shutting of
the street door, and by a sudden alertness on the part of Captain
Jack, which he immediately followed by a quite inexplicable move.
The street door in the outside room had hardly closed before his
hand shot to his coat lapel and tore out the two marguerites.
The action was instinctive; Blix knew it for such immediately.
The retired captain had not premeditated it. He had not seen the
face of the newcomer. She had not time to come into the back
room, or even to close the street door. But the instant that the
captain had recognized a bunch of white marguerites in her belt he
had, without knowing why, been moved to conceal his identity.
"He's afraid," whispered Blix. "Positively, I believe he's
afraid. How absolutely stupid men are!"
But meanwhile, K. D. B., the looked-for, the planned-for and
intrigued-for; the object of so much diplomacy, such delicate
manoeuvring; the pivot upon which all plans were to turn, the
storm-centre round which so many conflicting currents revolved,
and for whose benefit the peace of mind of the red-headed man had
been forever broken up--had entered the room.
"Why, she's PRETTY!" was Blix's first smothered exclamation, as if
she had expected a harridan.
K. D. B. looked like a servant-girl of the better sort, and was
really very neatly dressed. She was small, little even. She had
snappy black eyes, a resolute mouth, and a general air of being
very quiet, very matter-of-fact and complacent. She would be
disturbed at nothing, excited at nothing; Blix was sure of that.
She was placid, but it was the placidity not of the absence of
emotion, but of emotion disdained. Not the placidity of the
mollusk, but that of a mature and contemplative cat.
Quietly she sat down at a corner table, quietly she removed her
veil and gloves, and quietly she took in the room and its three
Condy and Blix glued their eyes upon their coffee cups like guilty
conspirators; but a crash of falling crockery called their
attention to the captain's table.
Captain Jack was in a tremor. Hitherto he had acted the role of a
sane and sensible gentleman of middle age, master of himself and
of the situation. The entrance of K. D. B. had evidently reduced
him to a semi-idiotic condition. He enlarged himself; he eased
his neck in his collar with a rotary movement of head and
shoulders. He frowned terribly at trifling objects in corners of
the room. He cleared his throat till the glassware jingled. He
pulled at his mustache. He perspired, fumed, fretted, and was
suddenly seized with an insane desire to laugh. Once only he
caught the eye of K. D. B., calmly sitting in her corner, picking
daintily at her fish, whereupon he immediately overturned the
vinegar and pepper casters upon the floor. Just so might have
behaved an overgrown puppy in the presence of a sleepy,
unperturbed chessy-cat, dozing by the fire.
"He ought to be shaken," murmured Blix at the end of her patience.
"Does he think SHE is going to make the first move?"
"Ha, ah'm!" thundered the captain, clearing his throat for the
twentieth time, twirling his mustache, and burying his scarlet
face in an enormous pocket handkerchief.
Five minutes passed and he was still in his place. From time to
time K. D. B. fixed him with a quiet, deliberate look, and resumed
her delicate picking.
"Do you think she knows it's he, now that he's taken off his
marguerites?" whispered Condy.
"Know it?--of course she does! Do you think women are absolutely
BLIND, or so imbecile as men are? And, then, if she didn't think
it was he, she'd go away. And she's so really pretty, too. He
ought to thank his stars alive. Think what a fright she might
have been! She doesn't LOOK thirty-one."
"Huh!" returned Condy. "As long as she SAID she was thirty-one,
you can bet everything you have that she is; that's as true as
"Well, it's something to have seen the kind of people who write
the personals," said Blix. "I had always imagined that they were
kind of tough."
"You see they are not," he answered. "I told you they were not.
Maybe, however, we have been exceptionally fortunate. At any
rate, these are respectable enough."
"Not the least doubt about that. But why don't he do something,
that captain?" mourned Blix. "Why WILL he act like such a ninny?"
"He's waiting for us to go," said Condy; "I'm sure of it. They'll
never meet so long as we're here. Let's go and give 'em a chance.
If you leave the two alone here, one or the other will HAVE to
speak. The suspense would become too terrible. It would be as
though they were on a desert island."
"But I wanted to SEE them meet," she protested.
"You wouldn't hear what they said."
"But we'd never know if they did meet, and oh--and WHO spoke
"She'll speak first," declared Condy.
"Never!" returned Blix, in an indignant whisper.
"I tell you what. We could go and then come back in five minutes.
I'll forget my stick here. Savvy?"
"You would probably do it anyhow," she told him.
They decided this would be the better course. They got together
their things, and Condy neglected his stick, hanging upon a hook
on the wall.
At the counter in the outside room, Blix, to the stupefaction of
Richard, the waiter, paid the bill. But as she was moving toward
the door, Condy called her back.
"Remember the waiter," he said severely, while Richard grinned and
bobbed. "Fifty cents is the very least you could tip him."
Richard actually protested, but Condy was firm, and insisted upon
a half-dollar tip.
"Noblesse oblige," he declared with vast solemnity.
They walked as far as the cathedral, listened for a moment to the
bell striking the hour of eight; then as they remembered that the
restaurant closed at that time, hurried back and entered the
outside room in feigned perturbation.
"Did I, could I have possibly left my stick here?" exclaimed Condy
to Richard, who was untying his apron behind the counter. But
Richard had not noticed.
"I think I must have left it back here where we were sitting."
Condy stepped into the back room, Blix following. They got his
stick and returned to the outside room.
"Yes, yes, I did leave it," he said, as he showed it to Richard.
I'm always leaving that stick wherever I go."
"Come again," said Richard, as he bowed them out of the door.
On the curb outside Condy and Blix shook hands and congratulated
each other on the success of all their labors. In the back room,
seated at the same table, a bunch of wilting marguerites between
them, they had seen their "matrimonial objects" conferring
earnestly together, absorbed in the business of getting
Blix heaved a great sigh of relief and satisfaction, exclaiming:
"At last K. D. B. and Captain Jack have met!"
"But," she added, as they started to walk, "we will never know
which one spoke first."
But Condy was already worrying.
"I don't know, I don't know!" he murmured anxiously. "Perhaps
we've done an awful thing. Suppose they aren't happy together
after they're married? I wish we hadn't; I wish we hadn't now.
We've been playing a game of checkers with human souls. We've an
awful responsibility. Suppose he kills her some time?"
"Fiddlesticks, Condy! And, besides, if we've done wrong with our
matrimonial objects, we've offset it by doing well with our red-
headed coincidence. How do you know, you may have 'foiled a
villain' with that telegram--prevented a crime?"
Condy grinned at the recollection of the incident.
"'Fly at once,'" he repeated. "I guess he's flying yet. 'All is
discovered.' I'd give a dollar and a half--"
"If you had it?"
"Oh, well, if I had it--to know just what it was we have
Suddenly Blix caught his arm.
"Condy, here they come!"
"Our objects, Captain Jack and K. D. B."
"Of course, of course. They couldn't stay. The restaurant shuts
up at eight "
Blix and Condy had been walking slowly in the direction of Pacific
Street, and K. D. B. and her escort soon overtook them going in
the same direction. As they passed, the captain was saying:
"--jumped on my hatches, and says we'll make it an international
affair. That didn't--"
A passing wagon drowned the sound of his voice.
"He was telling her of his adventures!" cried Blix. "Splendid!
Othello and Desdemona. They're getting on."
"Let's follow them!" exclaimed Condy.
"Should we? Wouldn't it be indiscreet?"
"No. We are the arbiters of their fate; we MUST take an
They allowed their objects to get ahead some half a block and then
fell in behind. There was little danger of their being detected.
The captain and K. D. B. were absorbed in each other. She had
even taken his arm.
"They make a fine-looking couple, really," said Blix. "Where do
you suppose they are going? To another restaurant?"
But this was not the case. Blix and Condy followed them as far as
Washington Square, where the Geodetic Survey stone stands, and the
enormous flagstaff; and there in front of a commonplace little
house, two doors above the Russian church with its minarets like
inverted balloons K. D. B. and the captain halted. For a few
moments they conversed in low tones at the gate, then said good-
night, K. D. B. entering the house, the captain bowing with great
deference, his hat in his hand. Then he turned about, glanced
once or twice at the house, set his hat at an angle, and
disappeared across the square, whistling a tune, his chin in the
"Very good, excellent, highly respectable," approved Blix; and
Condy himself fetched a sigh of relief.
"Yes, yes, it might have been worse."
"We'll never see them again, our 'Matrimonial Objects,'" said
Blix, "and they'll never know about us; but we have brought them
together. We've started a romance. Yes, I think we've done a
good day's work. And now, Condy, I think we had best be thinking
of home ourselves. I'm just beginning to get most awfully sleepy.
What a day we've had!"
A sea fog, or rather THE sea fog--San Francisco's old and
inseparable companion--had gathered by the time they reached the
top of the Washington Street hill. Everything was wet with it.
The asphalt was like varnished ebony. Indistinct masses and huge
dim shadows stood for the houses on either side. From the
eucalyptus trees and the palms the water dripped like rain. Far
off oceanward, the fog-horn was lowing like a lost gigantic bull.
The gray bulk of a policeman--the light from the street lamp
reflected in his star--loomed up on the corner as they descended
from the car.
* * * * * * * * * *
Condy had intended to call his diver's story "A Submarine
Romance," but Blix had disapproved.
"It's too 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,'" she had said.
"You want something much more dignified. There is that about you,
Condy, you like to be too showy; you don't know when to stop. But
you have left off red-and-white scarfs, and I am very glad to see
you wearing white shirt-fronts instead of pink ones."
"Yes, yes, I thought it would be quieter," he had answered, as
though the idea had come from him. Blix allowed him to think so.
But "A Victory Over Death," as the story was finally called, was a
success. Condy was too much of a born story-teller not to know
when he had done something distinctly good. When the story came
back from the typewriter's, with the additional strength that
print lends to fiction, and he had read it over, he could not
repress a sense of jubilation. The story rang true.
"Bully, bully!" he muttered between his teeth as he finished the
last paragraph. "It's a corker! If it's rejected everywhere, it's
an out-of-sight yarn just the same."
And there Condy's enthusiasm in the matter began to dwindle. The
fine fire which had sustained him during the story s composition
had died out. He was satisfied with his work. He had written a
good story, and that was the end of it. No doubt he would send it
East--to the Centennial Company--to-morrow or the day after--some
time that week. To mail the manuscript meant quite half an hour's
effort. He would have to buy stamps for return postage; a letter
would have to be written, a large envelope procured, the accurate
address ascertained. For the moment his supplement work demanded
his attention. He put off sending the story from day to day. His
interest in it had abated. And for that matter he soon discovered
he had other things to think of.
It had been easy to promise Blix that he would no longer gamble at
his club with the other men of his acquaintance; but it was "death
and the devil," as he told himself, to abide by that promise.
More than once in the fortnight following upon his resolution he
had come up to the little flat on the Washington Street hill as to
a place of refuge; and Blix, always pretending that it was all a
huge joke and part of their good times, had brought out the cards
and played with him. But she knew very well the fight he was
making against the enemy, and how hard it was for him to keep from
the round green tables and group of silent shirt-sleeved men in
the card-rooms of his club. She looked forward to the time when
Condy would cease to play even with her. But she was too sensible
and practical a girl to expect him to break a habit of years'
standing in a couple of weeks. The thing would have to be
accomplished little by little. At times she had misgivings as to
the honesty of the course she had adopted. But nowadays, playing
as he did with her only, Condy gambled but two or three evenings
in the week, and then not for more than two hours at a time.
Heretofore hardly an evening that had not seen him at the round
table in his club's card-room, whence he had not risen until long
Condy had told young Sargeant that he had "reformed" in the matter
of gambling, and intended to swear off for a few months.
Sargeant, like the thoroughbred he was, never urged him to play
after that, and never spoke of the previous night's game when
Condy was about. The other men of his "set" were no less
thoughtful, and, though they rallied him a little at first upon
his defection, soon let the matter drop. Condy told himself that
there were plenty of good people in the world, after all. Every
one seemed conspiring to make it easy for him, and he swore at
himself for a weak-kneed cad.
On a certain Tuesday, about a week after the fishing excursion and
the affair of the "Matrimonial Objects," toward half-past six in
the evening, Condy was in his room, dressing for a dinner
engagement. Young Sargeant's sister had invited him to be one of
a party who were to dine at the University Club, and later on fill
a box at a charity play, given by amateurs at one of the downtown
theatres. But as he was washing his linen shirt-studs with his
tooth-brush his eye fell upon a note, in Laurie Flagg's hand-
writing, that lay on his writing-desk, and that he had received
some ten days previous. Condy turned cold upon the instant,
hurled the tooth-brush across the room, and dropped into a chair
with a groan of despair. Miss Flagg was giving a theatre party
for the same affair, and he remembered now that he had promised to
join her party as well, forgetting all about the engagement he had
made with Miss Sargeant. It was impossible at this late hour to
accept either one of the young women's invitations without
offending the other.
"Well, I won't go to EITHER, that's all," he vociferated aloud to
the opposite wall. "I'll send 'em each a wire, and say that I'm
sick or have got to go down to the office, and--and, by George!
I'll go up and see Blix, and we'll read and make things to eat."
And no sooner had this alternative occurred to him than it
appeared too fascinating to be resisted. A weight seemed removed
from his mind. When it came to that, what amusement would he have
at either affair?
"Sit up there with your shirt-front starched like a board," he
blustered, "and your collar throttling you, and smile till your
face is sore, and reel off small talk to a girl whose last name
you can't remember! Do I have any fun, does it do me any good, do
I get ideas for yarns? What do I do it for? I don't know."
While speaking he had been kicking off his tight shoes and such of
his full dress as he had already put on, and with a feeling of
enormous relief turned again to his sack suit of tweed. "Lord,
these feel better!" he exclaimed, as he substituted the loose
business suit for the formal rigidity of his evening dress. It
was with a sensation of positive luxury that he put on a "soft"
shirt of blue cheviot and his tan walking-shoes.
"But no more red scarfs," he declared, as he knotted his black
satin "club" before the mirror. "She WAS right there." He put his
cigarettes in his pocket, caught up his gloves and stick, clapped
on his hat, and started for the Bessemers' flat with a feeling of
joyous expectancy he had not known for days.
Evidently Blix had seen him coming, for she opened the door
herself; and it suited her humor for the moment to treat him as a
peddler or book-agent.
"No, no," she said airily, her head in the air as she held the
door. "No, we don't want any to-day. We HAVE the biography of
Abraham Lincoln. Don't want to subscribe to any Home Book of Art.
We're not artistic; we use drapes in our parlors. Don't want 'The
Wives and Mothers of Great Men.'"
But Condy had noticed a couple of young women on the lower steps
of the adjacent flat, quite within ear-shot, and at once he began
in a loud, harsh voice:
"Well, y' know, we can't wait for our rent forever; I'm only the
collector, and I've nothing to do with repairs. Pay your rent
that's three months overdue, and then--
But Blix pulled him within the house and clapped to the door.
"Condy RIVERS!" she exclaimed, her cheeks flaming, "those are our
neighbors. They heard every word. What do you suppose they
"Huh! I'd rather have 'em think I was a rent-collector than a
book-agent. You began it. 'Evenin', Miss Lady."
"'Evenin', Mister Man."
But Condy's visit, begun thus gayly, soon developed along much
more serious lines. After supper, while the light still lasted,
Blix read stories to him while he smoked cigarettes in the bay
window of the dining-room. But as soon as the light began to go
she put the book aside, and the two took their accustomed places
in the window, and watched the evening burning itself out over the
It was just warm enough to have one of the windows opened, and for
a long time after the dusk they sat listening to the vague clamor
of the city, lapsing by degrees, till it settled into a measured,
soothing murmur, like the breathing of some vast monster asleep.
Condy's cigarette was a mere red point in the half-darkness. The
smoke drifted out of the open window in long, blue strata. At his
elbow Blix was leaning forward, looking down upon the darkening,
drowsing city, her round, strong chin propped upon her hand. She
was just close enough for Candy to catch the sweet, delicious
feminine perfume that came indefinitely from her clothes, her
hair, her neck. From where Condy sat he could see the silhouette
of her head and shoulders against the dull golden blur of the open
window; her round, high forehead, with the thick yellow hair
rolling back from her temples and ears, her pink, clean cheeks,
her little dark-brown, scintillating eyes, and her firm red mouth,
made all the firmer by the position of her chin upon her hand. As
ever, her round, strong neck was swathed high and tight in white
satin; but between the topmost fold of the satin and the rose of
one small ear-lobe was a little triangle of white skin, that was
partly her neck and partly her cheek, and that Condy knew should
be softer than down, smoother than satin, warm and sweet and
redolent as new apples. Condy imagined himself having the right
to lean toward her there and kiss that little spot upon her neck
or her cheek; and as he fancied it, was surprised to find his
breath come suddenly quick, and a barely perceptible qualm, as of
a certain faintness, thrill him to his finger-tips; and then, he
thought, how would it be if he could, without fear of rebuff,
reach out his arm and put it about her trim, firm waist, and draw
her very close to him, till he should feel the satiny coolness of
her smooth cheek against his; till he could sink his face in the
delicious, fragrant confusion of her hair, then turn that face to
his--that face with its strong, calm mouth and sweet, full lips--
the face of this dear young girl of nineteen, and then--
"I say--I--shall we--let's read again. Let's--let's do
"Condy, how you frightened me!" exclaimed Blix, with a great
start. "No, listen: I want to talk to you, to tell you something.
Papum and I have been having some very long and serious talks
since you were last here. What do you think, I may go away."
"The deuce you say!" exclaimed Condy, sitting suddenly upright.
"Where to, in Heaven's name?" he added--"and when? and what for?"
"To New York, to study medicine."
There was a silence; then Condy exclaimed, waving his hands at
"Oh, go right on! Don't mind me. Little thing like going to New
York--to study medicine. Of course, that happens every day, a
mere detail. I presume you'll go back and forth for your meals?"
Then Blix began to explain. It appeared that she had two aunts,
both sisters of her father--one a widow, the other unmarried. The
widow, a certain Mrs. Kihm, lived in New York, and was wealthy,
and had views on "women's sphere of usefulness." The other, Miss
Bessemer, a little old maid of fifty, Condy had on rare occasions
seen at the flat, where every one called her Aunt Dodd. She lived
in that vague region of the city known as the Mission, where she
owned a little property.
From what Blix told him that evening, Condy learned that Mrs. Kihm
had visited the coast a few winters previous and had taken a great
fancy to Blix. Even then she had proposed to Mr. Bessemer to take
Blix back to New York with her, and educate her to some woman's
profession; but at that time the old man would not listen to it.
Now it seemed that the opportunity had again presented itself.
"She's a dear old lady," Blix said; "not a bit strong-minded, as
you would think, and ever so much cleverer than most men. She
manages all her property herself. For the last month she's been
writing again to Papum for me to come on and stay with her three,
or four years. She hasn't a chick nor a child, and she don't
entertain or go out any, so maybe she feels lonesome. Of course
if I studied there, Papum wouldn't think of Aunt Kihm--don't you
know--paying for it all. I wouldn't go if it was that way. But I
could stay with her and she could make a home for me while I was
there--if I should study--anything--study medicine."
"But why!" he exclaimed. "What do you want to study to be a
doctor for? It isn't as though you had to support yourself."
"I know, I know I've not got to support myself. But why shouldn't
I have a profession just like a man--just like you, Condy? You
stop and think. It seemed strange to me when I first thought of
it; but I got thinking about it and talking it over with Papum,
and I should LOVE it. I'd do it, not because I would have to do
it, but because it would interest me. Condy, you know that I'm
not a bit strong-minded, and that I hate a masculine, unfeminine
girl as much as you do."
"But a medical college, Blix! You don't know what you are talking
"Yes, I do. There's a college in New York just for women. Aunt
Kihm sent me the prospectus, and it's one of the best in the
country. I don't dream of practicing, you know; at least, I don't
think about that now. But one must have some occupation; and
isn't studying medicine, Condy, better than piano-playing, or
French courses, or literary classes and Browning circles? Oh, I've
no patience with that kind of girl! And look at the chance I have
now; and Aunt Kihm is such a dear! Think, she writes, I could go
to and from the college in her coupe every day, and I would see
New York; and just being in a big city like that is an education."
"You're right, it would be a big thing for you," assented Condy,
"and I like the idea of you studying something. It would be the
making of such a girl as you, Blix."
And then Blix, seeing him thus acquiescent, said:
"Well, it's all settled; Papum and I both wrote last night."
"When are you going?"
"The first week in January."
"Well, that's not so AWFULLY soon. But who will take your place
here? However in the world would your father get along without
you--and Snooky and Howard?"
"Aunt Dodd is going to come."
"Sudden enough," said Condy, "but it IS a great thing for you,
Blix, and I'm mighty glad for you. Your future is all cut out for
you now. Of course your aunt, if she's so fond of you and hasn't
any children, will leave you everything--maybe settle something on
you right away; and you'll marry some one of those New York chaps,
and be great big people before you know it."
"The idea, Condy!" she protested. "No; I'm going there to study
medicine. Oh, you don't know how enthusiastic I am over the idea!
I've bought some of the first-year books already, and have been
reading them. Really, Condy, they are even better than 'Many
"Wish I could get East," muttered Condy gloomily. Blix forgot her
own good fortune upon the instant.
"I do so wish you COULD, Condy!" she exclaimed. "You are too good
for a Sunday supplement. I know it and YOU know it, and I've heard
ever so many people who have read your stories say the same thing.
You could spend twenty years working as you are now, and at the
end what would you be? Just an assistant editor of a Sunday
supplement, and still in the same place; and worse, you'd come to
be contented with that, and think you were only good for that and
nothing better. You've got it in you, Condy, to be a great story-
teller. I believe in you, and I've every confidence in you. But
just so long as you stay here and are willing to do hack work,
just so long you will be a hack writer. You must break from it;
you MUST get away. I know you have a good time here; but there
are so many things better than that and more worth while. You
ought to make up your mind to get East, and work for that and
nothing else. I know you want to go, but wanting isn't enough.
Enthusiasm without energy isn't enough. You have enthusiasm,
Condy; but you MUST have energy. You must be willing to give up
things; you must make up your mind that you will go East, and then
set your teeth together and do it. Oh, I LOVE a man that can do
that--make up his mind to a thing and then put it through!"
Condy watched her as she talked, her brown-black eyes coruscating,
her cheeks glowing, her small hands curled into round pink fists.
"Blix, you're splendid!" he exclaimed; "you're fine! You could put
life into a dead man. You're the kind of girl that are the making
of men. By Jove, you'd back a man up, wouldn't you? You'd stand
by him till the last ditch. Of course," he went on after a pause--
"of course I ought to go to New York. But, Blix, suppose I went--
well, then what? It isn't as though I had any income of my own,
or rich aunt. Suppose I didn't find something to do--and the
chances are that I wouldn't for three or four months--what would I
live on in the meanwhile? 'What would the robin do then, poor
thing?' I'm a poor young man, Miss Bessemer, and I've got to eat.
No; my only chance is 'to be discovered' by a magazine or a
publishing house or somebody, and get a bid of some kind."
"Well, there is the Centennial Company. They have taken an
interest in you, Condy. You must follow that right up and keep
your name before them all the time. Have you sent them 'A Victory
Over Death' yet?"
Condy sat down to his eggs and coffee the next morning in the
hotel, harried with a certain sense of depression and
disappointment for which he could assign no cause. Nothing seemed
to interest him. The newspaper was dull. He could look forward
to no pleasure in his day's work; and what was the matter with the
sun that morning? As he walked down to the office he noted no
cloud in the sky, but the brightness was gone from the day. He
sat down to his desk and attacked his work, but "copy" would not
come. The sporting editor and his inane jokes harassed him beyond
expression. Just the sight of the clipping editor's back was an
irritation. The office boy was a mere incentive to profanity.
There was no spring in Condy that morning, no elasticity, none of
his natural buoyancy. As the day wore on, his ennui increased;
his luncheon at the club was tasteless, tobacco had lost its
charm. He ordered a cocktail in the wine-room, and put it aside
with a wry face.
The afternoon was one long tedium. At every hour he flung his
pencil down, utterly unable to formulate the next sentence of his
article, and, his hands in his pockets, gazed gloomily out of the
window over the wilderness of roofs--grimy, dirty, ugly roofs that
spread out below. He craved diversion, amusement, excitement.
Something there was that he wanted with all his heart and soul;
yet he was quite unable to say what it was. Something was gone
from him to-day that he had possessed yesterday, and he knew he
would not regain it on the morrow, nor the next day, nor the day
after that. What was it? He could not say. For half an hour he
imagined he was going to be sick. His mother was not to be at
home that evening, and Condy dined at his club in the hopes of
finding some one with whom he could go to the theatre later on in
the evening. Sargeant joined him over his coffee and cigarette,
but declined to go with him to the theatre.
"Another game on to-night?" asked Condy.
"I suppose so," admitted the other.
"I guess I'll join you to-night," said Condy. "I've had the blue
devils since morning, and I've got to have something to drive them
"Don't let me urge you, you know," returned Sargeant.
"Oh, that's all right!" Condy assured him. "My time's about up,
An hour later, just as he, Sargeant, and the other men of their
"set" were in the act of going upstairs to the card-rooms, a hall-
boy gave Condy a note, at that moment brought by a messenger, who
was waiting for an answer. It was from Blix. She wrote:
"Don't you want to come up and play cards with me to-night? We
haven't had a game in over a week?"
"How did she know?" thought Condy to himself--"how could she
tell?" Aloud, he said:
"I can't join you fellows, after all. 'Despatch from the managing
editor.' Some special detail or other."
For the first time since the previous evening Condy felt his
spirits rise as he set off toward the Washington Street hill. But
though he and Blix spent as merry an evening as they remembered in
a long time, his nameless, formless irritation returned upon him
almost as soon as he had bidden her good-night. It stayed with
him all through the week, and told upon his work. As a result,
three of his articles were thrown out by the editor.
"We can't run such rot as that in the paper," the chief had said.
"Can't you give us a story?"
"Oh, I've got a kind of a yarn you can run if you like," answered
Condy, his week's depression at its very lowest.
"A Victory Over Death" was published in the following Sunday's