Part 2 out of 9
piloted us to a tree, whose branches swept the torrent. Here I let
him go, and caught fast hold; and Uncle Sam's raft must have stuck
there also, for what could my weak arm have done? I remember only
to have felt the ground at last, as the flood was exhausted; and
good people came and found him and me, stretched side by side, upon
rubbish and mud.
In a sacred corner (as soon as ever we could attend to any thing)
we hung up the leathern bag of tools, which had done much more
toward saving the life of Uncle Sam than I did; for this had served
as a kind of kedge, or drag, upon his little craft, retarding it
from the great roll of billows, in which he must have been drowned
outright. And even as it was, he took some days before he was like
Firm, who had been at the head of the valley, repairing some broken
hurdles, declared that a water-spout had burst in the bosom of the
mountain gorge where the Blue River has its origin, and the whole
of its power got ponded back by a dam, which the Sawyer himself had
made, at about five furlongs above the mill. Ephraim, being
further up the gulch, and high above the roaring flood, did his
utmost with the keen edge of his eyes to pierce into the mischief;
but it rained so hard, and at the same time blew so violently
around him, that he could see nothing of what went on, but hoped
for the best, with uneasiness.
Now when the Sawyer came round so well as to have a clear mind of
things, and learn that his mill was gone and his business lost, and
himself, at this ripe time of life, almost driven to begin the
world again, it was natural to expect that he ought to indulge in a
good deal of grumbling. Many people came to comfort him, and to
offer him deep condolence and the truest of true sympathy, and
every thing that could be thought of, unless it were a loan of
money. Of that they never thought, because it was such a trifling
matter; and they all had confidence in his power to do any thing
but pay them. They told him that he was a young man still, and
Providence watched over him; in a year or two he would be all the
better for this sad visitation. And he said yes to their excellent
advice, and was very much obliged to them. At the same time it was
clear to me, who watched him like a daughter, that he became heavy
in his mind, and sighed, as these kind friends, one after the
other, enjoyed what he still could do for them, but rode away out
of his gate with too much delicacy to draw purse-strings. Not that
he would have accepted a loan from the heartiest heart of all of
them, only that he would have liked the offer, to understand their
meaning. And several of them were men--as Firm, in his young
indignation, told me--who had been altogether set up in life by the
kindness of Sampson Gundry.
Perhaps the Sawyer, after all his years, had no right to be vexed
by this. But whether he was right or wrong, I am sure that it
preyed upon his mind, though he was too proud to speak of it. He
knew that he was not ruined, although these friends assumed that he
must be; and some of them were quite angry with him because they
had vainly warned him. He could not remember these warnings, yet
he contradicted none of them; and fully believing in the goodness
of the world, he became convinced that he must have been hard in
the days of his prosperity.
No sooner was he able to get about again than he went to San
Francisco to raise money on his house and property for the
rebuilding of the mill. Firm rode with him to escort him back, and
so did Martin, the foreman; for although the times were not so bad
as they used to be some ten years back, in the height of the gold
fever, it still was a highly undesirable thing for a man who was
known to have money about him to ride forth alone from San
Francisco, or even Sacramento town. And having mentioned the
foreman Martin, in justice to him I ought to say that although his
entire loss from the disaster amounted only to a worn-out waistcoat
of the value of about twenty cents, his vehemence in grumbling
could only be equaled by his lofty persistence. By his great
activity in running away and leaving his employer to meet the
brunt, he had saved not only himself, but his wife and children and
goods and chattels. This failed, however, to remove or even
assuage his regret for the waistcoat; and he moaned and threatened
to such good purpose that a speedy subscription was raised, which
must have found him in clothes for the rest of his life, as well as
a silver tea-pot with an inscription about his bravery.
When the three were gone, after strict injunctions from Mr. Gundry,
and his grandson too, that I was on no account to venture beyond
calling distance from the house, for fear of being run away with, I
found the place so sad and lonesome that I scarcely knew what to
do. I had no fear of robbers, though there were plenty in the
neighborhood; for we still had three or four men about, who could
be thoroughly trusted, and who staid with us on half wages rather
than abandon the Sawyer in his trouble. Suan Isco, also, was as
brave as any man, and could shoot well with a rifle. Moreover, the
great dog Jowler was known and dreaded by all his enemies. He
could pull down an Indian, or two half-castes, or three Mexicans,
in about a second; and now he always went about with me, having
formed a sacred friendship.
Uncle Sam had kissed me very warmly when he said "good-by," and
Firm had shown some disposition to follow his example; but much as
I liked and admired Firm, I had my own ideas as to what was
unbecoming, and now in my lonely little walks I began to think
about it. My father's resting-place had not been invaded by the
imperious flood, although a line of driftage, in a zigzag swath,
lay near the mound. This was my favorite spot for thinking, when I
felt perplexed and downcast in my young unaided mind. For although
I have not spoken of my musings very copiously, any one would do me
wrong who fancied that I was indifferent. Through the great
kindness of Mr. Gundry and other good friends around me, I had no
bitter sense as yet of my own dependence and poverty. But the vile
thing I had heard about my father, the horrible slander and wicked
falsehood--for such I was certain it must be--this was continually
in my thoughts, and quite destroyed my cheerfulness. And the worst
of it was that I never could get my host to enter into it.
Whenever I began, his face would change and his manner grow
constrained, and his chief desire always seemed to lead me to some
One day, when the heat of the summer came forth, and the peaches
began to blush toward it, and bronze-ribbed figs grew damask-gray
with a globule of sirup in their eyes, and melons and pumpkins
already had curved their fluted stalks with heaviness, and the dust
of the plains was beginning to fly, and the bright spring flowers
were dead more swiftly even than they first were born, I sat with
Suan Isco at my father's cross, and told her to make me cry with
some of all the many sad things she knew. She knew a wondrous
number of things insatiably sad and wild; and the quiet way in
which she told them (not only without any horror, but as if they
were rightly to be expected), also the deep and rather guttural
tone of voice, and the stillness of the form, made it impossible to
help believing verily every word she said.
That there should be in the world such things, so dark, unjust, and
full of woe, was enough to puzzle a child brought up among the
noblest philosophers; whereas I had simply been educated by good
unpretentious women, who had partly retired from the world, but not
to such a depth as to drown all thought of what was left behind
them. These were ready at any time to return upon good opportunity;
and some of them had done so, with many tears, when they came into
"Please to tell me no more now," I said at last to Suan; "my eyes
are so sore they will be quite red, and perhaps Uncle Sam will come
home to-night. I am afraid he has found some trouble with the
money, or he ought to have been at home before. Don't you think
"Yes, yes; trouble with the money. Always with the white mans
"Very well. I shall go and look for some money. I had a most
wonderful dream last night. Only I must go quite alone. You had
better go and look to the larder, Suan. If they come, they are
sure to be hungry."
"Yes, yes; the white mans always hungry, sep when thirsty."
The Indian woman, who had in her heart a general contempt for the
white race, save those of our own household, drew her bright-
colored shawl around her, and set off with her peculiar walk. Her
walk was not ungraceful, because it was so purely natural; but it
differed almost as much as the step of a quadruped from what we are
taught. I, with heavy thoughts but careless steps, set off on my
wanderings. I wanted to try to have no set purpose, course, or
consideration, but to go wherever chance should lead me, without
choice, as in my dream. And after many vague turns, and even
closings of rebellious eyes, I found myself, perhaps by the force
of habit, at the ruins of the mill.
I seemed to recognize some resemblance (which is as much as one can
expect) to the scene which had been in my sleep before me. But
sleeping I had seen roaring torrents; waking, I beheld a quiet
stream. The little river, as blue as ever, and shrinking from all
thoughts of wrath, showed nothing in its pure gaze now but a
gladness to refresh and cool. In many nicely sheltered corners it
was full of soft reflection as to the good it had to do; and then,
in silver and golden runnels, on it went to do it. And the happy
voice and many sweetly flashing little glances told that it knew of
the lovely lives beside it, created and comforted by itself.
But I looked at the dark ruin it had wrought, and like a child I
was angry with it for the sake of Uncle Sam. Only the foundations
and the big heavy stones of the mill were left, and the clear
bright water purled around, or made little eddies among them. All
were touched with silvery sound, and soft caressing dimples. But I
looked at the passionate mountains first, to be sure of no more
violence; for if a burned child dreads the fire, one half drowned
may be excused for little faith in water. The mountains in the
sunshine looked as if nothing could move their grandeur, and so I
stepped from stone to stone, in the bed of the placid brightness.
Presently I came to a place where one of the great black piles,
driven in by order of the Sawyer, to serve as a back-stay for his
walls, had been swept by the flood from its vertical sinking, but
had not been swept away. The square tarred post of mountain pine
reclined down stream, and gently nodded to the current's impact.
But overthrown as it was, it could not make its exit and float
away, as all its brethren had done. At this I had wondered before,
and now I went to see what the reason was. By throwing a short
piece of plank from one of the shattered foundations into a nick in
the shoulder of the reclining pile, I managed to get there and sit
upon it, and search for its obstruction.
The water was flowing smoothly toward me, and as clear as crystal,
being scarcely more than a foot in depth. And there, on the upper
verge of the hole, raised by the leverage of the butt from the
granite sand of the river-bed, I saw a great bowlder of rich yellow
light. I was so much amazed that I cried out at once, "Oh! what a
beautiful great yellow fish!" And I shouted to Jowler, who had
found where I was, and followed me, as usual. The great dog was
famous for his love of fishing, and had often brought a fine salmon
Jowler was always a zealous fellow, and he answered eagerly to my
call by dashing at once into the water, and following the guidance
of my hand. But when he saw what I pointed at, he was bitterly
disappointed, and gave me to understand as much by looking at me
foolishly. "Now don't be a stupid dog," I said; "do what I tell
you immediately. Whatever it is, bring it out, Sir."
Jowler knew that I would be obeyed whenever I called him "Sir;" so
he ducked his great head under the water, and tugged with his teeth
at the object. His back corded up, and his tail grew rigid with
the intensity of his labor, but the task was quite beyond him. He
could not even stir the mighty mass at which he struggled, but he
bit off a little projecting corner, and came to me with it in his
mouth. Then he laid his dripping jaws on my lap, and his ears fell
back, and his tail hung down with utter sense of failure.
I patted his broad intelligent forehead, and wiped his black eyes
with his ears, and took from his lips what he offered to me. Then
I saw that his grinders were framed with gold, as if he had been to
a dentist regardless of expense, and into my hand he dropped a lump
of solid glittering virgin ore. He had not the smallest idea of
having done any thing worthy of human applause; and he put out his
long red tongue and licked his teeth to get rid of uneatable dross,
and gave me a quiet nudge to ask what more I wanted of him.
From Jowler I wanted nothing more. Such matters were too grand for
him. He had beaten the dog of Hercules, who had only brought the
purple dye--a thing requiring skill and art and taste to give it
value. But gold does well without all these, and better in their
absence. From handling many little nuggets, and hearkening to Suan
Isco's tales of treachery, theft, and murder done by white men for
the sake of this, I knew that here I had found enough to cost the
lives of fifty men.
At present, however, I was not possessed with dread so much as I
was with joy, and even a secret exultation, at the power placed in
my hands. For I was too young to moralize or attempt philosophy.
Here I had a knowledge which the wisest of mankind might envy, much
as they despise it when they have no chance of getting it. I
looked at my father's grave, in the shadow of the quiet peach-
trees, and I could not help crying as I thought that this was come
too late for him. Then I called off Jowler, who wished (like a
man) to have another tug at it; and home I ran to tell my news, but
failing of breath, had time to think.
It was lucky enough that this was so, for there might have been the
greatest mischief; and sadly excited as I was, the trouble I had
seen so much of came back to my beating heart and told me to be
careful. But surely there could be no harm in trusting Suan Isco.
However, I looked at her several times, and was not quite so sure
about it. She was wonderfully true and faithful, and scarcely
seemed to concede to gold its paramount rank and influence. But
that might only have been because she had never known the want of
it, or had never seen a lump worth stealing, which I was sure that
this must be; and the unregenerate state of all who have never been
baptized had been impressed on me continually. How could I
mistrust a Christian, and place confidence in an Indian? Therefore
I tried to sleep without telling any one, but was unable.
But, as it happened, my good discovery did not keep me so very long
awake, for on the following day our troop of horsemen returned from
San Francisco. Of course I have done very foolish things once and
again throughout my life, but perhaps I never did any thing more
absurd than during the whole of that day. To begin with, I was up
before the sun, and down at the mill, and along the plank, which I
had removed overnight, but now replaced as my bridge to the pine-
wood pile. Then I gazed with eager desire and fear--which was the
stronger I scarcely knew--for the yellow under-gleam, to show the
safety of my treasure. There it lay, as safe as could be, massive,
grand, and beautiful, with tones of varying richness as the ripples
varied over it. The pale light of the morning breathed a dewy
lustre down the banks; the sun (although unrisen yet) drew furrows
through the mountain gaps; the birds from every hanging tree
addressed the day with melody; the crystal water, purer than
religion's brightest dream, went by; and here among them lay,
unmoved, unthought of, and inanimate, the thing which to a human
being is worth all the rest put together.
This contemplation had upon me an effect so noble that here I
resolved to spend my time, for fear of any robbery. I was afraid
to gaze more than could be helped at this grand sight, lest other
eyes should spy what was going on, and long to share it. And after
hurrying home to breakfast and returning in like haste, I got a
scare, such as I well deserved, for being so extremely foolish.
The carpentry of the mill-wheel had proved so very stanch and
steadfast that even in that raging deluge the whole had held
together. It had been bodily torn from its hold and swept away
down the valley; but somewhere it grounded, as the flood ebbed out,
and a strong team had tugged it back again. And the Sawyer had
vowed that, come what would, his mill should work with the self-
same wheel which he with younger hands had wrought. Now this wheel
(to prevent any warp, and save the dry timber from the sun) was
laid in a little shady cut, where water trickled under it. And
here I had taken up my abode to watch my monster nugget.
I had pulled my shoes and stockings off, and was paddling in the
runnel, sheltered by the deep rim of the wheel, and enjoying the
water. Little fish darted by me, and lovely spotted lizards played
about, and I was almost beginning even to forget my rock of gold.
In self-defense it is right to say that for the gold, on my own
account, I cared as much as I might have done for a fig worm-eaten.
It was for Uncle Sam, and all his dear love, that I watched the
gold, hoping in his sad disaster to restore his fortunes. But
suddenly over the rim of the wheel (laid flat in the tributary
brook) I descried across the main river a moving company of
These men could have nothing to do with Uncle Sam and his party,
for they were coming from the mountain-side, while he would return
by the track across the plains. And they were already so near that
I could see their dress quite plainly, and knew them to be Mexican
rovers, mixed with loose Americans. There are few worse men on the
face of the earth than these, when in the humor, and unluckily they
seem almost always to be in that humor. Therefore, when I saw
their battered sun-hats and baggy slouching boots, I feared that
little ruth, or truth, or mercy dwelt between them.
On this account I shrank behind the shelter of the mill-wheel, and
held my head in one trembling hand, and with the other drew my
wind-tossed hair into small compass. For my blood ran cold at the
many dreadful things that came into my mind. I was sure that they
had not spied me yet, and my overwhelming desire was to decline all
I counted fourteen gentlemen, for so they always styled themselves,
and would pistol any man who expressed a contrary opinion.
Fourteen of them rode to the brink of the quiet blue river on the
other side; and there they let their horses drink, and some
dismounted and filled canteens, and some of longer reach stooped
from the saddle and did likewise. But one, who seemed to be the
captain, wanted no water for his rum.
"Cut it short, boys," I heard him say, with a fine South
Californian twang (which, as well as his free swearing, I will
freely omit). "If we mean to have fair play with the gal, now or
never's the time for it: old Sam may come home almost any time."
What miserable cowards! Though there were so many of them, they
really had no heart to face an old man known for courage.
Frightened as I was, perhaps good indignation helped me to flutter
no more, and not faint away, but watch those miscreants steadily.
The horses put down their sandy lips over and over again to drink,
scarcely knowing when they ought to stop, and seemed to get thicker
before my eyes. The dribbling of the water from their mouths
prepared them to begin again, till the riders struck the savage
unroweled spur into their refreshment. At this they jerked their
noses up, and looked at one another to say that they expected it,
and then they lifted their weary legs and began to plash through
It is a pretty thing to see a skillful horse plod through a stream,
probing with his eyes the depth, and stretching his head before his
feet, and at every step he whisks his tail to tell himself that he
is right. In my agony of observation all these things I heeded,
but only knew that I had done so when I thought long afterward. At
the moment I was in such a fright that my eyes worked better than
my mind. However, even so, I thought of my golden millstone, and
was aware that they crossed below, and could not see it.
They gained the bank upon our side within fifty yards of where I
crouched; and it was not presence of mind, but abject fear, which
kept me crouching. I counted them again as they leaped the bank
and seemed to look at me. I could see the dark array of eyes, and
could scarcely keep from shrieking. But my throat was dry and made
no sound, and a frightened bird set up a scream, which drew off
In perils of later days I often thought of this fear, and almost
felt that the hand of Heaven had been stretched forth on purpose to
help my helplessness.
For the moment, however, I lay as close as if under the hand of the
evil one; and the snorting of the horses passed me, and wicked
laughter of the men. One was telling a horrible tale, and the rest
rejoicing in it; and the bright sun, glowing on their withered
skin, discovered perhaps no viler thing in all the world to shine
upon. One of them even pointed at my mill-wheel with a witty
gibe--at least, perhaps, it was wit to him--about the Sawyer's
misfortune; but the sun was then in his eyes, and my dress was just
of the color of the timber. So on they rode, and the pleasant turf
(having lately received some rain) softly answered to the kneading
of their hoofs as they galloped away to surround the house.
I was just at the very point of rising and running up into the dark
of the valley, when a stroke of arithmetic stopped me. Fourteen
men and fourteen horses I had counted on the other side; on this
side I could not make any more than thirteen of them. I might have
made a mistake; but still I thought I would stop just a minute to
see. And in that minute I saw the other man walking slowly on the
opposite bank. He had tethered his horse, and was left as outpost
to watch and give warning of poor Uncle Sam's return.
At the thought of this, my frightened courage, in some extraordinary
way, came back. I had played an ignoble part thus far, as almost
any girl might have done. But now I resolved that, whatever might
happen, my dear friend and guardian should not be entrapped and
lose his life through my cowardice. We had been expecting him all
the day; and if he should come and fall into an ambush, I only
might survive to tell the tale. I ought to have hurried and warned
the house, as my bitter conscience told me; but now it was much too
late for that. The only amends that I could make was to try and
warn our travelers.
Stooping as low as I could, and watching my time to cross the more
open places when the sentry was looking away from me, I passed up
the winding of the little watercourse, and sheltered in the swampy
thicket which concealed its origin. Hence I could see for miles
over the plain--broad reaches of corn land already turning pale,
mazy river fringed with reed, hamlets scattered among clustering
trees, and that which I chiefly cared to see, the dusty track from
Whether from ignorance of the country or of Mr. Gundry's plans, the
sentinel had been posted badly. His beat commanded well enough the
course from San Francisco; but that from Sacramento was not equally
clear before him. For a jut of pine forest ran down from the
mountains and cut off a part of his view of it. I had not the
sense or the presence of mind to perceive this great advantage, but
having a plain, quick path before me, forth I set upon it. Of
course if the watchman had seen me, he would have leaped on his
horse and soon caught me; but of that I scarcely even thought, I
was in such confusion.
When I had run perhaps a mile (being at that time very slight, and
of active figure), I saw a cloud of dust, about two miles off,
rising through the bright blue haze. It was rich yellow dust of
the fertile soil, which never seems to cake or clot. Sometimes you
may walk for miles without the smallest fear of sinking, the earth
is so elastic. And yet with a slight exertion you may push a
walking-stick down through it until the handle stops it. My heart
gave a jump: that cloud of dust was a sign of men on horseback.
And who could it be but Uncle Sam and Firm and the foreman Martin?
As soon as it began to show itself, it proved to be these very
three, carelessly lounging on their horses' backs, overcome with
heat and dust and thirst. But when they saw me there all alone
under the fury of the sun, they knew that something must have gone
amiss, and were all wide awake in a moment.
"Well, now," said the Sawyer, when I had told my tale as well as
short breath allowed, "put this thing over your head, my dear, or
you may gain a sun-stroke. I call it too bad of them skunks to
drive you in Californy noon, like this."
"Oh, Uncle Sam, never think of me; think of your house and your
goods and Suan, and all at those bad men's mercy!"
"The old house ain't afire yet," he answered, looking calmly under
his hand in that direction. "And as for Suan, no fear at all. She
knows how to deal with such gallowses; and they will keep her to
cook their dinner. Firm, my lad, let us go and embrace them. They
wouldn't 'a made much bones of shooting us down if we hadn't known
of it, and if they had got miss afore the saddle. But if they
don't give bail, as soon as they see me ride up to my door, my
name's not Sampson Gundry. Only you keep out of the way, Miss
Remy. You go to sleep a bit, that's a dear, in the graywitch
spinny yonder, and wait till you hear Firm sound the horn. And
then come you in to dinner-time; for the Lord is always over you."
I hastened to the place which he pointed out--a beautiful covert of
birch-trees--but to sleep was out of the question, worn out though
I was with haste and heat, and (worst of all) with horror. In a
soft mossy nest, where a breeze from the mountains played with the
in and out ways of the wood, and the murmurous dream of genial
insects now was beginning to drowse upon the air, and the heat of
the sun could almost be seen thrilling through the alleys like a
cicale's drum--here, in the middle of the languid peace, I waited
for the terror of the rifle-crack.
For though Uncle Sam had spoken softly, and made so little of the
peril he would meet, I had seen in his eyes some token of the deep
wrath and strong indignation which had kept all his household and
premises safe. And it seemed a most ominous sign that Firm had
never said a word, but grasped his gun, and slowly got in front of
GOLD AND GRIEF
It may have been an hour, but it seemed an age, ere the sound of
the horn, in Firm's strong blast, released me from my hiding-place.
I had heard no report of fire-arms, nor perceived any sign of
conflict; and certainly the house was not on fire, or else I must
have seen the smoke. For being still in great alarm, I had kept a
very sharp lookout.
Ephraim Gundry came to meet me, which was very kind of him. He
carried his bugle in his belt, that he might sound again for me, if
needful. But I was already running toward the house, having made
up my mind to be resolute. Nevertheless, I was highly pleased to
have his company, and hear what had been done.
"Please to let me help you," he said, with a smile. "Why, miss,
you are trembling dreadfully. I assure you there is no cause for
"But you might have been killed, and Uncle Sam, and Martin, and
every body. Oh, those men did look so horrible!"
"Yes, they always do till you come to know them. But bigger
cowards were never born. If they can take people by surprise, and
shoot them without any danger, it is a splendid treat to them. But
if any one like grandfather meets them face to face in the
daylight, their respect for law and life returns. It is not the
first visit they have paid us. Grandfather kept his temper well.
It was lucky for them that he did."
Remembering that the Rovers must have numbered nearly three to one,
even if all our men were stanch, I thought it lucky for ourselves
that there had been no outbreak. But Firm seemed rather sorry that
they had departed so easily. And knowing that he never bragged, I
began to share his confidence.
"They must be shot, sooner or later," he said, "unless, indeed,
they should be hanged. Their manner of going on is out of date in
these days of settlement. It was all very well ten years ago. But
now we are a civilized State, and the hand of law is over us. I
think we were wrong to let them go. But of course I yield to the
governor. And I think he was afraid for your sake. And to tell
the truth, I may have been the same."
Here he gave my arm a little squeeze, which appeared to me quite
out of place; therefore I withdrew and hurried on. Before he could
catch me I entered the door, and found the Sawyer sitting calmly
with his own long pipe once more, and watching Suan cooking.
"They rogues have had all the best of our victuals," he said, as
soon as he had kissed me. "Respectable visitors is my delight, and
welcome to all of the larder; but at my time of life it goes agin
the grain to lease out my dinner to galley-rakers. Suan, you are
burning the fat again."
Suan Isco, being an excellent cook (although of quiet temper),
never paid heed to criticism, but lifted her elbow and went on.
Mr. Gundry knew that it was wise to offer no further meddling,
although it is well to keep them up to their work by a little
grumbling. But when I came to see what broken bits were left for
Suan to deal with, I only wondered that he was not cross.
"Thank God for a better meal than I deserve," he said, when they
all had finished. "Suan, you are a treasure, as I tell you every
day a'most. Now if they have left us a bottle of wine, let us have
it up. We be all in the dumps. But that will never do, my lad."
He patted Firm on the shoulder, as if he were the younger man of
the two, and his grandson went down to the wreck of the cellar;
while I, who had tried to wait upon them in an eager, clumsy way,
perceived that something was gone amiss, something more serious and
lasting than the mischief made by the robber troop. Was it that
his long ride had failed, and not a friend could be found to help
When Martin and the rest were gone, after a single glass of wine,
and Ephraim had made excuse of something to be seen to, the Sawyer
leaned back in his chair, and his cheerful face was troubled. I
filled his pipe and lit it for him, and waited for him to speak,
well knowing his simple and outspoken heart. But he looked at me
and thanked me kindly, and seemed to be turning some grief in his
"It ain't for the money," he said at last, talking more to himself
than to me; "the money might 'a been all very well and useful in a
sort of way. But the feelin'--the feelin' is the thing I look at,
and it ought to have been more hearty. Security! Charge on my
land, indeed! And I can run away, but my land must stop behind!
What security did I ask of them? 'Tis enough a'most to make a
rogue of me."
"Nothing could ever do that, Uncle Sam," I exclaimed, as I came and
sat close to him, while he looked at me bravely, and began to
"Why, what was little missy thinking of?" he asked. "How solid she
looks! Why, I never see the like!"
"Then you ought to have seen it, Uncle Sam. You ought to have seen
it fifty times, with every body who loves you. And who can help
loving you, Uncle Sam?"
"Well, they say that I charged too much for lumber, a-cuttin' on
the cross, and the backstroke work. And it may 'a been so, when I
took agin a man. But to bring up all that, with the mill strown
down, is a cowardly thing, to my thinking. And to make no count of
the beadin' I threw in, whenever it were a straightforrard job, and
the turpsy knots, and the clogging of the teeth--'tis a bad bit to
swallow, when the mill is strown."
"But the mill shall not be strown, Uncle Sam. The mill shall be
built again. And I will find the money."
Mr. Gundry stared at me and shook his head. He could not bear to
tell me how poor I was, while I thought myself almost made of
money. "Five thousand dollars you have got put by for me," I
continued, with great importance. "Five thousand dollars from the
sale and the insurance fund. And five thousand dollars must be
five-and-twenty thousand francs. Uncle Sam, you shall have every
farthing of it. And if that won't build the mill again, I have got
my mother's diamonds."
"Five thousand dollars!" cried the Sawyer, in amazement, opening
his great gray eyes at me. And then he remembered the tale which
he had told, to make me seem independent. "Oh yes, to be sure, my
dear; now I recollect. To be sure--to be sure--your own five
thousand dollars. But never will I touch one cent of your nice
little fortune; no, not to save my life. After all, I am not so
gone in years but what I can build the mill again myself. The Lord
hath spared my hands and eyes, and gifted me still with machinery.
And Firm is a very handy lad, and can carry out a job pretty
fairly, with better brains to stand over him, although it has not
pleased the Lord to gift him with sense of machinery, like me. But
that is all for the best, no doubt. If Ephraim had too much of
brains, he might have contradicted me. And that I could never
abide, God knows, from any green young jackanapes."
"Oh, Uncle Sam, let me tell you something--something very
"No, my dear, nothing more just now. It has done me good to have a
little talk, and scared the blue somethings out of me. But just go
and ask whatever is become of Firm. He was riled with them
greasers. It was all I could do to keep the boy out of a
difficulty with them. And if they camp any where nigh, it is like
enough he may go hankerin' after them. The grand march of
intellect hathn't managed yet to march old heads upon young
shoulders. And Firm might happen to go outside the law."
The thought of this frightened me not a little; for Firm, though
mild of speech, was very hot of spirit at any wrong, as I knew from
tales of Suan Isco, who had brought him up and made a glorious idol
of him. And now, when she could not say where he was, but only was
sure that he must be quite safe (in virtue of a charm from a great
medicine man which she had hung about him), it seemed to me,
according to what I was used to, that in these regions human life
was held a great deal too lightly.
It was not for one moment that I cared about Firm, any more than is
the duty of a fellow-creature. He was a very good young man, and
in his way good-looking, educated also quite enough, and polite,
and a very good carver of a joint; and when I spoke, he nearly
always listened. But of course he was not to be compared as yet to
his grandfather, the true Sawyer.
When I ran back from Suan Isco, who was going on about her charm,
and the impossibility of any one being scalped who wore it, I found
Mr. Gundry in a genial mood. He never made himself uneasy about
any trifles. He always had a very pure and lofty faith in the ways
of Providence, and having lost his only son Elijah, he was sure
that he never could lose Firm. He had taken his glass of hot
whiskey and water, which always made him temperate; and if he felt
any of his troubles deeply, he dwelt on them now from a high point
"I may 'a said a little too much, my dear, about the badness of
mankind," he observed, with his pipe lying comfortably on his
breast; "all sayings of that sort is apt to go too far. I ought to
have made more allowance for the times, which gets into a ticklish
state, when a old man is put about with them. Never you pay no
heed whatever to any harsh words I may have used. All that is a
very bad thing for young folk."
"But if they treated you badly, Uncle Sam, how can you think that
they treated you well?"
He took some time to consider this, because he was true in all his
thoughts; and then he turned off to something else.
"Why, the smashing of the mill may have been a mercy, although in
disguise to the present time of sight. It will send up the price
of scantlings, and we was getting on too fast with them. By the
time we have built up the mill again we shall have more orders than
we know how to do with. When I come to reckon of it, to me it
appears to be the reasonable thing to feel a lump of grief for the
old mill, and then to set to and build a stronger one. Yes, that
must be about the right thing to do. And we'll have all the
neighbors in when we lay foundations."
"But what will be the good of it, Uncle Sam, when the new mill may
at any time be washed away again?"
"Never, at any time," he answered, very firmly, gazing through the
door as if he saw the vain endeavor. "That little game can easily
be stopped, for about fifty dollars, by opening down the bank
toward the old track of the river. The biggest waterspout that
ever came down from the mountains could never come anigh the mill,
but go right down the valley. It hath been in my mind to do it
often, and now that I see the need, I will. Firm and I will begin
"But where is all the money to come from, Uncle Sam? You said that
all your friends had refused to help you."
"Never mind, my dear. I will help myself. It won't be the first
time, perhaps, in my life."
"But supposing that I could help you, just some little? Supposing
that I had found the biggest lump of gold ever found in all
Mr. Gundry ought to have looked surprised, and I was amazed that he
did not; but he took it as quietly as if I had told him that I had
just picked up a brass button of his; and I thought that he doubted
my knowledge, very likely, even as to what gold was.
"It is gold, Uncle Sam, every bit of it gold--here is a piece of
it; just look--and as large, I am sure, as this table. And it may
be as deep as this room, for all that one can judge to the
contrary. Why, it stopped the big pile from coming to the top,
when even you went down the river."
"Well, now, that explains a thing or two," said the Sawyer, smiling
peacefully, and beginning to think of another pipe, if preparation
meant any thing. "Two things have puzzled me about that stump,
and, indeed, I might say three things. Why did he take such a time
to drive? and why would he never stand up like a man? and why
wouldn't he go away when he ought to?"
"Because he had the best of all reasons, Uncle Sam. He was
anchored on his gold, as I have read in French, and he had a good
right to be crooked about it, and no power could get him away from
"Hush, my dear, hush! It is not at all good for young people to
let their minds run on so. But this gold looks very good indeed.
Are you sure that it is a fair sample, and that there is any more
"How can you be so dreadfully provoking, Uncle Sam, when I tell you
that I saw it with my own eyes? And there must be at least half a
ton of it."
"Well, half a hundred-weight will be enough for me. And you shall
have all the rest, my dear--that is, if you will spare me a bit,
Miss Remy. It all belongs to you by discovery, according to the
diggers' law. And your eyes are so bright about it, miss, that the
whole of your heart must be running upon it."
"Then you think me as bad as the rest of the world! How I wish
that I had never seen it! It was only for you that I cared about
it--for you, for you; and I will never touch a scrap of it."
Mr. Gundry had only been trying me, perhaps. But I did not see it
in that light, and burst into a flood of childish tears, that he
should misunderstand me so. Gold had its usual end, in grief.
Uncle Sam rose up to soothe me and to beg my pardon, and to say
that perhaps he was harsh because of the treatment he had received
from his friends. He took me in his arms and kissed me; but before
I could leave off sobbing, the crack of a rifle rang through the
house, and Suan Isco, with a wail, rushed out.
THE SAWYER'S PRAYER
The darkness of young summer night was falling on earth and tree
and stream. Every thing looked of a different form and color from
those of an hour ago, and the rich bloom of shadow mixed with
color, and cast by snowy mountains, which have stored the purple
adieu of the sun, was filling the air with delicious calm. The
Sawyer ran out with his shirt sleeves shining, so that any sneaking
foe might shoot him; but, with the instinct of a settler, he had
caught up his rifle. I stood beneath a carob-tree, which had been
planted near the porch, and flung fantastic tassels down, like the
ear-rings of a negress. And not having sense enough to do good, I
was only able to be frightened.
Listening intently, I heard the sound of skirring steps on the
other side of and some way down the river; and the peculiar tread,
even thus far off, was plainly Suan Isco's. And then in the
stillness a weary and heavy foot went toiling after it. Before I
could follow, which I longed to do, to learn at once the worst of
it, I saw the figure of a man much nearer, and even within twenty
yards of me, gliding along without any sound. Faint as the light
was, I felt sure that it was not one of our own men, and the barrel
of a long gun upon his shoulder made a black line among silver
leaves. I longed to run forth and stop him, but my courage was not
prompt enough, and I shamefully shrank away behind the trunk of the
carob-tree. Like a sleuth, compact, and calm-hearted villain, he
went along without any breath of sound, stealing his escape with
skill, till a white bower-tent made a background for him, and he
leaped up and fell flat without a groan. The crack of a rifle came
later than his leap, and a curl of white smoke shone against a
black rock, and the Sawyer, in the distance, cried, "Well, now!" as
he generally did when satisfied.
So scared was I that I caught hold of a cluster of pods to steady
me; and then, without any more fear for myself, I ran to see
whether it was possible to help. But the poor man lay beyond
earthly help; he was too dead to palpitate. His life must have
left him in the air, and he could not even have felt his fall.
In violent terror, I burst into tears, and lifted his heavy head,
and strove to force his hot hands open, and did I know not what,
without thinking, laboring only to recall his life.
"Are you grieving for the skulk who has shot my Firm?" said a stern
voice quite unknown to me; and rising, I looked at the face of Mr.
Gundry, unlike the countenance of Uncle Sam. I tried to speak to
him, but was too frightened. The wrath of blood was in his face,
and all his kind desires were gone.
"Yes, like a girl, you are sorry for a man who has stained this
earth, till his only atonement is to stain it with his blood.
Captain Pedro, there you lie, shot, like a coward, through the
back. I wish you were alive to taste my boots. Murderer of men
and filthy ravisher of women, miscreant of God, how can I keep from
trampling on you?"
It never had been in my dream that a good man could so entirely
forget himself. I wanted to think that it must be somebody else,
and not our Uncle Sam. But he looked toward the west, as all men
do when their spirits are full of death, and the wan light showed
that his chin was triple.
Whether it may have been right or wrong, I made all haste to get
away. The face of the dead man was quite a pleasant thing,
compared with the face of the old man living. He may not have
meant it, and I hope he never did, but beyond all controversy he
looked barbarous for the moment.
As I slipped away, to know the worst, there I saw him standing
still, longing to kick the vile man's corpse, but quieted by the
great awe of death. If the man had stirred, or breathed, or even
moaned, the living man would have lost all reverence in his fury.
But the power of the other world was greater than even revenge
could trample on. He let it lie there, and he stooped his head,
and went away quite softly.
My little foolish heart was bitterly visited by a thing like this.
The Sawyer, though not of great human rank, was gifted with the
largest human nature that I had ever met with. And though it was
impossible as yet to think, a hollow depression, as at the loss of
some great ideal, came over me.
Returning wretchedly to the house, I met Suan Isco and two men
bringing the body of poor Firm. His head and both his arms hung
down, and they wanted somebody to lift them; and this I ran to do,
although they called out to me not to meddle. The body was carried
in, and laid upon three chairs, with a pillow at the head; and then
a light was struck, and a candle brought by somebody or other. And
Suan Isco sat upon the floor, and set up a miserable Indian dirge.
"Stow away that," cried Martin of the mill, for he was one of those
two men; "wait till the lad is dead, and then pipe up to your
liking. I felt him try to kick while we carried him along. He
come forth on a arrand of that sort, and he seem to 'a been
disappointed. A very fine young chap I call him, for to try to do
it still, howsomever his mind might be wandering. Missy, keep his
I did as I was told, and watched poor Firm as if my own life hung
upon any sign of life in him. When I look back at these things, I
think that fright and grief and pity must have turned an excitable
girl almost into a real woman. But I had no sense of such things
"I tell you he ain't dead," cried Martin; "no more dead than I be.
He feels the young gal's hand below him, and I see him try to turn
up his eyes. He has taken a very bad knock, no doubt, and trouble
about his breathing. I seed a fellow scalped once, and shot
through the heart; but he came all round in about six months, and
protected his head with a document. Firm, now, don't you be a
fool. I have had worse things in my family."
Ephraim Gundry seemed to know that some one was upbraiding him. At
any rate, his white lips trembled with a weak desire to breathe,
and a little shadow of life appeared to flicker in his open eyes.
And on my sleeve, beneath his back, some hot bright blood came
"Keep him to that," said Martin, with some carpenter sort of
surgery; "less fear of the life when the blood begins to run.
Don't move him, missy; never mind your arm. It will be the saving
I was not strong enough to hold him up, but Suan ran to help me;
and they told me afterward that I fell faint, and no doubt it must
have been so. But when the rest were gone, and had taken poor Firm
to his straw mattress, the cold night air must have flowed into the
room, and that, perhaps, revived me. I went to the bottom of the
stairs and listened, and then stole up to the landing, and heard
Suan Isco, who had taken the command, speaking cheerfully in her
worst English. Then I hoped for the best, and, without any
knowledge, wandered forth into the open air.
Walking quite as in a dream this time (which I had vainly striven
to do when seeking for my nugget), I came to the bank of the
gleaming river, and saw the water just in time to stop from
stepping into it. Careless about this and every other thing for
the moment, I threw myself on the sod, and listened to the mournful
melody of night. Sundry unknown creatures, which by day keep timid
silence, were sending timid sounds into the darkness, holding quiet
converse with themselves, or it, or one another. And the silvery
murmur of the wavelets soothed the twinkling sleep of leaves.
I also, being worn and weary, and having a frock which improved
with washing, and was spoiled already by nursing Firm, was well
content to throw myself into a niche of river-bank and let all
things flow past me. But before any thing had found time to flow
far, or the lullaby of night had lulled me, there came to me a
sadder sound than plaintive Nature can produce without her Master's
aid, the saddest sound in all creation--a strong man's wail.
Child as I was--and, perhaps, all the more for that reason as
knowing so little of mankind--I might have been more frightened,
but I could not have been a bit more shocked, by the roaring of a
lion. For I knew in a moment whose voice it was, and that made it
pierce me tenfold. It was Uncle Sam, lamenting to himself, and to
his God alone, the loss of his last hope on earth. He could not
dream that any other than his Maker (and his Maker's works, if ever
they have any sympathy) listened to the wild outpourings of an aged
but still very natural heart, which had always been proud of
controlling itself. I could see his great frame through a willow-
tree, with the sere grass and withered reeds around, and the faint
gleam of fugitive water beyond. He was kneeling toward his
shattered mill, having rolled his shirt sleeves back to pray, and
his white locks shone in the starlight; then, after trying several
times, he managed to pray a little. First (perhaps partly from
habit), he said the prayer of Our Lord pretty firmly, and then he
went on to his own special case, with a doubting whether he should
mention it. But as he went on he gathered courage, or received it
from above, and was able to say what he wanted.
"Almighty Father of the living and the dead, I have lived long, and
shall soon be dead, and my days have been full of trouble. But I
never had such trouble as this here before, and I don't think I
ever shall get over it. I have sinned every day of my life, and
not thought of Thee, but of victuals, and money, and stuff; and
nobody knows, but myself and Thou, all the little bad things inside
of me. I cared a deal more to be respectable and get on with my
business than to be prepared for kingdom come. And I have just
been proud about the shooting of a villain, who might 'a gone free
and repented. There is nobody left to me in my old age. Thou hast
taken all of them. Wife, and son, and mill, and grandson, and my
brother who robbed me--the whole of it may have been for my good,
but I have got no good out of it. Show me the way for a little
time, O Lord, to make the best of it; and teach me to bear it like
a man, and not break down at this time of life. Thou knowest what
is right. Please to do it. Amen."
NOT FAR TO SEEK
In the present state of controversies most profoundly religious,
the Lord alone can decide (though thousands of men would hurry to
pronounce) for or against the orthodoxy of the ancient Sawyer's
prayer. But if sound doctrine can be established by success (as it
always is), Uncle Sam's theology must have been unusually sound;
for it pleased a gracious Power to know what he wanted, and to
Brave as Mr. Gundry was, and much-enduring and resigned, the latter
years of his life on earth must have dragged on very heavily, with
abstract resignation only, and none of his blood to care for him.
Being so obstinate a man, he might have never admitted this, but
proved against every one's voice, except his own, his special
blessedness. But this must have been a trial to him, and happily
he was spared from it.
For although Firm had been very badly shot, and kept us for weeks
in anxiety about him, his strong young constitution and well-
nourished frame got over it. A truly good and learned doctor came
from Sacramento, and we hung upon his words, and found that there
he left us hanging. And this was the wisest thing perhaps that he
could do, because in America medical men are not absurdly expected,
as they are in England, to do any good, but are valued chiefly upon
their power of predicting what they can not help. And this man of
science perceived that he might do harm to himself and his family
by predicting amiss, whereas he could do no good to his patient by
predicting rightly. And so he foretold both good and evil, to meet
the intentions of Providence.
He had not been sent for in vain, however; and to give him his due,
he saved Ephraim's life, for he drew from the wound a large bullet,
which, if left, must have poisoned all his circulation, although it
was made of pure silver. The Sawyer wished to keep this silver
bullet as a token, but the doctor said that it belonged to him
according to miners' law; and so it came to a moderate argument.
Each was a thoroughly stubborn man, according to the bent of all
good men, and reasoning increased their unreason. But the doctor
won--as indeed he deserved, for the extraction had been delicate--
because, when reason had been exhausted, he just said this:
"Colonel Gundry, let us have no more words. The true owner is your
grandson. I will put it back where I took it from."
Upon this, the Sawyer being tickled, as men very often are in sad
moments, took the doctor by the hand, and gave him the bullet
heartily. And the medical man had a loop made to it, and wore it
upon his watch chain. And he told the story so often (saying that
another man perhaps might have got it out, but no other man could
have kept it), that among a great race who judge by facts it
doubled his practice immediately.
The leader of the robbers, known far and wide as "Captain Pedro,"
was buried where he fell; and the whole so raised Uncle Sam's
reputation that his house was never attacked again; and if any bad
characters were forced by circumstances to come near him, they
never asked for any thing stronger than ginger-beer or lemonade,
and departed very promptly. For as soon as Ephraim Gundry could
give account of his disaster, it was clear that Don Pedro owed his
fate to a bottle of the Sawyer's whiskey. Firm had only intended
to give him a lesson for misbehavior, being fired by his
grandfather's words about swinging me on the saddle. This idea had
justly appeared to him to demand a protest; to deliver which he at
once set forth with a valuable cowhide whip. Coming thus to the
Rovers' camp, and finding their captain sitting in the shade to
digest his dinner, Firm laid hold of him by the neck, and gave way
to feelings of severity. Don Pedro regretted his misconduct, and
being lifted up for the moment above his ordinary view, perceived
that he might have done better, and shaped the pattern of his
tongue to it. Firm, hearing this, had good hopes of him; yet
knowing how volatile repentance is, he strove to form a well-marked
track for it. And when the captain ceased to receive cowhide, he
must have had it long enough to miss it.
Now this might have ended honorably and amicably for all concerned,
if the captain had known when he was well off. Unluckily he had
purloined a bottle of Mr. Gundry's whiskey, and he drew the cork
now to rub his stripes, and the smell of it moved him to try it
inside. And before very long his ideas of honor, which he had
sense enough to drop when sober, began to come into his eyes again,
and to stir him up to mischief. Hence it was that he followed
Firm, who was riding home well satisfied, and appeased his honor by
shooting in cold blood, and justice by being shot anyhow.
It was beautiful, through all this trying time, to watch Uncle
Sam's proceedings: he appeared so delightfully calm and almost
careless whenever he was looked at. And then he was ashamed of
himself perpetually, if any one went on with it. Nobody tried to
observe him, of course, or remark upon any of his doings, and for
this he would become so grateful that he would long to tell all his
thoughts, and then stop. This must have been a great worry to him,
seeing how open his manner was; and whenever he wanted to hide any
thing, he informed us of that intention. So that we exhorted Firm
every day to come round and restore us to our usual state. This
was the poor fellow's special desire; and often he was angry with
himself, and made himself worse again by declaring that he must be
a milksop to lie there so long. Whereas, it was much more near the
truth that few other men, even in the Western States, would ever
have got over such a wound. I am not learned enough to say exactly
where the damage was, but the doctor called it, I think, the
sternum, and pronounced that "a building-up process" was required,
and must take a long time, if it ever could be done.
It was done at last, thanks to Suan Isco, who scarcely ever left
him by day or night, and treated him skillfully with healing herbs.
But he, without meaning it, vexed her often by calling for me--a
mere ignorant child. Suan was dreadfully jealous of this, and
perhaps I was proud of that sentiment of hers, and tried to justify
it, instead of laboring to remove it, as would have been the more
proper course. And Firm most ungratefully said that my hand was
lighter than poor Suan's, and every thing I did was better done,
according to him, which was shameful on his part, and as untrue as
any thing could be. However, we yielded to him in all things while
he was so delicate; and it often made us poor weak things cry to be
the masters of a tall strong man.
Firm Gundry received that shot in May, about ten days before the
twelvemonth was completed from my father's death. The brightness
of summer and beauty of autumn went by without his feeling them,
and while his system was working hard to fortify itself by walling
up, as the learned man had called it. There had been some
difficulties in this process, caused partly, perhaps, by our too
lavish supply of the raw material; and before Firm's gap in his
"sternum" was stopped, the mountains were coming down upon us, as
we always used to say when the snow-line stooped. In some seasons
this is a sharp time of hurry, broken with storms, and capricious,
while men have to slur in the driving weather tasks that should
have been matured long since. But in other years the long descent
into the depth of winter is taken not with a jump like that, but
gently and softly and windingly, with a great many glimpses back at
the summer, and a good deal of leaning on the arm of the sun.
And so it was this time. The autumn and the winter for a fortnight
stood looking quietly at each other. They had quite agreed to
share the hours, to suit the arrangements of the sun. The nights
were starry and fresh and brisk, without any touch of tartness; and
the days were sunny and soft and gentle, without any sense of
languor. It was a lovely scene--blue shadows gliding among golden
The Sawyer came forth, and cried, "What a shame! This makes me
feel quite young again. And yet I have done not a stroke of work.
No excuse; make no excuse. I can do that pretty well for myself.
Praise God for all His mercies. I might do worse, perhaps, than
have a pipe."
Then Firm came out to surprise him, and to please us all with the
sight of himself. He steadied his steps with one great white hand
upon his grandfather's Sunday staff, and his clear blue eyes were
trembling with a sense of gratitude and a fear of tears. And I
stepped behind a red strawberry-tree, for my sense of respect for
him almost made me sob.
Then Jowler thought it high time to appear upon the scene, and
convince us that he was not a dead dog yet. He had known
tribulation, as his master had, and had found it a difficult thing
to keep from the shadowy hunting ground of dogs who have lived a
conscientious life. I had wondered at first what his reason could
have been for not coming forward, according to his custom, to meet
that troop of robbers. But his reason, alas! was too cogent to
himself, though nobody else in that dreadful time could pay any
attention to him. The Rovers, well knowing poor Jowler's repute,
and declining the fair mode of testing it, had sent in advance a
very crafty scout, a half-bred Indian, who knew as much about dogs
as they could ever hope to know about themselves. This rogue
approached faithful Jowler--so we were told long afterward--not in
an upright way, but as if he had been a brother quadruped. And he
took advantage of the dog's unfeigned surprise and interest to
accost him with a piece of kidney containing a powerful poison.
According to all sound analogy, this should have stopped the dear
fellow's earthly tracks; but his spirit was such that he simply
went away to nurse himself up in retirement. Neither man nor dog
can tell what agonies he suffered; and doubtless his tortures of
mind about duty unperformed were the worst of all. These things
are out of human knowledge in its present unsympathetic state.
Enough that poor Jowler came home at last, with his ribs all up and
his tail very low.
Like friends who have come together again, almost from the jaws of
death, we sat in the sunny noon, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
The trees above us looked proud and cheerful, laying aside the mere
frippery of leaves with a good grace and contented arms, and a
surety of having quite enough next spring. Much of the fruity
wealth of autumn still was clustering in our sight, heavily
fetching the arched bough down to lessen the fall, when fall they
must. And against the golden leaves of maple behind the
unpretending roof a special wreath of blue shone like a climbing
Ipomaea. But coming to examine this, one found it to be nothing
more nor less than the smoke of the kitchen chimney, busy with a
quiet roasting job.
This shows how clear the air was; but a thousand times as much
could never tell how clear our spirits were. Nobody made any
"demonstration," or cut any frolicsome capers, or even said any
thing exuberant. The steadfast brooding breed of England, which
despises antics, was present in us all, and strengthened by a soil
whose native growth is peril, chance, and marvel. And so we nodded
at one another, and I ran over and courtesied to Uncle Sam, and he
took me to him.
"You have been a dear good child," he said, as he rose, and looked
over my head at Firm. "My own granddarter, if such there had been,
could not have done more to comfort me, nor half so much, for aught
I know. There is no picking and choosing among the females, as God
gives them. But he has given you for a blessing and saving to my
old age, my dearie."
"Oh, Uncle Sam, now the nugget!" I cried, desiring like a child to
escape deep feeling, and fearing any strong words from Firm. "You
have promised me ever so long that I should be the first to show
Firm the nugget."
"And so you shall, my dear, and Firm shall see it before he is an
hour older, and Jowler shall come down to show us where it is."
Firm, who had little faith in the nugget, but took it for a dream
of mine, and had proved conclusively from his pillow that it could
not exist in earnest, now with a gentle, satirical smile declared
his anxiety to see it; and I led him along by his better arm,
faster, perhaps, than he ought to have walked.
In a very few minutes we were at the place, and I ran eagerly to
point it; but behold, where the nugget had been, there was nothing
except the white bed of the river! The blue water flowed very
softly on its way, without a gleam of gold to corrupt it.
"Oh, nobody will ever believe me again!" I exclaimed, in the
saddest of sad dismay. "I dreamed about it first, but it never can
have been a dream throughout. You know that I told you about it,
Uncle Sam, even when you were very busy, and that shows that it
never could have been a dream."
"You told me about it, I remember now," Mr. Gundry answered, dryly;
"but it does not follow that there was such a thing. My dear, you
may have imagined it; because it was the proper time for it to
come, when my good friends had no money to lend. Your heart was so
good that it got into your brain, and you must not be vexed, my
dear child; it has done you good to dream of it."
"I said so all along," Firm observed. "Miss Rema felt that it
ought to be, and so she believed that it must be, there. She is
always so warm and trustful."
"Is that all you are good for?" I cried, with no gratitude for his
compliment. "As sure as I stand here, I saw a great bowlder of
gold, and so did Jowler, and I gave you the piece that he brought
up. Did you take them all in a dream, Uncle Sam? Come, can you
get over that?"
I assure you that for the moment I knew not whether I stood upon my
feet or head, until I perceived an extraordinary grin on the
Sawyer's ample countenance; but Firm was not in the secret yet, for
he gazed at me with compassion, and Uncle Sam looked at us both as
if he were balancing our abilities.
"Send your dog in, missy," at last he said. "He is more your dog
than mine, I believe, and he obeys you like a Christian. Let him
go and find it if he can."
At a sign from me, the great dog dashed in, and scratched with all
four feet at once, and made the valley echo with the ring of mighty
barkings; and in less than two minutes there shone the nugget, as
yellow and as big as ever.
"Ha! ha! I never saw a finer thing," shouted Uncle Sam, like a
school-boy. "I were too many for you, missy dear; but the old dog
wollops the whole of us. I just shot a barrow-load of gravel on
your nugget, to keep it all snug till Firm should come round; and
if the boy had never come round, there the gold might have waited
the will of the Almighty. It is a big spot, anyhow."
It certainly was not a little spot, though they all seemed to make
so light of it--which vexed me, because I had found it, and was as
proud as if I had made it. Not by any means that the Sawyer was
half as careless as he seemed to be; he put on much of this for my
sake, having very lofty principles, especially concerning the duty
of the young. Young people were never to have small ideas, so far
as he could help it, particularly upon such matters as Mammon, or
the world, or fashion; and not so very seldom he was obliged to
catch himself up in his talking, when he chanced to be going on and
forgetting that I, who required a higher vein of thought for my
youth, was taking his words downright; and I think that all this
had a great deal to do with his treating all that gold in such an
exemplary manner; for if it had really mattered nothing, what made
him go in the dark and shoot a great barrow-load of gravel over it?
BROUGHT TO BANK
The sanity of a man is mainly tested among his neighbors and
kindred by the amount of consideration which he has consistently
given to cash. If money has been the chief object of his life, and
he for its sake has spared nobody, no sooner is he known to be
successful than admiration overpowers all the ill-will he has
caused. He is shrewd, sagacious, long-headed, and great; he has
earned his success, and few men grudge, while many seek to get a
slice of it; but he, as a general rule, declines any premature
distribution, and for this custody of his wealth he is admired all
the more by those who have no hope of sharing it.
As soon as ever it was known that Uncle Sam had lodged at his
banker's a tremendous lump of gold, which rumor declared to be
worth at least a hundred thousand dollars, friends from every side
poured in, all in hot haste, to lend him their last farthing. The
Sawyer was pleased with their kindness, but thought that his
second-best whiskey met the merits of the case. And he was more
particular than usual with his words; for, according to an old
saying of the diggers, a big nugget always has children, and, being
too heavy to go very far, it is likely to keep all its little ones
at home. Many people, therefore, were longing to seek for the
frogs of this great toad; for so in their slang the miners called
them, with a love of preternatural history. But Mr. Gundry allowed
no search for the frogs, or even the tadpoles, of his patriarchal
nugget. And much as he hated the idea of sowing the seeds of
avarice in any one, he showed himself most consistent now in
avoiding that imputation; for not only did he refuse to show the
bed of his great treasure, after he had secured it, but he fenced
the whole of it in, and tarred the fence, and put loopholes in it;
and then he established Jowler where he could neither be shot nor
poisoned, and kept a man with a double-barreled rifle in the ruin
of the mill, handy to shoot, but not easy to be shot; and this was
a resolute man, being Martin himself, who had now no business. Of
course Martin grumbled; but the worse his temper was, the better
for his duty, as seems to be the case with a great many men; and if
any one had come to console him in his grumbling, never would he
have gone away again.
It would have been reckless of me to pretend to say what any body
ought to do; from the first to the last I left every thing to those
who knew so much better; at the same time I felt that it might have
done no harm if I had been more consulted, though I never dreamed
of saying so, because the great gold had been found by me, and
although I cared for it scarcely more than for the tag of a boot-
lace, nobody seemed to me able to enter into it quite as I did; and
as soon as Firm's danger and pain grew less, I began to get rather
impatient, but Uncle Sam was not to be hurried.
Before ever he hoisted that rock of gold, he had made up his mind
for me to be there, and he even put the business off, because I
would not come one night, for I had a superstitious fear on account
of its being my father's birthday. Uncle Sam had forgotten the
date, and begged my pardon for proposing it; but he said that we
must not put it off later than the following night, because the
moonlight would be failing, and we durst not have any kind of lamp,
and before the next moon the hard weather might begin. All this
was before the liberal offers of his friends, of which I have
spoken first, although they happened to come after it.
While the Sawyer had been keeping the treasure perdu, to abide the
issue of his grandson's illness, he had taken good care both to
watch it and to form some opinion of its shape and size; for,
knowing the pile which I had described, he could not help finding
it easily enough; and indeed the great fear was that others might
find it, and come in great force to rob him; but nothing of that
sort had happened, partly because he held his tongue rigidly, and
partly, perhaps, because of the simple precaution which he had
Now, however, it was needful to impart the secret to one man at
least; for Firm, though recovering, was still so weak that it might
have killed him to go into the water, or even to exert himself at
all; and strong as Uncle Sam was, he knew that even with hoisting-
tackle, he alone could never bring that piece of bullion to bank;
so, after much consideration, he resolved to tell Martin of the
mill, as being the most trusty man about the place, as well as the
most surly; but he did not tell him until every thing was ready,
and then he took him straightway to the place.
Here, in the moonlight, we stood waiting, Firm and myself and Suan
Isco, who had more dread than love of gold, and might be useful to
keep watch, or even to lend a hand, for she was as strong as an
ordinary man. The night was sultry, and the fire-flies (though
dull in the radiance of the moon) darted, like soft little
shooting-stars, across the still face of shadow, and the flood of
the light of the moon was at its height, submerging every thing.
While we were whispering and keeping in the shade for fear of
attracting any wanderer's notice, we saw the broad figure of the
Sawyer rising from a hollow of the bank, and behind him came Martin
the foreman, and we soon saw that due preparation had been made,
for they took from under some drift-wood (which had prevented us
from observing it) a small movable crane, and fixed it on a
platform of planks which they set up in the river-bed.
"Palefaces eat gold," Suan Isco said, reflectively, and as if to
satisfy herself. "Dem eat, drink, die gold; dem pull gold out of
one other's ears. Welly hope Mellican mans get enough gold now."
"Don't be sarcastic, now, Suan," I answered; "as if it were
possible to have enough!"
"For my part," said Firm, who had been unusually silent all the
evening, "I wish it had never been found at all. As sure as I
stand here, mischief will come of it. It will break up our
household. I hope it will turn out a lump of quartz, gilt on the
face, as those big nuggets do, ninety-nine out of a hundred. I
have had no faith in it all along."
"Because I found it, Mr. Firm, I suppose," I answered, rather
pettishly, for I never had liked Firm's incessant bitterness about
my nugget. "Perhaps if you had found it, Mr. Firm, you would have
had great faith in it."
"Can't say, can't say," was all Firm's reply; and he fell into the
silent vein again.
"Heave-ho! heave-ho! there, you sons of cooks!" cried the Sawyer,
who was splashing for his life in the water. "I've tackled 'un
now. Just tighten up the belt, to see if he biteth centre-like.
You can't lift 'un! Lord bless 'ee, not you. It 'll take all I
know to do that, I guess; and Firm ain't to lay no hand to it.
Don't you be in such a doggoned hurry. Hold hard, can't you?"
For Suan and Martin were hauling for their lives, and even I caught
hold of a rope-end, but had no idea what to do with it, when the
Sawyer swung himself up to bank, and in half a minute all was
orderly. He showed us exactly where to throw our weight, and he
used his own to such good effect that, after some creaking and
groaning, the long horn of the crane rose steadily, and a mass of
dripping sparkles shone in the moonlight over the water.
"Hurrah! what a whale! How the tough ash bends!" cried Uncle Sam,
panting like a boy, and doing nearly all the work himself.
"Martin, lay your chest to it. We'll grass him in two seconds.
Californy never saw a sight like this, I reckon."
There was plenty of room for us all to stand round the monster and
admire it. In shape it was just like a fat toad, squatting with
his shoulders up and panting. Even a rough resemblance to the head
and the haunches might be discovered, and a few spots of quartz
shone here and there on the glistening and bossy surface. Some of
us began to feel and handle it with vast admiration; but Firm, with
his heavy boots, made a vicious kick at it, and a few bright
scales, like sparks, flew off.
"Why, what ails the lad?" cried the Sawyer, in some wrath; "what
harm hath the stone ever done to him? To my mind, this here lump
is a proof of the whole creation of the world, and who hath lived
long enough to gainsay? Here this lump hath lain, without changing
color, since creation's day; here it is, as big and heavy as when
the Lord laid hand to it. What good to argue agin such facts?
Supposin' the world come out o' nothing, with nobody to fetch it,
or to say a word of orders, how ever could it 'a managed to get a
lump of gold like this in it? They clever fellers is too clever.
Let 'em put all their heads together, and turn out a nugget, and
I'll believe them."
Uncle Sam's reasoning was too deep for any but himself to follow.
He was not long in perceiving this, though we were content to
admire his words without asking him to explain them; so he only
said, "Well, well," and began to try with both hands if he could
heft this lump. He stirred it, and moved it, and raised it a
little, as the glisten of the light upon its roundings showed; but
lift it fairly from the ground he could not, however he might bow
his sturdy legs and bend his mighty back to it; and, strange to
say, he was pleased for once to acknowledge his own discomfiture.
"Five hundred and a half I used to lift to the height of my knee-
cap easily; I may 'a fallen off now a hundred-weight with years,
and strings in my back, and rheumatics; but this here little toad
is a clear hundredweight out and beyond my heftage. If there's a
pound here, there's not an ounce under six hundred-weight, I'll lay
a thousand dollars. Miss Rema, give a name to him. All the
thundering nuggets has thundering names."
"Then this shall be called 'Uncle Sam,'" I answered, "because he is
the largest and the best of all."
"It shall stand, miss," cried Martin, who was in great spirits, and
seemed to have bettered himself forever. "You could not have given
it a finer name, miss, if you had considered for a century. Uncle
Sam is the name of our glorious race, from the kindness of our
natur'. Every body's uncle we are now, in vartue of superior
knowledge, and freedom, and giving of general advice, and stickin'
to all the world, or all the good of it. Darned if old Sam aren't
the front of creation!"
"Well, well," said the Sawyer, "let us call it 'Uncle Sam,' if the
dear young lady likes it; it would be bad luck to change the name;
but, for all that, we must look uncommon sharp, or some of our
glorious race will come and steal it afore we unbutton our eyes."
"Pooh!" cried Martin; but he knew very well that his master's words
were common-sense; and we left him on guard with a double-barreled
gun, and Jowler to keep watch with him. And the next day he told
us that he had spent the night in such a frame of mind from
continual thought that when our pet cow came to drink at daybreak,
it was but the blowing of her breath that saved her from taking a
bullet between her soft tame eyes.
Now it could not in any kind of way hold good that such things
should continue; and the Sawyer, though loath to lose sight of the
nugget, perceived that he must not sacrifice all the morals of the
neighborhood to it, and he barely had time to dispatch it on its
road at the bottom of a load of lumber, with Martin to drive, and
Jowler to sit up, and Firm to ride behind, when a troop of mixed
robbers came riding across, with a four-wheel cart and two sturdy
mules--enough to drag off every thing. They had clearly heard of
the golden toad, and desired to know more of him; but Uncle Sam,
with his usual blandness, met these men at the gate of his yard,
and upon the top rail, to ease his arm, he rested a rifle of heavy
metal, with seven revolving chambers. The robbers found out that
they had lost their way, and Mr. Gundry answered that so they had,
and the sooner they found it in another direction, the better it
would be for them. They thought that he had all his men inside,
and they were mighty civil, though we had only two negroes to help
us, and Suan Isco, with a great gun cocked. But their curiosity
was such that they could not help asking about the gold; and,
sooner than shoot them, Uncle Sam replied that, upon his honor, the
nugget was gone. And the fame of his word was so well known that
these fellows (none of whom could tell the truth, even at
confession) believed him on the spot, and begged his pardon for
trespassing on his premises. They hoped that he would not say a
word to the Vigilance Committee, who hanged a poor fellow for
losing his road; and he told them that if they made off at once,
nobody should pursue them; and so they rode off very happily.
FIRM AND INFIRM
Strange as it may appear, our quiet little home was not yet
disturbed by that great discovery of gold. The Sawyer went up to
the summit of esteem in public opinion; but to himself and to us he
was the same as ever. He worked with his own hard hands and busy
head just as he used to do; for although the mill was still in
ruins, there was plenty of the finer work to do, which always
required hand-labor. And at night he would sit at the end of the
table furthest from the fire-place, with his spectacles on, and his
red cheeks glowing, while he designed the future mill, which was to
be built in the spring, and transcend every mill ever heard,
thought, or dreamed of.
We all looked forward to a quiet winter, snug with warmth and cheer
in-doors, and bright outside with sparkling trees, brisk air, and
frosty appetite, when a foolish idea arose which spoiled the
comfort at least of two of us. Ephraim Gundry found out, or
fancied, that he was entirely filled with love of a very young
maid, who never dreamed of such things, and hated even to hear of
them; and the maid, unluckily, was myself.
During the time of his ailment I had been with him continually,
being only too glad to assuage his pain, or turn his thoughts away
from it. I partly suspected that he had incurred his bitter wound
for my sake; though I never imputed his zeal to more than a young
man's natural wrath at an outrage. But now he left me no longer in
doubt, and made me most uncomfortable. Perhaps I was hard upon
him, and afterward I often thought so, for he was very kind and
gentle; but I was an orphan child, and had no one to advise me in
such matters. I believe that he should have considered this, and
allowed me to grow a little older; but perhaps he himself was too
young as yet and too bashful to know how to manage things. It was
the very evening after his return from Sacramento, and the beauty
of the weather still abode in the soft warm depth around us. In
every tint of rock and tree and playful glass of river a quiet
clearness seemed to lie, and a rich content of color. The grandeur
of the world was such that one could only rest among it, seeking
neither voice nor thought.
Therefore I was more surprised than pleased to hear my name ring
loudly through the echoing hollows, and then to see the bushes
shaken, and an eager form leap out. I did not answer a word, but
sat with a wreath of white bouvardia and small adiantum round my
head, which I had plaited anyhow.
"What a lovely dear you are!" cried Firm, and then he seemed
frightened at his own words.
"I had no idea that you would have finished your dinner so soon as
this, Mr. Firm."
"And you did not want me. You are vexed to see me. Tell the
truth, Miss Rema."
"I always tell the truth," I answered; "and I did not want to be
disturbed just now. I have so many things to think of."
"And not me among them. Oh no, of course you never think of me,
"It is very unkind of you to say that," I answered, looking clearly
at him, as a child looks at a man. "And it is not true, I assure
you, Firm. Whenever I have thought of dear Uncle Sam, I very often
go on to think of you, because he is so fond of you."
"But not for my own sake, Erema; you never think of me for my own
"But yes, I do, I assure you, Mr. Firm; I do greatly. There is
scarcely a day that I do not remember how hungry you are, and I
think of you."
"Tush!" replied Firm, with a lofty gaze. "Even for a moment that
does not in any way express my meaning. My mind is very much above
all eating when it dwells upon you, Erema. I have always been fond
of you, Erema."
"You have always been good to me, Firm," I said, as I managed to
get a great branch between us. "After your grandfather, and Suan
Isco, and Jowler, I think that I like you best of almost any body
left to me. And you know that I never forget your slippers."
"Erema, you drive me almost wild by never understanding me. Now
will you just listen to a little common-sense? You know that I am
"Yes, Firm; yes, I know that you never did any thing wrong in any
"You would like me better if I did. What an extraordinary thing it
is! Oh, Erema, I beg your pardon."
He had seen in a moment, as men seem to do, when they study the
much quicker face of a girl, that his words had keenly wounded me--
that I had applied them to my father, of whom I was always
thinking, though I scarcely ever spoke of him. But I knew that
Firm had meant no harm, and I gave him my hand, though I could not
"My darling," he said, "you are very dear to me--dearer than all
the world besides. I will not worry you any more. Only say that
you do not hate me."
"How could I? How could any body? Now let us go in and attend to
Uncle Sam. He thinks of every body before himself."
"And I think of every body after myself. Is that what you mean,
"To be sure! if you like. You may put any meaning on my words that
you think proper. I am accustomed to things of that sort, and I
pay no attention whatever, when I am perfectly certain that I am
"I see," replied Firm, applying one finger to the side of his nose
in deep contemplation, which, of all his manners, annoyed me most.
"I see how it is; Miss Rema is always perfectly certain that she is
right, and the whole of the rest of the world quite wrong. Well,
after all, there is nothing like holding a first-rate opinion of
"You are not what I thought of you," I cried, being vexed beyond
bearance by such words, and feeling their gross injustice. "If you
wish to say any thing more, please to leave it until you recover
your temper. I am not quite accustomed to rudeness."
With these words, I drew away and walked off, partly in earnest and
partly in joke, not wishing to hear another word; and when I looked
back, being well out of sight, there he sat still, with his head on
his hands, and my heart had a little ache for him.
However, I determined to say no more, and to be extremely careful.
I could not in justice blame Ephraim Gundry for looking at me very
often. But I took good care not to look at him again unless he
said something that made me laugh, and then I could scarcely help
it. He was sharp enough very soon to find out this; and then he
did a thing which was most unfair, as I found out long afterward.
He bought an American jest-book, full of ideas wholly new to me,
and these he committed to heart, and brought them out as his own
productions. If I had only known it, I must have been exceedingly
sorry for him. But Uncle Sam used to laugh and rub his hands,
perhaps for old acquaintance' sake; and when Uncle Sam laughed,
there was nobody near who could help laughing with him. And so I
began to think Firm the most witty and pleasant of men, though I
tried to look away.
But perhaps the most careful and delicate of things was to see how
Uncle Sam went on. I could not understand him at all just then,
and thought him quite changed from my old Uncle Sam; but afterward,
when I came to know, his behavior was as clear and shallow as the
water of his own river. He had very strange ideas about what he
generally called "the female kind." According to his ideas (and
perhaps they were not so unusual among mankind, especially
settlers), all "females" were of a good but weak and consistently
inconsistent sort. The surest way to make them do whatever their
betters wanted, was to make them think that it was not wanted, but
was hedged with obstacles beyond their power to overcome, and so to
provoke and tantalize them to set their hearts upon doing it. In
accordance with this idea (than which there can be none more
mistaken), he took the greatest pains to keep me from having a word
to say to Firm; and even went so far as to hint, with winks and
nods of pleasantry, that his grandson's heart was set upon the
pretty Miss Sylvester, the daughter of a man who owned a herd of
pigs, much too near our saw-mills, and herself a young woman of
outrageous dress, and in a larger light contemptible. But when
Mr. Gundry, without any words, conveyed this piece of news to
me, I immediately felt quite a liking for gaudy but harmless
Pennsylvania--for so her parents had named her when she was too
young to help it; and I heartily hoped that she might suit Firm,
which she seemed all the more likely to do as his conduct could not
be called noble. Upon that point, however, I said not a word,
leaving him purely to judge for himself, and feeling it a great
relief that now he could not say any thing more to me. I was glad
that his taste was so easily pleased, and I told Suan Isco how glad
This I had better have left unsaid, for it led to a great
explosion, and drove me away from the place altogether before the
new mill was finished, and before I should otherwise have gone from
friends who were so good to me; not that I could have staid there
much longer, even if this had never come to pass; for week by week
and month by month I was growing more uneasy: uneasy not at my
obligations or dependence upon mere friends (for they managed that
so kindly that I seemed to confer the favor), but from my own sense
of lagging far behind my duty.
For now the bright air, and the wholesome food, and the pleasure of
goodness around me, were making me grow, without knowledge or
notice, into a tall and not altogether to be overlooked young
woman. I was exceedingly shy about this, and blushed if any one
spoke of it; but yet in my heart I felt it was so; and how could I
help it? And when people said, as rough people will, and even
Uncle Sam sometimes, "Handsome is as handsome does," or "Beauty is
only skin-deep," and so on, I made it my duty not to be put out,
but to bear it in mind and be thankful. And though I had no idea
of any such influence at the moment, I hope that the grandeur of
nature around and the lofty style of every thing may have saved me
from dwelling too much on myself, as Pennsylvania Sylvester did.
Now the more I felt my grown-up age and health and buoyant vigor,
the surer I knew that the time was come for me to do some good with
them; not to benefit the world in general, in a large and scattery
way (as many young people set out to do, and never get any
further), but to right the wrong of my own house, and bring home
justice to my own heart. This may be thought a partial and paltry
object to set out with; and it is not for me to say otherwise. At
the time, it occurred to me in no other light except as my due
business, and I never took any large view at all. But even now I
do believe (though not yet in pickle of wisdom) that if every body,
in its own little space and among its own little movements, will
only do and take nothing without pure taste of the salt of justice,
no reeking atrocity of national crimes could ever taint the heaven.
Such questions, however, become me not. I have only to deal with
very little things, sometimes too slim to handle well, and too hazy
to be woven; and if they seem below my sense and dignity to treat
of, I can only say that they seemed very big at the time when I had
to encounter them.
For instance, what could be more important, in a little world of
life, than for Uncle Sam to be put out, and dare even to think ill
of me? Yet this he did; and it shows how shallow are all those
theories of the other sex which men are so pleased to indulge in.
Scarcely any thing could be more ridiculous from first to last,
when calmly and truly considered, than the firm belief which no
power of reason could for the time root out of him.
Uncle Sam, the dearest of all mankind to me, and the very kindest,
was positively low-enough to believe, in his sad opinion of the
female race, that my young head was turned because of the wealth to
which I had no claim, except through his own justice. He had
insisted at first that the whole of that great nugget belonged to
me by right of sole discovery. I asked him whether, if any
stranger had found it, it would have been considered his, and
whether he would have allowed a "greaser," upon finding, to make
off with it. At the thought of this, Mr. Gundry gave a little
grunt, and could not go so far as to maintain that view of it. But
he said that my reasoning did not fit; that I was not a greaser,
but a settled inhabitant of the place, and entitled to all a
settler's rights; that the bed of the river would have been his
grave but for the risk of my life, and therefore whatever I found
in the bed of the river belonged to me, and me only.
In argument he was so much stronger than I could ever attempt to be
that I gave it up, and could only say that if he argued forever it
could never make any difference. He did not argue forever, but
only grew obstinate and unpleasant, so that I yielded at last to
own the half share of the bullion.
Very well. Every body would have thought, who has not studied the
nature of men or been dragged through it heavily, that now there
could be no more trouble between two people entirely trusting each
other, and only anxious that the other should have the best of it.
Yet, instead of that being the case, the mischief, the myriad
mischief, of money set in, until I heartily wished sometimes that
my miserable self was down in the hole which the pelf had left
For what did Uncle Sam take into his head (which was full of
generosity and large ideas, so loosely packed that little ones grew
between them, especially about womankind)--what else did he really
seem to think, with the downright stubbornness of all his thoughts,
but that I, his poor debtor and pensioner and penniless dependent,
was so set up and elated by this sudden access of fortune that
henceforth none of the sawing race was high enough for me to think
of? It took me a long time to believe that so fair and just a man
ever could set such interpretation upon me. And when it became too
plain that he did so, truly I know not whether grief or anger was
uppermost in my troubled heart.
HARD AND SOFT
Before very long it was manifest enough that Mr. Gundry looked down
upon Miss Sylvester with a large contempt. But while this raised
my opinion of his judgment, it almost deprived me of a great
relief--the relief of supposing that he wished his grandson to
marry this Pennsylvania. For although her father, with his pigs
and cattle, and a low sort of hostelry which he kept, could settle
"a good pile of dollars" upon her, and had kept her at the
"learnedest ladies' college" even in San Francisco till he himself
trembled at her erudition, still it was scarcely to be believed
that a man of the Sawyer's strong common-sense and disregard of
finery would ever accept for his grandchild a girl made of
affectation, vulgarity, and conceit. And one day, quite in the
early spring, he was so much vexed with the fine lady's airs that
he left no doubt about his meaning.
Miss Sylvester was very proud of the figure she made on horseback;
and having been brought up, perhaps as a child, to ride after pigs
and so on, she must have had fine opportunities of acquiring a
graceful style of horsemanship. And now she dashed through thick
and thin in a most commanding manner, caring no more for a snow-
drift than ladies do for a scraping of the road. No one with the
least observation could doubt that this young woman was extremely
anxious to attract Firm Gundry's notice; and therefore, on the day
above spoken of, once more she rode over, with her poor father in
waiting upon her as usual.
Now I know very well how many faults I have, and to deny them has
never been my practice; but this is the honest and earnest truth,
that no smallness of mind, or narrowness of feeling, or want of
large or fine sentiments made me bolt my door when that girl was in
the house. I simply refused, after seeing her once, to have any
thing more to say to her; by no means because of my birth and
breeding (which are things that can be most easily waived when the
difference is acknowledged), nor yet on account of my being brought
up in the company of ladies, nor even by reason of any dislike
which her bold brown eyes put into me. My cause was sufficient and
just and wise. I felt myself here as a very young girl, in safe
and pure and honest hands, yet thrown on my own discretion, without
any feminine guidance whatever. And I had learned enough from the
wise French sisters to know at a glance that Miss Sylvester was not
a young woman who would do me good.
Even Uncle Sam, who was full of thought and delicate care about me,
so far as a man can understand, and so far as his simple shrewdness
went, in spite of all his hospitable ways and open universal
welcome, though he said not a word (as on such a point he was quite
right in doing)--even he, as I knew by his manner, was quite
content with my decision. But Firm, being young and in many ways
stupid, made a little grievance of it. And, of course, Miss
Sylvester made a great one.
"Oh, I do declare, I am going away," through my open window I heard
her exclaim in her sweetly affected tone, at the end of that long
visit, "without even having the honor of saying a kind word to your
young visitor. Do not wait for me, papa; I must pay my devoirs.
Such a distinguished and travelled person can hardly be afflicted
with mauvaise honte. Why does she not rush to embrace me? All the
French people do; and she is so French! Let me see her, for the
sake of my accent."
"We don't want no French here, ma'am," replied Uncle Sam, as
Sylvester rode off, "and the young lady wants no Doctor Hunt. Her
health is as good as your own, and you never catch no French
actions from her. If she wanted to see you, she would 'a come
"Oh, now, this is too barbarous! Colonel Gundry, you are the most
tyrannous man; in your own dominions an autocrat. Every body says
so, but I never would believe it. Oh, don't let me go away with
that impression. And you do look so good-natured!"
"And so I mean to look, Miss Penny, until you are out of sight."
The voice of the Sawyer was more dry than that of his oldest and
rustiest saw. The fashionable and highly finished girl had no idea
what to make of him; but gave her young horse a sharp cut, to show
her figure as she reined him; and then galloping off, she kissed
her tan gauntlet with crimson net-work down it, and left Uncle Sam
to revolve his rudeness, with the dash of the wet road scattered in
"I wouldn't 'a spoke to her so course," he said to Firm, who now
returned from opening the gate and delivering his farewell, "if she
wasn't herself so extra particular, gild me, and sky-blue my
mouldings fine. How my mother would 'a stared at the sight of such
a gal! Keep free of her, my lad, keep free of her. But no harm to
put her on, to keep our missy alive and awake, my boy."
Immediately I withdrew from ear-shot, more deeply mortified than I
can tell, and perhaps doing Firm an injustice by not waiting for
his answer. I knew not then how lightly men will speak of such
delicate subjects; and it set me more against all thoughts of Firm
than a month's reflection could have done. When I came to know
more of the world, I saw that I had been very foolish. At the
time, however, I was firmly set in a strong resolve to do that
which alone seemed right, or even possible--to quit with all speed
a place which could no longer be suited for me.
For several days I feared to say a single word about it, while
equally I condemned myself for having so little courage. But it
was not as if there were any body to help me, or tell me what to
do; sometimes I was bold with a surety of right, and then again I
shook with the fear of being wrong. Because, through the whole of
it, I felt how wonderfully well I had been treated, and what a
great debt I owed of kindness; and it seemed to be only a nasty
little pride which made me so particular. And being so unable to
settle for myself, I waited for something to settle it.
Something came, in a way which I had not by any means expected. I
had told Suan Isco how glad I was that Firm had fixed his liking
steadily upon Miss Sylvester. If any woman on earth could be
trusted not to say a thing again, that one was this good Indian.
Not only because of her provident habits, but also in right of the
difficulty which encompassed her in our language. But she managed
to get over both of these, and to let Mr. Ephraim know, as cleverly
as if she had lived in drawing-rooms, whatever I had said about
him. She did it for the best; but it put him in a rage, which he
came at once to have out with me.
"And so, Miss Erema," he said, throwing down his hat upon the table
of the little parlor, where I sat with an old book of Norman
ballads, "I have your best wishes, then, have I, for a happy
marriage with Miss Sylvester?"
I was greatly surprised at the tone of his voice, while the flush
on his cheeks and the flash of his eyes, and even his quick heavy
tread, showed plainly that his mind was a little out of balance.
He deserved it, however, and I could not grieve.
"You have my best wishes," I replied, demurely, "for any state of
life to which you may be called. You could scarcely expect any
less of me than that."
"How kind you are! But do you really wish that I should marry old
Firm, as he asked this question, looked so bitterly reproachful (as
if he were saying, "Do you wish to see me hanged?"), while his eyes
took a form which reminded me so of the Sawyer in a furious puzzle,
that it was impossible for me to answer as lightly as I meant to
"No, I can not say, Firm, that I wish it at all; unless your heart
is set on it--"
"Don't you know, then, where my heart is set?" he asked me, in a
deep voice, coming nearer, and taking the ballad-book from my
hands. "Why will you feign not to know, Erema, who is the only one
I can ever think of twice? Above me, I know, in every possible
way--birth and education and mind and appearance, and now far above
me in money as well. But what are all these things? Try to think
if only you could like me. Liking gets over every thing, and
without it nothing is any thing. Why do I like you so, Erema? Is
it because of your birth, and teaching, and manners, and sweet
looks, and all that, or even because of your troubles?"
"How can I tell, Firm--how can I tell? Perhaps it is just because
of myself. And why do you do it at all, Firm?"
"Ah, why do I do it? How I wish I knew! Perhaps then I might cure
it. To begin with, what is there, after all, so very wonderful
"Oh, nothing, I should hope. Most surely nothing. It would grieve
me to be at all wonderful. That I leave for American ladies."
"Now you don't understand me. I mean, of course, that you are
wonderfully good and kind and clever; and your eyes, I am sure, and
your lips and smile, and all your other features--there is nothing
about them that can be called any thing else but wonderful."
"Now, Firm, how exceedingly foolish you are! I did hope that you
"Erema, I never shall know better. I never can swerve or change,
if I live to be a hundred and fifty. You think me presumptuous, no
doubt, from what you are brought up to. And you are so young that
to seek to bind you, even if you loved me, would be an unmanly
thing. But now you are old enough, and you know your own mind
surely well enough, just to say whether you feel as if you could
ever love me as I love you."
He turned away, as if he felt that he had no right to press me so,
and blamed himself for selfishness; and I liked him better for
doing that than for any thing he had done before. Yet I knew that
I ought to speak clearly, and though my voice was full of tears, I
"Dear Firm," I said, as I took his hand and strove to look at him
steadily, "I like and admire you very much; and by-and-by--by-and-
by, I might, that is, if you did not hurry me. Of all the
obstacles you have mentioned, none is worth considering. I am
nothing but a poor castaway, owing my life to Uncle Sam and you.
But one thing there is which could never be got over, even if I
felt as you feel toward me. Never can I think of little matters,
or of turning my thoughts to--to any such things as you speak of,
as long as a vile reproach and wicked imputation lies on me. And
before even that, I have to think of my father, who gave his life
for me. Firm, I have been here too long delaying, and wasting my
time in trifles. I ought to have been in Europe long ago. If I am
old enough for what you talk of, I am old enough to do my duty. If
I am old enough for love, as it is called, I am old enough for
hate. I have more to do with hate than love, I think."
"Erema," cried Firm, "what a puzzle you are! I never even dreamed
that you could be so fierce. You are enough to frighten Uncle Sam
"If I frighten you, Firm, that is quite enough. You see now how
vain it is to say another word."
"I do not see any thing of the sort. Come back, and look at me
Being frightened at the way in which I had spoken, and having
passed the prime of it, I obeyed him in a moment, and came up
gently and let him look at me to his liking. For little as I
thought of such things till now, I seemed already to know more
about them, or at least to wonder--which is the stir of the curtain
of knowledge. I did not say any thing, but labored to think