Part 3 out of 4
from believing and saying he was a thief behind his back. Yet they
all wanted his--confidence," she added bitterly.
Masterton felt that his burning cheeks were confessing the truth of
this. "You excepted one," he said hesitatingly.
"Yes--the deputy sheriff. He came to help ME."
"Yes, ME!" A coquettish little toss of her head added to his
confusion. "He threw up his job just to follow me, without my
knowing it, to see that I didn't come to any harm. He saw me only
once, too, at the house when he came to take possession. He said
he thought I was 'clear grit' to risk everything to find father,
and he said he saw it in me when he was there; that's how he
guessed where I was gone when I ran away, and followed me."
"He was as right as he was lucky," said Masterton gravely. "But
how did you get here?"
She slipped down on the floor beside him with an unconscious
movement that her masculine garments only made the more quaintly
girlish, and, clasping her knee with both hands, looked at the fire
as she rocked herself slightly backward and forward as she spoke.
"It will shock a proper man like you, I know," she began demurely,
"but I came ALONE, with only a Chinaman to guide me. I got these
clothes from our laundryman, so that I shouldn't attract attention.
I would have got a Chinese lady's dress, but I couldn't walk in
THEIR shoes,"--she looked down at her little feet encased in wooden
sandals,--"and I had a long way to walk. But even if I didn't look
quite right to Chinamen, no white man was able to detect the
difference. You passed me twice in the stage, and you didn't know
me. I traveled night and day, most of the time walking, and being
passed along from one Chinaman to another, or, when we were alone,
being slung on a pole between two coolies like a bale of goods. I
ate what they could give me, for I dared not go into a shop or a
restaurant; I couldn't shut my eyes in their dens, so I stayed
awake all night. Yet I got ahead of you and the sheriff,--though I
didn't know at the time what YOU were after," she added presently.
He was overcome with wondering admiration of her courage, and of
self-reproach at his own short-sightedness. This was the girl he
had looked upon as a spoiled village beauty, satisfied with her
small triumphs and provincial elevation, and vacant of all other
purpose. Here was she--the all-unconscious heroine--and he her
critic helpless at her feet! It was not a cheerful reflection, and
yet he took a certain delight in his expiation. Perhaps he had
half believed in her without knowing it. What could he do or say?
I regret to say he dodged the question meanly.
"And you think your disguise escaped detection?" he said, looking
markedly at her escaped braid of hair.
She followed his eyes rather than his words, half pettishly caught
up the loosened braid, swiftly coiled it around the top of her
head, and, clapping the weather-beaten and battered conical hat
back again upon it, defiantly said: "Yes! Everybody isn't as
critical as you are, and even you wouldn't be--of a Chinaman!"
He had never seen her except when she was arrayed with the full
intention to affect the beholders and perfectly conscious of her
attractions; he was utterly unprepared for this complete ignoring
of adornment now, albeit he was for the first time aware how her
real prettiness made it unnecessary. She looked fully as charming
in this grotesque head-covering as she had in that paragon of
fashion, the new hat, which had excited his tolerant amusement.
"I'm afraid I'm a very poor critic," he said bluntly. "I never
conceived that this sort of thing was at all to your taste."
"I came to see my father because I wanted to," she said, with equal
"And I came to see him though I DIDN'T want to," he said, with a
She turned, and fixed her brown eyes inquiringly upon him.
"Why did you come, then?"
"I was ordered by my directors."
"Then you did not believe he was a thief?" she asked, her eyes
"It would ill become me to accuse your father or my directors," he
She was quick enough to detect the suggestion of moral superiority
in his tone, but woman enough to forgive it. "You're no friend of
Windibrook," she said, "I know."
"I am not," he replied frankly.
"If you would like to see my popper, I can manage it," she said
hesitatingly. "He'll do anything for me," she added, with a touch
of her old pride.
"Who could blame him?" returned Masterton gravely. "But if he is a
free man now, and able to go where he likes, and to see whom he
likes, he may not care to give an audience to a mere messenger."
"You wait and let me see him first," said the girl quickly. Then,
as the sound of sleigh-bells came from the road outside, she added,
"Here he is. I'll get your clothes; they are out here drying by
the fire in the shed." She disappeared through a back door, and
returned presently bearing his dried garments. "Dress yourself
while I take popper into the shed," she said quickly, and ran out
into the road.
Masterton dressed himself with difficulty. Although circulation
was now restored, and he felt a glow through his warmed clothes, he
had been sorely bruised and shaken by his fall. He had scarcely
finished dressing when Montagu Trixit entered from the shed.
Masterton looked at him with a new interest and a respect he had
never felt before. There certainly was little of the daughter in
this keen-faced, resolute-lipped man, though his brown eyes, like
hers, had the same frank, steadfast audacity. With a business
brevity that was hurried but not unkindly, he hoped Masterton had
"Thanks to your daughter, I'm all right now," said Masterton. "I
need not tell you that I believe I owe my life to her energy and
courage, for I think you have experienced what she can do in that
way. But YOU have had the advantage of those who have only enjoyed
her social acquaintance in knowing all the time what she was
capable of," he added significantly.
"She is a good girl," said Trixit briefly, yet with a slight rise
in color on his dark, sallow cheek, and a sudden wavering of his
steadfast eyes. "She tells me you have a message from your
directors. I think I know what it is, but we won't discuss it now.
As I am going directly to Sacramento, I shall not see them, but I
will give you an answer to take to them when we reach the station.
I am going to give you a lift there when my daughter is ready. And
here she is."
It was the old Cissy that stepped into the room, dressed as she was
when she left her father's house two days before. Oddly enough, he
fancied that something of her old conscious manner had returned
with her clothes, and as he stepped with her into the back seat of
the covered sleigh in waiting, he could not help saying, "I really
think I understand you better in your other clothes."
A slight blush mounted to Cissy's cheek, but her eyes were still
audacious. "All the same, I don't think you'd like to walk down
Main Street with me in that rig, although you once thought nothing
of taking me over your old mill in your blue blouse and overalls."
And having apparently greatly relieved her proud little heart by
this enigmatic statement, she grew so chatty and confidential that
the young man was satisfied that he had been in love with her from
When they reached the station, Trixit drew him aside. Taking an
envelope marked "Private Contracts" from his pocket, he opened it
and displayed some papers. "These are the securities. Tell your
directors that you have seen them safe in my hands, and that no one
else has seen them. Tell them that if they will send me their
renewed notes, dated from to-day, to Sacramento within the next
three days, I will return the securities. That is my message."
The young man bowed. But before the coach started he managed to
draw near to Cissy. "You are not returning to Canada City," he
The young girl made a gesture of indignation. "No! I am never
going there again. I go with my popper to Sacramento."
"Then I suppose I must say 'good-by.'"
The girl looked at him in surprise. "Popper says you are coming to
Sacramento in three days!"
He looked at her fixedly. She returned his glance audaciously,
"You are," she said, in her low but distinct voice.
And he did.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FONDA
"Well!" said the editor of the "Mountain Clarion," looking up
impatiently from his copy. "What's the matter now?"
The intruder in his sanctum was his foreman. He was also acting as
pressman, as might be seen from his shirt-sleeves spattered with
ink, rolled up over the arm that had just been working "the
Archimedian lever that moves the world," which was the editor's
favorite allusion to the hand-press that strict economy obliged the
"Clarion" to use. His braces, slipped from his shoulders during
his work, were looped negligently on either side, their functions
being replaced by one hand, which occasionally hitched up his
trousers to a securer position. A pair of down-at-heel slippers--
dear to the country printer--completed his negligee.
But the editor knew that the ink-spattered arm was sinewy and
ready, that a stout and loyal heart beat under the soiled shirt,
and that the slipshod slippers did not prevent its owner's foot
from being "put down" very firmly on occasion. He accordingly met
the shrewd, good-humored blue eyes of his faithful henchman with an
"I won't keep you long," said the foreman, glancing at the editor's
copy with his habitual half humorous toleration of that work, it
being his general conviction that news and advertisements were the
only valuable features of a newspaper; "I only wanted to talk to
you a minute about makin' suthin more o' this yer accident to
"Well, we've a full report of it in, haven't we?" said the editor
wonderingly. "I have even made an editorial para. about the
frequency of these accidents, and called attention to the danger of
riding those half broken Spanish mustangs."
"Yes, ye did that," said the foreman tolerantly; "but ye see,
thar's some folks around here that allow it warn't no accident.
There's a heap of them believe that no runaway hoss ever mauled the
colonel ez HE got mauled."
"But I heard it from the colonel's own lips," said the editor, "and
HE surely ought to know."
"He mout know and he moutn't, and if he DID know, he wouldn't
tell," said the foreman musingly, rubbing his chin with the cleaner
side of his arm. "Ye didn't see him when he was picked up, did
"No," said the editor. "Only after the doctor had attended him.
"Jake Parmlee, ez picked him up outer the ditch, says that he was
half choked, and his black silk neck-handkercher was pulled tight
around his throat. There was a mark on his nose ez ef some one had
tried to gouge out his eye, and his left ear was chawed ez ef he'd
bin down in a reg'lar rough-and-tumble clinch."
"He told me his horse bolted, buck-jumped, threw him, and he lost
consciousness," said the editor positively. "He had no reason for
lying, and a man like Starbottle, who carries a Derringer and is a
dead shot, would have left his mark on somebody if he'd been
"That's what the boys say is just the reason why he lied. He was
TOOK SUDDENT, don't ye see,--he'd no show--and don't like to
confess it. See? A man like HIM ain't goin' to advertise that he
kin be tackled and left senseless and no one else got hurt by it!
His political influence would be ruined here!"
The editor was momentarily staggered at this large truth.
"Nonsense!" he said, with a laugh. "Who would attack Colonel
Starbottle in that fashion? He might have been shot on sight by
some political enemy with whom he had quarreled--but not BEATEN."
"S'pose it warn't no political enemy?" said the foreman doggedly.
"Then who else could it be?" demanded the editor impatiently.
"That's jest for the press to find out and expose," returned the
foreman, with a significant glance at the editor's desk. "I reckon
that's whar the 'Clarion' ought to come in."
"In a matter of this kind," said the editor promptly, "the paper
has no business to interfere with a man's statement. The colonel
has a perfect right to his own secret--if there is one, which I
very much doubt. But," he added, in laughing recognition of the
half reproachful, half humorous discontent on the foreman's face,
"what dreadful theory have YOU and the boys got about it--and what
do YOU expect to expose?"
"Well," said the foreman very seriously, "it's jest this: You see,
the colonel is mighty sweet on that Spanish woman Ramierez up on
the hill yonder. It was her mustang he was ridin' when the row
happened near her house."
"Well?" said the editor, with disconcerting placidity.
"Well,"--hesitated the foreman, "you see, they're a bad lot, those
Greasers, especially the Ramierez, her husband."
The editor knew that the foreman was only echoing the provincial
prejudice against this race, which he himself had always combated.
Ramierez kept a fonda or hostelry on a small estate,--the last of
many leagues formerly owned by the Spanish grantee, his landlord,--
and had a wife of some small coquetries and redundant charms.
Gambling took place at the fonda, and it was said the common
prejudice against the Mexican did not, however, prevent the
American from trying to win his money.
"Then you think Ramierez was jealous of the colonel? But in that
case he would have knifed him,--Spanish fashion,--and not without a
"There's more ways they have o' killin' a man than that; he might
hev been dragged off his horse by a lasso and choked," said the
The editor had heard of this vaquero method of putting an enemy
hors de combat; but it was a clumsy performance for the public
road, and the brutality of its manner would have justified the
colonel in exposing it.
The foreman saw the incredulity expressed in his face, and said
somewhat aggressively, "Of course I know ye don't take no stock in
what's said agin the Greasers, and that's what the boys know, and
what they said, and that's the reason why I thought I oughter tell
ye, so that ye mightn't seem to be always favorin' 'em."
The editor's face darkened slightly, but he kept his temper and his
good humor. "So that to prove that the 'Clarion' is unbiased where
the Mexicans are concerned, I ought to make it their only accuser,
and cast a doubt on the American's veracity?" he said, with a
"I don't mean that," said the foreman, reddening. "Only I thought
ye might--as ye understand these folks' ways--ye might be able to
get at them easy, and mebbe make some copy outer the blamed thing.
It would just make a stir here, and be a big boom for the 'Clarion.'"
"I've no doubt it would," said the editor dryly. "However, I'll
make some inquiries; but you might as well let 'the boys' know that
the 'Clarion' will not publish the colonel's secret without his
permission. Meanwhile," he continued, smiling, "if you are very
anxious to add the functions of a reporter to your other duties and
bring me any discoveries you may make, I'll--look over your copy."
He good humoredly nodded, and took up his pen again,--a hint at
which the embarrassed foreman, under cover of hitching up his
trousers, awkwardly and reluctantly withdrew.
It was with some natural youthful curiosity, but no lack of loyalty
to Colonel Starbottle, that the editor that evening sought this
"war-horse of the Democracy," as he was familiarly known, in his
invalid chamber at the Palmetto Hotel. He found the hero with a
bandaged ear and--perhaps it was fancy suggested by the story of
the choking--cheeks more than usually suffused and apoplectic.
Nevertheless, he was seated by the table with a mint julep before
him, and welcomed the editor by instantly ordering another.
The editor was glad to find him so much better.
"Gad, sir, no bones broken, but a good deal of 'possum scratching
about the head for such a little throw like that. I must have slid
a yard or two on my left ear before I brought up."
"You were unconscious from the fall, I believe."
"Only for an instant, sir--a single instant! I recovered myself
with the assistance of a No'the'n gentleman--a Mr. Parmlee--who was
"Then you think your injuries were entirely due to your fall?"
The colonel paused with the mint julep halfway to his lips, and set
it down. "Sir!" he ejaculated, with astounded indignation.
"You say you were unconscious," returned the editor lightly, "and
some of your friends think the injuries inconsistent with what you
believe to be the cause. They are concerned lest you were
unknowingly the victim of some foul play."
"Unknowingly! Sir! Do you take me for a chuckle-headed niggah,
that I don't know when I'm thrown from a buck-jumping mustang? or
do they think I'm a Chinaman to be hustled and beaten by a gang of
bullies? Do they know, sir, that the account I have given I am
responsible for, sir?--personally responsible?"
There was no doubt to the editor that the colonel was perfectly
serious, and that the indignation arose from no guilty
consciousness of a secret. A man as peppery as the colonel would
have been equally alert in defense.
"They feared that you might have been ill used by some evilly
disposed person during your unconsciousness," explained the editor
diplomatically; "but as you say THAT was only for a moment, and
that you were aware of everything that happened"--He paused.
"Perfectly, sir! Perfectly! As plain as I see this julep before
me. I had just left the Ramierez rancho. The senora,--a devilish
pretty woman, sir,--after a little playful badinage, had offered to
lend me her daughter's mustang if I could ride it home. You know
what it is, Mr. Grey," he said gallantly. "I'm an older man than
you, sir, but a challenge from a d----d fascinating creature, I
trust, sir, I am not yet old enough to decline. Gad, sir, I
mounted the brute. I've ridden Morgan stock and Blue Grass
thoroughbreds bareback, sir, but I've never thrown my leg over such
a blanked Chinese cracker before. After he bolted I held my own
fairly, but he buck-jumped before I could lock my spurs under him,
and the second jump landed me!"
"How far from the Ramierez fonda were you when you were thrown?"
"A matter of four or five hundred yards, sir."
"Then your accident might have been seen from the fonda?"
"Scarcely, sir. For in that case, I may say, without vanity, that--
er--the--er senora would have come to my assistance."
"But not her husband?"
The old-fashioned shirt-frill which the colonel habitually wore
grew erectile with a swelling indignation, possibly half assumed to
conceal a certain conscious satisfaction beneath. "Mr. Grey," he
said, with pained severity, "as a personal friend of mine, and a
representative of the press,--a power which I respect,--I overlook
a disparaging reflection upon a lady, which I can only attribute to
the levity of youth and thoughtlessness. At the same time, sir,"
he added, with illogical sequence, "if Ramierez felt aggrieved at
my attentions, he knew where I could be found, sir, and that it was
not my habit to decline giving gentlemen--of any nationality--
He paused, and then added, with a singular blending of anxiety and
a certain natural dignity, "I trust, sir, that nothing of this--er--
kind will appear in your paper."
"It was to keep it out by learning the truth from you, my dear
colonel," said the editor lightly, "that I called to-day. Why, it
was even suggested," he added, with a laugh, "that you were half
strangled by a lasso."
To his surprise the colonel did not join in the laugh, but brought
his hand to his loose cravat with an uneasy gesture and a somewhat
"I admit, sir," he said, with a forced smile, "that I experienced a
certain sensation of choking, and I may have mentioned it to Mr.
Parmlee; but it was due, I believe, sir, to my cravat, which I
always wear loosely, as you perceive, becoming twisted in my fall,
and in rolling over."
He extended his fat white hand to the editor, who shook it
cordially, and then withdrew. Nevertheless, although perfectly
satisfied with his mission, and firmly resolved to prevent any
further discussion on the subject, Mr. Grey's curiosity was not
wholly appeased. What were the relations of the colonel with the
Ramierez family? From what he himself had said, the theory of the
foreman as to the motives of the attack might have been possible,
and the assault itself committed while the colonel was unconscious.
Mr. Grey, however, kept this to himself, briefly told his foreman
that he found no reason to add to the account already in type, and
dismissed the subject from his mind. The colonel left the town the
One morning a week afterward, the foreman entered the sanctum
cautiously, and, closing the door of the composing-room behind him,
stood for a moment before the editor with a singular combination of
irresolution, shamefacedness, and humorous discomfiture in his
Answering the editor's look of inquiry, he began slowly, "Mebbe ye
remember when we was talkin' last week o' Colonel Starbottle's
accident, I sorter allowed that he knew all the time WHY he was
attacked that way, only he wouldn't tell."
"Yes, I remember you were incredulous," said the editor, smiling.
"Well, I take it all back! I reckon he told all he knew. I was
wrong! I cave!"
"Why?" asked the editor wonderingly.
"Well, I have been through the mill myself!"
He unbuttoned his shirt collar, pointed to his neck, which showed a
slight abrasion and a small livid mark of strangulation at the
throat, and added, with a grim smile, "And I've got about as much
proof as I want."
The editor put down his pen and stared at him.
"You see, Mr. Grey, it was partly your fault! When you bedeviled
me about gettin' that news, and allowed I might try my hand at
reportin', I was fool enough to take up the challenge. So once or
twice, when I was off duty here, I hung around the Ramierez shanty.
Once I went in thar when they were gamblin'; thar war one or two
Americans thar that war winnin' as far as I could see, and was
pretty full o' that aguardiente that they sell thar--that kills at
forty rods. You see, I had a kind o' suspicion that ef thar was
any foul play goin' on it might be worked on these fellers ARTER
they were drunk, and war goin' home with thar winnin's."
"So you gave up your theory of the colonel being attacked from
jealousy?" said the editor, smiling.
"Hol' on! I ain't through yet! I only reckoned that ef thar was a
gang of roughs kept thar on the premises they might be used for
that purpose, and I only wanted to ketch em at thar work. So I
jest meandered into the road when they war about comin' out, and
kept my eye skinned for what might happen. Thar was a kind o'
corral about a hundred yards down the road, half adobe wall, and a
stockade o' palm's on top of it, about six feet high. Some of the
palm's were off, and I peeped through, but thar warn't nobody thar.
I stood thar, alongside the bank, leanin' my back agin one o' them
openin's, and jest watched and waited.
"All of a suddent I felt myself grabbed by my coat collar behind,
and my neck-handkercher and collar drawn tight around my throat
till I couldn't breathe. The more I twisted round, the tighter the
clinch seemed to get. I couldn't holler nor speak, but thar I
stood with my mouth open, pinned back agin that cursed stockade,
and my arms and legs movin' up and down, like one o' them dancin'
jacks! It seems funny, Mr. Grey--I reckon I looked like a darned
fool--but I don't wanter feel ag'in as I did jest then. The clinch
o' my throat got tighter; everything got black about me; I was jest
goin' off and kalkilatin' it was about time for you to advertise
for another foreman, when suthin broke--fetched away!
"It was my collar button, and I dropped like a shot. It was a
minute before I could get my breath ag'in, and when I did and
managed to climb that darned stockade, and drop on the other side,
thar warn't a soul to be seen! A few hosses that stampeded in my
gettin' over the fence war all that was there! I was mighty shook
up, you bet!--and to make the hull thing perfectly ridic'lous, when
I got back to the road, after all I'd got through, darn my skin, ef
thar warn't that pesky lot o' drunken men staggerin' along,
jinglin' the scads they had won, and enjoyin' themselves, and
nobody a-followin' 'em! I jined 'em jest for kempany's sake, till
we got back to town, but nothin' happened."
"But, my dear Richards," said the editor warmly, "this is no longer
a matter of mere reporting, but of business for the police. You
must see the deputy sheriff at once, and bring your complaint--or
shall I? It's no joking matter."
"Hol' on, Mr. Grey," replied Richards slowly. "I've told this to
nobody but you--nor am I goin' to--sabe? It's an affair of my own--
and I reckon I kin take care of it without goin' to the Revised
Statutes of the State of California, or callin' out the sheriff's
His humorous blue eyes just then had certain steely points in them
like glittering facets as he turned them away, which the editor had
seen before on momentous occasions, and he was speaking slowly and
composedly, which the editor also knew boded no good to an
"Don't be a fool, Richards," he said quietly. "Don't take as a
personal affront what was a common, vulgar crime. You would
undoubtedly have been robbed by that rascal had not the others come
Richards shook his head. "I might hev bin robbed a dozen times
afore THEY came along--ef that was the little game. No, Mr. Grey,--
it warn't no robbery."
"Had you been paying court to the Senora Ramierez, like Colonel
Starbottle?" asked the editor, with a smile.
"Not much," returned Richards scornfully; "she ain't my style.
But"--he hesitated, and then added, "thar was a mighty purty gal
thar--and her darter, I reckon--a reg'lar pink fairy! She kem in
only a minute, and they sorter hustled her out ag'in--for darn my
skin ef she didn't look as much out o' place in that smoky old
garlic-smellin' room as an angel at a bull-fight. And what got me--
she was ez white ez you or me, with blue eyes, and a lot o' dark
reddish hair in a long braid down her back. Why, only for her
purty sing-song voice and her 'Gracias, senor,' you'd hev reckoned
she was a Blue Grass girl jest fresh from across the plains."
A little amused at his foreman's enthusiasm, Mr. Grey gave an
ostentatious whistle and said, "Come, now, Richards, look here!
"Only a little girl--a mere child, Mr. Grey--not more'n fourteen if
a day," responded Richards, in embarrassed depreciation.
"Yes, but those people marry at twelve," said the editor, with a
laugh. "Look out! Your appreciation may have been noticed by some
He half regretted this speech the next moment in the quick flush--
the male instinct of rivalry--that brought back the glitter of
Richards's eyes. "I reckon I kin take care of that, sir," he said
slowly, "and I kalkilate that the next time I meet that chap--
whoever he may be--he won't see so much of my back as he did."
The editor knew there was little doubt of this, and for an instant
believed it his duty to put the matter in the hands of the police.
Richards was too good and brave a man to be risked in a bar-room
fight. But reflecting that this might precipitate the scandal he
wished to avoid, he concluded to make some personal investigation.
A stronger curiosity than he had felt before was possessing him.
It was singular, too, that Richards's description of the girl was
that of a different and superior type--the hidalgo, or fair-skinned
Spanish settler. If this was true, what was she doing there--and
what were her relations to the Ramierez?
The next afternoon he went to the fonda. Situated on the outskirts
of the town which had long outgrown it, it still bore traces of its
former importance as a hacienda, or smaller farm, of one of the old
Spanish landholders. The patio, or central courtyard, still
existed as a stable-yard for carts, and even one or two horses were
tethered to the railings of the inner corridor, which now served as
an open veranda to the fonda or inn. The opposite wing was
utilized as a tienda, or general shop,--a magazine for such goods
as were used by the Mexican inhabitants,--and belonged also to
Ramierez himself--round-whiskered and Sancho Panza-like in build--
welcomed the editor with fat, perfunctory urbanity. The fonda and
all it contained was at his disposicion.
The senora coquettishly bewailed, in rising and falling inflections,
his long absence, his infidelity and general perfidiousness. Truly
he was growing great in writing of the affairs of his nation--he
could no longer see his humble friends! Yet not long ago--truly that
very week--there was the head impresor of Don Pancho's imprenta
himself who had been there!
A great man, of a certainty, and they must take what they could
get! They were only poor innkeepers; when the governor came not
they must welcome the alcalde. To which the editor--otherwise Don
Pancho--replied with equal effusion. He had indeed recommended the
fonda to his impresor, who was but a courier before him. But what
was this? The impresor had been ravished at the sight of a
beautiful girl--a mere muchacha--yet of a beauty that deprived the
senses--this angel--clearly the daughter of his friend! Here was
the old miracle of the orange in full fruition and the lovely
fragrant blossom all on the same tree--at the fonda. And this had
been kept from him!
"Yes, it was but a thing of yesterday," said the senora, obviously
pleased. "The muchacha--for she was but that--had just returned
from the convent at San Jose, where she had been for four years.
Ah! what would you? The fonda was no place for the child, who
should know only the litany of the Virgin--and they had kept her
there. And now--that she was home again--she cared only for the
horse. From morning to night! Caballeros might come and go!
There might be a festival--all the same to her, it made nothing if
she had the horse to ride! Even now she was with one in the
fields. Would Don Pancho attend and see Cota and her horse?"
The editor smilingly assented, and accompanied his hostess along
the corridor to a few steps which brought them to the level of the
open meadows of the old farm inclosure. A slight white figure on
horseback was careering in the distance. At a signal from Senora
Ramierez it wheeled and came down rapidly towards them. But when
within a hundred yards the horse was suddenly pulled up vaquero
fashion, and the little figure leaped off and advanced toward them
on foot, leading the horse.
To his surprise, Mr. Grey saw that she had been riding bareback,
and from her discreet halt at that distance he half suspected
ASTRIDE! His effusive compliments to the mother on this exhibition
of skill were sincere, for he was struck by the girl's fearlessness.
But when both horse and rider at last stood before him, he was
speechless and embarrassed.
For Richards had not exaggerated the girl's charms. She was indeed
dangerously pretty, from her tawny little head to her small feet,
and her figure, although comparatively diminutive, was perfectly
proportioned. Gray eyed and blonde as she was in color, her racial
peculiarities were distinct, and only the good-humored and
enthusiastic Richards could have likened her to an American girl.
But he was the more astonished in noticing that her mustang was as
distinct and peculiar as herself--a mongrel mare of the
extraordinary type known as a "pinto," or "calico" horse, mottled
in lavender and pink, Arabian in proportions, and half broken! Her
greenish gray eyes, in which too much of the white was visible,
had, he fancied, a singular similarity of expression to Cota's own!
Utterly confounded, and staring at the girl in her white, many
flounced frock, bare head, and tawny braids, as she stood beside
this incarnation of equine barbarism, Grey could remember nothing
like it outside of a circus.
He stammered a few words of admiration of the mare. Miss Cota
threw out her two arms with a graceful gesture and a profound
curtsey, and said--
"A la disposicion de le Usted, senor."
Grey was quick to understand the malicious mischief which underlay
this formal curtsey and danced in the girl's eyes, and even fancied
it shared by the animal itself. But he was a singularly good rider
of untrained stock, and rather proud of his prowess. He bowed.
"I accept that I may have the honor of laying the senorita's gift
again at her little feet."
But here the burly Ramierez intervened. "Ah, Mother of God! May
the devil fly away with all this nonsense! I will have no more of
it," he said impatiently to the girl. "Have a care, Don Pancho,"
he turned to the editor; "it is a trick!"
"One I think I know," said Grey sapiently. The girl looked at him
curiously as he managed to edge between her and the mustang, under
the pretense of stroking its glossy neck. "I shall keep MY OWN
spurs," he said to her in a lower voice, pointing to the sharp,
small-roweled American spurs he wore, instead of the large, blunt,
five-pointed star of the Mexican pattern.
The girl evidently did not understand him then--though she did a
moment later! For without attempting to catch hold of the
mustang's mane, Grey in a single leap threw himself across its
back. The animal, utterly unprepared, was at first stupefied. But
by this time her rider had his seat. He felt her sensitive spine
arch like a cat's beneath him as she sprang rocket-wise into the
But here she was mistaken! Instead of clinging tightly to her
flanks with the inner side of his calves, after the old vaquero
fashion to which she was accustomed, he dropped his spurred heels
into her sides and allowed his body to rise with her spring, and
the cruel spur to cut its track upward from her belly almost to her
She dropped like a shot, he dexterously withdrawing his spurs, and
regaining his seat, jarred but not discomfited. Again she essayed
a leap; the spurs again marked its height in a scarifying track
along her smooth barrel. She tried a third leap, but this time
dropped halfway as she felt the steel scraping her side, and then
stood still, trembling. Grey leaped off!
There was a sound of applause from the innkeeper and his wife,
assisted by a lounging vaquero in the corridor. Ashamed of his
victory, Grey turned apologetically to Cota. To his surprise she
glanced indifferently at the trickling sides of her favorite, and
only regarded him curiously.
"Ah," she said, drawing in her breath, "you are strong--and you
"It was only a trick for a trick, senorita," he replied, reddening;
"let me look after those scratches in the stable," he added, as she
was turning away, leading the agitated and excited animal toward a
shed in the rear.
He would have taken the riata which she was still holding, but she
motioned him to precede her. He did so by a few feet, but he had
scarcely reached the stable door before she suddenly caught him
roughly by the shoulders, and, shoving him into the entrance,
slammed the door upon him.
Amazed and a little indignant, he turned in time to hear a slight
sound of scuffling outside, and to see Cota re-enter with a flushed
"Pardon, senor," she said quickly, "but I feared she might have
kicked you. Rest tranquil, however, for the servant he has taken
She pointed to a slouching peon with a malevolent face, who was
angrily driving the mustang toward the corral.
"Consider it no more! I was rude! Santa Maria! I almost threw
you, too; but," she added, with a dazzling smile, "you must not
punish me as you have her! For you are very strong--and you
But Grey did not comprehend, and with a few hurried apologies he
managed to escape his fair but uncanny tormentor. Besides, this
unlooked-for incident had driven from his mind the more important
object of his visit,--the discovery of the assailants of Richards
and Colonel Starbottle.
His inquiries of the Ramierez produced no result. Senor Ramierez
was not aware of any suspicious loiterers among the frequenters of
the fonda, and except from some drunken American or Irish revelers
he had been free of disturbance.
Ah! the peon--an old vaquero--was not an angel, truly, but he was
dangerous only to the bull and the wild horses--and he was afraid
even of Cota! Mr. Grey was fain to ride home empty of information.
He was still more concerned a week later, on returning unexpectedly
one afternoon to his sanctum, to hear a musical, childish voice in
It was Cota! She was there, as Richards explained, on his
invitation, to view the marvels and mysteries of printing at a time
when they would not be likely to "disturb Mr. Grey at his work."
But the beaming face of Richards and the simple tenderness of his
blue eyes plainly revealed the sudden growth of an evidently
sincere passion, and the unwonted splendors of his best clothes
showed how carefully he had prepared for the occasion.
Grey was worried and perplexed, believing the girl a malicious
flirt. Yet nothing could be more captivating than her simple and
childish curiosity, as she watched Richards swing the lever of the
press, or stood by his side as he marshaled the type into files on
his "composing-stick." He had even printed a card with her name,
"Senorita Cota Ramierez," the type of which had been set up, to the
accompaniment of ripples of musical laughter, by her little brown
The editor might have become quite sentimental and poetical had he
not noticed that the gray eyes which often rested tentatively and
meaningly on himself, even while apparently listening to Richards,
were more than ever like the eyes of the mustang on whose scarred
flanks her glance had wandered so coldly.
He withdrew presently so as not to interrupt his foreman's innocent
tete-a-tete, but it was not very long after that Cota passed him on
the highroad with the pinto horse in a gallop, and blew him an
audacious kiss from the tips of her fingers.
For several days afterwards Richards's manner was tinged with a
certain reserve on the subject of Cota which the editor attributed
to the delicacy of a serious affection, but he was surprised also
to find that his foreman's eagerness to discuss his unknown
assailant had somewhat abated. Further discussion regarding it
naturally dropped, and the editor was beginning to lose his
curiosity when it was suddenly awakened by a chance incident.
An intimate friend and old companion of his--one Enriquez Saltillo--
had diverged from a mountain trip especially to call upon him.
Enriquez was a scion of one of the oldest Spanish-California
families, and in addition to his friendship for the editor it
pleased him also to affect an intense admiration of American ways
and habits, and even to combine the current California slang with
his native precision of speech--and a certain ironical levity still
more his own.
It seemed, therefore, quite natural to Mr. Grey to find him seated
with his feet on the editorial desk, his hat cocked on the back of
his head, reading the "Clarion" exchanges. But he was up in a
moment, and had embraced Grey with characteristic effusion.
"I find myself, my leetle brother, but an hour ago two leagues from
this spot! I say to myself, 'Hola! It is the home of Don Pancho--
my friend! I shall find him composing the magnificent editorial
leader, collecting the subscription of the big pumpkin and the
great gooseberry, or gouging out the eye of the rival editor, at
which I shall assist!' I hesitate no longer; I fly on the instant,
and I am here."
Grey was delighted. Saltillo knew the Spanish population
thoroughly--his own superior race and their Mexican and Indian
allies. If any one could solve the mystery of the Ramierez fonda,
and discover Richards's unknown assailant, it was HE! But Grey
contented himself, at first, with a few brief inquiries concerning
the beautiful Cota and her anonymous association with the Ramierez.
Enriquez was as briefly communicative.
"Of your suspicions, my leetle brother, you are right--on the half!
That leetle angel of a Cota is, without doubt, the daughter of the
adorable Senora Ramierez, but not of the admirable senor--her
husband. Ah! what would you? We are a simple, patriarchal race;
thees Ramierez, he was the Mexican tenant of the old Spanish
landlord--such as my father--and we are ever the fathers of the
poor, and sometimes of their children. It is possible, therefore,
that the exquisite Cota resemble the Spanish landlord. Ah! stop--
remain tranquil! I remember," he went on, suddenly striking his
forehead with a dramatic gesture, "the old owner of thees ranch was
my cousin Tiburcio. Of a consequence, my friend, thees angel is my
second cousin! Behold! I shall call there on the instant. I
shall embrace my long-lost relation. I shall introduce my best
friend, Don Pancho, who lofe her. I shall say, 'Bless you, my
children,' and it is feenish! I go! I am gone even now!"
He started up and clapped on his hat, but Grey caught him by the
"For Heaven's sake, Enriquez, be serious for once," he said,
forcing him back into the chair. "And don't speak so loud. The
foreman in the other room is an enthusiastic admirer of the girl.
In fact, it is on his account that I am making these inquiries."
"Ah, the gentleman of the pantuflos, whose trousers will not
remain! I have seen him, friend. Truly he has the ambition
excessif to arrive from the bed to go to the work without the dress
or the wash. But," in recognition of Grey's half serious
impatience, "remain tranquil. On him I shall not go back! I have
said! The friend of my friend is ever the same as my friend! He
is truly not seducing to the eye, but without doubt he will arrive
a governor or a senator in good time. I shall gif to him my second
cousin. It is feenish! I will tell him now!"
He attempted to rise, but was held down and vigorously shaken by
"I've half a mind to let you do it, and get chucked through the
window for your pains," said the editor, with a half laugh.
"Listen to me. This is a more serious matter than you suppose."
And Grey briefly recounted the incident of the mysterious attacks
on Starbottle and Richards. As he proceeded he noticed, however,
that the ironical light died out of Enriquez's eyes, and a singular
thoughtfulness, yet unlike his usual precise gravity, came over his
face. He twirled the ends of his penciled mustache--an unfailing
sign of Enriquez's emotion.
"The same accident that arrive to two men that shall be as opposite
as the gallant Starbottle and the excellent Richards shall not
prove that it come from Ramierez, though they both were at the
fonda," he said gravely. "The cause of it have not come to-day,
nor yesterday, nor last week. The cause of it have arrive before
there was any gallant Starbottle or excellent Richards; before
there was any American in California--before you and I, my leetle
brother, have lif! The cause happen first--TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO!"
The editor's start of impatient incredulity was checked by the
unmistakable sincerity of Enriquez's face. "It is so," he went on
gravely; "it is an old story--it is a long story. I shall make him
He stopped and lit a cigarette without changing his odd expression.
"It was when the padres first have the mission, and take the
heathen and convert him--and save his soul. It was their business,
you comprehend, my Pancho? The more heathen they convert, the more
soul they save, the better business for their mission shop. But
the heathen do not always wish to be 'convert;' the heathen fly,
the heathen skidaddle, the heathen will not remain, or will
backslide. What will you do? So the holy fathers make a little
game. You do not of a possibility comprehend how the holy fathers
make a convert, my leetle brother?" he added gravely.
"No," said the editor.
"I shall tell to you. They take from the presidio five or six
dragons--you comprehend--the cavalry soldiers, and they pursue the
heathen from his little hut. When they cannot surround him and he
fly, they catch him with the lasso, like the wild hoss. The lasso
catch him around the neck; he is obliged to remain. Sometime he is
strangle. Sometime he is dead, but the soul is save! You believe
not, Pancho? I see you wrinkle the brow--you flash the eye; you
like it not? Believe me, I like it not, neither, but it is so!"
He shrugged his shoulders, threw away his half smoked cigarette,
and went on.
"One time a padre who have the zeal excessif for the saving of
soul, when he find the heathen, who is a young girl, have escape
the soldiers, he of himself have seize the lasso and flung it! He
is lucky; he catch her--but look you! She stop not--she still fly!
She not only fly, but of a surety she drag the good padre with her!
He cannot loose himself, for his riata is fast to the saddle; the
dragons cannot help, for he is drag so fast. On the instant she
have gone--and so have the padre. For why? It is not a young girl
he have lasso, but the devil! You comprehend--it is a punishment--
a retribution--he is feenish! And forever!
"For every year he must come back a spirit--on a spirit hoss--and
swing the lasso, and make as if to catch the heathen. He is
condemn ever to play his little game; now there is no heathen more
to convert, he catch what he can. My grandfather have once seen
him--it is night and a storm, and he pass by like a flash! My
grandfather like it not--he is much dissatisfied! My uncle have
seen him, too, but he make the sign of the cross, and the lasso
have fall to the side, and my uncle have much gratification. A
vaquero of my father and a peon of my cousin have both been picked
up, lassoed, and dragged dead.
"Many peoples have died of him in the strangling. Sometime he is
seen, sometime it is the woman only that one sees--sometime it is
but the hoss. But ever somebody is dead--strangle! Of a truth, my
friend, the gallant Starbottle and the ambitious Richards have just
The editor looked curiously at his friend. There was not the
slightest suggestion of mischief or irony in his tone or manner;
nothing, indeed, but a sincerity and anxiety usually rare with his
temperament. It struck him also that his speech had but little of
the odd California slang which was always a part of his imitative
levity. He was puzzled.
"Do you mean to say that this superstition is well known?" he
asked, after a pause.
"Among my people--yes."
"And do YOU believe in it?"
Enriquez was silent. Then he arose, and shrugged his shoulders.
"Quien sabe? It is not more difficult to comprehend than your
He gravely put on his hat. With it he seemed to have put on his
old levity. "Come, behold, it is a long time between drinks! Let
us to the hotel and the barkeep, who shall give up the smash of
brandy and the julep of mints before the lasso of Friar Pedro shall
prevent us the swallow! Let us skiddadle!"
Mr. Grey returned to the "Clarion" office in a much more satisfied
condition of mind. Whatever faith he held in Enriquez's sincerity,
for the first time since the attack on Colonel Starbottle he
believed he had found a really legitimate journalistic opportunity
in the incident. The legend and its singular coincidence with the
outrages would make capital "copy."
No names would be mentioned, yet even if Colonel Starbottle
recognized his own adventure, he could not possibly object to this
interpretation of it. The editor had found that few people
objected to be the hero of a ghost story, or the favored witness of
a spiritual manifestation. Nor could Richards find fault with this
view of his own experience, hitherto kept a secret, so long as it
did not refer to his relations with the fair Cota. Summoning him
at once to his sanctum, he briefly repeated the story he had just
heard, and his purpose of using it. To his surprise, Richards's
face assumed a seriousness and anxiety equal to Enriquez's own.
"It's a good story, Mr. Grey," he said awkwardly, "and I ain't
sayin' it ain't mighty good newspaper stuff, but it won't do NOW,
for the whole mystery's up and the assailant found."
"Found! When? Why didn't you tell me before?" exclaimed Grey, in
"I didn't reckon ye were so keen on it," said Richards embarrassedly,
"and--and--it wasn't my own secret altogether."
"Go on," said the editor impatiently.
"Well," said Richards slowly and doggedly, "ye see there was a fool
that was sweet on Cota, and he allowed himself to be bedeviled by
her to ride her cursed pink and yaller mustang. Naturally the
beast bolted at once, but he managed to hang on by the mane for
half a mile or so, when it took to buck-jumpin'. The first 'buck'
threw him clean into the road, but didn't stun him, yet when he
tried to rise, the first thing he knowed he was grabbed from behind
and half choked by somebody. He was held so tight that he couldn't
turn, but he managed to get out his revolver and fire two shots
under his arm. The grip held on for a minute, and then loosened,
and the somethin' slumped down on top o' him, but he managed to
work himself around. And then--what do you think he saw?--why,
that thar hoss! with two bullet holes in his neck, lyin' beside
him, but still grippin' his coat collar and neck-handkercher in his
teeth! Yes, sir! the rough that attacked Colonel Starbottle, the
villain that took me behind when I was leanin' agin that cursed
fence, was that same God-forsaken, hell-invented pinto hoss!"
In a flash of recollection the editor remembered his own
experience, and the singular scuffle outside the stable door of the
fonda. Undoubtedly Cota had saved him from a similar attack.
"But why not tell this story with the other?" said the editor,
returning to his first idea. "It's tremendously interesting."
"It won't do," said Richards, with dogged resolution.
"Because, Mr. Grey--that fool was myself!"
"You! Again attacked!"
"Yes," said Richards, with a darkening face. "Again attacked, and
by the same hoss! Cota's hoss! Whether Cota was or was not
knowin' its tricks, she was actually furious at me for killin' it--
and it's all over 'twixt me and her."
"Nonsense," said the editor impulsively; "she will forgive you!
You didn't know your assailant was a horse WHEN YOU FIRED. Look at
the attack on you in the road!"
Richards shook his head with dogged hopelessness. "It's no use,
Mr. Grey. I oughter guessed it was a hoss then--thar was nothin'
else in that corral. No! Cota's already gone away back to San
Jose, and I reckon the Ramierez has got scared of her and packed
her off. So, on account of its bein' HER hoss, and what happened
betwixt me and her, you see my mouth is shut."
"And the columns of the 'Clarion' too," said the editor, with a
"I know it's hard, sir, but it's better so. I've reckoned mebbe
she was a little crazy, and since you've told me that Spanish yarn,
it mout be that she was sort o' playin' she was that priest, and
trained that mustang ez she did."
After a pause, something of his old self came back into his blue
eyes as he sadly hitched up his braces and passed them over his
broad shoulders. "Yes, sir, I was a fool, for we've lost the only
bit of real sensation news that ever came in the way of the
A JACK AND JILL OF THE SIERRAS
It was four o'clock in the afternoon, and the hottest hour of the
day on that Sierran foothill. The western sun, streaming down the
mile-long slope of close-set pine crests, had been caught on an
outlying ledge of glaring white quartz, covered with mining tools
and debris, and seemed to have been thrown into an incandescent
rage. The air above it shimmered and became visible. A white
canvas tent on it was an object not to be borne; the steel-tipped
picks and shovels, intolerable to touch and eyesight, and a tilted
tin prospecting pan, falling over, flashed out as another sun of
insufferable effulgence. At such moments the five members of the
"Eureka Mining Company" prudently withdrew to the nearest pine-
tree, which cast a shadow so sharply defined on the glistening sand
that the impingement of a hand or finger beyond that line cut like
a knife. The men lay, or squatted, in this shadow, feverishly
puffing their pipes and waiting for the sun to slip beyond the
burning ledge. Yet so irritating was the dry air, fragrant with
the aroma of the heated pines, that occasionally one would start up
and walk about until he had brought on that profuse perspiration
which gave a momentary relief, and, as he believed, saved him from
sunstroke. Suddenly a voice exclaimed querulously:--
"Derned if the blasted bucket ain't empty ag'in! Not a drop left,
A stare of helpless disgust was exchanged by the momentarily
uplifted heads; then every man lay down again, as if trying to
"Who brought the last?" demanded the foreman.
"I did," said a reflective voice coming from a partner lying
comfortably on his back, "and if anybody reckons I'm going to face
Tophet ag'in down that slope, he's mistaken!" The speaker was
thirsty--but he had principles.
"We must throw round for it," said the foreman, taking the dice
from his pocket.
He cast; the lowest number fell to Parkhurst, a florid, full-
blooded Texan. "All right, gentlemen," he said, wiping his
forehead, and lifting the tin pail with a resigned air, "only EF
anything comes to me on that bare stretch o' stage road,--and I'm
kinder seein' things spotty and black now, remember you ain't
anywhar NEARER the water than you were! I ain't sayin' it for
myself--but it mout be rough on YOU--and"--
"Give ME the pail," interrupted a tall young fellow, rising. "I'll
Cries of "Good old Ned," and "Hunky boy!" greeted him as he took
the pail from the perspiring Parkhurst, who at once lay down again.
"You mayn't be a professin' Christian, in good standin', Ned Bray,"
continued Parkhurst from the ground, "but you're about as white as
they make 'em, and you're goin' to do a Heavenly Act! I repeat it,
gents--a Heavenly Act!"
Without a reply Bray walked off with the pail, stopping only in the
underbrush to pluck a few soft fronds of fern, part of which he put
within the crown of his hat, and stuck the rest in its band around
the outer brim, making a parasol-like shade above his shoulders.
Thus equipped he passed through the outer fringe of pines to a
rocky trail which began to descend towards the stage road. Here he
was in the full glare of the sun and its reflection from the heated
rocks, which scorched his feet and pricked his bent face into a
rash. The descent was steep and necessarily slow from the
slipperiness of the desiccated pine needles that had fallen from
above. Nor were his troubles over when, a few rods further, he
came upon the stage road, which here swept in a sharp curve round
the flank of the mountain, its red dust, ground by heavy wagons and
pack-trains into a fine powder, was nevertheless so heavy with some
metallic substance that it scarcely lifted with the foot, and he
was obliged to literally wade through it. Yet there were two
hundred yards of this road to be passed before he could reach that
point of its bank where a narrow and precipitous trail dropped
diagonally from it, to creep along the mountain side to the spring
he was seeking.
When he reached the trail, he paused to take breath and wipe the
blinding beads of sweat from his eyes before he cautiously swung
himself over the bank into it. A single misstep here would have
sent him headlong to the tops of pine-trees a thousand feet below.
Holding his pail in one hand, with the other he steadied himself by
clutching the ferns and brambles at his side, and at last reached
the spring--a niche in the mountain side with a ledge scarcely four
feet wide. He had merely accomplished the ordinary gymnastic feat
performed by the members of the Eureka Company four or five times a
day! But the day was exceptionally hot. He held his wrists to
cool their throbbing pulses in the clear, cold stream that gurgled
into its rocky basin; he threw the water over his head and
shoulders; he swung his legs over the ledge and let the overflow
fall on his dusty shoes and ankles. Gentle and delicious rigors
came over him. He sat with half closed eyes looking across the
dark olive depths of the canyon between him and the opposite
mountain. A hawk was swinging lazily above it, apparently within a
stone's throw of him; he knew it was at least a mile away. Thirty
feet above him ran the stage road; he could hear quite distinctly
the slow thud of hoofs, the dull jar of harness, and the labored
creaking of the Pioneer Coach as it crawled up the long ascent,
part of which he had just passed. He thought of it,--a slow
drifting cloud of dust and heat, as he had often seen it, abandoned
by even its passengers, who sought shelter in the wayside pines as
they toiled behind it to the summit,--and hugged himself in the
grateful shadows of the spring. It had passed out of hearing and
thought, he had turned to fill his pail, when he was startled by a
shower of dust and gravel from the road above, and the next moment
he was thrown violently down, blinded and pinned against the ledge
by the fall of some heavy body on his back and shoulders. His last
flash of consciousness was that he had been struck by a sack of
flour slipped from the pack of some passing mule.
How long he remained unconscious he never knew. It was probably
not long, for his chilled hands and arms, thrust by the blow on his
shoulders into the pool of water, assisted in restoring him. He
came to with a sense of suffocating pressure on his back, but his
head and shoulders were swathed in utter darkness by the folds of
some soft fabrics and draperies, which, to his connecting
consciousness, seemed as if the contents of a broken bale or trunk
had also fallen from the pack. With a tremendous effort he
succeeded in getting his arm out of the pool, and attempted to free
his head from its blinding enwrappings. In doing so his hand
suddenly touched human flesh--a soft, bared arm! With the same
astounding discovery came one more terrible: that arm belonged to
the weight that was pressing him down; and now, assisted by his
struggles, it was slowly slipping toward the brink of the ledge and
the abyss below! With a desperate effort he turned on his side,
caught the body,--as such it was,--dragged it back on the ledge, at
the same moment that, freeing his head from its covering,--a
feminine skirt,--he discovered it was a woman!
She had been also unconscious, although the touch of his cold, wet
hand on her skin had probably given her a shock that was now
showing itself in a convulsive shudder of her shoulders and a half
opening of her eyes. Suddenly she began to stare at him, to draw
in her knees and feet toward her, sideways, with a feminine
movement, as she smoothed out her skirt, and kept it down with a
hand on which she leaned. She was a tall, handsome girl, from what
he could judge of her half-sitting figure in her torn silk dust-
cloak, which, although its cape and one sleeve were split into
ribbons, had still protected her delicate, well-fitting gown
beneath. She was evidently a lady.
"What--is it?--what has happened?" she said faintly, yet with a
slight touch of formality in her manner.
"You must have fallen--from the road above," said Bray hesitatingly."
"From the road above?" she repeated, with a slight frown, as if to
concentrate her thought. She glanced upward, then at the ledge
before her, and then, for the first time, at the darkening abyss
below. The color, which had begun to return, suddenly left her
face here, and she drew instinctively back against the mountain
side. "Yes," she half murmured to herself, rather than to him, "it
must be so. I was walking too near the bank--and--I fell!" Then
turning to him, she said, "And you found me lying here when you
"I think," stammered Bray, "that I was here when you fell, and I--I
broke the fall." He was sorry for it a moment afterward.
She lifted her handsome gray eyes to him, saw the dust, dirt, and
leaves on his back and shoulders, the collar of his shirt torn
open, and a few spots of blood from a bruise on his forehead. Her
black eyebrows straightened again as she said coldly, "Dear me! I
am very sorry; I couldn't help it, you know. I hope you are not
"No," he replied quickly. "But you, are you sure you are not
injured? It must have been a terrible shock."
"I'm not hurt," she said, helping herself to her feet by the aid of
the mountain-side bushes, and ignoring his proffered hand. "But,"
she added quickly and impressively, glancing upward toward the
stage road overhead, "why don't they come? They must have missed
me! I must have been here a long time; it's too bad!"
"THEY missed you?" he repeated diffidently.
"Yes," she said impatiently, "of course! I wasn't alone. Don't
you understand? I got out of the coach to walk uphill on the bank
under the trees. It was so hot and stuffy. My foot must have
slipped up there--and--I--slid--down. Have you heard any one
calling me? Have you called out yourself?"
Mr. Bray did not like to say he had only just recovered
consciousness. He smiled vaguely and foolishly. But on turning
around in her impatience, she caught sight of the chasm again, and
lapsed quite white against the mountain side.
"Let me give you some water from the spring," he said eagerly, as
she sank again to a sitting posture; "it will refresh you."
He looked hesitatingly around him; he had neither cup nor flask,
but he filled the pail and held it with great dexterity to her
lips. She drank a little, extracted a lace handkerchief from some
hidden pocket, dipped its point in the water, and wiped her face
delicately, after a certain feline fashion. Then, catching sight
of some small object in the fork of a bush above her, she quickly
pounced upon it, and with a swift sweep of her hand under her
skirt, put on HER FALLEN SLIPPER, and stood on her feet again.
"How does one get out of such a place?" she asked fretfully, and
then, glancing at him half indignantly, "why don't you shout?"
"I was going to tell you," he said gently, "that when you are a
little stronger, we can get out by the way I came in,--along the
He pointed to the narrow pathway along the perilous incline.
Somehow, with this tall, beautiful creature beside him, it looked
more perilous than before. She may have thought so too, for she
drew in her breath sharply and sank down again.
"Is there no other way?"
"How did YOU happen to be here?" she asked suddenly, opening her
gray eyes upon him. "What did you come here for?" she went on,
"To fetch a pail of water." He stopped, and then it suddenly
occurred to him that after all there was no reason for his being
bullied by this tall, good-looking girl, even if he HAD saved her.
He gave a little laugh, and added mischievously, "Just like Jack
and Jill, you know."
"What?" she said sharply, bending her black brows at him.
"Jack and Jill," he returned carelessly; "I broke my crown, you
know, and YOU,"--he did not finish.
She stared at him, trying to keep her face and her composure; but a
smile, that on her imperious lips he thought perfectly adorable,
here lifted the corners of her mouth, and she turned her face
aside. But the smile, and the line of dazzling little teeth it
revealed, were unfortunately on the side toward him. Emboldened by
this, he went on, "I couldn't think what had happened. At first I
had a sort of idea that part of a mule's pack had fallen on top of
me,--blankets, flour, and all that sort of thing, you know, until"--
Her smile had vanished. "Well," she said impatiently, "until?"
"Until I touched you. I'm afraid I gave you a shock; my hand was
dripping from the spring."
She colored so quickly that he knew she must have been conscious at
the time, and he noticed now that the sleeve of her cloak, which
had been half torn off her bare arm, was pinned together over it.
When and how had she managed to do it without his detecting the
"At all events," she said coldly, "I'm glad you have not received
greater injury from--your mule pack."
"I think we've both been very lucky," he said simply.
She did not reply, but remained looking furtively at the narrow
trail. Then she listened. "I thought I heard voices," she said,
"Shall I shout?" he asked.
"No! You say there's no use--there's only this way out of it!"
"I might go up first, and perhaps get assistance--a rope or chair,"
"And leave me here alone?" she cried, with a horrified glance at
the abyss. "No, thank you! I should be over that ledge before you
came back! There's a dreadful fascination in it even now. No! I
think I'd rather go--at once! I never shall be stronger as long as
I stay near it; I may be weaker."
She gave a petulant little shiver, and then, though paler and
evidently agitated, composed her tattered and dusty outer garments
in a deft, ladylike way, and leaned back against the mountain side,
He saw her also glance at his loosened shirt front and hanging
neckerchief, and with a heightened color he quickly re-knotted it
around his throat. They moved from the ledge toward the trail.
Suddenly she started back.
"But it's only wide enough for ONE, and I never--NEVER--could even
stand on it a minute alone!" she exclaimed.
He looked at her critically. "We will go together, side by side,"
he said quietly, "but you will have to take the outside."
"Outside!" she repeated, recoiling. "Impossible! I shall fall."
"I shall keep hold of you," he explained; "you need not fear that.
Stop! I'll make it safer." He untied the large bandanna silk
handkerchief which he wore around his shoulders, knotted one end of
it firmly to his belt, and handed her the other.
"Do you think you can hold on to that?"
"I--don't know,"--she hesitated. "If I should fall?"
"Stay a moment! Is your belt strong?" He pointed to a girdle of
yellow leather which caught her tunic around her small waist.
"Yes," she said eagerly, "it's real leather."
He gently slipped the edge of the handkerchief under it and knotted
it. They were thus linked together by a foot of handkerchief.
"I feel much safer," she said, with a faint smile.
"But if I should fall," he remarked, looking into her eyes, "you
would go too! Have you thought of that?"
"Yes." Her previous charming smile returned. "It would be really
Jack and Jill this time."
They passed out on the trail. "Now I must take YOUR arm," he said
laughingly; "not you MINE." He passed his arm under hers, holding
it firmly. It was the one he had touched. For the first few steps
her uncertain feet took no hold of the sloping mountain side, which
seemed to slip sideways beneath her. He was literally carrying her
on his shoulder. But in a few moments she saw how cleverly he
balanced himself, always leaning toward the hillside, and presently
she was able to help him by a few steps. She expressed her
surprise at his skill.
"It's nothing; I carry a pail of water up here without spilling a
She stiffened slightly under this remark, and indeed so far overdid
her attempt to walk without his aid, that her foot slipped on a
stone, and she fell outward toward the abyss. But in an instant
his arm was transferred from her elbow to her waist, and in the
momentum of his quick recovery they both landed panting against the
"I'm afraid you'd have spilt the pail that time," she said, with a
slightly heightened color, as she disengaged herself gently from
"No," he answered boldly, "for the pail never would have stiffened
itself in a tiff, and tried to go alone."
"Of course not, if it were only a pail," she responded.
They moved on again in silence. The trail was growing a little
steeper toward the upper end and the road bank. Bray was often
himself obliged to seek the friendly aid of a manzanita or
thornbush to support them. Suddenly she stopped and caught his
arm. "There!" she said. "Listen! They're coming!"
Bray listened; he could hear at intervals a far-off shout; then a
nearer one--a name--"Eugenia." So that was HERS!
"Shall I shout back?" he asked.
"Not yet!" she answered. "Are we near the top?" A sudden glow of
pleasure came over him--he knew not why, except that she did not
look delighted, excited, or even relieved.
"Only a few yards more," he said, with an unaffected half sigh.
"Then I'd better untie this," she suggested, beginning to fumble at
the knot of the handkerchief which linked them.
Their heads were close together, their fingers often met; he would
have liked to say something, but he could only add: "Are you sure
you will feel quite safe? It is a little steeper as we near the
"You can hold me," she replied simply, with a superbly unconscious
lifting of her arm, as she yielded her waist to him again, but
without raising her eyes.
He did,--holding her rather tightly, I fear, as they clambered up
the remaining slope, for it seemed to him as a last embrace. As he
lifted her to the road bank, the shouts came nearer; and glancing
up, he saw two men and a woman running down the hill toward them.
He turned to Eugenia. In that instant she had slipped the tattered
dust-coat from her shoulder, thrown it over her arm, set her hat
straight, and was calmly awaiting them with a self-possession and
coolness that seemed to shame their excitement. He noticed, too,
with the quick perception of unimportant things which comes to some
natures at such moments, that she had plucked a sprig of wild
myrtle from the mountain side, and was wearing it on her breast.
"Goodness Heavens! Genie! What has happened! Where have you
"Eugenia! this is perfect madness!" began the elder man
didactically. "You have alarmed us beyond measure--kept the stage
waiting, and now it is gone!"
"Genie! Look here, I say! We've been hunting for you everywhere.
What's up?" said the younger man, with brotherly brusqueness.
As these questions were all uttered in the same breath, Eugenia
replied to them collectively. "It was so hot that I kept along the
bank here, while you were on the other side. I heard the trickle of
water somewhere down there, and searching for it my foot slipped.
This gentleman"--she indicated Bray--"was on a little sort of a
trail there, and assisted me back to the road again."
The two men and the woman turned and stared at Bray with a look of
curiosity that changed quickly into a half contemptuous unconcern.
They saw a youngish sort of man, with a long mustache, a two days'
growth of beard, a not overclean face, that was further streaked
with red on the temple, a torn flannel shirt, that showed a very
white shoulder beside a sunburnt throat and neck, and soiled white
trousers stuck into muddy high boots--in fact, the picture of a
broken-down miner. But their unconcern was as speedily changed
again into resentment at the perfect ease and equality with which
he regarded them, a regard the more exasperating as it was not
without a suspicion of his perception of some satire or humor in
"Ahem! very much obliged, I am sure. I--er"--
"The lady has thanked me," interrupted Bray, with a smile.
"Did you fall far?" said the younger man to Eugenia, ignoring Bray.
"Not far," she answered, with a half appealing look at Bray.
"Only a few feet," added the latter, with prompt mendacity, "just a
little slip down."
The three new-comers here turned away, and, surrounding Eugenia,
conversed in an undertone. Quite conscious that he was the subject
of discussion, Bray lingered only in the hope of catching a parting
glance from Eugenia. The words "YOU do it," "No, YOU!" "It would
come better from HER," were distinctly audible to him. To his
surprise, however, she suddenly broke through them, and advancing
to him, with a dangerous brightness in her beautiful eyes, held out
her slim hand. "My father, Mr. Neworth, my brother, Harry Neworth,
and my aunt, Mrs. Dobbs," she said, indicating each one with a
graceful inclination of her handsome head, "all think I ought to
give you something and send you away. I believe that is the way
they put it. I think differently! I come to ask you to let me
once more thank you for your good service to me to-day--which I
shall never forget." When he had returned her firm handclasp for a
minute, she coolly rejoined the discomfited group.
"She's no sardine," said Bray to himself emphatically, "but I
suspect she'll catch it from her folks for this. I ought to have
gone away at once, like a gentleman, hang it!"
He was even angrily debating with himself whether he ought not to
follow her to protect her from her gesticulating relations as they
all trailed up the hill with her, when he reflected that it would
only make matters worse. And with it came the dreadful reflection
that as yet he had not carried the water to his expecting and
thirsty comrades. He had forgotten them for these lazy, snobbish,
purse-proud San Franciscans--for Bray had the miner's supreme
contempt for the moneyed trading classes. What would the boys
think of him! He flung himself over the bank, and hastened
recklessly down the trail to the spring. But here again he
lingered--the place had become suddenly hallowed. How deserted it
looked without her! He gazed eagerly around on the ledge for any
trace that she had left--a bow, a bit of ribbon, or even a hairpin
that had fallen from her.
As the young man slowly filled the pail he caught sight of his own
reflection in the spring. It certainly was not that of an Adonis!
He laughed honestly; his sense of humor had saved him from many an
extravagance, and mitigated many a disappointment before this.
Well! She was a plucky, handsome girl--even if she was not for
him, and he might never set eyes on her again. Yet it was a hard
pull up that trail once more, carrying an insensible pail of water
in the hand that had once sustained a lovely girl! He remembered
her reply to his badinage, "Of course not--if it were only a pail,"
and found a dozen pretty interpretations of it. Yet he was not in
love! No! He was too poor and too level headed for that! And he
was unaffectedly and materially tired, too, when he reached the
road again, and rested, leaving the spring and its little idyl
By this time the sun had left the burning ledge of the Eureka
Company, and the stage road was also in shadow, so that his return
through its heavy dust was less difficult. And when he at last
reached the camp, he found to his relief that his prolonged absence
had been overlooked by his thirsty companions in a larger
excitement and disappointment; for it appeared that a well-known
San Francisco capitalist, whom the foreman had persuaded to visit
their claim with a view to advance and investment, had actually
come over from Red Dog for that purpose, and had got as far as the
summit when he was stopped by an accident, and delayed so long that
he was obliged to go on to Sacramento without making his examination.
"That was only his excuse--mere flap-doodle!" interrupted the
pessimistic Jerrold. "He was foolin' you; he'd heard of suthin
better! The idea of calling that affair an 'accident,' or one that
would stop any man who meant business!"
Bray had become uneasily conscious. "What was the accident?" he
"A d----d fool woman's accident," broke in the misogynist
Parkhurst, "and it's true! That's what makes it so cussed mean.
For there's allus a woman at the bottom of such things--bet your
life! Think of 'em comin' here. Thar ought to be a law agin it."
"But what was it?" persisted Bray, becoming more apprehensive.
"Why, what does that blasted fool of a capitalist do but bring with
him his daughter and auntie to 'see the wonderful scenery with popa
dear!' as if it was a cheap Sunday-school panorama! And what do
these chuckle-headed women do but get off the coach and go to
wanderin' about, and playin' 'here we go round the mulberry bush'
until one of 'em tumbles down a ravine. And then there's a great
to do! and 'dear popa' was up and down the road yellin' 'Me cheyld!
me cheyld!' And then there was camphor and sal volatile and eau de
cologne to be got, and the coach goes off, and 'popa dear' gets
left, and then has to hurry off in a buggy to catch it. So WE get
left too, just because that God-forsaken fool, Neworth, brings his
Under this recital poor Bray sat as completely crushed as when the
fair daughter of Neworth had descended upon his shoulders at the
spring. He saw it all! HIS was the fault. It was HIS delay and
dalliance with her that had checked Neworth's visit; worse than
that, it was his subsequent audacity and her defense of him that
would probably prevent any renewal of the negotiations. He had
shipwrecked his partners' prospects in his absurd vanity and pride!
He did not dare to raise his eyes to their dejected faces. He
would have confessed everything to them, but the same feeling of
delicacy for her which had determined him to keep her adventures to
himself now forever sealed his lips. How might they not misconstrue
his conduct--and HERS! Perhaps something of this was visible in
"Come, old man," said the cheerful misogynist, with perfect
innocence, "don't take it so hard. Some time in a man's life a
woman's sure to get the drop on him, as I said afore, and this yer
woman's got the drop on five of us! But--hallo, Ned, old man--
what's the matter with your head?" He laid his hand gently on the
matted temple of his younger partner.
"I had--a slip--on the trail," he stammered. "Had to go back again
for another pailful. That's what delayed me, you know, boys," he
added. "But it's nothing!"
"Nothing!" ejaculated Parkhurst, clapping him on the back and
twisting him around by the shoulders so that he faced his
companions. "Nothing! Look at him, gentlemen; and he says it's
'nothing.' That's how a MAN takes it! HE didn't go round yellin'
and wringin' his hands and sayin' 'Me pay-l! me pay-l!' when it
spilt! He just humped himself and trotted back for another. And
yet every drop of water in that overset bucket meant hard work and
hard sweat, and was as precious as gold."
Luckily for Bray, whose mingled emotions under Parkhurst's
eloquence were beginning to be hysterical, the foreman interrupted.
"Well, boys! it's time we got to work again, and took another heave
at the old ledge! But now that this job of Neworth's is over--I
don't mind tellin' ye suthin." As their leader usually spoke but
little, and to the point, the four men gathered around him.
"Although I engineered this affair, and got it up, somehow, I never
SAW that Neworth standing on this ledge! No, boys! I never saw
him HERE." The look of superstition which Bray and the others had
often seen on this old miner's face, and which so often showed
itself in his acts, was there. "And though I wanted him to come,
and allowed to have him come, I'm kinder relieved that he didn't,
and so let whatsoever luck's in the air come to us five alone,
boys, just as we stand."
The next morning Bray was up before his companions, and although it
was not his turn, offered to bring water from the spring. He was
not in love with Eugenia--he had not forgotten his remorse of the
previous day--but he would like to go there once more before he
relentlessly wiped out her image from his mind. And he had heard
that although Neworth had gone on to Sacramento, his son and the
two ladies had stopped on for a day or two at the ditch
superintendent's house on the summit, only two miles away. She
might pass on the road; he might get a glimpse of her again and a
wave of her hand before this thing was over forever, and he should
have to take up the daily routine of his work again. It was not
love--of THAT he was assured--but it was the way to stop it by
convincing himself of its madness. Besides, in view of all the
circumstances, it was his duty as a gentleman to show some concern
for her condition after the accident and the disagreeable
contretemps which followed it.
Thus Bray! Alas, none of these possibilities occurred. He found
the spring had simply lapsed into its previous unsuggestive
obscurity,--a mere niche in the mountain side that held only--
water! The stage road was deserted save for an early, curly-headed
schoolboy, whom he found lurking on the bank, but who evaded his
company and conversation. He returned to the camp quite cured of
his fancy. His late zeal as a water-carrier had earned him a day
or two's exemption from that duty. His place was taken the next
afternoon by the woman-hating Parkhurst, and he was the less
concerned by it as he had heard that the same afternoon the ladies
were to leave the summit for Sacramento.
But then occurred a singular coincidence. The new water-bringer
was as scandalously late in his delivery of the precious fluid as
his predecessor! An hour passed and he did not return. His
unfortunate partners, toiling away with pick and crowbar on the
burning ledge, were clamorous from thirst, and Bray was becoming
absurdly uneasy. It could not be possible that Eugenia's accident
had been repeated! Or had she met him with inquiries? But no! she
was already gone. The mystery was presently cleared, however, by
the abrupt appearance of Parkhurst running towards them, but
WITHOUT HIS PAIL! The cry of consternation and despair which
greeted that discovery was, however, quickly changed by a single
breathless, half intelligible sentence he had shot before him from
his panting lips. And he was holding something in his outstretched
palm that was more eloquent than words. Gold!
In an instant they had him under the shade of the pine-tree, and
were squatting round him like schoolboys. He was profoundly
agitated. His story, far from being brief, was incoherent and at
times seemed irrelevant, but that was characteristic. They would
remember that he had always held the theory that, even in quartz
mining, the deposits were always found near water, past or present,
with signs of fluvial erosion! He didn't call himself one of your
blanked scientific miners, but his head was level! It was all very
well for them to say "Yes, yes!" NOW, but they didn't use to!
Well! when he got to the spring, he noticed that there had been a
kind of landslide above it, of course, from water cleavage, and
there was a distinct mark of it on the mountain side, where it had
uprooted and thrown over some small bushes!
Excited as Bray was, he recognized with a hysterical sensation the
track made by Eugenia in her fall, which he himself had noticed.
But he had thought only of HER.
"When I saw that," continued Parkhurst, more rapidly and
coherently, "I saw that there was a crack above the hole where the
water came through--as if it had been the old channel of the
spring. I widened it a little with my clasp knife, and then--in a
little pouch or pocket of decomposed quartz--I found that! Not
only that, boys," he continued, rising, with a shout, "but the
whole slope above the spring is a mass of seepage underneath, as if
you'd played a hydraulic hose on it, and it's ready to tumble and
is just rotten with quartz!"
The men leaped to their feet; in another moment they had snatched
picks, pans, and shovels, and, the foreman leading, with a coil of
rope thrown over his shoulders, were all flying down the trail to
the highway. Their haste was wise. The spring was not on THEIR
claim; it was known to others; it was doubtful if Parkhurst's
discovery with his knife amounted to actual WORK on the soil. They
must "take it up" with a formal notice, and get to work at once!
In an hour they were scattered over the mountain side, like bees
clinging to the fragrant slope of laurel and myrtle above the
spring. An excavation was made beside it, and the ledge broadened
by a dozen feet. Even the spring itself was utilized to wash the
hastily filled prospecting pans. And when the Pioneer Coach slowly
toiled up the road that afternoon, the passengers stared at the
scarcely dry "Notice of Location" pinned to the pine by the road
bank, whence Eugenia had fallen two days before!
Eagerly and anxiously as Edward Bray worked with his companions, it
was with more conflicting feelings. There was a certain sense of
desecration in their act. How her proud lip would have curled had
she seen him--he who but a few hours before would have searched the
whole slope for the treasure of a ribbon, a handkerchief, or a bow
from her dress--now delving and picking the hillside for that
fortune her accident had so mysteriously disclosed. Mysteriously
he believed, for he had not fully accepted Parkhurst's story.
That gentle misogynist had never been an active prospector; an
inclination to theorize without practice and to combat his
partners' experience were all against his alleged process of
discovery, although the gold was actually there; and his conduct
that afternoon was certainly peculiar. He did but little of the
real work; but wandered from man to man, with suggestions, advice,
and exhortations, and the air of a superior patron. This might
have been characteristic, but mingled with it was a certain nervous
anxiety and watchfulness. He was continually scanning the stage
road and the trail, staring eagerly at any wayfarer in the
distance, and at times falling into fits of strange abstraction.
At other times he would draw near to one of his fellow partners, as
if for confidential disclosure, and then check himself and wander
aimlessly away. And it was not until evening came that the mystery
The prospecting pans had been duly washed and examined, the slope
above and below had been fully explored and tested, with a result
and promise that outran their most sanguine hopes. There was no
mistaking the fact that they had made a "big" strike. That
singular gravity and reticence, so often observed in miners at
these crises, had come over them as they sat that night for the
last time around their old camp-fire on the Eureka ledge, when
Parkhurst turned impulsively to Bray. "Roll over here," he said in
a whisper. "I want to tell ye suthin!"
Bray "rolled" beyond the squatting circle, and the two men
gradually edged themselves out of hearing of the others. In the
silent abstraction that prevailed nobody noticed them.
"It's got suthin to do with this discovery," said Parkhurst, in a
low, mysterious tone, "but as far as the gold goes, and our equal
rights to it as partners, it don't affect them. If I," he
continued in a slightly patronizing, paternal tone, "choose to make
you and the other boys sharers in what seems to be a special
Providence to ME, I reckon we won't quarrel on it. It's a mighty
curious, singular thing. It's one of those things ye read about in
books and don't take any stock in! But we've got the gold--and
I've got the black and white to prove it--even if it ain't exactly
His voice sank so low, his manner was so impressive, that despite
his known exaggeration, Bray felt a slight thrill of superstition.
Meantime Parkhurst wiped his brow, took a folded slip of paper and
a sprig of laurel from his pocket, and drew a long breath.
"When I got to the spring this afternoon," he went on, in a
nervous, tremulous, and scarcely audible voice, "I saw this bit o'
paper, folded note-wise, lyin' on the ledge before it. On top of
it was this sprig of laurel, to catch the eye. I ain't the man to
pry into other folks' secrets, or read what ain't mine. But on the
back o' this note was written 'To Jack!' It's a common enough
name, but it's a singular thing, ef you'll recollect, thar ain't
ANOTHER Jack in this company, not on the whole ridge betwixt this
and the summit, except MYSELF! So I opened it, and this is what it
read!" He held the paper sideways toward the leaping light of the
still near camp-fire, and read slowly, with the emphasis of having
read it many times before.
"'I want you to believe that I, at least, respect and honor your
honest, manly calling, and when you strike it rich, as you surely
will, I hope you will sometimes think of Jill.'"
In the thrill of joy, hope, and fear that came over Bray, he could
see that Parkhurst had not only failed to detect his secret, but
had not even connected the two names with their obvious suggestion.
"But do you know anybody named Jill?" he asked breathlessly.
"It's no NAME," said Parkhurst in a sombre voice, "it's a THING!"
"A thing?" repeated Bray, bewildered.
"Yes, a measure--you know--two fingers of whiskey."
"Oh, a 'gill,'" said Bray.
"That's what I said, young man," returned Parkhurst gravely.
Bray choked back a hysterical laugh; spelling was notoriously not
one of Parkhurst's strong points. "But what has a 'gill' got to do
with it?" he asked quickly.
"It's one of them Sphinx things, don't you see? A sort of riddle
or rebus, you know. You've got to study it out, as them old chaps
did. But I fetched it. What comes after 'gills,' eh?"
"Pints, I suppose," said Bray.
"And after pints?"
"QUARTZ, and there you are. So I looked about me for quartz, and
sure enough struck it the first pop."
Bray cast a quick look at Parkhurst's grave face. The man was
evidently impressed and sincere. "Have you told this to any one?"
he asked quickly.
"Then DON'T! or you'll spoil the charm, and bring us ill luck!
That's the rule, you know. I really don't know that you ought to
have told me," added the artful Bray, dissembling his intense joy
at this proof of Eugenia's remembrance.
"But," said Parkhurst blankly, "you see, old man, you'd been the
last man at the spring, and I kinder thought"--
"Don't think," said Bray promptly, "and above all, don't talk; not
a word to the boys of this. Stay! Give me the paper and the
sprig. I've got to go to San Francisco next week, and I'll take
care of it and think it out!" He knew that Parkhurst might be
tempted to talk, but without the paper his story would be treated
lightly. Parkhurst handed him the paper, and the two men returned
to the camp-fire.
That night Bray slept but little. The superstition of the lover is
no less keen than that of the gambler, and Bray, while laughing at
Parkhurst's extravagant fancy, I am afraid was equally inclined to
believe that their good fortune came through Eugenia's influence.
At least he should tell her so, and her precious note became now an
invitation as well as an excuse for seeking her. The only fear
that possessed him was that she might have expected some
acknowledgment of her note before she left that afternoon; the only
thing he could not understand was how she had managed to convey the
note to the spring, for she could not have taken it herself. But
this would doubtless be explained by her in San Francisco, whither
he intended to seek her. His affairs, the purchasing of machinery
for their new claim, would no doubt give him easy access to her
But it was one thing to imagine this while procuring a new and
fashionable outfit in San Francisco, and quite another to stand
before the "palatial" residence of the Neworths on Rincon Hill,
with the consciousness of no other introduction than the memory of
the Neworths' discourtesy on the mountain, and, even in his fine
feathers, Bray hesitated. At this moment a carriage rolled up to
the door, and Eugenia, an adorable vision of laces and silks,
Forgetting everything else, he advanced toward her with outstretched
hand. He saw her start, a faint color come into her face; he knew
he was recognized; but she stiffened quickly again, the color
vanished, her beautiful gray eyes rested coldly on him for a moment,
and then, with the faintest inclination of her proud head, she swept
by him and entered the house.
But Bray, though shocked, was not daunted, and perhaps his own
pride was awakened. He ran to his hotel, summoned a messenger,
inclosed her note in an envelope, and added these lines:--
DEAR MISS NEWORTH,--I only wanted to thank you an hour ago, as I
should like to have done before, for the kind note which I inclose,
but which you have made me feel I have no right to treasure any
longer, and to tell you that your most generous wish and prophecy
has been more than fulfilled.
Yours, very gratefully,
Within the hour the messenger returned with the still briefer
"Miss Neworth has been fully aware of that preoccupation with his
good fortune which prevented Mr. Bray from an earlier acknowledgment
of her foolish note."
Cold as this response was, Bray's heart leaped. She HAD lingered
on the summit, and HAD expected a reply. He seized his hat, and,
jumping into the first cab at the hotel door, drove rapidly back to
the house. He had but one idea, to see her at any cost, but one
concern, to avoid a meeting with her father first, or a denial at
her very door.
He dismissed the cab at the street corner and began to reconnoitre
the house. It had a large garden in the rear, reclaimed from the
adjacent "scrub oak" infested sand hill, and protected by a high
wall. If he could scale that wall, he could command the premises.
It was a bright morning; she might be tempted into the garden. A
taller scrub oak grew near the wall; to the mountain-bred Bray it
was an easy matter to swing himself from it to the wall, and he
did. But his momentum was so great that he touched the wall only
to be obliged to leap down into the garden to save himself from
falling there. He heard a little cry, felt his feet strike some
tin utensil, and rolled on the ground beside Eugenia and her
They both struggled to their feet with an astonishment that turned
to laughter in their eyes and the same thought in the minds of
"But we are not on the mountains now, Mr. Bray," said Eugenia,
taking her handkerchief at last from her sobering face and
"But we are quits," said Bray. "And you now know my real name. I
only came here to tell you why I could not answer your letter the
same day. I never got it--I mean," he added hurriedly, "another
man got it first."
She threw up her head, and her face grew pale. "ANOTHER man got
it," she repeated, "and YOU let another man"--
"No, no," interrupted Bray imploringly. "You don't understand.
One of my partners went to the spring that afternoon, and found it;
but he neither knows who sent it, nor for whom it was intended."
He hastily recounted Parkhurst's story, his mysterious belief, and
his interpretation of the note. The color came back to her face
and the smile to her lips and eyes. "I had gone twice to the
spring after I saw you, but I couldn't bear its deserted look
without you," he added boldly. Here, seeing her face grew grave
again, he added, "But how did you get the letter to the spring? and
how did you know that it was found that day?"
It was her turn to look embarrassed and entreating, but the
combination was charming in her proud face. "I got the little
schoolboy at the summit," she said, with girlish hesitation, "to
take the note. He knew the spring, but he didn't know YOU. I told
him--it was very foolish, I know--to wait until you came for water,
to be certain that you got the note, to wait until you came up, for
I thought you might question him, or give him some word." Her face
was quite rosy now. "But," she added, and her lip took a divine
pout, "he said he waited TWO HOURS; that you never took the LEAST
CONCERN of the letter or him, but went around the mountain side,
peering and picking in every hole and corner of it, and then he got
tired and ran away. Of course I understand it now, it wasn't YOU;
but oh, please; I beg you, Mr. Bray, don't!"
Bray released the little hand which he had impulsively caught, and
which had allowed itself to be detained for a blissful moment.
"And now, don't you think, Mr. Bray," she added demurely, "that you
had better let me fill my pail again while you go round to the
front door and call upon me properly?"
"But your father"--
"My father, as a well-known investor, regrets exceedingly that he
did not make your acquaintance more thoroughly in his late brief
interview. He is, as your foreman knows, exceedingly interested in
the mines on Eureka ledge. He will be glad if you will call." She
led him to a little door in the wall, which she unbolted. "And now