Part 1 out of 3
This etext was prepared by Donald Lainson, email@example.com.
IN THE CARQUINEZ WOODS
by Bret Harte
The sun was going down on the Carquinez Woods. The few shafts of
sunlight that had pierced their pillared gloom were lost in
unfathomable depths, or splintered their ineffectual lances on
the enormous trunks of the redwoods. For a time the dull red of
their vast columns, and the dull red of their cast-off bark which
matted the echoless aisles, still seemed to hold a faint glow of
the dying day. But even this soon passed. Light and color fled
upwards. The dark interlaced treetops, that had all day made an
impenetrable shade, broke into fire here and there; their lost
spires glittered, faded, and went utterly out. A weird twilight
that did not come from the outer world, but seemed born of the
wood itself, slowly filled and possessed the aisles. The
straight, tall, colossal trunks rose dimly like columns of upward
smoke. The few fallen trees stretched their huge length into
obscurity, and seemed to lie on shadowy trestles. The strange
breath that filled these mysterious vaults had neither coldness
nor moisture; a dry, fragrant dust arose from the noiseless foot
that trod their bark-strewn floor; the aisles might have been
tombs, the fallen trees enormous mummies; the silence the
solitude of a forgotten past.
And yet this silence was presently broken by a recurring sound
like breathing, interrupted occasionally by inarticulate and
stertorous gasps. It was not the quick, panting, listening
breath of some stealthy feline or canine animal, but indicated a
larger, slower, and more powerful organization, whose progress
was less watchful and guarded, or as if a fragment of one of the
fallen monsters had become animate. At times this life seemed to
take visible form, but as vaguely, as misshapenly, as the phantom
of a nightmare. Now it was a square object moving sideways,
endways, with neither head nor tail and scarcely visible feet;
then an arched bulk rolling against the trunks of the trees and
recoiling again, or an upright cylindrical mass, but always
oscillating and unsteady, and striking the trees on either hand.
The frequent occurrence of the movement suggested the figures of
some weird rhythmic dance to music heard by the shape alone.
Suddenly it either became motionless or faded away.
There was the frightened neighing of a horse, the sudden jingling
of spurs, a shout and outcry, and the swift apparition of three
dancing torches in one of the dark aisles; but so intense was the
obscurity that they shed no light on surrounding objects, and
seemed to advance of their own volition without human guidance,
until they disappeared suddenly behind the interposing bulk of
one of the largest trees. Beyond its eighty feet of circumference
the light could not reach, and the gloom remained inscrutable.
But the voices and jingling spurs were heard distinctly.
"Blast the mare! She's shied off that cursed trail again."
"Ye ain't lost it again, hev ye?" growled a second voice.
"That's jist what I hev. And these blasted pine-knots don't give
light an inch beyond 'em. D--d if I don't think they make this
cursed hole blacker."
There was a laugh--a woman's laugh--hysterical, bitter,
sarcastic, exasperating. The second speaker, without heeding it,
"What in thunder skeert the hosses? Did you see or hear
"Nothin'. The wood is like a graveyard."
The woman's voice again broke into a hoarse, contemptuous laugh.
The man resumed angrily:--
"If you know anything, why in h-ll don't you say so, instead of
cackling like a d--d squaw there? P'raps you reckon you ken find
the trail too."
"Take this rope off my wrist," said the woman's voice, "untie my
hands, let me down, and I'll find it." She spoke quickly and
with a Spanish accent.
It was the men's turn to laugh. "And give you a show to snatch
that six-shooter and blow a hole through me, as you did to the
Sheriff of Calaveras, eh? Not if this court understands itself,"
said the first speaker dryly.
"Go to the devil, then," she said curtly.
"Not before a lady," responded the other. There was another
laugh from the men, the spurs jingled again, the three torches
reappeared from behind the tree, and then passed away in the
For a time silence and immutability possessed the woods; the
great trunks loomed upwards, their fallen brothers stretched
their slow length into obscurity. The sound of breathing again
became audible; the shape reappeared in the aisle, and
recommenced its mystic dance. Presently it was lost in the
shadow of the largest tree, and to the sound of breathing
succeeded a grating and scratching of bark. Suddenly, as if
riven by lightning, a flash broke from the center of the tree-
trunk, lit up the woods, and a sharp report rang through it.
After a pause the jingling of spurs and the dancing of torches
were revived from the distance.
"Who fired that shot?"
But there was no reply. A slight veil of smoke passed away to
the right, there was the spice of gunpowder in the air, but
The torches came forward again, but this time it could be seen
they were held in the hands of two men and a woman. The woman's
hands were tied at the wrist to the horse-hair reins of her mule,
while a riata, passed around her waist and under the mule's
girth, was held by one of the men, who were both armed with
rifles and revolvers. Their frightened horses curveted, and it
was with difficulty they could be made to advance.
"Ho! stranger, what are you shooting at?"
The woman laughed and shrugged her shoulders. "Look yonder at
the roots of the tree. You're a d--d smart man for a sheriff,
The man uttered an exclamation and spurred his horse forward, but
the animal reared in terror. He then sprang to the ground and
approached the tree. The shape lay there, a scarcely
"A grizzly, by the living Jingo! Shot through the heart."
It was true. The strange shape lit up by the flaring torches
seemed more vague, unearthly, and awkward in its dying throes,
yet the small shut eyes, the feeble nose, the ponderous
shoulders, and half-human foot armed with powerful claws were
unmistakable. The men turned by a common impulse and peered into
the remote recesses of the wood again.
"Hi, Mister! come and pick up your game. Hallo there!"
The challenge fell unheeded on the empty woods.
"And yet," said he whom the woman had called the sheriff, "he
can't be far off. It was a close shot, and the bear hez dropped
in his tracks. Why, wot's this sticking in his claws?"
The two men bent over the animal. "Why, it's sugar, brown sugar--
look!" There was no mistake. The huge beast's fore paws and
muzzle were streaked with the unromantic household provision, and
heightened the absurd contrast of its incongruous members. The
woman, apparently indifferent, had taken that opportunity to
partly free one of her wrists.
"If we hadn't been cavorting round this yer spot for the last
half hour, I'd swear there was a shanty not a hundred yards
away," said the sheriff.
The other man, without replying, remounted his horse instantly.
"If there is, and it's inhabited by a gentleman that kin make
centre shots like that in the dark, and don't care to explain
how, I reckon I won't disturb him."
The sheriff was apparently of the same opinion, for he followed
his companion's example, and once more led the way. The spurs
tinkled, the torches danced, and the cavalcade slowly reentered
the gloom. In another moment it had disappeared.
The wood sank again into repose, this time disturbed by neither
shape nor sound. What lower forms of life might have crept close
to its roots were hidden in the ferns, or passed with deadened
tread over the bark-strewn floor. Towards morning a coolness
like dew fell from above, with here and there a dropping twig or
nut, or the crepitant awakening and stretching-out of cramped and
weary branches. Later a dull, lurid dawn, not unlike the last
evening's sunset, filled the aisles. This faded again, and a
clear gray light, in which every object stood out in sharp
distinctness, took its place. Morning was waiting outside in all
its brilliant, youthful coloring, but only entered as the matured
and sobered day.
Seen in that stronger light, the monstrous tree near which the
dead bear lay revealed its age in its denuded and scarred trunk,
and showed in its base a deep cavity, a foot or two from the
ground, partly hidden by hanging strips of bark which had fallen
across it. Suddenly one of these strips was pushed aside, and a
young man leaped lightly down.
But for the rifle he carried and some modern peculiarities of
dress, he was of a grace so unusual and unconventional that he
might have passed for a faun who was quitting his ancestral home.
He stepped to the side of the bear with a light elastic movement
that was as unlike customary progression as his face and figure
were unlike the ordinary types of humanity. Even as he leaned
upon his rifle, looking down at the prostrate animal, he
unconsciously fell into an attitude that in any other mortal
would have been a pose, but with him was the picturesque and
unstudied relaxation of perfect symmetry.
He raised his head so carelessly and listlessly that he did not
otherwise change his attitude. Stepping from behind the tree,
the woman of the preceding night stood before him. Her hands
were free except for a thong of the riata, which was still
knotted around one wrist, the end of the thong having been torn
or burnt away. Her eyes were bloodshot, and her hair hung over
her shoulders in one long black braid.
"I reckoned all along it was YOU who shot the bear," she said;
"at least some one hiding yer," and she indicated the hollow tree
with her hand. "It wasn't no chance shot." Observing that the
young man, either from misconception or indifference, did not
seem to comprehend her, she added, "We came by here, last night,
a minute after you fired."
"Oh, that was YOU kicked up such a row, was it?" said the young
man, with a shade of interest.
"I reckon," said the woman, nodding her head, "and them that was
"And who are they?"
"Sheriff Dunn, of Yolo, and his deputy."
"And where are they now?"
"The deputy--in h-ll, I reckon; I don't know about the sheriff."
"I see," said the young man quietly; "and you?"
"I--got away," she said savagely. But she was taken with a
sudden nervous shiver, which she at once repressed by tightly
dragging her shawl over her shoulders and elbows, and folding her
"And you're going?"
"To follow the deputy, may be," she said gloomily. "But come, I
say, ain't you going to treat? It's cursed cold here."
"Wait a moment." The young man was looking at her, with his
arched brows slightly knit and a half smile of curiosity. "Ain't
She was prepared for the question, but evidently was not certain
whether she would reply defiantly or confidently. After an
exhaustive scrutiny of his face she chose the latter, and said,
"You can bet your life on it, Johnny."
"I don't bet, and my name isn't Johnny. Then you're the woman
who stabbed Dick Curson over at Lagrange's?"
She became defiant again.
"That's me, all the time. What are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing. And you used to dance at the Alhambra?" She whisked
the shawl from her shoulders, held it up like a scarf, and made
one or two steps of the sembicuacua. There was not the least
gayety, recklessness, or spontaneity in the action; it was simply
mechanical bravado. It was so ineffective, even upon her own
feelings, that her arms presently dropped to her side, and she
coughed embarrassedly. "Where's that whiskey, pardner?" she
The young man turned toward the tree he had just quitted, and
without further words assisted her to mount to the cavity. It
was an irregular-shaped vaulted chamber, pierced fifty feet above
by a shaft or cylindrical opening in the decayed trunk, which was
blackened by smoke, as if it had served the purpose of a chimney.
In one corner lay a bearskin and blanket; at the side were two
alcoves or indentations, one of which was evidently used as a
table, and the other as a cupboard. In another hollow, near the
entrance, lay a few small sacks of flour, coffee, and sugar, the
sticky contents of the latter still strewing the floor. From
this storehouse the young man drew a wicker flask of whiskey, and
handed it, with a tin cup of water, to the woman. She waved the
cup aside, placed the flask to her lips, and drank the undiluted
spirit. Yet even this was evidently bravado, for the water
started to her eyes, and she could not restrain the paroxysm of
coughing that followed.
"I reckon that's the kind that kills at forty rods," she said,
with a hysterical laugh. "But I say, pardner, you look as if you
were fixed here to stay," and she stared ostentatiously around
the chamber. But she had already taken in its minutest details,
even to observing that the hanging strips of bark could be
disposed so as to completely hide the entrance.
"Well, yes," he replied; "it wouldn't be very easy to pull up the
stakes and move the shanty further on."
Seeing that either from indifference or caution he had not
accepted her meaning, she looked at him fixedly, and said,--
"What is your little game?"
"What are you hiding for--here, in this tree?"
"But I'm not hiding."
"Then why didn't you come out when they hailed you last night?"
"Because I didn't care to."
Teresa whistled incredulously. "All right--then if you're not
hiding, I'm going to." As he did not reply, she went on: "If I
can keep out of sight for a couple of weeks, this thing will blow
over here, and I can get across into Yolo. I could get a fair
show there, where the boys know me. Just now the trails are all
watched, but no one would think of lookin' here."
"Then how did you come to think of it?" he asked carelessly.
"Because I knew that bear hadn't gone far for that sugar; because
I know he hadn't stole it from a cache--it was too fresh, and
we'd have seen the torn-up earth; because we had passed no camp;
and because I knew there was no shanty here. And, besides," she
added in a low voice, "maybe I was huntin' a hole myself to die
in--and spotted it by instinct."
There was something in this suggestion of a hunted animal that,
unlike anything she had previously said or suggested, was not
exaggerated, and caused the young man to look at her again. She
was standing under the chimney-like opening, and the light from
above illuminated her head and shoulders. The pupils of her eyes
had lost their feverish prominence, and were slightly suffused
and softened as she gazed abstractedly before her. The only
vestige of her previous excitement was in her left-hand fingers,
which were incessantly twisting and turning a diamond ring upon
her right hand, but without imparting the least animation to her
rigid attitude. Suddenly, as if conscious of his scrutiny, she
stepped aside out of the revealing light and by a swift feminine
instinct raised her hand to her head as if to adjust her straggling
hair. It was only for a moment, however, for, as if aware of the
weakness, she struggled to resume her aggressive pose.
"Well," she said. "Speak up. Am I goin' to stop here, or have I
got to get up and get?"
"You can stay," said the young man quietly; "but as I've got my
provisions and ammunition here, and haven't any other place to go
to just now, I suppose we'll have to share it together."
She glanced at him under her eyelids, and a half-bitter, half-
contemptuous smile passed across her face. "All right, old man,"
she said, holding out her hand, "it's a go. We'll start in
housekeeping at once, if you like."
"I'll have to come here once or twice a day," he said, quite
composedly, "to look after my things, and get something to eat;
but I'll be away most of the time, and what with camping out
under the trees every night I reckon my share won't incommode
She opened her black eyes upon him, at this original proposition.
Then she looked down at her torn dress. "I suppose this style of
thing ain't very fancy, is it?" she said, with a forced laugh.
"I think I know where to beg or borrow a change for you, if you
can't get any," he replied simply.
She stared at him again. "Are you a family man?"
She was silent for a moment. "Well," she said, "you can tell
your girl I'm not particular about its being in the latest
There was a slight flush on his forehead as he turned toward the
little cupboard, but no tremor in his voice as he went on:
"You'll find tea and coffee here, and, if you're bored, there's a
book or two. You read, don't you--I mean English?"
She nodded, but cast a look of undisguised contempt upon the two
worn, coverless novels he held out to her. "You haven't got last
week's 'Sacramento Union,' have you? I hear they have my case
all in; only them lying reporters made it out against me all the
"I don't see the papers," he replied curtly.
"They say there's a picture of me in the 'Police Gazette,' taken
in the act," and she laughed.
He looked a little abstracted, and turned as if to go. "I think
you'll do well to rest a while just now, and keep as close hid as
possible until afternoon. The trail is a mile away at the
nearest point, but some one might miss it and stray over here.
You're quite safe if you're careful, and stand by the tree. You
can build a fire here," he stepped under the chimney-like
opening, "without its being noticed. Even the smoke is lost and
cannot be seen so high."
The light from above was falling on his head and shoulders, as it
had on hers. She looked at him intently.
"You travel a good deal on your figure, pardner, don't you?" she
said, with a certain admiration that was quite sexless in its
quality; "but I don't see how you pick up a living by it in the
Carquinez Woods. So you're going, are you? You might be more
"Good-by!" He leaped from the opening.
"I say pardner!"
He turned a little impatiently. She had knelt down at the
entrance, so as to be nearer his level, and was holding out her
hand. But he did not notice it, and she quietly withdrew it.
"If anybody dropped in and asked for you, what name will they say?"
He smiled. "Don't wait to hear."
"But suppose I wanted to sing out for you, what will I call you?"
He hesitated. "Call me--Lo."
"Lo, the poor Indian?"*
* The first word of Pope's familiar apostrophe is humorously used
in the Far West as a distinguishing title for the Indian.
It suddenly occurred to the woman, Teresa, that in the young
man's height, supple, yet erect carriage, color, and singular
gravity of demeanor there was a refined, aboriginal suggestion.
He did not look like any Indian she had ever seen, but rather as
a youthful chief might have looked. There was a further
suggestion in his fringed buckskin shirt and moccasins; but
before she could utter the half-sarcastic comment that rose to
her lips he had glided noiselessly away, even as an Indian might
She readjusted the slips of hanging bark with feminine ingenuity,
dispersing them so as to completely hide the entrance. Yet this
did not darken the chamber, which seemed to draw a purer and more
vigorous light through the soaring shaft that pierced the roof
than that which came from the dim woodland aisles below.
Nevertheless, she shivered, and drawing her shawl closely around
her began to collect some half-burnt fragments of wood in the
chimney to make a fire. But the preoccupation of her thoughts
rendered this a tedious process, as she would from time to time
stop in the middle of an action and fall into an attitude of rapt
abstraction, with far-off eyes and rigid mouth. When she had at
last succeeded in kindling a fire and raising a film of pale blue
smoke, that seemed to fade and dissipate entirely before it
reached the top of the chimney shaft, she crouched beside it,
fixed her eyes on the darkest corner of the cavern, and became
What did she see through that shadow?
Nothing at first but a confused medley of figures and incidents
of the preceding night; things to be put away and forgotten;
things that would not have happened but for another thing--the
thing before which everything faded! A ball-room; the sounds of
music; the one man she had cared for insulting her with the
flaunting ostentation of his unfaithfulness; herself despised,
put aside, laughed at, or worse, jilted. And then the moment of
delirium, when the light danced; the one wild act that lifted
her, the despised one, above them all--made her the supreme
figure, to be glanced at by frightened women, stared at by half-
startled, half-admiring men! "Yes," she laughed; but struck by
the sound of her own voice, moved twice round the cavern
nervously, and then dropped again into her old position.
As they carried him away he had laughed at her--like a hound that
he was; he who had praised her for her spirit, and incited her
revenge against others; he who had taught her to strike when she
was insulted; and it was only fit he should reap what he had
sown. She was what he, what other men, had made her. And what
was she now? What had she been once?
She tried to recall her childhood: the man and woman who might
have been her father and mother; who fought and wrangled over her
precocious little life; abused or caressed her as she sided with
either; and then left her with a circus troupe, where she first
tasted the power of her courage, her beauty, and her
recklessness. She remembered those flashes of triumph that left
a fever in her veins--a fever that when it failed must be
stimulated by dissipation, by anything, by everything that would
keep her name a wonder in men's mouths, an envious fear to women.
She recalled her transfer to the strolling players; her cheap
pleasures, and cheaper rivalries and hatred--but always Teresa!
the daring Teresa! the reckless Teresa! audacious as a woman,
invincible as a boy; dancing, flirting, fencing, shooting,
swearing, drinking, smoking, fighting Teresa! "Oh, yes; she had
been loved, perhaps--who knows?--but always feared. Why should
she change now? Ha, he should see."
She had lashed herself in a frenzy, as was her wont, with
gestures, ejaculations, oaths, adjurations, and passionate
apostrophes, but with this strange and unexpected result.
Heretofore she had always been sustained and kept up by an
audience of some kind or quality, if only perhaps a humble
companion; there had always been some one she could fascinate or
horrify, and she could read her power mirrored in their eyes.
Even the half-abstracted indifference of her strange host had
been something. But she was alone now. Her words fell on
apathetic solitude; she was acting to viewless space. She rushed
to the opening, dashed the hanging bark aside, and leaped to the
She ran forward wildly a few steps, and stopped.
"Hallo!" she cried. "Look, 'tis I, Teresa!"
The profound silence remained unbroken. Her shrillest tones were
lost in an echoless space, even as the smoke of her fire had
faded into pure ether. She stretched out her clenched fists as
if to defy the pillared austerities of the vaults around her.
"Come and take me if you dare!"
The challenge was unheeded. If she had thrown herself violently
against the nearest tree-trunk, she could not have been stricken
more breathless than she was by the compact, embattled solitude
that encompassed her. The hopelessness of impressing these cold
and passive vaults with her selfish passion filled her with a
vague fear. In her rage of the previous night she had not seen
the wood in its profound immobility. Left alone with the majesty
of those enormous columns, she trembled and turned faint. The
silence of the hollow tree she had just quitted seemed to her
less awful than the crushing presence of these mute and monstrous
witnesses of her weakness. Like a wounded quail with lowered
crest and trailing wing, she crept back to her hiding place.
Even then the influence of the wood was still upon her. She
picked up the novel she had contemptuously thrown aside, only to
let it fall again in utter weariness. For a moment her feminine
curiosity was excited by the discovery of an old book, in whose
blank leaves were pressed a variety of flowers and woodland
grasses. As she could not conceive that these had been kept for
any but a sentimental purpose, she was disappointed to find that
underneath each was a sentence in an unknown tongue, that even to
her untutored eye did not appear to be the language of passion.
Finally she rearranged the couch of skins and blankets, and,
imparting to it in three clever shakes an entirely different
character, lay down to pursue her reveries. But nature asserted
herself, and ere she knew it she was asleep.
So intense and prolonged had been her previous excitement that,
the tension once relieved, she passed into a slumber of
exhaustion so deep that she seemed scarce to breathe. High noon
succeeded morning, the central shaft received a single ray of
upper sunlight, the afternoon came and went, the shadows gathered
below, the sunset fires began to eat their way through the
groined roof, and she still slept. She slept even when the bark
hangings of the chamber were put aside, and the young man
He laid down a bundle he was carrying and softly approached the
sleeper. For a moment he was startled from his indifference; she
lay so still and motionless. But this was not all that struck
him; the face before him was no longer the passionate, haggard
visage that confronted him that morning; the feverish air, the
burning color, the strained muscles of mouth and brow, and the
staring eyes were gone; wiped away, perhaps, by the tears that
still left their traces on cheek and dark eyelash. It was the
face of a handsome woman of thirty, with even a suggestion of
softness in the contour of the cheek and arching of her upper
lip, no longer rigidly drawn down in anger, but relaxed by sleep
on her white teeth.
With the lithe, soft tread that was habitual to him, the young
man moved about, examining the condition of the little chamber
and its stock of provisions and necessaries, and withdrew
presently, to reappear as noiselessly with a tin bucket of water.
This done, he replenished the little pile of fuel with an armful
of bark and pine cones, cast an approving glance about him, which
included the sleeper, and silently departed.
It was night when she awoke. She was surrounded by a profound
darkness, except where the shaft-like opening made a nebulous
mist in the corner of her wooden cavern. Providentially she
struggled back to consciousness slowly, so that the solitude and
silence came upon her gradually, with a growing realization of
the events of the past twenty-four hours, but without a shock.
She was alone here, but safe still, and every hour added to her
chances of ultimate escape. She remembered to have seen a candle
among the articles on the shelf, and she began to grope her way
towards the matches. Suddenly she stopped. What was that panting?
Was it her own breathing, quickened with a sudden nameless
terror? or was there something outside? Her heart seemed to stop
beating while she listened. Yes! it was a panting outside--a
panting now increased, multiplied, redoubled, mixed with the
sounds of rustling, tearing, craunching, and occasionally a
quick, impatient snarl. She crept on her hands and knees to the
opening and looked out. At first the ground seemed to be
undulating between her and the opposite tree. But a second
glance showed her the black and gray, bristling, tossing backs of
tumbling beasts of prey, charging the carcass of the bear that
lay at its roots, or contesting for the prize with gluttonous,
choked breath, sidelong snarls, arched spines, and recurved
tails. One of the boldest had leaped upon a buttressing root of
her tree within a foot of the opening. The excitement, awe, and
terror she had undergone culminated in one wild, maddened scream,
that seemed to pierce even the cold depths of the forest, as she
dropped on her face, with her hands clasped over her eyes in an
agony of fear.
Her scream was answered, after a pause, by a sudden volley of
firebrands and sparks into the midst of the panting, crowding
pack; a few smothered howls and snaps, and a sudden dispersion of
the concourse. In another moment the young man, with a blazing
brand in either hand, leaped upon the body of the bear.
Teresa raised her head, uttered a hysterical cry, slid down the
tree, flew wildly to his side, caught convulsively at his sleeve,
and fell on her knees beside him.
"Save me! save me!" she gasped, in a voice broken by terror.
"Save me from those hideous creatures. No, no!" she implored, as
he endeavored to lift her to her feet. "No--let me stay here
close beside you. So," clutching the fringe of his leather
hunting-shirt, and dragging herself on her knees nearer him--
"so--don't leave me, for God's sake!"
"They are gone," he replied, gazing down curiously at her, as she
wound the fringe around her hand to strengthen her hold; "they're
only a lot of cowardly coyotes and wolves, that dare not attack
anything that lives and can move."
The young woman responded with a nervous shudder. "Yes, that's
it," she whispered, in a broken voice; "it's only the dead they
want. Promise me--swear to me, if I'm caught, or hung, or shot,
you won't let me be left here to be torn and--ah! my God! what's
She had thrown her arms around his knees, completely pinioning
him to her frantic breast. Something like a smile of disdain
passed across his face as he answered, "It's nothing. They will
not return. Get up!"
Even in her terror she saw the change in his face. "I know, I
know!" she cried. "I'm frightened--but I cannot bear it any
longer. Hear me! Listen! Listen--but don't move! I didn't
mean to kill Curson--no! I swear to God, no! I didn't mean to
kill the sheriff--and I didn't. I was only bragging--do you
hear? I lied! I lied--don't move, I swear to God I lied. I've
made myself out worse than I was. I have. Only don't leave me
now--and if I die--and it's not far off, may be--get me away from
here--and from THEM. Swear it!"
"All right," said the young man, with a scarcely concealed
movement of irritation. "But get up now, and go back to the
"No; not THERE alone." Nevertheless, he quietly but firmly
"I will stay here," he replied. "I would have been nearer to
you, but I thought it better for your safety that my camp-fire
should be further off. But I can build it here, and that will
keep the coyotes off."
"Let me stay with you--beside you," she said imploringly.
She looked so broken, crushed, and spiritless, so unlike the
woman of the morning that, albeit with an ill grace, he tacitly
consented, and turned away to bring his blankets. But in the
next moment she was at his side, following him like a dog, silent
and wistful, and even offering to carry his burden. When he had
built the fire, for which she had collected the pine-cones and
broken branches near them, he sat down, folded his arms, and
leaned back against the tree in reserved and deliberate silence.
Humble and submissive, she did not attempt to break in upon a
reverie she could not help but feel had little kindliness to
herself. As the fire snapped and sparkled, she pillowed her head
upon a root, and lay still to watch it.
It rose and fell, and dying away at times to a mere lurid glow,
and again, agitated by some breath scarcely perceptible to them,
quickening into a roaring flame. When only the embers remained,
a dead silence filled the wood. Then the first breath of morning
moved the tangled canopy above, and a dozen tiny sprays and
needles detached from the interlocked boughs winged their soft
way noiselessly to the earth. A few fell upon the prostrate
woman like a gentle benediction, and she slept. But even then,
the young man, looking down, saw that the slender fingers were
still aimlessly but rigidly twisted in the leather fringe of his
It was a peculiarity of the Carquinez Wood that it stood apart
and distinct in its gigantic individuality. Even where the
integrity of its own singular species was not entirely preserved,
it admitted no inferior trees. Nor was there any diminishing
fringe on its outskirts; the sentinels that guarded the few
gateways of the dim trails were as monstrous as the serried ranks
drawn up in the heart of the forest. Consequently, the red
highway that skirted the eastern angle was bare and shadeless,
until it slipped a league off into a watered valley and refreshed
itself under lesser sycamores and willows. It was here the newly
born city of Excelsior, still in its cradle, had, like an infant
Hercules, strangled the serpentine North Fork of the American
river, and turned its life current into the ditches and flumes of
the Excelsior mines.
Newest of the new houses that seemed to have accidentally formed
its single, straggling street was the residence of the Rev.
Winslow Wynn, not unfrequently known as "Father Wynn," pastor of
the First Baptist church. The "pastorage," as it was cheerfully
called, had the glaring distinction of being built of brick, and
was, as had been wickedly pointed out by idle scoffers, the only
"fireproof" structure in town. This sarcasm was not, however,
supposed to be particularly distasteful to "Father Wynn," who
enjoyed the reputation of being "hail fellow, well met" with the
rough mining element, who called them by their Christian names,
had been known to drink at the bar of the Polka Saloon while
engaged in the conversion of a prominent citizen, and was
popularly said to have no "gospel starch" about him. Certain
conscious outcasts and transgressors were touched at this
apparent unbending of the spiritual authority. The rigid tenets
of Father Wynn's faith were lost in the supposed catholicity of
his humanity. "A preacher that can jine a man when he's histin'
liquor into him, without jawin' about it, ought to be allowed to
wrestle with sinners and splash about in as much cold water as he
likes," was the criticism of one of his converts. Nevertheless,
it was true that Father Wynn was somewhat loud and intolerant in
his tolerance. It was true that he was a little more rough, a
little more frank, a little more hearty, a little more impulsive
than his disciples. It was true that often the proclamation of
his extreme liberality and brotherly equality partook somewhat of
an apology. It is true that a few who might have been most
benefited by this kind of gospel regarded him with a singular
disdain. It is true that his liberality was of an ornamental,
insinuating quality, accompanied with but little sacrifice; his
acceptance of a collection taken up in a gambling saloon for the
rebuilding of his church, destroyed by fire, gave him a
popularity large enough, it must be confessed, to cover the sins
of the gamblers themselves, but it was not proven that HE had
ever organized any form of relief. But it was true that local
history somehow accepted him as an exponent of mining
Christianity, without the least reference to the opinions of the
Christian miners themselves.
The Rev. Mr. Wynn's liberal habits and opinions were not,
however, shared by his only daughter, a motherless young lady of
eighteen. Nellie Wynn was in the eye of Excelsior an
unapproachable divinity, as inaccessible and cold as her father
was impulsive and familiar. An atmosphere of chaste and proud
virginity made itself felt even in the starched integrity of her
spotless skirts, in her neatly gloved finger-tips, in her clear
amber eyes, in her imperious red lips, in her sensitive nostrils.
Need it be said that the youth and middle age of Excelsior were
madly, because apparently hopelessly, in love with her? For the
rest, she had been expensively educated, was profoundly ignorant
in two languages, with a trained misunderstanding of music and
painting, and a natural and faultless taste in dress.
The Rev. Mr. Wynn was engaged in a characteristic hearty parting
with one of his latest converts, upon his own doorstep, with
admirable al fresco effect. He had just clapped him on the
shoulder. "Good-by, good-by, Charley, my boy, and keep in the
right path; not up, or down, or round the gulch, you know--ha,
ha!--but straight across lots to the shining gate." He had
raised his voice under the stimulus of a few admiring spectators,
and backed his convert playfully against the wall. "You see!
we're goin' in to win, you bet. Good-by! I'd ask you to step in
and have a chat, but I've got my work to do, and so have you.
The gospel mustn't keep us from that, must it, Charley? Ha, ha!"
The convert (who elsewhere was a profane expressman, and had
become quite imbecile under Mr. Wynn's active heartiness and
brotherly horse-play before spectators) managed, however, to
feebly stammer with a blush something about "Miss Nellie."
"Ah, Nellie. She, too, is at her tasks--trimming her lamp--you
know, the parable of the wise virgins," continued Father Wynn
hastily, fearing that the convert might take the illustration
literally. "There, there--good-by. Keep in the right path."
And with a parting shove he dismissed Charley and entered his own
That "wise virgin," Nellie, had evidently finished with the lamp,
and was now going out to meet the bridegroom, as she was fully
dressed and gloved, and had a pink parasol in her hand, as her
father entered the sitting-room. His bluff heartiness seemed to
fade away as he removed his soft, broad-brimmed hat and glanced
across the too fresh-looking apartment. There was a smell of
mortar still in the air, and a faint suggestion that at any
moment green grass might appear between the interstices of the
red-brick hearth. The room, yielding a little in the point of
coldness, seemed to share Miss Nellie's fresh virginity, and,
barring the pink parasol, set her off as in a vestal's cell.
"I supposed you wouldn't care to see Brace, the expressman, so I
got rid of him at the door," said her father, drawing one of the
new chairs towards him slowly, and sitting down carefully, as if
it were a hitherto untried experiment.
Miss Nellie's face took a tint of interest. "Then he doesn't go
with the coach to Indian Spring to-day?"
"I thought of going over myself to get the Burnham girls to come
to choir-meeting," replied Miss Nellie carelessly, "and he might
have been company."
"He'd go now, if he knew you were going," said her father; "but
it's just as well he shouldn't be needlessly encouraged. I
rather think that Sheriff Dunn is a little jealous of him. By
the way, the sheriff is much better. I called to cheer him up
to-day" (Mr. Wynn had in fact tumultuously accelerated the sick
man's pulse), "and he talked of you, as usual. In fact, he said
he had only two things to get well for. One was to catch and
hang that woman Teresa, who shot him; the other--can't you guess
the other?" he added archly, with a faint suggestion of his other
Miss Nellie coldly could not.
The Rev. Mr. Wynn's archness vanished. "Don't be a fool," he
said dryly. "He wants to marry you, and you know it."
"Most of the men here do," responded Miss Nellie, without the
least trace of coquetry. "Is the wedding or the hanging to take
place first, or together, so he can officiate at both?"
"His share in the Union Ditch is worth a hundred thousand
dollars," continued her father; "and if he isn't nominated for
district judge this fall, he's bound to go to the legislature,
anyway. I don't think a girl with your advantages and education
can afford to throw away the chance of shining in Sacramento, San
Francisco, or, in good time, perhaps even Washington."
Miss Nellie's eyes did not reflect entire disapproval of this
suggestion, although she replied with something of her father's
"Mr. Dunn is not out of his bed yet, and they say Teresa's got
away to Arizona, so there isn't any particular hurry."
"Perhaps not; but see here, Nellie, I've some important news for
you. You know your young friend of the Carquinez Woods--Dorman,
the botanist, eh? Well, Brace knows all about him. And what do
you think he is?"
Miss Nellie took upon herself a few extra degrees of cold, and
"An Injin! Yes, an out-and-out Cherokee. You see he calls
himself Dorman--Low Dorman. That's only French for 'Sleeping
Water,' his Injin name!--'Low Dorman.'"
"You mean 'L'Eau Dormante,'" said Nellie.
"That's what I said. The chief called him 'Sleeping Water' when
he was a boy, and one of them French Canadian trappers translated
it into French when he brought him to California to school. But
he's an Injin, sure. No wonder he prefers to live in the woods."
"Well?" said Nellie.
"Well," echoed her father impatiently, "he's an Injin, I tell
you, and you can't of course have anything to do with him. He
mustn't come here again."
"But you forget," said Nellie imperturbably, "that it was you who
invited him here, and were so much exercised over him. You
remember you introduced him to the Bishop and those Eastern
clergymen as a magnificent specimen of a young Californian. You
forget what an occasion you made of his coming to church on
Sunday, and how you made him come in his buckskin shirt and walk
down the street with you after service!"
"Yes, yes," said the Rev. Mr. Wynn, hurriedly.
"And," continued Nellie carelessly, "how you made us sing out of
the same book 'Children of our Father's Fold,' and how you
preached at him until he actually got a color!"
"Yes," said her father; "but it wasn't known then he was an
Injin, and they are frightfully unpopular with those Southwestern
men among whom we labor. Indeed, I am quite convinced that when
Brace said 'the only good Indian was a dead one' his expression,
though extravagant, perhaps, really voiced the sentiments of the
majority. It would be only kindness to the unfortunate creature
to warn him from exposing himself to their rude but conscientious
"Perhaps you'd better tell him, then, in your own popular way,
which they all seem to understand so well," responded the
daughter. Mr. Wynn cast a quick glance at her, but there was no
trace of irony in her face--nothing but a half-bored indifference
as she walked toward the window.
"I will go with you to the coach-office," said her father, who
generally gave these simple paternal duties the pronounced
character of a public Christian example.
"It's hardly worth while," replied Miss Nellie. "I've to stop at
the Watsons', at the foot of the hill, and ask after the baby; so
I shall go on to the Crossing and pick up the coach when it
Nevertheless, as soon as Nellie had departed, the Rev. Mr. Wynn
proceeded to the coach-office, and publicly grasping the hand of
Yuba Bill, the driver, commended his daughter to his care in the
name of the universal brotherhood of man and the Christian
fraternity. Carried away by his heartiness, he forgot his
previous caution, and confided to the expressman Miss Nellie's
regrets that she was not to have that gentleman's company. The
result was that Miss Nellie found the coach with its passengers
awaiting her with uplifted hats and wreathed smiles at the
Crossing, and the box seat (from which an unfortunate stranger,
who had expensively paid for it, had been summarily ejected) at
her service beside Yuba Bill, who had thrown away his cigar and
donned a new pair of buckskin gloves to do her honor. But a more
serious result to the young beauty was the effect of the Rev. Mr.
Wynn's confidences upon the impulsive heart of Jack Brace, the
expressman. It has been already intimated that it was his "day
off." Unable to summarily reassume his usual functions beside
the driver without some practical reason, and ashamed to go so
palpably as a mere passenger, he was forced to let the coach
proceed without him. Discomfited for the moment, he was not,
however, beaten. He had lost the blissful journey by her side,
which would have been his professional right, but--she was going
to Indian Spring! could he not anticipate her there? Might they
not meet in the most accidental manner? And what might not come
from that meeting away from the prying eyes of their own town?
Mr. Brace did not hesitate, but saddling his fleet Buckskin, by
the time the stage-coach had passed the Crossing in the high-road
he had mounted the hill and was dashing along the "cutoff" in the
same direction, a full mile in advance. Arriving at Indian
Spring, he left his horse at a Mexican posada on the confines of
the settlement, and from the piled debris of a tunnel excavation
awaited the slow arrival of the coach. On mature reflection he
could give no reason why he had not boldly awaited it at the
express office, except a certain bashful consciousness of his own
folly, and a belief that it might be glaringly apparent to the
bystanders. When the coach arrived and he had overcome this
consciousness, it was too late. Yuba Bill had discharged his
passengers for Indian Spring and driven away. Miss Nellie was in
the settlement, but where? As time passed he became more
desperate and bolder. He walked recklessly up and down the main
street, glancing in at the open doors of shops, and even in the
windows of private dwellings. It might have seemed a poor
compliment to Miss Nellie, but it was an evidence of his complete
preoccupation, when the sight of a female face at a window, even
though it was plain or perhaps painted, caused his heart to
bound, or the glancing of a skirt in the distance quickened his
feet and his pulses. Had Jack contented himself with remaining
at Excelsior he might have vaguely regretted, but as soon become
as vaguely accustomed to, Miss Nellie's absence. But it was not
until his hitherto quiet and passive love took this first step of
action that it fully declared itself. When he had made the tour
of the town a dozen times unsuccessfully, he had perfectly made
up his mind that marriage with Nellie or the speedy death of
several people, including possibly himself, was the only
alternative. He regretted he had not accompanied her; he
regretted he had not demanded where she was going; he
contemplated a course of future action that two hours ago would
have filled him with bashful terror. There was clearly but one
thing to do--to declare his passion the instant he met her, and
return with her to Excelsior an accepted suitor, or not to return
Suddenly he was vexatiously conscious of hearing his name lazily
called, and looking up found that he was on the outskirts of the
town, and interrogated by two horsemen.
"Got down to walk, and the coach got away from you, Jack, eh?"
A little ashamed of his preoccupation, Brace stammered something
about "collections." He did not recognize the men, but his own
face, name, and business were familiar to everybody for fifty
miles along the stage-road.
"Well, you can settle a bet for us, I reckon. Bill Dacre thar
bet me five dollars and the drinks that a young gal we met at the
edge of the Carquinez Woods, dressed in a long brown duster and
half muffled up in a hood, was the daughter of Father Wynn of
Excelsior. I did not get a fair look at her, but it stands to
reason that a high-toned young lady like Nellie Wynn don't go
trap'sing along the wood like a Pike County tramp. I took the
bet. May be you know if she's here or in Excelsior?"
Mr. Brace felt himself turning pale with eagerness and
excitement. But the near prospect of seeing her presently gave
him back his caution, and he answered truthfully that he had left
her in Excelsior, and that in his two hours' sojourn in Indian
Spring he had not met her once. "But," he added, with a
Californian's reverence for the sanctity of a bet, "I reckon
you'd better make it a stand-off for twenty-four hours, and I'll
find out and let you know." Which, it is only fair to say, he
honestly intended to do.
With a hurried nod of parting, he continued in the direction of
the Woods. When he had satisfied himself that the strangers had
entered the settlement, and would not follow him for further
explanation, he quickened his pace. In half an hour he passed
between two of the gigantic sentinels that guarded the entrance
to a trail. Here he paused to collect his thoughts. The Woods
were vast in extent, the trail dim and uncertain--at times
apparently breaking off, or intersecting another trail as faint
as itself. Believing that Miss Nellie had diverged from the
highway only as a momentary excursion into the shade, and that
she would not dare to penetrate its more sombre and unknown
recesses, he kept within sight of the skirting plain. By degrees
the sedate influence of the silent vaults seemed to depress him.
The ardor of the chase began to flag. Under the calm of their
dim roof the fever of his veins began to subside; his pace
slackened; he reasoned more deliberately. It was by no means
probable that the young woman in a brown duster was Nellie; it
was not her habitual traveling dress; it was not like her to walk
unattended in the road; there was nothing in her tastes and
habits to take her into this gloomy forest, allowing that she had
even entered it; and on this absolute question of her identity
the two witnesses were divided. He stopped irresolutely, and
cast a last, long, half-despairing look around him. Hitherto he
had given that part of the wood nearest the plain his greatest
attention. His glance now sought its darker recesses. Suddenly
he became breathless. Was it a beam of sunlight that had pierced
the groined roof above, and now rested against the trunk of one
of the dimmer, more secluded giants? No, it was moving; even as
he gazed it slipped away, glanced against another tree, passed
across one of the vaulted aisles, and then was lost again. Brief
as was the glimpse, he was not mistaken--it was the figure of a
In another moment he was on her track, and soon had the
satisfaction of seeing her reappear at a lesser distance. But
the continual intervention of the massive trunks made the chase
by no means an easy one, and as he could not keep her always in
sight he was unable to follow or understand the one intelligent
direction which she seemed to invariably keep. Nevertheless, he
gained upon her breathlessly, and, thanks to the bark-strewn
floor, noiselessly. He was near enough to distinguish and
recognize the dress she wore, a pale yellow, that he had admired
when he first saw her. It was Nellie, unmistakably; if it were
she of the brown duster, she had discarded it, perhaps for
greater freedom. He was near enough to call out now, but a
sudden nervous timidity overcame him; his lips grew dry. What
should he say to her? How account for his presence? "Miss
Nellie, one moment!" he gasped. She darted forward and--vanished.
At this moment he was not more than a dozen yards from her. He
rushed to where she had been standing, but her disappearance was
perfect and complete. He made a circuit of the group of trees
within whose radius she had last appeared, but there was neither
trace of her, nor a suggestion of her mode of escape. He called
aloud to her; the vacant Woods let his helpless voice die in
their unresponsive depths. He gazed into the air and down at the
bark-strewn carpet at his feet. Like most of his vocation, he
was sparing of speech, and epigrammatic after his fashion.
Comprehending in one swift but despairing flash of intelligence
the existence of some fateful power beyond his own weak endeavor,
he accepted its logical result with characteristic grimness,
threw his hat upon the ground, put his hands in his pockets, and
"Well, I'm d--d!"
Out of compliment to Miss Nellie Wynn, Yuba Bill, on reaching
Indian Spring, had made a slight detour to enable him to
ostentatiously set down his fair passenger before the door of the
Burnhams. When it had closed on the admiring eyes of the
passengers and the coach had rattled away, Miss Nellie, without
any undue haste or apparent change in her usual quiet demeanor,
managed, however, to dispatch her business promptly, and, leaving
an impression that she would call again before her return to
Excelsior, parted from her friends and slipped away through a
side street to the General Furnishing Store of Indian Spring. In
passing this emporium, Miss Nellie's quick eye had discovered a
cheap brown linen duster hanging in its window. To purchase it,
and put it over her delicate cambric dress, albeit with a
shivering sense that she looked like a badly folded brown-paper
parcel, did not take long. As she left the shop it was with
mixed emotions of chagrin and security that she noticed that her
passage through the settlement no longer turned the heads of its
male inhabitants. She reached the outskirts of Indian Spring and
the high-road at about the time Mr. Brace had begun his fruitless
patrol of the main street. Far in the distance a faint olive-
green table mountain seemed to rise abruptly from the plain. It
was the Carquinez Woods. Gathering her spotless skirts beneath
her extemporized brown domino, she set out briskly towards them.
But her progress was scarcely free or exhilarating. She was not
accustomed to walking in a country where "buggy-riding" was
considered the only genteel young-lady-like mode of progression,
and its regular provision the expected courtesy of mankind.
Always fastidiously booted, her low-quartered shoes were charming
to the eye, but hardly adapted to the dust and inequalities of
the highroad. It was true that she had thought of buying a
coarser pair at Indian Spring, but once face to face with their
uncompromising ugliness, she had faltered and fled. The sun was
unmistakably hot, but her parasol was too well known and offered
too violent a contrast to the duster for practical use. Once she
stopped with an exclamation of annoyance, hesitated, and looked
back. In half an hour she had twice lost her shoe and her
temper; a pink flush took possession of her cheeks, and her eyes
were bright with suppressed rage. Dust began to form grimy
circles around their orbits; with cat-like shivers she even felt
it pervade the roots of her blond hair. Gradually her breath
grew more rapid and hysterical, her smarting eyes became humid,
and at last, encountering two observant horsemen in the road, she
turned and fled, until, reaching the wood, she began to cry.
Nevertheless she waited for the two horsemen to pass, to satisfy
herself that she was not followed; then pushed on vaguely, until
she reached a fallen tree, where, with a gesture of disgust, she
tore off her hapless duster and flung it on the ground. She then
sat down sobbing, but after a moment dried her eyes hurriedly and
started to her feet. A few paces distant, erect, noiseless, with
outstretched hand, the young solitary of the Carquinez Woods
advanced towards her. His hand had almost touched hers, when he
"What has happened?" he asked gravely.
"Nothing," she said, turning half away, and searching the ground
with her eyes, as if she had lost something. "Only I must be
going back now."
"You shall go back at once, if you wish it," he said, flushing
slightly. "But you have been crying; why?"
Frank as Miss Nellie wished to be, she could not bring herself to
say that her feet hurt her, and the dust and heat were ruining
her complexion. It was therefore with a half-confident belief
that her troubles were really of a moral quality that she
answered, "Nothing--nothing, but--but--it's wrong to come here."
"But you did not think it was wrong when you agreed to come, at
our last meeting," said the young man, with that persistent logic
which exasperates the inconsequent feminine mind. "It cannot be
any more wrong to-day."
"But it was not so far off," murmured the young girl, without
"Oh, the distance makes it more improper, then," he said
abstractedly; but after a moment's contemplation of her half-
averted face, he asked gravely, "Has anyone talked to you about me?"
Ten minutes before, Nellie had been burning to unburthen herself
of her father's warning, but now she felt she would not. "I wish
you wouldn't call yourself Low," she said at last.
"But it's my name," he replied quietly.
"Nonsense! It's only a stupid translation of a stupid nickname.
They might as well call you 'Water' at once."
"But you said you liked it."
"Well, so I do. But don't you see--I--oh dear! you don't
Low did not reply, but turned his head with resigned gravity
towards the deeper woods. Grasping the barrel of his rifle with
his left hand, he threw his right arm across his left wrist and
leaned slightly upon it with the habitual ease of a Western
hunter--doubly picturesque in his own lithe, youthful symmetry.
Miss Nellie looked at him from under her eyelids, and then half
defiantly raised her head and her dark lashes. Gradually an
almost magical change came over her features; her eyes grew
larger and more and more yearning, until they seemed to draw and
absorb in their liquid depths the figure of the young man before
her; her cold face broke into an ecstasy of light and color; her
humid lips parted in a bright, welcoming smile, until, with an
irresistible impulse, she arose, and throwing back her head
stretched towards him two hands full of vague and trembling
In another moment he had seized them, kissed them, and, as he
drew her closer to his embrace, felt them tighten around his
neck. "But what name do you wish to call me?" he asked, looking
down into her eyes.
Miss Nellie murmured something confidentially to the third button
of his hunting shirt. "But that," he replied, with a smile,
"THAT wouldn't be any more practical, and you wouldn't want
others to call me dar--" Her fingers loosened around his neck,
she drew her head back, and a singular expression passed over her
face, which to any calmer observer than a lover would have
seemed, however, to indicate more curiosity than jealousy.
"Who else DOES call you so?" she added earnestly. "How many, for
Low's reply was addressed not to her ear, but her lips. She did
not avoid it, but added, "And do you kiss them all like that?"
Taking him by the shoulders, she held him a little way from her,
and gazed at him from head to foot. Then drawing him again to
her embrace, she said, "I don't care, at least no woman has
kissed you like that." Happy, dazzled, and embarrassed, he was
beginning to stammer the truthful protestation that rose to his
lips, but she stopped him: "No, don't protest! say nothing! Let
ME love YOU--that is all. It is enough." He would have caught
her in his arms again, but she drew back. "We are near the
road," she said quietly. "Come! You promised to show me where
you camped. Let US make the most of our holiday. In an hour I
must leave the woods."
"But I shall accompany you, dearest."
"No, I must go as I came--alone."
"I tell you no," she said, with an almost harsh practical
decision, incompatible with her previous abandonment. "We might
be seen together."
"Well, suppose we are; we must be seen together eventually," he
The young girl made an involuntary gesture of impatient negation,
but checked herself. "Don't let us talk of that now. Come,
while I am here under your own roof--" she pointed to the high
interlaced boughs above them--"you must be hospitable. Show me
your home; tell me, isn't it a little gloomy sometimes?"
"It never has been; I never thought it WOULD be until the moment
you leave it to-day."
She pressed his hand briefly and in a half-perfunctory way, as if
her vanity had accepted and dismissed the compliment. "Take me
somewhere," she said inquisitively, "where you stay most; I do
not seem to see you HERE," she added, looking around her with a
slight shiver. "It is so big and so high. Have you no place
where you eat and rest and sleep?"
"Except in the rainy season, I camp all over the place--at any
spot where I may have been shooting or collecting."
"Collecting?" queried Nellie.
"Yes; with the herbarium, you know."
"Yes," said Nellie dubiously. "But you told me once--the first
time we ever talked together," she added, looking in his eyes--
"something about your keeping your things like a squirrel in a
tree. Could we not go there? Is there not room for us to sit
and talk without being brow-beaten and looked down upon by these
"It's too far away," said Low truthfully, but with a somewhat
pronounced emphasis, "much too far for you just now; and it lies
on another trail that enters the wood beyond. But come, I will
show you a spring known only to myself, the wood ducks, and the
squirrels. I discovered it the first day I saw you, and gave it
your name. But you shall christen it yourself. It will be all
yours, and yours alone, for it is so hidden and secluded that I
defy any feet but my own or whoso shall keep step with mine to
find it. Shall that foot be yours, Nellie?"
Her face beamed with a bright assent. "It may be difficult to
track it from here," he said, "but stand where you are a moment,
and don't move, rustle, nor agitate the air in any way. The
woods are still now." He turned at right angles with the trail,
moved a few paces into the ferns and underbrush, and then stopped
with his finger on his lips. For an instant both remained
motionless; then with his intent face bent forward and both arms
extended, he began to sink slowly upon one knee and one side,
inclining his body with a gentle, perfectly-graduated movement
until his ear almost touched the ground. Nellie watched his
graceful figure breathlessly, until, like a bow unbent, he stood
suddenly erect again, and beckoned to her without changing the
direction of his face.
"What is it?" she asked eagerly.
"All right; I have found it," he continued, moving forward
without turning his head.
"But how? What did you kneel for?" He did not reply, but taking
her hand in his continued to move slowly on through the
underbrush, as if obeying some magnetic attraction. "How did you
find it?" again asked the half-awed girl, her voice unconsciously
falling to a whisper. Still silent, Low kept his rigid face and
forward tread for twenty yards further; then he stopped and
released the girl's half-impatient hand. "How did you find it?"
she repeated sharply.
"With my ears and nose," replied Low gravely.
"With your nose?"
"Yes; I smelt it."
Still fresh with the memory of his picturesque attitude, the
young man's reply seemed to involve something more irritating to
her feelings than even that absurd anticlimax. She looked at him
coldly and critically, and appeared to hesitate whether to
proceed. "Is it far?" she asked.
"Not more than ten minutes now, as I shall go."
"And you won't have to smell your way again?"
"No; it is quite plain now," he answered seriously, the young
girl's sarcasm slipping harmlessly from his Indian stolidity.
"Don't you smell it yourself?"
But Miss Nellie's thin, cold nostrils refused to take that vulgar
"Nor hear it? Listen!"
"You forget I suffer the misfortune of having been brought up
under a roof," she replied coldly.
"That's true," repeated Low, in all seriousness; "it's not your
fault. But do you know, I sometimes think I am peculiarly
sensitive to water; I feel it miles away. At night, though I may
not see it or even know where it is, I am conscious of it. It is
company to me when I am alone, and I seem to hear it in my
dreams. There is no music as sweet to me as its song. When you
sang with me that day in church, I seemed to hear it ripple in
your voice. It says to me more than the birds do, more than the
rarest plants I find. It seems to live with me and for me. It
is my earliest recollection; I know it will be my last, for I
shall die in its embrace. Do you think, Nellie," he continued,
stopping short and gazing earnestly in her face--"do you think
that the chiefs knew this when they called me 'Sleeping Water'?"
To Miss Nellie's several gifts I fear the gods had not added
poetry. A slight knowledge of English verse of a select
character, unfortunately, did not assist her in the
interpretation of the young man's speech, nor relieve her from
the momentary feeling that he was at times deficient in
intellect. She preferred, however, to take a personal view of
the question, and expressed her sarcastic regret that she had not
known before that she had been indebted to the great flume and
ditch at Excelsior for the pleasure of his acquaintance. This
pert remark occasioned some explanation, which ended in the
girl's accepting a kiss in lieu of more logical argument.
Nevertheless, she was still conscious of an inward irritation--
always distinct from her singular and perfectly material passion--
which found vent as the difficulties of their undeviating
progress through the underbrush increased. At last she lost her
shoe again, and stopped short. "It's a pity your Indian friends
did not christen you 'Wild Mustard' or 'Clover,'" she said
satirically, "that you might have had some sympathies and
longings for the open fields instead of these horrid jungles! I
know we will not get back in time."
Unfortunately, Low accepted this speech literally and with his
remorseless gravity. "If my name annoys you, I can get it
changed by the legislature, you know, and I can find out what my
father's name was, and take that. My mother, who died in giving
me birth, was the daughter of a chief."
"Then your mother was really an Indian?" said Nellie, "and you
are--" She stopped short.
"But I told you all this the day we first met," said Low, with
grave astonishment. "Don't you remember our long talk coming
"No," said Nellie coldly, "you didn't tell me." But she was
obliged to drop her eyes before the unwavering, undeniable
truthfulness of his.
"You have forgotten," he said calmly; "but it is only right you
should have your own way in disposing of a name that I have cared
little for; and as you're to have a share of it--"
"Yes, but it's getting late, and if we are not going forward--"
interrupted the girl impatiently.
"We ARE going forward," said Low imperturbably; "but I wanted to
tell you, as we were speaking on THAT subject" (Nellie looked at
her watch), "I've been offered the place of botanist and
naturalist in Professor Grant's survey of Mount Shasta, and if I
take it--why, when I come back, darling--well--"
"But you're not going just yet," broke in Nellie, with a new
expression in her face.
"Then we need not talk of it now," she said, with animation.
Her sudden vivacity relieved him. "I see what's the matter," he
said gently, looking down at her feet; "these little shoes were
not made to keep step with a moccasin. We must try another way."
He stooped as if to secure the erring buskin, but suddenly lifted
her like a child to his shoulder. "There," he continued, placing
her arm round his neck, "you are clear of the ferns and brambles
now, and we can go on. Are you comfortable?" He looked up, read
her answer in her burning eyes and the warm lips pressed to his
forehead at the roots of his straight dark hair, and again moved
onward as in a mesmeric dream. But he did not swerve from his
direct course, and with a final dash through the undergrowth
parted the leafy curtain before the spring.
At first the young girl was dazzled by the strong light that came
from a rent in the interwoven arches of the wood. The breach had
been caused by the huge bulk of one of the great giants that had
half fallen, and was lying at a steep angle against one of its
mightiest brethren, having borne down a lesser tree in the arc of
its downward path. Two of the roots, as large as younger trees,
tossed their blackened and bare limbs high in the air. The
spring--the insignificant cause of this vast disruption--gurgled,
flashed, and sparkled at the base; the limpid baby fingers that
had laid bare the foundations of that fallen column played with
the still clinging rootlets, laved the fractured and twisted
limbs, and, widening, filled with sleeping water the graves from
which they had been torn.
"It had been going on for years, down there," said Low, pointing
to a cavity from which the fresh water now slowly welled, "but it
had been quickened by the rising of the subterranean springs and
rivers which always occurs at a certain stage of the dry season.
I remember that on that very night--for it happened a little
after midnight, when all sounds are more audible--I was troubled
and oppressed in my sleep by what you would call a nightmare; a
feeling as if I was kept down by bonds and pinions that I longed
to break. And then I heard a crash in this direction, and the
first streak of morning brought me the sound and scent of water.
Six months afterwards I chanced to find my way here, as I told
you, and gave it your name. I did not dream that I should ever
stand beside it with you, and have you christen it yourself."
He unloosened the cup from his flask, and filling it at the
spring handed it to her. But the young girl leant over the pool,
and pouring the water idly back said, "I'd rather put my feet in
it. Mayn't I?"
"I don't understand you," he said wonderingly.
"My feet are SO hot and dusty. The water looks deliciously cool.
He turned away as Nellie, with apparent unconsciousness, seated
herself on the bank, and removed her shoes and stockings. When
she had dabbled her feet a few moments in the pool, she said over
"We can talk just as well, can't we?"
"Well, then, why didn't you come to church more often, and why
didn't you think of telling father that you were convicted of sin
and wanted to be baptized?"
"I don't know," hesitated the young man.
"Well, you lost the chance of having father convert you, baptize
you, and take you into full church fellowship."
"I never thought--" he began.
"You never thought. Aren't you a Christian?"
"I suppose so."
"He supposes so! Have you no convictions--no profession?"
"But, Nellie, I never thought that you--"
"Never thought that I--what? Do you think that I could ever be
anything to a man who did not believe in justification by faith,
or in the covenant of church fellowship? Do you think father
would let me?"
In his eagerness to defend himself he stepped to her side. But
seeing her little feet shining through the dark water, like
outcroppings of delicately veined quartz, he stopped embarrassed.
Miss Nellie, however, leaped to one foot, and, shaking the other
over the pool, put her hand on his shoulder to steady herself.
"You haven't got a towel--or," she said dubiously, looking at her
small handkerchief, "anything to dry them on?"
But Low did not, as she perhaps expected, offer his own handkerchief.
"If you take a bath after our fashion," he said gravely, "you
must learn to dry yourself after our fashion."
Lifting her again lightly in his arms, he carried her a few steps
to the sunny opening, and bade her bury her feet in the dried
mosses and baked withered grasses that were bleaching in a
hollow. The young girl uttered a cry of childish delight, as the
soft ciliated fibres touched her sensitive skin.
"It is healing, too," continued Low; "a moccasin filled with it
after a day on the trail makes you all right again."
But Miss Nellie seemed to be thinking of something else.
"Is that the way the squaws bathe and dry themselves?"
"I don't know; you forget I was a boy when I left them."
"And you're sure you never knew any?"
The young girl seemed to derive some satisfaction in moving her
feet up and down for several minutes among the grasses in the
hollow; then, after a pause, said, "You are quite certain I am
the first woman that ever touched this spring?"
"Not only the first woman, but the first human being, except
They had taken each other's hands; seated side by side, they
leaned against a curving elastic root that half supported, half
encompassed, them. The girl's capricious, fitful manner
succumbed as before to the near contact of her companion.
Looking into her eyes, Low fell into a sweet, selfish lover's
monologue, descriptive of his past and present feelings towards
her, which she accepted with a heightened color, a slight
exchange of sentiment, and a strange curiosity. The sun had
painted their half-embraced silhouettes against the slanting
tree-trunk, and began to decline unnoticed; the ripple of the
water mingling with their whispers came as one sound to the
listening ear; even their eloquent silences were as deep, and, I
wot, perhaps as dangerous, as the darkened pool that filled so
noiselessly a dozen yards away. So quiet were they that the
tremor of invading wings once or twice shook the silence, or the
quick scamper of frightened feet rustled the dead grass. But in
the midst of a prolonged stillness the young man sprang up so
suddenly that Nellie was still half clinging to his neck as he
stood erect. "Hush!" he whispered; "some one is near!"
He disengaged her anxious hands gently, leaped upon the slanting
tree-trunk, and running half-way up its incline with the agility
of a squirrel, stretched himself at full length upon it and
To the impatient, inexplicably startled girl, it seemed an age
before he rejoined her.
"You are safe," he said; "he is going by the western trail
towards Indian Spring."
"Who is HE?" she asked, biting her lips with a poorly restrained
gesture of mortification and disappointment.
"Some stranger," replied Low.
"As long as he wasn't coming here, why did you give me such a
fright?" she said pettishly. "Are you nervous because a single
wayfarer happens to stray here?"
"It was no wayfarer, for he tried to keep near the trail," said
Low. "He was a stranger to the wood, for he lost his way every
now and then. He was seeking or expecting some one, for he
stopped frequently and waited or listened. He had not walked
far, for he wore spurs that tinkled and caught in the brush; and
yet he had not ridden here, for no horse's hoofs passed the road
since we have been here. He must have come from Indian Spring."
"And you heard all that when you listened just now?" asked Nellie,
Impervious to her incredulity Low turned his calm eyes on her
face. "Certainly, I'll bet my life on what I say. Tell me: do
you know anybody in Indian Spring who would likely spy upon you?"
The young girl was conscious of a certain ill-defined uneasiness,
but answered, "No."
"Then it was not YOU he was seeking," said Low thoughtfully.
Miss Nellie had not time to notice the emphasis, for he added,
"You must go at once, and lest you have been followed I will show
you another way back to Indian Spring. It is longer, and you
must hasten. Take your shoes and stockings with you until we are
out of the bush."
He raised her again in his arms and strode once more out through
the covert into the dim aisles of the wood. They spoke but
little; she could not help feeling that some other discordant
element, affecting him more strongly than it did her, had come
between them, and was half perplexed and half frightened. At the
end of ten minutes he seated her upon a fallen branch, and
telling her he would return by the time she had resumed her shoes
and stockings glided from her like a shadow. She would have
uttered an indignant protest at being left alone, but he was gone
ere she could detain him. For a moment she thought she hated
him. But when she had mechanically shod herself once more, not
without nervous shivers at every falling needle, he was at her side.
"Do you know anyone who wears a frieze coat like that?" he asked,
handing her a few torn shreds of wool affixed to a splinter of bark.
Miss Nellie instantly recognized the material of a certain
sporting coat worn by Mr. Jack Brace on festive occasions, but a
strange yet infallible instinct that was part of her nature made
her instantly disclaim all knowledge of it.
"No," she said.
"Not anyone who scents himself with some doctor's stuff like
cologne?" continued Low, with the disgust of keen olfactory
Again Miss Nellie recognized the perfume with which the gallant
expressman was wont to make redolent her little parlor, but again
she avowed no knowledge of its possessor. "Well," returned Low
with some disappointment, "such a man has been here. Be on your
guard. Let us go at once."
She required no urging to hasten her steps, but hurried
breathlessly at his side. He had taken a new trail by which they
left the wood at right angles with the highway, two miles away.
Following an almost effaced mule track along a slight depression
of the plain, deep enough, however, to hide them from view, he
accompanied her, until, rising to the level again, she saw they
were beginning to approach the highway and the distant roofs of
Indian Spring. "Nobody meeting you now," he whispered, "would
suspect where you had been. Good night! until next week--remember."
They pressed each other's hands, and standing on the slight ridge
outlined against the paling sky, in full view of the highway,
parting carelessly, as if they had been chance met travelers.
But Nellie could not restrain a parting backward glance as she
left the ridge. Low had descended to the deserted trail, and was
running swiftly in the direction of the Carquinez Woods.
Teresa awoke with a start. It was day already, but how far
advanced the even, unchanging, soft twilight of the woods gave no
indication. Her companion had vanished, and to her bewildered
senses so had the camp-fire, even to its embers and ashes. Was
she awake, or had she wandered away unconsciously in the night?
One glance at the tree above her dissipated the fancy. There was
the opening of her quaint retreat and the hanging strips of bark,
and at the foot of the opposite tree lay the carcass of the bear.
It had been skinned, and, as Teresa thought with an inward
shiver, already looked half its former size.
Not yet accustomed to the fact that a few steps in either
direction around the circumference of those great trunks produced
the sudden appearance or disappearance of any figure, Teresa
uttered a slight scream as her young companion unexpectedly
stepped to her side. "You see a change here," he said; "the
stamped-out ashes of the camp-fire lie under the brush," and he
pointed to some cleverly scattered boughs and strips of bark
which completely effaced the traces of last night's bivouac. "We
can't afford to call the attention of any packer or hunter who
might straggle this way to this particular spot and this
particular tree; the more naturally," he added, "as they always
prefer to camp over an old fire." Accepting this explanation
meekly, as partly a reproach for her caprice of the previous
night, Teresa hung her head.
"I'm very sorry," she said, "but wouldn't that," pointing to the
carcass of the bear, "have made them curious?"
But Low's logic was relentless.
"By this time there would have been little left to excite curiosity,
if you had been willing to leave those beasts to their work."
"I'm very sorry," repeated the woman, her lips quivering.
"They are the scavengers of the wood," he continued in a lighter
tone; "if you stay here you must try to use them to keep your
Teresa smiled nervously.
"I mean that they shall finish their work to-night," he added,
"and I shall build another camp-fire for us a mile from here
until they do."
But Teresa caught his sleeve.
"No," she said hurriedly, "don't, please, for me. You must not
take the trouble, nor the risk. Hear me; do, please. I can bear
it, I WILL bear it--to-night. I would have borne it last night,
but it was so strange--and"--she passed her hands over her
forehead--"I think I must have been half mad. But I am not so
She seemed so broken and despondent that he replied reassuringly:
"Perhaps it would be better that I should find another hiding-
place for you, until I can dispose of that carcass so that it
will not draw dogs after the wolves, and men after THEM.
Besides, your friend the sheriff will probably remember the bear
when he remembers anything, and try to get on its track again."
"He's a conceited fool," broke in Teresa in a high voice, with a
slight return of her old fury, "or he'd have guessed where that
shot came from; and," she added in a lower tone, looking down at
her limp and nerveless fingers, "he wouldn't have let a poor,
weak, nervous wretch like me get away."
"But his deputy may put two and two together, and connect your
escape with it."
Teresa's eyes flashed. "It would be like the dog, just to save
his pride, to swear it was an ambush of my friends, and that he
was overpowered by numbers. Oh yes! I see it all!" she almost
screamed, lashing herself into a rage at the bare contemplation
of this diminution of her glory. "That's the dirty lie he tells
everywhere, and is telling now."
She stamped her feet and glanced savagely around, as if at any
risk to proclaim the falsehood. Low turned his impassive,
truthful face towards her.
"Sheriff Dunn," he began gravely, "is a politician, and a fool
when he takes to the trail as a hunter of man or beast. But he
is not a coward nor a liar. Your chances would be better if he
were--if he laid your escape to an ambush of your friends, than
if his pride held you alone responsible."
"If he's such a good man, why do you hesitate?" she replied
bitterly. "Why don't you give me up at once, and do a service to
one of your friends?"
"I do not even know him," returned Low opening his clear eyes
upon her. "I've promised to hide you here, and I shall hide you
as well from him as from anybody."
Teresa did not reply, but suddenly dropping down upon the ground
buried her face in her hands and began to sob convulsively. Low
turned impassively away, and putting aside the bark curtain
climbed into the hollow tree. In a few moments he reappeared,
laden with provisions and a few simple cooking utensils, and
touched her lightly on the shoulder. She looked up timidly; the
paroxysm had passed, but her lashes yet glittered.
"Come," he said, "come and get some breakfast. I find you have
eaten nothing since you have been here--twenty-four hours."
"I didn't know it," she said, with a faint smile. Then seeing
his burden, and possessed by a new and strange desire for some
menial employment, she said hurriedly, "Let me carry something--
do, please," and even tried to disencumber him.
Half annoyed, Low at last yielded, and handing his rifle said,
"There, then, take that; but be careful--it's loaded!"
A cruel blush burnt the woman's face to the roots of her hair as
she took the weapon hesitatingly in her hand.
"No!" she stammered, hurriedly lifting her shame-suffused eyes to
his; "no! no!"
He turned away with an impatience which showed her how completely
gratuitous had been her agitation and its significance, and said,
"Well, then, give it back if you are afraid of it." But she as
suddenly declined to return it; and shouldering it deftly, took
her place by his side. Silently they moved from the hollow tree
During their walk she did not attempt to invade his taciturnity.
Nevertheless she was as keenly alive and watchful of his every
movement and gesture as if she had hung enchanted on his lips.
The unerring way with which he pursued a viewless, undeviating
path through those trackless woods, his quick reconnaissance of
certain trees or openings, his mute inspection of some almost
imperceptible footprint of bird or beast, his critical
examination of certain plants which he plucked and deposited in
his deerskin haversack, were not lost on the quick-witted woman.
As they gradually changed the clear, unencumbered aisles of the
central woods for a more tangled undergrowth, Teresa felt that
subtle admiration which culminates in imitation, and simulating
perfectly the step, tread, and easy swing of her companion,
followed so accurately his lead that she won a gratified
exclamation from him when their goal was reached--a broken,
blackened shaft, splintered by long-forgotten lightning, in the
centre of a tangled carpet of wood-clover.
"I don't wonder you distanced the deputy," he said cheerfully,
throwing down his burden, "if you can take the hunting-path like
that. In a few days, if you stay here, I can venture to trust
you alone for a little pasear when you are tired of the tree."
Teresa looked pleased, but busied herself with arrangements for
the breakfast, while he gathered the fuel for the roaring fire
which soon blazed beside the shattered tree.
Teresa's breakfast was a success. It was a revelation to the
young nomad, whose ascetic habits and simple tastes were usually
content with the most primitive forms of frontier cookery. It
was at least a surprise to him to know that without extra trouble
kneaded flour, water, and saleratus need not be essentially
heavy; that coffee need not be boiled with sugar to the
consistency of syrup; that even that rarest delicacy, small
shreds of venison covered with ashes and broiled upon the end of
a ramrod boldly thrust into the flames, would be better and even
more expeditiously cooked upon burning coals. Moved in his
practical nature, he was surprised to find this curious creature
of disorganized nerves and useless impulses informed with an
intelligence that did not preclude the welfare of humanity or the
existence of a soul. He respected her for some minutes, until in
the midst of a culinary triumph a big tear dropped and spluttered
in the saucepan. But he forgave the irrelevancy by taking no
notice of it, and by doing full justice to that particular dish.
Nevertheless, he asked several questions based upon these
recently discovered qualities. It appeared that in the old days
of her wanderings with the circus troupe she had often been
forced to undertake this nomadic housekeeping. But she "despised
it," had never done it since, and always had refused to do it for
"him"--the personal pronoun referring, as Low understood, to her
lover, Curson. Not caring to revive these memories further, Low
briefly concluded: "I don't know what you were, or what you may
be, but from what I see of you you've got all the sabe of a
She stopped and looked at him, and then with an impulse of
imprudence that only half concealed a more serious vanity, asked,
"Do you think I might have made a good squaw?"
"I don't know," he replied quietly. "I never saw enough of them
Teresa, confident from his clear eyes that he spoke the truth,
but having nothing ready to follow this calm disposal of her
curiosity, relapsed into silence.
The meal finished, Teresa washed their scant table equipage in a
little spring near the camp-fire; where, catching sight of her
disordered dress and collar, she rapidly threw her shawl, after
the national fashion, over her shoulder and pinned it quickly.
Low cached the remaining provisions and the few cooking utensils
under the dead embers and ashes, obliterating all superficial
indication of their camp-fire as deftly and artistically as he
"There isn't the ghost of a chance," he said in explanation,
"that anybody but you or I will set foot here before we come back
to supper, but it's well to be on guard. I'll take you back to
the cabin now, though I bet you could find your way there as well
as I can."
On their way back Teresa ran ahead of her companion, and plucking
a few tiny leaves from a hidden oasis in the bark-strewn trail
brought them to him.
"That's the kind you're looking for, isn't it?" she said, half
"It is," responded Low, in gratified surprise; "but how did you
know it? You're not a botanist, are you?"
"I reckon not," said Teresa; "but you picked some when we came,
and I noticed what they were."
Here was indeed another revelation. Low stopped and gazed at her
with such frank, open, utterly unabashed curiosity that her black
eyes fell before him.
"And do you think," he asked with logical deliberation, "that you
could find any plant from another I should give you?"
"Or from a drawing of it"
"Yes; perhaps even if you described it to me."
A half-confidential, half-fraternal silence followed.
"I tell you what. I've got a book--"
"I know it," interrupted Teresa; "full of these things."
"Yes. Do you think you could--"
"Of course I could," broke in Teresa, again.
"But you don't know what I mean," said the imperturbable Low.
"Certainly I do. Why, find 'em, and preserve all the different
ones for you to write under--that's it, isn't it?"
Low nodded his head, gratified but not entirely convinced that
she had fully estimated the magnitude of the endeavor.
"I suppose," said Teresa, in the feminine postscriptum voice
which it would seem entered even the philosophical calm of the
aisles they were treading--"I suppose that SHE places great value
Low had indeed heard Science personified before, nor was it at
all impossible that the singular woman walking by his side had
also. He said "Yes;" but added, in mental reference to the
Linnean Society of San Francisco, that "THEY were rather
particular about the rarer kinds."
Content as Teresa had been to believe in Low's tender relations
with some favored ONE of her sex, this frank confession of a
plural devotion staggered her.
"They?" she repeated.
"Yes," he continued calmly. "The Botanical Society I correspond
with are more particular than the Government Survey."
"Then you are doing this for a society?" demanded Teresa, with a
"Certainly. I'm making a collection and classification of
specimens. I intend--but what are you looking at?"
Teresa had suddenly turned away. Putting his hand lightly on her
shoulder, the young man brought her face to face him again.
She was laughing.
"I thought all the while it was for a girl," she said; "and--"
But here the mere effort of speech sent her off into an audible
and genuine outburst of laughter. It was the first time he had
seen her even smile other than bitterly. Characteristically
unconscious of any humor in her error, he remained unembarrassed.
But he could not help noticing a change in the expression of her
face, her voice, and even her intonation. It seemed as if that
fit of laughter had loosed the last ties that bound her to a
self-imposed character, had swept away the last barrier between
her and her healthier nature, had dispossessed a painful
unreality, and relieved the morbid tension of a purely nervous
attitude. The change in her utterance and the resumption of her
softer Spanish accent seemed to have come with her confidences,
and Low took leave of her before their sylvan cabin with a
comrade's heartiness, and a complete forgetfulness that her voice
had ever irritated him.
When he returned that afternoon he was startled to find the cabin
empty. But instead of bearing any appearance of disturbance or
hurried flight, the rude interior seemed to have magically
assumed a decorous order and cleanliness unknown before. Fresh
bark hid the inequalities of the floor. The skins and blankets
were folded in the corners, the rude shelves were carefully
arranged, even a few tall ferns and bright but quickly fading
flowers were disposed around the blackened chimney. She had
evidently availed herself of the change of clothing he had
brought her, for her late garments were hanging from the hastily-
devised wooden pegs driven in the wall. The young man gazed
around him with mixed feelings of gratification and uneasiness.
His presence had been dispossessed in a single hour; his ten
years of lonely habitation had left no trace that this woman had
not effaced with a deft move of her hand. More than that, it
looked as if she had always occupied it; and it was with a
singular conviction that even when she should occupy it no longer
it would only revert to him as her dwelling that he dropped the
bark shutters athwart the opening, and left it to follow her.
To his quick ear, fine eye, and abnormal senses, this was easy
enough. She had gone in the direction of this morning's camp.
Once or twice he paused with a half-gesture of recognition and a
characteristic "Good!" at the place where she had stopped, but
was surprised to find that her main course had been as direct as
his own. Deviating from this direct line with Indian precaution,
he first made a circuit of the camp, and approached the shattered
trunk from the opposite direction. He consequently came upon
Teresa unawares. But the momentary astonishment and
embarrassment were his alone.
He scarcely recognized her. She was wearing the garments he had