Part 1 out of 7
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MR. JACK HAMLIN'S MEDIATION
by Bret Harte
MR. JACK HAMLIN'S MEDIATION
THE MAN AT THE SEMAPHORE
AN ESMERALDA OF ROCKY CANYON
DICK SPINDLER'S FAMILY CHRISTMAS
WHEN THE WATERS WERE UP AT "JULES'"
THE BOOM IN THE "CALAVERAS CLARION"
THE SECRET OF SOBRIENTE'S WELL
LIBERTY JONES'S DISCOVERY
MR. JACK HAMLIN'S MEDIATION
At nightfall it began to rain. The wind arose too, and also began
to buffet a small, struggling, nondescript figure, creeping along
the trail over the rocky upland meadow towards Rylands's rancho.
At times its head was hidden in what appeared to be wings thrown
upward from its shoulders; at times its broad-brimmed hat was
cocked jauntily on one side, and again the brim was fixed over the
face like a visor. At one moment a drifting misshapen mass of
drapery, at the next its vague garments, beaten back hard against
the figure, revealed outlines far too delicate for that rude
enwrapping. For it was Mrs. Rylands herself, in her husband's hat
and her "hired man's" old blue army overcoat, returning from the
post-office two miles away. The wind continued its aggression
until she reached the front door of her newly plastered farmhouse,
and then a heavier blast shook the pines above the low-pitched,
shingled roof, and sent a shower of arrowy drops after her like a
Parthian parting, as she entered. She threw aside the overcoat and
hat, and somewhat inconsistently entered the sitting-room, to walk
to the window and look back upon the path she had just traversed.
The wind and the rain swept down a slope, half meadow, half
clearing,--a mile away,--to a fringe of sycamores. A mile further
lay the stage road, where, three hours later, her husband would
alight on his return from Sacramento. It would be a long wet walk
for Joshua Rylands, as their only horse had been borrowed by a
In that fading light Mrs. Rylands's oval cheek was shining still
from the raindrops, but there was something in the expression of
her worried face that might have as readily suggested tears. She
was strikingly handsome, yet quite as incongruous an ornament to
her surroundings as she had been to her outer wrappings a moment
ago. Even the clothes she now stood in hinted an inadaptibility to
the weather--the house--the position she occupied in it. A figured
silk dress, spoiled rather than overworn, was still of a quality
inconsistent with her evident habits, and the lace-edged petticoat
that peeped beneath it was draggled with mud and unaccustomed
usage. Her glossy black hair, which had been tossed into curls in
some foreign fashion, was now wind-blown into a burlesque of it.
This incongruity was still further accented by the appearance of
the room she had entered. It was coldly and severely furnished,
making the chill of the yet damp white plaster unpleasantly
obvious. A black harmonium organ stood in one corner, set out with
black and white hymn-books; a trestle-like table contained a large
Bible; half a dozen black, horsehair-cushioned chairs stood,
geometrically distant, against the walls, from which hung four
engravings of "Paradise Lost" in black mourning frames; some dried
ferns and autumn leaves stood in a vase on the mantelpiece, as if
the chill of the room had prematurely blighted them. The coldly
glittering grate below was also decorated with withered sprays, as
if an attempt had been made to burn them, but was frustrated
through damp. Suddenly recalled to a sense of her wet boots and
the new carpet, she hurriedly turned away, crossed the hall into
the dining-room, and thence passed into the kitchen. The "hired
girl," a large-boned Missourian, a daughter of a neighboring
woodman, was peeling potatoes at the table. Mrs. Rylands drew a
chair before the kitchen stove, and put her wet feet on the hob.
"I'll bet a cooky, Mess Rylands, you've done forgot the vanillar,"
said the girl, with a certain domestic and confidential familiarity.
Mrs. Rylands started guiltily. She made a miserable feint of
looking in her lap and on the table. "I'm afraid I did, Jane, if I
didn't bring it in HERE."
"That you didn't," returned Jane. "And I reckon ye forgot that 'ar
pepper-sauce for yer husband."
Mrs. Rylands looked up with piteous contrition. "I really don't
know what's the matter with me. I certainly went into the shop,
and had it on my list,--and--really"--
Jane evidently knew her mistress, and smiled with superior
toleration. "It's kinder bewilderin' goin' in them big shops, and
lookin' round them stuffed shelves." The shop at the cross roads
and post-office was 14 x 14, but Jane was nurtured on the plains.
"Anyhow," she added good-humoredly, "the expressman is sure to look
in as he goes by, and you've time to give him the order."
"But is he SURE to come?" asked Mrs. Rylands anxiously. "Mr.
Rylands will be so put out without his pepper-sauce."
"He's sure to come ef he knows you're here. Ye kin always
kalkilate on that."
"Why?" said Mrs. Rylands abstractedly.
"Why? 'cause he just can't keep his eyes off ye! That's why he
comes every day,--'tain't jest for trade!"
This was quite true, not only of the expressman, but of the butcher
and baker, and the "candlestick-maker," had there been so advanced
a vocation at the cross roads. All were equally and curiously
attracted by her picturesque novelty. Mrs. Rylands knew this
herself, but without vanity or coquettishness. Possibly that was
why the other woman told her. She only slightly deepened the lines
of discontent in her cheek and said abstractedly, "Well, when he
comes, YOU ask him."
She dried her shoes, put on a pair of slippers that had a faded
splendor about them, and went up to her bedroom. Here she
hesitated for some time between the sewing-machine and her
knitting-needles, but finally settled upon the latter, and a pair
of socks for her husband which she had begun a year ago. But she
presently despaired of finishing them before he returned, three
hours hence, and so applied herself to the sewing-machine. For a
little while its singing hum was heard between the blasts that
shook the house, but the thread presently snapped, and the machine
was put aside somewhat impatiently, with a discontented drawing of
the lines around her handsome mouth. Then she began to "tidy" the
room, putting a great many things away and bringing out a great
many more, a process that was necessarily slow, owing to her
falling into attitudes of minute inspection of certain articles of
dress, with intervals of trying them on, and observing their effect
in her mirror. This kind of interruption also occurred while she
was putting away some books that were lying about on chairs and
tables, stopping midway to open their pages, becoming interested,
and quite finishing one chapter, with the book held close against
the window to catch the fading light of day. The feminine reader
will gather from this that Mrs. Rylands, though charming, was not
facile in domestic duties. She had just glanced at the clock, and
lit the candle to again set herself to work, and thus bridge over
the two hours more of waiting, when there came a tap at the door.
She opened it to Jane.
"There's an entire stranger downstairs, ez hez got a lame hoss and
wants to borry a fresh one."
"We have none, you know," said Mrs. Rylands, a little impatiently.
"Thet's what I told him. Then he wanted to know ef he could lie by
here till he could get one or fix up his own hoss."
"As you like; you know if you can manage it," said Mrs. Rylands, a
little uneasily. "When Mr. Rylands comes you can arrange it
between you. Where is he now?"
"In the kitchen."
"The kitchen!" echoed Mrs. Rylands.
"Yes, ma'am, I showed him into the parlor, but he kinder shivered
his shoulders, and reckoned ez how he'd go inter the kitchen. Ye
see, ma'am, he was all wet, and his shiny big boots was sloppy.
But he ain't one o' the stuck-up kind, and he's willin' to make
hisself cowf'ble before the kitchen stove."
"Well, then, he don't want ME," said Mrs. Rylands, with a relieved
"Yes'm," said Jane, apparently equally relieved. "Only, I thought
I'd just tell you."
A few minutes later, in crossing the upper hall, Mrs. Rylands heard
Jane's voice from the kitchen raised in rustic laughter. Had she
been satirically inclined, she might have understood Jane's
willingness to relieve her mistress of the duty of entertaining the
stranger; had she been philosophical, she might have considered the
girl's dreary, monotonous life at the rancho, and made allowance
for her joy at this rare interruption of it. But I fear that Mrs.
Rylands was neither satirical nor philosophical, and presently,
when Jane reentered, with color in her alkaline face, and light in
her huckleberry eyes, and said she was going over to the cattle-
sheds in the "far pasture," to see if the hired man didn't know of
some horse that could be got for the stranger, Mrs. Rylands felt a
little bitterness in the thought that the girl would have scarcely
volunteered to go all that distance in the rain for HER. Yet, in a
few moments she forgot all about it, and even the presence of her
guest in the house, and in one of her fitful abstracted employments
passed through the dining-room into the kitchen, and had opened the
door with an "Oh, Jane!" before she remembered her absence.
The kitchen, lit by a single candle, could be only partly seen by
her as she stood with her hand on the lock, although she herself
was plainly visible. There was a pause, and then a quiet, self-
possessed, yet amused, voice answered:--
"My name isn't Jane, and if you're the lady of the house, I reckon
yours wasn't ALWAYS Rylands."
At the sound of the voice Mrs. Rylands threw the door wide open,
and as her eyes fell upon the speaker--her unknown guest--she
recoiled with a little cry, and a white, startled face. Yet the
stranger was young and handsome, dressed with a scrupulousness and
elegance which even the stress of travel had not deranged, and he
was looking at her with a smile of recognition, mingled with that
careless audacity and self-possession which seemed to be the
characteristic of his face.
"Jack Hamlin!" she gasped.
"That's me, all the time," he responded easily, "and YOU'RE Nell
"How did you know I was here? Who told you?" she said impetuously.
"Nobody! never was so surprised in my life! When you opened that
door just now you might have knocked me down with a feather." Yet
he spoke lazily, with an amused face, and looked at her without
changing his position.
"But you MUST have known SOMETHING! It was no mere accident," she
went on vehemently, glancing around the room.
"That's where you slip up, Nell," said Hamlin imperturbably. "It
WAS an accident and a bad one. My horse lamed himself coming down
the grade. I sighted the nearest shanty, where I thought I might
get another horse. It happened to be this." For the first time he
changed his attitude, and leaned back contemplatively in his chair.
She came towards him quickly. "You didn't use to lie, Jack," she
"Couldn't afford it in my business,--and can't now," said Jack
cheerfully. "But," he added curiously, as if recognizing something
in his companion's agitation, and lifting his brown lashes to her,
the window, and the ceiling, "what's all this about? What's your
little game here?"
"I'm married," she said, with nervous intensity,--"married, and
this is my husband's house!"
"Not married straight out!--regularly fixed?"
"Yes," she said hurriedly.
"One of the boys? Don't remember any Rylands. SPELTER used to be
very sweet on you,--but Spelter mightn't have been his real name?"
"None of our lot! No one you ever knew; a--a straight out, square
man," she said quickly.
"I say, Nell, look here! You ought to have shown up your cards
without even a call. You ought to have told him that you danced at
"Before he asked you to marry him?"
Jack got up from his chair, put his hands in his pockets, and
looked at her curiously. This Nell Montgomery, this music-hall
"dance and song girl," this girl of whom so much had been SAID and
so little PROVED! Well, this was becoming interesting.
"You don't understand," she said, with nervous feverishness; "you
remember after that row I had with Jim, that night the manager gave
us a supper,--when he treated me like a dog?"
"He did that," interrupted Jack.
"I felt fit for anything," she said, with a half-hysterical laugh,
that seemed voiced, however, to check some slumbering memory. "I'd
have cut my throat or his, it didn't matter which"--
"It mattered something to us, Nell," put in Jack again, with polite
parenthesis; "don't leave US out in the cold."
"I started from 'Frisco that night on the boat ready to fling
myself into anything--or the river!" she went on hurriedly. "There
was a man in the cabin who noticed me, and began to hang around. I
thought he knew who I was,--had seen me on the posters; and as I
didn't feel like foolin', I told him so. But he wasn't that kind.
He said he saw I was in trouble and wanted me to tell him all."
Mr. Hamlin regarded her cheerfully. "And you told him," he said,
"how you had once run away from your childhood's happy home to go
on the stage! How you always regretted it, and would have gone
back but that the doors were shut forever against you! How you
longed to leave, but the wicked men and women around you always"--
"I didn't!" she burst out, with sudden passion; "you know I didn't.
I told him everything: who I was, what I had done, what I expected
to do again. I pointed out the men--who were sitting there,
whispering and grinning at us, as if they were in the front row of
the theatre--and said I knew them all, and they knew me. I never
spared myself a thing. I said what people said of me, and didn't
even care to say it wasn't true!"
"Oh, come!" protested Jack, in perfunctory politeness.
"He said he liked me for telling the truth, and not being ashamed
to do it! He said the sin was in the false shame and the hypocrisy;
for that's the sort of man he is, you see, and that's like him
always! He asked if I would marry him--out of hand--and do my best
to be his lawful wife. He said he wanted me to think it over and
sleep on it, and to-morrow he would come and see me for an answer.
I slipped off the boat at 'Frisco, and went alone to a hotel where I
wasn't known. In the morning I didn't know whether he'd keep his
word or I'd keep mine. But he came! He said he'd marry me that
very day, and take me to his farm in Santa Clara. I agreed. I
thought it would take me out of everybody's knowledge, and they'd
think me dead! We were married that day, before a regular
clergyman. I was married under my own name,"--she stopped and
looked at Jack, with a hysterical laugh,--"but he made me write
underneath it, 'known as Nell Montgomery;' for he said HE wasn't
ashamed of it, nor should I be."
"Does he wear long hair and stick straws in it?" said Hamlin
gravely. "Does he 'hear voices' and have 'visions'?"
"He's a shrewd, sensible, hard-working man,--no more mad than you
are, nor as mad as I was the day I married him. He's lived up to
everything he's said." She stopped, hesitated in her quick,
nervous speech; her lip quivered slightly, but she recalled
herself, and looking imploringly, yet hopelessly, at Jack, gasped,
"And that's what's the matter!"
Jack fixed his eyes keenly upon her. "And you?" he said curtly.
"I?" she repeated wonderingly.
"Yes, what have YOU done?" he said, with sudden sharpness.
The wonder was so apparent in her eyes that his keen glance
softened. "Why," she said bewilderingly, "I have been his dog, his
slave,--as far as he would let me. I have done everything; I have
not been out of the house until he almost drove me out. I have
never wanted to go anywhere or see any one; but he has always
insisted upon it. I would have been willing to slave here, day and
night, and have been happy. But he said I must not seem to be
ashamed of my past, when he is not. I would have worn common
homespun clothes and calico frocks, and been glad of it, but he
insists upon my wearing my best things, even my theatre things; and
as he can't afford to buy more, I wear these things I had. I know
they look beastly here, and that I'm a laughing-stock, and when I
go out I wear almost anything to try and hide them; but," her lip
quivered dangerously again, "he wants me to do it, and it pleases
Jack looked down. After a pause he lifted his lashes towards her
draggled skirt, and said in an easier, conversational tone, "Yes!
I thought I knew that dress. I gave it to you for that walking
scene in 'High Life,' didn't I?"
"No," she said quickly, "it was the blue one with silver trimming,--
don't you remember? I tried to turn it the first year I was
married, but it never looked the same."
"It was sweetly pretty," said Jack encouragingly, "and with that
blue hat lined with silver, it was just fetching! Somehow I don't
quite remember this one," and he looked at it critically.
"I had it at the races in '58, and that supper Judge Boompointer
gave us at 'Frisco where Colonel Fish upset the table trying to get
at Jim. Do you know," she said, with a little laugh, "it's got the
stains of the champagne on it yet; it never would come off. See!"
and she held the candle with great animation to the breadth of silk
"And there's more of it on the sleeve," said Jack; "isn't there?"
Mrs. Rylands looked reproachfully at Jack.
"That isn't champagne; don't you know what it is?"
"It's blood," she said gravely; "when that Mexican cut poor Ned so
bad,--don't you remember? I held his head upon my arm while you
bandaged him." She heaved a little sigh, and then added, with a
faint laugh, "That's the worst thing about the clothes of a girl in
the profession, they get spoiled or stained before they wear out."
This large truth did not seem to impress Mr. Hamlin. "Why did you
leave Santa Clara?" he said abruptly, in his previous critical
"Because of the folks there. They were standoffish and ugly. You
"Josh Rylands!--HIM! He told everybody who I was, even those who
had never seen me in the bills,--how good I was to marry him, how
he had faith in me and wasn't ashamed,--until they didn't believe
we were married at all. So they looked another way when they met
us, and didn't call. And all the while I was glad they didn't, but
he wouldn't believe it, and allowed I was pining on account of it."
"And were you?"
"I swear to God, Jack, I'd have been content, and more, to have
been just there with him, seein' nobody, letting every one believe
I was dead and gone, but he said it was wrong, and weak! Maybe it
was," she added, with a shy, interrogating look at Jack, of which,
however, he took no notice. "Then when he found they wouldn't
call, what do you think he did?"
"Beat you, perhaps," suggested Jack cheerfully.
"He never did a thing to me that wasn't straight out, square, and
kind," she said, half indignantly, half hopelessly. "He thought if
HIS kind of people wouldn't see me, I might like to see my own
sort. So without saying anything to me, he brought down, of all
things! Tinkie Clifford, she that used to dance in the cheap
variety shows at 'Frisco, and her particular friend, Captain Sykes.
It would have just killed you, Jack," she said, with a sudden
hysteric burst of laughter, "to have seen Josh, in his square,
straight-out way, trying to be civil and help things along. But,"
she went on, as suddenly relapsing into her former attitude of
worried appeal, "I couldn't stand it, and when she got to talking
free and easy before Josh, and Captain Sykes to guzzling champagne,
she and me had a row. She allowed I was putting on airs, and I
made her walk, in spite of Josh."
"And Josh seemed to like it," said Hamlin carelessly. "Has he seen
"No; I reckon he's cured of asking that kind of company for me.
And then we came here. But I persuaded him not to begin by going
round telling people who I was,--as he did the last time,--but to
leave it to folks to find out if they wanted to, and he gave in.
Then he let me fix up this house and furnish it my own way, and I
"Do you mean to say that YOU fixed up that family vault of a
sitting-room?" said Jack, in horror.
"Yes, I didn't want any fancy furniture or looking-glasses, and
such like, to attract folks, nor anything to look like the old
times. I don't think any of the boys would care to come here. And
I got rid of a lot of sporting travelers, 'wild-cat' managers, and
that kind of tramp in this way. But"-- She hesitated, and her
face fell again.
"But what?" said Jack.
"I don't think that Josh likes it either. He brought home the
other day 'My Johnny is a Shoemakiyure,' and wanted me to try it on
the organ. But it reminded me how we used to get just sick of
singing it on and off the boards, and I couldn't touch it. He
wanted me to go to the circus that was touring over at the cross
roads, but it was the old Flanigin's circus, you know, the one
Gussie Riggs used to ride in, with its old clown and its old
ringmaster and the old 'wheezes,' and I chucked it."
"Look here," said Jack, rising and surveying Mrs. Rylands
critically. "If you go on at this gait, I'll tell you what that
man of yours will do. He'll bolt with some of your old friends!"
She turned a quick, scared face upon him for an instant. But only
for an instant. Her hysteric little laugh returned, at once,
followed by her weary, worried look. "No, Jack, you don't know
him! If it was only that! He cares only for me in his own way,--
and," she stammered as she went on, "I've no luck in making him
She stopped. The wind shook the house and fired a volley of rain
against the windows. She took advantage of it to draw a torn lace-
edged handkerchief from her pocket behind, and keeping the tail of
her eyes in a frightened fashion on Jack, applied the handkerchief
furtively, first to her nose, and then to her eyes.
"Don't do that," said Jack fastidiously, "it's wet enough outside."
Nevertheless, he stood up and gazed at her.
"Well," he began.
She timidly drew nearer to him, and took a seat on the kitchen
table, looking up wistfully into his eyes.
"Well," resumed Jack argumentatively, "if he won't 'chuck' you, why
don't you 'chuck' HIM?"
She turned quite white, and suddenly dropped her eyes. "Yes," she
said, almost inaudibly, "lots of girls would do that."
"I don't mean go back to your old life," continued Jack. "I reckon
you've had enough of that. But get into some business, you know,
like other women. A bonnet shop, or a candy shop for children,
see? I'll help start you. I've got a couple of hundred, if not in
my own pocket in somebody's else, just burning to be used! And
then you can look about you; and perhaps some square business man
will turn up and you can marry him. You know you can't live this
way, nohow. It's killing you; it ain't fair on you, nor on Rylands
"No," she said quickly, "it ain't fair on HIM. I know it, I know
it isn't, I know it isn't," she repeated, "only"-- She stopped.
"Only what?" said Jack impatiently.
She did not speak. After a pause she picked up the rolling-pin
from the table and began absently rolling it down her lap to her
knee, as if pressing out the stained silk skirt. "Only," she
stammered, slowly rolling the pin handles in her open palms, "I--I
can't leave Josh."
"Why can't you?" said Jack quickly.
"Because--because--I," she went on, with a quivering lip, working
the rolling-pin heavily down her knee as if she were crushing her
answer out of it,--"because--I--love him!"
There was a pause, a dash of rain against the window, and another
dash from her eyes upon her hands, the rolling-pin, and the skirts
she had gathered up hastily, as she cried, "O Jack! Jack! I never
loved anybody like him! I never knew what love was! I never knew
a man like him before! There never WAS one before!"
To this large, comprehensive, and passionate statement Mr. Jack
Hamlin made no reply. An audacity so supreme had conquered his.
He walked to the window, looked out upon the dark, rain-filmed pane
that, however, reflected no equal change in his own dark eyes, and
then returned and walked round the kitchen table. When he was at
her back, without looking at her, he reached out his hand, took her
passive one that lay on the table in his, grasped it heartily for a
single moment, laid it gently down, and returned around the table,
where he again confronted her cheerfully face to face.
"You'll make the riffle yet," he said quietly. "Just now I don't
see what I could do, or where I could chip in your little game; but
if I DO, or you do, count me in and let me know. You know where to
write,--my old address at Sacramento." He walked to the corner,
took up his still wet serape, threw it over his shoulders, and
picked up his broad-brimmed riding-hat.
"You're not going, Jack?" she said hesitatingly, as she rubbed her
wet eyes into a consciousness of his movements. "You'll wait to
see HIM? He'll be here in an hour."
"I've been here too long already," said Jack. "And the less you
say about my calling, even accidentally, the better. Nobody will
believe it,--YOU didn't yourself. In fact, unless you see how I
can help you, the sooner you consider us all dead and buried, the
sooner your luck will change. Tell your girl I've found my own
horse so much better that I have pushed on with him, and give her
He threw a gold coin on the table.
"But your horse is still lame," she said wonderingly. "What will
you do in this storm?"
"Get into the cover of the next wood and camp out. I've done it
He suddenly made a slight gesture of warning. His quick ear had
caught the approach of footsteps along the wet gravel outside. A
mischievous light slid into his dark eyes as he coolly moved
backward to the door and, holding it open, said, in a remarkably
clear and distinct voice:--
"Yes, as you say, society is becoming very mixed and frivolous
everywhere, and you'd scarcely know San Francisco now. So
delighted, however, to have made your acquaintance, and regret my
business prevents my waiting to see your good husband. So odd that
I should have known your Aunt Jemima! But, as you say, the world
is very small, after all. I shall tell the deacon how well you are
looking,--in spite of the kitchen smoke in your eyes. Good-by! A
thousand thanks for your hospitality."
And Jack, bowing profoundly to the ground, backed out upon Jane,
the hired man, and the expressman, treading, I grieve to say, with
some deliberation upon the toes of the two latter, in order,
possibly, that in their momentary pain and discomposure they might
not scan too closely the face of this ingenious gentleman, as he
melted into the night and the storm.
Jane entered, with a slight toss of her head.
"Here's your expressman,--ef you're wantin' him NOW."
Mrs. Rylands was too preoccupied to notice her handmaiden's
significant emphasis, as she indicated a fresh-looking, bashful
young fellow, whose confusion was evidently heightened by the
unexpected egress of Mr. Hamlin, and the point-blank presence of
the handsome Mrs. Rylands.
"Oh, certainly," said Mrs. Rylands quickly. "So kind of him to
oblige us. Give him the order, Jane, please."
She turned to escape from the kitchen and these new intruders, when
her eye fell upon the coin left by Mr. Hamlin. "The gentleman
wished you to take that for your trouble, Jane," she said hastily,
pointing to it, and passed out.
Jane cast a withering look after her retreating skirts, and picking
the coin from the table, turned to the hired man. "Run to the
stable after that dandified young feller, Dick, and hand that back
to him. Ye kin say that Jane Mackinnon don't run arrants fur
money, nor play gooseberry to other folks fur fun."
Mr. Joshua Rylands had, according to the vocabulary of his class,
"found grace" at the age of sixteen, while still in the spiritual
state of "original sin" and the political one of Missouri. He had
not indeed found it by persistent youthful seeking or spiritual
insight, but somewhat violently and turbulently at a camp-meeting.
A village boy, naturally gentle and impressible, with an original
character,--limited, however, in education and experience,--he had,
after his first rustic debauch with some vulgar companions, fallen
upon the camp-meeting in reckless audacity; and instead of being
handed over to the district constable, was taken in and placed upon
"the anxious bench," "rastled with," and exhorted by a strong
revivalist preacher, "convicted of sin," and--converted! It is
doubtful if the shame of a public arrest and legal punishment would
have impressed his youthful spirit as much as did this spiritual
examination and trial, in which he himself became accuser.
Howbeit, its effect, though punitive, was also exemplary. He at
once cast off his evil companions; remaining faithful to his
conversion, in spite of their later "backslidings." When, after
the Western fashion, the time came for him to forsake his father's
farm and seek a new "quarter section" on some more remote frontier,
he carried into that secluded, lonely, half-monkish celibacy of
pioneer life--which has been the foundation of so much strong
Western character--more than the usual religious feeling. At once
industrious and adventurous, he lived by "the Word," as he called
it, and Nature as he knew it,--tempted by none of the vices or
sentiments of civilization. When he finally joined the Californian
emigration, it was not as a gold-seeker, but as a discoverer of new
agricultural fields; if the hardship was as great and the rewards
fewer, he nevertheless knew that he retained his safer isolation
and independence of spirit. Vice and civilization were to him
synonymous terms; it was the natural condition of the worldly and
unregenerate. Such was the man who chanced to meet "Nell
Montgomery, the Pearl of the Variety Stage," on the Sacramento
boat, in one of his forced visits to civilization. Without knowing
her in her profession, her frank exposition of herself did not
startle him; he recognized it, accepted it, and strove to convert
it. And as long as this daughter of Folly forsook her evil ways
for him, it was a triumph in which there was no shame, and might be
proclaimed from the housetop. When his neighbors thought
differently, and avoided them, he saw no inconsistency in bringing
his wife's old friends to divert her: she might in time convert
THEM. He had no more fear of her returning to their ways than he
had of himself "backsliding." Narrow as was his creed, he had none
of the harshness nor pessimism of the bigot. With the keenest
self-scrutiny, his credulity regarding others was touching.
The storm was still raging when he alighted that evening from the
up coach at the trail nearest his house. Although incumbered with
a heavy carpet-bag, he started resignedly on his two-mile tramp
without begrudging the neighborly act of his wife which had
deprived him of his horse. It was "like her" to do these things in
her good-humored abstraction, an abstraction, however, that
sometimes worried him, from the fear that it indicated some
unhappiness with her present lot. He was longing to rejoin her
after his absence of three days, the longest time they had been
separated since their marriage, and he hurried on with a certain
lover-like excitement, quite new to his usually calm and temperate
Struggling with the storm and darkness, but always with the happy
consciousness of drawing nearer to her in that struggle, he labored
on, finding his perilous way over the indistinguishable trail by
certain landmarks in the distance, visible only to his pioneer eye.
That heavier shadow to the right was not the hillside, but the
SLOPE to the distant hill; that low, regular line immediately
before him was not a fence or wall, but the line of distant
gigantic woods, a mile from his home. Yet as he began to descend
the slope towards the wood, he stopped and rubbed his eyes. There
was distinctly a light in it. His first idea was that he had lost
the trail and was nearing the woodman Mackinnon's cabin. But a
more careful scrutiny revealed to him that it was really the wood,
and the light was a camp-fire. It was a rough night for camping
out, but they were probably some belated prospectors.
When he had reached the fringe of woodland, he could see quite
plainly that the fire was built beside one of the large pines, and
that the little encampment, which looked quite comfortable and
secluded from the storm-beaten trail, was occupied apparently by a
single figure. By the good glow of the leaping fire, that figure
standing erect before it, elegantly shaped, in the graceful folds
of a serape, looked singularly romantic and picturesque, and
reminded Joshua Rylands--whose ideas of art were purely reminiscent
of boyish reading--of some picture in a novel. The heavy black
columns of the pines, glancing out of the concave shadow, also
seemed a fitting background to what might have been a scene in a
play. So strongly was he impressed by it that but for his anxiety
to reach his home, still a mile distant, and the fact that he was
already late, he would have penetrated the wood and the seclusion
of the stranger with an offer of hospitality for the night. The
man, however, was evidently capable of taking care of himself, and
the outline of a tethered horse was faintly visible under another
tree. It might be a surveyor or engineer,--the only men of a
better class who were itinerant.
But another and even greater surprise greeted him as he toiled up
the rocky slope towards his farmhouse. The windows of the sitting-
room, which were usually blank and black by night, were glittering
with unfamiliar light. Like most farmers, he seldom used the room
except for formal company, his wife usually avoiding it, and even
he himself now preferred the dining-room or the kitchen. His first
suggestion that his wife had visitors gave him a sense of pleasure
on her account, mingled, however, with a slight uneasiness of his
own which he could not account for. More than that, as he
approached nearer he could hear the swell of the organ above the
roar of the swaying pines, and the cadences were not of a
devotional character. He hesitated for a moment, as he had
hesitated at the fire in the woods; yet it was surely his own
house! He hurried to the door, opened it; not only the light of
the sitting-room streamed into the hall, but the ruddier glow of an
actual fire in the disused grate! The familiar dark furniture had
been rearranged to catch some of the glow and relieve its
sombreness. And his wife, rising from the music-stool, was the
room's only occupant!
Mrs. Rylands gazed anxiously and timidly at her husband's
astonished face, as he threw off his waterproof and laid down his
carpet-bag. Her own face was a little flurried with excitement,
and his, half hidden in his tawny beard, and, possibly owing to his
self-introspective nature, never spontaneously sympathetic, still
expressed only wonder! Mrs. Rylands was a little frightened. It
is sometimes dangerous to meddle with a man's habits, even when he
has grown weary of them.
"I thought," she began hesitatingly, "that it would be more
cheerful for you in here, this stormy evening. I thought you might
like to put your wet things to dry in the kitchen, and we could sit
here together, after supper, alone."
I am afraid that Mrs. Rylands did not offer all her thoughts. Ever
since Mr. Hamlin's departure she had been uneasy and excited,
sometimes falling into fits of dejection, and again lighting up
into hysterical levity; at other times carefully examining her
wardrobe, and then with a sudden impulse rushing downstairs again
to give orders for her husband's supper, and to make the
extraordinary changes in the sitting-room already noted. Only a
few moments before he arrived, she had covertly brought down a
piece of music, and put aside the hymn-books, and taken, with a
little laugh, a pack of cards from her pocket, which she placed
behind the already dismantled vase on the chimney.
"I reckoned you had company, Ellen," he said gravely, kissing her.
"No," she said quickly. "That is," she stopped with a sudden surge
of color in her face that startled her, "there was--a man--here, in
the kitchen--who had a lame horse, and who wanted to get a fresh
one. But he went away an hour ago. And he wasn't in this room--at
least, after it was fixed up. So I've had no company."
She felt herself again blushing at having blushed, and a little
terrified. There was no reason for it. But for Jack's warning,
she would have been quite ready to tell her husband all. She had
never blushed before him over her past life; why she should now
blush over seeing Jack, of all people! made her utter a little
hysterical laugh. I am afraid that this experienced little woman
took it for granted that her husband knew that if Jack or any man
had been there as a clandestine lover, she would not have blushed
at all. Yet with all her experience, she did not know that she had
blushed simply because it was to Jack that she had confessed that
she loved the man before her. Her husband noted the blush as part
of her general excitement. He permitted her to drag him into the
room and seat him before the hearth, where she sank down on one
knee to pull off his heavy rubber boots. But he waved her aside at
this, pulled them off with his own hands, and let her take them to
the kitchen and bring back his slippers. By this time a smile had
lighted up his hard face. The room was certainly more comfortable
and cheerful. Still he was a little worried; was there not in
these changes a falling away from the grace of self-abnegation
which she had so sedulously practiced?
When supper was served by Jane, in the dull dining-room, Mr.
Rylands, had he not been more engaged in these late domestic
changes, might have noticed that the Missouri girl waited upon him
with a certain commiserating air that was remarkable by its
contrast with the frigid ceremonious politeness with which she
attended her mistress. It had not escaped Mrs. Rylands, however,
who ever since Jack's abrupt departure had noticed this change in
the girl's demeanor to herself, and with a woman's intuitive
insight of another woman, had fathomed it. The comfortable tete-a-
tete with Jack, which Jane had looked forward to, Mrs. Rylands had
anticipated herself, and then sent him off! When Joshua thanked
his wife for remembering the pepper-sauce, and Mrs. Rylands
pathetically admitted her forgetfulness, the head-toss which Jane
gave as she left the room was too marked to be overlooked by him.
Mrs. Rylands gave a hysterical little laugh. "I am afraid Jane
doesn't like my sending away the expressman just after I had also
dismissed the stranger whom she had taken a fancy to, and left her
without company," she said unwisely.
Mr. Rylands did not laugh. "I reckon," he returned slowly, "that
Jane must feel kinder lonely; she bears all the burden of our bein'
outer the world, without any of our glory in the cause of it."
Nevertheless, when supper was over, and the pair were seated in the
sitting-room before the fire, this episode was forgotten. Mrs.
Rylands produced her husband's pipe and tobacco-pouch. He looked
around the formal walls and hesitated. He had been in the habit of
smoking in the kitchen.
"Why not here?" said Mrs. Rylands, with a sudden little note of
decision. "Why should we keep this room only for company that
don't come? I call it silly."
This struck Mr. Rylands as logical. Besides, undoubtedly the fire
had mellowed the room. After a puff or two he looked at his wife
musingly. "Couldn't you make yourself one of them cigarettys, as
they call 'em? Here's the tobacco, and I'll get you the paper."
"I COULD," she said tentatively. Then suddenly, "What made you
think of it? You never saw ME smoke!"
"No," said Rylands, "but that lady, your old friend, Miss Clifford,
does, and I thought you might be hankering after it."
"How do you know Tinkie Clifford smokes?" said Mrs. Rylands quickly.
"She lit a cigaretty that day she called."
"I hate it," said Mrs. Rylands shortly.
Mr. Rylands nodded approval, and puffed meditatively.
"Josh, have you seen that girl since?"
"No," said Joshua.
"Nor any other girl like her?"
"No," said Joshua wonderingly. "You see I only got to know her on
your account, Ellen, that she might see you."
"Well, don't you do it any more! None of 'em! Promise me!" She
leaned forward eagerly in her chair.
"But Ellen,"--her husband began gravely.
"I know what you're going to say, but they can't do me any good,
and you can't do them any good as you did ME, so there!"
Mr. Rylands was silent, and smiled meditatively.
"When you met me that night on the Sacramento boat, and looked at
me, did you--did I," she hesitated,--"did you look at me because I
had been crying?"
"I thought you were troubled in spirit, and looked so."
"I suppose I looked worried, of course; I had no time to change or
even fix my hair; I had on that green dress, and it NEVER was
becoming. And you only spoke to me on account of my awful looks?"
"I saw only your wrestling soul, Ellen, and I thought you needed
comfort and help."
She was silent for a moment, and then, leaning forward, picked up
the poker and began to thrust it absently between the bars.
"And if it had been some other girl crying and looking awful, you'd
have spoken to her all the same?"
This was a new idea to Mr. Rylands, but with most men logic is
supreme. "I suppose I would," he said slowly.
"And married her?" She rattled the bars of the grate with the
poker as if to drown the inevitable reply.
Mr. Rylands loved the woman before him, but it pleased him to think
that he loved truth better. "If it had been necessary to her
salvation, yes," he said.
"Not Tinkie?" she said suddenly.
"SHE never would have been in your contrite condition."
"Much you know! Girls like that can cry as well as laugh, just as
they want to. Well! I suppose I DID look horrid." Nevertheless,
she seemed to gain some gratification from her husband's reply, and
changed the subject as if fearful of losing that satisfaction by
"I tried some of those songs you brought, but I don't think they go
well with the harmonium," she said, pointing to some music on its
rack, "except one. Just listen." She rose, and with the same
nervous quickness she had shown before, went to the instrument and
began to sing and play. There was a hopeless incongruity between
the character of the instrument and the spirit of the song. Mrs.
Rylands's voice was rather forced and crudely trained, but Joshua
Rylands, sitting there comfortably slippered by the fire and
conscious of the sheeted rain against the window, felt it good.
Presently he arose, and lounging heavily over to the fair
performer, leaned down and imprinted a kiss on the labyrinthine
fringes of her hair. At which Mrs. Rylands caught blindly at his
hand nearest her, and without lifting her other hand from the keys,
or her eyes from the music, said tentatively:--
"You know there's a chorus just here! Why can't you try it with
Mr. Rylands hesitated a moment, then, with a preliminary cough,
lifted a voice as crude as hers, but powerful through much camp-
meeting exercise, and roared a chorus which was remarkable chiefly
for requiring that archness and playfulness in execution which he
lacked. As the whole house seemed to dilate with the sound, and
the wind outside to withhold its fury, Mr. Rylands felt that
physical delight which children feel in personal outcry, and was
grateful to his wife for the opportunity. Laying his hand
affectionately on her shoulder, he noticed for the first time that
she was in a kind of evening-dress, and that her delicate white
shoulder shone through the black lace that enveloped it.
For an instant Mr. Rylands was shocked at this unwonted exposure.
He had never seen his wife in evening-dress before. It was true
they were alone, and in their own sitting-room, but the room was
still invested with that formality and publicity which seemed to
accent this indiscretion. The simple-minded frontier man's mind
went back to Jane, to the hired man, to the expressman, the
stranger, all of whom might have noticed it also.
"You have a new dress," he said slowly, "have you worn it all day?"
"No," she said, with a timid smile. "I only put it on just before
you came. It's the one I used to wear in the ballroom scene in
'Gay Times in 'Frisco.' You don't know it, I know. I thought I
would wear it tonight, and then," she suddenly grasped his hand,
"you'll let me put all these things away forever! Won't you, Josh?
I've seen such nice pretty calico at the store to-day, and I can
make up one or two home dresses, like Jane's, only better fitting,
of course. In fact, I asked them to send the roll up here to-
morrow for you to see."
Mr. Rylands felt relieved. Perhaps his views had changed about the
moral effect of her retaining these symbols of her past, for he
consented to the calico dresses, not, however, without an inward
suspicion that she would not look so well in them, and that the one
she had on was more becoming.
Meantime she tried another piece of music. It was equally
incongruous and slightly Bacchantic.
"There used to be a mighty pretty dance went to that," she said,
nodding her head in time with the music, and assisting the heavily
spasmodic attempts of the instrument with the pleasant levity of
her voice. "I used to do it."
"Ye might try it now, Ellen," suggested her husband, with a half-
frightened, half-amused tolerance.
"YOU play, then," said Mrs. Rylands quickly, offering her seat to
Mr. Rylands sat down to the harmonium, as Mrs. Rylands briskly
moved the table and chairs against the wall. Mr. Rylands played
slowly and strenuously, as from a conscientious regard of the
instrument. Mrs. Rylands stood in the centre of the floor, making
a rather pretty, animated picture, as she again stimulated the
heavy harmonium swell not only with her voice but her hands and
feet. Presently she began to skip.
I should warn the reader here that this was before the "shawl" or
"skirt" dancing was in vogue, and I am afraid that pretty Mrs.
Rylands's performances would now be voted slow. Her silk skirt and
frilled petticoat were lifted just over her small ankles and tiny
bronze-kid shoes. In the course of a pirouette or two, there was a
slight further revelation of blue silk stockings and some delicate
embroidery, but really nothing more than may be seen in the sweep
of a modern waltz. Suddenly the music ceased. Mr. Rylands had
left the harmonium and walked over to the hearth. Mrs. Rylands
stopped, and came towards him with a flushed, anxious face.
"It don't seem to go right, does it?" she said, with her nervous
laugh. "I suppose I'm getting too old now, and I don't quite
"Better forget it altogether," he replied gravely. He stopped at
seeing a singular change in her face, and added awkwardly, "When I
told you I didn't want you to be ashamed of your past, nor to try
to forget what you were, I didn't mean such things as that!"
"What did you mean?" she said timidly.
The truth was that Mr. Rylands did not know. He had known this
sort of thing only in the abstract. He had never had the least
acquaintance with the class to which his wife had belonged, nor
known anything of their methods. It was a revelation to him now,
in the woman he loved, and who was his wife. He was not shocked so
much as he was frightened.
"You shall have the dress to-morrow, Ellen," he said gently, "and
you can put away these gewgaws. You don't need to look like Tinkie
He did not see the look of triumph that lit up her eye, but added,
"Go on and play."
She sat down obediently to the instrument. He watched her for a
few moments from the toe of her kid slipper on the pedals to the
swell of her shoulders above the keyboard, with a strange,
abstracted face. Presently she stopped and came over to him.
"And when I've got these nice calico frocks, and you can't tell me
from Jane, and I'm a good housekeeper, and settle down to be a
farmer's wife, maybe I'll have a secret to tell you."
"A secret?" he repeated gravely. "Why not now?"
Her face was quite aglow with excitement and a certain timid
mischief as she laughed: "Not while you are so solemn. It can
He looked at his watch. "I must give some orders to Jim about the
stock before he turns in," he said.
"He's gone to the stables already," said Mrs. Rylands.
"No matter; I can go there and find him."
"Shall I bring your boots?" she said quickly.
"I'll put them on when I pass through the kitchen. I won't be long
away. Now go to bed. You are looking tired," he said gently, as
he gazed at the drawn lines about her eyes and mouth. Her former
pretty color struck him also as having changed of late, and as
being irregular and inharmonious.
As Mrs. Rylands obediently ascended the stairs she heaved a faint
sigh, her only recognition of her husband's criticism. He turned
and passed quickly into the kitchen. He wanted to be alone to
collect his thoughts. But he was surprised to find Jane still
there, sitting bolt upright in a chair in the corner. Apparently
she had been expecting him, for as he entered she stood up, and
wiped her cheek and mouth with one hand, as if to compress her lips
the more tightly.
"I reckoned," she began, "that unless you war for forgettin'
everythin' in these yer goings on, ye'd be passin' through here to
tend to your stock. I've got a word to say to ye, Mr. Rylands.
When I first kem over here to help, I got word from the folks
around that your wife afore you married her was just one o' them
bally dancers. Well, that was YOUR lookout, not mine! Jane
Mackinnon ain't the kind to take everybody's sayin' as gospil, but
she kalkilates to treat folks ez she finds 'em. When she finds 'em
lyin' and deceivin'; when she finds em purtendin' one thing and
doin' another; when she finds 'em makin' fools tumble to 'em;
playing soots on their own husbands, and turnin' an honest house
into a music-hall and a fandango shop, she kicks! You hear me!
Jane Mackinnon kicks!"
"What do you mean?" said Mr. Rylands sternly.
"I mean," said Miss Mackinnon, striking her hips with the back of
her hands smartly, and accenting each word that dropped like a
bullet from her mouth with an additional blow,--"I--mean--that--
here--in--this--very--kitchen--all--the--arternoon; there! I mean
that whiles she was waitin' here for you, she was canoodlin' and
cryin' over old times with him! I saw her myself through the
winder. That's what I mean, Mr. Joshua Rylands."
"It's false! She had some poor stranger here with a lame horse.
She told me so herself."
Jane Mackinnon laughed shrilly.
"Did she tell you that the poor stranger was young and pretty-
faced, with black moustarches? that his store clothes must have
cost a fortin, saying nothing of his gold-lined, broadcloth
sarrapper? Did she say that his horse was so lame that when I went
to get another he wouldn't WAIT for it? Did she tell you WHO he
"No, she did not know," said Rylands sternly, but with a whitening
"Well, I'll tell you! The gambler, the shooter!--the man whose
name is black enough to stain any woman he knows. Jim recognized
him like a shot; he sez, the moment he clapped eyes on him at the
door, 'Dod blasted, if it ain't Jack Hamlin!'"
Little as Mr. Rylands knew of the world, he had heard that name.
But it was not THAT he was thinking of. He was thinking of the
camp-fire in the wood, the handsome figure before it, the tethered
horse. He was thinking of the lighted sitting-room, the fire, his
wife's bare shoulders, her slippers, stockings, and the dance. He
saw it all,--a lightning-flash to his dull imagination. The room
seemed to expand and then grow smaller, the figure of Jane to sway
backwards and forwards before him. He murmured the name of God
with lips that were voiceless, caught at the kitchen table to
steady himself, held it till he felt his arms grow rigid, and then
recovered himself,--white, cold, and sane.
"Speak a word of this to HER," he said deliberately, "enter her
room while I'm gone, even leave the kitchen before I come back, and
I'll throw you into the road. Tell that hired man, if he dares to
breathe it to a soul I'll strangle him."
The unlooked-for rage of this quiet, God-fearing man, and dupe, as
she believed, was terrible, but convincing. She shrank back into
the corner as he coolly drew on his boots and waterproof, and
without another word left the house.
He knew what he was going to do as well as if it had been ordained
for him. He knew he would find the young man in the wood; for
whatever were the truth of the other stories, he and the visitor
were identical; he had seen him with his own eyes. He would
confront him face to face and know all; and until then, he could
not see his wife again. He walked on rapidly, but without
feverishness or mental confusion. He saw his duty plainly,--if
Ellen had "backslidden," he must give her another trial. These
were his articles of faith. He should not put her away; but she
should nevermore be wife to him. It was HE who had tempted her, it
was true; perhaps God would forgive her for that reason, but HE
could never love her again.
The fury of the storm had somewhat abated as he reached the wood.
The fire was still there, but no longer a leaping flame. A dull
glow in the darkness of the forest aisles was all that indicated
its position. Rylands at once plunged in that direction; he was
near enough to see the red embers when he heard a sharp click, and
a voice called:--
Mr. Hamlin was a light sleeper. The crackle of underbrush had been
enough to disturb him. The voice was his; the click was the
cocking of his revolver.
Rylands was no coward, but halted diplomatically.
"Now, then," said Mr. Hamlin's voice, "a little more this way, IN
THE LIGHT, if you please!"
Rylands moved as directed, and saw Mr. Hamlin lying before the
fire, resting easily on one hand, with his revolver in the other.
"Thank you!" said Jack. "Excuse my precautions, but it is night,
and this is, for the present, my bedroom."
"My name is Rylands; you called at my house this afternoon and saw
my wife," said Rylands slowly.
"I did," said Hamlin. "It was mighty kind of you to return my call
so soon, but I didn't expect it."
"I reckon not. But I know who you are, and that you are an old
associate of hers, in the days of her sin and unregeneration. I
want you to answer me, before God and man, what was your purpose in
coming there to-day?"
"Look here! I don't think it's necessary to drag in strangers to
hear my answer," said Jack, lying down again, "but I came to borrow
"Is that the truth?"
Jack got upon his feet very solemnly, put on his hat, drew down his
waistcoat, and approached Mr. Rylands with his hands in his pockets.
"Mr. Rylands," he said, with great suavity of manner, "this is the
second time today that I have had the honor of having my word
doubted by your family. Your wife was good enough to question my
assertion that I didn't know that she was living here, but that was
a woman's vanity. You have no such excuse. There is my horse
yonder, lame, as you may see. I didn't lame him for the sake of
seeing your wife nor you."
There was that in Mr. Hamlin's audacity and perfect self-possession
which, even while it irritated, never suggested deceit. He was too
reckless of consequence to lie. Mr. Rylands was staggered and half
convinced. Nevertheless, he hesitated.
"Dare you tell me everything that happened between my wife and you?"
"Dare you listen?" said Mr. Hamlin quietly.
Mr. Rylands turned a little white. After a moment he said:--
"Good!" said Mr. Hamlin. "I like your grit, though I don't mind
telling you it's the ONLY thing I like about you. Sit down. Well,
I haven't seen Nell Montgomery for three years until I met her as
your wife, at your house. She was surprised as I was, and
frightened as I wasn't. She spent the whole interview in telling
me the history of her marriage and her life with you, and nothing
more. I cannot say that it was remarkably entertaining, or that
she was as amusing as your wife as she was as Nell Montgomery, the
variety actress. When she had finished, I came away."
Mr. Rylands, who had seated himself, made a movement as if to rise.
But Mr. Hamlin laid his hand on his knee.
"I asked you if you dared to listen. I have something myself to
say of that interview. I found your wife wearing the old dresses
that other men had given her, and she said she wore them because
she thought it pleased you. I found that you, who are questioning
my calling upon her, had already got the worst of her old chums to
visit her without asking her consent; I found that instead of being
the first one to lie for her and hide her, you were the first one
to tell anybody her history, just because you thought it was to the
glory of God generally, and of Joshua Rylands in particular."
"A man's motives are his own," stammered Rylands.
"Sorry you didn't see it when you questioned mine just now," said
"Then she complained to you?" said Rylands hesitatingly.
"I didn't say that," said Jack shortly.
"But you found her unhappy?"
"And you advised her"--said Rylands tentatively.
"I advised her to chuck you and try to get a better husband." He
paused, and then added, with a disgusted laugh, "but she didn't
tumble to it, for a d----d silly reason."
"What reason?" said Rylands hurriedly.
"Said she LOVED you," returned Jack, kicking a brand back into the
fire. Mr. Rylands's white cheeks flamed out suddenly like the
brand. Seeing which, Jack turned upon him deliberately.
"Mr. Joshua Rylands, I've seen many fools in my time. I've seen
men holding four aces backed down because they thought they KNEW
the other man had a royal flush! I've seen a man sell his claim
for a wild-cat share, with the gold lying a foot below him in the
ground he walked on. I've seen a dead shot shoot wild because he
THOUGHT he saw something in the other man's eye. I've seen a heap
of God-forsaken fools, but I never saw one before who claimed God
as a pal. You've got a wife a d----d sight truer to you for what
you call her 'sin,' than you've ever been to her, with all your
d----d salvation! And as you couldn't make her otherwise, though
you've tried to hard enough, it seems to me that for square
downright chuckle-headedness, you can take the cake! Good-night!
Now, run away and play! You're making me tired."
"One moment," said Mr. Rylands awkwardly and hurriedly. "I may
have wronged you; I was mistaken. Won't you come back with me and
"Not much," said Jack. "I left your house because I thought it
better for you and her that no one should know of my being there."
"But you were already recognized," said Mr. Rylands. "It was Jane
who lied about you, and your return with me will confute her
"Who?" asked Jack.
"Jane, our hired girl."
Mr. Hamlin uttered an indescribable laugh.
"That's just as well! You simply tell Jane you SAW me; that I was
greatly shocked at what she said, but that I forgive her. I don't
think she'll say any more."
Strange to add, Mr. Hamlin's surmise was correct. Mr. Rylands
found Jane still in the kitchen alone, terrified, remorseful, yet
ever after silent on the subject. Stranger still, the hired man
became equally uncommunicative. Mrs. Rylands, attributing her
husband's absence only to care of the stock, had gone to bed in a
feverish condition, and Mr. Rylands did not deem it prudent to tell
her of his interview. The next day she sent for the doctor, and it
was deemed necessary for her to keep her bed for a few days. Her
husband was singularly attentive and considerate during that time,
and it was probable that Mrs. Rylands seized that opportunity to
tell him the secret she spoke of the night before. Whatever it
was,--for it was not generally known for a few months later,--it
seemed to draw them closer together, imparted a protecting dignity
to Joshua Rylands, which took the place of his former selfish
austerity, gave them a future to talk of confidentially, hopefully,
and sometimes foolishly, which took the place of their more foolish
past, and when the roll of calico came from the cross roads, it
contained also a quantity of fine linen, laces, small caps, and
other trifles, somewhat in contrast to the more homely materials
And when three months were past, the sitting-room was often lit up
and made cheerful, particularly on that supreme occasion when, with
a great deal of enthusiasm, all the women of the countryside
flocked to see Mrs. Rylands and her first baby. And a more
considerate and devoted couple than the father and mother they had
THE MAN AT THE SEMAPHORE
In the early days of the Californian immigration, on the extremest
point of the sandy peninsula, where the bay of San Francisco
debouches into the Pacific, there stood a semaphore telegraph.
Tossing its black arms against the sky,--with its back to the
Golden Gate and that vast expanse of sea whose nearest shore was
Japan,--it signified to another semaphore further inland the "rigs"
of incoming vessels, by certain uncouth signs, which were again
passed on to Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, where they reappeared
on a third semaphore, and read to the initiated "schooner," "brig"
"ship," or "steamer." But all homesick San Francisco had learned
the last sign, and on certain days of the month every eye was
turned to welcome those gaunt arms widely extended at right angles,
which meant "sidewheel steamer" (the only steamer which carried the
mails) and "letters from home." In the joyful reception accorded
to that herald of glad tidings, very few thought of the lonely
watcher on the sand dunes who dispatched them, or even knew of that
For desolate it was beyond description. The Presidio, with its
voiceless, dismounted cannon and empty embrasures hidden in a
hollow, and the Mission Dolores, with its crumbling walls and
belfry tower lost in another, made the ultima thule of all San
Francisco wandering. The Cliff house and Fort Point did not then
exist; from Black Point the curving line of shore of "Yerba Buena"--
or San Francisco--showed only a stretch of glittering wind-swept
sand dunes, interspersed with straggling gullies of half-buried
black "scrub oak." The long six months' summer sun fiercely beat
upon it from the cloudless sky above; the long six months' trade
winds fiercely beat upon it from the west; the monotonous roll-call
of the long Pacific surges regularly beat upon it from the sea.
Almost impossible to face by day through sliding sands and
buffeting winds, at night it was impracticable through the dense
sea-fog that stole softly through the Golden Gate at sunset.
Thence, until morning, sea and shore were a trackless waste,
bounded only by the warning thunders of the unseen sea. The
station itself, a rudely built cabin, with two windows,--one
furnished with a telescope,--looked like a heap of driftwood, or a
stranded wreck left by the retiring sea; the semaphore--the only
object for leagues--lifted above the undulating dunes, took upon
itself various shapes, more or less gloomy, according to the hour
or weather,--a blasted tree, the masts and clinging spars of a
beached ship, a dismantled gallows; or, with the background of a
golden sunset across the Gate, and its arms extended at right
angles, to a more hopeful fancy it might have seemed the missionary
Cross, which the enthusiast Portala lifted on that heathen shore a
hundred years before.
Not that Dick Jarman--the solitary station keeper--ever indulged
this fancy. An escaped convict from one of her Britannic Majesty's
penal colonies, a "stowaway" in the hold of an Australian ship, he
had landed penniless in San Francisco, fearful of contact with his
more honest countrymen already there, and liable to detection at
any moment. Luckily for him, the English immigration consisted
mainly of gold-seekers en route to Sacramento and the southern
mines. He was prudent enough to resist the temptation to follow
them, and accepted the post of semaphore keeper,--the first work
offered him,--which the meanest immigrant, filled with dreams of
gold, would have scorned. His employers asked him no questions,
and demanded no references; his post could be scarcely deemed one
of trust,--there was no property for him to abscond with but the
telescope; he was removed from temptation and evil company in his
lonely waste; his duties were as mechanical as the instrument he
worked, and interruption of them would be instantly known at San
Francisco. For this he would receive his board and lodging and
seventy-five dollars a month,--a sum to be ridiculed in those
"flush days," but which seemed to the broken-spirited and half-
famished stowaway a princely independence.
And then there was rest and security! He was free from that
torturing anxiety and fear of detection which had haunted him night
and day for three months. The ceaseless vigilance and watchful
dread he had known since his escape, he could lay aside now. The
rude cabin on the sand dune was to him as the long-sought cave to
some hunted animal. It seemed impossible that any one would seek
him there. He was spared alike the contact of his enemies or the
shame of recognizing even a friendly face, until by each he would
be forgotten. From his coign of vantage on that desolate waste,
and with the aid of his telescope, no stranger could approach
within two or three miles of his cabin without undergoing his
scrutiny. And at the worst, if he was pursued here, before him was
the trackless shore and the boundless sea!
And at times there was a certain satisfaction in watching, unseen
and in perfect security, the decks of passing ships. With the aid
of his glass he could mingle again with the world from which he was
debarred, and gloomily wonder who among those passengers knew their
solitary watcher, or had heard of his deeds; it might have made him
gloomier had he known that in those eager faces turned towards the
golden haven there was little thought of anything but themselves.
He tried to read in faces on board the few outgoing ships the
record of their success with a strange envy. They were returning
home! HOME! For sometimes--but seldom--he thought of his own home
and his past. It was a miserable past of forgery and embezzlement
that had culminated a career of youthful dissipation and self-
indulgence, and shut him out, forever, from the staid old English
cathedral town where he was born. He knew that his relations
believed and wished him dead. He thought of this past with little
pleasure, but with little remorse. Like most of his stamp, he
believed it was ill-luck, chance, somebody else's fault, but never
his own responsible action. He would not repent; he would be wiser
only. And he would not be retaken--alive!
Two or three months passed in this monotonous duty, in which he
partly recovered his strength and his nerves. He lost his furtive,
restless, watchful look; the bracing sea air and the burning sun
put into his face the healthy tan and the uplifted frankness of a
sailor. His eyes grew keener from long scanning of the horizon; he
knew where to look for sails, from the creeping coastwise schooner
to the far-rounding merchantman from Cape Horn. He knew the faint
line of haze that indicated the steamer long before her masts and
funnels became visible. He saw no soul except the solitary boatman
of the little "plunger," who landed his weekly provisions at a
small cove hard by. The boatman thought his secretiveness and
reticence only the surliness of his nation, and cared little for a
man who never asked for the news, and to whom he brought no
letters. The long nights which wrapped the cabin in sea-fog, and
at first seemed to heighten the exile's sense of security, by
degrees, however, became monotonous, and incited an odd restlessness,
which he was wont to oppose by whiskey,--allowed as a part of his
stores,--which, while it dulled his sensibilities, he, however,
never permitted to interfere with his mechanical duties.
He had been there five months, and the hills on the opposite shore
between Tamalpais were already beginning to show their russet
yellow sides. One bright morning he was watching the little fleet
of Italian fishing-boats hovering in the bay. This was always a
picturesque spectacle, perhaps the only one that relieved the
general monotony of his outlook. The quaint lateen sails of dull
red, or yellow, showing against the sparkling waters, and the red
caps or handkerchiefs of the fishermen, might have attracted even a
more abstracted man. Suddenly one of the larger boats tacked, and
made directly for the little cove where his weekly plunger used to
land. In an instant he was alert and suspicious. But a close
examination of the boat through his glass satisfied him that it
contained, in addition to the crew, only two or three women,
apparently the family of the fishermen. As it ran up on the beach
and the entire party disembarked he could see it was merely a
careless, peaceable invasion, and he thought no more about it. The
strangers wandered about the sands, gesticulating and laughing;
they brought a pot ashore, built a fire, and cooked a homely meal.
He could see that from time to time the semaphore--evidently a
novelty to them--had attracted their attention; and having occasion
to signal the arrival of a bark, the working of the uncouth arms of
the instrument drew the children in half-frightened curiosity
towards it, although the others held aloof, as if fearful of
trespassing upon some work of the government, no doubt secretly
guarded by the police. A few mornings later he was surprised to
see upon the beach, near the same locality, a small heap of lumber
which had evidently been landed in the early morning fog. The next
day an old tent appeared on the spot, and the men, evidently
fishermen, began the erection of a rude cabin beside it. Jarman
had been long enough there to know that it was government land, and
that these manifestly humble "squatters" upon it would not be
interfered with for some time to come. He began to be uneasy
again; it was true they were fully half a mile from him, and they
were foreigners; but might not their reckless invasion of the law
attract others, in this lawless country, to do the same? It ought
to be stopped. For once Richard Jarman sided with legal authority.
But when the cabin was completed, it was evident from what he saw
of its rude structure that it was only a temporary shelter for the
fisherman's family and the stores, and refitting of the fishing-
boat, more convenient to them than the San Francisco wharves. The
beach was utilized for the mending of nets and sails, and thus
became half picturesque. In spite of the keen northwestern trades,
the cloudless, sunshiny mornings tempted these southerners back to
their native al fresco existence; they not only basked in the sun,
but many of their household duties, and even the mysteries of their
toilet, were performed in the open air. They did not seem to care
to penetrate into the desolate region behind them; their half-
amphibious habit kept them near the water's edge, and Richard
Jarman, after taking his limited walks for the first few mornings
in another direction, found it no longer necessary to avoid the
locality, and even forgot their propinquity.
But one morning, as the fog was clearing away and the sparkle of
the distant sea was beginning to show from his window, he rose from
his belated breakfast to fetch water from the "breaker" outside,
which had to be replenished weekly from Sancelito, as there was no
spring in his vicinity. As he opened the door, he was inexpressibly
startled by the figure of a young woman standing in front of it,
who, however, half fearfully, half laughingly withdrew before him.
But his own manifest disturbance apparently gave her courage.
"I jess was looking at that thing," she said bashfully, pointing to
He was still more astonished, for, looking at her dark eyes and
olive complexion, he had expected her to speak Italian or broken
English. And, possibly because for a long time he had seen and
known little of women, he was quite struck with her good looks. He
hesitated, stammered, and then said:--
"Won't you come in?"
She drew back still farther and made a rapid gesture of negation
with her head, her hand, and even her whole lithe figure. Then she
said, with a decided American intonation:--
"Why not?" said Jarman mechanically.
The girl sidled up against the cabin, keeping her eyes fixed on
Jarman with a certain youthful shrewdness.
"Oh, you know!" she said.
"I really do not. Tell me why."
She drew herself up against the wall a little proudly, though still
youthfully, with her hands behind her.
"I ain't that kind of girl," she said simply.
The blood rushed to Jarman's checks. Dissipated and abandoned as
his life had been, small respecter of women as he was, he was
shocked and shamed. Knowing too, as he did, how absorbed he was in
other things, he was indignant, because not guilty.
"Do as you please, then," he said shortly, and reentered the cabin.
But the next moment he saw his error in betraying an irritation
that was open to misconstruction. He came out again, scarcely
looking at the girl, who was lounging away.
"Do you want me to explain to you how the thing works?" he said
indifferently. "I can't show you unless a ship comes in."
The girl's eyes brightened softly as she turned to him.
"Do tell me," she said, with an anticipatory smile and flash of
white teeth. "Won't you?"
She certainly was very pretty and simple, in spite of her late
speech. Jarman briefly explained to her the movements of the
semaphore arms and their different significance. She listened with
her capped head a little on one side like an attentive bird, and
her arms unconsciously imitating the signs. Certainly, for all
that she SPOKE like an American, her gesticulation was Italian.
"And then," she said triumphantly when he paused, "when the sailors
see that sign up they know they are coming in the harbor."
Jarman smiled, as he had not smiled since he had been there. He
corrected this mistake of her eager haste to show her intelligence,
and, taking the telescope, pointed out the other semaphore,--a thin
black outline on a distant inland hill. He then explained how HIS
signs were repeated by that instrument to San Francisco.
"My! Why, I always allowed that was only the cross stuck up in the
Lone Mountain Cemetery," she said.
"You are a Catholic?"
"And you are an Italian?"
"Father is, but mother was a 'Merikan, same as me. Mother's dead."
"And your father is the fisherman yonder?"
"Yes,--but," with a look of pride, "he's got the biggest boat of
"And only you and your family are ashore here?"
"Yes, and sometimes Mark." She laughed an odd little laugh.
"Mark? Who's he?" he asked quickly.
He had not noticed the sudden coquettish pose and half-affected
bashfulness of the girl; he was thinking only of the possibility of
detection by strangers.
"Oh, he is Marco Franti, but I call him 'Mark.' It's the same
name, you know, and it makes him mad," said the girl, with the same
suggestion of archness and coquetry.
But all this was lost on Jarman.
"Oh, another Italian," he said, relieved. She turned away a little
awkwardly when he added, "But you haven't told me YOUR name, you
"Cara,--that's 'dear' in Italian, isn't it?" he said, with a
reminiscence of the opera and a half smile.
"Yes," she said a little scornfully, "but it means Carlotta,--
Charlotte, you know. Some girls call me Charley," she said
"I see--Cara--or Carlotta Franti."
To his surprise she burst into a peal of laughter.
"I reckon not YET. Franti is Mark's name, not mine. Mine is
Murano,--Carlotta Murano. Good-by." She moved away, then stopped
suddenly and said, "I'm comin' again some time when the thing is
working," and with a nod of her head, ran away. He looked after
her; could see the outlines of her youthful figure in her slim
cotton gown,--limp and clinging in the damp sea air, and the sudden
revelation of her bare ankles thrust stockingless into canvas
He went back into his cabin, when presently his attention was
engrossed by an incoming vessel. He made the signals, half
expecting, almost hoping, that the girl would return to watch him.
But her figure was already lost in the sand dunes. Yet he fancied
he still heard the echoes of her voice and his own in this cabin
which had so long been dumb and voiceless, and he now started at
every sound. For the first time he became aware of the dreadful
disorder and untidiness of its uninvaded privacy. He could
scarcely believe he had been living with his stove, his bed, and
cooking utensils all in one corner of the barnlike room, and he
began to put them "to rights" in a rough, hard formality, strongly
suggestive of his convict experience. He rolled up his blankets
into a hard cylinder at the head of his cot. He scraped out his
kettles and saucepans, and even "washed down" the floor, afterwards
sprinkling clean dry sand, hot with the noonday sunshine, on its
half-dried boards. In arranging these domestic details he had to
change the position of a little mirror; and glancing at it for the
first time in many days, he was dissatisfied with his straggling
beard,--grown during his voyage from Australia,--and although he
had retained it as a disguise, he at once shaved it off, leaving
only a mustache, and revealing a face from which a healthier life
and out-of-door existence had removed the last traces of vice and
dissipation. But he did not know it.
All the next day he thought of his fair visitor, and found himself
often repeating her odd remark that she was "not that kind of
girl," with a smile that was alternately significant or vacant.
Evidently she could take care of herself, he thought, although her
very good looks no doubt had exposed her to the rude attentions of
fishermen or the common drift of San Francisco wharves. Perhaps
this was why her father brought her here. When the day passed and
she came not, he began vaguely to wonder if he had been rude to
her. Perhaps he had taken her simple remark too seriously; perhaps
she had expected he would only laugh, and had found him dull and
stupid. Perhaps he had thrown away an opportunity. An opportunity
for what? To renew his old life and habits? No, no! The horrors
of his recent imprisonment and escape were still too fresh in his
memory; he was not safe yet. Then he wondered if he had not grown
spiritless and pigeon-livered in his solitude and loneliness. The
next day he searched for her with his glass, and saw her playing
with one of the children on the beach,--a very picture of child or
nymphlike innocence. Perhaps it was because she was not "that kind
of girl" that she had attracted him. He laughed bitterly. Yes;
that was very funny; he, an escaped convict, drawn towards honest,
simple innocence! Yet he knew--he was positive--he had not thought
of any ill when he spoke to her. He took a singular, a ridiculous
pride in and credit to himself for that. He repeated it incessantly
to himself. Then what made her angry? Himself! The devil! Did he
carry, then, the record of his past life forever in his face--in his
speech--in his manners? The thought made him sullen. The next day
he would not look towards the shore; it was wonderful what
excitement and satisfaction he got out of that strange act of
self-denial; it made the day seem full that had been so vacant
before; yet he could not tell why or wherefore. He felt injured,
but he rather liked it. Yet in the night he was struck with the
idea that she might have gone back to San Francisco, and he lay
awake longing for the morning light to satisfy him. Yet when the
fog cleared, and from a nearer point, behind a sand dune, he
discovered, by the aid of his glass, that she was seated on the
sun-warmed sands combing out her long hair like a mermaid, he
immediately returned to the cabin, and that morning looked no more
that way. In the afternoon, there being no sails in sight, he
turned aside from the bay and walked westward towards the ocean,
halting only at the league-long line of foam which marked the
breaking Pacific surges. Here he was surprised to see a little
child, half-naked, following barefooted the creeping line of spume,
or running after the detached and quivering scraps of foam that
chased each other over the wet sand, and only a little further on,
to come upon Cara herself, sitting with her elbows on her knees and
her round chin in her hands, apparently gazing over the waste of
waters before her. A sudden and inexplicable shyness overtook him.
He hesitated, and stepped half-hidden in a gully between the sand
As yet he had not been observed; the young girl called to the child
and, suddenly rising, threw off her red cap and shawl and quietly
began to disrobe herself. A couple of coarse towels were at her
feet. Jarman instantly comprehended that she was going to bathe
with the child. She undoubtedly knew as well as he did that she
was safe in that solitude; that no one could intrude upon her
privacy from the bay shore, nor from the desolate inland trail to
the sea, without her knowledge. Of his own contiguity she had
evidently taken no thought, believing him safely housed in his
cabin beside the semaphore. She lifted her hands, and with a
sudden movement shook out her long hair and let it fall down her
back at the same moment that her unloosened blouse began to slip
from her shoulders. Richard Jarman turned quickly and walked
noiselessly and rapidly away, until the little hillock had shut out
His retreat was as sudden, unreasoning, and unpremeditated as his
intrusion. It was not like himself, he knew, and yet it was as
perfectly instinctive and natural as if he had intruded upon a
sister. In the South Seas he had seen native girls diving beside
the vessels for coins, but they had provoked no such instinct as
that which possessed him now. More than that, he swept a quick,
wrathful glance along the horizon on either side, and then,
mounting a remote hillock which still hid him from the beach, he
sat there and kept watch and ward. From time to time the strong
sea-breeze brought him the sound of infantine screams and shouts of
girlish laughter from the unseen shore; he only looked the more
keenly and suspiciously for any wandering trespasser, and did not
turn his head. He lay there nearly half an hour, and when the
sounds had ceased, rose and made his way slowly back to the cabin.
He had not gone many yards before he heard the twitter of voices
and smothered laughter behind him. He turned; it was Cara and the
child,--a girl of six or seven. Cara's face was rosy,--possibly
from her bath, and possibly from some shame-faced consciousness.
He slackened his pace, and as they ranged beside him said, "Good-
"Lord!" said Cara, stifling another laugh, "we didn't know you were
around; we thought you were always 'tending your telegraph, didn't
we, Lucy?" (to the child, who was convulsed with mirth and
sheepishness). "Why, we've been taking a wash in the sea." She
tried to gather up her long hair, which had been left to stray over
her shoulders and dry in the sunlight, and even made a slight
pretense of trying to conceal the wet towels they were carrying.
Jarman did not laugh. "If you had told me," he said gravely, "I
could have kept watch for you with my glass while you were there.
I could see further than you."
"Tould you see US?" asked the little girl, with hopeful vivacity.
"No!" said Jarman, with masterly evasion. "There are little
sandhills between this and the beach."
"Then how tould other people see us?" persisted the child.
Jarman could see that the older girl was evidently embarrassed, and
changed the subject. "I sometimes go out," he said, "when I can
see there are no vessels in sight, and I take ray glass with me. I
can always get back in time to make signals. I thought, in fact,"
he said, glancing at Cara's brightening face, "that I might get as
far as your house on the shore some day." To his surprise, her
embarrassment suddenly seemed to increase, although she had looked
relieved before, and she did not reply. After a moment she said
"Did you ever see the sea-lions?"
"No," said Jarman.
"Not the big ones on Seal Rock, beyond the cliffs?" continued the
girl, in real astonishment.
"No," repeated Jarman. "I never walked in that direction." He
vaguely remembered that they were a curiosity which sometimes
attracted parties thither, and for that reason he had avoided the
"Why, I have sailed all around the rock in father's boat,"
continued Cara, with importance. "That's the best way to see 'em,
and folks from Frisco sometimes takes a sail out there just on
purpose,--it's too sandy to walk or drive there. But it's only a
step from here. Look here!" she said suddenly, and frankly opening
her fine eyes upon him. "I'm going to take Lucy there to-morrow,
and I'll show you." Jarman felt his cheeks flush quickly with a
pleasure that embarrassed him. "It won't take long," added Cara,
mistaking his momentary hesitation, "and you can leave your
telegraph alone. Nobody will be there, so no one will see you and
nobody know it."
He would have gone then, anyway, he knew, yet in his absurd self-
consciousness he was glad that her last suggestion had relieved him
of a sense of reckless compliance. He assented eagerly, when with
a wave of her hand, a flash of her white teeth, and the same
abruptness she had shown at their last parting, she caught Lucy by
the arm and darted away in a romping race to her dwelling. Jarman
started after her. He had not wanted to go to her father's house
particularly, but why was SHE evidently as averse to it? With the
subtle pleasure that this admission gave him there was a faint
stirring of suspicion.
It was gone when he found her and Lucy the next morning, radiant
with the sunshine, before his door. The restraint of their
previous meetings had been removed in some mysterious way, and they
chatted gayly as they walked towards the cliffs. She asked him
frankly many questions about himself, why he had come there, and if
he "wasn't lonely;" she answered frankly--I fear much more frankly
than he answered her--the many questions he asked her about herself
and her friends. When they reached the cliffs they descended to
the beach, which they found deserted. Before them--it seemed
scarce a pistol shot from the shore arose a high, broad rock,
beaten at its base by the long Pacific surf, on which a number of
shapeless animals were uncouthly disporting. This was Seal Rock,
the goal of their journey.
Yet after a few moments they no longer looked at it, but seated on
the sand, with Lucy gathering shells at the water's edge, they
continued their talk. Presently the talk became eager confidences,
and then,--there were long and dangerous lapses of silence, when
both were fain to make perfunctory talk with Lucy on the beach.
After one of those silences Jarman said:--
"Do you know I rather thought yesterday you didn't want me to come
to your father's house. Why was that?"
"Because Marco was there," said the girl frankly.
"What had HE to do with it?" said Jarman abruptly.
"He wants to marry me."
"And do you want to marry HIM?" said Jarman quickly.
"No," said the girl passionately.
"Why don't you get rid of him, then?"
"I can't, he's hiding here,--he's father's friend."
"Hiding? What's he been doing?"
"Stealing. Stealing gold-dust from miners. I never cared for him
anyway. And I hate a thief!"
She looked up quickly. Jarman had risen to his feet, his face
turned to sea.
"What are you looking at?" she said wonderingly.
"A ship," said Jarman, in a strange, hoarse voice. "I must hurry
back and signal. I'm afraid I haven't even time to walk with you,--
I must run for it. Good-by!"
He turned without offering his hand and ran hurriedly in the
direction of the semaphore.
Cara, discomfited, turned her black eyes to the sea. But it seemed
empty as before, no sail, no ship on the horizon line, only a
little schooner slowly beating out of the Gate. Ah, well! It no
doubt was there,--that sail,--though she could not see it; how keen
and far-seeing his handsome, honest eyes were! She heaved a little
sigh, and, calling Lucy to her side, began to make her way homeward.
But she kept her eyes on the semaphore; it seemed to her the next
thing to seeing him,--this man she was beginning to love. She waited
for the gaunt arms to move with the signal of the vessel he had
seen. But, strange to say, it was motionless. He must have been
All this, however, was driven from her mind in the excitement that
she found on her return thrilling her own family. They had been
warned that a police boat with detectives on board had been
dispatched from San Francisco to the cove. Luckily, they had
managed to convey the fugitive Franti on board a coastwise
schooner,--Cara started as she remembered the one she had seen
beating out of the Gate,--and he was now safe from pursuit. Cara
felt relieved; at the same time she felt a strange joy at her
heart, which sent the conscious blood to her cheek. She was not
thinking of the escaped Marco, but of Jarman. Later, when the
police boat arrived,--whether the detectives had been forewarned of
Marco's escape or not,--they contented themselves with a formal
search of the little fishing-hut and departed. But their boat
remained lying off the shore.
That night Cara tossed sleeplessly on her bed; she was sorry she
had ever spoken of Marco to Jarman. It was unnecessary now;
perhaps he disbelieved her and thought she loved Marco; perhaps
that was the reason of his strange and abrupt leave-taking that
afternoon. She longed for the next day, she could tell him
Towards morning she slept fitfully, but was awakened by the sound
of voices on the sands outside the hut. Its flimsy structure,
already warped by the fierce day-long sun, allowed her through
chinks and crevices not only to recognize the voices of the
detectives, but to hear distinctly what they said. Suddenly the
name of Jarman struck upon her ear. She sat upright in bed,
"Are you sure it's the same man?" asked a second voice.
"Perfectly," answered the first. "He was tracked to 'Frisco, but
disappeared the day he landed. We knew from our agents that he
never left the bay. And when we found that somebody answering his
description got the post of telegraph operator out here, we knew
that we had spotted our man and the L250 sterling offered for his
"But that was five months ago. Why didn't you take him then?"
"Couldn't! For we couldn't hold him without the extradition papers
from Australia. We sent for 'em; they're due to-day or to-morrow
on the mail steamer."
"But he might have got away at any time?"
"He couldn't without our knowing it. Don't you see? Every time
the signals went up, we in San Francisco knew he was at his post.
We had him safe, out here on these sandhills, as if he'd been under
lock and key in 'Frisco. He was his own keeper, and reported to
"But since you're here and expect the papers to-morrow, why don't
you 'cop' him now?"
"Because there isn't a judge in San Francisco that would hold him a
moment unless he had those extradition papers before him. He'd be
discharged, and escape."
"Then what are you going to do?"
"As soon as the steamer is signaled in 'Frisco, we'll board her in
the bay, get the papers, and drop down upon him."
"I see; and as HE'S the signal man, the darned fool"--
"Will give the signal himself."
The laugh that followed was so cruel that the young girl shuddered.
But the next moment she slipped from the bed, erect, pale, and
The voices seemed gradually to retreat. She dressed herself
hurriedly, and passed noiselessly through the room of her still
sleeping parent, and passed out. A gray fog was lifting slowly
over the sands and sea, and the police boat was gone. She no
longer hesitated, but ran quickly in the direction of Jarman's
cabin. As she ran, her mind seemed to be swept clear of all
illusion and fancy; she saw plainly everything that had happened;
she knew the mystery of Jarman's presence here,--the secret of his
life,--the dreadful cruelty of her remark to him,--the man that she
knew now she loved. The sun was painting the black arms of the
semaphore as she toiled over the last stretch of sand and knocked
loudly at the door. There was no reply. She knocked again; the
cabin was silent. Had he already fled?--and without seeing her and
knowing all! She tried the handle of the door; it yielded; she
stepped boldly into the room, with his name upon her lips. He was
lying fully dressed upon his couch. She ran eagerly to his side
and stopped. It needed only a single glance at his congested face,
his lips parted with his heavy breath, to see that the man was
hopelessly, helplessly drunk!
Yet even then, without knowing that it was her thoughtless speech
which had driven him to seek this foolish oblivion of remorse and
sorrow, she saw only his HELPLESSNESS. She tried in vain to rouse
him; he only muttered a few incoherent words and sank back again.
She looked despairingly around. Something must be done; the
steamer might be visible at any moment. Ah, yes,--the telescope!
She seized it and swept the horizon. There was a faint streak of
haze against the line of sea and sky, abreast the Golden Gate. He
had once told her what it meant. It WAS the steamer! A sudden
thought leaped into her clear and active brain. If the police boat
should chance to see that haze too, and saw no warning signal from
the semaphore, they would suspect something. That signal must be
made, BUT NOT THE RIGHT ONE! She remembered quickly how he had
explained to her the difference between the signals for a coasting
steamer and the one that brought the mails. At that distance the
police boat could not detect whether the semaphore's arms were
extended to perfect right angles for the mail steamer, or if the
left arm slightly deflected for a coasting steamer. She ran out to
the windlass and seized the crank. For a moment it defied her
strength; she redoubled her efforts: it began to creak and groan,
the great arms were slowly uplifted, and the signal made.
But the familiar sounds of the moving machinery had pierced through
Jarman's sluggish consciousness as no other sound in heaven or
earth could have done, and awakened him to the one dominant sense
he had left,--the habit of duty. She heard him roll from the bed