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Selected Stories by Bret Harte

Part 2 out of 7

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It was on a hot day--and not long after this--that two short-legged
boys came to grief on the threshold of the school with a pail of
water, which they had laboriously brought from the spring, and that
Miss Mary compassionately seized the pail and started for the
spring herself. At the foot of the hill a shadow crossed her path,
and a blue-shirted arm dexterously but gently relieved her of her
burden. Miss Mary was both embarrassed and angry. "If you carried
more of that for yourself," she said, spitefully, to the blue arm,
without deigning to raise her lashes to its owner, "you'd do
better." In the submissive silence that followed she regretted the
speech, and thanked him so sweetly at the door that he stumbled.
Which caused the children to laugh again--a laugh in which Miss
Mary joined, until the color came faintly into her pale cheek. The
next day a barrel was mysteriously placed beside the door, and as
mysteriously filled with fresh spring water every morning.

Nor was this superior young person without other quiet attentions.
"Profane Bill," driver of the Slumgullion Stage, widely known in
the newspapers for his "gallantry" in invariably offering the box
seat to the fair sex, had excepted Miss Mary from this attention,
on the ground that he had a habit of "cussin' on upgrades," and
gave her half the coach to herself. Jack Hamlin, a gambler, having
once silently ridden with her in the same coach, afterward threw a
decanter at the head of a confederate for mentioning her name in a
barroom. The overdressed mother of a pupil whose paternity was
doubtful had often lingered near this astute Vestal's temple, never
daring to enter its sacred precincts, but content to worship the
priestess from afar.

With such unconscious intervals the monotonous procession of blue
skies, glittering sunshine, brief twilights, and starlit nights
passed over Red Gulch. Miss Mary grew fond of walking in the
sedate and proper woods. Perhaps she believed, with Mrs. Stidger,
that the balsamic odors of the firs "did her chest good," for
certainly her slight cough was less frequent and her step was
firmer; perhaps she had learned the unending lesson which the
patient pines are never weary of repeating to heedful or listless
ears. And so, one day, she planned a picnic on Buckeye Hill, and
took the children with her. Away from the dusty road, the
straggling shanties, the yellow ditches, the clamor of restless
engines, the cheap finery of shop windows, the deeper glitter of
paint and colored glass, and the thin veneering which barbarism
takes upon itself in such localities--what infinite relief was
theirs! The last heap of ragged rock and clay passed, the last
unsightly chasm crossed--how the waiting woods opened their long
files to receive them! How the children--perhaps because they had
not yet grown quite away from the breast of the bounteous Mother--
threw themselves face downward on her brown bosom with uncouth
caresses, filling the air with their laughter; and how Miss Mary
herself--felinely fastidious and intrenched as she was in the
purity of spotless skirts, collar, and cuffs--forgot all, and ran
like a crested quail at the head of her brood until, romping,
laughing, and panting, with a loosened braid of brown hair, a hat
hanging by a knotted ribbon from her throat, she came suddenly and
violently, in the heart of the forest, upon--the luckless Sandy!

The explanations, apologies, and not overwise conversation that
ensued need not be indicated here. It would seem, however, that
Miss Mary had already established some acquaintance with this ex-
drunkard. Enough that he was soon accepted as one of the party;
that the children, with that quick intelligence which Providence
gives the helpless, recognized a friend, and played with his blond
beard and long silken mustache, and took other liberties--as the
helpless are apt to do. And when he had built a fire against a
tree, and had shown them other mysteries of woodcraft, their
admiration knew no bounds. At the close of two such foolish, idle,
happy hours he found himself lying at the feet of the
schoolmistress, gazing dreamily in her face, as she sat upon the
sloping hillside weaving wreaths of laurel and syringa, in very
much the same attitude as he had lain when first they met. Nor was
the similitude greatly forced. The weakness of an easy, sensuous
nature that had found a dreamy exaltation in liquor, it is to be
feared was now finding an equal intoxication in love.

I think that Sandy was dimly conscious of this himself. I know
that he longed to be doing something--slaying a grizzly, scalping a
savage, or sacrificing himself in some way for the sake of this
sallow-faced, gray-eyed schoolmistress. As I should like to
present him in a heroic attitude, I stay my hand with great
difficulty at this moment, being only withheld from introducing
such an episode by a strong conviction that it does not usually
occur at such times. And I trust that my fairest reader, who
remembers that, in a real crisis, it is always some uninteresting
stranger or unromantic policeman, and not Adolphus, who rescues,
will forgive the omission.

So they sat there, undisturbed--the woodpeckers chattering overhead
and the voices of the children coming pleasantly from the hollow
below. What they said matters little. What they thought--which
might have been interesting--did not transpire. The woodpeckers
only learned how Miss Mary was an orphan; how she left her uncle's
house, to come to California, for the sake of health and
independence; how Sandy was an orphan, too; how he came to
California for excitement; how he had lived a wild life, and how he
was trying to reform; and other details, which, from a woodpecker's
viewpoint, undoubtedly must have seemed stupid, and a waste of
time. But even in such trifles was the afternoon spent; and when
the children were again gathered, and Sandy, with a delicacy which
the schoolmistress well understood, took leave of them quietly at
the outskirts of the settlement, it had seemed the shortest day of
her weary life.

As the long, dry summer withered to its roots, the school term of
Red Gulch--to use a local euphuism--"dried up" also. In another
day Miss Mary would be free; and for a season, at least, Red Gulch
would know her no more. She was seated alone in the schoolhouse,
her cheek resting on her hand, her eyes half-closed in one of those
daydreams in which Miss Mary--I fear to the danger of school
discipline --was lately in the habit of indulging. Her lap was
full of mosses, ferns, and other woodland memories. She was so
preoccupied with these and her own thoughts that a gentle tapping
at the door passed unheard, or translated itself into the
remembrance of far-off woodpeckers. When at last it asserted
itself more distinctly, she started up with a flushed cheek and
opened the door. On the threshold stood a woman the self-assertion
and audacity of whose dress were in singular contrast to her timid,
irresolute bearing.

Miss Mary recognized at a glance the dubious mother of her
anonymous pupil. Perhaps she was disappointed, perhaps she was
only fastidious; but as she coldly invited her to enter, she half-
unconsciously settled her white cuffs and collar, and gathered
closer her own chaste skirts. It was, perhaps, for this reason
that the embarrassed stranger, after a moment's hesitation, left
her gorgeous parasol open and sticking in the dust beside the door,
and then sat down at the farther end of a long bench. Her voice
was husky as she began:

"I heerd tell that you were goin' down to the Bay tomorrow, and I
couldn't let you go until I came to thank you for your kindness to
my Tommy."

Tommy, Miss Mary said, was a good boy, and deserved more than the
poor attention she could give him.

"Thank you, miss; thank ye!" cried the stranger, brightening even
through the color which Red Gulch knew facetiously as her "war
paint," and striving, in her embarrassment, to drag the long bench
nearer the schoolmistress. "I thank you, miss, for that! and if I
am his mother, there ain't a sweeter, dearer, better boy lives than
him. And if I ain't much as says it, thar ain't a sweeter, dearer,
angeler teacher lives than he's got."

Miss Mary, sitting primly behind her desk, with a ruler over her
shoulder, opened her gray eyes widely at this, but said nothing.

"It ain't for you to be complimented by the like of me, I know,"
she went on, hurriedly. "It ain't for me to be comin' here, in
broad day, to do it, either; but I come to ask a favor--not for me,
miss--not for me, but for the darling boy."

Encouraged by a look in the young schoolmistress's eye, and putting
her lilac-gloved hands together, the fingers downward, between her
knees, she went on, in a low voice:

"You see, miss, there's no one the boy has any claim on but me, and
I ain't the proper person to bring him up. I thought some, last
year, of sending him away to Frisco to school, but when they talked
of bringing a schoolma'am here, I waited till I saw you, and then I
knew it was all right, and I could keep my boy a little longer.
And O, miss, he loves you so much; and if you could hear him talk
about you, in his pretty way, and if he could ask you what I ask
you now, you couldn't refuse him.

"It is natural," she went on, rapidly, in a voice that trembled
strangely between pride and humility--"it's natural that he should
take to you, miss, for his father, when I first knew him, was a
gentleman--and the boy must forget me, sooner or later--and so I
ain't goin' to cry about that. For I come to ask you to take my
Tommy--God bless him for the bestest, sweetest boy that lives--to--
to--take him with you."

She had risen and caught the young girl's hand in her own, and had
fallen on her knees beside her.

"I've money plenty, and it's all yours and his. Put him in some
good school, where you can go and see him, and help him to--to--to
forget his mother. Do with him what you like. The worst you can
do will be kindness to what he will learn with me. Only take him
out of this wicked life, this cruel place, this home of shame and
sorrow. You will; I know you will--won't you? You will--you must
not, you cannot say no! You will make him as pure, as gentle as
yourself; and when he has grown up, you will tell him his father's
name--the name that hasn't passed my lips for years--the name of
Alexander Morton, whom they call here Sandy! Miss Mary!--do not
take your hand away! Miss Mary, speak to me! You will take my
boy? Do not put your face from me. I know it ought not to look on
such as me. Miss Mary!--my God, be merciful!--she is leaving me!"

Miss Mary had risen and, in the gathering twilight, had felt her
way to the open window. She stood there, leaning against the
casement, her eyes fixed on the last rosy tints that were fading
from the western sky. There was still some of its light on her
pure young forehead, on her white collar, on her clasped white
hands, but all fading slowly away. The suppliant had dragged
herself, still on her knees, beside her.

"I know it takes time to consider. I will wait here all night; but
I cannot go until you speak. Do not deny me now. You will!--I see
it in your sweet face--such a face as I have seen in my dreams. I
see it in your eyes, Miss Mary!--you will take my boy!"

The last red beam crept higher, suffused Miss Mary's eyes with
something of its glory, flickered, and faded, and went out. The
sun had set on Red Gulch. In the twilight and silence Miss Mary's
voice sounded pleasantly.

"I will take the boy. Send him to me tonight."

The happy mother raised the hem of Miss Mary's skirts to her lips.
She would have buried her hot face in its virgin folds, but she
dared not. She rose to her feet.

"Does--this man--know of your intention?" asked Miss Mary,

"No, nor cares. He has never even seen the child to know it."

"Go to him at once--tonight--now! Tell him what you have done.
Tell him I have taken his child, and tell him--he must never see--
see--the child again. Wherever it may be, he must not come;
wherever I may take it, he must not follow! There, go now, please--
I'm weary, and--have much yet to do!"

They walked together to the door. On the threshold the woman

"Good night."

She would have fallen at Miss Mary's feet. But at the same moment
the young girl reached out her arms, caught the sinful woman to her
own pure breast for one brief moment, and then closed and locked
the door.

It was with a sudden sense of great responsibility that Profane
Bill took the reins of the Slumgullion Stage the next morning, for
the schoolmistress was one of his passengers. As he entered the
highroad, in obedience to a pleasant voice from the "inside," he
suddenly reined up his horses and respectfully waited as Tommy
hopped out at the command of Miss Mary. "Not that bush, Tommy--the

Tommy whipped out his new pocketknife, and, cutting a branch from a
tall azalea bush, returned with it to Miss Mary.

"All right now?"

"All right."

And the stage door closed on the Idyl of Red Gulch.


A subdued tone of conversation, and the absence of cigar smoke and
boot heels at the windows of the Wingdam stagecoach, made it
evident that one of the inside passengers was a woman. A
disposition on the part of loungers at the stations to congregate
before the window, and some concern in regard to the appearance of
coats, hats, and collars, further indicated that she was lovely.
All of which Mr. Jack Hamlin, on the box seat, noted with the smile
of cynical philosophy. Not that he depreciated the sex, but that
he recognized therein a deceitful element, the pursuit of which
sometimes drew mankind away from the equally uncertain
blandishments of poker--of which it may be remarked that Mr. Hamlin
was a professional exponent.

So that when he placed his narrow boot on the wheel and leaped
down, he did not even glance at the window from which a green veil
was fluttering, but lounged up and down with that listless and
grave indifference of his class, which was, perhaps, the next thing
to good breeding. With his closely buttoned figure and self-
contained air he was a marked contrast to the other passengers,
with their feverish restlessness and boisterous emotion; and even
Bill Masters, a graduate of Harvard, with his slovenly dress, his
overflowing vitality, his intense appreciation of lawlessness and
barbarism, and his mouth filled with crackers and cheese, I fear
cut but an unromantic figure beside this lonely calculator of
chances, with his pale Greek face and Homeric gravity.

The driver called "All aboard!" and Mr. Hamlin returned to the
coach. His foot was upon the wheel, and his face raised to the
level of the open window, when, at the same moment, what appeared
to him to be the finest eyes in the world suddenly met his. He
quietly dropped down again, addressed a few words to one of the
inside passengers, effected an exchange of seats, and as quietly
took his place inside. Mr. Hamlin never allowed his philosophy to
interfere with decisive and prompt action.

I fear that this irruption of Jack cast some restraint upon the
other passengers--particularly those who were making themselves
most agreeable to the lady. One of them leaned forward, and
apparently conveyed to her information regarding Mr. Hamlin's
profession in a single epithet. Whether Mr. Hamlin heard it, or
whether he recognized in the informant a distinguished jurist from
whom, but a few evenings before, he had won several thousand
dollars, I cannot say. His colorless face betrayed no sign; his
black eyes, quietly observant, glanced indifferently past the legal
gentleman, and rested on the much more pleasing features of his
neighbor. An Indian stoicism--said to be an inheritance from his
maternal ancestor--stood him in good service, until the rolling
wheels rattled upon the river gravel at Scott's Ferry, and the
stage drew up at the International Hotel for dinner. The legal
gentleman and a member of Congress leaped out, and stood ready to
assist the descending goddess, while Colonel Starbottle, of
Siskiyou, took charge of her parasol and shawl. In this
multiplicity of attention there was a momentary confusion and
delay. Jack Hamlin quietly opened the OPPOSITE door of the coach,
took the lady's hand--with that decision and positiveness which a
hesitating and undecided sex know how to admire--and in an instant
had dexterously and gracefully swung her to the ground, and again
lifted her to the platform. An audible chuckle on the box, I fear,
came from that other cynic, "Yuba Bill," the driver. "Look
keerfully arter that baggage, Kernel," said the expressman, with
affected concern, as he looked after Colonel Starbottle, gloomily
bringing up the rear of the triumphant procession to the waiting-

Mr. Hamlin did not stay for dinner. His horse was already saddled,
and awaiting him. He dashed over the ford, up the gravelly hill,
and out into the dusty perspective of the Wingdam road, like one
leaving pleasant fancy behind him. The inmates of dusty cabins by
the roadside shaded their eyes with their hands and looked after
him, recognizing the man by his horse, and speculating what "was up
with Comanche Jack." Yet much of this interest centered in the
horse, in a community where the time made by "French Pete's" mare
in his run from the Sheriff of Calaveras eclipsed all concern in
the ultimate fate of that worthy.

The sweating flanks of his gray at length recalled him to himself.
He checked his speed, and, turning into a by-road, sometimes used
as a cutoff, trotted leisurely along, the reins hanging listlessly
from his fingers. As he rode on, the character of the landscape
changed and became more pastoral. Openings in groves of pine and
sycamore disclosed some rude attempts at cultivation--a flowering
vine trailed over the porch of one cabin, and a woman rocked her
cradled babe under the roses of another. A little farther on Mr.
Hamlin came upon some barelegged children wading in the willowy
creek, and so wrought upon them with a badinage peculiar to himself
that they were emboldened to climb up his horse's legs and over his
saddle, until he was fain to develop an exaggerated ferocity of
demeanor, and to escape, leaving behind some kisses and coin. And
then, advancing deeper into the woods, where all signs of
habitation failed, he began to sing--uplifting a tenor so
singularly sweet, and shaded by a pathos so subduing and tender,
that I wot the robins and linnets stopped to listen. Mr. Hamlin's
voice was not cultivated; the subject of his song was some
sentimental lunacy borrowed from the Negro minstrels; but there
thrilled through all some occult quality of tone and expression
that was unspeakably touching. Indeed, it was a wonderful sight to
see this sentimental blackleg, with a pack of cards in his pocket
and a revolver at his back, sending his voice before him through
the dim woods with a plaint about his "Nelly's grave" in a way that
overflowed the eyes of the listener. A sparrow hawk, fresh from
his sixth victim, possibly recognizing in Mr. Hamlin a kindred
spirit, stared at him in surprise, and was fain to confess the
superiority of man. With a superior predatory capacity, HE
couldn't sing.

But Mr. Hamlin presently found himself again on the highroad, and
at his former pace. Ditches and banks of gravel, denuded
hillsides, stumps, and decayed trunks of trees, took the place of
woodland and ravine, and indicated his approach to civilization.
Then a church steeple came in sight, and he knew that he had
reached home. In a few moments he was clattering down the single
narrow street that lost itself in a chaotic ruin of races, ditches,
and tailings at the foot of the hill, and dismounted before the
gilded windows of the "Magnolia" saloon. Passing through the long
barroom, he pushed open a green-baize door, entered a dark passage,
opened another door with a passkey, and found himself in a dimly
lighted room whose furniture, though elegant and costly for the
locality, showed signs of abuse. The inlaid center table was
overlaid with stained disks that were not contemplated in the
original design. The embroidered armchairs were discolored, and
the green velvet lounge, on which Mr. Hamlin threw himself, was
soiled at the foot with the red soil of Wingdam.

Mr. Hamlin did not sing in his cage. He lay still, looking at a
highly colored painting above him representing a young creature of
opulent charms. It occurred to him then, for the first time, that
he had never seen exactly that kind of a woman, and that if he
should, he would not, probably, fall in love with her. Perhaps he
was thinking of another style of beauty. But just then someone
knocked at the door. Without rising, he pulled a cord that
apparently shot back a bolt, for the door swung open, and a man

The newcomer was broad-shouldered and robust--a vigor not borne out
in the face, which, though handsome, was singularly weak, and
disfigured by dissipation. He appeared to be also under the
influence of liquor, for he started on seeing Mr. Hamlin, and said,
"I thought Kate was here," stammered, and seemed confused and

Mr. Hamlin smiled the smile which he had before worn on the Wingdam
coach, and sat up, quite refreshed and ready for business.

"You didn't come up on the stage," continued the newcomer, "did

"No," replied Hamlin; "I left it at Scott's Ferry. It isn't due
for half an hour yet. But how's luck, Brown?"

Damn bad," said Brown, his face suddenly assuming an expression of
weak despair; "I'm cleaned out again, Jack," he continued, in a
whining tone that formed a pitiable contrast to his bulky figure,
"can't you help me with a hundred till tomorrow's cleanup? You see
I've got to send money home to the old woman, and--you've won
twenty times that amount from me."

The conclusion was, perhaps, not entirely logical, but Jack
overlooked it, and handed the sum to his visitor. "The old-woman
business is about played out, Brown," he added, by way of
commentary; "why don't you say you want to buck agin' faro? You
know you ain't married!"

"Fact, sir," said Brown, with a sudden gravity, as if the mere
contact of the gold with the palm of the hand had imparted some
dignity to his frame. "I've got a wife--a damned good one, too, if
I do say it--in the States. It's three year since I've seen her,
and a year since I've writ to her. When things is about straight,
and we get down to the lead, I'm going to send for her."

"And Kate?" queried Mr. Hamlin, with his previous smile.

Mr. Brown of Calaveras essayed an archness of glance, to cover his
confusion, which his weak face and whisky-muddled intellect but
poorly carried out, and said:

"Damn it, Jack, a man must have a little liberty, you know. But
come, what do you say to a little game? Give us a show to double
this hundred."

Jack Hamlin looked curiously at his fatuous friend. Perhaps he
knew that the man was predestined to lose the money, and preferred
that it should flow back into his own coffers rather than any
other. He nodded his head, and drew his chair toward the table.
At the same moment there came a rap upon the door.

"It's Kate," said Mr. Brown.

Mr. Hamlin shot back the bolt, and the door opened. But, for the
first time in his life, he staggered to his feet, utterly unnerved
and abashed, and for the first time in his life the hot blood
crimsoned his colorless cheeks to his forehead. For before him
stood the lady he had lifted from the Wingdam coach, whom Brown--
dropping his cards with a hysterical laugh--greeted as:

"My old woman, by thunder!"

They say that Mrs. Brown burst into tears, and reproaches of her
husband. I saw her, in 1857, at Marysville, and disbelieve the
story. And the WINGDAM CHRONICLE, of the next week, under the head
of "Touching Reunion," said: "One of those beautiful and touching
incidents, peculiar to California life, occurred last week in our
city. The wife of one of Wingdam's eminent pioneers, tired of the
effete civilization of the East and its inhospitable climate,
resolved to join her noble husband upon these golden shores.
Without informing him of her intention, she undertook the long
journey, and arrived last week. The joy of the husband may be
easier imagined than described. The meeting is said to have been
indescribably affecting. We trust her example may be followed."

Whether owing to Mrs. Brown's influence, or to some more successful
speculations, Mr. Brown's financial fortune from that day steadily
improved. He bought out his partners in the "Nip and Tuck" lead,
with money which was said to have been won at poker, a week or two
after his wife's arrival, but which rumor, adopting Mrs. Brown's
theory that Brown had forsworn the gaming-table, declared to have
been furnished by Mr. Jack Hamlin. He built and furnished the
"Wingdam House," which pretty Mrs. Brown's great popularity kept
overflowing with guests. He was elected to the Assembly, and gave
largess to churches. A street in Wingdam was named in his honor.

Yet it was noted that in proportion as he waxed wealthy and
fortunate, he grew pale, thin, and anxious. As his wife's
popularity increased, he became fretful and impatient. The most
uxorious of husbands, he was absurdly jealous. If he did not
interfere with his wife's social liberty, it was because it was
maliciously whispered that his first and only attempt was met by an
outburst from Mrs. Brown that terrified him into silence. Much of
this kind of gossip came from those of her own sex whom she had
supplanted in the chivalrous attentions of Wingdam, which, like
most popular chivalry, was devoted to an admiration of power,
whether of masculine force or feminine beauty. It should be
remembered, too, in her extenuation that since her arrival, she had
been the unconscious priestess of a mythological worship, perhaps
not more ennobling to her womanhood than that which distinguished
an older Greek democracy. I think that Brown was dimly conscious
of this. But his only confidant was Jack Hamlin, whose INFELIX
reputation naturally precluded any open intimacy with the family,
and whose visits were infrequent.

It was midsummer, and a moonlit night; and Mrs. Brown, very rosy,
large-eyed, and pretty, sat upon the piazza, enjoying the fresh
incense of the mountain breeze, and, it is to be feared, another
incense which was not so fresh, nor quite as innocent. Beside her
sat Colonel Starbottle and Judge Boompointer, and a later addition
to her court in the shape of a foreign tourist. She was in good

"What do you see down the road?" inquired the gallant Colonel, who
had been conscious, for the last few minutes, that Mrs. Brown's
attention was diverted.

"Dust," said Mrs. Brown, with a sigh. "Only Sister Anne's 'flock
of sheep.'"

The Colonel, whose literary recollections did not extend farther
back than last week's paper, took a more practical view. "It ain't
sheep," he continued; "it's a horseman. Judge, ain't that Jack
Hamlin's gray?"

But the Judge didn't know; and as Mrs. Brown suggested the air was
growing too cold for further investigations, they retired to the

Mr. Brown was in the stable, where he generally retired after
dinner. Perhaps it was to show his contempt for his wife's
companions; perhaps, like other weak natures, he found pleasure in
the exercise of absolute power over inferior animals. He had a
certain gratification in the training of a chestnut mare, whom he
could beat or caress as pleased him, which he couldn't do with Mrs.
Brown. It was here that he recognized a certain gray horse which
had just come in, and, looking a little farther on, found his
rider. Brown's greeting was cordial and hearty, Mr. Hamlin's
somewhat restrained. But at Brown's urgent request, he followed
him up the back stairs to a narrow corridor, and thence to a small
room looking out upon the stable yard. It was plainly furnished
with a bed, a table, a few chairs, and a rack for guns and whips.

"This yer's my home, Jack," said Brown, with a sigh, as he threw
himself upon the bed, and motioned his companion to a chair. "Her
room's t'other end of the hall. It's more'n six months since we've
lived together, or met, except at meals. It's mighty rough papers
on the head of the house, ain't it?" he said, with a forced laugh.
"But I'm glad to see you, Jack, damn glad," and he reached from the
bed, and again shook the unresponsive hand of Jack Hamlin.

"I brought ye up here, for I didn't want to talk in the stable;
though, for the matter of that, it's all round town. Don't strike
a light. We can talk here in the moonshine. Put up your feet on
that winder, and sit here beside me. Thar's whisky in that jug."

Mr. Hamlin did not avail himself of the information. Brown of
Calaveras turned his face to the wall and continued:

"If I didn't love the woman, Jack, I wouldn't mind. But it's
loving her, and seeing her, day arter day, goin' on at this rate,
and no one to put down the brake; that's what gits me! But I'm
glad to see ye, Jack, damn glad."

In the darkness he groped about until he had found and wrung his
companion's hand again. He would have detained it, but Jack
slipped it into the buttoned breast of his coat, and asked,
listlessly, "How long has this been going on?"

"Ever since she came here; ever since the day she walked into the
Magnolia. I was a fool then; Jack, I'm a fool now; but I didn't
know how much I loved her till then. And she hasn't been the same
woman since.

"But that ain't all, Jack; and it's what I wanted to see you about,
and I'm glad you've come. It ain't that she doesn't love me any
more; it ain't that she fools with every chap that comes along,
for, perhaps, I staked her love and lost it, as I did everything
else at the Magnolia; and, perhaps, foolin' is nateral to some
women, and thar ain't no great harm done, 'cept to the fools. But,
Jack, I think--I think she loves somebody else. Don't move, Jack;
don't move; if your pistol hurts ye, take it off.

"It's been more'n six months now that she's seemed unhappy and
lonesome, and kinder nervous and scared-like. And sometimes I've
ketched her lookin' at me sort of timid and pitying. And she
writes to somebody. And for the last week she's been gathering her
own things--trinkets, and furbelows, and jew'lry--and, Jack, I
think she's goin' off. I could stand all but that. To have her
steal away like a thief--" He put his face downward to the pillow,
and for a few moments there was no sound but the ticking of a clock
on the mantel. Mr. Hamlin lit a cigar, and moved to the open
window. The moon no longer shone into the room, and the bed and
its occupant were in shadow. "What shall I do, Jack?" said the
voice from the darkness.

The answer came promptly and clearly from the window-side: "Spot
the man, and kill him on sight."

"But, Jack?"

"He's took the risk!"

"But will that bring HER back?"

Jack did not reply, but moved from the window toward the door.

"Don't go yet, Jack; light the candle, and sit by the table. It's
a comfort to see ye, if nothin' else."

Jack hesitated, and then complied. He drew a pack of cards from
his pocket and shuffled them, glancing at the bed. But Brown's
face was turned to the wall. When Mr. Hamlin had shuffled the
cards, he cut them, and dealt one card on the opposite side of the
table and toward the bed, and another on his side of the table for
himself. The first was a deuce, his own card, a king. He then
shuffled and cut again. This time "dummy" had a queen, and himself
a four-spot. Jack brightened up for the third deal. It brought
his adversary a deuce, and himself a king again. "Two out of
three," said Jack, audibly.

"What's that, Jack?" said Brown.


Then Jack tried his hand with dice; but he always threw sixes, and
his imaginary opponent aces. The force of habit is sometimes

Meanwhile, some magnetic influence in Mr. Hamlin's presence, or the
anodyne of liquor, or both, brought surcease of sorrow, and Brown
slept. Mr. Hamlin moved his chair to the window, and looked out on
the town of Wingdam, now sleeping peacefully--its harsh outlines
softened and subdued, its glaring colors mellowed and sobered in
the moonlight that flowed over all. In the hush he could hear the
gurgling of water in the ditches, and the sighing of the pines
beyond the hill. Then he looked up at the firmament, and as he did
so a star shot across the twinkling field. Presently another, and
then another. The phenomenon suggested to Mr. Hamlin a fresh
augury. If in another fifteen minutes another star should fall--
He sat there, watch in hand, for twice that time, but the
phenomenon was not repeated.

The clock struck two, and Brown still slept. Mr. Hamlin approached
the table and took from his pocket a letter, which he read by the
flickering candlelight. It contained only a single line, written
in pencil, in a woman's hand:

"Be at the corral, with the buggy, at three."

The sleeper moved uneasily, and then awoke. "Are you there Jack?"


"Don't go yet. I dreamed just now, Jack--dreamed of old times. I
thought that Sue and me was being married agin, and that the
parson, Jack, was--who do you think?--you!"

The gambler laughed, and seated himself on the bed--the paper still
in his hand.

"It's a good sign, ain't it?" queried Brown.

"I reckon. Say, old man, hadn't you better get up?"

The "old man," thus affectionately appealed to, rose, with the
assistance of Hamlin's outstretched hand.


Brown mechanically took the proffered cigar.


Jack had twisted the letter into a spiral, lit it, and held it for
his companion. He continued to hold it until it was consumed, and
dropped the fragment--a fiery star--from the open window. He
watched it as it fell, and then returned to his friend.

"Old man," he said, placing his hands upon Brown's shoulders, "in
ten minutes I'll be on the road, and gone like that spark. We
won't see each other agin; but, before I go, take a fool's advice:
sell out all you've got, take your wife with you, and quit the
country. It ain't no place for you, nor her. Tell her she must
go; make her go, if she won't. Don't whine because you can't be a
saint, and she ain't an angel. Be a man--and treat her like a
woman. Don't be a damn fool. Good-by."

He tore himself from Brown's grasp, and leaped down the stairs like
a deer. At the stable door he collared the half-sleeping hostler
and backed him against the wall. "Saddle my horse in two minutes,
or I'll--" The ellipsis was frightfully suggestive.

"The missis said you was to have the buggy," stammered the man.

"Damn the buggy!"

The horse was saddled as fast as the nervous hands of the astounded
hostler could manipulate buckle and strap.

"Is anything up, Mr. Hamlin?" said the man, who, like all his
class, admired the elan of his fiery patron, and was really
concerned in his welfare.

"Stand aside!"

The man fell back. With an oath, a bound, and clatter, Jack was
into the road. In another moment, to the man's half-awakened eyes,
he was but a moving cloud of dust in the distance, toward which a
star just loosed from its brethren was trailing a stream of fire.

But early that morning the dwellers by the Wingdam turnpike, miles
away, heard a voice, pure as a skylarks, singing afield. They who
were asleep turned over on their rude couches to dream of youth and
love and olden days. Hard-faced men and anxious gold-seekers,
already at work, ceased their labors and leaned upon their picks,
to listen to a romantic vagabond ambling away against the rosy


When the tide was out on the Dedlow Marsh, its extended dreariness
was patent. Its spongy, low-lying surface, sluggish, inky pools,
and tortuous sloughs, twisting their slimy way, eel-like, toward
the open bay, were all hard facts. So were the few green tussocks,
with their scant blades, their amphibious flavor and unpleasant
dampness. And if you choose to indulge your fancy--although the
flat monotony of the Dedlow Marsh was not inspiring--the wavy line
of scattered drift gave an unpleasant consciousness of the spent
waters, and made the dead certainty of the returning tide a gloomy
reflection which no present sunshine could dissipate. The greener
meadowland seemed oppressed with this idea, and made no positive
attempt at vegetation until the work of reclamation should be
complete. In the bitter fruit of the low cranberry bushes one
might fancy he detected a naturally sweet disposition curdled and
soured by an injudicious course of too much regular cold water.

The vocal expression of the Dedlow Marsh was also melancholy and
depressing. The sepulchral boom of the bittern, the shriek of the
curlew, the scream of passing brent, the wrangling of quarrelsome
teal, the sharp, querulous protest of the startled crane, and
syllabled complaint of the "killdeer" plover, were beyond the power
of written expression. Nor was the aspect of these mournful fowls
at all cheerful and inspiring. Certainly not the blue heron
standing mid-leg deep in the water, obviously catching cold in a
reckless disregard of wet feet and consequences; nor the mournful
curlew, the dejected plover, or the low-spirited snipe, who saw fit
to join him in his suicidal contemplation; nor the impassive
kingfisher--an ornithological Marius--reviewing the desolate
expanse; nor the black raven that went to and fro over the face of
the marsh continually, but evidently couldnt make up his mind
whether the waters had subsided, and felt low-spirited in the
reflection that, after all this trouble, he wouldn't be able to
give a definite answer. On the contrary, it was evident at a
glance that the dreary expanse of Dedlow Marsh told unpleasantly on
the birds, and that the season of migration was looked forward to
with a feeling of relief and satisfaction by the full-grown, and of
extravagant anticipation by the callow, brood. But if Dedlow Marsh
was cheerless at the slack of the low tide, you should have seen it
when the tide was strong and full. When the damp air blew chilly
over the cold, glittering expanse, and came to the faces of those
who looked seaward like another tide; when a steel-like glint
marked the low hollows and the sinuous line of slough; when the
great shell-incrusted trunks of fallen trees arose again, and went
forth on their dreary, purposeless wanderings, drifting hither and
thither, but getting no farther toward any goal at the falling tide
or the day's decline than the cursed Hebrew in the legend; when the
glossy ducks swung silently, making neither ripple nor furrow on
the shimmering surface; when the fog came in with the tide and shut
out the blue above, even as the green below had been obliterated;
when boatmen lost in that fog, paddling about in a hopeless way,
started at what seemed the brushing of mermen's fingers on the
boat's keel, or shrank from the tufts of grass spreading around
like the floating hair of a corpse, and knew by these signs that
they were lost upon Dedlow Marsh and must make a night of it, and a
gloomy one at that--then you might know something of Dedlow Marsh
at high water.

Let me recall a story connected with this latter view which never
failed to recur to my mind in my long gunning excursions upon
Dedlow Marsh. Although the event was briefly recorded in the
counry paper, I had the story, in all its eloquent detail, from the
lips of the principal actor. I cannot hope to catch the varying
emphasis and peculiar coloring of feminine delineation, for my
narrator was a woman; but I'll try to give at least its substance.

She lived midway of the great slough of Dedlow Marsh and a good-
sized river, which debouched four miles beyond into an estuary
formed by the Pacific Ocean, on the long sandy peninsula which
constituted the southwestern boundary of a noble bay. The house in
which she lived was a small frame cabin raised from the marsh a few
feet by stout piles, and was three miles distant from the
settlements upon the river. Her husband was a logger--a profitable
business in a county where the principal occupation was the
manufacture of lumber.

It was the season of early spring when her husband left on the ebb
of a high tide, with a raft of logs for the usual transportation to
the lower end of the bay. As she stood by the door of the little
cabin when the voyagers departed she noticed a cold look in the
southeastern sky, and she remembered hearing her husband say to his
companions that they must endeavor to complete their voyage before
the coming of the southwesterly gale which he saw brewing. And
that night it began to storm and blow harder than she had ever
before experienced, and some great trees fell in the forest by the
river, and the house rocked like her baby's cradle.

But however the storm might roar about the little cabin, she knew
that one she trusted had driven bolt and bar with his own strong
hand, and that had he feared for her he would not have left her.
This, and her domestic duties, and the care of her little sickly
baby, helped to keep her mind from dwelling on the weather, except,
of course, to hope that he was safely harbored with the logs at
Utopia in the dreary distance. But she noticed that day, when she
went out to feed the chickens and look after the cow, that the tide
was up to the little fence of their garden-patch, and the roar of
the surf on the south beach, though miles away, she could hear
distinctly. And she began to think that she would like to have
someone to talk with about matters, and she believed that if it had
not been so far and so stormy, and the trail so impassable, she
would have taken the baby and have gone over to Ryckman's, her
nearest neighbor. But then, you see, he might have returned in the
storm, all wet, with no one to see to him; and it was a long
exposure for baby, who was croupy and ailing.

But that night, she never could tell why, she didn't feel like
sleeping or even lying down. The storm had somewhat abated, but
she still "sat and sat," and even tried to read. I don't know
whether it was a Bible or some profane magazine that this poor
woman read, but most probably the latter, for the words all ran
together and made such sad nonsense that she was forced at last to
put the book down and turn to that dearer volume which lay before
her in the cradle, with its white initial leaf as yet unsoiled, and
try to look forward to its mysterious future. And, rocking the
cradle, she thought of everything and everybody, but still was
wide-awake as ever.

It was nearly twelve o'clock when she at last lay down in her
clothes. How long she slept she could not remember, but she awoke
with a dreadful choking in her throat, and found herself standing,
trembling all over, in the middle of the room, with her baby
clasped to her breast, and she was "saying something." The baby
cried and sobbed, and she walked up and down trying to hush it when
she heard a scratching at the door. She opened it fearfully, and
was glad to see it was only old Pete, their dog, who crawled,
dripping with water, into the room. She would like to have looked
out, not in the faint hope of her husband's coming, but to see how
things looked; but the wind shook the door so savagely that she
could hardly hold it. Then she sat down a little while, and then
walked up and down a little while, and then she lay down again a
little while. Lying close by the wall of the little cabin, she
thought she heard once or twice something scrape slowly against the
clapboards, like the scraping of branches. Then there was a little
gurgling sound, "like the baby made when it was swallowing"; then
something went "click-click" and "cluck-cluck," so that she sat up
in bed. When she did so she was attracted by something else that
seemed creeping from the back door toward the center of the room.
It wasn't much wider than her little finger, but soon it swelled to
the width of her hand, and began spreading all over the floor. It
was water.

She ran to the front door and threw it wide open, and saw nothing
but water. She ran to the back door and threw it open, and saw
nothing but water. She ran to the side window, and throwing that
open, she saw nothing but water. Then she remembered hearing her
husband once say that there was no danger in the tide, for that
fell regularly, and people could calculate on it, and that he would
rather live near the bay than the river, whose banks might overflow
at any time. But was it the tide? So she ran again to the back
door, and threw out a stick of wood. It drifted away toward the
bay. She scooped up some of the water and put it eagerly to her
lips. It was fresh and sweet. It was the river, and not the tide!

It was then--O God be praised for his goodness! she did neither
faint nor fall; it was then--blessed be the Saviour, for it was his
merciful hand that touched and strengthened her in this awful
moment--that fear dropped from her like a garment, and her
trembling ceased. It was then and thereafter that she never lost
her self-command, through all the trials of that gloomy night.

She drew the bedstead toward the middle of the room, and placed a
table upon it and on that she put the cradle. The water on the
floor was already over her ankles, and the house once or twice
moved so perceptibly, and seemed to be racked so, that the closet
doors all flew open. Then she heard the same rasping and thumping
against the wall, and, looking out, saw that a large uprooted tree,
which had lain near the road at the upper end of the pasture, had
floated down to the house. Luckily its long roots dragged in the
soil and kept it from moving as rapidly as the current, for had it
struck the house in its full career, even the strong nails and
bolts in the piles could not have withstood the shock. The hound
had leaped upon its knotty surface, and crouched near the roots
shivering and whining. A ray of hope flashed across her mind. She
drew a heavy blanket from the bed, and, wrapping it about the babe,
waded in the deepening waters to the door. As the tree swung
again, broadside on, making the little cabin creak and tremble, she
leaped on to its trunk. By God's mercy she succeeded in obtaining
a footing on its slippery surface, and, twining an arm about its
roots, she held in the other her moaning child. Then something
cracked near the front porch, and the whole front of the house she
had just quitted fell forward--just as cattle fall on their knees
before they lie down--and at the same moment the great redwood tree
swung round and drifted away with its living cargo into the black

For all the excitement and danger, for all her soothing of her
crying babe, for all the whistling of the wind, for all the
uncertainty of her situation, she still turned to look at the
deserted and water-swept cabin. She remembered even then, and she
wonders how foolish she was to think of it at that time, that she
wished she had put on another dress and the baby's best clothes;
and she kept praying that the house would be spared so that he,
when he returned, would have something to come to, and it wouldn't
be quite so desolate, and--how could he ever know what had become
of her and baby? And at the thought she grew sick and faint. But
she had something else to do besides worrying, for whenever the
long roots of her ark struck an obstacle, the whole trunk made half
a revolution, and twice dipped her in the black water. The hound,
who kept distracting her by running up and down the tree and
howling, at last fell off at one of these collisions. He swam for
some time beside her, and she tried to get the poor beast up on the
tree, but he "acted silly" and wild, and at last she lost sight of
him forever. Then she and her baby were left alone. The light
which had burned for a few minutes in the deserted cabin was
quenched suddenly. She could not then tell whither she was
drifting. The outline of the white dunes on the peninsula showed
dimly ahead, and she judged the tree was moving in a line with the
river. It must be about slack water, and she had probably reached
the eddy formed by the confluence of the tide and the overflowing
waters of the river. Unless the tide fell soon, there was present
danger of her drifting to its channel, and being carried out to sea
or crushed in the floating drift. That peril averted, if she were
carried out on the ebb toward the bay, she might hope to strike one
of the wooded promontories of the peninsula, and rest till
daylight. Sometimes she thought she heard voices and shouts from
the river, and the bellowing of cattle and bleating of sheep. Then
again it was only the ringing in her ears and throbbing of her
heart. She found at about this time that she was so chilled and
stiffened in her cramped position that she could scarcely move, and
the baby cried so when she put it to her breast that she noticed
the milk refused to flow; and she was so frightened at that, that
she put her head under her shawl, and for the first time cried

When she raised her head again, the boom of the surf was behind
her, and she knew that her ark had again swung round. She dipped
up the water to cool her parched throat, and found that it was salt
as her tears. There was a relief, though, for by this sign she
knew that she was drifting with the tide. It was then the wind
went down, and the great and awful silence oppressed her. There
was scarcely a ripple against the furrowed sides of the great trunk
on which she rested, and around her all was black gloom and quiet.
She spoke to the baby just to hear herself speak, and to know that
she had not lost her voice. She thought then--it was queer, but
she could not help thinking it--how awful must have been the night
when the great ship swung over the Asiatic peak, and the sounds of
creation were blotted out from the world. She thought, too, of
mariners clinging to spars, and of poor women who were lashed to
rafts, and beaten to death by the cruel sea. She tried to thank
God that she was thus spared, and lifted her eyes from the baby,
who had fallen into a fretful sleep. Suddenly, away to the
southward, a great light lifted itself out of the gloom, and
flashed and flickered, and flickered and flashed again. Her heart
fluttered quickly against the baby's cold cheek. It was the
lighthouse at the entrance of the bay. As she was yet wondering,
the tree suddenly rolled a little, dragged a little, and then
seemed to lie quiet and still. She put out her hand and the
current gurgled against it. The tree was aground, and, by the
position of the light and the noise of the surf, aground upon the
Dedlow Marsh.

Had it not been for her baby, who was ailing and croupy, had it not
been for the sudden drying up of that sensitive fountain, she would
have felt safe and relieved. Perhaps it was this which tended to
make all her impressions mournful and gloomy. As the tide rapidly
fell, a great flock of black brent fluttered by her, screaming and
crying. Then the plover flew up and piped mournfully as they
wheeled around the trunk, and at last fearlessly lit upon it like a
gray cloud. Then the heron flew over and around her, shrieking and
protesting, and at last dropped its gaunt legs only a few yards
from her. But, strangest of all, a pretty white bird, larger than
a dove--like a pelican, but not a pelican--circled around and
around her. At last it lit upon a rootlet of the tree, quite over
her shoulder. She put out her hand and stroked its beautiful white
neck, and it never appeared to move. It stayed there so long that
she thought she would lift up the baby to see it, and try to
attract her attention. But when she did so, the child was so
chilled and cold, and had such a blue look under the little lashes
which it didn't raise at all, that she screamed aloud, and the bird
flew away, and she fainted.

Well, that was the worst of it, and perhaps it was not so much,
after all, to any but herself. For when she recovered her senses
it was bright sunlight, and dead low water. There was a confused
noise of guttural voices about her, and an old squaw, singing an
Indian "hushaby," and rocking herself from side to side before a
fire built on the marsh, before which she, the recovered wife and
mother, lay weak and weary. Her first thought was for her baby,
and she was about to speak, when a young squaw, who must have been
a mother herself, fathomed her thought and brought her the
"mowitch," pale but living, in such a queer little willow cradle
all bound up, just like the squaw's own young one, that she laughed
and cried together, and the young squaw and the old squaw showed
their big white teeth and glinted their black eyes and said,
"Plenty get well, skeena mowitch," "wagee man come plenty soon,"
and she could have kissed their brown faces in her joy. And then
she found that they had been gathering berries on the marsh in
their queer, comical baskets, and saw the skirt of her gown
fluttering on the tree from afar, and the old squaw couldn't resist
the temptation of procuring a new garment, and came down and
discovered the "wagee" woman and child. And of course she gave the
garment to the old squaw, as you may imagine, and when HE came at
last and rushed up to her, looking about ten years older in his
anxiety, she felt so faint again that they had to carry her to the
canoe. For, you see, he knew nothing about the flood until he met
the Indians at Utopia, and knew by the signs that the poor woman
was his wife. And at the next high tide he towed the tree away
back home, although it wasn't worth the trouble, and built another
house, using the old tree for the foundation and props, and called
it after her, "Mary's Ark!" But you may guess the next house was
built above high-water mark. And that's all.

Not much, perhaps, considering the malevolent capacity of the
Dedlow Marsh. But you must tramp over it at low water, or paddle
over it at high tide, or get lost upon it once or twice in the fog,
as I have, to understand properly Mary's adventure, or to
appreciate duly the blessings of living beyond High-Water Mark.


As I stepped into the Slumgullion stage I saw that it was a dark
night, a lonely road, and that I was the only passenger. Let me
assure the reader that I have no ulterior design in making this
assertion. A long course of light reading has forewarned me what
every experienced intelligence must confidently look for from such
a statement. The storyteller who willfully tempts Fate by such
obvious beginnings; who is to the expectant reader in danger of
being robbed or half-murdered, or frightened by an escaped lunatic,
or introduced to his ladylove for the first time, deserves to be
detected. I am relieved to say that none of these things occurred
to me. The road from Wingdam to Slumgullion knew no other banditti
than the regularly licensed hotelkeepers; lunatics had not yet
reached such depth of imbecility as to ride of their own free will
in California stages; and my Laura, amiable and long-suffering as
she always is, could not, I fear, have borne up against these
depressing circumstances long enough to have made the slightest
impression on me.

I stood with my shawl and carpetbag in hand, gazing doubtingly on
the vehicle. Even in the darkness the red dust of Wingdam was
visible on its roof and sides, and the red slime of Slumgullion
clung tenaciously to its wheels. I opened the door; the stage
creaked easily, and in the gloomy abyss the swaying straps beckoned
me, like ghostly hands, to come in now and have my sufferings out
at once.

I must not omit to mention the occurrence of a circumstance which
struck me as appalling and mysterious. A lounger on the steps of
the hotel, who I had reason to suppose was not in any way connected
with the stage company, gravely descended, and walking toward the
conveyance, tried the handle of the door, opened it, expectorated
in the carriage, and returned to the hotel with a serious demeanor.
Hardly had he resumed his position when another individual, equally
disinterested, impassively walked down the steps, proceeded to the
back of the stage, lifted it, expectorated carefully on the axle,
and returned slowly and pensively to the hotel. A third spectator
wearily disengaged himself from one of the Ionic columns of the
portico and walked to the box, remained for a moment in serious and
expectorative contemplation of the boot, and then returned to his
column. There was something so weird in this baptism that I grew
quite nervous.

Perhaps I was out of spirits. A number of infinitesimal
annoyances, winding up with the resolute persistency of the clerk
at the stage office to enter my name misspelt on the waybill, had
not predisposed me to cheerfulness. The inmates of the Eureka
House, from a social viewpoint, were not attractive. There was the
prevailing opinion--so common to many honest people--that a serious
style of deportment and conduct toward a stranger indicates high
gentility and elevated station. Obeying this principle, all
hilarity ceased on my entrance to supper, and general remark merged
into the safer and uncompromising chronicle of several bad cases of
diphtheria, then epidemic at Wingdam. When I left the dining-room,
with an odd feeling that I had been supping exclusively on mustard
and tea leaves, I stopped a moment at the parlor door. A piano,
harmoniously related to the dinner bell, tinkled responsive to a
diffident and uncertain touch. On the white wall the shadow of an
old and sharp profile was bending over several symmetrical and
shadowy curls. "I sez to Mariar, Mariar, sez I, 'Praise to the
face is open disgrace.'" I heard no more. Dreading some
susceptibility to sincere expression on the subject of female
loveliness, I walked away, checking the compliment that otherwise
might have risen unbidden to my lips, and have brought shame and
sorrow to the household.

It was with the memory of these experiences resting heavily upon me
that I stood hesitatingly before the stage door. The driver, about
to mount, was for a moment illuminated by the open door of the
hotel. He had the wearied look which was the distinguishing
expression of Wingdam. Satisfied that I was properly waybilled and
receipted for, he took no further notice of me. I looked longingly
at the box seat, but he did not respond to the appeal. I flung my
carpetbag into the chasm, dived recklessly after it, and--before I
was fairly seated--with a great sigh, a creaking of unwilling
springs, complaining bolts, and harshly expostulating axle, we
moved away. Rather the hotel door slipped behind, the sound of the
piano sank to rest, and the night and its shadows moved solemnly
upon us.

To say it was dark expressed but faintly the pitchy obscurity that
encompassed the vehicle. The roadside trees were scarcely
distinguishable as deeper masses of shadow; I knew them only by the
peculiar sodden odor that from time to time sluggishly flowed in at
the open window as we rolled by. We proceeded slowly; so leisurely
that, leaning from the carriage, I more than once detected the
fragrant sigh of some astonished cow, whose ruminating repose upon
the highway we had ruthlessly disturbed. But in the darkness our
progress, more the guidance of some mysterious instinct than any
apparent volition of our own, gave an indefinable charm of security
to our journey that a moment's hesitation or indecision on the part
of the driver would have destroyed.

I had indulged a hope that in the empty vehicle I might obtain that
rest so often denied me in its crowded condition. It was a weak
delusion. When I stretched out my limbs it was only to find that
the ordinary conveniences for making several people distinctly
uncomfortable were distributed throughout my individual frame. At
last, resting my arms on the straps, by dint of much gymnastic
effort I became sufficiently composed to be aware of a more refined
species of torture. The springs of the stage, rising and falling
regularly, produced a rhythmical beat which began to absorb my
attention painfully. Slowly this thumping merged into a senseless
echo of the mysterious female of the hotel parlor, and shaped
itself into this awful and benumbing axiom--"Praise-to-the-face-is-
open-disgrace. Praise-to-the-face-is-open-disgrace." Inequalities
of the road only quickened its utterance or drawled it to an
exasperating length.

It was of no use to consider the statement seriously. It was of no
use to except to it indignantly. It was of no use to recall the
many instances where praise to the face had redounded to the
everlasting honor of praiser and bepraised; of no use to dwell
sentimentally on modest genius and courage lifted up and
strengthened by open commendation; of no use to except to the
mysterious female, to picture her as rearing a thin-blooded
generation on selfish and mechanically repeated axioms--all this
failed to counteract the monotonous repetition of this sentence.
There was nothing to do but to give in--and I was about to accept
it weakly, as we too often treat other illusions of darkness and
necessity, for the time being, when I became aware of some other
annoyance that had been forcing itself upon me for the last few
moments. How quiet the driver was!

Was there any driver? Had I any reason to suppose that he was not
lying gagged and bound on the roadside, and the highwayman with
blackened face who did the thing so quietly driving me--whither?
The thing is perfectly feasible. And what is this fancy now being
jolted out of me? A story? It's of no use to keep it back--
particularly in this abysmal vehicle, and here it comes: I am a
Marquis--a French Marquis; French, because the peerage is not so
well known, and the country is better adapted to romantic incident--
a Marquis, because the democratic reader delights in the nobility.
My name is something LIGNY. I am coming from Paris to my country
seat at St. Germain. It is a dark night, and I fall asleep and
tell my honest coachman, Andre, not to disturb me, and dream of an
angel. The carriage at last stops at the chateau. It is so dark
that when I alight I do not recognize the face of the footman who
holds the carriage door. But what of that?--PESTE! I am heavy
with sleep. The same obscurity also hides the old familiar
indecencies of the statues on the terrace; but there is a door, and
it opens and shuts behind me smartly. Then I find myself in a
trap, in the presence of the brigand who has quietly gagged poor
Andre and conducted the carriage thither. There is nothing for me
to do, as a gallant French Marquis, but to say, "PARBLEU!" draw my
rapier, and die valorously! I am found a week or two after outside
a deserted cabaret near the barrier, with a hole through my ruffled
linen and my pockets stripped. No; on second thoughts, I am
rescued--rescued by the angel I have been dreaming of, who is the
assumed daughter of the brigand but the real daughter of an
intimate friend.

Looking from the window again, in the vain hope of distinguishing
the driver, I found my eyes were growing accustomed to the
darkness. I could see the distant horizon, defined by India-inky
woods, relieving a lighter sky. A few stars widely spaced in this
picture glimmered sadly. I noticed again the infinite depth of
patient sorrow in their serene faces; and I hope that the vandal
who first applied the flippant "twinkle" to them may not be driven
melancholy-mad by their reproachful eyes. I noticed again the
mystic charm of space that imparts a sense of individual solitude
to each integer of the densest constellation, involving the
smallest star with immeasurable loneliness. Something of this calm
and solitude crept over me, and I dozed in my gloomy cavern. When
I awoke the full moon was rising. Seen from my window, it had an
indescribably unreal and theatrical effect. It was the full moon
of NORMA--that remarkable celestial phenomenon which rises so
palpably to a hushed audience and a sublime andante chorus, until
the CASTA DIVA is sung--the "inconstant moon" that then and
thereafter remains fixed in the heavens as though it were a part of
the solar system inaugurated by Joshua. Again the white-robed
Druids filed past me, again I saw that improbable mistletoe cut
from that impossible oak, and again cold chills ran down my back
with the first strain of the recitative. The thumping springs
essayed to beat time, and the private-box-like obscurity of the
vehicle lent a cheap enchantment to the view. But it was a vast
improvement upon my past experience, and I hugged the fond

My fears for the driver were dissipated with the rising moon. A
familiar sound had assured me of his presence in the full
possession of at least one of his most important functions.
Frequent and full expectoration convinced me that his lips were as
yet not sealed by the gag of highwaymen, and soothed my anxious
ear. With this load lifted from my mind, and assisted by the mild
presence of Diana, who left, as when she visited Endymion, much of
her splendor outside my cavern--I looked around the empty vehicle.
On the forward seat lay a woman's hairpin. I picked it up with an
interest that, however, soon abated. There was no scent of the
roses to cling to it still, not even of hair oil. No bend or twist
in its rigid angles betrayed any trait of its wearer's character.
I tried to think that it might have been "Mariar's." I tried to
imagine that, confining the symmetrical curls of that girl, it
might have heard the soft compliments whispered in her ears which
provoked the wrath of the aged female. But in vain. It was
reticent and unswerving in its upright fidelity, and at last
slipped listlessly through my fingers.

I had dozed repeatedly--waked on the threshold of oblivion by
contact with some of the angles of the coach, and feeling that I
was unconsciously assuming, in imitation of a humble insect of my
childish recollection, that spherical shape which could best resist
those impressions, when I perceived that the moon, riding high in
the heavens, had begun to separate the formless masses of the
shadowy landscape. Trees isolated, in clumps and assemblages,
changed places before my window. The sharp outlines of the distant
hills came back, as in daylight, but little softened in the dry,
cold, dewless air of a California summer night. I was wondering
how late it was, and thinking that if the horses of the night
traveled as slowly as the team before us, Faustus might have been
spared his agonizing prayer, when a sudden spasm of activity
attacked my driver. A succession of whip-snappings, like a pack of
Chinese crackers, broke from the box before me. The stage leaped
forward, and when I could pick myself from under the seat, a long
white building had in some mysterious way rolled before my window.
It must be Slumgullion! As I descended from the stage I addressed
the driver:

"I thought you changed horses on the road?"

"So we did. Two hours ago."

"That's odd. I didn't notice it."

"Must have been asleep, sir. Hope you had a pleasant nap. Bully
place for a nice quiet snooze--empty stage, sir!"


His name was Fagg--David Fagg. He came to California in '52 with
us, in the SKYSCRAPER. I don't think he did it in an adventurous
way. He probably had no other place to go to. When a knot of us
young fellows would recite what splendid opportunities we resigned
to go, and how sorry our friends were to have us leave, and show
daguerreotypes and locks of hair, and talk of Mary and Susan, the
man of no account used to sit by and listen with a pained,
mortified expression on his plain face, and say nothing. I think
he had nothing to say. He had no associates except when we
patronized him; and, in point of fact, he was a good deal of sport
to us. He was always seasick whenever we had a capful of wind. He
never got his sea legs on, either. And I never shall forget how we
all laughed when Rattler took him the piece of pork on a string,
and-- But you know that time-honored joke. And then we had such a
splendid lark with him. Miss Fanny Twinkler couldn't bear the
sight of him, and we used to make Fagg think that she had taken a
fancy to him, and send him little delicacies and books from the
cabin. You ought to have witnessed the rich scene that took place
when he came up, stammering and very sick, to thank her! Didn't
she flash up grandly and beautifully and scornfully? So like
"Medora," Rattler said--Rattler knew Byron by heart--and wasn't old
Fagg awfully cut up? But he got over it, and when Rattler fell
sick at Valparaiso, old Fagg used to nurse him. You see he was a
good sort of fellow, but he lacked manliness and spirit.

He had absolutely no idea of poetry. I've seen him sit stolidly
by, mending his old clothes, when Rattler delivered that stirring
apostrophe of Byron's to the ocean. He asked Rattler once, quite
seriously, if he thought Byron was ever seasick. I don't remember
Rattler's reply, but I know we all laughed very much, and I have no
doubt it was something good for Rattler was smart.

When the SKYSCRAPER arrived at San Francisco we had a grand "feed."
We agreed to meet every year and perpetuate the occasion. Of
course we didn't invite Fagg. Fagg was a steerage passenger, and
it was necessary, you see, now we were ashore, to exercise a little
discretion. But Old Fagg, as we called him--he was only about
twenty-five years old, by the way--was the source of immense
amusement to us that day. It appeared that he had conceived the
idea that he could walk to Sacramento, and actually started off
afoot. We had a good time, and shook hands with one another all
around, and so parted. Ah me! only eight years ago, and yet some
of those hands then clasped in amity have been clenched at each
other, or have dipped furtively in one another's pockets. I know
that we didn't dine together the next year, because young Barker
swore he wouldn't put his feet under the same mahogany with such a
very contemptible scoundrel as that Mixer; and Nibbles, who
borrowed money at Valparaiso of young Stubbs, who was then a waiter
in a restaurant, didn't like to meet such people.

When I bought a number of shares in the Coyote Tunnel at
Mugginsville, in '54, I thought I'd take a run up there and see it.
I stopped at the Empire Hotel, and after dinner I got a horse and
rode round the town and out to the claim. One of those individuals
whom newspaper correspondents call "our intelligent informant," and
to whom in all small communities the right of answering questions
is tacitly yielded, was quietly pointed out to me. Habit had
enabled him to work and talk at the same time, and he never
pretermitted either. He gave me a history of the claim, and added:
"You see, stranger," (he addressed the bank before him) "gold is
sure to come out'er that theer claim, (he put in a comma with his
pick) but the old pro-pri-e-tor (he wriggled out the word and the
point of his pick) warn't of much account (a long stroke of the
pick for a period). He was green, and let the boys about here jump
him"--and the rest of his sentence was confided to his hat, which
he had removed to wipe his manly brow with his red bandanna.

I asked him who was the original proprietor.

"His name war Fagg."

I went to see him. He looked a little older and plainer. He had
worked hard, he said, and was getting on "so-so." I took quite a
liking to him and patronized him to some extent. Whether I did so
because I was beginning to have a distrust for such fellows as
Rattler and Mixer is not necessary for me to state.

You remember how the Coyote Tunnel went in, and how awfully we
shareholders were done! Well, the next thing I heard was that
Rattler, who was one of the heaviest shareholders, was up at
Mugginsville keeping bar for the proprietor of the Mugginsville
Hotel, and that old Fagg had struck it rich, and didn't know what
to do with his money. All this was told me by Mixer, who had been
there, settling up matters, and likewise that Fagg was sweet upon
the daughter of the proprietor of the aforesaid hotel. And so by
hearsay and letter I eventually gathered that old Robins, the hotel
man, was trying to get up a match between Nellie Robins and Fagg.
Nellie was a pretty, plump, and foolish little thing, and would do
just as her father wished. I thought it would be a good thing for
Fagg if he should marry and settle down; that as a married man he
might be of some account. So I ran up to Mugginsville one day to
look after things.

It did me an immense deal of good to make Rattler mix my drinks for
me--Rattler! the gay, brilliant, and unconquerable Rattler, who had
tried to snub me two years ago. I talked to him about old Fagg and
Nellie, particularly as I thought the subject was distasteful. He
never liked Fagg, and he was sure, he said, that Nellie didn't.
Did Nellie like anybody else? He turned around to the mirror
behind the bar and brushed up his hair! I understood the conceited
wretch. I thought I'd put Fagg on his guard and get him to hurry
up matters. I had a long talk with him. You could see by the way
the poor fellow acted that he was badly stuck. He sighed, and
promised to pluck up courage to hurry matters to a crisis. Nellie
was a good girl, and I think had a sort of quiet respect for old
Fagg's unobtrusiveness. But her fancy was already taken captive by
Rattler's superficial qualities, which were obvious and pleasing.
I don't think Nellie was any worse than you or I. We are more apt
to take acquaintances at their apparent value than their intrinsic
worth. It's less trouble, and, except when we want to trust them,
quite as convenient. The difficulty with women is that their
feelings are apt to get interested sooner than ours, and then, you
know, reasoning is out of the question. This is what old Fagg
would have known had he been of any account. But he wasn't. So
much the worse for him.

It was a few months afterward and I was sitting in my office when
in walked old Fagg. I was surprised to see him down, but we talked
over the current topics in that mechanical manner of people who
know that they have something else to say, but are obliged to get
at it in that formal way. After an interval Fagg in his natural
manner said:

"I'm going home!"

"Going home?"

"Yes--that is, I think I'll take a trip to the Atlantic States. I
came to see you, as you know I have some little property, and I
have executed a power of attorney for you to manage my affairs. I
have some papers I'd like to leave with you. Will you take charge
of them?"

"Yes," I said. "But what of Nellie?"

His face fell. He tried to smile, and the combination resulted in
one of the most startling and grotesque effects I ever beheld. At
length he said:

"I shall not marry Nellie--that is"--he seemed to apologize
internally for the positive form of expression--"I think that I had
better not."

"David Fagg," I said with sudden severity, "you're of no account!"

To my astonishment his face brightened. "Yes," said he, "that's
it!--I'm of no account! But I always knew it. You see I thought
Rattler loved that girl as well as I did, and I knew she liked him
better than she did me, and would be happier I dare say with him.
But then I knew that old Robins would have preferred me to him, as
I was better off--and the girl would do as he said--and, you see, I
thought I was kinder in the way--and so I left. But," he
continued, as I was about to interrupt him, "for fear the old man
might object to Rattler, I've lent him enough to set him up in
business for himself in Dogtown. A pushing, active, brilliant
fellow, you know, like Rattler can get along, and will soon be in
his old position again--and you needn't be hard on him, you know,
if he doesn't. Good-by."

I was too much disgusted with his treatment of that Rattler to be
at all amiable, but as his business was profitable, I promised to
attend to it, and he left. A few weeks passed. The return steamer
arrived, and a terrible incident occupied the papers for days
afterward. People in all parts of the State conned eagerly the
details of an awful shipwreck, and those who had friends aboard
went away by themselves, and read the long list of the lost under
their breath. I read of the gifted, the gallant, the noble, and
loved ones who had perished, and among them I think I was the first
to read the name of David Fagg. For the "man of no account" had
"gone home!"



Just where the Sierra Nevada begins to subside in gentler
undulations, and the rivers grow less rapid and yellow, on the side
of a great red mountain, stands "Smith's Pocket." Seen from the
red road at sunset, in the red light and the red dust, its white
houses look like the outcroppings of quartz on the mountainside.
The red stage topped with red-shirted passengers is lost to view
half a dozen times in the tortuous descent, turning up unexpectedly
in out-of-the-way places, and vanishing altogether within a hundred
yards of the town. It is probably owing to this sudden twist in
the road that the advent of a stranger at Smith's Pocket is usually
attended with a peculiar circumstance. Dismounting from the
vehicle at the stage office, the too-confident traveler is apt to
walk straight out of town under the impression that it lies in
quite another direction. It is related that one of the tunnel men,
two miles from town, met one of these self-reliant passengers with
a carpetbag, umbrella, Harper's Magazine, and other evidences of
"Civilization and Refinement," plodding along over the road he had
just ridden, vainly endeavoring to find the settlement of Smith's

An observant traveler might have found some compensation for his
disappointment in the weird aspect of that vicinity. There were
huge fissures on the hillside, and displacements of the red soil,
resembling more the chaos of some primary elemental upheaval than
the work of man; while halfway down, a long flume straddled its
narrow body and disproportionate legs over the chasm, like an
enormous fossil of some forgotten antediluvian. At every step
smaller ditches crossed the road, hiding in their sallow depths
unlovely streams that crept away to a clandestine union with the
great yellow torrent below, and here and there were the ruins of
some cabin with the chimney alone left intact and the hearthstone
open to the skies.

The settlement of Smith's Pocket owed its origin to the finding of
a "pocket" on its site by a veritable Smith. Five thousand dollars
were taken out of it in one half-hour by Smith. Three thousand
dollars were expended by Smith and others in erecting a flume and
in tunneling. And then Smith's Pocket was found to be only a
pocket, and subject like other pockets to depletion. Although
Smith pierced the bowels of the great red mountain, that five
thousand dollars was the first and last return of his labor. The
mountain grew reticent of its golden secrets, and the flume
steadily ebbed away the remainder of Smith's fortune. Then Smith
went into quartz-mining; then into quartz-milling; then into
hydraulics and ditching, and then by easy degrees into
saloonkeeping. Presently it was whispered that Smith was drinking
a great deal; then it was known that Smith was a habitual drunkard,
and then people began to think, as they are apt to, that he had
never been anything else. But the settlement of Smith's Pocket,
like that of most discoveries, was happily not dependent on the
fortune of its pioneer, and other parties projected tunnels and
found pockets. So Smith's Pocket became a settlement, with its two
fancy stores, its two hotels, its one express office, and its two
first families. Occasionally its one long straggling street was
overawed by the assumption of the latest San Francisco fashions,
imported per express, exclusively to the first families; making
outraged Nature, in the ragged outline of her furrowed surface,
look still more homely, and putting personal insult on that greater
portion of the population to whom the Sabbath, with a change of
linen, brought merely the necessity of cleanliness without the
luxury of adornment. Then there was a Methodist Church, and hard
by a Monte Bank, and a little beyond, on the mountainside, a
graveyard; and then a little schoolhouse.

"The Master," as he was known to his little flock, sat alone one
night in the schoolhouse, with some open copybooks before him,
carefully making those bold and full characters which are supposed
to combine the extremes of chirographical and moral excellence, and
had got as far as "Riches are deceitful," and was elaborating the
noun with an insincerity of flourish that was quite in the spirit
of his text, when he heard a gentle tapping. The woodpeckers had
been busy about the roof during the day, and the noise did not
disturb his work. But the opening of the door, and the tapping
continuing from the inside, caused him to look up. He was slightly
startled by the figure of a young girl, dirty and shabbily clad.
Still, her great black eyes, her coarse, uncombed, lusterless black
hair falling over her sunburned face, her red arms and feet
streaked with the red soil, were all familiar to him. It was
Melissa Smith--Smith's motherless child.

"What can she want here?" thought the master. Everybody knew
"Mliss," as she was called, throughout the length and height of Red
Mountain. Everybody knew her as an incorrigible girl. Her fierce,
ungovernable disposition, her mad freaks and lawless character,
were in their way as proverbial as the story of her father's
weaknesses, and as philosophically accepted by the townsfolk. She
wrangled with and fought the schoolboys with keener invective and
quite as powerful arm. She followed the trails with a woodman's
craft, and the master had met her before, miles away, shoeless,
stockingless, and bareheaded on the mountain road. The miners'
camps along the stream supplied her with subsistence during these
voluntary pilgrimages, in freely offered alms. Not but that a
larger protection had been previously extended to Mliss. The Rev.
Joshua McSnagley, "stated" preacher, had placed her in the hotel as
servant, by way of preliminary refinement, and had introduced her
to his scholars at Sunday school. But she threw plates
occasionally at the landlord, and quickly retorted to the cheap
witticisms of the guests, and created in the Sabbath school a
sensation that was so inimical to the orthodox dullness and
placidity of that institution that, with a decent regard for the
starched frocks and unblemished morals of the two pink-and-white-
faced children of the first families, the reverend gentleman had
her ignominiously expelled. Such were the antecedents, and such
the character of Mliss as she stood before the master. It was
shown in the ragged dress, the unkempt hair, and bleeding feet, and
asked his pity. It flashed from her black, fearless eyes, and
commanded his respect.

"I come here tonight," she said rapidly and boldly, keeping her
hard glance on his, "because I knew you was alone. I wouldn't come
here when them gals was here. I hate 'em and they hates me.
That's why. You keep school, don't you? I want to be teached!"

If to the shabbiness of her apparel and uncomeliness of her tangled
hair and dirty face she had added the humility of tears, the master
would have extended to her the usual moiety of pity, and nothing
more. But with the natural, though illogical, instincts of his
species, her boldness awakened in him something of that respect
which all original natures pay unconsciously to one another in any
grade. And he gazed at her the more fixedly as she went on still
rapidly, her hand on that door latch and her eyes on his:

"My name's Mliss--Mliss Smith! You can bet your life on that. My
father's Old Smith--Old Bummer Smith--that's what's the matter with
him. Mliss Smith--and I'm coming to school!"

"Well?" said the master.

Accustomed to be thwarted and opposed, often wantonly and cruelly,
for no other purpose than to excite the violent impulses of her
nature, the master's phlegm evidently took her by surprise. She
stopped; she began to twist a lock of her hair between her fingers;
and the rigid line of upper lip, drawn over the wicked little
teeth, relaxed and quivered slightly. Then her eyes dropped, and
something like a blush struggled up to her cheek and tried to
assert itself through the splashes of redder soil, and the sunburn
of years. Suddenly she threw herself forward, calling on God to
strike her dead, and fell quite weak and helpless, with her face on
the master's desk, crying and sobbing as if her heart would break.

The master lifted her gently and waited for the paroxysm to pass.
When, with face still averted, she was repeating between her sobs
the MEA CULPA of childish penitence--that "she'd be good, she
didn't mean to," etc., it came to him to ask her why she had left
Sabbath school.

Why had she left the Sabbath school?--why? Oh, yes. What did he
(McSnagley) want to tell her she was wicked for? What did he tell
her that God hated her for? If God hated her, what did she want to
go to Sabbath school for? SHE didn't want to be "beholden" to
anybody who hated her.

Had she told McSnagley this?

Yes, she had.

The master laughed. It was a hearty laugh, and echoed so oddly in
the little schoolhouse, and seemed so inconsistent and discordant
with the sighing of the pines without, that he shortly corrected
himself with a sigh. The sigh was quite as sincere in its way,
however, and after a moment of serious silence he asked about her

Her father? What father? Whose father? What had he ever done for
her? Why did the girls hate her? Come now! what made the folks
say, "Old Bummer Smith's Mliss!" when she passed? Yes; oh yes.
She wished he was dead--she was dead--everybody was dead; and her
sobs broke forth anew.

The master then, leaning over her, told her as well as he could
what you or I might have said after hearing such unnatural theories
from childish lips; only bearing in mind perhaps better than you or
I the unnatural facts of her ragged dress, her bleeding feet, and
the omnipresent shadow of her drunken father. Then, raising her to
her feet, he wrapped his shawl around her, and, bidding her come
early in the morning, he walked with her down the road. There he
bade her "good night." The moon shone brightly on the narrow path
before them. He stood and watched the bent little figure as it
staggered down the road, and waited until it had passed the little
graveyard and reached the curve of the hill, where it turned and
stood for a moment, a mere atom of suffering outlined against the
far-off patient stars. Then he went back to his work. But the
lines of the copybook thereafter faded into long parallels of
never-ending road, over which childish figures seemed to pass
sobbing and crying into the night. Then, the little schoolhouse
seeming lonelier than before, he shut the door and went home.

The next morning Mliss came to school. Her face had been washed,
and her coarse black hair bore evidence of recent struggles with
the comb, in which both had evidently suffered. The old defiant
look shone occasionally in her eyes, but her manner was tamer and
more subdued. Then began a series of little trials and self-
sacrifices, in which master and pupil bore an equal part, and which
increased the confidence and sympathy between them. Although
obedient under the master's eye, at times during recess, if
thwarted or stung by a fancied slight, Mliss would rage in
ungovernable fury, and many a palpitating young savage, finding
himself matched with his own weapons of torment, would seek the
master with torn jacket and scratched face and complaints of the
dreadful Mliss. There was a serious division among the townspeople
on the subject, some threatening to withdraw their children from
such evil companionship, and others as warmly upholding the course
of the master in his work of reclamation. Meanwhile, with a steady
persistence that seemed quite astonishing to him on looking back
afterward, the master drew Mliss gradually out of the shadow of her
past life, as though it were but her natural progress down the
narrow path on which he had set her feet the moonlit night of their
first meeting. Remembering the experience of the evangelical
McSnagley, he carefully avoided that Rock of Ages on which that
unskillful pilot had shipwrecked her young faith. But if, in the
course of her reading, she chanced to stumble upon those few words
which have lifted such as she above the level of the older, the
wiser, and the more prudent--if she learned something of a faith
that is symbolized by suffering, and the old light softened in her
eyes, it did not take the shape of a lesson. A few of the plainer
people had made up a little sum by which the ragged Mliss was
enabled to assume the garments of respect and civilization; and
often a rough shake of the hand, and words of homely commendation
from a red-shirted and burly figure, sent a glow to the cheek of
the young master, and set him to thinking if it was altogether

Three months had passed from the time of their first meeting, and
the master was sitting late one evening over the moral and
sententious copies, when there came a tap at the door and again
Mliss stood before him. She was neatly clad and clean-faced, and
there was nothing perhaps but the long black hair and bright black
eyes to remind him of his former apparition. "Are you busy?" she
asked. "Can you come with me?"--and on his signifying his
readiness, in her old willful way she said, "Come, then, quick!"

They passed out of the door together and into the dark road. As
they entered the town the master asked her whither she was going.
She replied, "To see my father."

It was the first time he had heard her call him by that filial
title, or indeed anything more than "Old Smith" or the "Old Man."
It was the first time in three months that she had spoken of him at
all, and the master knew she had kept resolutely aloof from him
since her great change. Satisfied from her manner that it was
fruitless to question her purpose, he passively followed. In out-
of-the-way places, low groggeries, restaurants, and saloons; in
gambling hells and dance houses, the master, preceded by Mliss,
came and went. In the reeking smoke and blasphemous outcries of
low dens, the child, holding the master's hand, stood and anxiously
gazed, seemingly unconscious of all in the one absorbing nature of
her pursuit. Some of the revelers, recognizing Mliss, called to
the child to sing and dance for them, and would have forced liquor
upon her but for the interference of the master. Others,
recognizing him mutely, made way for them to pass. So an hour
slipped by. Then the child whispered in his ear that there was a
cabin on the other side of the creek crossed by the long flume,
where she thought he still might be. Thither they crossed--a
toilsome half-hour's walk--but in vain. They were returning by the
ditch at the abutment of the flume, gazing at the lights of the
town on the opposite bank, when, suddenly, sharply, a quick report
rang out on the clear night air. The echoes caught it, and carried
it round and round Red Mountain, and set the dogs to barking all
along the streams. Lights seemed to dance and move quickly on the
outskirts of the town for a few moments, the stream rippled quite
audibly beside them, a few stones loosened themselves from the
hillside and splashed into the stream, a heavy wind seemed to surge
the branches of the funereal pines, and then the silence seemed to
fall thicker, heavier, and deadlier. The master turned toward
Mliss with an unconscious gesture of protection, but the child had
gone. Oppressed by a strange fear, he ran quickly down the trail
to the river's bed, and, jumping from boulder to boulder, reached
the base of Red Mountain and the outskirts of the village. Midway
of the crossing he looked up and held his breath in awe. For high
above him on the narrow flume he saw the fluttering little figure
of his late companion crossing swiftly in the darkness.

He climbed the bank, and, guided by a few lights moving about a
central point on the mountain, soon found himself breathless among
a crowd of awe-stricken and sorrowful men. Out from among them the
child appeared, and, taking the master's hand, led him silently
before what seemed a ragged hole in the mountain. Her face was
quite white, but her excited manner gone, and her look that of one
to whom some long-expected event had at last happened--an
expression that to the master in his bewilderment seemed almost
like relief. The walls of the cavern were partly propped by
decaying timbers. The child pointed to what appeared to be some
ragged, castoff clothes left in the hole by the late occupant. The
master approached nearer with his flaming dip, and bent over them.
It was Smith, already cold, with a pistol in his hand and a bullet
in his heart, lying beside his empty pocket.


The opinion which McSnagley expressed in reference to a "change of
heart" supposed to be experienced by Mliss was more forcibly
described in the gulches and tunnels. It was thought there that
Mliss had "struck a good lead." So when there was a new grave
added to the little enclosure, and at the expense of the master a
little board and inscription put above it, the RED MOUNTAIN BANNER
came out quite handsomely, and did the fair thing to the memory of
one of "our oldest Pioneers," alluding gracefully to that "bane of
noble intellects," and otherwise genteelly shelving our dear
brother with the past. "He leaves an only child to mourn his
loss," says the BANNER, "who is now an exemplary scholar, thanks to
the efforts of the Rev. Mr. McSnagley." The Rev. McSnagley, in
fact, made a strong point of Mliss's conversion, and, indirectly
attributing to the unfortunate child the suicide of her father,
made affecting allusions in Sunday school to the beneficial effects
of the "silent tomb," and in this cheerful contemplation drove most
of the children into speechless horror, and caused the pink-and-
white scions of the first families to howl dismally and refuse to
be comforted.

The long dry summer came. As each fierce day burned itself out in
little whiffs of pearl-gray smoke on the mountain summits, and the
upspringing breeze scattered its red embers over the landscape, the
green wave which in early spring upheaved above Smith's grave grew
sere and dry and hard. In those days the master, strolling in the
little churchyard of a Sabbath afternoon, was sometimes surprised
to find a few wild flowers plucked from the damp pine forests
scattered there, and oftener rude wreaths hung upon the little pine
cross. Most of these wreaths were formed of a sweet-scented grass,
which the children loved to keep in their desks, intertwined with
the plumes of the buckeye, the syringa, and the wood anemone, and
here and there the master noticed the dark-blue cowl of the
monkshood, or deadly aconite. There was something in the odd
association of this noxious plant with these memorials which
occasioned a painful sensation to the master deeper than his
esthetic sense. One day, during a long walk, in crossing a wooded
ridge he came upon Mliss in the heart of the forest, perched upon a
prostrate pine on a fantastic throne formed by the hanging plumes
of lifeless branches, her lap full of grasses and pine burrs, and
crooning to herself one of the Negro melodies of her younger life.
Recognizing him at a distance, she made room for him on her
elevated throne, and with a grave assumption of hospitality and
patronage that would have been ridiculous had it not been so
terribly earnest, she fed him with pine nuts and crab apples. The
master took that opportunity to point out to her the noxious and
deadly qualities of the monkshood, whose dark blossoms he saw in
her lap, and extorted from her a promise not to meddle with it as
long as she remained his pupil. This done--as the master had
tested her integrity before--he rested satisfied, and the strange
feeling which had overcome him on seeing them died away.

Of the homes that were offered Mliss when her conversion became
known, the master preferred that of Mrs. Morpher, a womanly and
kindhearted specimen of Southwestern efflorescence, known in her
maidenhood as the "Per-rairie Rose." Being one of those who
contend resolutely against their own natures, Mrs. Morpher, by a
long series of self-sacrifices and struggles, had at last
subjugated her naturally careless disposition to principles of
"order," which she considered, in common with Mr. Pope, as
"Heaven's first law." But she could not entirely govern the orbits
of her satellites, however regular her own movements, and even her
own "Jeemes" sometimes collided with her. Again her old nature
asserted itself in her children. Lycurgus dipped into the cupboard
"between meals," and Aristides came home from school without shoes,
leaving those important articles on the threshold, for the delight
of a barefooted walk down the ditches. Octavia and Cassandra were
"keerless" of their clothes. So with but one exception, however
much the "Prairie Rose" might have trimmed and pruned and trained
her own matured luxuriance, the little shoots came up defiantly
wild and straggling. That one exception was Clytemnestra Morpher,
aged fifteen. She was the realization of her mother's immaculate
conception--neat, orderly, and dull.

It was an amiable weakness of Mrs. Morpher to imagine that "Clytie"
was a consolation and model for Mliss. Following this fallacy,
Mrs. Morpher threw Clytie at the head of Mliss when she was "bad,"
and set her up before the child for adoration in her penitential
moments. It was not, therefore, surprising to the master to hear
that Clytie was coming to school, obviously as a favor to the
master and as an example for Mliss and others. For "Clytie" was
quite a young lady. Inheriting her mother's physical
peculiarities, and in obedience to the climatic laws of the Red
Mountain region, she was an early bloomer. The youth of Smith's
Pocket, to whom this kind of flower was rare, sighed for her in
April and languished in May. Enamored swains haunted the
schoolhouse at the hour of dismissal. A few were jealous of the

Perhaps it was this latter circumstance that opened the master's
eyes to another. He could not help noticing that Clytie was
romantic; that in school she required a great deal of attention;
that her pens were uniformly bad and wanted fixing; that she
usually accompanied the request with a certain expectation in her
eye that was somewhat disproportionate to the quality of service
she verbally required; that she sometimes allowed the curves of a
round, plump white arm to rest on his when he was writing her
copies; that she always blushed and flung back her blond curls when
she did so. I don't remember whether I have stated that the master
was a young man--it's of little consequence, however; he had been
severely educated in the school in which Clytie was taking her
first lesson, and, on the whole, withstood the flexible curves and
factitious glance like the fine young Spartan that he was. Perhaps
an insufficient quality of food may have tended to this asceticism.
He generally avoided Clytie; but one evening, when she returned to
the schoolhouse after something she had forgotten, and did not find
it until the master walked home with her, I hear that he endeavored
to make himself particularly agreeable --partly from the fact, I
imagine, that his conduct was adding gall and bitterness to the
already overcharged hearts of Clytemnestra's admirers.

The morning after this affecting episode Mliss did not come to
school. Noon came, but not Mliss. Questioning Clytie on the
subject, it appeared that they had left the school together, but
the willful Mliss had taken another road. The afternoon brought
her not. In the evening he called on Mrs. Morpher, whose motherly
heart was really alarmed. Mr. Morpher had spent all day in search
of her, without discovering a trace that might lead to her
discovery. Aristides was summoned as a probable accomplice, but
that equitable infant succeeded in impressing the household with
his innocence. Mrs. Morpher entertained a vivid impression that
the child would yet be found drowned in a ditch, or, what was
almost as terrible, muddied and soiled beyond the redemption of
soap and water. Sick at heart, the master returned to the
schoolhouse. As he lit his lamp and seated himself at his desk, he
found a note lying before him addressed to himself, in Mliss's
handwriting. It seemed to be written on a leaf torn from some old
memorandum book, and, to prevent sacrilegious trifling, had been
sealed with six broken wafers. Opening it almost tenderly, the
master read as follows:

RESPECTED SIR--When you read this, I am run away. Never to come
back. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER. You can give my beeds to Mary
Jennings, and my Amerika's Pride [a highly colored lithograph from
a tobacco-box] to Sally Flanders. But don't you give anything to
Clytie Morpher. Don't you dare to. Do you know what my opinion is
of her, it is this, she is perfekly disgustin. That is all and no
more at present from

Yours respectfully,


The master sat pondering on this strange epistle till the moon
lifted its bright face above the distant hills, and illuminated the
trail that led to the schoolhouse, beaten quite hard with the
coming and going of little feet. Then, more satisfied in mind, he
tore the missive into fragments and scattered them along the road.

At sunrise the next morning he was picking his way through the
palmlike fern and thick underbrush of the pine forest, starting the
hare from its form, and awakening a querulous protest from a few
dissipated crows, who had evidently been making a night of it, and
so came to the wooded ridge where he had once found Mliss. There
he found the prostrate pine and tasseled branches, but the throne
was vacant. As he drew nearer, what might have been some
frightened animal started through the crackling limbs. It ran up
the tossed arms of the fallen monarch and sheltered itself in some
friendly foliage. The master, reaching the old seat, found the
nest still warm; looking up in the intertwining branches, he met
the black eyes of the errant Mliss. They gazed at each other
without speaking. She was first to break the silence.

"What do you want?" she asked curtly.

The master had decided on a course of action. "I want some crab
apples," he said humbly.

"Sha'n't have 'em! go away. Why don't you get 'em of
Clytemnerestera?" (It seemed to be a relief to Mliss to express
her contempt in additional syllables to that classical young
woman's already long-drawn title.) "O you wicked thing!"

"I am hungry, Lissy. I have eaten nothing since dinner yesterday.
I am famished!" and the young man in a state of remarkable
exhaustion leaned against the tree.

Melissa's heart was touched. In the bitter days of her gypsy life
she had known the sensation he so artfully simulated. Overcome by
his heartbroken tone, but not entirely divested of suspicion, she

"Dig under the tree near the roots, and you'll find lots; but mind
you don't tell," for Mliss had HER hoards as well as the rats and

But the master, of course, was unable to find them; the effects of
hunger probably blinding his senses. Mliss grew uneasy. At length
she peered at him through the leaves in an elfish way, and

"If I come down and give you some, you'll promise you won't touch

The master promised.

"Hope you'll die if you do!"

The master accepted instant dissolution as a forfeit. Mliss slid
down the tree. For a few moments nothing transpired but the
munching of the pine nuts. "Do you feel better?" she asked, with
some solicitude. The master confessed to a recuperated feeling,
and then, gravely thanking her, proceeded to retrace his steps. As
he expected, he had not gone far before she called him. He turned.
She was standing there quite white, with tears in her widely opened
orbs. The master felt that the right moment had come. Going up to
her, he took both her hands, and looking in her tearful eyes, said,
gravely, "Lissy, do you remember the first evening you came to see

Lissy remembered.

"You asked me if you might come to school, for you wanted to learn
something and be better, and I said--"

"Come," responded the child, promptly.

"What would YOU say if the master now came to you and said that he
was lonely without his little scholar, and that he wanted her to
come and teach him to be better?"

The child hung her head for a few moments in silence. The master
waited patiently. Tempted by the quiet, a hare ran close to the
couple, and raising her bright eyes and velvet forepaws, sat and
gazed at them. A squirrel ran halfway down the furrowed bark of
the fallen tree, and there stopped.

"We are waiting, Lissy," said the master, in a whisper, and the
child smiled. Stirred by a passing breeze, the treetops rocked,
and a long pencil of light stole through their interlaced boughs
full on the doubting face and irresolute little figure. Suddenly
she took the master's hand in her quick way. What she said was
scarcely audible, but the master, putting the black hair back from
her forehead, kissed her; and so, hand in hand, they passed out of
the damp aisles and forest odors into the open sunlit road.


Somewhat less spiteful in her intercourse with other scholars,
Mliss still retained an offensive attitude in regard to
Clytemnestra. Perhaps the jealous element was not entirely lulled
in her passionate little breast. Perhaps it was only that the
round curves and plump outline offered more extended pinching
surface. But while such ebullitions were under the master's
control, her enmity occasionally took a new and irrepressible form.

The master in his first estimate of the child's character could not
conceive that she had ever possessed a doll. But the master, like
many other professed readers of character, was safer in a
posteriori than a priori reasoning. Mliss had a doll, but then it
was emphatically Mliss's doll--a smaller copy of herself. Its
unhappy existence had been a secret discovered accidentally by Mrs.
Morpher. It had been the old-time companion of Mliss's wanderings,
and bore evident marks of suffering. Its original complexion was
long since washed away by the weather and anointed by the slime of
ditches. It looked very much as Mliss had in days past. Its one
gown of faded stuff was dirty and ragged, as hers had been. Mliss
had never been known to apply to it any childish term of
endearment. She never exhibited it in the presence of other
children. It was put severely to bed in a hollow tree near the
schoolhouse, and only allowed exercise during Mliss's rambles.
Fulfilling a stern duty to her doll, as she would to herself, it
knew no luxuries.

Now Mrs. Morpher, obeying a commendable impulse, bought another
doll and gave it to Mliss. The child received it gravely and
curiously. The master on looking at it one day fancied he saw a

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