Part 2 out of 4
"There!" said Uncle Jim, as he hurriedly slurred over the French
substantive at the close, "did ye ever see such God-forsaken
Uncle Billy lifted his abstracted eyes from the current, still
pouring its unreturning gold into the sinking sun, and said, with a
deprecatory smile, "Never!"
Nor even in the days of prosperity that visited the Great Wheat
Ranch of "Fall and Foster" did he ever tell his secret to his
I don't suppose that his progenitors ever gave him that name, or,
indeed, that it was a NAME at all; but it was currently believed
that--as pronounced "See UP"--it meant that lifting of the outer
angle of the eye common to the Mongolian. On the other hand, I had
been told that there was an old Chinese custom of affixing some
motto or legend, or even a sentence from Confucius, as a sign above
their shops, and that two or more words, which might be merely
equivalent to "Virtue is its own reward," or "Riches are
deceitful," were believed by the simple Californian miner to be the
name of the occupant himself. Howbeit, "See Yup" accepted it with
the smiling patience of his race, and never went by any other. If
one of the tunnelmen always addressed him as "Brigadier-General,"
"Judge," or "Commodore," it was understood to be only the American
fondness for ironic title, and was never used except in personal
conversation. In appearance he looked like any other Chinaman,
wore the ordinary blue cotton blouse and white drawers of the
Sampan coolie, and, in spite of the apparent cleanliness and
freshness of these garments, always exhaled that singular medicated
odor--half opium, half ginger--which we recognized as the common
Our first interview was characteristic of his patient quality. He
had done my washing for several months, but I had never yet seen
him. A meeting at last had become necessary to correct his
impressions regarding "buttons"--which he had seemed to consider as
mere excrescences, to be removed like superfluous dirt from soiled
linen. I had expected him to call at my lodgings, but he had not
yet made his appearance. One day, during the noontide recess of
the little frontier school over which I presided, I returned rather
early. Two or three of the smaller boys, who were loitering about
the school-yard, disappeared with a certain guilty precipitation
that I suspected for the moment, but which I presently dismissed
from my mind. I passed through the empty school-room to my desk,
sat down, and began to prepare the coming lessons. Presently I
heard a faint sigh. Looking up, to my intense concern, I
discovered a solitary Chinaman whom I had overlooked, sitting in a
rigid attitude on a bench with his back to the window. He caught
my eye and smiled sadly, but without moving.
"What are you doing here?" I asked sternly.
"Me washee shilts; me talkee 'buttons.'"
"Oh! you're See Yup, are you?"
"Allee same, John."
"Well, come here."
I continued my work, but he did not move.
"Come here, hang it! Don't you understand?"
"Me shabbee, 'comme yea.' But me no shabbee Mellican boy, who
catchee me, allee same. YOU 'comme yea'--YOU shabbee?"
Indignant, but believing that the unfortunate man was still in fear
of persecution from the mischievous urchins whom I had evidently
just interrupted, I put down my pen and went over to him. Here I
discovered, to my surprise and mortification, that his long pigtail
was held hard and fast by the closed window behind him which the
young rascals had shut down upon it, after having first noiselessly
fished it outside with a hook and line. I apologized, opened the
window, and released him. He did not complain, although he must
have been fixed in that uncomfortable position for some minutes,
but plunged at once into the business that brought him there.
"But WHY didn't you come to my lodgings?" I asked.
He smiled sadly but intelligently.
"Mishtel Bally [Mr. Barry, my landlord] he owce me five dollee fo
washee, washee. He no payee me. He say he knock hellee outee me
allee time I come for payee. So me no come HOUSEE, me come
SCHOOLEE, Shabbee? Mellican boy no good, but not so big as
Mellican man. No can hurtee Chinaman so much. Shabbee?"
Alas! I knew that this was mainly true. Mr. James Barry was an
Irishman, whose finer religious feelings revolted against paying
money to a heathen. I could not find it in my heart to say
anything to See Yup about the buttons; indeed, I spoke in
complimentary terms about the gloss of my shirts, and I think I
meekly begged him to come again for my washing. When I went home I
expostulated with Mr. Barry, but succeeded only in extracting from
him the conviction that I was one of "thim black Republican fellys
that worshiped naygurs." I had simply made an enemy of him. But I
did not know that, at the same time, I had made a friend of See
I became aware of this a few days later, by the appearance on my
desk of a small pot containing a specimen of camellia japonica in
flower. I knew the school-children were in the habit of making
presents to me in this furtive fashion,--leaving their own nosegays
of wild flowers, or perhaps a cluster of roses from their parents'
gardens,--but I also knew that this exotic was too rare to come
from them. I remembered that See Yup had a Chinese taste for
gardening, and a friend, another Chinaman, who kept a large nursery
in the adjoining town. But my doubts were set at rest by the
discovery of a small roll of red rice-paper containing my washing-
bill, fastened to the camellia stalk. It was plain that this
mingling of business and delicate gratitude was clearly See Yup's
own idea. As the finest flower was the topmost one, I plucked it
for wearing, when I found, to my astonishment, that it was simply
wired to the stalk. This led me to look at the others, which I
found also wired! More than that, they seemed to be an inferior
flower, and exhaled that cold, earthy odor peculiar to the
camellia, even, as I thought, to an excess. A closer examination
resulted in the discovery that, with the exception of the first
flower I had plucked, they were one and all ingeniously constructed
of thin slices of potato, marvelously cut to imitate the vegetable
waxiness and formality of the real flower. The work showed an
infinite and almost pathetic patience in detail, yet strangely
incommensurate with the result, admirable as it was. Nevertheless,
this was also like See Yup. But whether he had tried to deceive
me, or whether he only wished me to admire his skill, I could not
say. And as his persecution by my scholars had left a balance of
consideration in his favor, I sent him a warm note of thanks, and
said nothing of my discovery.
As our acquaintance progressed, I became frequently the recipient
of other small presents from him: a pot of preserves of a quality I
could not purchase in shops, and whose contents in their crafty,
gingery dissimulation so defied definition that I never knew
whether they were animal, vegetable, or mineral; two or three
hideous Chinese idols, "for luckee," and a diabolical fire-work
with an irregular spasmodic activity that would sometimes be
prolonged until the next morning. In return, I gave him some
apparently hopeless oral lessons in English, and certain sentences
to be copied, which he did with marvelous precision. I remember
one instance when this peculiar faculty of imitation was disastrous
in result. In setting him a copy, I had blurred a word which I
promptly erased, and then traced the letters more distinctly over
the scratched surface. To my surprise, See Yup triumphantly
produced HIS copy with the erasion itself carefully imitated, and,
in fact, much more neatly done than mine.
In our confidential intercourse, I never seemed to really get
nearer to him. His sympathy and simplicity appeared like his
flowers--to be a good-humored imitation of my own. I am satisfied
that his particularly soulless laugh was not derived from any
amusement he actually felt, yet I could not say it was forced. In
his accurate imitations, I fancied he was only trying to evade any
responsibility of his own. THAT devolved upon his taskmaster! In
the attention he displayed when new ideas were presented to him,
there was a slight condescension, as if he were looking down upon
them from his three thousand years of history.
"Don't you think the electric telegraph wonderful?" I asked one
"Very good for Mellican man," he said, with his aimless laugh;
"plenty makee him jump!"
I never could tell whether he had confounded it with electro-
galvanism, or was only satirizing our American haste and
feverishness. He was capable of either. For that matter, we knew
that the Chinese themselves possessed some means of secretly and
quickly communicating with one another. Any news of good or ill
import to their race was quickly disseminated through the
settlement before WE knew anything about it. An innocent basket of
clothes from the wash, sent up from the river-bank, became in some
way a library of information; a single slip of rice-paper,
aimlessly fluttering in the dust of the road, had the mysterious
effect of diverging a whole gang of coolie tramps away from our
When See Yup was not subject to the persecutions of the more
ignorant and brutal he was always a source of amusement to all, and
I cannot recall an instance when he was ever taken seriously. The
miners found diversions even in his alleged frauds and trickeries,
whether innocent or retaliatory, and were fond of relating with
great gusto his evasion of the Foreign Miners' Tax. This was an
oppressive measure aimed principally at the Chinese, who humbly
worked the worn-out "tailings" of their Christian fellow miners.
It was stated that See Yup, knowing the difficulty--already alluded
to--of identifying any particular Chinaman by NAME, conceived the
additional idea of confusing recognition by intensifying the
monotonous facial expression. Having paid his tax himself to the
collector, he at once passed the receipt to his fellows, so that
the collector found himself confronted in different parts of the
settlement with the receipt and the aimless laugh of, apparently,
See Yup himself. Although we all knew that there were a dozen
Chinamen or more at work at the mines, the collector never was able
to collect the tax from more than TWO, --See Yup and one See Yin,--
and so great was THEIR facial resemblance that the unfortunate
official for a long time hugged himself with the conviction that he
had made See Yup PAY TWICE, and withheld the money from the
government! It is very probable that the Californian's recognition
of the sanctity of a joke, and his belief that "cheating the
government was only cheating himself," largely accounted for the
sympathies of the rest of the miners.
But these sympathies were not always unanimous.
One evening I strolled into the bar-room of the principal saloon,
which, so far as mere upholstery and comfort went, was also the
principal house in the settlement. The first rains had commenced;
the windows were open, for the influence of the southwest trades
penetrated even this far-off mountain mining settlement, but, oddly
enough, there was a fire in the large central stove, around which
the miners had collected, with their steaming boots elevated on a
projecting iron railing that encircled it. They were not attracted
by the warmth, but the stove formed a social pivot for gossip, and
suggested that mystic circle dear to the gregarious instinct. Yet
they were decidedly a despondent group. For some moments the
silence was only broken by a gasp, a sigh, a muttered oath, or an
impatient change of position. There was nothing in the fortunes of
the settlement, nor in their own individual affairs to suggest this
gloom. The singular truth was that they were, one and all,
suffering from the pangs of dyspepsia.
Incongruous as such a complaint might seem to their healthy
environment,--their outdoor life, their daily exercise, the healing
balsam of the mountain air, their enforced temperance in diet, and
the absence of all enervating pleasures,--it was nevertheless the
incontestable fact. Whether it was the result of the nervous,
excitable temperament which had brought them together in this
feverish hunt for gold; whether it was the quality of the tinned
meats or half-cooked provisions they hastily bolted, begrudging the
time it took to prepare and to consume them; whether they too often
supplanted their meals by tobacco or whiskey, the singular
physiological truth remained that these young, finely selected
adventurers, living the lives of the natural, aboriginal man, and
looking the picture of health and strength, actually suffered more
from indigestion than the pampered dwellers of the cities. The
quantity of "patent medicines," "bitters," "pills," "panaceas," and
"lozenges" sold in the settlement almost exceeded the amount of the
regular provisions whose effects they were supposed to correct.
The sufferers eagerly scanned advertisements and placards. There
were occasional "runs" on new "specifics," and general conversation
eventually turned into a discussion of their respective merits. A
certain childlike faith and trust in each new remedy was not the
least distressing and pathetic of the symptoms of these grown-up,
"Well, gentlemen," said Cyrus Parker, glancing around at his fellow
sufferers, "ye kin talk of your patent medicines, and I've tackled
'em all, but only the other day I struck suthin' that I'm goin' to
hang on to, you bet."
Every eye was turned moodily to the speaker, but no one said
"And I didn't get it outer advertisements, nor off of circulars. I
got it outer my head, just by solid thinking," continued Parker.
"What was it, Cy?" said one unsophisticated and inexperienced
Instead of replying, Parker, like a true artist, knowing he had the
ear of his audience, dramatically flashed a question upon them.
"Did you ever hear of a Chinaman having dyspepsy?"
"Never heard he had sabe enough to hev ANYTHING," said a scorner.
"No, but DID ye?" insisted Parker.
"Well, no!" chorused the group. They were evidently struck with
"Of course you didn't," said Parker triumphantly. "'Cos they
AIN'T. Well, gentlemen, it didn't seem to me the square thing that
a pesky lot o' yellow-skinned heathens should be built different to
a white man, and never know the tortur' that a Christian feels; and
one day, arter dinner, when I was just a-lyin' flat down on the
bank, squirmin', and clutching the short grass to keep from
yellin', who should go by but that pizened See Yup, with a grin on
"'Mellican man plenty playee to him Joss after eatin',' sez he; 'but
Chinaman smellee punk, allee same, and no hab got.'
"I knew the slimy cuss was just purtendin' he thought I was prayin'
to my Joss, but I was that weak I hadn't stren'th, boys, to heave a
rock at him. Yet it gave me an idea."
"What was it?" they asked eagerly.
"I went down to his shop the next day, when he was alone, and I was
feeling mighty bad, and I got hold of his pigtail and I allowed I'd
stuff it down his throat if he didn't tell me what he meant. Then
he took a piece of punk and lit it, and put it under my nose, and,
darn my skin, gentlemen, you migh'n't believe me, but in a minute I
felt better, and after a whiff or two I was all right."
"Was it pow'ful strong, Cy?" asked the inexperienced one.
"No," said Parker, "and that's just what's got me. It was a sort
o' dreamy, spicy smell, like a hot night. But as I couldn't go
'round 'mong you boys with a lighted piece o' punk in my hand, ez
if I was settin' off Fourth of July firecrackers, I asked him if he
couldn't fix me up suthin' in another shape that would be handier
to use when I was took bad, and I'd reckon to pay him for it like
ez I'd pay for any other patent medicine. So he fixed me up this."
He put his hand in his pocket, and drew out a small red paper
which, when opened, disclosed a pink powder. It was gravely passed
around the group.
"Why, it smells and tastes like ginger," said one.
"It is only ginger!" said another scornfully.
"Mebbe it is, and mebbe it isn't," returned Cy Parker stoutly.
"Mebbe ut's only my fancy. But if it's the sort o' stuff to bring
on that fancy, and that fancy CURES me, it's all the same. I've
got about two dollars' worth o' that fancy or that ginger, and I'm
going to stick to it. You hear me!" And he carefully put it back
in his pocket.
At which criticisms and gibes broke forth. If he (Cy Parker), a
white man, was going to "demean himself" by consulting a Chinese
quack, he'd better buy up a lot o' idols and stand 'em up around
his cabin. If he had that sort o' confidences with See Yup, he
ought to go to work with him on his cheap tailings, and be
fumigated all at the same time. If he'd been smoking an opium
pipe, instead of smelling punk, he ought to be man enough to
confess it. Yet it was noticeable that they were all very anxious
to examine the packet again, but Cy Parker was alike indifferent to
demand or entreaty.
A few days later I saw Abe Wynford, one of the party, coming out of
See Yup's wash-house. He muttered something in passing about the
infamous delay in sending home his washing, but did not linger long
in conversation. The next day I met another miner AT the wash-
house, but HE lingered so long on some trifling details that I
finally left him there alone with See Yup. When I called upon
Poker Jack of Shasta, there was a singular smell of incense in HIS
cabin, which he attributed to the very resinous quality of the fir
logs he was burning. I did not attempt to probe these mysteries by
any direct appeal to See Yup himself: I respected his reticence;
indeed, if I had not, I was quite satisfied that he would have lied
to me. Enough that his wash-house was well patronized, and he was
decidedly "getting on."
It might have been a month afterwards that Dr. Duchesne was setting
a broken bone in the settlement, and after the operation was over,
had strolled into the Palmetto Saloon. He was an old army surgeon,
much respected and loved in the district, although perhaps a little
feared for the honest roughness and military precision of his
speech. After he had exchanged salutations with the miners in his
usual hearty fashion, and accepted their invitation to drink, Cy
Parker, with a certain affected carelessness which did not,
however, conceal a singular hesitation in his speech, began:--
"I've been wantin' to ask ye a question, Doc,--a sort o' darned
fool question, ye know,--nothing in the way of consultation, don't
you see, though it's kin er in the way o' your purfeshun. Sabe?"
"Go on, Cy," said the doctor good-humoredly, "this is my dispensary
"Oh! it ain't anything about symptoms, Doc, and there ain't
anything the matter with me. It's only just to ask ye if ye
happened to know anything about the medical practice of these yer
"I don't know," said the doctor bluntly, "and I don't know ANYBODY
There was a sudden silence in the bar, and the doctor, putting down
his glass, continued with slight professional precision:--
"You see, the Chinese know nothing of anatomy from personal
observation. Autopsies and dissection are against their
superstitions, which declare the human body sacred, and are
consequently never practiced."
There was a slight movement of inquiring interest among the party,
and Cy Parker, after a meaning glance at the others, went on half
aggressively, half apologetically:--
"In course, they ain't surgeons like you, Doc, but that don't keep
them from having their own little medicines, just as dogs eat
grass, you know. Now I want to put it to you, as a fa'r-minded
man, if you mean ter say that, jest because those old women who
sarve out yarbs and spring medicines in families don't know
anything of anatomy, they ain't fit to give us their simple and
"But the Chinese medicines are not simple or natural," said the
"Not simple?" echoed the party, closing round him.
"I don't mean to say," continued the doctor, glancing around at
their eager, excited faces with an appearance of wonder, "that they
are positively noxious, unless taken in large quantities, for they
are not drugs at all, but I certainly should not call them
'simple.' Do YOU know what they principally are?"
"Well, no," said Parker cautiously, "perhaps not EXACTLY."
"Come a little closer, and I'll tell you."
Not only Parker's head but the others were bent over the counter.
Dr. Duchesne uttered a few words in a tone inaudible to the rest of
the company. There was a profound silence, broken at last by Abe
"Ye kin pour me out about three fingers o' whiskey, Barkeep. I'll
take it straight."
"Same to me," said the others.
The men gulped down their liquor; two of them quietly passed out.
The doctor wiped his lips, buttoned his coat, and began to draw on
"I've heerd," said Poker Jack of Shasta, with a faint smile on his
white face, as he toyed with the last drops of liquor in his glass,
"that the darned fools sometimes smell punk as a medicine, eh?"
"Yes, THAT'S comparatively decent," said the doctor reflectively.
"It's only sawdust mixed with a little gum and formic acid."
"Formic acid? Wot's that?"
"A very peculiar acid secreted by ants. It is supposed to be used
by them offensively in warfare--just as the skunk, eh?"
But Poker Jack of Shasta had hurriedly declared that he wanted to
speak to a man who was passing, and had disappeared. The doctor
walked to the door, mounted his horse, and rode away. I noticed,
however, that there was a slight smile on his bronzed, impassive
face. This led me to wonder if he was entirely ignorant of the
purpose for which he had been questioned, and the effect of his
information. I was confirmed in the belief by the remarkable
circumstances that nothing more was said of it; the incident seemed
to have terminated there, and the victims made no attempt to
revenge themselves on See Yup. That they had one and all, secretly
and unknown to one another, patronized him, there was no doubt;
but, at the same time, as they evidently were not sure that Dr.
Duchesne had not hoaxed them in regard to the quality of See Yup's
medicines, they knew that an attack on the unfortunate Chinaman
would in either case reveal their secret and expose them to the
ridicule of their brother miners. So the matter dropped, and See
Yup remained master of the situation.
Meantime he was prospering. The coolie gang he worked on the
river, when not engaged in washing clothes, were "picking over" the
"tailings," or refuse of gravel, left on abandoned claims by
successful miners. As there was no more expense attending this
than in stone-breaking or rag-picking, and the feeding of the
coolies, which was ridiculously cheap, there was no doubt that See
Yup was reaping a fair weekly return from it; but, as he sent his
receipts to San Francisco through coolie managers, after the
Chinese custom, and did not use the regular Express Company, there
was no way of ascertaining the amount. Again, neither See Yup nor
his fellow countrymen ever appeared to have any money about them.
In ruder times and more reckless camps, raids were often made by
ruffians on their cabins or their traveling gangs, but never with
any pecuniary result. This condition, however, it seemed was
destined to change.
One Saturday See Yup walked into Wells, Fargo & Co.'s Express
office with a package of gold-dust, which, when duly weighed, was
valued at five hundred dollars. It was consigned to a Chinese
company in San Francisco. When the clerk handed See Yup a receipt,
he remarked casually:--
"Washing seems to pay, See Yup."
"Washee velly good pay. You wantee washee, John?" said See Yup
"No, no," said the clerk, with a laugh. "I was only thinking five
hundred dollars would represent the washing of a good many shirts."
"No leplesent washee shirts at all! Catchee gold-dust when washee
The clerk DID "shabbee," and lifted his eyebrows. The next
Saturday See Yup appeared with another package, worth about four
hundred dollars, directed to the same consignee.
"Didn't pan out quite so rich this week, eh?" said the clerk
"No," returned See Yup impassively; "next time he payee more."
When the third Saturday came, with the appearance of See Yup and
four hundred and fifty dollars' worth of gold-dust, the clerk felt
he was no longer bound to keep the secret. He communicated it to
others, and in twenty-four hours the whole settlement knew that See
Yup's coolie company were taking out an average of four hundred
dollars per week from the refuse and tailings of the old abandoned
The astonishment of the settlement was profound. In earlier days
jealousy and indignation at the success of these degraded heathens
might have taken a more active and aggressive shape, and it would
have fared ill with See Yup and his companions. But the settlement
had become more prosperous and law-abiding; there were one or two
Eastern families and some foreign capital already there, and its
jealousy and indignation were restricted to severe investigation
and legal criticism. Fortunately for See Yup, it was an old-
established mining law that an abandoned claim and its tailings
became the property of whoever chose to work it. But it was
alleged that See Yup's company had in reality "struck a lead,"--
discovered a hitherto unknown vein or original deposit of gold, not
worked by the previous company, and having failed legally to
declare it by preemption and public registry, in their foolish
desire for secrecy, had thus forfeited their right to the property.
A surveillance of their working, however, did not establish this
theory; the gold that See Yup had sent away was of the kind that
might have been found in the tailings overlooked by the late
Palmetto owners. Yet it was a very large yield for mere refuse.
"Them Palmetto boys were mighty keerless after they'd made their
big 'strike' and got to work on the vein, and I reckon they threw a
lot of gold away," said Cy Parker, who remembered their large-
handed recklessness in the "flush days." "On'y that WE didn't
think it was white man's work to rake over another man's leavin's,
we might hev had what them derned Chinamen hev dropped into. Tell
ye what, boys, we've been a little too 'high and mighty,' and we'll
hev to climb down."
At last the excitement reached its climax, and diplomacy was
employed to effect what neither intimidation nor espionage could
secure. Under the pretense of desiring to buy out See Yup's
company, a select committee of the miners was permitted to examine
the property and its workings. They found the great bank of stones
and gravel, representing the cast-out debris of the old claim,
occupied by See Yup and four or five plodding automatic coolies.
At the end of two hours the committee returned to the saloon
bursting with excitement. They spoke under their breath, but
enough was gathered to satisfy the curious crowd that See Yup's
pile of tailings was rich beyond their expectations. The committee
had seen with their own eyes gold taken out of the sand and gravel
to the amount of twenty dollars in the two short hours of their
examination. And the work had been performed in the stupidest,
clumsiest, yet PATIENT Chinese way. What might not white men do
with better appointed machinery! A syndicate was at once formed.
See Yup was offered twenty thousand dollars if he would sell out
and put the syndicate in possession of the claim in twenty-four
hours. The Chinaman received the offer stolidly. As he seemed
inclined to hesitate, I am grieved to say that it was intimated to
him that if he declined he might be subject to embarrassing and
expensive legal proceedings to prove his property, and that
companies would be formed to "prospect" the ground on either side
of his heap of tailings. See Yup at last consented, with the
proviso that the money should be paid in gold into the hands of a
Chinese agent in San Francisco on the day of the delivery of the
claim. The syndicate made no opposition to this characteristic
precaution of the Chinaman. It was like them not to travel with
money, and the implied uncomplimentary suspicion of danger from the
community was overlooked. See Yup departed the day that the
syndicate took possession. He came to see me before he went. I
congratulated him upon his good fortune; at the same time, I was
embarrassed by the conviction that he was unfairly forced into a
sale of his property at a figure far below its real value.
I think differently now.
At the end of the week it was said that the new company cleared up
about three hundred dollars. This was not so much as the community
had expected, but the syndicate was apparently satisfied, and the
new machinery was put up. At the end of the next week the
syndicate were silent as to their returns. One of them made a
hurried visit to San Francisco. It was said that he was unable to
see either See Yup or the agent to whom the money was paid. It was
also noticed that there was no Chinaman remaining in the settlement.
Then the fatal secret was out.
The heap of tailings had probably never yielded the See Yup company
more than twenty dollars a week, the ordinary wage of such a
company. See Yup had conceived the brilliant idea of "booming" it
on a borrowed capital of five hundred dollars in gold-dust, which
he OPENLY transmitted by express to his confederate and creditor in
San Francisco, who in turn SECRETLY sent it back to See Yup by
coolie messengers, to be again openly transmitted to San Francisco.
The package of gold-dust was thus passed backwards and forwards
between debtor and creditor, to the grave edification of the
Express Company and the fatal curiosity of the settlement. When
the syndicate had gorged the bait thus thrown out, See Yup, on the
day the self-invited committee inspected the claim, promptly
"salted" the tailings by CONSCIENTIOUSLY DISTRIBUTING THE GOLD-DUST
OVER IT so deftly that it appeared to be its natural composition
I have only to bid farewell to See Yup, and close this reminiscence
of a misunderstood man, by adding the opinion of an eminent jurist
in San Francisco, to whom the facts were submitted: "So clever was
this alleged fraud, that it is extremely doubtful if an action
would lie against See Yup in the premises, there being no legal
evidence of the 'salting,' and none whatever of his actual
allegation that the gold-dust was the ORDINARY yield of the
tailings, that implication resting entirely with the committee who
examined it under false pretense, and who subsequently forced the
sale by intimidation."
THE DESBOROUGH CONNECTIONS
"Then it isn't a question of property or next of kin?" said the
"Lord! no," said the lady vivaciously. "Why, goodness me! I
reckon old Desborough could, at any time before he died, have
'bought up' or 'bought out' the whole lot of his relatives on this
side of the big pond, no matter what they were worth. No, it's
only a matter of curiosity and just sociableness."
The American consul at St. Kentigorn felt much relieved. He had
feared it was only the old story of delusive quests for imaginary
estates and impossible inheritances which he had confronted so often
in nervous wan-eyed enthusiasts and obstreperous claimants from his
own land. Certainly there was no suggestion of this in the richly
dressed and be-diamonded matron before him, nor in her pretty
daughter, charming in a Paris frock, alive with the consciousness of
beauty and admiration, and yet a little ennuye from gratified
indulgence. He knew the mother to be the wealthy widow of a New
York millionaire, that she was traveling for pleasure in Europe, and
a chance meeting with her at dinner a few nights before had led to
this half-capricious, half-confidential appointment at the consulate.
"No," continued Mrs. Desborough; "Mr. Desborough came to America,
when a small boy, with an uncle who died some years ago. Mr.
Desborough never seemed to hanker much after his English relatives
as long as I knew him, but now that I and Sadie are over here, why
we guessed we might look 'em up and sort of sample 'em! 'Desborough'
's rather a good name," added the lady, with a complacency that,
however, had a suggestion of query in it.
"Yes," said the consul; "from the French, I fancy."
"Mr. Desborough was English--very English," corrected the lady.
"I mean it may be an old Norman name," said the consul.
'Norman's good enough for ME," said the daughter, reflecting.
"We'll just settle it as Norman. I never thought about that DES."
"Only you may find it called 'Debborough' here, and spelt so," said
the consul, smiling.
Miss Desborough lifted her pretty shoulders and made a charming
grimace. "Then we won't acknowledge 'em. No Debborough for me!"
"You might put an advertisement in the papers, like the 'next of
kin' notice, intimating, in the regular way, that they would 'hear
of something to their advantage'--as they certainly would,"
continued the consul, with a bow. "It would be such a refreshing
change to the kind of thing I'm accustomed to, don't you know--this
idea of one of my countrywomen coming over just to benefit English
relatives! By Jove! I wouldn't mind undertaking the whole thing
for you--it's such a novelty." He was quite carried away with the
But the two ladies were far from participating in this joyous
outlook. "No," said Mrs. Desborough promptly, "that wouldn't do.
You see," she went on with superb frankness, "that would be just
giving ourselves away, and saying who WE were before we found out
what THEY were like. Mr. Desborough was all right in HIS way, but
we don't know anything about his FOLKS! We ain't here on a mission
to improve the Desboroughs, nor to gather in any 'lost tribes.'"
It was evident that, in spite of the humor of the situation and the
levity of the ladies, there was a characteristic national
practicalness about them, and the consul, with a sigh, at last gave
the address of one or two responsible experts in genealogical
inquiry, as he had often done before. He felt it was impossible to
offer any advice to ladies as thoroughly capable of managing their
own affairs as his fair countrywomen, yet he was not without some
curiosity to know the result of their practical sentimental quest.
That he should ever hear of them again he doubted. He knew that
after their first loneliness had worn off in their gregarious
gathering at a London hotel they were not likely to consort with
their own country people, who indeed were apt to fight shy of one
another, and even to indulge in invidious criticism of one another
when admitted in that society to which they were all equally
strangers. So he took leave of them on their way back to London
with the belief that their acquaintance terminated with that brief
incident. But he was mistaken.
In the year following he was spending his autumn vacation at a
country house. It was an historic house, and had always struck him
as being--even in that country of historic seats--a singular
example of the vicissitudes of English manorial estates and the
mutations of its lords. His host in his prime had been recalled
from foreign service to unexpectedly succeed to an uncle's title
and estate. That estate, however, had come into the possession of
the uncle only through his marriage with the daughter of an old
family whose portraits still looked down from the walls upon the
youngest and alien branch. There were likenesses, effigies,
memorials, and reminiscences of still older families who had
occupied it through forfeiture by war or the favoritism of kings,
and in its stately cloisters and ruined chapel was still felt the
dead hand of its evicted religious founders, which could not be
It was this strange individuality that affected all who saw it.
For, however changed were those within its walls, whoever were its
inheritors or inhabiters, Scrooby Priory never changed nor altered
its own character. However incongruous or ill-assorted the
portraits that looked from its walls,--so ill met that they might
have flown at one another's throats in the long nights when the
family were away,--the great house itself was independent of them
all. The be-wigged, be-laced, and be-furbelowed of one day's
gathering, the round-headed, steel-fronted, and prim-kerchiefed
congregation of another day, and even the black-coated, bare-armed,
and bare-shouldered assemblage of to-day had no effect on the
austerities of the Priory. Modern houses might show the tastes and
prepossessions of their dwellers, might have caught some passing
trick of the hour, or have recorded the augmented fortunes or
luxuriousness of the owner, but Scrooby Priory never! No one had
dared even to disturb its outer rigid integrity; the breaches of
time and siege were left untouched. It held its calm indifferent
sway over all who passed its low-arched portals, and the consul was
fain to believe that he--a foreign visitor--was no more alien to
the house than its present owner.
"I'm expecting a very charming compatriot of yours to-morrow," said
Lord Beverdale as they drove from the station together. "You must
tell me what to show her."
"I should think any countrywoman of mine would be quite satisfied
with the Priory," said the consul, glancing thoughtfully towards
the pile dimly seen through the park.
"I shouldn't like her to be bored here," continued Beverdale.
"Algy met her at Rome, where she was occupying a palace with her
mother--they're very rich, you know. He found she was staying with
Lady Minever at Hedham Towers, and I went over and invited her with
a little party. She's a Miss Desborough."
The consul gave a slight start, and was aware that Beverdale was
looking at him.
"Perhaps you know her?" said Beverdale.
"Just enough to agree with you that she is charming," said the
consul. "I dined with them, and saw them at the consulate."
"Oh yes; I always forget you are a consul. Then, of course, you
know all about them. I suppose they're very rich, and in society
over there?" said Beverdale in a voice that was quite animated.
It was on the consul's lips to say that the late Mr. Desborough was
an Englishman, and even to speak playfully of their proposed quest,
but a sudden instinct withheld him. After all, perhaps it was only
a caprice, or idea, they had forgotten,--perhaps, who knows?--that
they were already ashamed of. They had evidently "got on" in
English society, if that was their real intent, and doubtless Miss
Desborough, by this time, was quite as content with the chance of
becoming related to the Earl of Beverdale, through his son and
heir, Algernon, as if they had found a real Lord Desborough among
their own relatives. The consul knew that Lord Beverdale was not a
rich man, that like most men of old family he was not a slave to
class prejudice; indeed, the consul had seen very few noblemen off
the stage or out of the pages of a novel who were. So he said,
with a slight affectation of authority, that there was as little
doubt of the young lady's wealth as there was of her personal
They were nearing the house through a long avenue of chestnuts
whose variegated leaves were already beginning to strew the ground
beneath, and they could see the vista open upon the mullioned
windows of the Priory, lighted up by the yellow October sunshine.
In that sunshine stood a tall, clean-limbed young fellow, dressed
in a shooting-suit, whom the consul recognized at once as Lord
Algernon, the son of his companion. As if to accent the graces of
this vision of youth and vigor, near him, in the shadow, an old man
had halted, hat in hand, still holding the rake with which he had
been gathering the dead leaves in the avenue; his back bent, partly
with years, partly with the obeisance of a servitor. There was
something so marked in this contrast, in this old man standing in
the shadow of the fading year, himself as dried and withered as the
leaves he was raking, yet pausing to make his reverence to this
passing sunshine of youth and prosperity in the presence of his
coming master, that the consul, as they swept by, looked after him
with a stirring of pain.
"Rather an old man to be still at work," said the consul.
Beverdale laughed. "You must not let him hear you say so; he
considers himself quite as fit as any younger man in the place,
and, by Jove! though he's nearly eighty, I'm inclined to believe
it. He's not one of our people, however; he comes from the
village, and is taken on at odd times, partly to please himself.
His great aim is to be independent of his children,--he has a
granddaughter who is one of the maids at the Priory,--and to keep
himself out of the workhouse. He does not come from these parts--
somewhere farther north, I fancy. But he's a tough lot, and has a
deal of work in him yet."
"Seems to be going a bit stale lately," said Lord Algernon, "and I
think is getting a little queer in his head. He has a trick of
stopping and staring straight ahead, at times, when he seems to go
off for a minute or two. There!" continued the young man, with a
light laugh. "I say! he's doing it now!" They both turned quickly
and gazed at the bent figure--not fifty yards away--standing in
exactly the same attitude as before. But, even as they gazed, he
slowly lifted his rake and began his monotonous work again.
At Scrooby Priory, the consul found that the fame of his fair
countrywoman had indeed preceded her, and that the other guests
were quite as anxious to see Miss Desborough as he was. One of
them had already met her in London; another knew her as one of the
house party at the Duke of Northforeland's, where she had been a
central figure. Some of her naive sallies and frank criticisms
were repeated with great unction by the gentlemen, and with some
slight trepidation and a "fearful joy" by the ladies. He was more
than ever convinced that mother and daughter had forgotten their
lineal Desboroughs, and he resolved to leave any allusion to it to
the young lady herself.
She, however, availed herself of that privilege the evening after
her arrival. "Who'd have thought of meeting YOU here?" she said,
sweeping her skirts away to make room for him on a sofa. "It's a
coon's age since I saw you--not since you gave us that letter to
those genealogical gentlemen in London."
The consul hoped that it had proved successful.
"Yes, but maw guessed we didn't care to go back to Hengist and
Horsa, and when they let loose a lot of 'Debboroughs' and
'Daybrooks' upon us, maw kicked! We've got a drawing ten yards
long, that looks like a sour apple tree, with lots of Desboroughs
hanging up on the branches like last year's pippins, and I guess
about as worm-eaten. We took that well enough, but when it came to
giving us a map of straight lines and dashes with names written
under them like an old Morse telegraph slip, struck by lightning,
then maw and I guessed that it made us tired.
"You know," she went on, opening her clear gray eyes on the consul,
with a characteristic flash of shrewd good sense through her quaint
humor, "we never reckoned where this thing would land us, and we
found we were paying a hundred pounds, not only for the Desboroughs,
but all the people they'd MARRIED, and their CHILDREN, and
children's children, and there were a lot of outsiders we'd never
heard of, nor wanted to hear of. Maw once thought she'd got on the
trail of a Plantagenet, and followed it keen, until she found she
had been reading the dreadful thing upside down. Then we concluded
we wouldn't take any more stock in the family until it had risen."
During this speech the consul could not help noticing that,
although her attitude was playfully confidential to him, her voice
really was pitched high enough to reach the ears of smaller groups
around her, who were not only following her with the intensest
admiration, but had shamelessly abandoned their own conversation,
and had even faced towards her. Was she really posing in her
naivete? There was a certain mischievous, even aggressive,
consciousness in her pretty eyelids. Then she suddenly dropped
both eyes and voice, and said to the consul in a genuine aside, "I
like this sort of thing much better."
The consul looked puzzled. "What sort of thing?"
"Why, all these swell people, don't you see? those pictures on the
walls! this elegant room! everything that has come down from the
past, all ready and settled for you, you know--ages ago! Something
you haven't to pick up for yourself and worry over."
But here the consul pointed out that the place itself was not
"ancestral" as regarded the present earl, and that even the
original title of his predecessors had passed away from it. "In
fact, it came into the family by one of those 'outsiders' you
deprecate. But I dare say you'd find the place quite as
comfortable with Lord Beverdale for a host as you would if you had
found out he were a cousin," he added.
"Better," said the young lady frankly.
"I suppose your mother participates in these preferences?" said the
consul, with a smile.
"No," said Miss Desborough, with the same frankness, "I think maw's
rather cut up at not finding a Desborough. She was invited down
here, but SHE'S rather independent, you know, so she allowed I
could take care of myself, while she went off to stay with the old
Dowager Lady Mistowe, who thinks maw a very proper womanly person.
I made maw mad by telling her that's just what old Lady Mistowe
would say of her cook--for I can't stand these people's patronage.
However, I shouldn't wonder if I was invited here as a 'most
But here Lord Algernon came up to implore her to sing them one of
"those plantation songs;" and Miss Desborough, with scarcely a
change of voice or manner, allowed herself to be led to the piano.
The consul had little chance to speak with her again, but he saw
enough that evening to convince him not only that Lord Algernon was
very much in love with her, but that the fact had been equally and
complacently accepted by the family and guests. That her present
visit was only an opportunity for a formal engagement was clear to
every woman in the house--not excepting, I fear, even the fair
subject of gossip herself. Yet she seemed so unconcerned and self-
contained that the consul wondered if she really cared for Lord
Algernon. And having thus wondered, he came to the conclusion that
it didn't much matter, for the happiness of so practically
organized a young lady, if she loved him or not.
It is highly probable that Miss Sadie Desborough had not even gone
so far as to ask herself that question. She awoke the next morning
with a sense of easy victory and calm satisfaction that had,
however, none of the transports of affection. Her taste was
satisfied by the love of a handsome young fellow,--a typical
Englishman,--who, if not exactly original or ideal, was, she felt,
of an universally accepted, "hall-marked" standard, the legitimate
outcome of a highly ordered, carefully guarded civilization, whose
repose was the absence of struggle or ambition; a man whose regular
features were not yet differentiated from the rest of his class by
any of those disturbing lines which people call character.
Everything was made ready for her, without care or preparation; she
had not even an ideal to realize or to modify. She could slip
without any jar or dislocation into this life which was just saved
from self-indulgence and sybaritic luxury by certain conventional
rules of activity and the occupation of amusement which, as
obligations of her position, even appeared to suggest the novel
aspect of a DUTY! She could accept all this without the sense of
being an intruder in an unbroken lineage--thanks to the consul's
account of the Beverdales' inheritance. She already pictured
herself as the mistress of this fair domain, the custodian of its
treasures and traditions, and the dispenser of its hospitalities,
but--as she conscientiously believed--without pride or vanity, in
her position; only an intense and thoughtful appreciation of it.
Nor did she dream of ever displaying it ostentatiously before her
less fortunate fellow countrywomen; on the contrary, she looked
forward to their possible criticism of her casting off all
transatlantic ties with an uneasy consciousness that was perhaps
her nearest approach to patriotism. Yet, again, she reasoned that,
as her father was an Englishman, she was only returning to her old
home. As to her mother, she had already comforted herself by
noticing certain discrepancies in that lady's temperament, which
led her to believe that she herself alone inherited her father's
nature--for her mother was, of course, distinctly American! So
little conscious was she of any possible snobbishness in this
belief, that in her superb naivete she would have argued the point
with the consul, and employed a wit and dialect that were purely
She had slipped out of the Priory early that morning that she might
enjoy alone, unattended and unciceroned, the aspect of that vast
estate which might be hers for the mere accepting. Perhaps there
was some instinct of delicacy in her avoiding Lord Algernon that
morning; not wishing, as she herself might have frankly put it, "to
take stock" of his inheritance in his presence. As she passed into
the garden through the low postern door, she turned to look along
the stretching facade of the main building, with the high stained
windows of its banqueting-hall and the state chamber where a king
had slept. Even in that crisp October air, and with the green of
its ivied battlements against the gold of the distant wood, it
seemed to lie in the languid repose of an eternal summer. She
hurried on down the other terrace into the Italian garden, a quaint
survival of past grandeur, passed the great orangery and numerous
conservatories, making a crystal hamlet in themselves--seeing
everywhere the same luxury. But it was a luxury that she fancied
was redeemed from the vulgarity of ostentation by the long custom
of years and generations, so unlike the millionaire palaces of her
own land; and, in her enthusiasm, she even fancied it was further
sanctified by the grim monastic founders who had once been content
with bread and pulse in the crumbling and dismantled refectory. In
the plenitude of her feelings she felt a slight recognition of some
beneficent being who had rolled this golden apple at her feet, and
felt as if she really should like to "do good" in her sphere.
It so chanced that, passing through a small gate in the park, she
saw walking, a little ahead of her, a young girl whom she at once
recognized as a Miss Amelyn, one of the guests of the evening
before. Miss Desborough remembered that she played the accompaniment
of one or two songs upon the piano, and had even executed a long
solo during the general conversation, without attention from the
others, and apparently with little irritation to herself, subsiding
afterwards into an armchair, quite on the fringe of other people's
conversation. She had been called "my dear" by one or two dowagers,
and by her Christian name by the earl, and had a way of impalpably
melting out of sight at times. These trifles led Miss Desborough to
conclude that she was some kind of dependent or poor relation. Here
was an opportunity to begin her work of "doing good." She quickened
her pace and overtook Miss Amelyn.
"Let me walk with you," she said graciously.
The young English girl smiled assent, but looked her surprise at
seeing the cynosure of last night's eyes unattended.
"Oh," said Sadie, answering the mute query, "I didn't want to be
'shown round' by anybody, and I'm not going to bore YOU with asking
to see sights either. We'll just walk together; wherever YOU'RE
going is good enough for me."
"I'm going as far as the village," said Miss Amelyn, looking down
doubtfully at Sadie's smart French shoes--"if you care to walk so
Sadie noticed that her companion was more solidly booted, and that
her straight, short skirts, although less stylish than her own, had
a certain character, better fitted to the freer outdoor life of the
country. But she only said, however, "The village will do," and
gayly took her companion's arm.
"But I'm afraid you'll find it very uninteresting, for I am going
to visit some poor cottages," persisted Miss Amelyn, with a certain
timid ingenuousness of manner which, however, was as distinct as
Miss Desborough's bolder frankness. "I promised the rector's
daughter to take her place to-day."
"And I feel as if I was ready to pour oil and wine to any extent,"
said Miss Desborough, "so come along!"
Miss Amelyn laughed, and yet glanced around her timidly, as if she
thought that Miss Desborough ought to have a larger and more
important audience. Then she continued more confidentially and
boldly, "But it isn't at all like 'slumming,' you know. These poor
people here are not very bad, and are not at all extraordinary."
"Never mind," said Sadie, hurrying her along. After a pause she
went on, "You know the Priory very well, I guess?"
"I lived there when I was a little girl, with my aunt, the Dowager
Lady Beverdale," said Miss Amelyn. "When my cousin Fred, who was
the young heir, died, and the present Lord Beverdale succeeded,--HE
never expected it, you know, for there were two lives, his two
elder brothers, besides poor Fred's, between, but they both died,--
we went to live in the Dower House."
"The Dower House?" repeated Sadie.
"Yes, Lady Beverdale's separate property."
"But I thought all this property--the Priory--came into the family
"It did--this was the Amelyns' place; but the oldest son or nearest
male heir always succeeds to the property and title."
"Do you mean to say that the present Lord Beverdale turned that old
Miss Amelyn looked shocked. "I mean to say," she said gravely,
"Lady Beverdale would have had to go when her own son became of
age, had he lived." She paused, and then said timidly, "Isn't it
that way in America?"
"Dear no!" Miss Desborough had a faint recollection that there was
something in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence
against primogeniture. "No! the men haven't it ALL their own way
Miss Amelyn looked as if she did not care to discuss this problem.
After a few moments Sadie continued, "You and Lord Algernon are
pretty old friends, I guess?"
"No," replied Miss Amelyn. "He came once or twice to the Priory
for the holidays, when he was quite a boy at Marlborough--for the
family weren't very well off, and his father was in India. He was
a very shy boy, and of course no one ever thought of him succeeding."
Miss Desborough felt half inclined to be pleased with this, and yet
half inclined to resent this possible snubbing of her future
husband. But they were nearing the village, and Miss Amelyn turned
the conversation to the object of her visit. It was a new village--
an unhandsome village, for all that it stood near one of the gates
of the park. It had been given over to some mines that were still
worked in its vicinity, and to the railway, which the uncle of the
present earl had resisted; but the railway had triumphed, and the
station for Scrooby Priory was there. There was a grim church, of
a blackened or weather-beaten stone, on the hill, with a few grim
Amelyns reposing cross-legged in the chancel, but the character of
the village was as different from the Priory as if it were in
another county. They stopped at the rectory, where Miss Amelyn
provided herself with certain doles and gifts, which the American
girl would have augmented with a five-pound note but for Miss
Amelyn's horrified concern. "As many shillings would do, and they
would be as grateful," she said. "More they wouldn't understand."
"Then keep it, and dole it out as you like," said Sadie quickly.
"But I don't think that--that Lord Beverdale would quite approve,"
hesitated Miss Amelyn.
The pretty brow of her companion knit, and her gray eyes flashed
vivaciously. "What has HE to do with it?" she said pertly;
"besides, you say these are not HIS poor. Take that five-pound
note--or--I'll DOUBLE it, get it changed into sovereigns at the
station, and hand 'em round to every man, woman, and child."
Miss Amelyn hesitated. The American girl looked capable of doing
what she said; perhaps it was a national way of almsgiving! She
took the note, with the mental reservation of making a full
confession to the rector and Lord Beverdale.
She was right in saying that the poor of Scrooby village were not
interesting. There was very little squalor or degradation; their
poverty seemed not a descent, but a condition to which they had
been born; the faces which Sadie saw were dulled and apathetic
rather than sullen or rebellious; they stood up when Miss Amelyn
entered, paying HER the deference, but taking little note of the
pretty butterfly who was with her, or rather submitting to her
frank curiosity with that dull consent of the poor, as if they had
lost even the sense of privacy, or a right to respect. It seemed
to the American girl that their poverty was more indicated by what
they were SATISFIED with than what she thought they MISSED. It is
to be feared that this did not add to Sadie's sympathy; all the
beggars she had seen in America wanted all they could get, and she
felt as if she were confronted with an inferior animal.
"There's a wonderful old man lives here," said Miss Amelyn, as they
halted before a stone and thatch cottage quite on the outskirts of
the village. "We can't call him one of our poor, for he still
works, although over eighty, and it's his pride to keep out of the
poorhouse, and, as he calls it, 'off' the hands of his
granddaughters. But we manage to do something for THEM, and we
hope he profits by it. One of them is at the Priory; they're
trying to make a maid of her, but her queer accent--they're from
the north--is against her with the servants. I am afraid we won't
see old Debs, for he's at work again to-day, though the doctor has
"Debs! What a funny name!"
"Yes, but as many of these people cannot read or write, the name is
carried by the ear, and not always correctly. Some of the railway
navvies, who come from the north as he does, call him 'Debbers.'"
They were obliged to descend into the cottage, which was so low
that it seemed to have sunk into the earth until its drooping eaves
of thatch mingled with the straw heap beside it. Debs was not at
home. But his granddaughter was there, who, after a preliminary
"bob," continued the stirring of the pot before the fire in
"I am sorry to find that your grandfather has gone to work again in
spite of the doctor's orders," said Miss Amelyn.
The girl continued to stir the pot, and then said without looking
up, but as if also continuing a train of aggressive thoughts with
her occupation: "Eay, but 'e's so set oop in 'issen 'ee doan't take
orders from nobbut--leastways doctor. Moinds 'em now moor nor a
floy. Says 'ee knaws there nowt wrong wi' 'is 'eart. Mout be
roight--how'siver, sarten sewer, 'is 'EAD'S a' in a muddle! Toims
'ee goes off stamrin' and starin' at nowt, as if 'ee a'nt a
n'aporth o' sense. How'siver I be doing my duty by 'em--and 'ere's
'is porritch when a' cooms--'gin a' be sick or maad."
What the American understood of the girl's speech and manner struck
her as having very little sympathy with either her aged relative or
her present visitor. And there was a certain dogged selfish
independence about her that Miss Desborough half liked and half
resented. However, Miss Amelyn did not seem to notice it, and,
after leaving a bottle of port for the grandfather, she took her
leave and led Sadie away. As they passed into the village a
carriage, returning to the Priory, filled with their fellow guests,
dashed by, but was instantly pulled up at a word from Lord
Algernon, who leaped from the vehicle, hat in hand, and implored
the fair truant and her companion to join them.
"We're just making a tour around Windover Hill, and back to
luncheon," he said, with a rising color. "We missed you awfully!
If we had known you were so keen on 'good works,' and so early at
it, by Jove! we'd have got up a 'slummin' party,' and all joined!"
"And you haven't seen half," said Lord Beverdale from the box.
"Miss Amelyn's too partial to the village. There's an old drunken
retired poacher somewhere in a hut in Crawley Woods, whom it's
death to approach, except with a large party. There's malignant
diphtheria over at the South Farm, eight down with measles at the
keeper's, and an old woman who has been bedridden for years."
But Miss Desborough was adamant, though sparkling. She thanked
him, but said she had just seen an old woman "who had been lying in
bed for twenty years, and hadn't spoken the truth once!" She
proposed "going outside of Lord Beverdale's own preserves of grain-
fed poor," and starting up her own game. She would return in time
for luncheon--if she could; if not, she "should annex the gruel of
the first kind incapable she met."
Yet, actually, she was far from displeased at being accidentally
discovered by these people while following out her capricious whim
of the morning. One or two elder ladies, who had fought shy of her
frocks and her frankness the evening before, were quite touched now
by this butterfly who was willing to forego the sunlight of society,
and soil her pretty wings on the haunts of the impoverished, with
only a single companion,--of her own sex!--and smiled approvingly.
And in her present state of mind, remembering her companion's timid
attitude towards Lord Beverdale's opinions, she was not above
administering this slight snub to him in her presence.
When they had driven away, with many regrets, Miss Amelyn was deeply
concerned. "I am afraid," she said, with timid conscientiousness,
"I have kept you from going with them. And you must be bored with
what you have seen, I know. I don't believe you really care one bit
for it--and you are only doing it to please me."
"Trot out the rest of your show," said Sadie promptly, "and we'll
wind up by lunching with the rector."
"He'd be too delighted," said Miss Amelyn, with disaster written
all over her girlish, truthful face, "but--but--you know--it really
wouldn't be quite right to Lord Beverdale. You're his principal
guest--you know, and--they'd think I had taken you off."
"Well," said Miss Desborough impetuously, "what's the matter with
that inn--the Red Lion? We can get a sandwich there, I guess. I'm
not VERY hungry."
Miss Amelyn looked horrified for a moment, and then laughed; but
immediately became concerned again. "No! listen to me, REALLY now!
Let me finish my round alone! You'll have ample time if you go NOW
to reach the Priory for luncheon. Do, please! It would be ever so
much better for everybody. I feel quite guilty as it is, and I
suppose I am already in Lord Beverdale's black books."
The trouble in the young girl's face was unmistakable, and as it
suited Miss Desborough's purpose just as well to show her
independence by returning, as she had set out, alone, she consented
to go. Miss Amelyn showed her a short cut across the park, and they
separated--to meet at dinner. In this brief fellowship, the
American girl had kept a certain supremacy and half-fascination over
the English girl, even while she was conscious of an invincible
character in Miss Amelyn entirely different from and superior to her
own. Certainly there was a difference in the two peoples. Why else
this inherited conscientious reverence for Lord Beverdale's
position, shown by Miss Amelyn, which she, an American alive to its
practical benefits, could not understand? Would Miss Amelyn and
Lord Algernon have made a better match? The thought irritated her,
even while she knew that she herself possessed the young man's
affections, the power to marry him, and, as she believed, kept her
own independence in the matter.
As she entered the iron gates at the lower end of the park, and
glanced at the interwoven cipher and crest of the Amelyns still
above, she was conscious that the wind was blowing more chill, and
that a few clouds had gathered. As she walked on down the long
winding avenue, the sky became overcast, and, in one of those
strange contrasts of the English climate, the glory of the whole
day went out with the sunshine. The woods suddenly became wrinkled
and gray, the distant hills sombre, the very English turf beneath
her feet grew brown; a mile and a half away, through the opening of
the trees, the west part of the Priory looked a crumbling, ivy-
eaten ruin. A few drops of rain fell. She hurried on. Suddenly
she remembered that the avenue made a long circuit before
approaching the house, and that its lower end, where she was
walking, was but a fringe of the park. Consequently there must be
a short cut across some fields and farm buildings to the back of
the park and the Priory. She at once diverged to the right,
presently found a low fence, which she clambered over, and again
found a footpath which led to a stile. Crossing that, she could
see the footpath now led directly to the Priory,--now a grim and
austere looking pile in the suddenly dejected landscape,--and that
it was probably used only by the servants and farmers. A gust of
wind brought some swift needles of rain to her cheek; she could see
the sad hills beyond the Priory already veiling their faces; she
gathered her skirts and ran. The next field was a long one, but
beside the further stile was a small clump of trees, the only ones
between her and the park. Hurrying on to that shelter, she saw
that the stile was already occupied by a tall but bent figure,
holding a long stick in his hand, which gave him the appearance,
against the horizon, of the figure of Time leaning on his scythe.
As she came nearer she saw it was, indeed, an old man, half resting
on his rake. He was very rugged and weather-beaten, and although
near the shelter of the trees, apparently unmindful of the rain
that was falling on his bald head, and the limp cap he was holding
uselessly in one hand. He was staring at her, yet apparently
unconscious of her presence. A sudden instinct came upon her--it
She went directly up to him, and with that frank common sense which
ordinarily distinguished her, took his cap from his hand and put it
on his head, grasped his arm firmly, and led him to the shelter of
the tree. Then she wiped the raindrops from his face with her
handkerchief, shook out her own dress and her wet parasol, and,
propping her companion against the tree, said:--
"There, Mr. Debs! I've heard of people who didn't know enough to
come in when it rained, but I never met one before."
The old man started, lifted his hairy, sinewy arm, bared to the
elbow, and wiped his bare throat with the dry side of it. Then a
look of intelligence--albeit half aggressive--came into his face.
"Wheer beest tha going?" he asked.
Something in his voice struck Sadie like a vague echo. Perhaps it
was only the queer dialect--or some resemblance to his
granddaughter's voice. She looked at him a little more closely as
"To the Priory."
She pointed with her parasol to the gray pile in the distance. It
was possible that this demented peasant didn't even UNDERSTAND
"The hall. Oh, ay!" Suddenly his brows knit ominously as he faced
her. "An' wassist tha doin' drest oop in this foinery? Wheer
gettist thee that goawn? Thissen, or thy maester? Nowt even a
napron, fit for thy wark as maaid at serviss; an' parson a gettin'
tha plaace at Hall! So thou'lt be high and moity will tha! thou'lt
not walk wi' maaids, but traipse by thissen like a slut in the
Although it was plain to Sadie that the old man, in his wandering
perception, had mistaken her for his granddaughter in service at
the Priory, there was still enough rudeness in his speech for her
to have resented it. But, strange to say, there was a kind of
authority in it that touched her with an uneasiness and repulsion
that was stronger than any other feeling. "I think you have
mistaken me for some one else," she said hurriedly, yet wondering
why she had admitted it, and even irritated at the admission. "I
am a stranger here, a visitor at the Priory. I called with Miss
Amelyn at your cottage, and saw your other granddaughter; that's
how I knew your name."
The old man's face changed. A sad, senile smile of hopeless
bewilderment crept into his hard mouth; he plucked his limp cap
from his head and let it hang submissively in his fingers, as if it
were his sole apology. Then he tried to straighten himself, and
said, "Naw offins, miss, naw offins! If tha knaws mea tha'll knaw
I'm grandfeyther to two galls as moight be tha owern age; tha'll
tell 'ee that old Debs at haaty years 'as warked and niver lost a
day as man or boy; has niver coome oopen 'em for n'aporth. An'
'e'll keep out o' warkus till he doy. An' 'ee's put by enow to by
wi' his own feythers in Lanksheer, an' not liggen aloane in
It was part of her uneasiness that, scarcely understanding or,
indeed, feeling any interest in these maundering details, she still
seemed to have an odd comprehension of his character and some
reminiscent knowledge of him, as if she were going through the
repetition of some unpleasant dream. Even his wrinkled face was
becoming familiar to her. Some weird attraction was holding her;
she wanted to get away from it as much as she wanted to analyze it.
She glanced ostentatiously at the sky, prepared to open her
parasol, and began to edge cautiously away.
"Then tha beant from these pearts?" he said suddenly.
"No, no," she said quickly and emphatically,--"no, I'm an American."
The old man started and moved towards her, eagerly, his keen eyes
breaking through the film that at times obscured them. "'Merrikan!
tha baist 'Merrikan? Then tha knaws ma son John, 'ee war nowt but
a bairn when brether Dick took un to 'Merriky! Naw! Now! that wor
fifty years sen!--niver wroate to his old feyther--niver coomed
back, 'Ee wor tall-loike, an' thea said 'e feavored mea." He
stopped, threw up his head, and with his skinny fingers drew back
his long, straggling locks from his sunken cheeks, and stared in
her face. The quick transition of fascination, repulsion, shock,
and indefinable apprehension made her laugh hysterically. To her
terror he joined in it, and eagerly clasped her wrists. "Eh, lass!
tha knaws John--tha coomes from un to ole grandfeyther. Who-rr-u!
Eay! but tha tho't to fool mea, did tha, lass? Whoy, I knoawed tha
voice, for a' tha foine peacock feathers. So tha be John's gell
coom from Ameriky. Dear! a dear! Coom neaur, lass! let's see what
tha's loike. Eh, but thou'lt kiss tha grandfather, sewerly?"
A wild terror and undefined consternation had completely
overpowered her! But she made a desperate effort to free her
wrists, and burst out madly:--
"Let me go! How dare you! I don't know you or yours! I'm nothing
to you or your kin! My name is Desborough--do you understand--do
you hear me, Mr. Debs?--DESBOROUGH!"
At the word the old man's fingers stiffened like steel around her
wrists, as he turned upon her a hard, invincible face.
"So thou'lt call thissen Des-borough, wilt tha? Let me tell tha,
then, that 'Debs,' 'Debban,' 'Debbrook,' and 'Des-borough' are all
a seame! Ay! thy feyther and thy feyther's feyther! Thou'lt be a
Des-borough, will tha? Dang tha! and look doon on tha kin, and
dress thissen in silks o' shame! Tell 'ee thou'rt an ass, gell!
Don't tha hear? An ass! for all tha bean John's bairn! An ass!
that's what tha beast!"
With flashing eyes and burning cheeks she made one more supreme
effort, lifting her arms, freeing her wrists, and throwing the old
man staggering from her. Then she leaped the stile, turned, and
fled through the rain. But before she reached the end of the field
she stopped! She had freed herself--she was stronger than he--what
had she to fear? He was crazy! Yes, he MUST be crazy, and he had
insulted her, but he was an old man--and God knows what! Her heart
was beating rapidly, her breath was hurried, but she ran back to
He was not there. The field sloped away on either side of it. But
she could distinguish nothing in the pouring rain above the wind-
swept meadow. He must have gone home. Relieved for a moment she
turned and hurried on towards the Priory.
But at every step she was followed, not by the old man's presence,
but by what he had said to her, which she could not shake off as
she had shaken off his detaining fingers. Was it the ravings of
insanity, or had she stumbled unwittingly upon some secret--was it
after all a SECRET? Perhaps it was something they all knew, or
would know later. And she had come down here for this. For back
of her indignation, back even of her disbelief in his insanity,
there was an awful sense of truth! The names he had flung out, of
"Debs," "Debban," and "Debbrook" now flashed upon her as something
she had seen before, but had not understood. Until she satisfied
herself of this, she felt she could not live or breathe! She
loathed the Priory, with its austere exclusiveness, as it rose
before her; she wished she had never entered it; but it contained
that which she must know, and know at once! She entered the
nearest door and ran up the grand staircase. Her flushed face and
disordered appearance were easily accounted for by her exposure to
the sudden storm. She went to her bedroom, sent her maid to
another room to prepare a change of dress, and sinking down before
her traveling-desk, groped for a document. Ah! there it was--the
expensive toy that she had played with! She hastily ran over its
leaves to the page she already remembered. And there, among the
dashes and perpendicular lines she had jested over last night, on
which she had thought was a collateral branch of the line, stood
her father's name and that of Richard, his uncle, with the
bracketed note in red ink, "see Debbrook, Daybrook, Debbers, and
Debs." Yes! this gaunt, half-crazy, overworked peasant, content to
rake the dead leaves before the rolling chariots of the Beverdales,
was her grandfather; that poorly clad girl in the cottage, and even
the menial in the scullery of this very house that might be HERS,
were her COUSINS! She burst into a laugh, and then refolded the
document and put it away.
At luncheon she was radiant and sparkling. Her drenched clothes
were an excuse for a new and ravishing toilette. She had never
looked so beautiful before, and significant glances were exchanged
between some of the guests, who believed that the expected proposal
had already come. But those who were of the carriage party knew
otherwise, and of Lord Algernon's disappointment. Lord Beverdale
contented himself with rallying his fair guest on the becomingness
of "good works." But he continued, "You're offering a dreadful
example to these ladies, Miss Desborough, and I know I shall never
hereafter be able to content them with any frivolous morning
amusement at the Priory. For myself, when I am grown gouty and
hideous, I know I shall bloom again as a district visitor."
Yet under this surface sparkle and nervous exaltation Sadie never
lost consciousness of the gravity of the situation. If her sense
of humor enabled her to see one side of its grim irony; if she
experienced a wicked satisfaction in accepting the admiration and
easy confidence of the high-born guests, knowing that her cousin
had assisted in preparing the meal they were eating, she had never
lost sight of the practical effect of the discovery she had made.
And she had come to a final resolution. She should leave the
Priory at once, and abandon all idea of a matrimonial alliance with
its heir! Inconsistent as this might seem to her selfish, worldly
nature, it was nevertheless in keeping with a certain pride and
independence that was in her blood. She did not love Lord
Algernon, neither did she love her grandfather; she was equally
willing to sacrifice either or both; she knew that neither Lord
Algernon nor his father would make her connections an objection,
however they might wish to keep the fact a secret, or otherwise
dispose of them by pensions or emigration, but she could not bear
to KNOW IT HERSELF! She never could be happy as the mistress of
Scrooby Priory with that knowledge; she did not idealize it as a
principle! Carefully weighing it by her own practical common
sense, she said to herself that "it wouldn't pay." The highest
independence is often akin to the lowest selfishness; she did not
dream that the same pride which kept her grandfather from the
workhouse and support by his daughters, and had even kept him from
communicating with his own son, now kept her from acknowledging
them, even for the gift of a title and domain. There was only one
question before her: should she stay long enough to receive the
proposal of Lord Algernon, and then decline it? Why should she not
snatch that single feminine joy out of the ashes of her burnt-up
illusion? She knew that an opportunity would be offered that
afternoon. The party were to take tea at Broxby Hall, and Lord
Algernon was to drive her there in his dogcart. Miss Desborough
had gone up to her bedroom to put on a warmer cloak, and had rung
twice or thrice impatiently for her maid.
When the girl made her appearance, apologetic, voluble, and
excited, Miss Desborough scarcely listened to her excuses, until a
single word suddenly arrested her attention. It was "old Debs."
"What ARE you talking about?" said Sadie, pausing in the adjustment
of her hat on her brown hair.
"Old Debs, miss,--that's what they call him; an old park-keeper,
just found dead in a pool of water in the fields; the grandfather
of one of the servants here; and there's such an excitement in the
servants' hall. The gentlemen all knew it, too, for I heard Lord
Algernon say that he was looking very queer lately, and might have
had a fit; and Lord Beverdale has sent word to the coroner. And
only think, the people here are such fools that they daren't touch
or move the poor man, and him lyin' there in the rain all the time,
until the coroner comes!"
Miss Desborough had been steadily regarding herself in the glass to
see if she had turned pale. She had. She set her teeth together
until the color partly returned. But she kept her face away from
the maid. "That'll do," she said quietly. "You can tell me all
later. I have some important news myself, and I may not go out
after all. I want you to take a note for me." She went to her
table, wrote a line in pencil, folded it, scribbled an address upon
it, handed it to the girl, and gently pushed her from the room.
. . . . . .
The consul was lingering on the terrace beside one of the
carriages; at a little distance a groom was holding the nervous
thoroughbred of Lord Algernon's dog-cart. Suddenly he felt a touch
on his shoulder, and Miss Desborough's maid put a note in his hand.
It contained only a line:--
Please come and see me in the library, but without making any fuss
about it--at once. S. D.
The consul glanced around him; no one had apparently noticed the
incident. He slipped back into the house and made his way to the
library. It was a long gallery; at the further end Miss Desborough
stood cloaked, veiled, and coquettishly hatted. She was looking
very beautiful and animated. "I want you to please do me a great
favor," she said, with an adorable smile, "as your own countrywoman,
you know--for the sake of Fourth of July and Pumpkin Pie and the Old
Flag! I don't want to go to this circus to-day. I am going to
leave here to-night! I am! Honest Injin! I want YOU to manage it.
I want you to say that as consul you've received important news for
me: the death of some relative, if you like; or better, something
AFFECTING MY PROPERTY, you know," with a little satirical laugh.
"I guess that would fetch 'em! So go at once."
"But really, Miss Desborough, do let us talk this over before you
decide!" implored the bewildered consul. "Think what a
disappointment to your host and these ladies. Lord Algernon
expects to drive you there; he is already waiting! The party was
got up for you!" Miss Desborough made a slight grimace. "I mean
you ought to sacrifice something--but I trust there is really
nothing serious--to them!"
"If YOU do not speak to them, I will!" said Miss Desborough firmly.
"If you say what I tell you, it will come the more plausibly from
you. Come! My mind is made up. One of us must break the news!
Shall it be you or I?" She drew her cloak over her shoulders and
made a step forwards.
The consul saw she was determined. "Then wait here till I return,
but keep yourself out of sight," he said, and hurried away.
Between the library and the terrace he conceived a plan. His
perplexity lent him a seriousness which befitted the gravity of the
news he had to disclose. "I am sorry to have to tell you," he
said, taking Lord Beverdale aside, "that I was the unlucky bearer
of some sad news to Miss Desborough this morning, through my
consular letters--some matter concerning the death of a relation of
hers, and some wearisome question of property. I thought that it
was of little importance, and that she would not take it seriously,
but I find I was mistaken. It may even oblige her to catch the
London train to-night. I promised to make her excuses to you for
the present, and I'm afraid I must add my own to them, as she
wishes me to stay and advise her in this matter, which requires
some prompt action."
Miss Desborough was right: the magic word "property" changed the
slight annoyance on the earl's face to a sympathetic concern.
"Dear me! I trust it is nothing really serious," he said. "Of
course, you will advise her, and, by the way, if my solicitor,
Withers, who'll be here to-morrow, can do anything, you know, call
him in. I hope she'll be able to see me later. It could not be a
NEAR relation who died, I fancy; she has no brothers or sisters, I
"A cousin, I think; an old friend," said the consul hastily. He
heard Lord Beverdale say a few words to his companions, saw with a
tinge of remorse a cloud settle upon Lord Algernon's fresh face, as
he appealed in a whisper to old Lady Mesthyn, who leaned forward
from the carriage, and said, "If the dear child thought I could be
of any service, I should only be too glad to stay with her."
"I knew she would appreciate Lady Mesthyn's sympathy," said the
ingenious consul quickly, "but I really think the question is more
a business one--and"--
"Ah, yes," said the old lady, shaking her head, "it's dreadful, of
course, but we must all think of THAT!"
As the carriage drove away, the consul hurried back a little
viciously to his fair countrywoman. "There!" he said, "I have done
it! If I have managed to convey either the idea that you are a
penniless orphan, or that I have official information that you are
suspected of a dynamite conspiracy, don't blame me! And now," he
said, "as I have excused myself on the ground that I must devote
myself to this dreadful business of yours, perhaps you'll tell me
WHAT it really is."
"Not a word more," said Miss Desborough; "except," she added,--
checking her smile with a weary gesture,--"except that I want to
leave this dreadful place at once! There! don't ask me any more!"
There could be no doubt of the girl's sincerity. Nor was it the
extravagant caprice of a petted idol. What had happened? He might
have believed in a lovers' quarrel, but he knew that she and Lord
Algernon could have had no private interview that evening. He must
perforce accept her silence, yet he could not help saying:--
"You seemed to like the place so much last night. I say, you
haven't seen the Priory ghost, have you?"
"The Priory ghost," she said quickly. "What's that?"
"The old monk who passes through the cloisters with the sacred oil,
the bell, and the smell of incense whenever any one is to die here.
By Jove! it would have been a good story to tell instead of this
cock-and-bull one about your property. And there WAS a death here
to-day. You'd have added the sibyl's gifts to your other charms."
"Tell me about that old man," she said, looking past him out of the
window. "I was at his cottage this morning. But, no! first let us
go out. You can take me for a walk, if you like. You see I am all
ready, and I'm just stifling here."
They descended to the terrace together. "Where would you like to
go?" he asked.
"To the village. I may want to telegraph, you know."
They turned into the avenue, but Miss Desborough stopped.
"Is there not a shorter cut across the fields," she asked, "over
"There is," said the consul.
They both turned into the footpath which led to the farm and stile.
After a pause she said, "Did you ever talk with that poor old man?"
"Then you don't know if he really was crazy, as they think."
"No. But they may have thought an old man's forgetfulness of
present things and his habit of communing with the past was
insanity. For all that he was a plucky, independent old fellow,
with a grim purpose that was certainly rational."
"I suppose in his independence he would not have taken favors from
these people, or anybody?"
"I should think not."
"Don't you think it was just horrid--their leaving him alone in the
rain, when he might have been only in a fit?"
"The doctor says he died suddenly of heart disease," said the
consul. "It might have happened at any moment and without
"Ah, that was the coroner's verdict, then," said Miss Desborough
"The coroner did not think it necessary to have any inquest after
Lord Beverdale's statement. It wouldn't have been very joyous for
the Priory party. And I dare say he thought it might not be very
cheerful for YOU."
"How very kind!" said the young girl, with a quick laugh. "But do
you know that it's about the only thing human, original, and
striking that has happened in this place since I've been here! And
so unexpected, considering how comfortably everything is ordered
"Yet you seemed to like that kind of thing very well, last evening,"
said the consul mischievously.
"That was last night," retorted Miss Desborough; "and you know the
line, 'Colors seen by candlelight do not look the same by day.'
But I'm going to be very consistent to-day, for I intend to go over
to that poor man's cottage again, and see if I can be of any
service. Will you go with me?"
"Certainly," said the consul, mystified by his companion's
extraordinary conduct, yet apparent coolness of purpose, and hoping
for some further explanation. Was she only an inexperienced flirt
who had found herself on the point of a serious entanglement she
had not contemplated? Yet even then he knew she was clever enough
to extricate herself in some other way than this abrupt and brutal
tearing through the meshes. Or was it possible that she really had
any intelligence affecting her property? He reflected that he knew
very little of the Desboroughs, but on the other hand he knew that
Beverdale knew them much better, and was a prudent man. He had no
right to demand her confidence as a reward for his secrecy; he must
wait her pleasure. Perhaps she would still explain; women seldom
could resist the triumph of telling the secret that puzzled others.
When they reached the village she halted before the low roof of
Debs's cottage. "I had better go in first," she said; "you can
come in later, and in the meantime you might go to the station for
me and find out the exact time that the express train leaves for
"But," said the astonished consul, "I thought you were going to
"No," said Miss Desborough quietly, "I am going to join some
friends at Harrogate."
"But that train goes much earlier than the train south, and--and
I'm afraid Lord Beverdale will not have returned so soon."
"How sad!" said Miss Desborough, with a faint smile, "but we must
bear up under it, and--I'll write him. I will be here until you
She turned away and entered the cottage. The granddaughter she had
already seen and her sister, the servant at the Priory, were both
chatting comfortably, but ceased as she entered, and both rose with
awkward respect. There was little to suggest that the body of
their grandfather, already in a rough oak shell, was lying upon
trestles beside them.
"You have carried out my orders, I see," said Miss Desborough,
laying down her parasol.
"Ay, miss; but it was main haard gettin' et dooan so soon, and et
"Never mind the cost. I've given you money enough, I think, and if
I haven't, I guess I can give you more."
"Ay, miss! Abbut the pa'son 'ead gi' un a funeral for nowt."
"But I understood you to say," said Miss Desborough, with an
impatient flash of eye, "that your grandfather wished to be buried
with his kindred in the north?"
"Ay, miss," said the girl apologetically, "an naw 'ees savit th'
munny. Abbut e'd bean tickled 'ad 'ee knowed it! Dear! dear! 'ee
niver thowt et 'ud be gi'en by stranger an' not 'es ownt fammaly."
"For all that, you needn't tell anybody it was given by ME," said
Miss Desborough. "And you'll be sure to be ready to take the train
this afternoon--without delay." There was a certain peremptoriness
in her voice very unlike Miss Amelyn's, yet apparently much more
effective with the granddaughter.
"Ay, miss. Then, if tha'll excoose mea, I'll go streight to 'oory
She bustled away. "Now," said Miss Desborough, turning to the
other girl, "I shall take the same train, and will probably see you
on the platform at York to give my final directions. That's all.
Go and see if the gentleman who came with me has returned from the
The girl obeyed. Left entirely alone, Miss Desborough glanced
around the room, and then went quietly up to the unlidded coffin.
The repose of death had softened the hard lines of the old man's
mouth and brow into a resemblance she now more than ever
understood. She had stood thus only a few years before, looking at
the same face in a gorgeously inlaid mahogany casket, smothered
amidst costly flowers, and surrounded by friends attired in all the
luxurious trappings of woe; yet it was the same face that was now
rigidly upturned to the bare thatch and rafters of that crumbling
cottage, herself its only companion. She lifted her delicate veil
with both hands, and, stooping down, kissed the hard, cold
forehead, without a tremor. Then she dropped her veil again over
her dry eyes, readjusted it in the little, cheap, black-framed
mirror that hung against the wall, and opened the door as the
granddaughter returned. The gentleman was just coming from the
"Remember to look out for me at York," said Miss Desborough,
extending her gloved hand. "Good-by till then." The young girl
respectfully touched the ends of Miss Desborough's fingers, dropped
a curtsy, and Miss Desborough rejoined the consul.
"You have barely time to return to the Priory and see to your
luggage," said the consul, "if you must go. But let me hope that
you have changed your mind."
"I have not changed my mind," said Miss Desborough quietly, "and my
baggage is already packed." After a pause, she said thoughtfully,
"I've been wondering"--
"What?" said the consul eagerly.
"I've been wondering if people brought up to speak in a certain
dialect, where certain words have their own significance and color,
and are part of their own lives and experience--if, even when they
understand another dialect, they really feel any sympathy with it,
or the person who speaks it?"
"Apropos of"--asked the consul.
"These people I've just left! I don't think I quite felt with them,
and I guess they didn't feel with me."
"But," said the consul laughingly, "you know that we Americans
speak with a decided dialect of our own, and attach the same occult
meaning to it. Yet, upon my word, I think that Lord Beverdale--or
shall I say Lord Algernon?--would not only understand that American
word 'guess' as you mean it, but would perfectly sympathize with
Miss Desborough's eyes sparkled even through her veil as she
glanced at her companion and said, "I GUESS NOT."
As the "tea" party had not yet returned, it fell to the consul to
accompany Miss Desborough and her maid to the station. But here he
was startled to find a collection of villagers upon the platform,
gathered round two young women in mourning, and an ominous-looking
box. He mingled for a moment with the crowd, and then returned to
Miss Desborough's side.
"Really," he said, with a concern that was scarcely assumed, "I
ought not to let you go. The omens are most disastrous! You came
here to a death; you are going away with a funeral!"
"Then it's high time I took myself off!" said the lady lightly.
"Unless, like the ghostly monk, you came here on a mission, and
have fulfilled it."
"Perhaps I have. Good-by!"
. . . . . .
In spite of the bright and characteristic letter which Miss
Desborough left for her host,--a letter which mingled her peculiar
shrewd sense with her humorous extravagance of expression,--the
consul spent a somewhat uneasy evening under the fire of questions
that assailed him in reference to the fair deserter. But he kept
loyal faith with her, adhering even to the letter of her
instructions, and only once was goaded into more active mendacity.
The conversation had turned upon "Debs," and the consul had
remarked on the singularity of the name. A guest from the north
observed, however, that the name was undoubtedly a contraction.
"Possibly it might have been 'Debborough,' or even the same name as
our fair friend."
"But didn't Miss Desborough tell you last night that she had been
hunting up her people, with a family tree, or something like that?"
said Lord Algernon eagerly. "I just caught a word here and there,
for you were both laughing."
The consul smiled blandly. "You may well say so, for it was all
the most delightful piece of pure invention and utter extravagance.
It would have amused her still more if she had thought you were
listening and took it seriously!"
"Of course; I see!" said the young fellow, with a laugh and a
slight rise of color. "I knew she was taking some kind of a rise
out of YOU, and that remark reminded me of it."
Nevertheless, within a year, Lord Algernon was happily married to
the daughter of a South African millionaire, whose bridal offerings
alone touched the sum of half a million. It was also said that the
mother was "impossible" and the father "unspeakable," the relations
"inextinguishable;" but the wedding was an "occasion," and in the
succeeding year of festivity it is presumed that the names of
"Debs" and "Desborough" were alike forgotten.
But they existed still in a little hamlet near the edge of a bleak
northern moor, where they were singularly exalted on a soaring
shaft of pure marble above the submerged and moss-grown tombstones
of a simple country churchyard. So great was the contrast between
the modern and pretentious monument and the graves of the humbler
forefathers of the village, that even the Americans who chanced to
visit it were shocked at what they believed was the ostentatious
and vulgar pride of one of their own countrywomen. For on its
pedestal was inscribed:--
Sacred to the Memory
JOHN DEBS DESBOROUGH,
Formerly of this parish,
Who departed this life October 20th, 1892,
At Scrooby Priory,
At the age of eighty-two years.
This monument was erected as a loving testimony
by his granddaughter,
Sadie Desborough, of New York, U. S. A.
"And evening brings us home."
SALOMY JANE'S KISS
Only one shot had been fired. It had gone wide of its mark,--the
ringleader of the Vigilantes,--and had left Red Pete, who had fired
it, covered by their rifles and at their mercy. For his hand had
been cramped by hard riding, and his eye distracted by their sudden
onset, and so the inevitable end had come. He submitted sullenly
to his captors; his companion fugitive and horse-thief gave up the
protracted struggle with a feeling not unlike relief. Even the hot
and revengeful victors were content. They had taken their men
alive. At any time during the long chase they could have brought
them down by a rifle shot, but it would have been unsportsmanlike,
and have ended in a free fight, instead of an example. And, for
the matter of that, their doom was already sealed. Their end, by a
rope and a tree, although not sanctified by law, would have at
least the deliberation of justice. It was the tribute paid by the
Vigilantes to that order which they had themselves disregarded in
the pursuit and capture. Yet this strange logic of the frontier
sufficed them, and gave a certain dignity to the climax.
"Ef you've got anything to say to your folks, say it NOW, and say
it quick," said the ringleader.
Red Pete glanced around him. He had been run to earth at his own
cabin in the clearing, whence a few relations and friends, mostly
women and children, non-combatants, had outflowed, gazing vacantly
at the twenty Vigilantes who surrounded them. All were accustomed
to scenes of violence, blood-feud, chase, and hardship; it was only
the suddenness of the onset and its quick result that had surprised
them. They looked on with dazed curiosity and some disappointment;
there had been no fight to speak of--no spectacle! A boy, nephew
of Red Pete, got upon the rain-barrel to view the proceedings more
comfortably; a tall, handsome, lazy Kentucky girl, a visiting
neighbor, leaned against the doorpost, chewing gum. Only a yellow
hound was actively perplexed. He could not make out if a hunt were
just over or beginning, and ran eagerly backwards and forwards,
leaping alternately upon the captives and the captors.
The ringleader repeated his challenge. Red Pete gave a reckless
laugh and looked at his wife.
At which Mrs. Red Pete came forward. It seemed that she had much
to say, incoherently, furiously, vindictively, to the ringleader.
His soul would roast in hell for that day's work! He called
himself a man, skunkin' in the open and afraid to show himself
except with a crowd of other "Kiyi's" around a house of women and
children. Heaping insult upon insult, inveighing against his low
blood, his ancestors, his dubious origin, she at last flung out a
wild taunt of his invalid wife, the insult of a woman to a woman,
until his white face grew rigid, and only that Western-American
fetich of the sanctity of sex kept his twitching fingers from the
lock of his rifle. Even her husband noticed it, and with a half-
authoritative "Let up on that, old gal," and a pat of his freed
left hand on her back, took his last parting. The ringleader,
still white under the lash of the woman's tongue, turned abruptly
to the second captive. "And if YOU'VE got anybody to say 'good-by'
to, now's your chance."
The man looked up. Nobody stirred or spoke. He was a stranger
there, being a chance confederate picked up by Red Pete, and known
to no one. Still young, but an outlaw from his abandoned boyhood,
of which father and mother were only a forgotten dream, he loved
horses and stole them, fully accepting the frontier penalty of life
for the interference with that animal on which a man's life so
often depended. But he understood the good points of a horse, as
was shown by the ones he bestrode--until a few days before the
property of Judge Boompointer. This was his sole distinction.
The unexpected question stirred him for a moment out of the
attitude of reckless indifference, for attitude it was, and a part
of his profession. But it may have touched him that at that moment
he was less than his companion and his virago wife. However, he
only shook his head. As he did so his eye casually fell on the
handsome girl by the doorpost, who was looking at him. The
ringleader, too, may have been touched by his complete loneliness,
for HE hesitated. At the same moment he saw that the girl was
looking at his friendless captive.
A grotesque idea struck him.
"Salomy Jane, ye might do worse than come yere and say 'good-by' to
a dying man, and him a stranger," he said.
There seemed to be a subtle stroke of poetry and irony in this that
equally struck the apathetic crowd. It was well known that Salomy
Jane Clay thought no small potatoes of herself, and always held off
the local swain with a lazy nymph-like scorn. Nevertheless, she
slowly disengaged herself from the doorpost, and, to everybody's
astonishment, lounged with languid grace and outstretched hand
towards the prisoner. The color came into the gray reckless mask
which the doomed man wore as her right hand grasped his left, just
loosed by his captors. Then she paused; her shy, fawn-like eyes
grew bold, and fixed themselves upon him. She took the chewing-gum
from her mouth, wiped her red lips with the back of her hand, by a
sudden lithe spring placed her foot on his stirrup, and, bounding
to the saddle, threw her arms about his neck and pressed a kiss
upon his lips.
They remained thus for a hushed moment--the man on the threshold of
death, the young woman in the fullness of youth and beauty--linked
together. Then the crowd laughed; in the audacious effrontery of
the girl's act the ultimate fate of the two men was forgotten. She
slipped languidly to the ground; SHE was the focus of all eyes,--
she only! The ringleader saw it and his opportunity. He shouted:
"Time's up--Forward!" urged his horse beside his captives, and the
next moment the whole cavalcade was sweeping over the clearing into
the darkening woods.