Part 3 out of 4
Their destination was Sawyer's Crossing, the headquarters of the
committee, where the council was still sitting, and where both
culprits were to expiate the offense of which that council had
already found them guilty. They rode in great and breathless
haste,--a haste in which, strangely enough, even the captives
seemed to join. That haste possibly prevented them from noticing
the singular change which had taken place in the second captive
since the episode of the kiss. His high color remained, as if it
had burned through his mask of indifference; his eyes were quick,
alert, and keen, his mouth half open as if the girl's kiss still
lingered there. And that haste had made them careless, for the
horse of the man who led him slipped in a gopher-hole, rolled over,
unseated his rider, and even dragged the bound and helpless second
captive from Judge Boompointer's favorite mare. In an instant they
were all on their feet again, but in that supreme moment the second
captive felt the cords which bound his arms had slipped to his
wrists. By keeping his elbows to his sides, and obliging the
others to help him mount, it escaped their notice. By riding close
to his captors, and keeping in the crush of the throng, he further
concealed the accident, slowly working his hands downwards out of
Their way lay through a sylvan wilderness, mid-leg deep in ferns,
whose tall fronds brushed their horses' sides in their furious
gallop and concealed the flapping of the captive's loosened cords.
The peaceful vista, more suggestive of the offerings of nymph and
shepherd than of human sacrifice, was in a strange contrast to this
whirlwind rush of stern, armed men. The westering sun pierced the
subdued light and the tremor of leaves with yellow lances; birds
started into song on blue and dove-like wings, and on either side
of the trail of this vengeful storm could be heard the murmur of
hidden and tranquil waters. In a few moments they would be on the
open ridge, whence sloped the common turnpike to "Sawyer's," a mile
away. It was the custom of returning cavalcades to take this hill
at headlong speed, with shouts and cries that heralded their
coming. They withheld the latter that day, as inconsistent with
their dignity; but, emerging from the wood, swept silently like an
avalanche down the slope. They were well under way, looking only
to their horses, when the second captive slipped his right arm from
the bonds and succeeded in grasping the reins that lay trailing on
the horse's neck. A sudden vaquero jerk, which the well-trained
animal understood, threw him on his haunches with his forelegs
firmly planted on the slope. The rest of the cavalcade swept on;
the man who was leading the captive's horse by the riata, thinking
only of another accident, dropped the line to save himself from
being dragged backwards from his horse. The captive wheeled, and
the next moment was galloping furiously up the slope.
It was the work of a moment; a trained horse and an experienced
hand. The cavalcade had covered nearly fifty yards before they
could pull up; the freed captive had covered half that distance
uphill. The road was so narrow that only two shots could be fired,
and these broke dust two yards ahead of the fugitive. They had not
dared to fire low; the horse was the more valuable animal. The
fugitive knew this in his extremity also, and would have gladly
taken a shot in his own leg to spare that of his horse. Five men
were detached to recapture or kill him. The latter seemed
inevitable. But he had calculated his chances; before they could
reload he had reached the woods again; winding in and out between
the pillared tree trunks, he offered no mark. They knew his horse
was superior to their own; at the end of two hours they returned,
for he had disappeared without track or trail. The end was briefly
told in the "Sierra Record:"--
"Red Pete, the notorious horse-thief, who had so long eluded
justice, was captured and hung by the Sawyer's Crossing Vigilantes
last week; his confederate, unfortunately, escaped on a valuable
horse belonging to Judge Boompointer. The judge had refused one
thousand dollars for the horse only a week before. As the thief,
who is still at large, would find it difficult to dispose of so
valuable an animal without detection, the chances are against
either of them turning up again."
. . . . . .
Salomy Jane watched the cavalcade until it had disappeared. Then
she became aware that her brief popularity had passed. Mrs. Red
Pete, in stormy hysterics, had included her in a sweeping
denunciation of the whole universe, possibly for simulating an
emotion in which she herself was deficient. The other women hated
her for her momentary exaltation above them; only the children
still admired her as one who had undoubtedly "canoodled" with a man
"a-going to be hung"--a daring flight beyond their wildest
ambition. Salomy Jane accepted the change with charming unconcern.
She put on her yellow nankeen sunbonnet,--a hideous affair that
would have ruined any other woman, but which only enhanced the
piquancy of her fresh brunette skin,--tied the strings, letting the
blue-black braids escape below its frilled curtain behind, jumped
on her mustang with a casual display of agile ankles in shapely
white stockings, whistled to the hound, and waving her hand with a
"So long, sonny!" to the lately bereft but admiring nephew, flapped
and fluttered away in her short brown holland gown.
Her father's house was four miles distant. Contrasted with the
cabin she had just quitted, it was a superior dwelling, with a long
"lean-to" at the rear, which brought the eaves almost to the ground
and made it look like a low triangle. It had a long barn and
cattle sheds, for Madison Clay was a "great" stock-raiser and the
owner of a "quarter section." It had a sitting-room and a parlor
organ, whose transportation thither had been a marvel of "packing."
These things were supposed to give Salomy Jane an undue importance,
but the girl's reserve and inaccessibility to local advances were
rather the result of a cool, lazy temperament and the preoccupation
of a large, protecting admiration for her father, for some years a
widower. For Mr. Madison Clay's life had been threatened in one or
two feuds,--it was said, not without cause,--and it is possible
that the pathetic spectacle of her father doing his visiting with a
shotgun may have touched her closely and somewhat prejudiced her
against the neighboring masculinity. The thought that cattle,
horses, and "quarter section" would one day be hers did not disturb
her calm. As for Mr. Clay, he accepted her as housewifely, though
somewhat "interfering," and, being one of "his own womankind,"
therefore not without some degree of merit.
"Wot's this yer I'm hearin' of your doin's over at Red Pete's?
Honeyfoglin' with a horse-thief, eh?" said Mr. Clay two days later
"I reckon you heard about the straight thing, then," said Salomy
Jane unconcernedly, without looking round.
"What do you kalkilate Rube will say to it? What are you goin' to
tell HIM?" said Mr. Clay sarcastically.
"Rube," or Reuben Waters, was a swain supposed to be favored
particularly by Mr. Clay. Salomy Jane looked up.
"I'll tell him that when HE'S on his way to be hung, I'll kiss
him,--not till then," said the young lady brightly.
This delightful witticism suited the paternal humor, and Mr. Clay
smiled; but, nevertheless, he frowned a moment afterwards.
"But this yer hoss-thief got away arter all, and that's a hoss of a
different color," he said grimly.
Salomy Jane put down her knife and fork. This was certainly a new
and different phase of the situation. She had never thought of it
before, and, strangely enough, for the first time she became
interested in the man. "Got away?" she repeated. "Did they let
"Not much," said her father briefly. "Slipped his cords, and going
down the grade pulled up short, just like a vaquero agin a lassoed
bull, almost draggin' the man leadin' him off his hoss, and then
skyuted up the grade. For that matter, on that hoss o' Judge
Boompointer's he mout have dragged the whole posse of 'em down on
their knees ef he liked! Sarved 'em right, too. Instead of
stringin' him up afore the door, or shootin' him on sight, they
must allow to take him down afore the hull committee 'for an
example.' 'Example' be blowed! Ther' 's example enough when some
stranger comes unbeknownst slap onter a man hanged to a tree and
plugged full of holes. THAT'S an example, and HE knows what it
means. Wot more do ye want? But then those Vigilantes is allus
clingin' and hangin' onter some mere scrap o' the law they're
pretendin' to despise. It makes me sick! Why, when Jake Myers
shot your ole Aunt Viney's second husband, and I laid in wait for
Jake afterwards in the Butternut Hollow, did I tie him to his hoss
and fetch him down to your Aunt Viney's cabin 'for an example'
before I plugged him? No!" in deep disgust. "No! Why, I just
meandered through the wood, careless-like, till he comes out, and I
just rode up to him, and I said"--
But Salomy Jane had heard her father's story before. Even one's
dearest relatives are apt to become tiresome in narration. "I
know, dad," she interrupted; "but this yer man,--this hoss-thief,--
did HE get clean away without gettin' hurt at all?"
"He did, and unless he's fool enough to sell the hoss he kin keep
away, too. So ye see, ye can't ladle out purp stuff about a 'dyin'
stranger' to Rube. He won't swaller it."
"All the same, dad," returned the girl cheerfully, "I reckon to say
it, and say MORE; I'll tell him that ef HE manages to get away too,
I'll marry him--there! But ye don't ketch Rube takin' any such
risks in gettin' ketched, or in gettin' away arter!"
Madison Clay smiled grimly, pushed back his chair, rose, dropped a
perfunctory kiss on his daughter's hair, and, taking his shotgun
from the corner, departed on a peaceful Samaritan mission to a cow
who had dropped a calf in the far pasture. Inclined as he was to
Reuben's wooing from his eligibility as to property, he was
conscious that he was sadly deficient in certain qualities inherent
in the Clay family. It certainly would be a kind of mesalliance.
Left to herself, Salomy Jane stared a long while at the coffee-pot,
and then called the two squaws who assisted her in her household
duties, to clear away the things while she went up to her own room
to make her bed. Here she was confronted with a possible prospect
of that proverbial bed she might be making in her willfulness, and
on which she must lie, in the photograph of a somewhat serious
young man of refined features--Reuben Waters--stuck in her window-
frame. Salomy Jane smiled over her last witticism regarding him
and enjoyed, it, like your true humorist, and then, catching sight
of her own handsome face in the little mirror, smiled again. But
wasn't it funny about that horse-thief getting off after all? Good
Lordy! Fancy Reuben hearing he was alive and going round with that
kiss of hers set on his lips! She laughed again, a little more
abstractedly. And he had returned it like a man, holding her tight
and almost breathless, and he going to be hung the next minute!
Salomy Jane had been kissed at other times, by force, chance, or
stratagem. In a certain ingenuous forfeit game of the locality
known as "I'm a-pinin'," many had "pined" for a "sweet kiss" from
Salomy Jane, which she had yielded in a sense of honor and fair
play. She had never been kissed like this before--she would never
again; and yet the man was alive! And behold, she could see in the
mirror that she was blushing!
She should hardly know him again. A young man with very bright
eyes, a flushed and sunburnt cheek, a kind of fixed look in the
face, and no beard; no, none that she could feel. Yet he was not
at all like Reuben, not a bit. She took Reuben's picture from the
window, and laid it on her workbox. And to think she did not even
know this young man's name! That was queer. To be kissed by a man
whom she might never know! Of course he knew hers. She wondered
if he remembered it and her. But of course he was so glad to get
off with his life that he never thought of anything else. Yet she
did not give more than four or five minutes to these speculations,
and, like a sensible girl, thought of something else. Once again,
however, in opening the closet, she found the brown holland gown
she had worn on the day before; thought it very unbecoming, and
regretted that she had not worn her best gown on her visit to Red
Pete's cottage. On such an occasion she really might have been
When her father came home that night she asked him the news. No,
they had NOT captured the second horse-thief, who was still at
large. Judge Boompointer talked of invoking the aid of the
despised law. It remained, then, to see whether the horse-thief
was fool enough to try to get rid of the animal. Red Pete's body
had been delivered to his widow. Perhaps it would only be
neighborly for Salomy Jane to ride over to the funeral. But Salomy
Jane did not take to the suggestion kindly, nor yet did she explain
to her father that, as the other man was still living, she did not
care to undergo a second disciplining at the widow's hands.
Nevertheless, she contrasted her situation with that of the widow
with a new and singular satisfaction. It might have been Red Pete
who had escaped. But he had not the grit of the nameless one. She
had already settled his heroic quality.
"Ye ain't harkenin' to me, Salomy."
Salomy Jane started.
"Here I'm askin' ye if ye've see that hound Phil Larrabee sneaking
by yer today?"
Salomy Jane had not. But she became interested and self-reproachful,
for she knew that Phil Larrabee was one of her father's enemies.
"He wouldn't dare to go by here unless he knew you were out," she
"That's what gets me," he said, scratching his grizzled head.
"I've been kind o' thinkin' o' him all day, and one of them
Chinamen said he saw him at Sawyer's Crossing. He was a kind of
friend o' Pete's wife. That's why I thought yer might find out ef
he'd been there." Salomy Jane grew more self-reproachful at her
father's self-interest in her "neighborliness." "But that ain't
all," continued Mr. Clay. "Thar was tracks over the far pasture
that warn't mine. I followed them, and they went round and round
the house two or three times, ez ef they mout hev bin prowlin', and
then I lost 'em in the woods again. It's just like that sneakin'
hound Larrabee to hev bin lyin' in wait for me and afraid to meet a
man fair and square in the open."
"You just lie low, dad, for a day or two more, and let me do a
little prowlin'," said the girl, with sympathetic indignation in
her dark eyes. "Ef it's that skunk, I'll spot him soon enough and
let you know whar he's hiding."
"You'll just stay where ye are, Salomy," said her father decisively.
"This ain't no woman's work--though I ain't sayin' you haven't got
more head for it than some men I know."
Nevertheless, that night, after her father had gone to bed, Salomy
Jane sat by the open window of the sitting-room in an apparent
attitude of languid contemplation, but alert and intent of eye and
ear. It was a fine moonlit night. Two pines near the door,
solitary pickets of the serried ranks of distant forest, cast long
shadows like paths to the cottage, and sighed their spiced breath
in the windows. For there was no frivolity of vine or flower round
Salomy Jane's bower. The clearing was too recent, the life too
practical for vanities like these. But the moon added a vague
elusiveness to everything, softened the rigid outlines of the
sheds, gave shadows to the lidless windows, and touched with
merciful indirectness the hideous debris of refuse gravel and the
gaunt scars of burnt vegetation before the door. Even Salomy Jane
was affected by it, and exhaled something between a sigh and a yawn
with the breath of the pines. Then she suddenly sat upright.
Her quick ear had caught a faint "click, click," in the direction
of the wood; her quicker instinct and rustic training enabled her
to determine that it was the ring of a horse's shoe on flinty
ground; her knowledge of the locality told her it came from the
spot where the trail passed over an outcrop of flint scarcely a
quarter of a mile from where she sat, and within the clearing. It
was no errant "stock," for the foot was shod with iron; it was a
mounted trespasser by night, and boded no good to a man like Clay.
She rose, threw her shawl over her head, more for disguise than
shelter, and passed out of the door. A sudden impulse made her
seize her father's shotgun from the corner where it stood,--not
that she feared any danger to herself, but that it was an excuse.
She made directly for the wood, keeping in the shadow of the pines
as long as she could. At the fringe she halted; whoever was there
must pass her before reaching the house.
Then there seemed to be a suspense of all nature. Everything was
deadly still--even the moonbeams appeared no longer tremulous; soon
there was a rustle as of some stealthy animal among the ferns, and
then a dismounted man stepped into the moonlight. It was the
horse-thief--the man she had kissed!
For a wild moment a strange fancy seized her usually sane intellect
and stirred her temperate blood. The news they had told her was
NOT true; he had been hung, and this was his ghost! He looked as
white and spirit-like in the moonlight, dressed in the same
clothes, as when she saw him last. He had evidently seen her
approaching, and moved quickly to meet her. But in his haste he
stumbled slightly; she reflected suddenly that ghosts did not
stumble, and a feeling of relief came over her. And it was no
assassin of her father that had been prowling around--only this
unhappy fugitive. A momentary color came into her cheek; her
coolness and hardihood returned; it was with a tinge of sauciness
in her voice that she said:--
"I reckoned you were a ghost."
"I mout have been," he said, looking at her fixedly; "but I reckon
I'd have come back here all the same."
"It's a little riskier comin' back alive," she said, with a levity
that died on her lips, for a singular nervousness, half fear and
half expectation, was beginning to take the place of her relief of
a moment ago. "Then it was YOU who was prowlin' round and makin'
tracks in the far pasture?"
"Yes; I came straight here when I got away."
She felt his eyes were burning her, but did not dare to raise her
own. "Why," she began, hesitated, and ended vaguely. "HOW did you
"You helped me!"
"Yes. That kiss you gave me put life into me--gave me strength to
get away. I swore to myself I'd come back and thank you, alive or
Every word he said she could have anticipated, so plain the
situation seemed to her now. And every word he said she knew was
the truth. Yet her cool common sense struggled against it.
"What's the use of your escaping, ef you're comin' back here to be
ketched again?" she said pertly.
He drew a little nearer to her, but seemed to her the more awkward
as she resumed her self-possession. His voice, too, was broken, as
if by exhaustion, as he said, catching his breath at intervals:--
"I'll tell you. You did more for me than you think. You made
another man o' me. I never had a man, woman, or child do to me
what you did. I never had a friend--only a pal like Red Pete, who
picked me up 'on shares.' I want to quit this yer--what I'm doin'.
I want to begin by doin' the square thing to you"-- He stopped,
breathed hard, and then said brokenly, "My hoss is over thar,
staked out. I want to give him to you. Judge Boompointer will
give you a thousand dollars for him. I ain't lyin'; it's God's
truth! I saw it on the handbill agin a tree. Take him, and I'll
get away afoot. Take him. It's the only thing I can do for you,
and I know it don't half pay for what you did. Take it; your
father can get a reward for you, if you can't."
Such were the ethics of this strange locality that neither the man
who made the offer nor the girl to whom it was made was struck by
anything that seemed illogical or indelicate, or at all inconsistent
with justice or the horse-thief's real conversion. Salomy Jane
nevertheless dissented, from another and weaker reason.
"I don't want your hoss, though I reckon dad might; but you're just
starvin'. I'll get suthin'." She turned towards the house.
"Say you'll take the hoss first," he said, grasping her hand. At
the touch she felt herself coloring and struggled, expecting
perhaps another kiss. But he dropped her hand. She turned again
with a saucy gesture, said, "Hol' on; I'll come right back," and
slipped away, the mere shadow of a coy and flying nymph in the
moonlight, until she reached the house.
Here she not only procured food and whiskey, but added a long dust-
coat and hat of her father's to her burden. They would serve as a
disguise for him and hide that heroic figure, which she thought
everybody must now know as she did. Then she rejoined him
breathlessly. But he put the food and whiskey aside.
"Listen," he said; "I've turned the hoss into your corral. You'll
find him there in the morning, and no one will know but that he got
lost and joined the other hosses."
Then she burst out. "But you--YOU--what will become of you?
You'll be ketched!"
"I'll manage to get away," he said in a low voice, "ef--ef"--
"Ef what?" she said tremblingly. "Ef you'll put the heart in me
again,--as you did!" he gasped.
She tried to laugh--to move away. She could do neither. Suddenly
he caught her in his arms, with a long kiss, which she returned
again and again. Then they stood embraced as they had embraced two
days before, but no longer the same. For the cool, lazy Salomy
Jane had been transformed into another woman--a passionate,
clinging savage. Perhaps something of her father's blood had
surged within her at that supreme moment. The man stood erect and
"Wot's your name?" she whispered quickly. It was a woman's quickest
way of defining her feelings.
"Yer first name?"
"Let me go now, Jack. Lie low in the woods till to-morrow sunup.
I'll come again."
He released her. Yet she lingered a moment. "Put on those
things," she said, with a sudden happy flash of eyes and teeth,
"and lie close till I come." And then she sped away home.
But midway up the distance she felt her feet going slower, and
something at her heartstrings seemed to be pulling her back. She
stopped, turned, and glanced to where he had been standing. Had
she seen him then, she might have returned. But he had
disappeared. She gave her first sigh, and then ran quickly again.
It must be nearly ten o'clock! It was not very long to morning!
She was within a few steps of her own door, when the sleeping woods
and silent air appeared to suddenly awake with a sharp "crack!"
She stopped, paralyzed. Another "crack!' followed, that echoed
over to the far corral. She recalled herself instantly and dashed
off wildly to the woods again.
As she ran she thought of one thing only. He had been "dogged" by
one of his old pursuers and attacked. But there were two shots,
and he was unarmed. Suddenly she remembered that she had left her
father's gun standing against the tree where they were talking.
Thank God! she may again have saved him. She ran to the tree; the
gun was gone. She ran hither and thither, dreading at every step
to fall upon his lifeless body. A new thought struck her; she ran
to the corral. The horse was not there! He must have been able to
regain it, and escaped, AFTER the shots had been fired. She drew a
long breath of relief, but it was caught up in an apprehension of
alarm. Her father, awakened from his sleep by the shots, was
hurriedly approaching her.
"What's up now, Salomy Jane?" he demanded excitedly.
"Nothin'," said the girl with an effort. "Nothin', at least, that
I can find." She was usually truthful because fearless, and a lie
stuck in her throat; but she was no longer fearless, thinking of
HIM. "I wasn't abed; so I ran out as soon as I heard the shots
fired," she answered in return to his curious gaze.
"And you've hid my gun somewhere where it can't be found," he said
reproachfully. "Ef it was that sneak Larrabee, and he fired them
shots to lure me out, he might have potted me, without a show, a
dozen times in the last five minutes."
She had not thought since of her father's enemy! It might indeed
have been he who had attacked Jack. But she made a quick point of
the suggestion. "Run in, dad, run in and find the gun; you've got
no show out here without it." She seized him by the shoulders from
behind, shielding him from the woods, and hurried him, half
expostulating, half struggling, to the house.
But there no gun was to be found. It was strange; it must have
been mislaid in some corner! Was he sure he had not left it in the
barn? But no matter now. The danger was over; the Larrabee trick
had failed; he must go to bed now, and in the morning they would
make a search together. At the same time she had inwardly resolved
to rise before him and make another search of the wood, and
perhaps--fearful joy as she recalled her promise!--find Jack alive
and well, awaiting her!
Salomy Jane slept little that night, nor did her father. But
towards morning he fell into a tired man's slumber until the sun
was well up the horizon. Far different was it with his daughter:
she lay with her face to the window, her head half lifted to catch
every sound, from the creaking of the sun-warped shingles above her
head to the far-off moan of the rising wind in the pine trees.
Sometimes she fell into a breathless, half-ecstatic trance, living
over every moment of the stolen interview; feeling the fugitive's
arm still around her, his kisses on her lips; hearing his whispered
voice in her ears--the birth of her new life! This was followed
again by a period of agonizing dread--that he might even then be
lying, his life ebbing away, in the woods, with her name on his
lips, and she resting here inactive, until she half started from
her bed to go to his succor. And this went on until a pale opal
glow came into the sky, followed by a still paler pink on the
summit of the white Sierras, when she rose and hurriedly began to
dress. Still so sanguine was her hope of meeting him, that she
lingered yet a moment to select the brown holland skirt and yellow
sunbonnet she had worn when she first saw him. And she had only
seen him twice! Only TWICE! It would be cruel, too cruel, not to
see him again!
She crept softly down the stairs, listening to the long-drawn
breathing of her father in his bedroom, and then, by the light of a
guttering candle, scrawled a note to him, begging him not to trust
himself out of the house until she returned from her search, and
leaving the note open on the table, swiftly ran out into the
Three hours afterwards Mr. Madison Clay awoke to the sound of loud
knocking. At first this forced itself upon his consciousness as
his daughter's regular morning summons, and was responded to by a
grunt of recognition and a nestling closer in the blankets. Then
he awoke with a start and a muttered oath, remembering the events
of last night, and his intention to get up early, and rolled out of
bed. Becoming aware by this time that the knocking was at the
outer door, and hearing the shout of a familiar voice, he hastily
pulled on his boots, his jean trousers, and fastening a single
suspender over his shoulder as he clattered downstairs, stood in
the lower room. The door was open, and waiting upon the threshold
was his kinsman, an old ally in many a blood-feud--Breckenridge
"You ARE a cool one, Mad!" said the latter in half-admiring
"What's up?" said the bewildered Madison.
"YOU ought to be, and scootin' out o' this," said Breckenridge
grimly. "It's all very well to 'know nothin';' but here Phil
Larrabee's friends hev just picked him up, drilled through with
slugs and deader nor a crow, and now they're lettin' loose
Larrabee's two half-brothers on you. And you must go like a derned
fool and leave these yer things behind you in the bresh," he went
on querulously, lifting Madison Clay's dust-coat, hat, and shotgun
from his horse, which stood saddled at the door. "Luckily I picked
them up in the woods comin' here. Ye ain't got more than time to
get over the state line and among your folks thar afore they'll be
down on you. Hustle, old man! What are you gawkin' and starin'
Madison Clay had stared amazed and bewildered--horror-stricken.
The incidents of the past night for the first time flashed upon him
clearly--hopelessly! The shot; his finding Salomy Jane alone in
the woods; her confusion and anxiety to rid herself of him; the
disappearance of the shotgun; and now this new discovery of the
taking of his hat and coat for a disguise! SHE had killed Phil
Larrabee in that disguise, after provoking his first harmless shot!
She, his own child, Salomy Jane, had disgraced herself by a man's
crime; had disgraced him by usurping his right, and taking a mean
advantage, by deceit, of a foe!
"Gimme that gun," he said hoarsely.
Breckenridge handed him the gun in wonder and slowly gathering
suspicion. Madison examined nipple and muzzle; one barrel had been
discharged. It was true! The gun dropped from his hand.
"Look here, old man," said Breckenridge, with a darkening face,
"there's bin no foul play here. Thar's bin no hiring of men, no
deputy to do this job. YOU did it fair and square--yourself?"
"Yes, by God!" burst out Madison Clay in a hoarse voice. "Who says
Reassured, yet believing that Madison Clay had nerved himself for
the act by an over-draught of whiskey, which had affected his
memory, Breckenridge said curtly, "Then wake up and 'lite' out, ef
ye want me to stand by you."
"Go to the corral and pick me out a hoss," said Madison slowly, yet
not without a certain dignity of manner. "I've suthin' to say to
Salomy Jane afore I go." He was holding her scribbled note, which
he had just discovered, in his shaking hand.
Struck by his kinsman's manner, and knowing the dependent relations
of father and daughter, Breckenridge nodded and hurried away. Left
to himself, Madison Clay ran his fingers through his hair, and
straightened out the paper on which Salomy Jane had scrawled her
note, turned it over, and wrote on the back:--
You might have told me you did it, and not leave your ole father to
find it out how you disgraced yourself and him, too, by a low-down,
underhanded, woman's trick! I've said I done it, and took the
blame myself, and all the sneakiness of it that folks suspect. If
I get away alive--and I don't care much which--you needn't foller.
The house and stock are yours; but you ain't any longer the
daughter of your disgraced father,
He had scarcely finished the note when, with a clatter of hoofs and
a led horse, Breckenridge reappeared at the door elate and
triumphant. "You're in nigger luck, Mad! I found that stole hoss
of Judge Boompointer's had got away and strayed among your stock in
the corral. Take him and you're safe; he can't be outrun this side
of the state line."
"I ain't no hoss-thief," said Madison grimly.
"Nobody sez ye are, but you'd be wuss--a fool--ef you didn't take
him. I'm testimony that you found him among your hosses; I'll tell
Judge Boompointer you've got him, and ye kin send him back when
you're safe. The judge will be mighty glad to get him back, and
call it quits. So ef you've writ to Salomy Jane, come."
Madison Clay no longer hesitated. Salomy Jane might return at any
moment,--it would be part of her "fool womanishness,"--and he was
in no mood to see her before a third party. He laid the note on
the table, gave a hurried glance around the house, which he grimly
believed he was leaving forever, and, striding to the door, leaped
on the stolen horse, and swept away with his kinsman.
But that note lay for a week undisturbed on the table in full view
of the open door. The house was invaded by leaves, pine cones,
birds, and squirrels during the hot, silent, empty days, and at
night by shy, stealthy creatures, but never again, day or night, by
any of the Clay family. It was known in the district that Clay had
flown across the state line, his daughter was believed to have
joined him the next day, and the house was supposed to be locked
up. It lay off the main road, and few passed that way. The
starving cattle in the corral at last broke bounds and spread over
the woods. And one night a stronger blast than usual swept through
the house, carried the note from the table to the floor, where,
whirled into a crack in the flooring, it slowly rotted.
But though the sting of her father's reproach was spared her,
Salomy Jane had no need of the letter to know what had happened.
For as she entered the woods in the dim light of that morning she
saw the figure of Dart gliding from the shadow of a pine towards
her. The unaffected cry of joy that rose from her lips died there
as she caught sight of his face in the open light.
"You are hurt," she said, clutching his arm passionately.
"No," he said. "But I wouldn't mind that if"--
"You're thinkin' I was afeard to come back last night when I heard
the shootin', but I DID come," she went on feverishly. "I ran back
here when I heard the two shots, but you were gone. I went to the
corral, but your hoss wasn't there, and I thought you'd got away."
"I DID get away," said Dart gloomily. "I killed the man, thinkin'
he was huntin' ME, and forgettin' I was disguised. He thought I
was your father."
"Yes," said the girl joyfully, "he was after dad, and YOU--you
killed him." She again caught his hand admiringly.
But he did not respond. Possibly there were points of honor which
this horse-thief felt vaguely with her father. "Listen," he said
grimly. "Others think it was your father killed him. When I did
it--for he fired at me first--I ran to the corral again and took my
hoss, thinkin' I might be follered. I made a clear circuit of the
house, and when I found he was the only one, and no one was
follerin', I come back here and took off my disguise. Then I heard
his friends find him in the wood, and I know they suspected your
father. And then another man come through the woods while I was
hidin' and found the clothes and took them away." He stopped and
stared at her gloomily.
But all this was unintelligible to the girl. "Dad would have got
the better of him ef you hadn't," she said eagerly, "so what's the
"All the same," he said gloomily, "I must take his place."
She did not understand, but turned her head to her master. "Then
you'll go back with me and tell him ALL?" she said obediently.
"Yes," he said.
She put her hand in his, and they crept out of the wood together.
She foresaw a thousand difficulties, but, chiefest of all, that he
did not love as she did. SHE would not have taken these risks
against their happiness.
But alas for ethics and heroism. As they were issuing from the
wood they heard the sound of galloping hoofs, and had barely time
to hide themselves before Madison Clay, on the stolen horse of
Judge Boompointer, swept past them with his kinsman.
Salomy Jane turned to her lover.
. . . . . .
And here I might, as a moral romancer, pause, leaving the guilty,
passionate girl eloped with her disreputable lover, destined to
lifelong shame and misery, misunderstood to the last by a criminal,
fastidious parent. But I am confronted by certain facts, on which
this romance is based. A month later a handbill was posted on one
of the sentinel pines, announcing that the property would be sold
by auction to the highest bidder by Mrs. John Dart, daughter of
Madison Clay, Esq., and it was sold accordingly. Still later--by
ten years--the chronicler of these pages visited a certain "stock"
or "breeding farm," in the "Blue Grass Country," famous for the
popular racers it has produced. He was told that the owner was the
"best judge of horse-flesh in the country." "Small wonder," added
his informant, "for they say as a young man out in California he
was a horse-thief, and only saved himself by eloping with some rich
farmer's daughter. But he's a straight-out and respectable man
now, whose word about horses can't be bought; and as for his wife,
she's a beauty! To see her at the 'Springs,' rigged out in the
latest fashion, you'd never think she had ever lived out of New
York or wasn't the wife of one of its millionaires."
THE MAN AND THE MOUNTAIN
He was such a large, strong man that, when he first set foot in the
little parallelogram I called my garden, it seemed to shrink to
half its size and become preposterous. But I noticed at the same
time that he was holding in the open palm of his huge hand the
roots of a violet, with such infinite tenderness and delicacy that
I would have engaged him as my gardener on the spot. But this
could not be, as he was already the proud proprietor of a market-
garden and nursery on the outskirts of the suburban Californian
town where I lived. He would, however, come for two days in the
week, stock and look after my garden, and impart to my urban
intellect such horticultural hints as were necessary. His name was
"Rutli," which I presumed to be German, but which my neighbors
rendered as "Rootleigh," possibly from some vague connection with
his occupation. His own knowledge of English was oral and
phonetic. I have a delightful recollection of a bill of his in
which I was charged for "fioletz," with the vague addition of
"maine cains." Subsequent explanation proved it to be "many
Nevertheless, my little garden bourgeoned and blossomed under his
large, protecting hand. I became accustomed to walk around his
feet respectfully when they blocked the tiny paths, and to expect
the total eclipse of that garden-bed on which he worked, by his
huge bulk. For the tiniest and most reluctant rootlet seemed to
respond to his caressing paternal touch; it was a pretty sight to
see his huge fingers tying up some slender stalk to its stick with
the smallest thread, and he had a reverent way of laying a bulb or
seed in the ground, and then gently shaping and smoothing a small
mound over it, which made the little inscription on the stick above
more like an affecting epitaph than ever. Much of this gentleness
may have been that apology for his great strength, common with
large men; but his face was distinctly amiable, and his very light
blue eyes were at times wistful and doglike in their kindliness. I
was soon to learn, however, that placability was not entirely his
The garden was part of a fifty vara lot of land, on which I was
simultaneously erecting a house. But the garden was finished
before the house was, through certain circumstances very
characteristic of that epoch and civilization. I had purchased the
Spanish title, the only LEGAL one, to the land, which, however, had
been in POSSESSION of a "squatter." But he had been unable to hold
that possession against a "jumper,"--another kind of squatter who
had entered upon it covertly, fenced it in, and marked it out in
building sites. Neither having legal rights, they could not invoke
the law; the last man held possession. There was no doubt that in
due course of litigation and time both these ingenuous gentlemen
would have been dispossessed in favor of the real owner,--myself,--
but that course would be a protracted one. Following the usual
custom of the locality, I paid a certain sum to the jumper to yield
up peaceably HIS possession of the land, and began to build upon
it. It might be reasonably supposed that the question was settled.
But it was not. The house was nearly finished when, one morning, I
was called out of my editorial sanctum by a pallid painter, looking
even more white-leaded than usual, who informed me that my house
was in the possession of five armed men! The entry had been made
peaceably during the painters' absence to dinner under a wayside
tree. When they returned, they had found their pots and brushes in
the road, and an intimation from the windows that their reentrance
would be forcibly resisted as a trespass.
I honestly believe that Rutli was more concerned than myself over
this dispossession. While he loyally believed that I would get
back my property, he was dreadfully grieved over the inevitable
damage that would be done to the garden during this interval of
neglect and carelessness. I even think he would have made a truce
with my enemies, if they would only have let him look after his
beloved plants. As it was, he kept a passing but melancholy
surveillance of them, and was indeed a better spy of the actions of
the intruders than any I could have employed. One day, to my
astonishment, he brought me a moss-rose bud from a bush which had
been trained against a column of the veranda. It appeared that he
had called, from over the fence, the attention of one of the men to
the neglected condition of the plant, and had obtained permission
to "come in and tie it up." The men, being merely hirelings of the
chief squatter, had no personal feeling, and I was not therefore
surprised to hear that they presently allowed Rutli to come in
occasionally and look after his precious "slips." If they had any
suspicions of his great strength, it was probably offset by his
peaceful avocation and his bland, childlike face. Meantime, I had
begun the usual useless legal proceeding, but had also engaged a
few rascals of my own to be ready to take advantage of any want of
vigilance on the part of my adversaries. I never thought of Rutli
in that connection any more than they had.
A few Sundays later I was sitting in the little tea-arbor of
Rutli's nursery, peacefully smoking with him. Presently he took
his long china-bowled pipe from his mouth, and, looking at me
blandly over his yellow mustache, said:--
"You vonts sometimes to go in dot house, eh?"
I said, "Decidedly."
"Mit a revolver, and keep dot house dose men out?"
"Vell! I put you in dot house--today!"
"Shoost so! It is a goot day! On der Suntay DREE men vill out go
to valk mit demselluffs, and visky trinken. TWO," holding up two
gigantic fingers, apparently only a shade or two smaller than his
destined victims, "stay dere. Dose I lift de fence over."
I hastened to inform him that any violence attempted against the
parties WHILE IN POSSESSION, although that possession was illegal,
would, by a fatuity of the law, land him in the county jail. I
said I would not hear of it.
"But suppose dere vos no fiolence? Suppose dose men vos villin',
eh? How vos dot for high?"
"I don't understand."
"So! You shall NOT understand! Dot is better. Go away now and
dell your men to coom dot house arount at halluff past dree. But
YOU coom, mit yourselluff alone, shoost as if you vos spazieren
gehen, for a valk, by dat fence at dree! Ven you shall dot front
door vide open see, go in, and dere you vos! You vill der rest
leef to me!"
It was in vain that I begged Rutli to divulge his plan, and pointed
out again the danger of his technically breaking the law. But he
was firm, assuring me that I myself would be a witness that no
assault would be made. I looked into his clear, good-humored eyes,
and assented. I had a burning desire to right my wrongs, but I
think I also had considerable curiosity.
I passed a miserable quarter of an hour after I had warned my
partisans, and then walked alone slowly down the broad leafy street
towards the scene of contest. I have a very vivid recollection of
my conflicting emotions. I did not believe that I would be killed;
I had no distinct intention of killing any of my adversaries; but I
had some considerable concern for my loyal friend Rutli, whom I
foresaw might be in some peril from the revolver in my unpracticed
hand. If I could only avoid shooting HIM, I would be satisfied. I
remember that the bells were ringing for church,--a church of which
my enemy, the chief squatter, was a deacon in good standing,--and I
felt guiltily conscious of my revolver in my hip-pocket, as two or
three church-goers passed me with their hymn-books in their hands.
I walked leisurely, so as not to attract attention, and to appear
at the exact time, a not very easy task in my youthful excitement.
At last I reached the front gate with a beating heart. There was
no one on the high veranda, which occupied three sides of the low
one-storied house, nor in the garden before it. But the front door
was open; I softly passed through the gate, darted up the veranda
and into the house. A single glance around the hall and bare,
deserted rooms, still smelling of paint, showed me it was empty,
and with my pistol in one hand and the other on the lock of the
door, I stood inside, ready to bolt it against any one but Rutli.
But where was HE?
The sound of laughter and a noise like skylarking came from the
rear of the house and the back yard. Then I suddenly heard Rutli's
heavy tread on the veranda, but it was slow, deliberate, and so
exaggerated in its weight that the whole house seemed to shake with
it. Then from the window I beheld an extraordinary sight! It was
Rutli, swaying from side to side, but steadily carrying with
outstretched arms two of the squatter party, his hands tightly
grasping their collars. Yet I believe his touch was as gentle as
with the violets. His face was preternaturally grave; theirs, to
my intense astonishment, while they hung passive from his arms,
wore that fatuous, imbecile smile seen on the faces of those who
lend themselves to tricks of acrobats and strong men in the arena.
He slowly traversed the whole length of one side of the house,
walked down the steps to the gate, and then gravely deposited them
OUTSIDE. I heard him say, "Dot vins der pet, ain't it?" and
immediately after the sharp click of the gate-latch.
Without understanding a thing that had happened, I rightly
conceived this was the cue for my appearance with my revolver at
the front door. As I opened it I still heard the sound of
laughter, which, however, instantly stopped at a sentence from
Rutli, which I could not hear. There was an oath, the momentary
apparition of two furious and indignant faces over the fence; but
these, however, seemed to be instantly extinguished and put down by
the enormous palms of Rutli clapped upon their heads. There was a
pause, and then Rutli turned around and quietly joined me in the
doorway. But the gate was not again opened until the arrival of my
partisans, when the house was clearly in my possession.
Safe inside with the door bolted, I turned eagerly to Rutli for an
explanation. It then appeared that during his occasional visits to
the garden he had often been an object of amusement and criticism
to the men on account of his size, which seemed to them ridiculously
inconsistent with his great good humor, gentleness, and delicacy of
touch. They had doubted his strength and challenged his powers. He
had responded once or twice before, lifting weights or even carrying
one of his critics at arm's length for a few steps. But he had
reserved his final feat for this day and this purpose. It was for a
bet, which they had eagerly accepted, secure in their belief in his
simplicity, the sincerity of his motives in coming there, and glad
of the opportunity of a little Sunday diversion. In their security
they had not locked the door when they came out, and had not noticed
that HE had opened it. This was his simple story. His only comment,
"I haf von der pet, but I dinks I shall nod gollect der money." The
two men did not return that afternoon, nor did their comrades.
Whether they wisely conceived that a man who was so powerful in play
might be terrible in earnest; whether they knew that his act, in
which they had been willing performers, had been witnessed by
passing citizens, who supposed it was skylarking; or whether their
employer got tired of his expensive occupation, I never knew. The
public believed the latter; Rutli, myself, and the two men he had
evicted alone kept our secret.
From that time Rutli and I became firm friends, and, long after I
had no further need of his services in the recaptured house, I often
found myself in the little tea-arbor of his prosperous nursery. He
was frugal, sober, and industrious; small wonder that in that
growing town he waxed rich, and presently opened a restaurant in the
main street, connected with his market-garden, which became famous.
His relations to me never changed with his changed fortunes; he was
always the simple market-gardener and florist who had aided my first
housekeeping, and stood by me in an hour of need. Of all things
regarding himself he was singularly reticent; I do not think he had
any confidants or intimates, even among his own countrymen, whom I
believed to be German. But one day he quite accidentally admitted
he was a Swiss. As a youthful admirer of the race I was delighted,
and told him so, with the enthusiastic addition that I could now
quite understand his independence, with his devoted adherence to
another's cause. He smiled sadly, and astonished me by saying that
he had not heard from Switzerland since he left six years ago. He
did not want to hear anything; he even avoided his countrymen lest
he should. I was confounded.
"But," I said, "surely you have a longing to return to your
country; all Swiss have! You will go back some day just to breathe
the air of your native mountains."
"I shall go back some days," said Rutli, "after I have made mooch,
mooch money, but not for dot air."
"What for, then?"
"For revenge--to get efen."
Surprised, and for a moment dismayed as I was, I could not help
laughing. "Rutli and revenge!" Impossible! And to make it the
more absurd, he was still smoking gently and regarding me with
soft, complacent eyes. So unchanged was his face and manner that
he might have told me he was going back to be married.
"You do not oonderstand," he said forgivingly. "Some days I shall
dell to you id. Id is a story. You shall make it yourselluff for
dose babers dot you write. It is not bretty, berhaps, ain't it,
but it is droo. And de endt is not yet."
Only that Rutli never joked, except in a ponderous fashion with
many involved sentences, I should have thought he was taking a
good-humored rise out of me. But it was not funny. I am afraid I
dismissed it from my mind as a revelation of something weak and
puerile, quite inconsistent with his practical common sense and
strong simplicity, and wished he had not alluded to it. I never
asked him to tell me the story. It was a year later, and only when
he had invited me to come to the opening of a new hotel, erected by
him at a mountain spa of great resort, that he himself alluded to it.
The hotel was a wonderful affair, even for those days, and Rutli's
outlay of capital convinced me that by this time he must have made
the "mooch money" he coveted. Something of this was in my mind
when we sat by the window of his handsomely furnished private
office, overlooking the pines of a Californian canyon. I asked him
if the scenery was like Switzerland.
"Ach! no!" he replied; "but I vill puild a hotel shoost like dis
"Is that a part of your revenge?" I asked, with a laugh.
"Ah! so! a bart."
I felt relieved; a revenge so practical did not seem very malicious
or idiotic. After a pause he puffed contemplatively at his pipe,
and then said, "I dell you somedings of dot story now."
He began. I should like to tell it in his own particular English,
mixed with American slang, but it would not convey the simplicity
of the narrator. He was the son of a large family who had lived
for centuries in one of the highest villages in the Bernese
Oberland. He attained his size and strength early, but with a
singular distaste to use them in the rough regular work on the
farm, although he was a great climber and mountaineer, and, what
was at first overlooked as mere boyish fancy, had an insatiable
love and curious knowledge of plants and flowers. He knew the
haunts of Edelweiss, Alpine rose, and blue gentian, and had brought
home rare and unknown blossoms from under the icy lips of glaciers.
But as he did this when his time was supposed to be occupied in
looking after the cows in the higher pastures and making cheeses,
there was trouble in that hard-working, practical family. A giant
with the tastes and disposition of a schoolgirl was an anomaly in a
Swiss village. Unfortunately again, he was not studious; his
record in the village school had been on a par with his manual
work, and the family had not even the consolation of believing that
they were fostering a genius. In a community where practical
industry was the highest virtue, it was not strange, perhaps, that
he was called "lazy" and "shiftless;" no one knew the long climbs
and tireless vigils he had undergone in remote solitudes in quest
of his favorites, or, knowing, forgave him for it. Abstemious,
frugal, and patient as he was, even the crusts of his father's
table were given him grudgingly. He often went hungry rather than
ask the bread he had failed to earn. How his great frame was
nurtured in those days he never knew; perhaps the giant mountains
recognized some kin in him and fed and strengthened him after their
own fashion. Even his gentleness was confounded with cowardice.
"Dot vos de hardtest," he said simply; "it is not goot to be
opligit to half crush your brudder, ven he would make a laugh of
you to your sweetheart." The end came sooner than he expected,
and, oddly enough, through this sweetheart. "Gottlieb," she said
to him one day, "the English Fremde who stayed here last night met
me when I was carrying some of those beautiful flowers you gave me.
He asked me where they were to be found, and I told him only YOU
knew. He wants to see you; go to him. It may be luck to you."
Rutli went. The stranger, an English Alpine climber of scientific
tastes, talked with him for an hour. At the end of that time, to
everybody's astonishment, he engaged this hopeless idler as his
personal guide for three months, at the sum of five francs a day!
It was inconceivable, it was unheard of! The Englander was as mad
as Gottlieb, whose intellect had always been under suspicion! The
schoolmaster pursed up his lips, the pastor shook his head; no good
could come of it; the family looked upon it as another freak of
Gottlieb's, but there was one big mouth less to feed and more room
in the kitchen, and they let him go. They parted from him as
ungraciously as they had endured his presence.
Then followed two months of sunshine in Rutli's life--association
with his beloved plants, and the intelligent sympathy and direction
of a cultivated man. Even in altitudes so dangerous that they had
to take other and more experienced guides, Rutli was always at his
master's side. That savant's collection of Alpine flora excelled
all previous ones; he talked freely with Rutli of further work in
the future, and relaxed his English reserve so far as to confide to
him that the outcome of their collection and observation might be a
book. He gave a flower a Latin name, in which even the ignorant
and delighted Rutli could distinguish some likeness to his own.
But the book was never compiled. In one of their later and more
difficult ascents they and their two additional guides were
overtaken by a sudden storm. Swept from their feet down an ice-
bound slope, Rutli alone of the roped-together party kept a
foothold on the treacherous incline. Here this young Titan, with
bleeding fingers clenched in a rock cleft, sustained the struggles
and held up the lives of his companions by that precious thread for
more than an hour. Perhaps he might have saved them, but in their
desperate efforts to regain their footing the rope slipped upon a
jagged edge of outcrop and parted as if cut by a knife. The two
guides passed without an outcry into obscurity and death; Rutli,
with a last despairing exertion, dragged to his own level his
unconscious master, crippled by a broken leg.
Your true hero is apt to tell his tale simply. Rutli did not dwell
upon these details, nor need I. Left alone upon a treacherous ice
slope in benumbing cold, with a helpless man, eight hours
afterwards he staggered, half blind, incoherent, and inarticulate,
into a "shelter" hut, with the dead body of his master in his
stiffened arms. The shelter-keepers turned their attention to
Rutli, who needed it most. Blind and delirious, with scarce a
chance for life, he was sent the next day to a hospital, where he
lay for three months, helpless, imbecile, and unknown. The dead
body of the Englishman was identified, and sent home; the bodies of
the guides were recovered by their friends; but no one knew aught
of Rutli, even his name. While the event was still fresh in the
minds of those who saw him enter the hut with the body of his
master, a paragraph appeared in a Berne journal recording the
heroism of this nameless man. But it could not be corroborated nor
explained by the demented hero, and was presently forgotten. Six
months from the day he had left his home he was discharged cured.
He had not a kreutzer in his pocket; he had never drawn his wages
from his employer; he had preferred to have it in a lump sum that
he might astonish his family on his return. His eyes were still
weak, his memory feeble; only his great physical strength remained
through his long illness. A few sympathizing travelers furnished
him the means to reach his native village, many miles away. He
found his family had heard of the loss of the Englishman and the
guides, and had believed he was one of them. Already he was
"Ven you vos once peliefed to be det," said Rutli, after a
philosophic pause and puff, "it vos not goot to ondeceif beoples.
You oopset somedings, soomdimes always. Der hole dot you hef made
in der grount, among your frients and your family, vos covered up
alretty. You are loocky if you vill not fint some vellars
shtanding upon id! My frent, ven you vos DINK det, SHTAY det, BE
det, and you vill lif happy!"
"But your sweetheart?" I said eagerly.
A slight gleam of satire stole into Rutli's light eyes. "My
sweetheart, ven I vos dinks det, is der miller engaged do bromply!
It is mooch better dan to a man dot vos boor and plint and grazy!
So! Vell, der next day I pids dem goot-py, und from der door I
say, 'I am det now; but ven I next comes pack alife, I shall dis
village py! der lants, der houses all togedders. And den for
yourselluffs look oudt!'"
"Then that's your revenge? That is what you really intend to do?"
I said, half laughing, yet with an uneasy recollection of his
illness and enfeebled mind.
"Yes. Look here! I show you somedings." He opened a drawer of
his desk and took out what appeared to be some diagrams, plans, and
a small water-colored map, like a surveyor's tracing. "Look," he
said, laying his finger on the latter, "dat is a map from my
fillage. I hef myselluff made it out from my memory. Dot,"
pointing to a blank space, "is der mountain side high up, so far.
It is no goot until I vill a tunnel make or der grade lefel. Dere
vas mine fader's house, dere vos der church, der schoolhouse, dot
vos de burgomaster's house," he went on, pointing to the respective
plots in this old curving parallelogram of the mountain shelf. "So
was the fillage when I leave him on the 5th of March, eighteen
hundred and feefty. Now you shall see him shoost as I vill make
him ven I go back." He took up another plan, beautifully drawn and
colored, and evidently done by a professional hand. It was a
practical, yet almost fairylike transformation of the same spot!
The narrow mountain shelf was widened by excavation, and a
boulevard stretched on either side. A great hotel, not unlike the
one in which we sat, stood in an open terrace, with gardens and
fountains--the site of his father's house. Blocks of pretty
dwellings, shops, and cafes filled the intermediate space. I laid
down the paper.
"How long have you had this idea?"
"Efer since I left dere, fifteen years ago."
"But your father and mother may be dead by this time?"
"So, but dere vill be odders. Und der blace--it vill remain."
"But all this will cost a fortune, and you are not sure"--
"I know shoost vot id vill gost, to a cend."
"And you think you can ever afford to carry out your idea?"
"I VILL affort id. Ven you shall make yet some moneys and go to
Europe, you shall see. I VILL infite you dere first. Now coom and
look der house around."
. . . . . .
I did NOT make "some moneys," but I DID go to Europe. Three years
after this last interview with Rutli I was coming from Interlaken
to Berne by rail. I had not heard from him, and I had forgotten
the name of his village, but as I looked up from the paper I was
reading, I suddenly recognized him in the further end of the same
compartment I occupied. His recognition of me was evidently as
sudden and unexpected. After our first hand-grasp and greeting, I
"And how about our new village?"
"Dere is no fillage."
"What! You have given up the idea?"
"Yes. There is no fillage, olt or new."
"I don't understand."
He looked at me a moment. "You have not heard?"
He gently picked up a little local guidebook that lay in my lap,
and turning its leaves, pointed to a page, and read as follows:--
"5 M. beyond, the train passes a curve R., where a fine view of the
lake may be seen. A little to the R. rises the steep slopes of the
----, the scene of a terrible disaster. At three o'clock on March
5, 1850, the little village of ----, lying midway of the slope,
with its population of 950 souls, was completely destroyed by a
landslip from the top of the mountain. So sudden was the
catastrophe that not a single escape is recorded. A large portion
of the mountain crest, as will be observed when it is seen in
profile, descended to the valley, burying the unfortunate village
to a depth variously estimated at from 1000 ft. to 1800 ft. The
geological causes which produced this extraordinary displacement
have been fully discussed, but the greater evidence points to the
theory of subterranean glaciers. 5 M. beyond ---- the train
crosses the R. bridge."
I laid down the guide-book in breathless astonishment.
"And you never heard of this in all these years?"
"Nefer! I asked no questions, I read no pooks. I have no ledders
"And yet you"-- I stopped, I could not call him a fool; neither
could I, in the face of his perfect composure and undisturbed eyes,
exhibit a concern greater than his own. An uneasy recollection of
what he confessed had been his mental condition immediately after
his accident came over me. Had he been the victim of a strange
hallucination regarding his house and family all these years? Were
these dreams of revenge, this fancy of creating a new village, only
an outcome of some shock arising out of the disaster itself, which
he had long since forgotten?
He was looking from the window. "Coom," he said, "ve are near der
blace. I vill show id to you." He rose and passed out to the rear
platform. We were in the rear car, and a new panorama of the lake
and mountains flashed upon us at every curve of the line. I
followed him. Presently he pointed to what appeared to be a sheer
wall of rock and stunted vegetation towering two or three thousand
feet above us, which started out of a gorge we were passing. "Dere
it vos!" he said. I saw the vast stretch of rock face rising
upward and onward, but nothing else. No debris, no ruins, nor even
a swelling or rounding of the mountain flank over that awful tomb.
Yet, stay! as we dashed across the gorge, and the face of the
mountain shifted, high up, the sky-line was slightly broken as if a
few inches, a mere handful, of the crest was crumbled away. And
then--both gorge and mountain vanished.
I was still embarrassed and uneasy, and knew not what to say to
this man at my side, whose hopes and ambition had been as quickly
overthrown and buried, and whose life-dream had as quickly
vanished. But he himself, taking his pipe from his lips, broke the
"It vos a narrow esgabe!"
"Vy, dis dings. If I had stayed in my fader's house, I vould haf
been det for goot, and perried too! Somedimes dose dings cooms
oudt apout right, don't id?"
Unvanquished philosopher! As we stood there looking at the flying
landscape and sinking lesser hills, one by one the great snow peaks
slowly arose behind them, lifting themselves, as if to take a last
wondering look at the man they had triumphed over, but had not
THE PASSING OF ENRIQUEZ
When Enriquez Saltillo ran away with Miss Mannersley, as already
recorded in these chronicles,* her relatives and friends found it
much easier to forgive that ill-assorted union than to understand
it. For, after all, Enriquez was the scion of an old Spanish-
Californian family, and in due time would have his share of his
father's three square leagues, whatever incongruity there was
between his lively Latin extravagance and Miss Mannersley's Puritan
precision and intellectual superiority. They had gone to Mexico;
Mrs. Saltillo, as was known, having an interest in Aztec
antiquities, and he being utterly submissive to her wishes. For
myself from my knowledge of Enriquez's nature, I had grave doubts
of his entire subjugation, although I knew the prevailing opinion
was that Mrs. Saltillo's superiority would speedily tame him.
Since his brief and characteristic note apprising me of his
marriage, I had not heard from him. It was, therefore, with some
surprise, a good deal of reminiscent affection, and a slight twinge
of reproach that, two years after, I looked up from some proofs, in
the sanctum of the "Daily Excelsior," to recognize his handwriting
on a note that was handed to me by a yellow Mexican boy.
* See "The Devotion of Enriquez," in Selected Stories by Bret Harte
A single glance at its contents showed me that Mrs. Saltillo's
correct Bostonian speech had not yet subdued Enriquez's peculiar
"Here we are again,--right side up with care,--at 1110 Dupont
Street, Telegraph Hill. Second floor from top. 'Ring and push.'
'No book agents need apply.' How's your royal nibs? I kiss your
hand! Come at six,--the band shall play at seven,--and regard your
friend 'Mees Boston,' who will tell you about the little old nigger
boys, and your old Uncle 'Ennery."
Two things struck me: Enriquez had not changed; Mrs. Saltillo had
certainly yielded up some of her peculiar prejudices. For the
address given, far from being a fashionable district, was known as
the "Spanish quarter," which, while it still held some old Spanish
families, was chiefly given over to half-castes and obscurer
foreigners. Even poverty could not have driven Mrs. Saltillo to
such a refuge against her will; nevertheless, a good deal of
concern for Enriquez's fortune mingled with my curiosity, as I
impatiently waited for six o'clock to satisfy it.
It was a breezy climb to 1110 Dupont Street; and although the
street had been graded, the houses retained their airy elevation,
and were accessible only by successive flights of wooden steps to
the front door, which still gave perilously upon the street, sixty
feet below. I now painfully appreciated Enriquez's adaptation of
the time-honored joke about the second floor. An invincible smell
of garlic almost took my remaining breath away as the door was
opened to me by a swarthy Mexican woman, whose loose camisa seemed
to be slipping from her unstable bust, and was held on only by the
mantua-like shawl which supplemented it, gripped by one brown hand.
Dizzy from my ascent to that narrow perch, which looked upon
nothing but the distant bay and shores of Contra Costa, I felt as
apologetic as if I had landed from a balloon; but the woman greeted
me with a languid Spanish smile and a lazy display of white teeth,
as if my arrival was quite natural. Don Enriquez, "of a fact," was
not himself in the casa, but was expected "on the instant." "Donna
Urania" was at home.
"Donna Urania"? For an instant I had forgotten that Mrs. Saltillo's
first name was Urania, so pleasantly and spontaneously did it fall
from the Spanish lips. Nor was I displeased at this chance of
learning something of Don Enriquez's fortunes and the Saltillo
menage before confronting my old friend. The servant preceded me to
the next floor, and, opening a door, ushered me into the lady's
I had carried with me, on that upward climb, a lively recollection
of Miss Mannersley as I had known her two years before. I
remembered her upright, almost stiff, slight figure, the graceful
precision of her poses, the faultless symmetry and taste of her
dress, and the atmosphere of a fastidious and wholesome cleanliness
which exhaled from her. In the lady I saw before me, half
reclining in a rocking-chair, there was none of the stiffness and
nicety. Habited in a loose gown of some easy, flexible, but rich
material, worn with that peculiarly indolent slouch of the Mexican
woman, Mrs. Saltillo had parted with half her individuality. Even
her arched feet and thin ankles, the close-fitting boots or small
slippers of which were wont to accent their delicacy, were now lost
in a short, low-quartered kid shoe of the Spanish type, in which
they moved loosely. Her hair, which she had always worn with a
certain Greek simplicity, was parted at one side. Yet her face,
with its regularity of feature, and small, thin, red-lipped mouth,
was quite unchanged; and her velvety brown eyes were as beautiful
and inscrutable as ever.
With the same glance I had taken in her surroundings, quite as
incongruous to her former habits. The furniture, though of old and
heavy mahogany, had suffered from careless alien hands, and was
interspersed with modern and unmatchable makeshifts, yet preserving
the distinctly scant and formal attitude of furnished lodgings. It
was certainly unlike the artistic trifles and delicate refinements
of her uncle's drawing-room, which we all knew her taste had
dictated and ruled. The black and white engravings, the outlined
heads of Minerva and Diana, were excluded from the walls for two
cheap colored Catholic prints,--a soulless Virgin, and the mystery
of the Bleeding Heart. Against the wall, in one corner, hung the
only object which seemed a memento of their travels,--a singular-
looking upright Indian "papoose-case" or cradle, glaringly
decorated with beads and paint, probably an Aztec relic. On a
round table, the velvet cover of which showed marks of usage and
abusage, there were scattered books and writing materials; and my
editorial instinct suddenly recognized, with a thrill of
apprehension, the loose leaves of an undoubted manuscript. This
circumstance, taken with the fact of Donna Urania's hair being
parted on one side, and the general negligee of her appearance, was
a disturbing revelation.
My wandering eye apparently struck her, for after the first
greeting she pointed to the manuscript with a smile.
"Yes; that is THE manuscript. I suppose Enriquez told you all
about it? He said he had written."
I was dumfounded. I certainly had not understood ALL of Enriquez's
slang; it was always so decidedly his own, and peculiar. Yet I
could not recall any allusion to this.
"He told me something of it, but very vaguely," I ventured to say
deprecatingly; "but I am afraid that I thought more of seeing my
old friend again than of anything else."
"During our stay in Mexico," continued Mrs. Saltillo, with
something of her old precision, "I made some researches into Aztec
history, a subject always deeply interesting to me, and I thought I
would utilize the result by throwing it on paper. Of course it is
better fitted for a volume of reference than for a newspaper, but
Enriquez thought you might want to use it for your journal."
I knew that Enriquez had no taste for literature, and had even
rather depreciated it in the old days, with his usual extravagance;
but I managed to say very pleasantly that I was delighted with his
suggestion and should be glad to read the manuscript. After all,
it was not improbable that Mrs. Saltillo, who was educated and
intelligent, should write well, if not popularly. "Then Enriquez
does not begrudge you the time that your work takes from him," I
added laughingly. "You seem to have occupied your honeymoon
"We quite comprehend our respective duties," said Mrs. Saltillo
dryly; "and have from the first. We have our own lives to live,
independent of my uncle and Enriquez's father. We have not only
accepted the responsibility of our own actions, but we both feel
the higher privilege of creating our own conditions without
extraneous aid from our relatives."
It struck me that this somewhat exalted statement was decidedly a
pose, or a return of Urania Mannersley's old ironical style. I
looked quietly into her brown, near-sighted eyes; but, as once
before, my glance seemed to slip from their moist surface without
penetrating the inner thought beneath. "And what does Enriquez do
for HIS part?" I asked smilingly.
I fully expected to hear that the energetic Enriquez was utilizing
his peculiar tastes and experiences by horse-breaking, stock-
raising, professional bull-fighting, or even horse-racing, but was
quite astonished when she answered quietly:--
"Enriquez is giving himself up to geology and practical metallurgy,
with a view to scientific, purely scientific, mining."
Enriquez and geology! In that instant all I could remember of it
were his gibes at the "geologian," as he was wont to term Professor
Dobbs, a former admirer of Miss Mannersley's. To add to my
confusion Mrs. Saltillo at the same moment absolutely voiced my
"You may remember Professor Dobbs," she went on calmly, "one of the
most eminent scientists over here, and a very old Boston friend.
He has taken Enriquez in hand. His progress is most satisfactory;
we have the greatest hopes of him."
"And how soon do you both hope to have some practical results of
his study?" I could not help asking a little mischievously; for I
somehow resented the plural pronoun in her last sentence.
"Very soon," said Mrs. Saltillo, ignoring everything but the
question. "You know Enriquez's sanguine temperament. Perhaps he
is already given to evolving theories without a sufficient basis of
fact. Still, he has the daring of a discoverer. His ideas of the
oolitic formation are not without originality, and Professor Dobbs
says that in his conception of the Silurian beach there are gleams
that are distinctly precious."
I looked at Mrs. Saltillo, who had reinforced her eyes with her old
piquant pince-nez, but could detect no irony in them. She was
prettily imperturbable, that was all. There was an awkward
silence. Then it was broken by a bounding step on the stairs, a
wide-open fling of the door, and Enriquez pirouetted into the room:
Enriquez, as of old, unchanged from the crown of his smooth, coal-
black hair to the tips of his small, narrow Arabian feet; Enriquez,
with his thin, curling mustache, his dancing eyes set in his
immovable face, just as I had always known him!
He affected to lapse against the door for a minute, as if staggered
by a resplendent vision. Then he said:--
"What do I regard? Is it a dream, or have I again got them--thees
jimjams? My best friend and my best--I mean my ONLY--wife!
He gave me an enthusiastic embrace and a wink like sheet-lightning,
passed quickly to his wife, before whom he dropped on one knee,
raised the toe of her slipper to his lips, and then sank on the
sofa in simulated collapse, murmuring, "Thees is too mooch of white
stone for one day!"
Through all this I saw his wife regarding him with exactly the same
critically amused expression with which she had looked upon him in
the days of their strange courtship. She evidently had not tired
of his extravagance, and yet I feel as puzzled by her manner as
then. She rose and said: "I suppose you have a good deal to say to
each other, and I will leave you by yourselves." Turning to her
husband, she added, "I have already spoken about the Aztec
The word brought Enriquez to his feet again. "Ah! The little old
nigger--you have read?" I began to understand. "My wife, my best
friend, and the little old nigger, all in one day. Eet is
perfect!" Nevertheless, in spite of this ecstatic and overpowering
combination, he hurried to take his wife's hand; kissing it, he led
her to a door opening into another room, made her a low bow to the
ground as she passed out, and then rejoined me.
"So these are the little old niggers you spoke of in your note," I
said, pointing to the manuscript. "Deuce take me if I understood
"Ah, my leetle brother, it is YOU who have changed!" said Enriquez
dolorously. "Is it that you no more understand American, or have
the 'big head' of the editor? Regard me! Of these Aztecs my wife
have made study. She have pursued the little nigger to his cave,
his grotto, where he is dead a thousand year. I have myself
assist, though I like it not, because thees mummy, look you,
Pancho, is not lively. And the mummy who is not dead, believe me!
even the young lady mummy, you shall not take to your heart. But
my wife"--he stopped, and kissed his hand toward the door whence
she had flitted--"ah, SHE is wonderful! She has made the story of
them, the peecture of them, from the life and on the instant! You
shall take them, my leetle brother, for your journal; you shall
announce in the big letter: 'Mooch Importance. The Aztec, He is
Found.' 'How He Look and Lif.' 'The Everlasting Nigger.' You
shall sell many paper, and Urania shall have scoop in much
spondulics and rocks. Hoop-la! For--you comprehend?--my wife and
I have settled that she shall forgif her oncle; I shall forgif my
father; but from them we take no cent, not a red, not a scad! We
are independent! Of ourselves we make a Fourth of July. United we
stand; divided we shall fall over! There you are! Bueno!"
It was impossible to resist his wild, yet perfectly sincere,
extravagance, his dancing black eyes and occasional flash of white
teeth in his otherwise immovable and serious countenance.
Nevertheless, I managed to say:--
"But how about yourself, Enriquez, and this geology, you know?"
His eyes twinkled. "Ah, you shall hear. But first you shall take
a drink. I have the very old Bourbon. He is not so old as the
Aztec, but, believe me, he is very much liflier. Attend! Hol'
on!" He was already rummaging on a shelf, but apparently without
success; then he explored a buffet, with no better results, and
finally attacked a large drawer, throwing out on the floor, with
his old impetuosity, a number of geological specimens, carefully
labeled. I picked up one that had rolled near me. It was labeled
"Conglomerate sandstone." I picked up another: it had the same
"Then you are really collecting?" I said, with astonishment.
"Ciertamente," responded Enriquez,--"what other fool shall I look?
I shall relate of this geology when I shall have found this beast
of a bottle. Ah, here he have hide!" He extracted from a drawer a
bottle nearly full of spirits,--tippling was not one of Enriquez's
vices. "You shall say 'when.' 'Ere's to our noble selfs!"
When he had drunk, I picked up another fragment of his collection.
It had the same label. "You are very rich in 'conglomerate
sandstone,'" I said. "Where do you find it?"
"In the street," said Enriquez, with great calmness.
"In the street?" I echoed.
"Yes, my friend! He ees call the 'cobblestone,' also the 'pouding-
stone,' when he ees at his home in the country. He ees also a
small 'boulder.' I pick him up; I crack him; he made three
separate piece of conglomerate sandstone. I bring him home to my
wife in my pocket. She rejoice; we are happy. When comes the
efening, I sit down and make him a label; while my wife, she sit
down and write of the Aztec. Ah, my friend, you shall say of the
geology it ees a fine, a BEAUTIFUL study; but the study of the
wife, and what shall please her, believe me, ees much finer!
Believe your old Uncle 'Ennery every time! On thees question he
gets there; he gets left, nevarre!"
"But Professor Dobbs, your geologian, what does HE say to this
frequent recurrence of the conglomerate sandstone period in your
study?" I asked quickly.
"He say nothing. You comprehend? He ees a profound geologian, but
he also has the admiration excessif for my wife Urania." He
stopped to kiss his hand again toward the door, and lighted a
cigarette. "The geologian would not that he should break up the
happy efening of his friends by thees small detail. He put aside
his head--so; he say, 'A leetle freestone, a leetle granite, now
and then, for variety; they are building in Montgomery Street.' I
take the hint, like a wink to the horse that has gone blind. I
attach to myself part of the edifice that is erecting himself in
Montgomery Street. I crack him; I bring him home. I sit again at
the feet of my beautiful Urania, and I label him 'Freestone,'
'Granite;' but I do not say 'from Parrott's Bank'--eet is not
necessary for our happiness."
"And you do this sort of thing only because you think it pleases
your wife?" I asked bluntly.
"My friend," rejoined Enriquez, perching himself on the back of the
sofa, and caressing his knees as he puffed his cigarette
meditatively, "you have ask a conundrum. Gif to me an easier one!
It is of truth that I make much of these thing to please Urania.
But I shall confess all. Behold, I appear to you, my leetle
brother, in my camisa--my shirt! I blow on myself; I gif myself
He rose gravely from the sofa, and drew a small box from one of the
drawers of the wardrobe. Opening it, he discovered several
specimens of gold-bearing quartz, and one or two scales of gold.
"Thees," he said, "friend Pancho, is my own geology; for thees I am
what you see. But I say nothing to Urania; for she have much
disgust of mere gold,--of what she calls 'vulgar mining,'--and
believe me, a fear of the effect of 'speculation' upon my
temperamento--you comprehend my complexion, my brother? Reflect
upon it, Pancho! I, who am the filosofo, if that I am anything!"
He looked at me with great levity of eye and supernatural gravity
of demeanor. "But eet ees the jealous affection of the wife, my
friend, for which I make play to her with the humble leetle
pouding-stone rather than the gold quartz that affrights."
"But what do you want with them, if you have no shares in anything
and do not speculate?" I asked.
"Pardon! That ees where you slip up, my leetle friend." He took
from the same drawer a clasped portfolio, and unlocked it,
producing half a dozen prospectuses and certificates of mining
shares. I stood aghast as I recognized the names of one or two
extravagant failures of the last ten years,--"played-out" mines
that had been galvanized into deceptive life in London, Paris, and
New York, to the grief of shareholders abroad and the laughter of
the initiated at home. I could scarcely keep my equanimity. "You
do not mean to say that you have any belief or interest in this
rubbish?" I said quickly.
"What you call 'rubbish,' my good Pancho, ees the rubbish that the
American speculator have dump himself upon them in the shaft, the
rubbish of the advertisement, of the extravagant expense, of the
salary, of the assessment, of the 'freeze-out.' For thees, look
you, is the old Mexican mine. My grandfather and hees father have
both seen them work before you were born, and the American knew not
there was gold in California."
I knew he spoke truly. One or two were original silver mines in
the south, worked by peons and Indian slaves, a rope windlass, and
a venerable donkey.
"But those were silver mines," I said suspiciously, "and these are
"They are from the same mother," said the imperturbable Enriquez,--
"the same mine. The old peons worked him for SILVER, the precious
dollar that buy everything, that he send in the galleon to the
Philippines for the silk and spice! THAT is good enough for HIM!
For the gold he made nothing, even as my leetle wife Urania. And
regard me here! There ees a proverb of my father's which say that
'it shall take a gold mine to work a silver mine,' so mooch more he
cost. You work him, you are lost! Naturalmente, if you turn him
round, if it take you only a silver mine to work a gold mine, you
are gain. Thees ees logic!"
The intense gravity of his face at this extraordinary deduction
upset my own. But as I was never certain that Enriquez was not
purposely mystifying me, with some ulterior object, I could not
help saying a little wickedly:--
"Yes, I understand all that; but how about this geologian? Will he
not tell your wife? You know he was a great admirer of hers."
"That shall show the great intelligence of him, my Pancho. He will
have the four S's,' especially the secreto!"
There could be no serious discussion in his present mood. I
gathered up the pages of his wife's manuscript, said lightly that,
as she had the first claim upon my time, I should examine the Aztec
material and report in a day or two. As I knew I had little chance
in the hands of these two incomprehensibles together, I begged him
not to call his wife, but to convey my adieus to her, and, in spite
of his embraces and protestations, I managed to get out of the
room. But I had scarcely reached the front door when I heard
Enriquez's voice and his bounding step on the stairs. In another
moment his arm was round my neck.
"You must return on the instant! Mother of God! I haf forget, SHE
haf forget, WE all haf forget! But you have not seen him!"
"El nino, the baby! You comprehend, pig! The criaturica, the
leetle child of ourselfs!"
"The baby?" I said confusedly. "IS there--is there a BABY?"
"You hear him?" said Enriquez, sending an appealing voice upward.
"You hear him, Urania? You comprehend. This beast of a leetle
brother demands if there ees one!"
"I beg your pardon," I said, hurriedly reascending the stairs. On
the landing I met Mrs. Saltillo, but as calm, composed, and precise
as her husband was extravagant and vehement. "It was an oversight
of Enriquez's," she said quietly, reentering the room with us; "and
was all the more strange, as the child was in the room with you all
She pointed to the corner of the wall, where hung what I had
believed to be an old Indian relic. To my consternation, it WAS a
bark "papoose-case," occupied by a LIVING child, swathed and
bandaged after the approved Indian fashion. It was asleep, I
believe, but it opened a pair of bright huckleberry eyes, set in
the smallest of features, that were like those of a carved ivory
idol, and uttered a "coo" at the sound of its mother's voice. She
stood on one side with unruffled composure, while Enriquez threw
himself into an attitude before it, with clasped hands, as if it
had been an image of the Holy Child. For myself, I was too
astounded to speak; luckily, my confusion was attributed to the
inexperience of a bachelor.
"I have adopted," said Mrs. Saltillo, with the faintest touch of
maternal pride in her manner, "what I am convinced is the only
natural and hygienic mode of treating the human child. It may be
said to be a reversion to the aborigine, but I have yet to learn
that it is not superior to our civilized custom. By these bandages
the limbs of the infant are kept in proper position until they are
strong enough to support the body, and such a thing as malformation
is unknown. It is protected by its cradle, which takes the place
of its incubating-shell, from external injury, the injudicious
coddling of nurses, the so-called 'dancings' and pernicious
rockings. The supine position, as in the adult, is imposed only at
night. By the aid of this strap it may be carried on long
journeys, either by myself or by Enriquez, who thus shares with me,
as he fully recognizes, its equal responsibility and burden."
"It--certainly does not--cry," I stammered.
"Crying," said Mrs. Saltillo, with a curve of her pretty red lip.
"is the protest of the child against insanitary and artificial
treatment. In its upright, unostentatious cradle it is protected
against that injudicious fondling and dangerous promiscuous
osculation to which, as an infant in human arms, it is so often
subjected. Above all, it is kept from that shameless and
mortifying publicity so unjust to the weak and unformed animal.
The child repays this consideration by a gratifying silence. It
cannot be expected to understand our thoughts, speech, or actions;
it cannot participate in our pleasures. Why should it be forced
into premature contact with them, merely to feed our vanity or
selfishness? Why should we assume our particular parental accident
as superior to the common lot? If we do not give our offspring
that prominence before our visitors so common to the young wife and
husband, it is for that reason solely; and this may account for
what seemed the forgetfulness of Enriquez in speaking of it or
pointing it out to you. And I think his action in calling you back
to see it was somewhat precipitate. As one does not usually
introduce an unknown and inferior stranger without some previous
introduction, he might have asked you if you wished to see the baby
before he recalled you."
I looked from Urania's unfathomable eyes to Enriquez's impenetrable
countenance. I might have been equal to either of them alone, but
together they were invincible. I looked hopelessly at the baby.
With its sharp little eyes and composed face, it certainly was a
marvelous miniature of Enriquez. I said so.
"It would be singular if it was not," said Mrs. Saltillo dryly;
"and as I believe it is by no means an uncommon fact in human
nature, it seems to me strange that people should insist upon it as
a discovery. It is an inheritance, however, that in due time
progress and science will no doubt interrupt, to the advancement of
the human race. I need not say that both Enriquez and myself look
forward to it with confident tranquillity."
There was clearly nothing for me to do now but to shake hands again
and take my leave. Yet I was so much impressed with the unreality
of the whole scene that when I reached the front door I had a
strong impulse to return suddenly and fall in upon them in their
relaxed and natural attitudes. They could not keep up this pose
between themselves; and I half expected to see their laughing faces
at the window, as I glanced up before wending my perilous way to
I found Mrs. Saltillo's manuscript well written and, in the
narrative parts, even graphic and sparkling. I suppressed some
general remarks on the universe, and some correlative theories of
existence, as not appertaining particularly to the Aztecs, and as
not meeting any unquenchable thirst for information on the part of
the readers of the "Daily Excelsior." I even promoted my fair
contributor to the position of having been commissioned, at great
expense, to make the Mexican journey especially for the "Excelsior."
This, with Mrs. Saltillo's somewhat precise preraphaelite drawings
and water-colors, vilely reproduced by woodcuts, gave quite a
sensational air to her production, which, divided into parts, for
two or three days filled a whole page of the paper. I am not aware
of any particular service that it did to ethnology; but, as I
pointed out in the editorial column, it showed that the people of
California were not given over by material greed to the exclusion of
intellectual research; and as it was attacked instantly in long
communications from one or two scientific men, it thus produced more
Briefly, it was a boom for the author and the "Daily Excelsior." I
should add, however, that a rival newspaper intimated that it was
also a boom for Mrs. Saitillo's HUSBAND, and called attention to
the fact that a deserted Mexican mine, known as "El Bolero," was
described graphically in the Aztec article among the news, and
again appeared in the advertising columns of the same paper. I
turned somewhat indignantly to the file of the "Excelsior," and,
singularly enough, found in the elaborate prospectus of a new gold-
mining company the description of the El Bolero mine as a QUOTATION
from the Aztec article, with extraordinary inducements for the
investment of capital in the projected working of an old mine. If
I had had any difficulty in recognizing in the extravagant style
the flamboyant hand of Enriquez in English writing, I might have
read his name plainly enough displayed as president of the company.
It was evidently the prospectus of one of the ventures he had shown
me. I was more amused than indignant at the little trick he had
played upon my editorial astuteness. After all, if I had thus
benefited the young couple I was satisfied. I had not seen them
since my first visit, as I was very busy,--my communications with
Mrs. Saltillo had been carried on by letters and proofs,--and when
I did finally call at their house, it was only to find that they
were visiting at San Jose. I wondered whether the baby was still
hanging on the wall, or, if he was taken with them, who carried
A week later the stock of El Bolero was quoted at par. More than
that, an incomprehensible activity had been given to all the
deserted Mexican mines, and people began to look up scrip hitherto
thrown aside as worthless. Whether it was one of those extraordinary
fevers which attacked Californian speculation in the early days, or
whether Enriquez Saltillo had infected the stock-market with his
own extravagance, I never knew; but plans as wild, inventions as
fantastic, and arguments as illogical as ever emanated from his own
brain, were set forth "on 'Change" with a gravity equal to his own.
The most reasonable hypothesis was that it was the effect of the
well-known fact that the Spanish Californian hitherto had not been a
mining speculator, nor connected in any way with the gold production
on his native soil, deeming it inconsistent with his patriarchal
life and landed dignity, and that when a "son of one of the oldest
Spanish families, identified with the land and its peculiar character
for centuries, lent himself to its mineral exploitations,"--I beg to
say that I am quoting from the advertisement in the "Excelsior,"--
"it was a guerdon of success." This was so far true that in a week
Enriquez Saltillo was rich, and in a fair way to become a millionaire.
It was a hot afternoon when I alighted from the stifling Wingdam
coach, and stood upon the cool, deep veranda of the Carquinez
Springs Hotel. After I had shaken off the dust which had lazily
followed us, in our descent of the mountain road, like a red smoke,
occasionally overflowing the coach windows, I went up to the room I
had engaged for my brief holiday. I knew the place well, although
I could see that the hotel itself had lately been redecorated and
enlarged to meet the increasing requirements of fashion. I knew
the forest of enormous redwoods where one might lose one's self in
a five minutes' walk from the veranda. I knew the rocky trail that
climbed the mountain to the springs, twisting between giant
boulders. I knew the arid garden, deep in the wayside dust, with
its hurriedly planted tropical plants, already withering in the dry
autumn sunshine, and washed into fictitious freshness, night and
morning by the hydraulic irrigating-hose. I knew, too, the cool,
reposeful night winds that swept down from invisible snow-crests
beyond, with the hanging out of monstrous stars, that too often
failed to bring repose to the feverish guests. For the
overstrained neurotic workers who fled hither from the baking
plains of Sacramento, or from the chill sea-fogs of San Francisco,
never lost the fierce unrest that had driven them here.
Unaccustomed to leisure, their enforced idleness impelled them to
seek excitement in the wildest gayeties; the bracing mountain air
only reinvigorated them to pursue pleasure as they had pursued the
occupations they had left behind. Their sole recreations were
furious drives over break-neck roads; mad, scampering cavalcades
through the sedate woods; gambling parties in private rooms, where
large sums were lost by capitalists on leave; champagne suppers;
and impromptu balls that lasted through the calm, reposeful night
to the first rays of light on the distant snowline. Unimaginative
men, in their temporary sojourn they more often outraged or
dispossessed nature in her own fastnesses than courted her for
sympathy or solitude. There were playing-cards left lying behind
boulders, and empty champagne bottles forgotten in forest depths.
I remembered all this when, refreshed by a bath, I leaned from the
balcony of my room and watched the pulling up of a brake, drawn by
six dusty, foam-bespattered horses, driven by a noted capitalist.
As its hot, perspiring, closely veiled yet burning-faced fair
occupants descended, in all the dazzling glory of summer toilets,
and I saw the gentlemen consult their watches with satisfaction,
and congratulate their triumphant driver, I knew the characteristic
excitement they had enjoyed from a "record run," probably for a
bet, over a mountain road in a burning sun.
"Not bad, eh? Forty-four minutes from the summit!"
The voice seemed at my elbow. I turned quickly, to recognize an
acquaintance, a young San Francisco broker, leaning from the next
balcony to mine. But my attention was just then preoccupied by the
face and figure, which seemed familiar to me, of a woman who was
alighting from the brake.
"Who is that?" I asked; "the straight slim woman in gray, with the
white veil twisted round her felt hat?"
"Mrs. Saltillo," he answered; "wife of 'El Bolero' Saltillo, don't
you know. Mighty pretty woman, if she is a little stiffish and set
Then I had not been mistaken! "Is Enriquez--is her husband--here?"
I asked quickly.
The man laughed. "I reckon not. This is the place for other
people's husbands, don't you know."
Alas! I DID know; and as there flashed upon me all the miserable
scandals and gossip connected with this reckless, frivolous
caravansary, I felt like resenting his suggestion. But my
companion's next words were more significant:--
"Besides, if what they say is true, Saltillo wouldn't be very
"I don't understand," I said quickly.
"Why, after all that row he had with the El Bolero Company."
"I never heard of any row," I said, in astonishment.
The broker laughed incredulously. "Come! and YOU a newspaper man!
Well, maybe they DID try to hush it up, and keep it out of the
papers, on account of the stock. But it seems he got up a reg'lar
shindy with the board, one day; called 'em thieves and swindlers,
and allowed he was disgracing himself as a Spanish hidalgo by
having anything to do with 'em. Talked, they say, about Charles V.
of Spain, or some other royal galoot, giving his ancestors the land
in trust! Clean off his head, I reckon. Then shunted himself off
the company, and sold out. You can guess he wouldn't be very
popular around here, with Jim Bestley, there," pointing to the
capitalist who had driven the brake, "who used to be on the board
with him. No, sir. He was either lying low for something, or was
off his head. Think of his throwing up a place like that!"
"Nonsense!" I said indignantly. "He is mercurial, and has the
quick impulsiveness of his race, but I believe him as sane as any
who sat with him on the board. There must be some mistake, or you
haven't got the whole story." Nevertheless, I did not care to
discuss an old friend with a mere acquaintance, and I felt secretly
puzzled to account for his conduct, in the face of his previous
cleverness in manipulating the El Bolero, and the undoubted
fascination he had previously exercised over the stockholders. The
story had, of course, been garbled in repetition. I had never
before imagined what might be the effect of Enriquez's peculiar
eccentricities upon matter-of-fact people,--I had found them only
amusing,--and the broker's suggestion annoyed me. However, Mrs.
Saltillo was here in the hotel, and I should, of course, meet her.
Would she be as frank with me?
I was disappointed at not finding her in the drawing-room or on the
veranda; and the heat being still unusually oppressive, I strolled
out toward the redwoods, hesitating for a moment in the shade
before I ran the fiery gauntlet of the garden. To my surprise, I
had scarcely passed the giant sentinels on its outskirts before I
found that, from some unusual condition of the atmosphere, the cold
undercurrent of air which generally drew through these pillared
aisles was withheld that afternoon; it was absolutely hotter than
in the open, and the wood was charged throughout with the acrid
spices of the pine. I turned back to the hotel, reascended to my
bedroom, and threw myself in an armchair by the open window. My
room was near the end of a wing; the corner room at the end was
next to mine, on the same landing. Its closed door, at right
angles to my open one, gave upon the staircase, but was plainly
visible from where I sat. I remembered being glad that it was
shut, as it enabled me without offense to keep my own door open.
The house was very quiet. The leaves of a catalpa, across the
roadway, hung motionless. Somebody yawned on the veranda below. I
threw away my half-finished cigar, and closed my eyes. I think I
had not lost consciousness for more than a few seconds before I was
awakened by the shaking and thrilling of the whole building. As I
staggered to my feet, I saw the four pictures hanging against the
wall swing outwardly from it on their cords, and my door swing back
against the wall. At the same moment, acted upon by the same
potential impulse, the door of the end room in the hall, opposite
the stairs, also swung open. In that brief moment I had a glimpse
of the interior of the room, of two figures, a man and a woman, the
latter clinging to her companion in abject terror. It was only for
an instant, for a second thrill passed through the house, the
pictures clattered back against the wall, the door of the end room
closed violently on its strange revelation, and my own door swung
back also. Apprehensive of what might happen, I sprang toward it,
but only to arrest it an inch or two before it should shut, when,
as my experience had taught me, it might stick by the subsidence of
the walls. But it did stick ajar, and remained firmly fixed in
that position. From the clattering of the knob of the other door,
and the sound of hurried voices behind it, I knew that the same
thing had happened there when that door had fully closed.
I was familiar enough with earthquakes to know that, with the
second shock or subsidence of the earth, the immediate danger was
passed, and so I was able to note more clearly what else was
passing. There was the usual sudden stampede of hurrying feet, the
solitary oath and scream, the half-hysterical laughter, and
silence. Then the tumult was reawakened to the sound of high
voices, talking all together, or the impatient calling of absentees
in halls and corridors. Then I heard the quick swish of female
skirts on the staircase, and one of the fair guests knocked
impatiently at the door of the end room, still immovably fixed. At
the first knock there was a sudden cessation of the hurried
whisperings and turning of the doorknob.
"Mrs. Saltillo, are you there? Are you frightened?" she called.
"Mrs. Saltillo"! It was SHE, then, who was in the room! I drew
nearer my door, which was still fixed ajar. Presently a voice,--
Mrs. Saltillo's voice,--with a constrained laugh in it, came from
behind the door: "Not a bit. I'll come down in a minute."
"Do," persisted the would-be intruder. "It's all over now, but
we're all going out into the garden; it's safer."