Part 3 out of 4
presence they had, without in the least suspecting the actual
truth, become doubtful if the fugitive had proceeded so far. He
might at that moment be snugly ensconced behind some low wire-grass
ridge, watching their own clearly defined figures, and waiting only
for the night to evade them. The Beasley house seemed a proper
place of operation in beating up the field. Ira's cold reception
of the suggestion was duly disposed of by the deputy. "I have the
RIGHT, ye know," he said, with a grim pleasantry, "to summon ye as
my posse to aid and assist me in carrying out the law; but I ain't
the man to be rough on my friends, and I reckon it will do jest as
well if I 'requisition' your house." The dreadful recollection
that the deputy had the power to detail him and the constable to
scour the plain while he remained behind in company with Sue
stopped Ira's further objections. Yet, if he could only get rid of
her while the deputy was in the house,--but then his nearest
neighbor was five miles away! There was nothing left for him to do
but to return with the men and watch his wife keenly. Strange to
say, there was a certain stimulus in this which stirred his
monotonous pulses and was not without a vague pleasure. There is a
revelation to some natures in newly awakened jealousy that is a
reincarnation of love.
As they came into the house a slight circumstance, which an hour
ago would have scarcely touched his sluggish sensibilities, now
appeared to corroborate his fear. His wife had changed her cuffs
and collar, taken off her rough apron, and evidently redressed her
hair. This, with the enhanced brightness of her eyes, which he had
before noticed, convinced him that it was due to the visit of the
deputy. There was no doubt that the official was equally attracted
and fascinated by her prettiness, and although her acceptance of
his return was certainly not a cordial one, there was a kind of
demure restraint and over-consciousness in her manner that might be
coquetry. Ira had vaguely observed this quality in other young
women, but had never experienced it in his brief courtship. There
had been no rivalry, no sexual diplomacy nor insincerity in his
capture of the motherless girl who had leaped from the tail-board
of her father's wagon almost into his arms, and no man had since
come between them. The idea that Sue should care for any other
than himself had been simply inconceivable to his placid, matter-
of-fact nature. That their sacrament was final he had never
doubted. If his two cows, bought with his own money or reared by
him, should suddenly have developed an inclination to give milk to
a neighbor, he would not have been more astonished. But THEY could
have been brought back with a rope, and without a heart throb.
Passion of this kind, which in a less sincere society restricts its
expression to innuendo or forced politeness, left the rustic Ira
only dumb and lethargic. He moved slowly and abstractedly around
the room, accenting his slight lameness more than ever, or dropped
helplessly into a chair, where he sat, inanely conscious of the
contiguity of his wife and the deputy, and stupidly expectant of--
he knew not what. The atmosphere of the little house seemed to him
charged with some unwholesome electricity. It kindled his wife's
eyes, stimulating the deputy and his follower to coarse
playfulness, enthralled his own limbs to the convulsive tightening
of his fingers around the rungs of his chair. Yet he managed to
cling to his idea of keeping his wife occupied, and of preventing
any eyeshot between her and her guests, or the indulgence of
dangerously flippant conversation, by ordering her to bring some
refreshment. "What's gone o' the whiskey bottle?" he said, after
fumbling in the cupboard.
Mrs. Beasley did not blench. She only gave her head a slight toss.
"Ef you men can't get along with the coffee and flapjacks I'm going
to give ye, made with my own hands, ye kin just toddle right along
to the first bar, and order your tangle-foot there. Ef it's a
barkeeper you're looking for, and not a lady, say so!"
The novel audacity of this speech, and the fact that it suggested
that preoccupation he hoped for, relieved Ira for a moment, while
it enchanted the guests as a stroke of coquettish fascination.
Mrs. Beasley triumphantly disappeared in the kitchen, slipped off
her cuffs and set to work, and in a few moments emerged with a tray
bearing the cakes and steaming coffee. As neither she nor her
husband ate anything (possibly owing to an equal preoccupation) the
guests were obliged to confine their attentions to the repast
before them. The sun, too, was already nearing the horizon, and
although its nearly level beams acted like a powerful search-light
over the stretching plain, twilight would soon put an end to the
quest. Yet they lingered. Ira now foresaw a new difficulty: the
cows were to be brought up and fodder taken from the barn; to do
this he would be obliged to leave his wife and the deputy together.
I do not know if Mrs. Beasley divined his perplexity, but she
carelessly offered to perform that evening function herself. Ira's
heart leaped and sank again as the deputy gallantly proposed to
assist her. But here rustic simplicity seemed to be equal to the
occasion. "Ef I propose to do Ira's work," said Mrs. Beasley, with
provocative archness, "it's because I reckon he'll do more good
helpin' you catch your man than you'll do helpin' ME! So clear
out, both of ye!" A feminine audacity that recalled the deputy to
himself, and left him no choice but to accept Ira's aid. I do not
know whether Mrs. Beasley felt a pang of conscience as her husband
arose gratefully and limped after the deputy; I only know that she
stood looking at them from the door, smiling and triumphant.
Then she slipped out of the back door again, and ran swiftly to the
barn, fastening on her clean cuffs and collar as she ran. The
fugitive was anxiously awaiting her, with a slight touch of
brusqueness in his eagerness.
"Thought you were never coming!" he said.
She breathlessly explained, and showed him through the half-opened
door the figures of the three men slowly spreading and diverging
over the plain, like the nearly level sun-rays they were following.
The sunlight fell also on her panting bosom, her electrified sandy
hair, her red, half-opened mouth, and short and freckled upper lip.
The relieved fugitive turned from the three remoter figures to the
one beside him, and saw, for the first time, that it was fair. At
which he smiled, and her face flushed and was irradiated.
Then they fell to talk,--he grateful, boastful,--as the distant
figures grew dim; she quickly assenting, but following his
expression rather than his words, with her own girlish face and
brightening eyes. But what he said, or how he explained his
position, with what speciousness he dwelt upon himself, his wrongs,
and his manifold manly virtues, is not necessary for us to know,
nor was it, indeed, for her to understand. Enough for her that she
felt she had found the one man of all the world, and that she was
at that moment protecting him against all the world! He was the
unexpected, spontaneous gift to her, the companion her childhood
had never known, the lover she had never dreamed of, even the child
of her unsatisfied maternal yearnings. If she could not comprehend
all his selfish incoherences, she felt it was her own fault; if she
could not follow his ignorant assumptions, she knew it was SHE who
was deficient; if she could not translate his coarse speech, it was
because it was the language of a larger world from which she had
been excluded. To this world belonged the beautiful limbs she
gazed on,--a very different world from that which had produced the
rheumatic deformities and useless mayhem of her husband, or the
provincially foppish garments of the deputy. Sitting in the
hayloft together, where she had mounted for greater security, they
forgot themselves in his monologue of cheap vaporing, broken only
by her assenting smiles and her half-checked sighs. The sharp
spices of the heated pine-shingles over their heads and the
fragrance of the clover-scented hay filled the close air around
them. The sun was falling with the wind, but they heeded it not;
until the usual fateful premonition struck the woman, and saying "I
must go now," she only half-unconsciously precipitated the end.
For, as she rose, he caught first her hand and then her waist, and
attempted to raise the face that was suddenly bending down as if
seeking to hide itself in the hay. It was a brief struggle, ending
in a submission as sudden, and their lips met in a kiss, so eager
that it might have been impending for days instead of minutes.
"Oh, Sue! where are ye?"
It was her husband's voice, out of a darkness that they only then
realized. The man threw her aside with a roughness that
momentarily shocked her above any sense of surprise or shame: SHE
would have confronted her husband in his arms,--glorified and
translated,--had he but kept her there. Yet she answered, with a
quiet, level voice that astonished her lover, "Here! I'm just
coming down!" and walked coolly to the ladder. Looking over, and
seeing her husband with the deputy standing in the barnyard, she
quickly returned, put her finger to her lips, made a gesture for
her companion to conceal himself in the hay again, and was turning
away, when, perhaps shamed by her superior calmness, he grasped her
hand tightly and whispered, "Come again tonight, dear; do!" She
hesitated, raised her hand suddenly to her lips, and then quickly
disengaging it, slipped down the ladder.
"Ye haven't done much work yet as I kin see," said Ira wearily.
"Whitey and Red Tip [the cows] are hangin' over the corral, just
"The yellow hen we reckoned was lost is sittin' in the hayloft, and
mustn't be disturbed," said Mrs. Beasley, with decision; "and ye'll
have to take the hay from the stack to-night. And," with an arch
glance at the deputy, "as I don't see that you two have done much
either, you're just in time to help fodder down."
Setting the three men to work with the same bright audacity, the
task was soon completed--particularly as the deputy found no
opportunity for exclusive dalliance with Mrs. Beasley. She shut
the barn door herself, and led the way to the house, learning
incidentally that the deputy had abandoned the chase, was to occupy
a "shake-down" on the kitchen-floor that night with the constable,
and depart at daybreak. The gloom of her husband's face had
settled into a look of heavy resignation and alternate glances of
watchfulness, which only seemed to inspire her with renewed
vivacity. But the cooking of supper withdrew her disturbing
presence for a time from the room, and gave him some relief. When
the meal was ready he sought further surcease from trouble in
copious draughts of whiskey, which she produced from a new bottle,
and even pressed upon the deputy in mischievous contrition for her
"Now I know that it wasn't whiskey only ye came for, I'll show you
that Sue Beasley is no slouch of a barkeeper either," she said.
Then, rolling her sleeves above her pretty arms, she mixed a
cocktail in such delightful imitation of the fashionable
barkeeper's dexterity that her guests were convulsed with
admiration. Even Ira was struck with this revelation of a
youthfulness that five years of household care had checked, but
never yet subdued. He had forgotten that he had married a child.
Only once, when she glanced at the cheap clock on the mantel, had
he noticed another change, more remarkable still from its very
inconsistency with her burst of youthful spirits. It was another
face that he saw,--older and matured with an intensity of
abstraction that struck a chill to his heart. It was not HIS Sue
that was standing there, but another Sue, wrought, as it seemed to
his morbid extravagance, by some one else's hand.
Yet there was another interval of relief when his wife, declaring
she was tired, and even jocosely confessing to some effect of the
liquor she had pretended to taste, went early to bed. The deputy,
not finding the gloomy company of the husband to his taste,
presently ensconced himself on the floor, before the kitchen fire,
in the blankets that she had provided. The constable followed his
example. In a few moments the house was silent and sleeping, save
for Ira sitting alone, with his head sunk on his chest and his
hands gripping the arms of his chair before the dying embers of his
He was trying, with the alternate quickness and inaction of an
inexperienced intellect and an imagination morbidly awakened, to
grasp the situation before him. The common sense that had hitherto
governed his life told him that the deputy would go to-morrow, and
that there was nothing in his wife's conduct to show that her
coquetry and aberration would not pass as easily. But it recurred
to him that she had never shown this coquetry or aberration to HIM
during their own brief courtship,--that she had never looked or
acted like this before. If this was love, she had never known it;
if it was only "women's ways," as he had heard men say, and so
dangerously attractive, why had she not shown it to him? He
remembered that matter-of-fact wedding, the bride without timidity,
without blushes, without expectation beyond the transference of her
home to his. Would it have been different with another man?--with
the deputy, who had called this color and animation to her face?
What did it all mean? Were all married people like this? There
were the Westons, their neighbors,--was Mrs. Weston like Sue? But
he remembered that Mrs. Weston had run away with Mr. Weston from
her father's house. It was what they called "a love match." Would
Sue have run away with him? Would she now run away with--?
The candle was guttering as he rose with a fierce start--his first
impulse of anger--from the table. He took another gulp of whiskey.
It tasted like water; its fire was quenched in the greater heat of
his blood. He would go to bed. Here a new and indefinable
timidity took possession of him; he remembered the strange look in
his wife's face. It seemed suddenly as if the influence of the
sleeping stranger in the next room had not only isolated her from
him, but would make his presence in her bedroom an intrusion on
their hidden secrets. He had to pass the open door of the kitchen.
The head of the unconscious deputy was close to Ira's heavy boot.
He had only to lift his heel to crush that ruddy, good-looking,
complacent face. He hurried past him, up the creaking stairs. His
wife lay still on one side of the bed, apparently asleep, her face
half-hidden in her loosened, fluffy hair. It was well; for in the
vague shyness and restraint that was beginning to take possession
of him he felt he could not have spoken to her, or, if he had, it
would have been only to voice the horrible, unformulated things
that seemed to choke him. He crept softly to the opposite side of
the bed, and began to undress. As he pulled off his boots and
stockings, his eye fell upon his bare, malformed feet. This caused
him to look at his maimed hand, to rise, drag himself across the
floor to the mirror, and gaze upon his lacerated ear. She, this
prettily formed woman lying there, must have seen it often; she
must have known all these years that he was not like other men,--
not like the deputy, with his tight riding-boots, his soft hand,
and the diamond that sparkled vulgarly on his fat little finger. A
cold sweat broke over him. He drew on his stockings again, lifted
the outer counterpane, and, half undressed, crept under it,
wrapping its corner around his maimed hand, as if to hide it from
the light. Yet he felt that he saw things dimly; there was a
moisture on his cheeks and eyelids he could not account for; it
must be the whiskey "coming out."
His wife lay very still; she scarcely seemed to breathe. What if
she should never breathe again, but die as the old Sue he knew, the
lanky girl he had married, unchanged and uncontaminated? It would
be better than this. Yet at the same moment the picture was before
him of her pretty simulation of the barkeeper, of her white bared
arms and laughing eyes, all so new, so fresh to him! He tried to
listen to the slow ticking of the clock, the occasional stirring of
air through the house, and the movement, like a deep sigh, which
was the regular, inarticulate speech of the lonely plain beyond,
and quite distinct from the evening breeze. He had heard it often,
but, like so many things he had learned that day, he never seemed
to have caught its meaning before. Then, perhaps, it was his
supine position, perhaps some cumulative effect of the whiskey he
had taken, but all this presently became confused and whirling.
Out of its gyrations he tried to grasp something, to hear voices
that called him to "wake," and in the midst of it he fell into a
The clock ticked, the wind sighed, the woman at his side lay
motionless for many minutes.
Then the deputy on the kitchen floor rolled over with an appalling
snort, struggled, stretched himself, and awoke. A healthy animal,
he had shaken off the fumes of liquor with a dry tongue and a
thirst for water and fresh air. He raised his knees and rubbed his
eyes. The water bucket was missing from the corner. Well, he knew
where the spring was, and a turn out of the close and stifling
kitchen would do him good. He yawned, put on his boots softly,
opened the back door, and stepped out. Everything was dark, but
above and around him, to the very level of his feet, all apparently
pricked with bright stars. The bulk of the barn rose dimly before
him on the right, to the left was the spring. He reached it,
drank, dipped his head and hands in it, and arose refreshed. The
dry, wholesome breath that blew over this flat disk around him,
rimmed with stars, did the rest. He began to saunter slowly back,
the only reminiscence of his evening's potations being the figure
he recalled of his pretty hostess, with bare arms and lifted
glasses, imitating the barkeeper. A complacent smile straightened
his yellow mustache. How she kept glancing at him and watching
him, the little witch! Ha! no wonder! What could she find in the
surly, slinking, stupid brute yonder? (The gentleman here alluded
to was his host.) But the deputy had not been without a certain
provincial success with the fair. He was true to most men, and
fearless to all. One may not be too hard upon him at this moment
of his life.
For as he was passing the house he stopped suddenly. Above the
dry, dusty, herbal odors of the plain, above the scent of the new-
mown hay within the barn, there was distinctly another fragrance,--
the smell of a pipe. But where? Was it his host who had risen to
take the outer air? Then it suddenly flashed upon him that Beasley
did NOT smoke, nor the constable either. The smell seemed to come
from the barn. Had he followed out the train of ideas thus
awakened, all might have been well; but at this moment his
attention was arrested by a far more exciting incident to him,--the
draped and hooded figure of Mrs. Beasley was just emerging from the
house. He halted instantly in the shadow, and held his breath as
she glided quickly across the intervening space and disappeared in
the half-opened door of the barn. Did she know he was there? A
keen thrill passed over him; his mouth broadened into a breathless
smile. It was his last! for, as he glided forward to the door, the
starry heavens broke into a thousand brilliant fragments around
him, the earth gave way beneath his feet, and he fell forward with
half his skull shot away.
Where he fell there he lay without an outcry, with only one
movement,--the curved and grasping fingers of the fighter's hand
towards his guarded hip. Where he fell there he lay dead, his face
downwards, his good right arm still curved around across his back.
Nothing of him moved but his blood,--broadening slowly round him in
vivid color, and then sluggishly thickening and darkening until it
stopped too, and sank into the earth, a dull brown stain. For an
instant the stillness of death followed the echoless report, then
there was a quick and feverish rustling within the barn, the
hurried opening of a window in the loft, scurrying footsteps,
another interval of silence, and then out of the farther darkness
the sounds of horse-hoofs in the muffled dust of the road. But not
a sound or movement in the sleeping house beyond.
The stars at last paled slowly, the horizon lines came back,--a
thin streak of opal fire. A solitary bird twittered in the bush
beside the spring. Then the back door of the house opened, and the
constable came forth, half-awakened and apologetic, and with the
bewildered haste of a belated man. His eyes were level, looking
for his missing leader as he went on, until at last he stumbled and
fell over the now cold and rigid body. He scrambled to his feet
again, cast a hurried glance around him,--at the half-opened door
of the barn, at the floor littered with trampled hay. In one
corner lay the ragged blouse and trousers of the fugitive, which
the constable instantly recognized. He went back to the house, and
reappeared in a few moments with Ira, white, stupefied, and
hopelessly bewildered; clear only in his statement that his wife
had just fainted at the news of the catastrophe, and was equally
helpless in her own room. The constable--a man of narrow ideas but
quick action--saw it all. The mystery was plain without further
evidence. The deputy had been awakened by the prowling of the
fugitive around the house in search of a horse. Sallying out, they
had met, and Ira's gun, which stood in the kitchen, and which the
deputy had seized, had been wrested from him and used with fatal
effect at arm's length, and the now double assassin had escaped on
the sheriff's horse, which was missing. Turning the body over to
the trembling Ira, he saddled his horse and galloped to Lowville
These facts were fully established at the hurried inquest which met
that day. There was no need to go behind the evidence of the
constable, the only companion of the murdered man and first
discoverer of the body. The fact that he, on the ground floor, had
slept through the struggle and the report, made the obliviousness
of the couple in the room above a rational sequence. The dazed Ira
was set aside, after half a dozen contemptuous questions; the
chivalry of a Californian jury excused the attendance of a
frightened and hysterical woman confined to her room. By noon they
had departed with the body, and the long afternoon shadows settled
over the lonely plain and silent house. At nightfall Ira appeared
at the door, and stood for some moments scanning the plain; he was
seen later by two packers, who had glanced furtively at the scene
of the late tragedy, sitting outside his doorway, a mere shadow in
the darkness; and a mounted patrol later in the night saw a light
in the bedroom window where the invalid Mrs. Beasley was confined.
But no one saw her afterwards. Later, Ira explained that she had
gone to visit a relative until her health was restored. Having few
friends and fewer neighbors, she was not missed; and even the
constable, the sole surviving guest who had enjoyed her brief
eminence of archness and beauty that fatal night, had quite
forgotten her in his vengeful quest of the murderer. So that
people became accustomed to see this lonely man working in the
fields by day, or at nightfall gazing fixedly from his doorway. At
the end of three months he was known as the recluse or "hermit" of
Bolinas Plain; in the rapid history-making of that epoch it was
forgotten that he had ever been anything else.
But Justice, which in those days was apt to nod over the affairs of
the average citizen, was keenly awake to offenses against its own
officers; and it chanced that the constable, one day walking
through the streets of Marysville, recognized the murderer and
apprehended him. He was removed to Lowville. Here, probably
through some modest doubt of the ability of the County Court, which
the constable represented, to deal with purely circumstantial
evidence, he was not above dropping a hint to the local Vigilance
Committee, who, singularly enough, in spite of his resistance, got
possession of the prisoner. It was the rainy season, and business
was slack; the citizens of Lowville were thus enabled to give so
notorious a case their fullest consideration, and to assist
cheerfully at the ultimate hanging of the prisoner, which seemed to
be a foregone conclusion.
But herein they were mistaken. For when the constable had given
his evidence, already known to the county, there was a disturbance
in the fringe of humanity that lined the walls of the assembly room
where the committee was sitting, and the hermit of Bolinas Plain
limped painfully into the room. He had evidently walked there: he
was soaked with rain and plastered with mud; he was exhausted and
inarticulate. But as he staggered to the witness-bench, and
elbowed the constable aside, he arrested the attention of every
one. A few laughed, but were promptly silenced by the court. It
was a reflection upon its only virtue,--sincerity.
"Do you know the prisoner?" asked the judge.
Ira Beasley glanced at the pale face of the acrobat, and shook his
"Never saw him before," he said faintly.
"Then what are you doing here?" demanded the judge sternly.
Ira collected himself with evident effort, and rose to his halting
feet. First he moistened his dry lips, then he said, slowly and
distinctly, "Because I killed the deputy of Bolinas."
With the thrill which ran through the crowded room, and the relief
that seemed to come upon him with that utterance, he gained
strength and even a certain dignity.
"I killed him," he went on, turning his head slowly around the
circle of eager auditors with the rigidity of a wax figure,
"because he made love to my wife. I killed him because he wanted
to run away with her. I killed him because I found him waiting for
her at the door of the barn at the dead o' night, when she'd got
outer bed to jine him. He hadn't no gun. He hadn't no fight. I
killed him in his tracks. That man," pointing to the prisoner,
"wasn't in it at all." He stopped, loosened his collar, and,
baring his rugged throat below his disfigured ear, said: "Now take
me out and hang me!"
"What proof have we of this? Where's your wife? Does she
A slight tremor ran over him.
"She ran away that night, and never came back again. Perhaps," he
added slowly, "because she loved him and couldn't bear me; perhaps,
as I've sometimes allowed to myself, gentlemen, it was because she
didn't want to bear evidence agin me."
In the silence that followed the prisoner was heard speaking to one
that was near him. Then he rose. All the audacity and confidence
that the husband had lacked were in HIS voice. Nay, there was even
a certain chivalry in his manner which, for the moment, the rascal
"It's true!" he said. "After I stole the horse to get away, I
found that woman running wild down the road, cryin' and sobbin'.
At first I thought she'd done the shooting. It was a risky thing
for me to do, gentlemen; but I took her up on the horse and got her
away to Lowville. It was that much dead weight agin my chances,
but I took it. She was a woman and--I ain't a dog!"
He was so exalted and sublimated by his fiction that for the first
time the jury was impressed in his favor. And when Ira Beasley
limped across the room, and, extending his maimed hand to the
prisoner, said, "Shake!" there was another dead silence.
It was broken by the voice of the judge addressing the constable.
"What do you know of the deputy's attentions to Mrs. Beasley? Were
they enough to justify the husband's jealousy? Did he make love to
The constable hesitated. He was a narrow man, with a crude sense
of the principles rather than the methods of justice. He
remembered the deputy's admiration; he now remembered, even more
strongly, the object of that admiration, simulating with her pretty
arms the gestures of the barkeeper, and the delight it gave them.
He was loyal to his dead leader, but he looked up and down, and
then said, slowly and half-defiantly: "Well, judge, he was a MAN."
Everybody laughed. That the strongest and most magic of all human
passions should always awake levity in any public presentment of or
allusion to it was one of the inconsistencies of human nature which
even a lynch judge had to admit. He made no attempt to control the
tittering of the court, for he felt that the element of tragedy was
no longer there. The foreman of the jury arose and whispered to
the judge amid another silence. Then the judge spoke:--
"The prisoner and his witness are both discharged. The prisoner to
leave the town within twenty-four hours; the witness to be
conducted to his own house at the expense of, and with the thanks
of, the Committee."
They say that one afternoon, when a low mist of rain had settled
over the sodden Bolinas Plain, a haggard, bedraggled, and worn-out
woman stepped down from a common "freighting wagon" before the
doorway where Beasley still sat; that, coming forward, he caught
her in his arms and called her "Sue;" and they say that they lived
happily together ever afterwards. But they say--and this requires
some corroboration--that much of that happiness was due to Mrs.
Beasley's keeping forever in her husband's mind her own heroic
sacrifice in disappearing as a witness against him, her own
forgiveness of his fruitless crime, and the gratitude he owed to
THE STRANGE EXPERIENCE OF ALKALI DICK
He was a "cowboy." A reckless and dashing rider, yet mindful of
his horse's needs; good-humored by nature, but quick in quarrel;
independent of circumstance, yet shy and sensitive of opinion;
abstemious by education and general habit, yet intemperate in
amusement; self-centred, yet possessed of a childish vanity,--taken
altogether, a characteristic product of the Western plains, which
he never should have left.
But reckless adventure after adventure had brought him into
difficulties, from which there was only one equally adventurous
escape: he joined a company of Indians engaged by Buffalo Bill to
simulate before civilized communities the sports and customs of the
uncivilized. In divers Christian arenas of the nineteenth century
he rode as a northern barbarian of the first might have disported
before the Roman populace, but harmlessly, of his own free will,
and of some little profit to himself. He threw his lasso under the
curious eyes of languid men and women of the world, eager for some
new sensation, with admiring plaudits from them and a half
contemptuous egotism of his own. But outside of the arena he was
lonely, lost, and impatient for excitement.
An ingenious attempt to "paint the town red" did not commend itself
as a spectacle to the householders who lived in the vicinity of
Earl's Court, London, and Alkali Dick was haled before a
respectable magistrate by a serious policeman, and fined as if he
had been only a drunken coster. A later attempt at Paris to
"incarnadine" the neighborhood of the Champs de Mars, and "round
up" a number of boulevardiers, met with a more disastrous result,--
the gleam of steel from mounted gendarmes, and a mandate to his
So it came that one night, after the conclusion of the performance,
Alkali Dick rode out of the corral gate of the Hippodrome with his
last week's salary in his pocket and an imprecation on his lips.
He had shaken the sawdust of the sham arena from his high, tight-
fitting boots; he would shake off the white dust of France, and the
effeminate soil of all Europe also, and embark at once for his own
country and the Far West!
A more practical and experienced man would have sold his horse at
the nearest market and taken train to Havre, but Alkali Dick felt
himself incomplete on terra firma without his mustang,--it would be
hard enough to part from it on embarking,--and he had determined to
ride to the seaport.
The spectacle of a lithe horseman, clad in a Rembrandt sombrero,
velvet jacket, turnover collar, almost Van Dyke in its proportions,
white trousers and high boots, with long curling hair falling over
his shoulders, and a pointed beard and mustache, was a picturesque
one, but still not a novelty to the late-supping Parisians who
looked up under the midnight gas as he passed, and only recognized
one of those men whom Paris had agreed to designate as "Booflo-
bils," going home.
At three o'clock he pulled up at a wayside cabaret, preferring it
to the publicity of a larger hotel, and lay there till morning.
The slight consternation of the cabaret-keeper and his wife over
this long-haired phantom, with glittering, deep-set eyes, was
soothed by a royally-flung gold coin, and a few words of French
slang picked up in the arena, which, with the name of Havre,
comprised Dick's whole knowledge of the language. But he was
touched with their ready and intelligent comprehension of his
needs, and their genial if not so comprehensive loquacity. Luckily
for his quick temper, he did not know that they had taken him for a
traveling quack-doctor going to the Fair of Yvetot, and that madame
had been on the point of asking him for a magic balsam to prevent
He was up betimes and away, giving a wide berth to the larger towns;
taking byways and cut-offs, yet always with the Western pathfinder's
instinct, even among these alien, poplar-haunted plains, low-banked
willow-fringed rivers, and cloverless meadows. The white sun shining
everywhere,--on dazzling arbors, summer-houses, and trellises; on
light green vines and delicate pea-rows; on the white trousers,
jackets, and shoes of smart shopkeepers or holiday makers; on the
white headdresses of nurses and the white-winged caps of the
Sisters of St. Vincent,--all this grew monotonous to this native of
still more monotonous wastes. The long, black shadows of short,
blue-skirted, sabotted women and short, blue-bloused, sabotted men
slowly working in the fields, with slow oxen, or still slower heavy
Norman horses; the same horses gayly bedecked, dragging slowly not
only heavy wagons, but their own apparently more monstrous weight
over the white road, fretted his nervous Western energy, and made
him impatient to get on.
At the close of the second day he found some relief on entering a
trackless wood,--not the usual formal avenue of equidistant trees,
leading to nowhere, and stopping upon the open field,--but
apparently a genuine forest as wild as one of his own "oak
bottoms." Gnarled roots and twisted branches flung themselves
across his path; his mustang's hoofs sank in deep pits of moss and
last year's withered leaves; trailing vines caught his heavy-
stirruped feet, or brushed his broad sombrero; the vista before him
seemed only to endlessly repeat the same sylvan glade; he was in
fancy once more in the primeval Western forest, and encompassed by
its vast, dim silences. He did not know that he had in fact only
penetrated an ancient park which in former days resounded to the
winding fanfare of the chase, and was still, on stated occasions,
swept over by accurately green-coated Parisians and green-plumed
Dianes, who had come down by train! To him it meant only unfettered
and unlimited freedom.
He rose in his stirrups, and sent a characteristic yell ringing
down the dim aisles before him. But, alas! at the same moment, his
mustang, accustomed to the firmer grip of the prairie, in lashing
out, stepped upon a slimy root, and fell heavily, rolling over his
clinging and still unlodged rider. For a few moments both lay
still. Then Dick extricated himself with an oath, rose giddily,
dragged up his horse,--who, after the fashion of his race, was
meekly succumbing to his reclining position,--and then became aware
that the unfortunate beast was badly sprained in the shoulder, and
temporarily lame. The sudden recollection that he was some miles
from the road, and that the sun was sinking, concentrated his
scattered faculties. The prospect of sleeping out in that summer
woodland was nothing to the pioneer-bred Dick; he could make his
horse and himself comfortable anywhere--but he was delaying his
arrival at Havre. He must regain the high road,--or some wayside
inn. He glanced around him; the westering sun was a guide for his
general direction; the road must follow it north or south; he would
find a "clearing" somewhere. But here Dick was mistaken; there
seemed no interruption of, no encroachment upon this sylvan tract,
as in his western woods. There was no track or trail to be found;
he missed even the ordinary woodland signs that denoted the path of
animals to water. For the park, from the time a Northern Duke had
first alienated it from the virgin forest, had been rigidly
Suddenly, rising apparently from the ground before him, he saw the
high roof-ridges and tourelles of a long, irregular, gloomy
building. A few steps further showed him that it lay in a cup-like
depression of the forest, and that it was still a long descent from
where he had wandered to where it stood in the gathering darkness.
His mustang was moving with great difficulty; he uncoiled his
lariat from the saddle-horn, and, selecting the most open space,
tied one end to the trunk of a large tree,--the forty feet of
horsehair rope giving the animal a sufficient degree of grazing
Then he strode more quickly down the forest side towards the
building, which now revealed its austere proportions, though Dick
could see that they were mitigated by a strange, formal flower-
garden, with quaint statues and fountains. There were grim black
allees of clipped trees, a curiously wrought iron gate, and twisted
iron espaliers. On one side the edifice was supported by a great
stone terrace, which seemed to him as broad as a Parisian
boulevard. Yet everywhere it appeared sleeping in the desertion
and silence of the summer twilight. The evening breeze swayed the
lace curtains at the tall windows, but nothing else moved. To the
unsophisticated Western man it looked like a scene on the stage.
His progress was, however, presently checked by the first sight of
preservation he had met in the forest,--a thick hedge, which
interfered between him and a sloping lawn beyond. It was up to his
waist, yet he began to break his way through it, when suddenly he
was arrested by the sound of voices. Before him, on the lawn, a
man and woman, evidently servants, were slowly advancing, peering
into the shadows of the wood which he had just left. He could not
understand what they were saying, but he was about to speak and
indicate by signs his desire to find the road when the woman,
turning towards her companion, caught sight of his face and
shoulders above the hedge. To his surprise and consternation, he
saw the color drop out of her fresh cheeks, her round eyes fix in
their sockets, and with a despairing shriek she turned and fled
towards the house. The man turned at his companion's cry, gave the
same horrified glance at Dick's face, uttered a hoarse "Sacre!"
crossed himself violently, and fled also.
Amazed, indignant, and for the first time in his life humiliated,
Dick gazed speechlessly after them. The man, of course, was a
sneaking coward; but the woman was rather pretty. It had not been
Dick's experience to have women run from him! Should he follow
them, knock the silly fellow's head against a tree, and demand an
explanation? Alas, he knew not the language! They had already
reached the house and disappeared in one of the offices. Well! let
them go--for a mean "lowdown" pair of country bumpkins:--HE wanted
no favors from them!
He turned back angrily into the forest to seek his unlucky beast.
The gurgle of water fell on his ear; hard by was a spring, where at
least he could water the mustang. He stooped to examine it; there
was yet light enough in the sunset sky to throw back from that
little mirror the reflection of his thin, oval face, his long,
curling hair, and his pointed beard and mustache. Yes! this was
his face,--the face that many women in Paris had agreed was
romantic and picturesque. Had those wretched greenhorns never seen
a real man before? Were they idiots, or insane? A sudden
recollection of the silence and seclusion of the building suggested
certainly an asylum,--but where were the keepers?
It was getting darker in the wood; he made haste to recover his
horse, to drag it to the spring, and there bathe its shoulder in
the water mixed with whiskey taken from his flask. His saddle-bag
contained enough bread and meat for his own supper; he would camp
for the night where he was, and with the first light of dawn make
his way back through the wood whence he came. As the light slowly
faded from the wood he rolled himself in his saddle-blanket and lay
But not to sleep. His strange position, the accident to his horse,
an unusual irritation over the incident of the frightened
servants,--trivial as it might have been to any other man,--and,
above all, an increasing childish curiosity, kept him awake and
restless. Presently he could see also that it was growing lighter
beyond the edge of the wood, and that the rays of a young crescent
moon, while it plunged the forest into darkness and impassable
shadow, evidently was illuminating the hollow below. He threw
aside his blanket, and made his way to the hedge again. He was
right; he could see the quaint, formal lines of the old garden more
distinctly,--the broad terrace, the queer, dark bulk of the house,
with lights now gleaming from a few of its open windows.
Before one of these windows opening on the terrace was a small,
white, draped table with fruits, cups, and glasses, and two or
three chairs. As he gazed curiously at these new signs of life and
occupation, he became aware of a regular and monotonous tap upon
the stone flags of the terrace. Suddenly he saw three figures
slowly turn the corner of the terrace at the further end of the
building, and walk towards the table. The central figure was that
of an elderly woman, yet tall and stately of carriage, walking with
a stick, whose regular tap he had heard, supported on the one side
by an elderly Cure in black soutaine, and on the other by a tall
and slender girl in white.
They walked leisurely to the other end of the terrace, as if
performing a regular exercise, and returned, stopping before the
open French window; where, after remaining in conversation a few
moments, the elderly lady and her ecclesiastical companion entered.
The young girl sauntered slowly to the steps of the terrace, and
leaning against a huge vase as she looked over the garden, seemed
lost in contemplation. Her face was turned towards the wood, but
in quite another direction from where he stood.
There was something so gentle, refined, and graceful in her figure,
yet dominated by a girlish youthfulness of movement and gesture,
that Alkali Dick was singularly interested. He had probably never
seen an ingenue before; he had certainly never come in contact with
a girl of that caste and seclusion in his brief Parisian experience.
He was sorely tempted to leave his hedge and try to obtain a nearer
view of her. There was a fringe of lilac bushes running from the
garden up the slope; if he could gain their shadows, he could
descend into the garden. What he should do after his arrival he had
not thought; but he had one idea--he knew not why--that if he
ventured to speak to her he would not be met with the abrupt rustic
terror he had experienced at the hands of the servants. SHE was not
of that kind! He crept through the hedge, reached the lilacs, and
began the descent softly and securely in the shadow. But at the
same moment she arose, called in a youthful voice towards the open
window, and began to descend the steps. A half-expostulating reply
came from the window, but the young girl answered it with the
laughing, capricious confidence of a spoiled child, and continued
her way into the garden. Here she paused a moment and hung over a
rose-tree, from which she gathered a flower, afterwards thrust into
her belt. Dick paused, too, half-crouching, half-leaning over a
lichen-stained, cracked stone pedestal from which the statue had
long been overthrown and forgotten.
To his surprise, however, the young girl, following the path to the
lilacs, began leisurely to ascend the hill, swaying from side to
side with a youthful movement, and swinging the long stalk of a
lily at her side. In another moment he would be discovered! Dick
was frightened; his confidence of the moment before had all gone;
he would fly,--and yet, an exquisite and fearful joy kept him
motionless. She was approaching him, full and clear in the
moonlight. He could see the grace of her delicate figure in the
simple white frock drawn at the waist with broad satin ribbon, and
its love-knots of pale blue ribbons on her shoulders; he could see
the coils of her brown hair, the pale, olive tint of her oval
cheek, the delicate, swelling nostril of her straight, clear-cut
nose; he could even smell the lily she carried in her little hand.
Then, suddenly, she lifted her long lashes, and her large gray eyes
Alas! the same look of vacant horror came into her eyes, and fixed
and dilated their clear pupils. But she uttered no outcry,--there
was something in her blood that checked it; something that even
gave a dignity to her recoiling figure, and made Dick flush with
admiration. She put her hand to her side, as if the shock of the
exertion of her ascent had set her heart to beating, but she did
not faint. Then her fixed look gave way to one of infinite
sadness, pity, and pathetic appeal. Her lips were parted; they
seemed to be moving, apparently in prayer. At last her voice came,
wonderingly, timidly, tenderly: "Mon Dieu! c'est donc vous? Ici?
C'est vous que Marie a crue voir! Que venez-vous faire ici, Armand
de Fontonelles? Repondez!"
Alas, not a word was comprehensible to Dick; nor could he think of
a word to say in reply. He made an uncouth, half-irritated, half-
despairing gesture towards the wood he had quitted, as if to
indicate his helpless horse, but he knew it was meaningless to the
frightened yet exalted girl before him. Her little hand crept to
her breast and clutched a rosary within the folds of her dress, as
her soft voice again arose, low but appealingly:
"Vous souffrez! Ah, mon Dieu! Peuton vous secourir? Moi-meme--
mes prieres pourraient elles interceder pour vous? Je supplierai
le ciel de prendre en pitie l'ame de mon ancetre. Monsieur le Cure
est la,--je lui parlerai. Lui et ma mere vous viendront en aide."
She clasped her hands appealingly before him.
Dick stood bewildered, hopeless, mystified; he had not understood a
word; he could not say a word. For an instant he had a wild idea
of seizing her hand and leading her to his helpless horse, and then
came what he believed was his salvation,--a sudden flash of
recollection that he had seen the word he wanted, the one word that
would explain all, in a placarded notice at the Cirque of a
bracelet that had been LOST,--yes, the single word "PERDU." He
made a step towards her, and in a voice almost as faint as her own,
With a little cry, that was more like a sigh than an outcry, the
girl's arms fell to her side; she took a step backwards, reeled,
and fainted away.
Dick caught her as she fell. What had he said!--but, more than
all, what should he do now? He could not leave her alone and
helpless,--yet how could he justify another disconcerting
intrusion? He touched her hands; they were cold and lifeless; her
eyes were half closed; her face as pale and drooping as her lily.
Well, he must brave the worst now, and carry her to the house, even
at the risk of meeting the others and terrifying them as he had
her. He caught her up,--he scarcely felt her weight against his
breast and shoulder,--and ran hurriedly down the slope to the
terrace, which was still deserted. If he had time to place her on
some bench beside the window within their reach, he might still fly
undiscovered! But as he panted up the steps of the terrace with
his burden, he saw that the French window was still open, but the
light seemed to have been extinguished. It would be safer for her
if he could place her INSIDE the house,--if he but dared to enter.
He was desperate, and he dared!
He found himself alone, in a long salon of rich but faded white and
gold hangings, lit at the further end by two tall candles on either
side of the high marble mantel, whose rays, however, scarcely
reached the window where he had entered. He laid his burden on a
high-backed sofa. In so doing, the rose fell from her belt. He
picked it up, put it in his breast, and turned to go. But he was
arrested by a voice from the terrace:--
It was the voice of the elderly lady, who, with the Cure at her
side, had just appeared from the rear of the house, and from the
further end of the terrace was looking towards the garden in search
of the young girl. His escape in that way was cut off. To add to
his dismay, the young girl, perhaps roused by her mother's voice,
was beginning to show signs of recovering consciousness. Dick
looked quickly around him. There was an open door, opposite the
window, leading to a hall which, no doubt, offered some exit on the
other side of the house. It was his only remaining chance! He
darted through it, closed it behind him, and found himself at the
end of a long hall or picture-gallery, strangely illuminated
through high windows, reaching nearly to the roof, by the moon,
which on that side of the building threw nearly level bars of light
and shadows across the floor and the quaint portraits on the wall.
But to his delight he could see at the other end a narrow, lance-
shaped open postern door showing the moonlit pavement without--
evidently the door through which the mother and the Cure had just
passed out. He ran rapidly towards it. As he did so he heard the
hurried ringing of bells and voices in the room he had quitted--the
young girl had evidently been discovered--and this would give him
time. He had nearly reached the door, when he stopped suddenly--
his blood chilled with awe! It was his turn to be terrified--he
was standing, apparently, before HIMSELF!
His first recovering thought was that it was a mirror--so accurately
was every line and detail of his face and figure reflected. But a
second scrutiny showed some discrepancies of costume, and he saw it
was a panelled portrait on the wall. It was of a man of his own
age, height, beard, complexion, and features, with long curls like
his own, falling over a lace Van Dyke collar, which, however, again
simulated the appearance of his own hunting-shirt. The broad-
brimmed hat in the picture, whose drooping plume was lost in shadow,
was scarcely different from Dick's sombrero. But the likeness of the
face to Dick was marvelous--convincing! As he gazed at it, the
wicked black eyes seemed to flash and kindle at his own,--its lip
curled with Dick's own sardonic humor!
He was recalled to himself by a step in the gallery. It was the
Cure who had entered hastily, evidently in search of one of the
servants. Partly because it was a man and not a woman, partly from
a feeling of bravado--and partly from a strange sense, excited by
the picture, that he had some claim to be there, he turned and
faced the pale priest with a slight dash of impatient devilry that
would have done credit to the portrait. But he was sorry for it
the next moment!
The priest, looking up suddenly, discovered what seemed to him to
be the portrait standing before its own frame and glaring at him.
Throwing up his hands with an averted head and an "EXORCIS--!" he
wheeled and scuffled away. Dick seized the opportunity, darted
through the narrow door on to the rear terrace, and ran, under
cover of the shadow of the house, to the steps into the garden.
Luckily for him, this new and unexpected diversion occupied the
inmates too much with what was going on in the house to give them
time to search outside. Dick reached the lilac hedge, tore up the
hill, and in a few moments threw himself, panting, on his blanket.
In the single look he had cast behind, he had seen that the half-
dark salon was now brilliantly lighted--where no doubt the whole
terrified household was now assembled. He had no fear of being
followed; since his confrontation with his own likeness in the
mysterious portrait, he understood everything. The apparently
supernatural character of his visitation was made plain; his
ruffled vanity was soothed--his vindication was complete. He
laughed to himself and rolled about, until in his suppressed
merriment the rose fell from his bosom, and--he stopped! Its
freshness and fragrance recalled the innocent young girl he had
frightened. He remembered her gentle, pleading voice, and his
cheek flushed. Well, he had done the best he could in bringing her
back to the house--at the risk of being taken for a burglar--and
she was safe now! If that stupid French parson didn't know the
difference between a living man and a dead and painted one, it
wasn't his fault. But he fell asleep with the rose in his fingers.
He was awake at the first streak of dawn. He again bathed his
horse's shoulder, saddled, but did not mount him, as the beast,
although better, was still stiff, and Dick wished to spare him for
the journey to still distant Havre, although he had determined to
lie over that night at the first wayside inn. Luckily for him, the
disturbance at the chateau had not extended to the forest, for Dick
had to lead his horse slowly and could not have escaped; but no
suspicion of external intrusion seemed to have been awakened, and
the woodland was, evidently, seldom invaded.
By dint of laying his course by the sun and the exercise of a
little woodcraft, in the course of two hours he heard the creaking
of a hay-cart, and knew that he was near a traveled road. But to
his discomfiture he presently came to a high wall, which had
evidently guarded this portion of the woods from the public. Time,
however, had made frequent breaches in the stones; these had been
roughly filled in with a rude abatis of logs and treetops pointing
towards the road. But as these were mainly designed to prevent
intrusion into the park rather than egress from it, Dick had no
difficulty in rolling them aside and emerging at last with his
limping steed upon the white high-road. The creaking cart had
passed; it was yet early for traffic, and Dick presently came upon
a wine-shop, a bakery, a blacksmith's shop, laundry, and a somewhat
pretentious cafe and hotel in a broader space which marked the
junction of another road.
Directly before it, however, to his consternation, were the
massive, but timeworn, iron gates of a park, which Dick did not
doubt was the one in which he had spent the previous night. But it
was impossible to go further in his present plight, and he boldly
approached the restaurant. As he was preparing to make his usual
explanatory signs, to his great delight he was addressed in a
quaint, broken English, mixed with forgotten American slang, by the
white-trousered, black-alpaca coated proprietor. More than that--
he was a Social Democrat and an enthusiastic lover of America--had
he not been to "Bos-town" and New York, and penetrated as far west
as "Booflo," and had much pleasure in that beautiful and free
country? Yes! it was a "go-a-'ed" country--you "bet-your-lif'."
One had reason to say so: there was your electricity--your street
cars--your "steambots"--ah! such steambots--and your "r-rail-r-
roads." Ah! observe! compare your r-rail-r-roads and the buffet of
the Pullman with the line from Paris, for example--and where is
one? Nowhere! Actually, positively, without doubt, nowhere!
Later, at an appetizing breakfast--at which, to Dick's great
satisfaction, the good man had permitted and congratulated himself
to sit at table with a free-born American--he was even more
loquacious. For what then, he would ask, was this incompetence,
this imbecility, of France? He would tell. It was the vile
corruption of Paris, the grasping of capital and companies, the
fatal influence of the still clinging noblesse, and the insidious
Jesuitical power of the priests. As for example, Monsieur "the
Booflo-bil" had doubtless noticed the great gates of the park
before the cafe? It was the preserve,--the hunting-park of one of
the old grand seigneurs, still kept up by his descendants, the
Comtes de Fontonelles--hundreds of acres that had never been
tilled, and kept as wild waste wilderness,--kept for a day's
pleasure in a year! And, look you! the peasants starving around
its walls in their small garden patches and pinched farms! And the
present Comte de Fontonelles cascading gold on his mistresses in
Paris; and the Comtesse, his mother, and her daughter living there
to feed and fatten and pension a brood of plotting, black-cowled
priests. Ah, bah! where was your Republican France, then? But a
time would come. The "Booflo-bil" had, without doubt, noticed, as
he came along the road, the breaches in the wall of the park?
Dick, with a slight dry reserve, "reckoned that he had."
"They were made by the scythes and pitchforks of the peasants in
the Revolution of '93, when the count was emigre, as one says with
reason 'skedadelle,' to England. Let them look the next time that
they burn not the chateau,--'bet your lif'!'"
"The chateau," said Dick, with affected carelessness. "Wot's the
blamed thing like?"
It was an old affair,--with armor and a picture-gallery,--and
bricabrac. He had never seen it. Not even as a boy,--it was kept
very secluded then. As a man--you understand--he could not ask the
favor. The Comtes de Fontonelles and himself were not friends.
The family did not like a cafe near their sacred gates,--where had
stood only the huts of their retainers. The American would observe
that he had not called it "Cafe de Chateau," nor "Cafe de
Fontonelles,"--the gold of California would not induce him. Why
did he remain there? Naturally, to goad them! It was a principle,
one understood. To GOAD them and hold them in check! One kept a
cafe,--why not? One had one's principles,--one's conviction,--that
was another thing! That was the kind of "'air-pin"--was it not?--
that HE, Gustav Ribaud, was like!
Yet for all his truculent socialism, he was quick, obliging, and
charmingly attentive to Dick and his needs. As to Dick's horse, he
should have the best veterinary surgeon--there was an incomparable
one in the person of the blacksmith--see to him, and if it were an
affair of days, and Dick must go, he himself would be glad to
purchase the beast, his saddle, and accoutrements. It was an
affair of business,--an advertisement for the cafe! He would ride
the horse himself before the gates of the park. It would please
his customers. Ha! he had learned a trick or two in free America.
Dick's first act had been to shave off his characteristic beard and
mustache, and even to submit his long curls to the village barber's
shears, while a straw hat, which he bought to take the place of his
slouched sombrero, completed his transformation. His host saw in
the change only the natural preparation of a voyager, but Dick had
really made the sacrifice, not from fear of detection, for he had
recovered his old swaggering audacity, but from a quick distaste he
had taken to his resemblance to the portrait. He was too genuine a
Westerner, and too vain a man, to feel flattered at his resemblance
to an aristocratic bully, as he believed the ancestral De Fontonelles
to be. Even his momentary sensation as he faced the Cure in the
picture-gallery was more from a vague sense that liberties had been
taken with his, Dick's, personality, than that he had borrowed
anything from the portrait.
But he was not so clear about the young girl. Her tender,
appealing voice, although he knew it had been addressed only to a
vision, still thrilled his fancy. The pluck that had made her
withstand her fear so long--until he had uttered that dreadful
word--still excited his admiration. His curiosity to know what
mistake he had made--for he knew it must have been some frightful
blunder--was all the more keen, as he had no chance to rectify it.
What a brute she must have thought him--or DID she really think him
a brute even then?--for her look was one more of despair and pity!
Yet she would remember him only by that last word, and never know
that he had risked insult and ejection from her friends to carry
her to her place of safety. He could not bear to go across the
seas carrying the pale, unsatisfied face of that gentle girl ever
before his eyes! A sense of delicacy--new to Dick, but always the
accompaniment of deep feeling--kept him from even hinting his story
to his host, though he knew--perhaps BECAUSE he knew--that it would
gratify his enmity to the family. A sudden thought struck Dick.
He knew her house, and her name. He would write her a note.
Somebody would be sure to translate it for her.
He borrowed pen, ink, and paper, and in the clean solitude of his
fresh chintz bedroom, indited the following letter:--
DEAR MISS FONTONELLES,--Please excuse me for having skeert you. I
hadn't any call to do it, I never reckoned to do it--it was all
jest my derned luck; I only reckoned to tell you I was lost--in
them blamed woods--don't you remember?--"lost"--PERDOO!--and then
you up and fainted! I wouldn't have come into your garden, only,
you see, I'd just skeered by accident two of your helps, reg'lar
softies, and I wanted to explain. I reckon they allowed I was that
man that that picture in the hall was painted after. I reckon they
took ME for him--see? But he ain't MY style, nohow, and I never
saw the picture at all until after I'd toted you, when you fainted,
up to your house, or I'd have made my kalkilations and acted
according. I'd have laid low in the woods, and got away without
skeerin' you. You see what I mean? It was mighty mean of me, I
suppose, to have tetched you at all, without saying, "Excuse me,
miss," and toted you out of the garden and up the steps into your
own parlor without asking your leave. But the whole thing tumbled
so suddent. And it didn't seem the square thing for me to lite out
and leave you lying there on the grass. That's why! I'm sorry I
skeert that old preacher, but he came upon me in the picture hall
so suddent, that it was a mighty close call, I tell you, to get off
without a shindy. Please forgive me, Miss Fontonelles. When you
get this, I shall be going back home to America, but you might
write to me at Denver City, saying you're all right. I liked your
style; I liked your grit in standing up to me in the garden until
you had your say, when you thought I was the Lord knows what--
though I never understood a word you got off--not knowing French.
But it's all the same now. Say! I've got your rose!
Yours very respectfully,
Dick folded the epistle and put it in his pocket. He would post it
himself on the morning before he left. When he came downstairs he
found his indefatigable host awaiting him, with the report of the
veterinary blacksmith. There was nothing seriously wrong with the
mustang, but it would be unfit to travel for several days. The
landlord repeated his former offer. Dick, whose money was pretty
well exhausted, was fain to accept, reflecting that SHE had never
seen the mustang and would not recognize it. But he drew the line
at the sombrero, to which his host had taken a great fancy. He had
worn it before HER!
Later in the evening Dick was sitting on the low veranda of the
cafe, overlooking the white road. A round white table was beside
him, his feet were on the railing, but his eyes were resting beyond
on the high, mouldy iron gates of the mysterious park. What he was
thinking of did not matter, but he was a little impatient at the
sudden appearance of his host--whom he had evaded during the
afternoon--at his side. The man's manner was full of bursting
loquacity and mysterious levity.
Truly, it was a good hour when Dick had arrived at Fontonelles,--
"just in time." He could see now what a world of imbeciles was
France. What stupid ignorance ruled, what low cunning and low tact
could achieve,--in effect, what jugglers and mountebanks,
hypocritical priests and licentious and lying noblesse went to make
up existing society. Ah, there had been a fine excitement, a
regular coup d'theatre at Fontonelles,--the chateau yonder; here at
the village, where the news was brought by frightened grooms and
silly women! He had been in the thick of it all the afternoon! He
had examined it,--interrogated them like a juge d'instruction,--
winnowed it, sifted it. And what was it all? An attempt by these
wretched priests and noblesse to revive in the nineteenth century--
the age of electricity and Pullman cars--a miserable mediaeval
legend of an apparition, a miracle! Yes; one is asked to believe
that at the chateau yonder was seen last night three times the
apparition of Armand de Fontonelles!
Dick started. "Armand de Fontonelles!" He remembered that she had
repeated that name.
"Who's he?" he demanded abruptly.
"The first Comte de Fontonelles! When monsieur knows that the
first comte has been dead three hundred years, he will see the
imbecility of the affair!"
"Wot did he come back for?" growled Dick.
"Ah! it was a legend. Consider its artfulness! The Comte Armand
had been a hard liver, a dissipated scoundrel, a reckless beast,
but a mighty hunter of the stag. It was said that on one of these
occasions he had been warned by the apparition of St. Hubert; but
he had laughed,--for, observe, HE always jeered at the priests too;
hence this story!--and had declared that the flaming cross seen
between the horns of the sacred stag was only the torch of a
poacher, and he would shoot it! Good! the body of the comte, dead,
but without a wound, was found in the wood the next day, with his
discharged arquebus in his hand. The Archbishop of Rouen refused
his body the rites of the Church until a number of masses were said
every year and--paid for! One understands! one sees their 'little
game;' the count now appears,--he is in purgatory! More masses,--
more money! There you are. Bah! One understands, too, that the
affair takes place, not in a cafe like this,--not in a public
place,--but at a chateau of the noblesse, and is seen by"--the
proprietor checked the characters on his fingers--TWO retainers;
one young demoiselle of the noblesse, daughter of the chatelaine
herself; and, my faith, it goes without saying, by a fat priest,
the Cure! In effect, two interested ones! And the priest,--his
lie is magnificent! Superb! For he saw the comte in the picture-
gallery,--in effect, stepping into his frame!"
"Oh, come off the roof," said Dick impatiently; "they must have
seen SOMETHING, you know. The young lady wouldn't lie!"
Monsieur Ribaud leaned over, with a mysterious, cynical smile, and
lowering his voice said:--
"You have reason to say so. You have hit it, my friend. There WAS
a something! And if we regard the young lady, you shall hear. The
story of Mademoiselle de Fontonelles is that she has walked by
herself alone in the garden,--you observe, ALONE--in the moonlight,
near the edge of the wood. You comprehend? The mother and the
Cure are in the house,--for the time effaced! Here at the edge of
the wood--though why she continues, a young demoiselle, to the edge
of the wood does not make itself clear--she beholds her ancestor,
as on a pedestal, young, pale, but very handsome and exalte,--
"Nothing," said Dick hurriedly; "go on!"
"She beseeches him why! He says he is lost! She faints away, on
the instant, there--regard me!--ON THE EDGE OF THE WOOD, she says.
But her mother and Monsieur le Cure find her pale, agitated,
distressed, ON THE SOFA IN THE SALON. One is asked to believe that
she is transported through the air--like an angel--by the spirit of
Armand de Fontonelles. Incredible!"
"Well, wot do YOU think?" said Dick sharply.
The cafe proprietor looked around him carefully, and then lowered
his voice significantly:--
"A what?" said Dick, with a gasp.
"A lover!" repeated Ribaud. "You comprehend! Mademoiselle has no
dot,--the property is nothing,--the brother has everything. A
Mademoiselle de Fontonelles cannot marry out of her class, and the
noblesse are all poor. Mademoiselle is young,--pretty, they say,
of her kind. It is an intolerable life at the old chateau;
mademoiselle consoles herself!"
Monsieur Ribaud never knew how near he was to the white road below
the railing at that particular moment. Luckily, Dick controlled
himself, and wisely, as Monsieur Ribaud's next sentence showed him.
"A romance,--an innocent, foolish liaison, if you like,--but, all
the same, if known of a Mademoiselle de Fontonelles, a compromising,
a fatal entanglement. There you are. Look! for this, then, all
this story of cock and bulls and spirits! Mademoiselle has been
discovered with her lover by some one. This pretty story shall stop
"But wot," said Dick brusquely, "wot if the girl was really skeert
at something she'd seen, and fainted dead away, as she said she
did,--and--and"--he hesitated--"some stranger came along and picked
Monsieur Ribaud looked at him pityingly.
"A Mademoiselle de Fontonelle is picked up by her servants, by her
family, but not by the young man in the woods, alone. It is even
"Do you mean to say," said Dick furiously, "that the ragpickers and
sneaks that wade around in the slumgallion of this country would
dare to spatter that young gal?"
"I mean to say, yes,--assuredly, positively yes!" said Ribaud,
rubbing his hands with a certain satisfaction at Dick's fury. "For
you comprehend not the position of la jeune fille in all France!
Ah! in America the young lady she go everywhere alone; I have seen
her--pretty, charming, fascinating--alone with the young man. But
here, no, never! Regard me, my friend. The French mother, she say
to her daughter's fiance, 'Look! there is my daughter. She has
never been alone with a young man for five minutes,--not even with
you. Take her for your wife!' It is monstrous! it is impossible!
it is so!"
There was a silence of a few minutes, and Dick looked blankly at
the iron gates of the park of Fontonelles. Then he said: "Give me
Monsieur Ribaud instantly produced his cigar case. Dick took a
cigar, but waved aside the proffered match, and entering the cafe,
took from his pocket the letter to Mademoiselle de Fontonelles,
twisted it in a spiral, lighted it at a candle, lit his cigar with
it, and returning to the veranda held it in his hand until the last
ashes dropped on the floor. Then he said, gravely, to Ribaud:--
"You've treated me like a white man, Frenchy, and I ain't goin'
back on yer--though your ways ain't my ways--nohow; but I reckon in
this yer matter at the shotto you're a little too previous! For
though I don't as a gin'ral thing take stock in ghosts, I BELIEVE
EVERY WORD THAT THEM FOLK SAID UP THAR. And," he added, leaning
his hand somewhat heavily on Ribaud's shoulder, "if you're the man
I take you for, you'll believe it too! And if that chap, Armand de
Fontonelles, hadn't hev picked up that gal at that moment, he would
hev deserved to roast in hell another three hundred years! That's
why I believe her story. So you'll let these yer Fontonelles keep
their ghosts for all they're worth; and when you next feel inclined
to talk about that girl's LOVER, you'll think of me, and shut your
head! You hear me, Frenchy, I'm shoutin'! And don't you forget it!"
Nevertheless, early the next morning, Monsieur Ribaud accompanied
his guest to the railway station, and parted from him with great
effusion. On his way back an old-fashioned carriage with a
postilion passed him. At a sign from its occupant, the postilion
pulled up, and Monsieur Ribaud, bowing to the dust, approached the
window, and the pale, stern face of a dignified, white-haired woman
of sixty that looked from it.
"Has he gone?" said the lady.
"Assuredly, madame; I was with him at the station."
"And you think no one saw him?"
"No one, madame, but myself."
"And--what kind of a man was he?"
Monsieur Ribaud lifted his shoulders, threw out his hands
despairingly, yet with a world of significance, and said:--
The carriage drove on and entered the gates of the chateau. And
Monsieur Ribaud, cafe proprietor and Social Democrat, straightened
himself in the dust and shook his fist after it.
A NIGHT ON THE DIVIDE
With the lulling of the wind towards evening it came on to snow--
heavily, in straight, quickly succeeding flakes, dropping like
white lances from the sky. This was followed by the usual Sierran
phenomenon. The deep gorge, which, as the sun went down, had
lapsed into darkness, presently began to reappear; at first the
vanished trail came back as a vividly whitening streak before them;
then the larches and pines that ascended from it like buttresses
against the hillsides glimmered in ghostly distinctness, until at
last the two slopes curved out of the darkness as if hewn in
marble. For the sudden storm, which extended scarcely two miles,
had left no trace upon the steep granite face of the high cliffs
above; the snow, slipping silently from them, left them still
hidden in the obscurity of night. In the vanished landscape the
gorge alone stood out, set in a chaos of cloud and storm through
which the moonbeams struggled ineffectually.
It was this unexpected sight which burst upon the occupants of a
large covered "station wagon" who had chanced upon the lower end of
the gorge. Coming from a still lower altitude, they had known
nothing of the storm, which had momentarily ceased, but had left a
record of its intensity in nearly two feet of snow. For some
moments the horses floundered and struggled on, in what the
travelers believed to be some old forgotten drift or avalanche,
until the extent and freshness of the fall became apparent. To add
to their difficulties, the storm recommenced, and not comprehending
its real character and limit, they did not dare to attempt to
return the way they came. To go on, however, was impossible. In
this quandary they looked about them in vain for some other exit
from the gorge. The sides of that gigantic white furrow terminated
in darkness. Hemmed in from the world in all directions, it might
have been their tomb.
But although THEY could see nothing beyond their prison walls, they
themselves were perfectly visible from the heights above them. And
Jack Tenbrook, quartz miner, who was sinking a tunnel in the rocky
ledge of shelf above the gorge, stepping out from his cabin at ten
o'clock to take a look at the weather before turning in, could
observe quite distinctly the outline of the black wagon, the
floundering horses, and the crouching figures by their side,
scarcely larger than pygmies on the white surface of the snow, six
hundred feet below him. Jack had courage and strength, and the
good humor that accompanies them, but he contented himself for a
few moments with lazily observing the travelers' discomfiture. He
had taken in the situation with a glance; he would have helped a
brother miner or mountaineer, although he knew that it could only
have been drink or bravado that brought HIM into the gorge in a
snowstorm, but it was very evident that these were "greenhorns," or
eastern tourists, and it served their stupidity and arrogance
right! He remembered also how he, having once helped an Eastern
visitor catch the mustang that had "bucked" him, had been called
"my man," and presented with five dollars; he recalled how he had
once spread the humble resources of his cabin before some straying
members of the San Francisco party who were "opening" the new
railroad, and heard the audible wonder of a lady that a civilized
being could live so "coarsely"? With these recollections in his
mind, he managed to survey the distant struggling horses with a
fine sense of humor, not unmixed with self-righteousness. There
was no real danger in the situation; it meant at the worst a delay
and a camping in the snow till morning, when he would go down to
their assistance. They had a spacious traveling equipage, and
were, no doubt, well supplied with furs, robes, and provisions for
a several hours' journey; his own pork barrel was quite empty, and
his blankets worn. He half smiled, extended his long arms in a
decided yawn, and turned back into his cabin to go to bed. Then he
cast a final glance around the interior. Everything was all right;
his loaded rifle stood against the wall; he had just raked ashes
over the embers of his fire to keep it intact till morning. Only
one thing slightly troubled him; a grizzly bear, two-thirds grown,
but only half tamed, which had been given to him by a young lady
named "Miggles," when that charming and historic girl had decided
to accompany her paralytic lover to the San Francisco hospital, was
missing that evening. It had been its regular habit to come to the
door every night for some sweet biscuit or sugar before going to
its lair in the underbrush behind the cabin. Everybody knew it
along the length and breadth of Hemlock Ridge, as well as the fact
of its being a legacy from the fair exile. No rifle had ever yet
been raised against its lazy bulk or the stupid, small-eyed head
and ruff of circling hairs made more erect by its well-worn leather
collar. Consoling himself with the thought that the storm had
probably delayed its return, Jack took off his coat and threw it on
his bunk. But from thinking of the storm his thoughts naturally
returned again to the impeded travelers below him, and he half
mechanically stepped out in his shirt-sleeves for a final look at
But here something occurred that changed his resolution entirely.
He had previously noticed only the three foreshortened, crawling
figures around the now stationary wagon bulk. They were now
apparently making arrangements to camp for the night. But another
figure had been added to the group, and as it stood perched upon a
wagon seat laid on the snow Jack could see that its outline was not
bifurcated like the others. But even that general suggestion was
not needed! the little head, the symmetrical curves visible even at
that distance, were quite enough to indicate that it was a woman!
The easy smile faded from Jack's face, and was succeeded by a look
of concern and then of resignation. He had no choice now; he MUST
go! There was a woman there, and that settled it. Yet he had
arrived at this conclusion from no sense of gallantry, nor, indeed,
of chivalrous transport, but as a matter of simple duty to the sex.
He was giving up his sleep, was going down six hundred feet of
steep trail to offer his services during the rest of the night as
much as a matter of course as an Eastern man would have offered his
seat in an omnibus to a woman, and with as little expectation of
return for his courtesy.
Having resumed his coat, with a bottle of whiskey thrust into its
pocket, he put on a pair of india-rubber boots reaching to his
thighs, and, catching the blanket from his bunk, started with an
axe and shovel on his shoulder on his downward journey. When the
distance was half completed he shouted to the travelers below; the
cry was joyously answered by the three men; he saw the fourth
figure, now unmistakably that of a slender youthful woman, in a
cloak, helped back into the wagon, as if deliverance was now sure
and immediate. But Jack on arriving speedily dissipated that
illusive hope; they could only get through the gorge by taking off
the wheels of the wagon, placing the axle on rude sledge-runners of
split saplings, which, with their assistance, he would fashion in a
couple of hours at his cabin and bring down to the gorge. The only
other alternative would be for them to come to his cabin and remain
there while he went for assistance to the nearest station, but that
would take several hours and necessitate a double journey for the
sledge if he was lucky enough to find one. The party quickly
acquiesced in Jack's first suggestion.
"Very well," said Jack, "then there's no time to be lost; unhitch
your horses and we'll dig a hole in that bank for them to stand in
out of the snow." This was speedily done. "Now," continued Jack,
"you'll just follow me up to my cabin; it's a pretty tough climb,
but I'll want your help to bring down the runners."
Here the man who seemed to be the head of the party--of middle age
and a superior, professional type--for the first time hesitated.
"I forgot to say that there is a lady with us,--my daughter," he
began, glancing towards the wagon.
"I reckoned as much," interrupted Jack simply, "and I allowed to
carry her up myself the roughest part of the way. She kin make
herself warm and comf'ble in the cabin until we've got the runners
"You hear what our friend says, Amy?" suggested the gentleman,
appealingly, to the closed leather curtains of the wagon.
There was a pause. The curtain was suddenly drawn aside, and a
charming little head and shoulders, furred to the throat and topped
with a bewitching velvet cap, were thrust out. In the obscurity
little could be seen of the girl's features, but there was a
certain willfulness and impatience in her attitude. Being in the
shadow, she had the advantage of the others, particularly of Jack,
as his figure was fully revealed in the moonlight against the
snowbank. Her eyes rested for a moment on his high boots, his
heavy mustache, so long as to mingle with the unkempt locks which
fell over his broad shoulders, on his huge red hands streaked with
black grease from the wagon wheels, and some blood, stanched with
snow, drawn from bruises in cutting out brambles in the brush; on--
more awful than all--a monstrous, shiny "specimen" gold ring
encircling one of his fingers,--on the whiskey bottle that
shamelessly bulged from his side pocket, and then--slowly dropped
her dissatisfied eyelids.
"Why can't I stay HERE?" she said languidly. "It's quite nice and
"Because we can't leave you alone, and we must go with this
gentleman to help him."
Miss Amy let the tail of her eye again creep shudderingly over this
impossible Jack. "I thought the--the gentleman was going to help
US," she said dryly.
"Nonsense, Amy, you don't understand," said her father impatiently.
"This gentleman is kind enough to offer to make some sledge-runners
for us at his cabin, and we must help him."
"But I can stay here while you go. I'm not afraid."
"Yes, but you're ALONE here, and something might happen."
"Nothing could happen," interrupted Jack, quickly and cheerfully.
He had flushed at first, but he was now considering that the
carrying of a lady as expensively attired and apparently as
delicate and particular as this one might be somewhat difficult.
"There's nothin' that would hurt ye here," he continued, addressing
the velvet cap and furred throat in the darkness, "and if there was
it couldn't get at ye, bein', so to speak, in the same sort o' fix
as you. So you're all right," he added positively.
Inconsistently enough, the young lady did not accept this as
gratefully as might have been imagined, but Jack did not see the
slight flash of her eye as, ignoring him, she replied markedly to
her father, "I'd much rather stop here, papa."
"And," continued Jack, turning also to her father, "you can keep
the wagon and the whole gorge in sight from the trail all the way
up. So you can see that everything's all right. Why, I saw YOU
from the first." He stopped awkwardly, and added, "Come along; the
sooner we're off the quicker the job's over."
"Pray don't delay the gentleman and--the job," said Miss Amy
Reassured by Jack's last suggestion, her father followed him with
the driver and the second man of the party, a youngish and somewhat
undistinctive individual, but to whose gallant anxieties Miss Amy
responded effusively. Nevertheless, the young lady had especially
noted Jack's confession that he had seen them when they first
entered the gorge. "And I suppose," she added to herself mentally,
"that he sat there with his boozing companions, laughing and
jeering at our struggles."
But when the sound of her companions' voices died away, and their
figures were swallowed up in the darkness behind the snow, she
forgot all this, and much else that was mundane and frivolous, in
the impressive and majestic solitude which seemed to descend upon
her from the obscurity above.
At first it was accompanied with a slight thrill of vague fear, but
this passed presently into that profound peace which the mountains
alone can give their lonely or perturbed children. It seemed to
her that Nature was never the same, on the great plains where men
and cities always loomed into such ridiculous proportions, as when
the Great Mother raised herself to comfort them with smiling
hillsides, or encompassed them and drew them closer in the loving
arms of her mountains. The long white canada stretched before her
in a purity that did not seem of the earth; the vague bulk of the
mountains rose on either side of her in a mystery that was not of
this life. Yet it was not oppressive; neither was its restfulness
and quiet suggestive of obliviousness and slumber; on the contrary,
the highly rarefied air seemed to give additional keenness to her
senses; her hearing had become singularly acute; her eyesight
pierced the uttermost extremity of the gorge, lit by the full moon
that occasionally shone through slowly drifting clouds. Her nerves
thrilled with a delicious sense of freedom and a strange desire to
run or climb. It seemed to her, in her exalted fancy, that these
solitudes should be peopled only by a kingly race, and not by such
gross and material churls as this mountaineer who helped them.
And, I grieve to say,--writing of an idealist that WAS, and a
heroine that IS to be,--she was getting outrageously hungry.
There were a few biscuits in her traveling-bag, and she remembered
that she had been presented with a small jar of California honey at
San Jose. This she took out and opened on the seat before her, and
spreading the honey on the biscuits, ate them with a keen schoolgirl
relish and a pleasant suggestion of a sylvan picnic in spite of the
cold. It was all very strange; quite an experience for her to speak
of afterwards. People would hardly believe that she had spent an
hour or two, all alone, in a deserted wagon in a mountain snow pass.
It was an adventure such as one reads of in the magazines. Only
something was lacking which the magazines always supplied,--something
heroic, something done by somebody. If that awful-looking
mountaineer--that man with the long hair and mustache, and that
horrible gold ring,--why such a ring?--was only different! But he
was probably gorging beefsteak or venison with her father and Mr.
Waterhouse,--men were always such selfish creatures!--and had quite
forgotten all about her. It would have been only decent for them to
have brought her down something hot; biscuits and honey were
certainly cloying, and somehow didn't agree with the temperature.
She was really half starved! And much they cared! It would just
serve them right if something DID happen to her,--or SEEM to happen
to her,--if only to frighten them. And the pretty face that was
turned up in the moonlight wore a charming but decided pout.
Good gracious, what was that? The horses were either struggling or
fighting in their snow shelters. Then one with a frightened neigh
broke from its halter and dashed into the road, only to be plunged
snorting and helpless into the drifts. Then the other followed.
How silly! Something had frightened them. Perhaps only a rabbit
or a mole; horses were such absurdly nervous creatures! However,
it is just as well; somebody would see them or hear them,--that
neigh was quite human and awful,--and they would hurry down to see
what was the matter. SHE couldn't be expected to get out and look
after the horses in the snow. Anyhow, she WOULDN'T! She was a
good deal safer where she was; it might have been rats or mice
about that frightened them! Goodness!
She was still watching with curious wonder the continued fright of
the animals, when suddenly she felt the wagon half bumped, half
lifted from behind. It was such a lazy, deliberate movement that
for a moment she thought it came from the party, who had returned
noiselessly with the runners. She scrambled over to the back seat,
unbuttoned the leather curtain, lifted it, but nothing was to be
seen. Consequently, with feminine quickness, she said, "I see you
perfectly, Mr. Waterhouse--don't be silly!" But at this moment
there was another shock to the wagon, and from beneath it arose
what at first seemed to her to be an uplifting of the drift itself,
but, as the snow was shaken away from its heavy bulk, proved to be
the enormous head and shoulders of a bear!
Yet even then she was not WHOLLY frightened, for the snout that
confronted her had a feeble inoffensiveness; the small eyes were
bright with an eager, almost childish curiosity rather than a
savage ardor, and the whole attitude of the creature lifted upon
its hind legs was circus-like and ludicrous rather than aggressive.
She was enabled to say with some dignity, "Go away! Shoo!" and to
wave her luncheon basket at it with exemplary firmness. But here
the creature laid one paw on the back seat as if to steady itself,
with the singular effect of collapsing the whole side of the wagon,
and then opened its mouth as if in some sort of inarticulate reply.
But the revelation of its red tongue, its glistening teeth, and,
above all, the hot, suggestive fume of its breath, brought the
first scream from the lips of Miss Amy. It was real and
convincing; the horses joined in it; the three screamed together!
The bear hesitated for an instant, then, catching sight of the
honey-pot on the front seat, which the shrinking-back of the young
girl had disclosed, he slowly reached forward his other paw and
attempted to grasp it. This exceedingly simple movement, however,
at once doubled up the front seat, sent the honey-pot a dozen feet
into the air, and dropped Miss Amy upon her knees in the bed of the
wagon. The combined mental and physical shock was too much for
her; she instantly and sincerely fainted; the last thing in her
ears amidst this wreck of matter being the "wheep" of a bullet and
the sharp crack of a rifle.
. . . . . .
She recovered her consciousness in the flickering light of a fire
of bark, that played upon the rafters of a roof thatched with bark
and upon a floor of strewn and shredded bark. She even suspected
she was lying upon a mattress of bark underneath the heavy bearskin
she could feel and touch. She had a delicious sense of warmth,
and, mingled with this strange spicing of woodland freedom, even a
sense of home protection. And surely enough, looking around, she
saw her father at her side.
He briefly explained the situation. They had been at first
attracted by the cry of the frightened horses and their plunging,
which they could see distinctly, although they saw nothing else.
"But, Mr. Tenbrook"--
"Mr. Who?" said Amy, staring at the rafters.
"The owner of this cabin--the man who helped us--caught up his gun,
and, calling us to follow, ran like lightning down the trail. At
first we followed blindly, and unknowingly, for we could only see
the struggling horses, who, however, seemed to be ALONE, and the
wagon from which you did not seem to have stirred. Then, for the
first time, my dear child, we suddenly saw your danger. Imagine
how we felt as that hideous brute rose up in the road and began
attacking the wagon. We called on Tenbrook to fire, but for some
inconceivable reason he did not, although he still kept running at
the top of his speed. Then we heard you shriek--"
"I didn't shriek, papa; it was the horses."
"My child, I knew your voice."
"Well, it was only a VERY LITTLE scream--because I had tumbled."
The color was coming back rapidly to her pink cheeks.
"And, then, at your scream, Tenbrook fired!--it was a wonderful
shot for the distance, so everybody says--and killed the bear,
though Tenbrook says it oughtn't to. I believe he wanted to
capture the creature alive. They've queer notions, those hunters.
And then, as you were unconscious, he brought you up here."
"WHO brought me?"
"Tenbrook; he's as strong as a horse. Slung you up on his shoulders
like a feather pillow."
"And then, as the wagon required some repairing from the brute's
attack, we concluded to take it leisurely, and let you rest here
for a while."
"And where is--where are THEY?"
"At work on the wagon. I determined to stay with you, though you
are perfectly safe here."
"I suppose I ought--to thank--this man, papa?"
"Most certainly, though of course, I have already done so. But he
was rather curt in reply. These half-savage men have such singular
ideas. He said the beast would never have attacked you except for
the honey-pot which it scented. That's absurd."
"Then it's all my fault?"
"Nonsense! How could YOU know?"
"And I've made all this trouble. And frightened the horses. And
spoilt the wagon. And made the man run down and bring me up here
when he didn't want to!"
"My dear child! Don't be idiotic! Amy! Well, really!"
For the idiotic one was really wiping two large tears from her
lovely blue eyes. She subsided into an ominous silence, broken by
a single sniffle. "Try to go to sleep, dear; you've had quite a
shock to your nerves, added her father soothingly. She continued
silent, but not sleeping.
"I smell coffee."
"You've been having coffee, papa?"
"We DID have some, I think," said the wretched man apologetically,
though why he could not determine.
"Before I came up? while the bear was trying to eat me?"
"I've a horrid taste in my mouth. It's the honey. I'll never eat
honey again. Never!"
"Perhaps it's the whiskey."
"The whiskey. You were quite faint and chilled, you know. We gave
"I'd like some coffee. I don't think he'd begrudge me that, if he
did save my life."
"I dare say there's some left." Her father at once bestirred
himself and presently brought her some coffee in a tin cup. It was
part of Miss Amy's rapid convalescence, or equally of her
debilitated condition, that she made no comment on the vessel. She
lay for some moments looking curiously around the cabin; she had no
doubt it had a worse look in the daylight, but somehow the
firelight brought out a wondrous luxury of color in the bark floor
and thatching. Besides, it was not "smelly," as she feared it
would be; on the contrary the spicy aroma of the woods was always
dominant. She remembered that it was this that always made a
greasy, oily picnic tolerable. She raised herself on her elbow,
seeing which her father continued confidently, "Perhaps, dear, if
you sat up for a few moments you might be strong enough presently
to walk down with me to the wagon. It would save time."
Amy instantly lay down again. "I don't know what you can be
thinking of, papa. After this shock really I don't feel as if I
could STAND alone, much less WALK. But, of course," with pathetic
resignation, "if you and Mr. Waterhouse supported me, perhaps I
might crawl a few steps at a time."
"Nonsense, Amy. Of course, this man Tenbrook will carry you down
as he brought you up. Only I thought,--but there are steps,
they're coming now. No!--only HE."
The sound of crackling in the underbrush was followed by a
momentary darkening of the open door of the cabin. It was the tall
figure of the mountaineer. But he did not even make the pretense
of entering; standing at the door he delivered his news to the
interior generally. It was to the effect that everything was
ready, and the two other men were even then harnessing the horses.
Then he drew back into the darkness.
"Papa," said Amy, in a sudden frightened voice, "I've lost my
"Haven't you dropped it somewhere there in the bunk?" asked her
"No. It's on the floor of the wagon. I remember now it fell off
when I tumbled! And it will be trodden upon and crushed! Couldn't
you run down, ahead of me, and warn them, papa, dear? Mr. Tenbrook
will have to go so slowly with me." She tumbled out of the bunk
with singular alacrity, shook herself and her skirts into
instantaneous gracefulness, and fitted the velvet cap on her
straying hair. Then she said hurriedly, "Run quick, papa dear, and
as you go, call him in and say I am quite ready."
Thus adjured, the obedient parent disappeared in the darkness.
With him also disappeared Miss Amy's singular alacrity. Sitting
down carefully again on the edge of the bunk, she leaned against
the post with a certain indefinable languor that was as touching as
it was graceful. I need not tell any feminine readers that there
was no dissimulation in all this,--no coquetry, no ostentation,--
and that the young girl was perfectly sincere! But the masculine
reader might like to know that the simple fact was that, since she
had regained consciousness, she had been filled with remorse for
her capricious and ungenerous rejection of Tenbrook's proffered
service. More than that, she felt she had periled her life in that
moment of folly, and that this man--this hero--had saved her. For
hero he was, even if he did not fulfill her ideal,--it was only SHE
that was not a heroine. Perhaps if he had been more like what she
wished she would have felt this less keenly; love leaves little
room for the exercise of moral ethics. So Miss Amy Forester, being
a good girl at bottom, and not exactly loving this man, felt
towards him a frank and tender consideration which a more romantic
passion would have shrunk from showing. Consequently, when
Tenbrook entered a moment later, he found Amy paler and more
thoughtful, but, as he fancied, much prettier than before, looking
up at him with eyes of the sincerest solicitude.
Nevertheless, he remained standing near the door, as if indicating
a possible intrusion, his face wearing a look of lowering
abstraction. It struck her that this might be the effect of his
long hair and general uncouthness, and this only spurred her to a
fuller recognition of his other qualities.
"I am afraid," she began, with a charming embarrassment, "that
instead of resting satisfied with your kindness in carrying me up
here, I will have to burden you again with my dreadful weakness,
and ask you to carry me down also. But all this seems so little
after what you have just done and for which I can never, NEVER hope
to thank you!" She clasped her two little hands together, holding
her gloves between, and brought them down upon her lap in a gesture
as prettily helpless as it was unaffected.
"I have done scarcely anything," he said, glancing away towards the
fire, "and--your father has thanked me."
"You have saved my life!"
"No! no!" he said quickly. "Not that! You were in no danger,
except from my rifle, had I missed."
"I see," she said eagerly, with a little posthumous thrill at
having been after all a kind of heroine, "and it was a wonderful
shot, for you were so careful not to touch me."
"Please don't say any more," he said, with a slight movement of
half awkwardness, half impatience. "It was a rough job, but it's
He stopped and chafed his red hands abstractedly together. She
could see that he had evidently just washed them--and the glaring
ring was more in evidence than ever. But the thought gave her an
"You'll at least let me shake hands with you!" she said, extending
both her own with childish frankness.
"Hold on, Miss Forester," he said, with sudden desperation. "It
ain't the square thing! Look here! I can't play this thing on
you!--I can't let you play it on me any longer! You weren't in any
danger,--you NEVER were! That bear was only a half-wild thing I
helped to ra'r myself! It's taken sugar from my hand night after
night at the door of this cabin as it might have taken it from
yours here if it was alive now. It slept night after night in the
brush, not fifty yards away. The morning's never come yet--till
now," he said hastily, to cover an odd break in his voice, "when it
didn't brush along the whole side of this cabin to kinder wake me
up and say 'So long,' afore it browsed away into the canyon. Thar
ain't a man along the whole Divide who didn't know it; thar ain't a
man along the whole Divide that would have drawn a bead or pulled a
trigger on it till now. It never had an enemy but the bees; it
never even knew why horses and cattle were frightened of it. It
wasn't much of a pet, you'd say, Miss Forester; it wasn't much to
meet a lady's eye; but we of the woods must take our friends where
we find 'em and of our own kind. It ain't no fault of yours, Miss,
that you didn't know it; it ain't no fault of yours what happened;
but when it comes to your THANKING me for it, why--it's--it's
rather rough, you see--and gets me." He stopped short as
desperately and as abruptly as he had begun, and stared blankly at
A wave of pity and shame swept over the young girl and left its
high tide on her cheek. But even then it was closely followed by
the feminine instinct of defence and defiance. The REAL hero--the
GENTLEMAN--she reasoned bitterly, would have spared her all this
"But why," she said, with knitted brows, "why, if you knew it was
so precious and so harmless--why did you fire upon it?"
"Because," he said almost fiercely, turning upon her, "because you
SCREAMED, and THEN I KNEW IT HAD FRIGHTENED YOU!" He stopped
instantly as she momentarily recoiled from him, but the very
brusqueness of his action had dislodged a tear from his dark eyes
that fell warm on the back of her hand, and seemed to blot out the
indignity. "Listen, Miss," he went on hurriedly, as if to cover up
his momentary unmanliness. "I knew the bear was missing to-night,
and when I heard the horses scurrying about I reckoned what was up.
I knew no harm could come to you, for the horses were unharnessed
and away from the wagon. I pelted down that trail ahead of them
all like grim death, calkilatin' to get there before the bear; they
wouldn't have understood me; I was too high up to call to the
creature when he did come out, and I kinder hoped you wouldn't see
him. Even when he turned towards the wagon, I knew it wasn't YOU
he was after, but suthin' else, and I kinder hoped, Miss, that you,
being different and quicker-minded than the rest, would see it too.
All the while them folks were yellin' behind me to fire--as if I
didn't know my work. I was half-way down--and then you screamed!
And then I forgot everything,--everything but standing clear of
hitting you,--and I fired. I was that savage that I wanted to
believe that he'd gone mad, and would have touched you, till I got
down there and found the honey-pot lying alongside of him. But
there,--it's all over now! I wouldn't have let on a word to you
only I couldn't bear to take YOUR THANKS for it, and I couldn't
bear to have you thinking me a brute for dodgin' them." He
stopped, walked to the fire, leaned against the chimney under the
shallow pretext of kicking the dull embers into a blaze, which,
however, had only the effect of revealing his two glistening eyes
as he turned back again and came towards her. "Well," he said,
with an ineffectual laugh, "it's all over now, it's all in the
day's work, I reckon,--and now, Miss, if you're ready, and will
just fix yourself your own way so as to ride easy, I'll carry you
down." And slightly bending his strong figure, he dropped on one
knee beside her with extended arms.
Now it is one thing to be carried up a hill in temperate,
unconscious blood and practical business fashion by a tall,
powerful man with steadfast, glowering eyes, but quite another
thing to be carried down again by the same man, who has been
crying, and when you are conscious that you are going to cry too,
and your tears may be apt to mingle. So Miss Amy Forester said:
"Oh, wait, please! Sit down a moment. Oh, Mr. Tenbrook, I am so
very, very sorry," and, clapping her hand to her eyes, burst into
"Oh, please, please don't, Miss Forester," said Jack, sitting down
on the end of the bunk with frightened eyes, "please don't do that!
It ain't worth it. I'm only a brute to have said anything."
"No, no! You are SO noble, SO forgiving!" sobbed Miss Forester,
"and I have made you go and kill the only thing you cared for, that
was all your own."
"No, Miss,--not all my own, either,--and that makes it so rough.
For it was only left in trust with me by a friend. It was her only
"HER only companion?" echoed Miss Forester, sharply lifting her
"Except," said Jack hurriedly, miscomprehending the emphasis with
masculine fatuity,--"except the dying man for whom she lived and
sacrificed her whole life. She gave me this ring, to always remind
me of my trust. I suppose," he added ruefully, looking down upon
it, "it's no use now. I'd better take it off."
Then Amy eyed the monstrous object with angelic simplicity. "I
certainly should," she said with infinite sweetness; "it would only
remind you of your loss. But," she added, with a sudden, swift,
imploring look of her blue eyes, "if you could part with it to me,
it would be such a reminder and token of--of your forgiveness."
Jack instantly handed it to her. "And now," he said, "let me carry
"I think," she said hesitatingly, "that--I had better try to walk,"
and she rose to her feet.
"Then I shall know that you have not forgiven me," said Jack sadly.
"But I have no right to trouble"--
Alas! she had no time to finish her polite objection, for the next
moment she felt herself lifted in the air, smelled the bark thatch
within an inch of her nose, saw the firelight vanish behind her,
and subsiding into his curved arms as in a hammock, the two passed
forth into the night together.
"I can't find, your bracelet anywhere, Amy," said her father, when
they reached the wagon.
"It was on the floor in the lint," said Amy reproachfully. "But,
of course, you never thought of that!"
. . . . . .
My pen halts with some diffidence between two conclusions to this
veracious chronicle. As they agree in result, though not in theory
or intention, I may venture to give them both. To one coming from
the lips of the charming heroine herself I naturally yield the
precedence. "Oh, the bear story! I don't really remember whether
that was before I was engaged to John or after. But I had known
him for some time; father introduced him at the Governor's ball at
Sacramento. Let me see!--I think it was in the winter of '56.
Yes! it was very amusing; I always used to charge John with having
trained that bear to attack our carriage so that he might come in