Part 1 out of 4
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THE BELL-RINGER OF ANGEL'S
by Bret Harte
THE BELL-RINGER OF ANGEL'S
YOUNG ROBIN GRAY
THE SHERIFF OF SISKYOU
A ROSE OF GLENBOGIE
THE MYSTERY OF THE HACIENDA
MY FIRST BOOK
THE BELL-RINGER OF ANGEL'S
Where the North Fork of the Stanislaus River begins to lose its
youthful grace, vigor, and agility, and broadens more maturely into
the plain, there is a little promontory which at certain high stages
of water lies like a small island in the stream. To the strongly-
marked heroics of Sierran landscape it contrasts a singular,
pastoral calm. White and gray mosses from the overhanging rocks and
feathery alders trail their filaments in its slow current, and
between the woodland openings there are glimpses of vivid velvet
sward, even at times when the wild oats and "wire-grasses" of the
plains are already yellowing. The placid river, unstained at this
point by mining sluices or mill drift, runs clear under its
contemplative shadows. Originally the camping-ground of a Digger
Chief, it passed from his tenancy with the American rifle bullet
that terminated his career. The pioneer who thus succeeded to its
attractive calm gave way in turn to a well-directed shot from the
revolver of a quartz-prospector, equally impressed with the charm
of its restful tranquillity. How long he might have enjoyed its
riparian seclusion is not known. A sudden rise of the river one
March night quietly removed him, together with the overhanging post
oak beneath which he was profoundly but unconsciously meditating.
The demijohn of whiskey was picked up further down. But no other
suggestion of these successive evictions was ever visible in the
reposeful serenity of the spot.
It was later occupied, and a cabin built upon the spot, by one
Alexander McGee, better known as "the Bell-ringer of Angel's."
This euphonious title, which might have suggested a consistently
peaceful occupation, however, referred to his accuracy of aim at
a mechanical target, where the piercing of the bull's eye was
celebrated by the stroke of a bell. It is probable that this
singular proficiency kept his investment of that gentle seclusion
unchallenged. At all events it was uninvaded. He shared it only
with the birds. Perhaps some suggestion of nest building may have
been in his mind, for one pleasant spring morning he brought hither
a wife. It was his OWN; and in this way he may be said to have
introduced that morality which is supposed to be the accompaniment
and reflection of pastoral life. Mrs. McGee's red petticoat was
sometimes seen through the trees--a cheerful bit of color. Mrs.
McGee's red cheeks, plump little figure, beribboned hat and brown,
still-girlish braids were often seen at sunset on the river bank,
in company with her husband, who seemed to be pleased with the
discreet and distant admiration that followed them. Strolling
under the bland shadows of the cotton-woods, by the fading gold of
the river, he doubtless felt that peace which the mere world cannot
give, and which fades not away before the clear, accurate eye of
the perfect marksman.
Their nearest neighbors were the two brothers Wayne, who took up a
claim, and built themselves a cabin on the river bank near the
promontory. Quiet, simple men, suspected somewhat of psalm-
singing, and undue retirement on Sundays, they attracted but little
attention. But when, through some original conception or
painstaking deliberation, they turned the current of the river so
as to restrict the overflow between the promontory and the river
bank, disclosing an auriferous "bar" of inconceivable richness, and
establishing their theory that it was really the former channel of
the river, choked and diverted though ages of alluvial drift, they
may be said to have changed, also, the fortunes of the little
settlement. Popular feeling and the new prosperity which dawned
upon the miners recognized the two brothers by giving the name of
Wayne's Bar to the infant settlement and its post-office. The
peaceful promontory, although made easier of access, still
preserved its calm seclusion, and pretty Mrs. McGee could
contemplate through the leaves of her bower the work going on at
its base, herself unseen. Nevertheless, this Arcadian retreat was
being slowly and surely invested; more than that, the character of
its surroundings was altered, and the complexion of the river had
changed. The Wayne engines on the point above had turned the drift
and debris into the current that now thickened and ran yellow
around the wooded shore. The fringes of this Eden were already
tainted with the color of gold.
It is doubtful, however, if Mrs. McGee was much affected by this
sentimental reflection, and her husband, in a manner, lent himself
to the desecration of his exclusive domain by accepting a claim
along the shore--tendered by the conscientious Waynes in
compensation for restricting the approach to the promontory--and
thus participated in the fortunes of the Bar. Mrs. McGee amused
herself by watching from her eyrie, with a presumably childish
interest, the operations of the red-shirted brothers on the Bar;
her husband, however, always accompanying her when she crossed the
Bar to the bank. Some two or three other women--wives of miners--
had joined the camp, but it was evident that McGee was as little
inclined to intrust his wife to their companionship as to that of
their husbands. An opinion obtained that McGee, being an old
resident, with alleged high connections in Angel's, was inclined
to be aristocratic and exclusive.
Meantime, the two brothers who had founded the fortunes of the Bar
were accorded an equally high position, with an equal amount of
reserve. Their ways were decidedly not those of the other miners,
and were as efficacious in keeping them from familiar advances as
the reputation of Mr. McGee was in isolating his wife. Madison
Wayne, the elder, was tall, well-knit and spare, reticent in speech
and slow in deduction; his brother, Arthur, was of rounder outline,
but smaller and of a more delicate and perhaps a more impressible
nature. It was believed by some that it was within the range of
possibility that Arthur would yet be seen "taking his cocktail like
a white man," or "dropping his scads" at draw poker. At present,
however, they seemed content to spend their evenings in their own
cabin, and their Sundays at a grim Presbyterian tabernacle in the
next town, to which they walked ten miles, where, it was currently
believed, "hell fire was ladled out free," and "infants damned for
nothing." When they did not go to meeting it was also believed
that the minister came to them, until it was ascertained that the
sound of sacred recitation overheard in their cabin was simply
Madison Wayne reading the Bible to his younger brother. McGee is
said to have stopped on one of these occasions--unaccompanied by
his wife--before their cabin, moving away afterwards with more than
his usual placid contentment.
It was about eleven o'clock one morning, and Madison Wayne was at
work alone on the Bar. Clad in a dark gray jersey and white duck
trousers rolled up over high india-rubber boots, he looked not
unlike a peaceful fisherman digging stakes for his nets, as he
labored in the ooze and gravel of the still half-reclaimed river
bed. He was far out on the Bar, within a stone's throw of the
promontory. Suddenly his quick ear caught an unfamiliar cry and
splash. Looking up hastily, he saw Mrs. McGee's red petticoat in
the water under the singularly agitated boughs of an overhanging
tree. Madison Wayne ran to the bank, threw off his heavy boots,
and sprang into the stream. A few strokes brought him to Mrs.
McGee's petticoat, which, as he had wisely surmised, contained Mrs.
McGee, who was still clinging to a branch of the tree. Grasping
her waist with one hand and the branch with the other, he obtained
a foothold on the bank, and dragged her ashore. A moment later
they both stood erect and dripping at the foot of the tree.
"Well?" said the lady.
Wayne glanced around their seclusion with his habitual caution,
slightly knit his brows perplexedly, and said: "You fell in?"
"I didn't do nothin' of the sort. I JUMPED in."
Wayne again looked around him, as if expecting her companion, and
squeezed the water out of his thick hair. "Jumped in?" he repeated
slowly. "What for?"
"To make you come over here, Mad Wayne," she said, with a quick
laugh, putting her arms akimbo.
They stood looking at each other, dripping like two river gods.
Like them, also, Wayne had apparently ignored the fact that his
trousers were rolled up above his bare knees, and Mrs. McGee that
her red petticoat clung closely to her rather pretty figure. But
he quickly recovered himself. "You had better go in and change
your clothes," he said, with grave concern. "You'll take cold."
She only shook herself disdainfully. "I'm all right," she said;
"but YOU, Mad Wayne, what do you mean by not speaking to me--not
knowing me? You can't say that I've changed like that." She
passed her hand down her long dripping braids as if to press the
water from them, and yet with a half-coquettish suggestion in the
Something struggled up into the man's face which was not there
before. There was a new light in his grave eyes. "You look the
same," he said slowly; "but you are married--you have a husband."
"You think that changes a girl?" she said, with a laugh "That's
where all you men slip up! You're afraid of his rifle--THAT'S the
change that bothers you, Mad."
"You know I care little for carnal weapons," he said quietly. She
DID know it; but it is the privilege of the sex to invent its facts
and then to graciously abandon them as if they were only arguments.
"Then why do you keep off from me? Why do you look the other way
when I pass?" she said quickly.
"Because you are married," he said slowly.
She again shook the water from her like a Newfoundland dog.
"That's it. You're mad because I got married. You're mad because
I wouldn't marry you and your church over on the cross roads, and
sing hymns with you and become SISTER Wayne. You wanted me to give
up dancing and buggy ridin' Sundays--and you're just mad because I
didn't. Yes, mad--just mean, baby mad, Mr. Maddy Wayne, for all
your CHRISTIAN resignation! That's what's the matter with you."
Yet she looked very pretty and piquant in her small spitefulness,
which was still so general and superficial that she seemed to shake
it out of her wet petticoats in a vicious flap that disclosed her
"You preferred McGee to me," he said grimly. "I didn't blame you."
"Who said I PREFERRED him?" she retorted quickly. "Much you know!"
Then, with swift feminine abandonment of her position, she added,
with a little laugh, "It's all the same whether you're guarded with
a rifle or a Church Presbytery, only"--
"Only what?" said Madison earnestly.
"There's men who'd risk being SHOT for a girl, that couldn't stand
The quick expression of pain that passed over his hard, dark face
seemed only to heighten her pretty mischievousness. But he simply
glanced again around the solitude, passed his hand over his wet
sleeve, and said, "I must go now; your husband wouldn't like me
"He's workin' in the claim,--the claim YOU gave him," said Mrs.
McGee, with cheerful malice. "Wonder what he'd say if he knew it
was given to him by the man who used to spark his wife only two
years ago? How does that suit your Christian conscience, Mad?"
"I should have told him, had I not believed that everything was
over between us, or that it was possible that you and me should
ever meet again," he returned, in a tone so measured that the girl
seemed to hear the ring of the conventicle in it.
"Should you, BROTHER Wayne?" she said, imitating him. "Well, let
me tell you that you are the one man on the Bar that Sandy has
taken a fancy to."
Madison's sallow cheek colored a little, but he did not speak.
"Well!" continued Mrs. McGee impatiently. "I don't believe he'd
object to your comin' here to see me--if you cared."
"But I wouldn't care to come, unless he first knew that I had been
once engaged to you," said Madison gravely.
"Perhaps he might not think as much of that as you do," retorted
the woman pertly. "Every one isn't as straitlaced as you, and
every girl has had one or two engagements. But do as you like--
stay at home if you want to, and sing psalms and read the
Scriptures to that younger brother of yours! All the same, I'm
thinkin' he'd rather be out with the boys."
"My brother is God-fearing and conscientious," said Madison
quickly. "You do not know him. You have never seen him."
"No," said Mrs. McGee shortly. She then gave a little shiver (that
was, however, half simulated) in her wet garments, and added: "ONE
saint was enough for me; I couldn't stand the whole church, Mad."
"You are catching cold," he said quickly, his whole face
brightening with a sudden tenderness that seemed to transfigure the
dark features. "I am keeping you here when you should be changing
your clothes. Go, I beg you, at once."
She stood still provokingly, with an affectation of wiping her arms
and shoulders and sopping her wet dress with clusters of moss.
"Go, please do--Safie, please!"
"Ah!"--she drew a quick, triumphant breath. "Then you'll come
again to see me, Mad?"
"Yes," he said slowly, and even more gravely than before.
"But you must let me show you the way out--round under those trees--
where no one can see you come." She held out her hand.
"I'll go the way I came," he said quietly, swinging himself
silently from the nearest bough into the stream. And before she
could utter a protest he was striking out as silently, hand over
hand, across the current.
A week later Madison Wayne was seated alone in his cabin. His
supper table had just been cleared by his Chinese coolie, as it was
getting late, and the setting sun, which for half an hour had been
persistently making a vivid beacon of his windows for the benefit
of wayfarers along the river bank, had at last sunk behind the
cottonwoods. His head was resting on his hand; the book he had
been reading when the light faded was lying open on the table
before him. In this attitude he became aware of a hesitating step
on the gravel outside his open door. He had been so absorbed that
the approach of any figure along the only highway--the river bank--
had escaped his observation. Looking up, he discovered that Mr.
Alexander McGee was standing in the doorway, his hand resting
lightly on the jamb. A sudden color suffused Wayne's cheek; his
hand reached for his book, which he drew towards him hurriedly, yet
half automatically, as he might have grasped some defensive weapon.
The Bell-ringer of Angel's noticed the act, but not the blush, and
nodded approvingly. "Don't let me disturb ye. I was only
meanderin' by and reckoned I'd say 'How do?' in passin'." He
leaned gently back against the door-post, to do which comfortably
he was first obliged to shift the revolver on his hip. The sight
of the weapon brought a slight contraction to the brows of Wayne,
but he gravely said: "Won't you come in?"
"It ain't your prayin' time?" said McGee politely.
"Nor you ain't gettin' up lessons outer the Book?" he continued
"Cos it don't seem, so to speak, you see, the square thing to be
botherin' a man when he might be doin' suthin' else, don't you see?
You understand what I mean?"
It was his known peculiarity that he always seemed to be suffering
from an inability to lucid expression, and the fear of being
misunderstood in regard to the most patent or equally the most
unimportant details of his speech. All of which, however, was in
very remarkable contrast to his perfectly clear and penetrating
Wayne gravely assured him that he was not interrupting him in any
"I often thought--that is, I had an idea, you understand what I
mean--of stoppin' in passing. You and me, you see, are sorter
alike; we don't seem to jibe in with the gin'ral gait o' the camp.
You understand what I mean? We ain't in the game, eh? You see
what I'm after?"
Madison Wayne glanced half mechanically at McGee's revolver.
McGee's clear eyes at once took in the glance.
"That's it! You understand? You with them books of yours, and me
with my shootin' iron--we're sort o' different from the rest, and
ought to be kinder like partners. You understand what I mean? We
keep this camp in check. We hold a full hand, and don't stand no
"If you mean there is some effect in Christian example and the life
of a God-fearing man"--began Madison gravely.
"That's it! God-fearin' or revolver-fearin', it amounts to the same
when you come down to the hard pan and bed-rock," interrupted
McGee. "I ain't expectin' you to think much of my style, but I go
a heap on yours, even if I can't play your game. And I sez to my
wife, 'Safie'--her that trots around with me sometimes--I sez,
'Safie, I oughter know that man, and shall. And I WANT YOU to know
him.' Hol' on," he added quickly, as Madison rose with a flushed
face and a perturbed gesture. "Ye don't understand! I see wot's
in your mind--don't you see? When I married my wife and brought
her down here, knowin' this yer camp, I sez: 'No flirtin', no
foolin', no philanderin' here, my dear! You're young and don't
know the ways o' men. The first man I see you talking with, I
shoot. You needn't fear, my dear, for accidents. I kin shoot all
round you, under your arm, across your shoulders, over your head
and between your fingers, my dear, and never start skin or fringe
or ruffle. But I don't miss HIM. You sorter understand what I
mean,' sez I,'so don't!' Ye noticed how my wife is respected, Mr.
Wayne? Queen Victoria sittin' on her throne ain't in it with my
Safie. But when I see YOU not herdin' with that cattle, never
liftin' your eyes to me or Safie as we pass, never hangin' round
the saloons and jokin', nor winkin', nor slingin' muddy stories
about women, but prayin' and readin' Scripter stories, here along
with your brother, I sez to myself, I sez, 'Sandy, ye kin take off
your revolver and hang up your shot gun when HE'S around. For
'twixt HIM and your wife ain't no revolver, but the fear of God and
hell and damnation and the world to come!' You understand what I
mean, don't ye? Ye sorter follow my lead, eh? Ye can see what I'm
shootin' round, don't ye? So I want you to come up neighborly
like, and drop in to see my wife."
Madison Wayne's face became set and hard again, but he advanced
towards McGee with the book against his breast, and his finger
between the leaves. "I already know your wife, Mr. McGee! I saw
her before YOU ever met her. I was engaged to her; I loved her,
and--as far as man may love the wife of another and keep the
commands of this book--I love her still!"
To his surprise, McGee, whose calm eyes had never dimmed or
blenched, after regarding him curiously, took the volume from him,
laid it on the table, opened it, turned its leaves critically, said
earnestly, "That's the law here, is it?" and then held out his
Madison Wayne hesitated--and then grasped his hand.
"Ef I had known this," continued McGee, "I reckon I wouldn't have
been so hard on Safie and so partikler. She's better than I took
her for--havin' had you for a beau! You understand what I mean.
You follow me--don't ye? I allus kinder wondered why she took me,
but sens you've told me that YOU used to spark her, in your God-
fearin' way, I reckon it kinder prepared her for ME. You understand?
Now you come up, won't ye?"
"I will call some evening with my brother," said Wayne embarrassedly.
"With which?" demanded McGee.
"My brother Arthur. We usually spend the evenings together."
McGee paused, leaned against the doorpost, and, fixing his clear
eyes on Wayne, said: "Ef it's all the same to you, I'd rather you
did not bring him. You understand what I mean? You follow me; no
other man but you and me. I ain't sayin' anything agin' your
brother, but you see how it is, don't you? Just me and you."
"Very well, I will come," said Wayne gloomily. But as McGee backed
out of the door, he followed him, hesitatingly. Then, with an
effort he seemed to recover himself, and said almost harshly: "I
ought to tell you another thing--that I have seen and spoken to
Mrs. McGee since she came to the Bar. She fell into the water last
week, and I swam out and dragged her ashore. We talked and spoke
of the past."
"She fell in," echoed McGee.
Wayne hesitated; then a murky blush came into his face as he slowly
repeated, "She FELL in."
McGee's eyes only brightened. "I have been too hard on her. She
might have drowned ef you hadn't took risks. You see? You
understand what I mean? And she never let out anything about it--
and never boasted o' YOU helpin' her out. All right--you'll come
along and see her agin'." He turned and walked cheerfully away.
Wayne re-entered the cabin. He sat for a long time by the window
until the stars came out above the river, and another star, with
which he had been long familiar, took its place apparently in the
heart of the wooded crest of the little promontory. Then the
fringing woods on the opposite shore became a dark level line
across the landscape, and the color seemed to fade out of the moist
shining gravel before his cabin. Presently the silhouette of his
dark face disappeared from the window, and Mr. McGee might have
been gratified to know that he had slipped to his knees before the
chair whereon he had been sitting, and that his head was bowed
before it on his clasped hands. In a little while he rose again,
and, dragging a battened old portmanteau from the corner, took out
a number of letters tied up in a package, with which, from time to
time, he slowly fed the flame that flickered on his hearth. In
this way the windows of the cabin at times sprang into light,
making a somewhat confusing beacon for the somewhat confused Arthur
Wayne, who was returning from a visit to Angel's, and who had
fallen into that slightly morose and irritated state which follows
excessive hilarity, and is also apt to indicate moral misgivings.
But the last letter was burnt and the cabin quite dark when he
entered. His brother was sitting by the slowly dying fire, and he
trusted that in that uncertain light any observation of his
expression or manner--of which he himself was uneasily conscious--
would pass unheeded.
"You are late," said Madison gravely.
At which his brother rashly assumed the aggressive. He was no
later than the others, and if the Rogers boys were good enough to
walk with him for company he couldn't run ahead of them just
because his brother was waiting! He didn't want any supper, he had
something at the Cross Roads with the others. Yes! WHISKEY, if he
wanted to know. People couldn't keep coffee and temperance drinks
just to please him and his brother, and he wasn't goin' to insult
the others by standing aloof. Anyhow, he had never taken the
pledge, and as long as he hadn't he couldn't see why he should
refuse a single glass. As it was, everybody said he was a milksop,
and a tender-foot, and he was just sick of it.
Madison rose and lit a candle and held it up before his brother's
face. It was a handsome, youthful face that looked into his,
flushed with the excitement of novel experiences and perhaps a
more material stimulation. The little silken moustache was
ostentatiously curled, the brown curls were redolent of bear's
grease. Yet there was a certain boyish timidity and nervousness in
the defiance of his blue eyes that momentarily touched the elder
"I've been too hand with him," he said to himself, half consciously
recalling what McGee had said of Safie. He put the candle down,
laid his hand gently on Arthur's shoulder, and said, with a certain
cautious tenderness, "Come, Arty, sit down and tell me all about
Whereupon the mercurial Arthur, not only relieved of his nervousness
but of his previous ethical doubts and remorse, became gay and
voluble. He had finished his purchases at Angel's, and the
storekeeper had introduced him to Colonel Starbottle, of Kentucky,
as one of "the Waynes who had made Wayne's Bar famous." Colonel
Starbottle had said in his pompous fashion--yet he was not such a
bad fellow, after all--that the Waynes ought to be represented in
the Councils of the State, and that he, Starbottle, would be proud
to nominate Madison for the next Legislature and run him, too. "And
you know, really, Mad, if you mixed a little more with folks, and
they weren't--well, sorter AFRAID of you--you could do it. Why, I've
made a heap o' friends over there, just by goin' round a little, and
one of old Selvedge's girls--the storekeeper, you know--said from
what she'd heard of us, she always thought I was about fifty, and
turned up the whites of my eyes instead of the ends of my moustache!
She's mighty smart! Then the Postmaster has got his wife and three
daughters out from the States, and they've asked me to come over to
their church festival next week. It isn't our church, of course,
but I suppose it's all right."
This and much more with the volubility of relieved feelings. When
he stopped, out of breath, Madison said, "I have had a visitor
since you left--Mr. McGee."
"And his wife?" asked Arthur quickly. Madison flushed slightly.
"No; but he asked me to go and see her."
"That's HER doin', then," returned Arthur, with a laugh. "She's
always lookin' round the corners of her eyes at me when she passes.
Why, John Rogers was joking me about her only yesterday, and said
McGee would blow a hole through me some of these days if I didn't
look out! Of course," he added, affectedly curling his moustache,
"that's nonsense! But you know how they talk, and she's too pretty
for that fellow McGee."
"She has found a careful helpmeet in her husband," said Madison
sternly, "and it's neither seemly nor Christian in you, Arthur, to
repeat the idle, profane gossip of the Bar. I knew her before her
marriage, and if she was not a professing Christian, she was, and
is, a pure, good woman! Let us have no more of this."
Whether impressed by the tone of his brother's voice, or only
affected by his own mercurial nature, Arthur changed the subject to
further voluble reminiscences of his trip to Angel's. Yet he did
not seem embarrassed nor disconcerted when his brother, in the midst
of his speech, placed the candle and the Bible on the table, with
two chairs before it. He listened to Madison's monotonous reading
of the evening exercise with equally monotonous respect. Then they
both arose, without looking at each other, but with equally set
and stolid faces, and knelt down before their respective chairs,
clasping the back with both hands, and occasionally drawing the
hard, wooden frames against their breasts convulsively, as if it
were a penitential act. It was the elder brother who that night
prayed aloud. It was his voice that rose higher by degrees above
the low roof and encompassing walls, the level river camp lights
that trembled through the window, the dark belt of riverside trees,
and the light on the promontory's crest--up to the tranquil,
passionless stars themselves.
With those confidences to his Maker this chronicle does not lie--
obtrusive and ostentatious though they were in tone and attitude.
Enough that they were a general arraignment of humanity, the Bar,
himself, and his brother, and indeed much that the same Maker had
created and permitted. That through this hopeless denunciation
still lingered some human feeling and tenderness might have been
shown by the fact that at its close his hands trembled and his face
was bedewed by tears. And his brother was so deeply affected that
he resolved hereafter to avoid all evening prayers.
It was a week later that Madison Wayne and Mr. McGee were seen, to
the astonishment of the Bar, leisurely walking together in the
direction of the promontory. Here they disappeared, entering a
damp fringe of willows and laurels that seemed to mark its limits,
and gradually ascending some thickly-wooded trail, until they
reached its crest, which, to Madison's surprise, was cleared and
open, and showed an acre or two of rude cultivation. Here, too,
stood the McGees' conjugal home--a small, four-roomed house, but so
peculiar and foreign in aspect that it at once challenged even
Madison's abstracted attention. It was a tiny Swiss chalet, built
in sections, and originally packed in cases, one of the early
importations from Europe to California after the gold discovery,
when the country was supposed to be a woodless wilderness. Mr.
McGee explained, with his usual laborious care, how he had bought
it at Marysville, not only for its picturesqueness, but because in
its unsuggestive packing-cases it offered no indication to the
curious miners, and could be put up by himself and a single
uncommunicative Chinaman, without any one else being aware of its
existence. There was, indeed, something quaint in this fragment of
Old World handicraft, with its smooth-jointed paneling, in two
colors, its little lozenge fretwork, its lapped roof, overhanging
eaves, and miniature gallery. Inartistic as Madison was--like most
men of rigidly rectangular mind and principle--and accustomed to
the bleak and economic sufficiency of the Californian miner's
cabin, he was touched strangely by its novel grace and freshness.
It reminded him of HER; he had a new respect for this rough, sinful
man who had thus idealized his wife in her dwelling. Already a few
Madeira vines and a Cherokee rose clambered up the gallery. And
here Mrs. McGee was sitting.
In the face that she turned upon the two men Madison could see that
she was not expecting them, and even in the slight curiosity with
which she glanced at her husband, that evidently he had said
nothing of his previous visit or invitation. And this conviction
became certainty at Mr. McGee's first words.
"I've brought you an ole friend, Safie. He used to spark ye once
at Angel's afore my time--he told me so; he picked ye outer the
water here--he told me that, too. Ye mind that I said afore that
he was the only man I wanted ter know; I reckon now it seems the
square thing that he should be the one man YOU wanted ter know,
too. You understand what I mean--you follow me, don't you?"
Whether or not Mrs. McGee DID follow him, she exhibited neither
concern, solicitude, nor the least embarrassment. An experienced
lover might have augured ill from this total absence of self-
consciousness. But Madison was not an experienced lover. He
accepted her amused smile as a recognition of his feelings,
trembled at the touch of her cool hands, as if it had been a warm
pressure, and scarcely dared to meet her maliciously laughing eyes.
When he had followed Mr. McGee to the little gallery, the previous
occupation of Mrs. McGee when they arrived was explained. From
that slight elevation there was a perfect view over the whole
landscape and river below; the Bar stretched out as a map at her
feet; in that clear, transparent air she could see every movement
and gesture of Wayne's brother, all unconscious of that surveillance,
at work on the Bar. For an instant Madison's sallow cheek reddened,
he knew not why; a remorseful feeling that he ought to be there with
Arthur came over him. Mrs. McGee's voice seemed to answer his
thought. "You can see everything that's going on down there without
being seen yourself. It's good fun for me sometimes. The other day
I saw that young Carpenter hanging round Mrs. Rogers's cabin in the
bush when old Rogers was away. And I saw her creep out and join
him, never thinking any one could see her!"
She laughed, seeking Madison's averted eyes, yet scarcely noticing
his suddenly contracted brows. Mr. McGee alone responded.
"That's why," he said, explanatorily, to Madison, "I don't allow to
have my Safie go round with those women. Not as I ever see
anything o' that sort goin' on, or keer to look, but on gin'ral
principles. You understand what I mean."
"That's your brother over there, isn't it?" said Mrs. McGee,
turning to Madison and calmly ignoring her husband's explanation,
as she indicated the distant Arthur. "Why didn't you bring him
along with you?"
Madison hesitated, and looked at McGee. "He wasn't asked," said
that gentleman cheerfully. "One's company, two's none! You don't
know him, my dear; and this yer ain't a gin'ral invitation to the
Bar. You follow me?"
To this Mrs. McGee made no comment, but proceeded to show Madison
over the little cottage. Yet in a narrow passage she managed to
touch his hand, lingered to let her husband precede them from one
room to another, and once or twice looked meaningly into his eyes
over McGee's shoulder. Disconcerted and embarrassed, he tried to
utter a few commonplaces, but so constrainedly that even McGee
presently noticed it. And the result was still more embarrassing.
"Look yer," he said, suddenly turning to them both. "I reckon as
how you two wanter talk over old times, and I'll just meander over
to the claim, and do a spell o' work. Don't mind ME. And if HE"--
indicating Madison with his finger--"gets on ter religion, don't
you mind him. It won't hurt you, Safie,--no more nor my revolver,--
but it's pow'ful persuadin', and you understand me? You follow
me? Well, so long!"
He turned away quickly, and was presently lost among the trees.
For an instant the embarrassed Madison thought of following him;
but he was confronted by Mrs. McGee's wicked eyes and smiling face
between him and the door. Composing herself, however, with a
simulation of perfect gravity she pointed to a chair.
"Sit down, Brother Wayne. If you're going to convert me, it may
take some time, you know, and you might as well make yourself
comfortable. As for me, I'll take the anxious bench." She laughed
with a certain girlishness, which he well remembered, and leaped to
a sitting posture on the table with her hands on her knees,
swinging her smart shoes backwards and forwards below it.
Madison looked at her in hopeless silence, with a pale, disturbed
face and shining eyes.
"Or, if you want to talk as we used to talk, Mad, when we sat on
the front steps at Angel's and pa and ma went inside to give us a
show, ye can hop up alongside o' me." She made a feint of
gathering her skirts beside her.
"Safie!" broke out the unfortunate man, in a tone that seemed to
increase in formal solemnity with his manifest agitation, "this is
impossible. The laws of God that have joined you and this man"--
"Oh, it's the prayer-meeting, is it?" said Safie, settling her
skirts again, with affected resignation. "Go on."
"Listen, Safie," said Madison, turning despairingly towards her.
"Let us for His sake, let us for the sake of our dear blessed past,
talk together earnestly and prayerfully. Let us take this time to
root out of our feeble hearts all yearnings that are not prompted
by Him--yearnings that your union with this man makes impossible
and sinful. Let us for the sake of the past take counsel of each
other, even as brother and sister."
"Sister McGee!" she interrupted mockingly. "It wasn't as brother
and sister you made love to me at Angel's."
"No! I loved you then, and would have made you my wife."
"And you don't love me any more," she said, audaciously darting a
wicked look into his eyes, "only because I didn't marry you? And
you think that Christian?"
"You know I love you as I have loved you always," he said
"Hush!" she said mockingly; "suppose he should hear you."
"He knows it!" said Madison bitterly. "I told him all!"
She stared at him fixedly.
"You have--told--him--that--you STILL love me?" she repeated
"Yes, or I wouldn't be here now. It was due to him--to my own
"And what did he say?"
"He insisted upon my coming, and, as God is my Judge and witness--
he seemed satisfied and content."
She drew her pretty lips together with a long whistle, and then
leaped from the table. Her face was hard and her eyes were bright
as she went to the window and looked out. He followed her timidly.
"Don't touch me," she said, sharply striking away his proffered
hand. He turned with a flushed cheek and walked slowly towards the
door. Her laugh stopped him.
"Come! I reckon that squeezin' hands ain't no part of your contract
with Sandy?" she said, glancing down at her own. "Well, so you're
"I only wished to talk seriously and prayerfully with you for a few
moments, Safie, and then--to see you no more."
"And how would that suit him," she said dryly, "if he wants your
company here? Then, just because you can't convert me and bring me
to your ways of thinkin' in one visit, I suppose you think it is
Christian-like to run away like this! Or do you suppose that, if
you turn tail now, he won't believe that your Christian strength
and Christian resignation is all humbug?"
Madison dropped into the chair, put his elbows on the table, and
buried his face in his hands. She came a little nearer, and laid
her hand lightly on his arm. He made a movement as if to take it,
but she withdrew it impatiently.
"Come," she said brusquely; "now you're in for it you must play the
game out. He trusts you; if he sees you can't trust yourself,
he'll shoot you on sight. That don't frighten you? Well, perhaps
this will then! He'll SAY your religion is a sham and you a
hypocrite--and everybody will believe him. How do you like that,
Brother Wayne? How will that help the Church? Come! You're a
pair of cranks together; but he's got the whip-hand of you this
time. All you can do is to keep up to his idea of you. Put a bold
face on it, and come here as often as you can--the oftener the
better; the sooner you'll both get sick of each other--and of ME.
That's what you're both after, ain't it? Well! I can tell you now,
you needn't either of you be the least afraid of me."
She walked away to the window again, not angrily, but smoothing
down the folds of her bright print dress as if she were wiping her
hands of her husband and his guest. Something like a very material
and man-like sense of shame struggled up through his crust of
religion. He stammered, "You don't understand me, Safie."
"Then talk of something I do understand," she said pertly. "Tell
me some news of Angel's. Your brother was over there the other
day. He made himself quite popular with the young ladies--so I
hear from Mrs. Selvedge. You can tell me as we walk along the bank
towards Sandy's claim. It's just as well that you should move on
now, as it's your FIRST call, and next time you can stop longer."
She went to the corner of the room, removed her smart slippers, and
put on a pair of walking-shoes, tying them, with her foot on a
chair, in a quiet disregard of her visitor's presence; took a brown
holland sunbonnet from the wall, clapped it over her browner hair
and hanging braids, and tied it under her chin with apparently no
sense of coquetry in the act--becoming though it was--and without
glancing at him. Alas for Madison's ethics! The torment of her
worldly speech and youthful contempt was nothing to this tacit
ignoring of the manhood of her lover--this silent acceptance of him
as something even lower than her husband. He followed her with a
burning cheek and a curious revolting of his whole nature that it
is to be feared were scarcely Christian. The willows opened to let
them pass and closed behind them.
An hour later Mrs. McGee returned to her leafy bower alone. She
took off her sunbonnet, hung it on its nail on the wall, shook down
her braids, took off her shoes, stained with the mud of her
husband's claim, and put on her slippers. Then she ascended to her
eyrie in the little gallery, and gazed smilingly across the sunlit
Bar. The two gaunt shadows of her husband and lover, linked like
twins, were slowly passing along the river bank on their way to the
eclipsing obscurity of the cottonwoods. Below her--almost at her
very feet--the unconscious Arthur Wayne was pushing his work on the
river bed, far out to the promontory. The sunlight fell upon his
vivid scarlet shirt, his bared throat, and head clustering with
perspiring curls. The same sunlight fell upon Mrs. McGee's brown
head too, and apparently put a wicked fancy inside it. She ran to
her bedroom, and returned with a mirror from its wall, and, after
some trials in getting the right angle, sent a searching reflection
upon the spot where Arthur was at work.
For an instant a diamond flash played around him. Then he lifted
his head and turned it curiously towards the crest above him. But
the next moment he clapped his hands over his dazzled but now
smiling eyes, as Mrs. McGee, secure in her leafy obscurity, fell
back and laughed to herself, like a very schoolgirl.
It was three weeks later, and Madison Wayne was again sitting alone
in his cabin. This solitude had become of more frequent occurrence
lately, since Arthur had revolted and openly absented himself from
his religious devotions for lighter diversions of the Bar. Keenly
as Madison felt his defection, he was too much preoccupied with
other things to lay much stress upon it, and the sting of Arthur's
relapse to worldliness and folly lay in his own consciousness that
it was partly his fault. He could not chide his brother when he
felt that his own heart was absorbed in his neighbor's wife, and
although he had rigidly adhered to his own crude ideas of self-
effacement and loyalty to McGee, he had been again and again a
visitor at his house. It was true that Mrs. McGee had made this
easier by tacitly accepting his conditions of their acquaintanceship,
by seeming more natural, by exhibiting a gayety, and at times even a
certain gentleness and thoughtfulness of conduct that delighted her
husband and astonished her lover. Whether this wonderful change had
really been effected by the latter's gloomy theology and still more
hopeless ethics, he could not say. She certainly showed no
disposition to imitate their formalities, nor seemed to be impressed
by them on the rare occasions when he now offered them. Yet she
appeared to link the two men together--even physically--as on these
occasions when, taking an arm of each, she walked affectionately
between them along the river bank promenade, to the great marveling
and admiration of the Bar. It was said, however, that Mr. Jack
Hamlin, a gambler, at that moment professionally visiting Wayne's
Bar, and a great connoisseur of feminine charms and weaknesses, had
glanced at them under his handsome lashes, and asked a single
question, evidently so amusing to the younger members of the Bar
that Madison Wayne knit his brow and Arthur Wayne blushed. Mr.
Hamlin took no heed of the elder brother's frown, but paid some
slight attention to the color of the younger brother, and even more
to a slightly coquettish glance from the pretty Mrs. McGee. Whether
or not--as has been ingeniously alleged by some moralists--the light
and trifling of either sex are prone to recognize each other by some
mysterious instinct, is not a necessary consideration of this
chronicle; enough that the fact is recorded.
And yet Madison Wayne should have been satisfied with his work!
His sacrifice was accepted; his happy issue from a dangerous
situation, and his happy triumph over a more dangerous temptation,
was complete and perfect, and even achieved according to his own
gloomy theories of redemption and regeneration. Yet he was not
happy. The human heart is at times strangely unappeasable. And as
he sat that evening in the gathering shadows, the Book which should
have yielded him balm and comfort lay unopened in his lap.
A step upon the gravel outside had become too familiar to startle
him. It was Mr. McGee lounging into the cabin like a gaunt shadow.
It must be admitted that the friendship of these strangely
contrasted men, however sincere and sympathetic, was not cheerful.
A belief in the thorough wickedness of humanity, kept under only
through fear of extreme penalty and punishment, material and
spiritual, was not conducive to light and amusing conversation.
Their talk was mainly a gloomy chronicle of life at the Bar, which
was in itself half an indictment. To-night, Mr. McGee spoke of the
advent of Mr. Jack Hamlin, and together they deplored the diversion
of the hard-earned gains and valuable time of the Bar through
the efforts of that ingenious gentleman. "Not," added McGee
cautiously, "but what he can shoot straight enough, and I've heard
tell that he don't LIE. That mout and it moutn't be good for your
brother who goes around with him considerable, there's different
ways of lookin' at that; you understand what I mean? You follow
me?" For all that, the conversation seemed to languish this
evening, partly through some abstraction on the part of Wayne and
partly some hesitation in McGee, who appeared to have a greater
fear than usual of not expressing himself plainly. It was quite
dark in the cabin when at last, detaching himself from his usual
lounging place, the door-post, he walked to the window and leaned,
more shadowy than ever, over Wayne's chair. "I want to tell you
suthin'," he said slowly, "that I don't want you to misunderstand--
you follow me? and that ain't no ways carpin' or criticisin' nor
reflectin' on YOU--you understand what I mean? Ever sens you and
me had that talk here about you and Safie, and ever sens I got the
hang of your ways and your style o' thinkin', I've been as sure of
you and her as if I'd been myself trottin' round with you and a
revolver. And I'm as sure of you now--you sabe what I mean? you
understand? You've done me and her a heap o' good; she's almost
another woman sens you took hold of her, and ef you ever want me to
stand up and 'testify,' as you call it, in church, Sandy McGee is
ready. What I'm tryin' to say to ye is this. Tho' I understand
you and your work and your ways--there's other folks ez moutn't--
you follow? You understand what I mean? And it's just that I'm
coming to. Now las' night, when you and Safie was meanderin' along
the lower path by the water, and I kem across you"--
"But," interrupted Madison quickly, "you're mistaken. I wasn't"--
"Hol' on," said McGee, quietly; "I know you got out o' the way
without you seein' me or me you, because you didn't know it was me,
don't you see? don't you follow? and that's just it! It mout have
bin some one from the Bar as seed you instead o' ME. See? That's
why you lit out before I could recognize you, and that's why poor
Safie was so mighty flustered at first and was for runnin' away
until she kem to herself agin. When, of course, she laughed, and
agreed you must have mistook me."
"But," gasped Madison quickly, "I WASN'T THERE AT ALL LAST NIGHT."
The two men had risen simultaneously and were facing each other.
McGee, with a good-natured, half-critical expression, laid his hand
on Wayne's shoulder and slightly turned him towards the window,
that he might see his face. It seemed to him white and dazed.
"You--wasn't there--last night?" he repeated, with a slow
Scarcely a moment elapsed, but the agony of an hour may have
thrilled through Wayne's consciousness before he spoke. Then all
the blood of his body rushed to his face with his first lie as he
stammered, "No! Yes! Of course. I have made a mistake--it WAS I."
"I see--you thought I was riled?" said McGee quietly.
"No; I was thinking it was NIGHT BEFORE LAST! Of course it was
last night. I must be getting silly." He essayed a laugh--rare at
any time with him--and so forced now that it affected McGee more
than his embarrassment. He looked at Wayne thoughtfully, and then
said slowly: "I reckon I did come upon you a little too sudden last
night, but, you see, I was thinkin' of suthin' else and disremembered
you might be there. But I wasn't mad--no! no! and I only spoke
about it now that you might be more keerful before folks. You
follow me? You understand what I mean?"
He turned and walked to the door, when he halted. "You follow me,
don't you? It ain't no cussedness o' mine, or want o' trustin',
don't you see? Mebbe I oughtened have spoken. I oughter
remembered that times this sort o' thing must be rather rough on
you and her. You follow me? You understand what I mean? Good-
He walked slowly down the path towards the river. Had Madison
Wayne been watching him, he would have noticed that his head was
bent and his step less free. But Madison Wayne was at that moment
sitting rigidly in his chair, nursing, with all the gloomy
concentration of a monastic nature, a single terrible suspicion.
Howbeit the sun shone cheerfully over the Bar the next morning and
the next; the breath of life and activity was in the air; the
settlement never had been more prosperous, and the yield from the
opened placers on the drained river-bed that week was enormous.
The Brothers Wayne were said to be "rolling in gold." It was
thought to be consistent with Madison Wayne's nature that there was
no trace of good fortune in his face or manner--rather that he had
become more nervous, restless, and gloomy. This was attributed to
the joylessness of avarice as contrasted with the spendthrift
gayety of the more liberal Arthur, and he was feared and RESPECTED
as a miser. His long, solitary walks around the promontory, his
incessant watchfulness, his reticence when questioned, were all
recognized as the indications of a man whose soul was absorbed in
money-getting. The reverence they failed to yield to his religious
isolation they were willing to freely accord to his financial
abstraction. But Mr. McGee was not so deceived. Overtaking him
one day under the fringe of willows, he characteristically chided
him with absenting himself from Mrs. McGee and her house since
their last interview.
"I reckon you did not harbor malice in your Christianity," he said;
"but it looks mighty like ez if ye was throwing off on Safie and me
on account of what I said."
In vain Madison gloomily and almost sternly protested.
McGee looked him all over with his clear measuring eye, and for
some minutes was singularly silent. At last he said slowly: "I've
been thinkin' suthin' o' goin' down to 'Frisco, and I'd be a heap
easier in my mind ef you'd promise to look arter Safie now and
"You surely are not going to leave her here ALONE?" said Wayne
For an instant Wayne hesitated. Then he burst out. "For a hundred
reasons! If she ever wanted your protection, before, she surely
does now. Do you suppose the Bar is any less heathen or more
regenerated than it was when you thought it necessary to guard her
with your revolver? Man! It is a hundred times worse than then!
The new claims have filled it with spying adventurers--with wolves
like Hamlin and his friends--idolaters who would set up Baal and
Ashteroth here--and fill your tents with the curses of Sodom!"
Perhaps it was owing to the Scriptural phrasing, perhaps it was
from some unusual authority of the man's manner, but a look of
approving relief and admiration came into McGee's clear eyes.
"And YOU'RE just the man to tackle 'em," he said, clapping his hand
on Wayne's shoulder. "That's your gait--keep it up! But," he
added, in a lower voice, "me and my revolver are played out."
There was a strangeness in the tone that arrested Wayne's
attention. "Yes," continued McGee, stroking his beard slowly, "men
like me has their day, and revolvers has theirs; the world turns
round and the Bar fills up, and this yer river changes its course--
and it's all in the day's work. You understand what I mean--you
follow me? And if anything should happen to me--not that it's like
to; but it's in the way o' men--I want you to look arter Safie. It
ain't every woman ez has two men, ez like and unlike, to guard her.
You follow me--you understand what I mean, don't you?" With these
words he parted somewhat abruptly from Wayne, turning into the
steep path to the promontory crest and leaving his companion lost
in gloomy abstraction. The next day Alexander McGee had departed
on a business trip to San Francisco.
In his present frame of mind, with his new responsibility and the
carrying out of a plan which he had vaguely conceived might remove
the terrible idea that had taken possession of him, Madison Wayne
was even relieved when his brother also announced his intention of
going to Angel's for a few days.
For since his memorable interview with McGee he had been convinced
that Safie had been clandestinely visited by some one. Whether it
was the thoughtless and momentary indiscretion of a willful woman,
or the sequel to some deliberately planned intrigue, did not
concern him so much as the falsity of his own position, and the
conniving lie by which he had saved her and her lover. That at
this crucial moment he had failed to "testify" to guilt and
wickedness; that he firmly believed--such is the inordinate vanity
of the religious zealot--that he had denied Him in his effort to
shield HER; and that he had broken faith with the husband who had
entrusted to him the custody of his wife's honor, seemed to him
more terrible than her faithlessness. In his first horror he had
dreaded to see her, lest her very confession--he knew her reckless
frankness towards himself--should reveal to him the extent of his
complicity. But since then, and during her husband's absence, he
had convinced himself that it was his duty to wrestle and strive
with her weak spirit, to implore her to reveal her new intrigue to
her husband, and then he would help her to sue for his forgiveness.
It was a part of the inconsistency of his religious convictions; in
his human passion he was perfectly unselfish, and had already
forgiven her the offense against himself. He would see her at
But it happened to be a quiet, intense night, with the tremulous
opulence of a full moon that threw quivering shafts of light like
summer lightning over the blue river, and laid a wonderful carpet
of intricate lace along the path that wound through the willows to
the crest. There was the dry, stimulating dust and spice of heated
pines from below; the languorous odors of syringa; the faint,
feminine smell of southernwood, and the infinite mystery of
silence. This silence was at times softly broken with the tender
inarticulate whisper of falling leaves, broken sighs from the tree-
tops, and the languid stretching of wakened and unclasping boughs.
Madison Wayne had not, alas! taken into account this subtle
conspiracy of Night and Nature, and as he climbed higher, his steps
began to falter with new and strange sensations. The rigidity of
purpose which had guided the hard religious convictions that always
sustained him, began to relax. A tender sympathy stole over him; a
loving mercy to himself as well as others stole into his heart. He
thought of HER as she had nestled at his side, hand in hand, upon
the moonlit veranda of her father's house, before his hard
convictions had chilled and affrighted her. He thought of her
fresh simplicity, and what had seemed to him her wonderful girlish
beauty, and lo! in a quick turn of the path he stood breathless and
tremulous before the house. The moonbeams lay tenderly upon the
peaceful eaves; the long blossoms of the Madeira vine seemed
sleeping also. The pink flush of the Cherokee rose in the unreal
light had become chastely white.
But he was evidently too late for an interview. The windows were
blank in the white light; only one--her bedroom--showed a light
behind the lowered muslin blind. Her draped shadow once or twice
passed across it. He was turning away with soft steps and even
bated breath when suddenly he stopped. The exaggerated but
unmistakable shadow of a man stood beside her on the blind.
With a fierce leap as of a maniac, he was at the door, pounding,
rattling, and uttering hoarse and furious outcries. Even through
his fury he heard quickened footsteps--her light, reckless, half-
hysterical laugh--a bound upon the staircase--the hurried unbolting
and opening of distant doors, as the lighter one with which he
was struggling at last yielded to his blind rage, and threw him
crashing into the sitting-room. The back door was wide open. He
could hear the rustling and crackling of twigs and branches in
different directions down the hillside, where the fugitives had
separated as they escaped. And yet he stood there for an instant,
dazed and wondering, "What next?"
His eyes fell upon McGee's rifle standing upright in the corner.
It was a clean, beautiful, precise weapon, even to the unprofessional
eye, its long, laminated hexagonal barrel taking a tenderer blue in
the moonlight. He snatched it up. It was capped and loaded.
Without a pause he dashed down the hill.
Only one thought was in his mind now--the crudest, simplest duty.
He was there in McGee's place; he should do what McGee would do.
God had abandoned him, but McGee's rifle remained.
In a few minutes' downward plunging he had reached the river bank.
The tranquil silver surface quivered and glittered before him. He
saw what he knew he would see, the black target of a man's head
above it, making for the Bar. He took deliberate aim and fired.
There was no echo to that sharp detonation; a distant dog barked,
there was a slight whisper in the trees beside him, that was all!
But the head of the man was no longer visible, and the liquid
silver filmed over again, without a speck or stain.
He shouldered the rifle, and with the automatic action of men in
great crises returned slowly and deliberately to the house and
carefully replaced the rifle in its old position. He had no
concern for the miserable woman who had fled; had she appeared
before him at the moment, he would not have noticed her. Yet a
strange instinct--it seemed to him the vaguest curiosity--made him
ascend the stairs and enter her chamber. The candle was still
burning on the table with that awful unconsciousness and simplicity
of detail which makes the scene of real tragedy so terrible.
Beside it lay a belt and leather pouch. Madison Wayne suddenly
dashed forward and seized it, with a wild, inarticulate cry;
staggered, fell over the chair, rose to his feet, blindly groped
his way down the staircase, burst into the road, and, hugging the
pouch to his bosom, fled like a madman down the hill.
. . . . . .
The body of Arthur Wayne was picked up two days later a dozen miles
down the river. Nothing could be more evident and prosaic than the
manner in which he had met his fate. His body was only partly
clothed, and the money pouch and belt, which had been securely
locked next his skin, after the fashion of all miners, was gone.
He was known to have left the Bar with a considerable sum of money;
he was undoubtedly dogged, robbed, and murdered during his journey
on the river bank by the desperadoes who were beginning to infest
the vicinity. The grief and agony of his only brother, sole
survivor of that fraternal and religious partnership so well known
to the camp, although shown only by a grim and speechless
melancholy,--broken by unintelligible outbursts of religious
raving,--was so real, that it affected even the callous camp. But
scarcely had it regained its feverish distraction, before it was
thrilled by another sensation. Alexander McGee had fallen from the
deck of a Sacramento steamboat in the Straits of Carquinez, and his
body had been swept out to sea. The news had apparently been first
to reach the ears of his devoted wife, for when the camp--at this
lapse of the old prohibition--climbed to her bower with their rude
consolations, the house was found locked and deserted. The fateful
influence of the promontory had again prevailed, the grim record of
its seclusion was once more unbroken.
For with it, too, drooped and faded the fortunes of the Bar.
Madison Wayne sold out his claim, endowed the church at the Cross
Roads with the proceeds, and the pulpit with his grim, hopeless,
denunciatory presence. The first rains brought a freshet to the
Bar. The river leaped the light barriers that had taken the place
of Wayne's peaceful engines, and regained the old channel. The
curse that the Rev. Madison Wayne had launched on this riverside
Sodom seemed to have been fulfilled. But even this brought no
satisfaction to the gloomy prophet, for it was presently known that
he had abandoned his terror-stricken flock to take the circuit as
revivalist preacher and camp-meeting exhorter, in the rudest and
most lawless of gatherings. Desperate ruffians writhed at his feet
in impotent terror or more impotent rage; murderers and thieves
listened to him with blanched faces and set teeth, restrained only
by a more awful fear. Over and over again he took his life with
his Bible into his own hands when he rose above the excited
multitude; he was shot at, he was rail-ridden, he was deported, but
never silenced. And so, sweeping over the country, carrying fear
and frenzy with him, scouting life and mercy, and crushing alike
the guilty and innocent, he came one Sabbath to a rocky crest of
the Sierras--the last tattered and frayed and soiled fringe of
civilization on the opened tract of a great highway. And here he
was to "testify," as was his wont.
But not as he expected. For as he stood up on a boulder above the
thirty or forty men sitting or lying upon other rocks and boulders
around him, on the craggy mountain shelf where they had gathered, a
man also rose, elbowed past them, and with a hurried impulse tried
to descend the declivity. But a cry was suddenly heard from
others, quick and clamoring, which called the whole assembly to its
feet, and it was seen that the fugitive had in some blundering way
fallen from the precipice.
He was brought up cruelly maimed and mangled, his ribs crushed, and
one lung perforated, but still breathing and conscious. He had
asked to see the preacher. Death impending, and even then
struggling with his breath, made this request imperative. Madison
Wayne stopped the service, and stalked grimly and inflexibly to
where the dying man lay. But there he started.
"McGee!" he said breathlessly.
"Send these men away," said McGee faintly. "I've got suthin' to
The men drew back without a word. "You thought I was dead," said
McGee, with eyes still undimmed and marvelously clear. "I orter
bin, but it don't need no doctor to say it ain't far off now. I
left the Bar to get killed; I tried to in a row, but the fellows
were skeert to close with me, thinkin' I'd shoot. My reputation
was agin me, there! You follow me? You understand what I mean?"
Kneeling beside him now and grasping both his hands, the changed
and horror-stricken Wayne gasped, "But"--
"Hold on! I jumped off the Sacramento boat--I was goin' down the
third time--they thought on the boat I was gone--they think so now!
But a passin' fisherman dived for me. I grappled him--he was clear
grit and would have gone down with me, but I couldn't let him die
too--havin' so to speak no cause. You follow me--you understand
me? I let him save me. But it was all the same, for when I got to
'Frisco I read as how I was drowned. And then I reckoned it was
all right, and I wandered HERE, where I wasn't known--until I saw
"But why should you want to die?" said Wayne, almost fiercely.
"What right have you to die while others--double-dyed and blood-
stained, are condemned to live, 'testify,' and suffer?"
The dying man feebly waved a deprecation with his maimed hand, and
even smiled faintly. "I knew you'd say that. I knew what you'd
think about it, but it's all the same now. I did it for you and
Safie! I knew I was in the way; I knew you was the man she orter
had; I knew you was the man who had dragged her outer the mire and
clay where I was leavin' her, as you did when she fell in the
water. I knew that every day I lived I was makin' YOU suffer and
breakin' HER heart--for all she tried to be gentle and gay."
"Great God in heaven! Will you stop!" said Wayne, springing to his
feet in agony. A frightened look--the first that any one had ever
seen in the clear eyes of the Bell-ringer of Angel's--passed over
them, and he murmured tremulously: "All right--I'm stoppin'!"
So, too, was his heart, for the wonderful eyes were now slowly
glazing. Yet he rallied once more--coming up again the third time
as it seemed to Wayne--and his lips moved slowly. The preacher
threw himself despairingly on the ground beside him.
"Speak, brother! For God's sake, speak!"
It was his last whisper--so faint it might have been the first of
his freed soul. But he only said:--
The vast dining-room of the Crustacean Hotel at Greyport, U. S.,
was empty and desolate. It was so early in the morning that there
was a bedroom deshabille in the tucked-up skirts and bare legs of
the little oval breakfast-tables as they had just been left by the
dusting servants. The most stirring of travelers was yet abed, the
most enterprising of first-train catchers had not yet come down;
there was a breath of midsummer sleep still in the air; through the
half-opened windows that seemed to be yawning, the pinkish blue
Atlantic beyond heaved gently and slumberously, and drowsy early
bathers crept into it as to bed. Yet as I entered the room I saw
that one of the little tables in the corner was in reality occupied
by a very small and very extraordinary child. Seated in a high
chair, attended by a dreamily abstracted nurse on one side, an
utterly perfunctory negro waiter on the other, and an incongruous
assortment of disregarded viands before him, he was taking--or,
rather, declining--his solitary breakfast. He appeared to be a
pale, frail, but rather pretty boy, with a singularly pathetic
combination of infant delicacy of outline and maturity of
expression. His heavily fringed eyes expressed an already weary
and discontented intelligence, and his willful, resolute little
mouth was, I fancied, marked with lines of pain at either corner.
He struck me as not only being physically dyspeptic, but as morally
loathing his attendants and surroundings.
My entrance did not disturb the waiter, with whom I had no
financial relations; he simply concealed an exaggerated yawn
professionally behind his napkin until my own servitor should
appear. The nurse slightly awoke from her abstraction, shoved the
child mechanically,--as if starting up some clogged machinery,--
said, "Eat your breakfast, Johnnyboy," and subsided into her dream.
I think the child had at first some faint hope of me, and when my
waiter appeared with my breakfast he betrayed some interest in my
selection, with a view of possible later appropriation, but, as my
repast was simple, that hope died out of his infant mind. Then
there was a silence, broken at last by the languid voice of the
"Try some milk then--nice milk."
"No! No mik! Mik makes me sick--mik does!"
In spite of the hurried infantine accent the protest was so
emphatic, and, above all, fraught with such pent-up reproach and
disgust, that I turned about sympathetically. But Johnnyboy had
already thrown down his spoon, slipped from his high chair, and was
marching out of the room as fast as his little sandals would carry
him, with indignation bristling in every line of the crisp bows of
I, however, gathered from Mr. Johnson, my waiter, that the
unfortunate child owned a fashionable father and mother, one or two
blocks of houses in New York, and a villa at Greyport, which he
consistently and intelligently despised. That he had imperiously
brought his parents here on account of his health, and had demanded
that he should breakfast alone in the big dining-room. That,
however, he was not happy. "Nuffin peahs to agree wid him, Sah,
but he doan' cry, and he speaks his mind, Sah; he speaks his mind."
Unfortunately, I did not keep Johnnyboy's secret, but related the
scene I had witnessed to some of the lighter-hearted Crustaceans of
either sex, with the result that his alliterative protest became a
sort of catchword among them, and that for the next few mornings he
had a large audience of early breakfasters, who fondly hoped for a
repetition of his performance. I think that Johnnyboy for the time
enjoyed this companionship, yet without the least affectation or
self-consciousness--so long as it was unobtrusive. It so chanced,
however, that the Rev. Mr. Belcher, a gentleman with bovine
lightness of touch, and a singular misunderstanding of childhood,
chose to presume upon his paternal functions. Approaching the high
chair in which Johnnyboy was dyspeptically reflecting, with a
ponderous wink at the other guests, and a fat thumb and forefinger
on Johnnyboy's table, he leaned over him, and with slow,
elephantine playfulness said:--
"And so, my dear young friend, I understand that 'mik makes you
Anything approaching to the absolute likeness of this imitation of
Johnnyboy's accents it is impossible to conceive. Possibly
Johnnyboy felt it. But he simply lifted his lovely lashes, and
said with great distinctness:--
"Mik don't--you devil!"
After this, closely as it had knitted us together, Johnnyboy's
morning presence was mysteriously withdrawn. It was later pointed
out to us by Mr. Belcher, upon the veranda, that, although Wealth
had its privileges, it was held in trust for the welfare of
Mankind, and that the children of the Rich could not too early
learn the advantages of Self-restraint and the vanity of a mere
gratification of the Senses. Early and frequent morning ablutions,
brisk morning toweling, half of a Graham biscuit in a teacup of
milk, exercise with the dumb-bells, and a little rough-and-tumble
play in a straw hat, check apron, and overalls would eventually
improve that stamina necessary for his future Position, and repress
a dangerous cerebral activity and tendency to give way to-- He
suddenly stopped, coughed, and absolutely looked embarrassed.
Johnnyboy, a moving cloud of white pique, silk, and embroidery, had
just turned the corner of the veranda. He did not speak, but as he
passed raised his blue-veined lids to the orator. The look of
ineffable scorn and superiority in those beautiful eyes surpassed
anything I had ever seen. At the next veranda column he paused,
and, with his baby thumbs inserted in his silk sash, again regarded
him under his half-dropped lashes as if he were some curious
animal, and then passed on. But Belcher was silenced for the
I think I have said enough to show that Johnnyboy was hopelessly
worshiped by an impressible and illogical sex. I say HOPELESSLY,
for he slipped equally from the proudest silken lap and the
humblest one of calico, and carried his eyelashes and small aches
elsewhere. I think that a secret fear of his alarming frankness,
and his steady rejection of the various tempting cates they offered
him, had much to do with their passion. "It won't hurt you, dear,"
said Miss Circe, "and it's so awfully nice. See!" she continued,
putting one of the delicacies in her own pretty mouth with every
assumption of delight. "It's SO good!" Johnnyboy rested his
elbows on her knees, and watched her with a grieved and
commiserating superiority. "Bimeby, you'll have pains in youse
tommick, and you'll be tookt to bed," he said sadly, "and then
you'll--have to dit up and"-- But as it was found necessary here
to repress further details, he escaped other temptation.
Two hours later, as Miss Circe was seated in the drawing-room with
her usual circle of enthusiastic admirers around her, Johnnyboy--
who was issued from his room for circulation, two or three times a
day, as a genteel advertisement of his parents--floated into the
apartment in a new dress and a serious demeanor. Sidling up to
Miss Circe he laid a phial--evidently his own pet medicine--on her
lap, said, "For youse tommikake to-night," and vanished. Yet I
have reason to believe that this slight evidence of unusual
remembrance on Johnnyboy's part more than compensated for its
publicity, and for a few days Miss Circe was quite "set up" by it.
It was through some sympathy of this kind that I first gained
Johnnyboy's good graces. I had been presented with a small pocket
case of homoeopathic medicines, and one day on the beach I took out
one of the tiny phials and, dropping two or three of the still
tinier pellets in my hand, swallowed them. To my embarrassment,
a small hand presently grasped my trouser-leg. I looked down; it
was Johnnyboy, in a new and ravishing smuggler suit, with his
questioning eyes fixed on mine.
"Howjer do dat?"
"Wajer do dat for?"
"That?--Oh, that's medicine. I've got a headache."
He searched the inmost depths of my soul with his wonderful eyes.
Then, after a pause, he held out his baby palm.
"You kin give Johnny some."
"But you haven't got headache--have you?"
"Me alluz has."
He nodded his head rapidly. Then added slowly, and with great
elaboration, "Et mo'nins, et affernoons, et nights, 'nd mo'nins
adain. 'N et becker" (i. e., breakfast).
There was no doubt it was the truth. Those eyes did not seem to be
in the habit of lying. After all, the medicine could not hurt him.
His nurse was at a little distance gazing absently at the sea. I
sat down on a bench, and dropped a few of the pellets into his
palm. He ate them seriously, and then turned around and backed--
after the well-known appealing fashion of childhood--against my
knees. I understood the movement--although it was unlike my idea
of Johnnyboy. However, I raised him to my lap--with the sensation
of lifting a dozen lace-edged handkerchiefs, and with very little
more effort--where he sat silently for a moment, with his sandals
crossed pensively before him.
"Wouldn't you like to go and play with those children?" I asked,
pointing to a group of noisy sand levelers not far away.
"No!" After a pause, "You wouldn't neither."
"But," I said, "perhaps if you went and played with them and ran up
and down as they do, you wouldn't have headache."
Johnnyboy did not answer for a moment; then there was a perceptible
gentle movement of his small frame. I confess I felt brutally like
Belcher. He was getting down.
Once down he faced me, lifted his frank eyes, said, "Do way and
play den," smoothed down his smuggler frock, and rejoined his
But although Johnnyboy afterwards forgave my moral defection, he
did not seem to have forgotten my practical medical ministration,
and our brief interview had a surprising result. From that moment
he confounded his parents and doctors by resolutely and positively
refusing to take any more of their pills, tonics, or drops.
Whether from a sense of loyalty to me, or whether he was not yet
convinced of the efficacy of homoeopathy, he did not suggest a
substitute, declare his preferences, or even give his reasons, but
firmly and peremptorily declined his present treatment. And, to
everybody's astonishment, he did not seem a bit the worse for it.
Still he was not strong, and his continual aversion to childish
sports and youthful exercise provoked the easy criticism of that
large part of humanity who are ready to confound cause and effect,
and such brief moments as the Sluysdaels could spare him from their
fashionable duties were made miserable to them by gratuitous
suggestions and plans for their child's improvement. It was
noticeable, however, that few of them were ever offered to
Johnnyboy personally. He had a singularly direct way of dealing
with them, and a precision of statement that was embarrassing.
One afternoon, Jack Bracy drove up to the veranda of the Crustacean
with a smart buggy and spirited thoroughbred for Miss Circe's
especial driving, and his own saddle-horse on which he was to
accompany her. Jack had dismounted, a groom held his saddle-horse
until the young lady should appear, and he himself stood at the
head of the thoroughbred. As Johnnyboy, leaning against the
railing, was regarding the turnout with ill-concealed disdain,
Jack, in the pride of his triumph over his rivals, good-humoredly
offered to put him in the buggy, and allow him to take the reins.
Johnnyboy did not reply.
"Come along!" continued Jack, "it will do you a heap of good! It's
better than lazing there like a girl! Rouse up, old man!"
"Me don't like that geegee," said Johnnyboy calmly. "He's a silly
"You're afraid," said Jack.
Johnnyboy lifted his proud lashes, and toddled to the steps. Jack
received him in his arms, swung him into the seat, and placed the
slim yellow reins in his baby hands.
"Now you feel like a man, and not like a girl!" said Jack. "Eh,
what? Oh, I beg your pardon."
For Miss Circe had appeared--had absolutely been obliged to wait a
whole half-minute unobserved--and now stood there a dazzling but
pouting apparition. In eagerly turning to receive her, Jack's foot
slipped on the step, and he fell. The thoroughbred started, gave a
sickening plunge forward, and was off! But so, too, was Jack, the
next moment, on his own horse, and before Miss Circe's screams had
For two blocks on Ocean Avenue, passersby that afternoon saw a
strange vision. A galloping horse careering before a light buggy,
in which a small child, seated upright, was grasping the tightened
reins. But so erect and composed was the little face and figure--
albeit as white as its own frock--that for an instant they did not
grasp its awful significance. Those further along, however, read
the whole awful story in the drawn face and blazing eyes of Jack
Bracy as he, at last, swung into the Avenue. For Jack had the
brains as well as the nerve of your true hero, and, knowing the
dangerous stimulus of a stern chase to a frightened horse, had kept
a side road until it branched into the Avenue. So furious had been
his pace, and so correct his calculation, that he ranged alongside
of the runaway even as it passed, grasped the reins, and, in half a
block, pulled up on even wheels.
"I never saw such pluck in a mite like that," he whispered
afterwards to his anxious auditory. "He never dropped those
ribbons, by G--, until I got alongside, and then he just hopped
down and said, as short and cool as you please, 'Dank you!'"
"Me didn't," uttered a small voice reproachfully.
"Didn't you, dear! What DID you say then, darling?" exclaimed a
"Me said: 'Damn you!' Me don't like silly fool geegees. Silly
fool geegees make me sick--silly fool geegees do!"
Nevertheless, in spite of this incident, the attempts at Johnnyboy's
physical reformation still went on. More than that, it was argued
by some complacent casuists that the pluck displayed by the child
was the actual result of this somewhat heroic method of taking
exercise, and NOT an inherent manliness distinct from his physical
tastes. So he was made to run when he didn't want to--to dance when
he frankly loathed his partners--to play at games that he despised.
His books and pictures were taken away; he was hurried past
hoardings and theatrical posters that engaged his fancy; the public
was warned against telling him fairy tales, except those constructed
on strictly hygienic principles. His fastidious cleanliness was
rebuked, and his best frocks taken away--albeit at a terrible
sacrifice of his parents' vanity--to suit the theories of his
critics. How long this might have continued is not known--for the
theory and practice were suddenly arrested by another sensation.
One morning a children's picnic party was given on a rocky point
only accessible at certain states of the tide, whither they were
taken in a small boat under the charge of a few hotel servants,
and, possibly as part of his heroic treatment, Johnnyboy, who was
included in the party, was not allowed to be attended by his
Whether this circumstance added to his general disgust of the whole
affair, and his unwillingness to go, I cannot say, but it is to be
regretted, since the omission deprived Johnnyboy of any impartial
witness to what subsequently occurred. That he was somewhat
roughly handled by several of the larger children appeared to be
beyond doubt, although there was conflicting evidence as to the
sequel. Enough that at noon screams were heard in the direction of
certain detached rocks on the point, and the whole party proceeding
thither found three of the larger boys on the rocks, alone and cut
off by the tide, having been left there, as they alleged, by
Johnnyboy, WHO HAD RUN AWAY WITH THE BOAT. They subsequently
admitted that THEY had first taken the boat and brought Johnnyboy
with them, "just to frighten him," but they adhered to the rest.
And certainly Johnnyboy and the boat were nowhere to be found. The
shore was communicated with, the alarm was given, the telegraph,
up and down the coast trilled with excitement, other boats were
But that afternoon the captain of the "Saucy Jane," mackerel
fisher, lying off the point, perceived a derelict "Whitehall" boat
drifting lazily towards the Gulf Stream. On boarding it he was
chagrined to find the expected flotsam already in the possession of
a very small child, who received him with a scornful reticence as
regarded himself and his intentions, and some objurgation of a
person or persons unknown. It was Johnnyboy. But whether he had
attempted the destruction of the three other boys by "marooning"
them upon the rocks--as their parents firmly believed--or whether
he had himself withdrawn from their company simply because he did
not like them, was never known. Any further attempt to improve
his education by the roughing gregarious process was, however,
abandoned. The very critics who had counseled it now clamored for
restraint and perfect isolation. It was ably pointed out by the
Rev. Mr. Belcher that the autocratic habits begotten by wealth and
pampering should be restricted, and all intercourse with their
possessor promptly withheld.
But the season presently passed with much of this and other
criticism, and the Sluysdaels passed too, carrying Johnnyboy and
his small aches and long eyelashes beyond these Crustacean voices,
where it was to be hoped there was peace. I did not hear of him
again for five years, and then, oddly enough, from the lips of Mr.
Belcher on the deck of a transatlantic steamer, as he was being
wafted to Europe for his recreation by the prayers and purses of a
grateful and enduring flock. "Master John Jacob Astor Sluysdael,"
said Mr. Belcher, speaking slowly, with great precision of
retrospect, "was taken from his private governess--I may say by my
advice--and sent to an admirable school in New York, fashioned upon
the English system of Eton and Harrow, and conducted by English
masters from Oxford and Cambridge. Here--I may also say at my
suggestion--he was subjected to the wholesome discipline equally of
his schoolmates and his masters; in fact, sir, as you are probably
aware, the most perfect democracy that we have yet known, in which
the mere accidents of wealth, position, luxury, effeminacy,
physical degeneration, and over-civilized stimulation, are not
recognized. He was put into compulsory cricket, football, and
rounders. As an undersized boy he was subjected to that ingenious
preparation for future mastership by the pupillary state of
servitude known, I think, as 'fagging.' His physical inertia was
stimulated and quickened, and his intellectual precocity repressed,
from time to time, by the exuberant playfulness of his fellow-
students, which occasionally took the form of forced ablutions and
corporal discomfort, and was called, I am told, 'hazing.' It is
but fair to state that our young friend had some singular mental
endowments, which, however, were promptly checked to repress the
vanity and presumption that would follow." The Rev. Mr. Belcher
paused, closed his eyes resignedly, and added, "Of course, you know
"Indeed, I do not," I said anxiously.
"A most deplorable affair--indeed, a most shocking incident!
It was hushed up, I believe, on account of the position of his
parents." He glanced furtively around, and in a lower and more
impressive voice said, "I am not myself a believer in heredity, and
I am not personally aware that there was a MURDERER among the
Sluysdael ancestry, but it seems that this monstrous child, in some
clandestine way, possessed himself of a huge bowie-knife, sir, and
on one of those occasions actually rushed furiously at the larger
boys--his innocent play-fellows--and absolutely forced them to flee
in fear of their lives. More than that, sir, a LOADED REVOLVER was
found in his desk, and he boldly and shamelessly avowed his
intention to eviscerate, or--to use his own revolting language--'to
cut the heart out' of the first one who again 'laid a finger on
him.'" He paused again, and, joining his two hands together with
the fingers pointing to the deck, breathed hard and said, "His
instantaneous withdrawal from the school was a matter of public
necessity. He was afterwards taken, in the charge of a private
tutor, to Europe, where, I trust, we shall NOT meet."
I could not resist saying cheerfully that, at least, Johnnyboy had
for a short time made it lively for the big boys.
The Rev. Mr. Belcher rose slowly, but painfully, said with a deeply
grieved expression, "I don't think that I entirely follow you," and
moved gently away.
The changes of youth are apt to be more bewildering than those of
age, and a decade scarcely perceptible in an old civilization often
means utter revolution to the new. It did not seem strange to me,
therefore, on meeting Jack Bracy twelve years after, to find that
he had forgotten Miss Circe, or that SHE had married, and was
living unhappily with a middle-aged adventurer by the name of
Jason, who was reputed to have had domestic relations elsewhere.
But although subjugated and exorcised, she at least was
reminiscent. To my inquiries about the Sluysdaels, she answered
with a slight return of her old vivacity:--
"Ah, yes, dear fellow, he was one of my greatest admirers."
"He was about four years old when you knew him, wasn't he?"
suggested Jason meanly. "Yes, they usually WERE young, but so kind
of you to recollect them. Young Sluysdael," he continued, turning
to me, "is--but of course you know that disgraceful story."
I felt that I could stand this no longer. "Yes," I said
indignantly, "I know all about the school, and I don't call his
conduct disgraceful either."
Jason stared. "I don't know what you mean about the school," he
returned. "I am speaking of his stepfather."
"Yes; his father, Van Buren Sluysdael, died, you know--a year after
they left Greyport. The widow was left all the money in trust for
Johnny, except about twenty-five hundred a year which he was in
receipt of as a separate income, even as a boy. Well, a glib-
tongued parson, a fellow by the name of Belcher, got round the
widow--she was a desperate fool--and, by Jove! made her marry him.
He made ducks and drakes of not only her money, but Johnny's too,
and had to skip to Spain to avoid the trustees. And Johnny--for
the Sluysdaels are all fools or lunatics--made over his whole
separate income to that wretched, fashionable fool of a mother,
and went into a stockbroker's office as a clerk."
"And walks to business before eight every morning, and they say
even takes down the shutters and sweeps out," broke in Circe
impulsively. "Works like a slave all day, wears out his old
clothes, has given up his clubs and amusements, and shuns society."
"But how about his health?" I asked. "Is he better and stronger?"
"I don't know," said Circe, "but he LOOKS as beautiful as Endymion."
. . . . . .
At his bank, in Wall Street, Bracy that afternoon confirmed all
that Jason had told me of young Sluysdael. "But his temper?" I
asked. "You remember his temper--surely."
"He's as sweet as a lamb, never quarrels, never whines, never
alludes to his lost fortune, and is never put out. For a
youngster, he's the most popular man in the street. Shall we nip
round and see him?"
"By all means."
"Come. It isn't far."
A few steps down the crowded street we dived into a den of plate-
glass windows, of scraps of paper, of rattling, ticking machines,
more voluble and excited than the careworn, abstracted men who
leaned over them. But "Johnnyboy"--I started at the familiar name
again--was not there. He was at luncheon.
"Let us join him," I said, as we gained the street again and turned
mechanically into Delmonico's.
"Not there," said Bracy with a laugh. "You forget! That's not
Johnnyboy's gait just now. Come here." He was descending a few
steps that led to a humble cake-shop. As we entered I noticed a
young fellow standing before the plain wooden counter with a cake
of gingerbread in one hand and a glass of milk in the other. His
profile was before me; I at once recognized the long lashes. But
the happy, boyish, careless laugh that greeted Bracy, as he
presented me, was a revelation.
Yet he was pleased to remember me. And then--it may have been
embarrassment that led me to such tactlessness, but as I glanced at
him and the glass of milk he was holding, I could not help
reminding him of the first words I had ever heard him utter.
He tossed off the glass, colored slightly, as I thought, and said
with a light laugh:--
"I suppose I have changed a good deal since then, sir."
I looked at his demure and resolute mouth, and wondered if he had.
YOUNG ROBIN GRAY.
The good American barque Skyscraper was swinging at her moorings in
the Clyde, off Bannock, ready for sea. But that good American
barque--although owned in Baltimore--had not a plank of American
timber in her hulk, nor a native American in her crew, and even her
nautical "goodness" had been called into serious question by divers
of that crew during her voyage, and answered more or less
inconclusively with belaying-pins, marlin-spikes, and ropes' ends
at the hands of an Irish-American captain and a Dutch and Danish
mate. So much so, that the mysterious powers of the American
consul at St. Kentigern had been evoked to punish mutiny on the
one hand, and battery and starvation on the other; both equally
attested by manifestly false witness and subornation on each side.
In the exercise of his functions the consul had opened and shut
some jail doors, and otherwise effected the usual sullen and
deceitful compromise, and his flag was now flying, on a final
visit, from the stern sheets of a smart boat alongside. It was
with a feeling of relief at the end of the interview that he at
last lifted his head above an atmosphere of perjury and bilge-water
and came on deck. The sun and wind were ruffling and glinting on
the broadening river beyond the "measured mile"; a few gulls were
wavering and dipping near the lee scuppers, and the sound of
Sabbath bells, mellowed by a distance that secured immunity of
conscience, came peacefully to his ear.
"Now that job's over ye'll be takin' a partin' dhrink," suggested
The consul thought not. Certain incidents of "the job" were fresh
in his memory, and he proposed to limit himself to his strict duty.
"You have some passengers, I see," he said, pointing to a group of
two men and a young girl, who had apparently just come aboard.
"Only wan; an engineer going out to Rio. Them's just his friends
seein' him off, I'm thinkin'," returned the captain, surveying them
The consul was a little disturbed. He wondered if the passenger
knew anything of the quality and reputation of the ship to which he
was entrusting his fortunes. But he was only a PASSENGER, and the
consul's functions--like those of the aloft-sitting cherub of
nautical song--were restricted exclusively to looking after "Poor
Jack." However, he asked a few further questions, eliciting the
fact that the stranger had already visited the ship with letters
from the eminently respectable consignees at St. Kentigern, and
contented himself with lingering near them. The young girl was
accompanied by her father, a respectably rigid-looking middle-class
tradesman, who, however, seemed to be more interested in the
novelty of his surroundings than in the movements of his daughter
and their departing friend. So it chanced that the consul
re-entered the cabin--ostensibly in search of a missing glove, but
really with the intention of seeing how the passenger was bestowed--
just behind them. But to his great embarrassment he at once
perceived that, owing to the obscurity of the apartment, they had
not noticed him, and before he could withdraw, the man had passed
his arm around the young girl's half stiffened, yet half yielding
"Only one, Ailsa," he pleaded in a slow, serious voice, pathetic
from the very absence of any youthful passion in it; "just one now.
It'll be gey lang before we meet again. Ye'll not refuse me now."
The young girl's lips seemed to murmur some protest that, however,
was lost in the beginning of a long and silent kiss.
The consul slipped out softly. His smile had died away. That
unlooked-for touch of human weakness seemed to purify the stuffy
and evil-reeking cabin, and the recollection of its brutal past to
drop with a deck-load of iniquity behind him to the bottom of the
Clyde. It is to be feared that in his unofficial moments he was
inclined to be sentimental, and it seemed to him that the good ship
Skyscraper henceforward carried an innocent freight not mentioned
in her manifest, and that a gentle, ever-smiling figure, not
entered on her books, had invisibly taken a place at her wheel.
But he was recalled to himself by a slight altercation on deck.
The young girl and the passenger had just returned from the cabin.
The consul, after a discreetly careless pause, had lifted his eyes
to the young girl's face, and saw that it was singularly pretty in
color and outline, but perfectly self-composed and serenely
unconscious. And he was a little troubled to observe that the
passenger was a middle-aged man, whose hard features were already
considerably worn with trial and experience.
Both he and the girl were listening with sympathizing but cautious
interest to her father's contention with the boatman who had
brought them from shore, and who was now inclined to demand an
extra fee for returning with them. The boatman alleged that he had
been detained beyond "kirk time," and that this imperiling of his
salvation could only be compensated by another shilling. To the
consul's surprise, this extraordinary argument was recognized by
the father, who, however, contented himself by simply contending
that it had not been stipulated in the bargain. The issue was,
therefore, limited, and the discussion progressed slowly and
deliberately, with a certain calm dignity and argumentative
satisfaction on both sides that exalted the subject, though it
irritated the captain.
"If ye accept the premisses that I've just laid down, that it's a
contract"---began the boatman.
"Dry up! and haul off," said the captain.
"One moment," interposed the consul, with a rapid glance at the
slight trouble in the young girl's face. Turning to the father, he
went on: "Will you allow me to offer you and your daughter a seat
in my boat?"
It was an unlooked-for and tempting proposal. The boatman was
lazily lying on his oars, secure in self-righteousness and the
conscious possession of the only available boat to shore; on the
other hand, the smart gig of the consul, with its four oars, was
not only a providential escape from a difficulty, but even to some
extent a quasi-official endorsement of his contention. Yet he
"It'll be costin' ye no more?" he said interrogatively, glancing at
the consul's boat crew, "or ye'll be askin' me a fair proportion."
"It will be the gentleman's own boat," said the girl, with a
certain shy assurance, "and he'll be paying his boatmen by the
The consul hastened to explain that their passage would involve no
additional expense to anybody, and added, tactfully, that he was
glad to enable them to oppose extortion.
"Ay, but it's a preencipel," said the father proudly, "and I'm
pleased, sir, to see ye recognize it."
He proceeded to help his daughter into the boat without any further
leave-taking of the passenger, to the consul's great surprise, and
with only a parting nod from the young girl. It was as if this
momentous incident were a sufficient reason for the absence of any
further trivial sentiment.
Unfortunately the father chose to add an exordium for the benefit
of the astonished boatsman still lying on his oars.
"Let this be a lesson to ye, ma frien', when ye're ower sure!
Ye'll ne'er say a herrin' is dry until it be reestit an' reekit."
"Ay," said the boatman, with a lazy, significant glance at the
consul, "it wull be a lesson to me not to trust to a lassie's
GANGIN' jo, when thair's anither yin comin'."
"Give way," said the consul sharply.
Yet his was the only irritated face in the boat as the men bent
over their oars. The young girl and her father looked placidly at
the receding ship, and waved their hands to the grave, resigned
face over the taffrail. The consul examined them more attentively.
The father's face showed intelligence and a certain probity in its
otherwise commonplace features. The young girl had more distinction,
with, perhaps, more delicacy of outline than of texture. Her hair
was dark, with a burnished copper tint at its roots, and eyes that
had the same burnished metallic lustre in their brown pupils. Both
sat respectfully erect, as if anxious to record the fact that the
boat was not their own to take their ease in; and both were silently
reserved, answering briefly to the consul's remarks as if to
indicate the formality of their presence there. But a distant
railway whistle startled them into emotion.
"We've lost the train, father!" said the young girl.
The consul followed the direction of her anxious eyes; the train
was just quitting the station at Bannock.
"If ye had not lingered below with Jamie, we'd have been away in
time, ay, and in our own boat," said the father, with marked
The consul glanced quickly at the girl. But her face betrayed no
consciousness, except of their present disappointment.
"There's an excursion boat coming round the Point," he said,
pointing to the black smoke trail of a steamer at the entrance of a
loch, "and it will be returning to St. Kentigern shortly. If you
like, we'll pull over and put you aboard."
"Eh! but it's the Sabbath-breaker!" said the old man harshly.
The consul suddenly remembered that that was the name which the
righteous St. Kentigerners had given to the solitary bold, bad
pleasure-boat that defied their Sabbatical observances.
"Perhaps you won't find very pleasant company on board," said the
consul smiling; "but, then, you're not seeking THAT. And as you
would be only using the boat to get back to your home, and not for
Sunday recreation, I don't think your conscience should trouble
"Ay, that's a fine argument, Mr. Consul, but I'm thinkin' it's none
the less sopheestry for a' that," said the father grimly. "No; if
ye'll just land us yonder at Bannock pier, we'll be ay thankin' ye
"But what will you do there? There's no other train to-day."
"Ay, we'll walk on a bit."
The consul was silent. After a pause the young girl lifted her
clear eyes, and with a half pathetic, half childish politeness,
said: "We'll be doing very well--my father and me. You're far too
Nothing further was said as they began to thread their way between
a few large ships and an ocean steamer at anchor, from whose decks
a few Sunday-clothed mariners gazed down admiringly on the smart
gig and the pretty girl in a Tam o' Shanter in its stern sheets.
But here a new idea struck the consul. A cable's length ahead lay
a yacht, owned by an American friend, and at her stern a steam
launch swung to its painter. Without intimating his intention to
his passengers he steered for it. "Bow!--way enough," he called
out as the boat glided under the yacht's counter, and, grasping the
companion-ladder ropes, he leaped aboard. In a few hurried words
he explained the situation to Mr. Robert Gray, her owner, and
suggested that he should send the belated passengers to St.