Part 2 out of 4
Kentigern by the launch. Gray assented with the easy good-nature
of youth, wealth, and indolence, and lounged from his cabin to the
side. The consul followed. Looking down upon the boat he could
not help observing that his fair young passenger, sitting in her
demure stillness at her father's side, made a very pretty picture.
It was possible that "Bob Gray" had made the same observation, for
he presently swung himself over the gangway into the gig, hat in
hand. The launch could easily take them; in fact, he added
unblushingly, it was even then getting up steam to go to St.
Kentigern. Would they kindly come on board until it was ready? At
an added word or two of explanation from the consul, the father
accepted, preserving the same formal pride and stiffness, and the
transfer was made. The consul, looking back as his gig swept round
again towards Bannock pier, received their parting salutations, and
the first smile he had seen on the face of his grave little
passenger. He thought it very sweet and sad.
He did not return to the Consulate at St. Kentigern until the next
day. But he was somewhat surprised to find Mr. Robert Gray
awaiting him, and upon some business which the young millionaire
could have easily deputed to his captain or steward. As he still
lingered, the consul pleasantly referred to his generosity on the
previous day, and hoped the passengers had given him no trouble.
"No," said Gray with a slight simulation of carelessness. "In fact
I came up with them myself. I had nothing to do; it was Sunday,
The consul lifted his eyebrows slightly.
"Yes, I saw them home," continued Gray lightly. "In one of those
by-streets not far from here; neat-looking house outside; inside,
corkscrew stone staircase like a lighthouse; fourth floor, no lift,
but SHE circled up like a swallow! Flat--sitting-room, two
bedrooms, and a kitchen--mighty snug and shipshape and pretty as a
pink. They OWN it too--fancy OWNING part of a house! Seems to be
a way they have here in St. Kentigern." He paused and then added:
"Stayed there to a kind of high tea!"
"Indeed," said the consul.
"Why not? The old man wanted to return my 'hospitality' and square
the account! He wasn't going to lie under any obligation to a
stranger, and, by Jove! he made it a special point of honor! A
Spanish grandee couldn't have been more punctilious. And with an
accent, Jerusalem! like a northeaster off the Banks! But the feed
was in good taste, and he only a mathematical instrument maker, on
about twelve hundred dollars a year!"
"You seem to know all about him," said the consul smilingly.
"Not so much as he does about me," returned Gray, with a half
perplexed face; "for he saw enough to admonish me about my
extravagance, and even to intimate that that rascal Saunderson, my
steward, was imposing on me. SHE took me to task, too, for not
laying the yacht up on Sunday that the men could go 'to kirk,' and
for swearing at a bargeman who ran across our bows. It's their
perfect simplicity and sincerity in all this that gets me! You'd
have thought that the old man was my guardian, and the daughter my
aunt." After a pause he uttered a reminiscent laugh. "She thought
we ate and drank too much on the yacht, and wondered what we could
find to do all day. All this, you know, in the gentlest, caressing
sort of voice, as if she was really concerned, like one's own
sister. Well, not exactly like mine"--he interrupted himself
grimly--"but, hang it all, you know what I mean. You know that our
girls over there haven't got THAT trick of voice. Too much self-
assertion, I reckon; things made too easy for them by us men.
Habit of race, I dare say." He laughed a little. "Why, I mislaid
my glove when I was coming away, and it was as good as a play to
hear her commiserating and sympathizing, and hunting for it as if
it were a lost baby."
"But you've seen Scotch girls before this," said the consul.
"There were Lady Glairn's daughters, whom you took on a cruise."
"Yes, but the swell Scotch all imitate the English, as everybody
else does, for the matter of that, our girls included; and they're
all alike. Society makes 'em fit in together like tongued and
grooved planks that will take any amount of holy-stoning and
polish. It's like dropping into a dead calm, with every rope and
spar that you know already reflected back from the smooth water
upon you. It's mighty pretty, but it isn't getting on, you know."
After a pause he added: "I asked them to take a little holiday
cruise with me."
"And they declined," interrupted the consul.
Gray glanced at him quickly.
"Well, yes; that's all right enough. They don't know me, you see,
but they do know you; and the fact is, I was thinking that as
you're our consul here, don't you see, and sort of responsible for
me, you might say that it was all right, you know. Quite the
customary thing with us over there. And you might say, generally,
who I am."
"I see," said the consul deliberately. "Tell them you're Bob Gray,
with more money and time than you know what to do with; that you
have a fine taste for yachting and shooting and racing, and amusing
yourself generally; that you find that THEY amuse you, and you
would like your luxury and your dollars to stand as an equivalent
to their independence and originality; that, being a good
republican yourself, and recognizing no distinction of class,
you don't care what this may mean to them, who are brought up
differently; that after their cruise with you you don't care what
life, what friends, or what jealousies they return to; that you
know no ties, no responsibilities beyond the present, and that you
are not a marrying man."
"Look here, I say, aren't you making a little too much of this?"
said Gray stiffly.
The consul laughed. "I should be glad to know that I am."
Gray rose. "We'll be dropping down the river to-morrow," he said,
with a return of his usual lightness, "and I reckon I'll be
toddling down to the wharf. Good-bye, if I don't see you again."
He passed out. As the consul glanced from the window he observed,
however, that Mr. Gray was "toddling" in quite another direction
than the wharf. For an instant he half regretted that he had not
suggested, in some discreet way, the conclusion he had arrived at
after witnessing the girl's parting with the middle-aged passenger
the day before. But he reflected that this was something he had
only accidentally overseen, and was the girl's own secret.
When the summer had so waxed in its fullness that the smoke of
factory chimneys drifted high, permitting glimpses of fairly blue
sky; when the grass in St. Kentigern's proudest park took on a less
sober green in the comfortable sun, and even in the thickest shade
there was no chilliness, the good St. Kentigerners recognized that
the season had arrived to go "down the river," and that it was
time for them to betake themselves, with rugs, mackintoshes, and
umbrellas, to the breezy lochs and misty hillsides for which the
neighborhood of St. Kentigern is justly famous. So when it came to
pass that the blinds were down in the highest places, and the most
exclusive pavements of St. Kentigern were echoless and desolate,
the consul heroically tore himself from the weak delight of basking
in the sunshine, and followed the others.
He soon found himself settled at the furthest end of a long narrow
loch, made longer and narrower by the steep hillside of rock and
heather which flanked its chilly surface on either side, and whose
inequalities were lost in the firs and larches that filled ravine
and chasm. The fragrant road which ran sinuously through their
shadowy depths was invisible from the loch; no protuberance broke
the seemingly sheer declivity; the even sky-line was indented in
two places--one where it was cracked into a fanciful resemblance to
a human profile, the other where it was curved like a bowl. Need
it be said that one was distinctly recognized as the silhouette of
a prehistoric giant, and that the other was his drinking-cup; need
it be added that neither lent the slightest human suggestion to the
solitude? A toy-like pier extending into the loch, midway from the
barren shore, only heightened the desolation. And when the little
steamboat that occasionally entered the loch took away a solitary
passenger from the pier-head, the simplest parting was invested
with a dreary loneliness that might have brought tears to the most
Still, when the shadow of either hillside was not reaching across
the loch, the meridian sun, chancing upon this coy mirror, made the
most of it. Then it was that, seen from above, it flashed like a
falchion lying between the hills; then its reflected glory,
striking up, transfigured the two acclivities, tipped the cold
heather with fire, gladdened the funereal pines, and warmed the
ascetic rocks. And it was in one of those rare, passionate
intervals that the consul, riding along the wooded track and
turning his eyes from their splendors, came upon a little house.
It had once been a sturdy cottage, with a grim endurance and
inflexibility which even some later and lighter additions had
softened rather than changed. On either side of the door, against
the bleak whitewashed wall, two tall fuchsias relieved the rigid
blankness with a show of color. The windows were prettily draped
with curtains caught up with gay ribbons. In a stony pound-like
enclosure there was some attempt at floral cultivation, but all
quite recent. So, too, were a wicker garden seat, a bright
Japanese umbrella, and a tropical hammock suspended between two
arctic-looking bushes, which the rude and rigid forefathers of the
hamlet would have probably resented.
He had just passed the house when a charming figure slipped across
the road before him. To his surprise it was the young girl he had
met a few months before on the Skyscraper. But the Tam o' Shanter
was replaced by a little straw hat; and a light dress, summery in
color and texture, but more in keeping with her rustic surroundings,
seemed as grateful and rare as the sunshine. Without knowing why,
he had an impression that it was of her own making--a gentle
plagiarism of the style of her more fortunate sisters, but with
a demure restraint all her own. As she recognized him a faint
color came to her cheek, partly from surprise, partly from some
association. To his delighted greeting she responded by informing
him that her father had taken the cottage he had just passed, where
they were spending a three weeks' vacation from his business. It
was not so far from St. Kentigern but that he could run up for a day
to look after the shop. Did the consul not think it was wise?
Quite ready to assent to any sagacity in those clear brown eyes,
the consul thought it was. But was it not, like wisdom, sometimes
Ah! no. There was the loch and the hills and the heather; there
were her flowers; did he not think they were growing well? and at
the head of the loch there was the old tomb of the McHulishes, and
some of the coffins were still to be seen.
Perhaps emboldened by the consul's smile, she added, with a more
serious precision which was, however, lost in the sympathizing
caress of her voice, "And would you not be getting off and coming
in and resting a wee bit before you go further? It would be so
good of you, and father would think it so kind. And he will be
there now, if you're looking."
The consul looked. The old man was standing in the doorway of the
cottage, as respectably uncompromising as ever, with the slight
concession to his rural surroundings of wearing a Tam o' Shanter
and easy slippers. The consul dismounted and entered. The
interior was simply, but tastefully furnished. It struck him that
the Scotch prudence and economy, which practically excluded display
and meretricious glitter, had reached the simplicity of the truest
art and the most refined wealth. He felt he could understand
Gray's enthusiasm, and by an odd association of ideas he found
himself thinking of the resigned face of the lonely passenger on
"Have you heard any news of your friend who went to Rio?" he asked
pleasantly, but without addressing himself particularly to either.
There was a perceptible pause; doubtless of deference to her father
on the part of the young girl, and of the usual native conscientious
caution on the part of the father, but neither betrayed any
embarrassment or emotion. "No; he would not be writing yet," she at
length said simply, "he would be waiting until he was settled to his
business. Jamie would be waiting until he could say how he was
doing, father?" she appealed interrogatively to the old man.
"Ay, James Gow would not fash himself to write compliments and
gossip till he knew his position and work," corroborated the old
man. "He'll not be going two thousand miles to send us what we can
read in the 'St. Kentigern Herald.' But," he added, suddenly, with
a recall of cautiousness, "perhaps YOU will be hearing of the ship?"
"The consul will not be remembering what he hears of all the
ships," interposed the young girl, with the same gentle affectation
of superior worldly knowledge which had before amused him. "We'll
be wearying him, father," and the subject dropped.
The consul, glancing around the room again, but always returning to
the sweet and patient seriousness of the young girl's face and the
grave decorum of her father, would have liked to ask another
question, but it was presently anticipated; for when he had
exhausted the current topics, in which both father and daughter
displayed a quiet sagacity, and he had gathered a sufficient
knowledge of their character to seem to justify Gray's enthusiasm,
and was rising to take his leave, the young girl said timidly:--
"Would ye not let Bessie take your horse to the grass field over
yonder, and yourself stay with us to dinner? It would be most
kind, and you would meet a great friend of yours who will be here."
"Mr. Gray?" suggested the consul audaciously. Yet he was greatly
surprised when the young girl said quietly, "Ay."
"He'll be coming in the loch with his yacht," said the old man.
"It's not so expensive lying here as at Bannock, I'm thinking; and
the men cannot gang ashore for drink. Eh, but it's an awful waste
o' pounds, shillings, and pence, keeping these gowks in idleness
with no feeshin' nor carrying of passengers."
"Ay, but it's better Mr. Gray should pay them for being decent and
well-behaved on board his ship, than that they should be out of
work and rioting in taverns and lodging-houses. And you yourself,
father, remember the herrin' fishers that come ashore at Ardie, and
the deck hands of the excursion boat, and the language they'll be
"Have you had a cruise in the yacht?" asked the consul quickly.
"Ay," said the father, "we have been up and down the loch, and
around the far point, but not for boardin' or lodgin' the night,
nor otherwise conteenuing or parteecipating. I have explained to
Mr. Gray that we must return to our own home and our own porridge
at evening, and he has agreed, and even come with us. He's a
decent enough lad, and not above instructin', but extraordinar'
"Ye know, father," interposed the young girl, "he talks of fitting
up the yacht for the fishing, and taking some of his most decent
men on shares. He says he was very fond of fishing off the
Massachusetts coast, in America. It will be, I'm thinking," she
said, suddenly turning to the consul with an almost pathetic appeal
in her voice, "a great occupation for the rich young men over
The consul, desperately struggling with a fanciful picture of Mr.
Robert Gray as a herring fisher, thought gravely that it "might
be." But he thought still more gravely, though silently, of this
singular companion ship, and was somewhat anxious to confront his
friend with his new acquaintances. He had not long to wait. The
sun was just dipping behind the hill when the yacht glided into the
lonely loch. A boat was put off, and in a few moments Robert Gray
was climbing the little path from the loch.
Had the consul expected any embarrassment or lover-like consciousness
on the face of Mr. Gray at their unexpected meeting, he would have
been disappointed. Nor was the young man's greeting of father and
daughter, whom he addressed as Mr. and Miss Callender, marked by any
tenderness or hesitation. On the contrary, a certain seriousness
and quiet reticence, unlike Gray, which might have been borrowed
from his new friends, characterized his speech and demeanor. Beyond
this freemasonry of sad repression there was no significance of look
or word passed between these two young people. The girl's voice
retained its even pathos. Gray's grave politeness was equally
divided between her and her father. He corroborated what Callender
had said of his previous visits without affectation or demonstration;
he spoke of the possibilities of his fitting up the yacht for the
fishing season with a practical detail and economy that left the
consul's raillery ineffective. Even when, after dinner, the consul
purposely walked out in the garden with the father, Gray and Ailsa
presently followed them without lingering or undue precipitation,
and with no change of voice or manner. The consul was perplexed.
Had the girl already told Gray of her lover across the sea, and was
this singular restraint their joint acceptance of their fate; or was
he mistaken in supposing that their relations were anything more
than the simple friendship of patron and protegee? Gray was rich
enough to indulge in such a fancy, and the father and daughter were
too proud to ever allow it to influence their own independence.
In any event the consul's right to divulge the secret he was
accidentally possessed of seemed more questionable than ever. Nor
did there appear to be any opportunity for a confidential talk with
Gray, since it was proposed that the whole party should return to
the yacht for supper, after which the consul should be dropped at
the pier-head, distant only a few minutes from his hotel, and his
horse sent to him the next day.
A faint moon was shimmering along the surface of Loch Dour in icy
little ripples when they pulled out from the shadows of the
hillside. By the accident of position, Gray, who was steering, sat
beside Ailsa in the stern, while the consul and Mr. Callender were
further forward, although within hearing. The faces of the young
people were turned towards each other, yet in the cold moonlight
the consul fancied they looked as impassive and unemotional as
statues. The few distant, far-spaced lights that trembled on the
fading shore, the lonely glitter of the water, the blackness of the
pine-clad ravines seemed to be a part of this repression, until the
vast melancholy of the lake appeared to meet and overflow them like
an advancing tide. Added to this, there came from time to time the
faint sound and smell of the distant, desolate sea.
The consul, struggling manfully to keep up a spasmodic discussion
on Scotch diminutives in names, found himself mechanically saying:
"And James you call Jamie?"
"Ay; but ye would say, to be pure Scotch, 'Hamish,'" said Mr.
Callender precisely. The girl, however, had not spoken; but Gray
turned to her with something of his old gayety.
"And I suppose you would call me 'Robbie'?"
Her voice was low yet distinct, but she had thrown into the two
syllables such infinite tenderness, that the consul was for an
instant struck with an embarrassment akin to that he had felt in
the cabin of the Skyscraper, and half expected the father to utter
a shocked protest. And to save what he thought would be an
appalling silence, he said with a quiet laugh:--
"That's the fellow who 'made the assembly shine' in the song, isn't
"That was Robin Adair," said Gray quietly; "unfortunately I would
only be 'Robin Gray,' and that's quite another song."
"AULD Robin Gray, sir, deestinctly 'auld' in the song," interrupted
Mr. Callender with stern precision; "and I'm thinking he was not so
very unfortunate either."
The discussion of Scotch diminutives halting here, the boat sped on
silently to the yacht. But although Robert Gray, as host, recovered
some of his usual lightheartedness, the consul failed to discover
anything in his manner to indicate the lover, nor did Miss Ailsa
after her single lapse of tender accent exhibit the least
consciousness. It was true that their occasional frank allusions to
previous conversations seemed to show that their opportunities had
not been restricted, but nothing more. He began again to think he
As he wished to return early, and yet not hasten the Callenders, he
prevailed upon Gray to send him to the pier-head first, and not
disturb the party. As he stepped into the boat, something in the
appearance of the coxswain awoke an old association in his mind.
The man at first seemed to avoid his scrutiny, but when they were
well away from the yacht, he said hesitatingly:--
"I see you remember me, sir. But if it's all the same to you, I've
got a good berth here and would like to keep it."
The consul had a flash of memory. It was the boatswain of the
Skyscraper, one of the least objectionable of the crew. "But what
are you doing here? you shipped for the voyage," he said sharply.
"Yes, but I got away at Key West, when I knew what was coming. I
wasn't on her when she was abandoned."
Abandoned!" repeated the consul. "What the d---l! Do you mean to
say she was wrecked?"
"Well, yes--you know what I mean, sir. It was an understood thing.
She was over-insured and scuttled in the Bahamas. It was a put-up
job, and I reckoned I was well out of it."
"But there was a passenger! What of him?" demanded the consul
"Dnnno! But I reckon he got away. There wasn't any of the crew
lost that I know of. Let's see, he was an engineer, wasn't he? I
reckon he had to take a hand at the pumps, and his chances with the
"Does Mr. Gray know of this?" asked the consul after a pause.
The man stared.
"Not from me, sir. You see it was nothin' to him, and I didn't
care talking much about the Skyscraper. It was hushed up in the
papers. You won't go back on me, sir?"
"You don't know what became of the passenger?"
"No! But he was a Scotchman, and they're bound to fall on their
The December fog that overhung St. Kentigern had thinned sufficiently
to permit the passage of a few large snowflakes, soiled in their
descent, until in color and consistency they spotted the steps of
the Consulate and the umbrellas of the passers-by like sprinklings
of gray mortar. Nevertheless the consul thought the streets
preferable to the persistent gloom of his office, and sallied out.
Youthful mercantile St. Kentigern strode sturdily past him in the
lightest covert coats; collegiate St. Kentigern fluttered by in the
scantiest of red gowns, shaming the furs that defended his more
exotic blood; and the bare red feet of a few factory girls, albeit
their heads and shoulders were draped and hooded in thick shawls,
filled him with a keen sense of his effeminacy. Everything of
earth, air, and sky, and even the faces of those he looked upon,
seemed to be set in the hard, patient endurance of the race.
Everywhere on that dismal day, he fancied he could see this energy
without restlessness, this earnestness without geniality, all grimly
set against the hard environment of circumstance and weather.
The consul turned into one of the main arteries of St. Kentigern, a
wide street that, however, began and ended inconsequently, and with
half a dozen social phases in as many blocks. Here the snow
ceased, the fog thickened suddenly with the waning day, and the
consul found himself isolated and cut off on a block which he did
not remember, with the clatter of an invisible tramway in his ears.
It was a block of small houses with smaller shop-fronts. The one
immediately before him seemed to be an optician's, but the dimly
lighted windows also displayed the pathetic reinforcement of a few
watches, cheap jewelry on cards, and several cairngorm brooches and
pins set in silver. It occurred to him that he wanted a new watch
crystal, and that he would procure it here and inquire his way.
Opening the door he perceived that there was no one in the shop,
but from behind the counter another open door disclosed a neat
sitting-room, so close to the street that it gave the casual
customer the sensation of having intruded upon domestic privacy.
The consul's entrance tinkled a small bell which brought a figure
to the door. It was Ailsa Callender.
The consul was startled. He had not seen her since he had brought
to their cottage the news of the shipwreck with a precaution and
delicacy that their calm self-control and patient resignation,
however, seemed to make almost an impertinence. But this was no
longer the handsome shop in the chief thoroughfare with its two
shopmen, which he previously knew as "Callender's." And Ailsa
here! What misfortune had befallen them?
Whatever it was, there was no shadow of it in her clear eyes and
frank yet timid recognition of him. Falling in with her stoical
and reticent acceptance of it, he nevertheless gathered that the
Callenders had lost money in some invention which James Gow had
taken with him to Rio, but which was sunk in the ship. With this
revelation of a business interest in what he had believed was only
a sentimental relation, the consul ventured to continue his
inquiries. Mr. Gow had escaped with his life and had reached
Honduras, where he expected to try his fortunes anew. It might be
a year or two longer before there were any results. Did the consul
know anything of Honduras? There was coffee there--so she and her
father understood. All this with little hopefulness, no irritation,
but a divine patience in her eyes. The consul, who found that his
watch required extensive repairing, and had suddenly developed an
inordinate passion for cairngorms, watched her as she opened the
show-case with no affectation of unfamiliarity with her occupation,
but with all her old serious concern. Surely she would have made as
thorough a shop-girl as she would-- His half-formulated thought
took the shape of a question.
"Have you seen Mr. Gray since his return from the Mediterranean?"
Ah! one of the brooches had slipped from her fingers to the bottom
of the case. There was an interval or two of pathetic murmuring,
with her fair head under the glass, before she could find it; then
she lifted her eyes to the consul. They were still slightly
suffused with her sympathetic concern. The stone, which was set in
a thistle--the national emblem--did he not know it?--had dropped
out. But she could put it in. It was pretty and not expensive.
It was marked twelve shillings on the card, but he could have it
for ten shillings. No, she had not seen Mr. Gray since they had
lost their fortune. (It struck the consul as none the less
pathetic that she seemed really to believe in their former
opulence.) They could not be seeing him there in a small shop,
and they could not see him elsewhere. It was far better as it was.
Yet she paused a moment when she had wrapped up the brooch. "You'd
be seeing him yourself some time?" she added gently.
"Then you'll not mind saying how my father and myself are sometimes
thinking of his goodness and kindness," she went on, in a voice
whose tenderness seemed to increase with the formal precision of
"And you'll say we're not forgetting him."
As she handed him the parcel her lips softly parted in what might
have been equally a smile or a sigh.
He was able to keep his promise sooner than he had imagined. It
was only a few weeks later that, arriving in London, he found
Gray's hatbox and bag in the vestibule of his club, and that
gentleman himself in the smoking-room. He looked tanned and older.
"I only came from Southampton an hour ago, where I left the yacht.
And," shaking the consul's hand cordially, "how's everything and
everybody up at old St. Kentigern?"
The consul thought fit to include his news of the Callenders in
reference to that query, and with his eyes fixed on Gray dwelt at
some length on their change of fortune. Gray took his cigar from
his mouth, but did not lift his eyes from the fire. Presently he
said, "I suppose that's why Callender declined to take the shares I
offered him in the fishing scheme. You know I meant it, and would
have done it."
"Perhaps he had other reasons."
"What do you mean?" said Gray, facing the consul suddenly.
"Look here, Gray," said the consul, "did Miss Callender or her
father ever tell you she was engaged?"
"Yes; but what's that to do with it?"
"A good deal. Engagements, you know, are sometimes forced,
unsuitable, or unequal, and are broken by circumstances. Callender
Gray turned upon the consul the same look of gravity that he had
worn on the yacht--the same look that the consul even fancied he
had seen in Ailsa's eyes. "That's exactly where you're mistaken in
her," he said slowly. "A girl like that gives her word and keeps
it. She waits, hopes, accepts what may come--breaks her heart, if
you will, but not her word. Come, let's talk of something else.
How did he--that man Gow--lose Callender's money?"
The consul did not see the Callenders again on his return, and
perhaps did not think it necessary to report the meeting. But one
morning he was delighted to find an official document from New York
upon his desk, asking him to communicate with David Callender of
St. Kentigern, and, on proof of his identity, giving him authority
to draw the sum of five thousand dollars damages awarded for the
loss of certain property on the Skyscraper, at the request of James
Gow. Yet it was with mixed sensations that the consul sought the
little shop of the optician with this convincing proof of Gow's
faithfulness and the indissolubility of Ailsa's engagement. That
there was some sad understanding between the girl and Gray he did
not doubt, and perhaps it was not strange that he felt a slight
partisanship for his friend, whose nature had so strangely changed.
Miss Ailsa was not there. Her father explained that her health had
required a change, and she was visiting some friends on the river.
"I'm thinkin' that the atmosphere is not so pure here. It is
deficient in ozone. I noticed it myself in the early morning. No!
it was not the confinement of the shop, for she never cared to go
He received the announcement of his good fortune with unshaken calm
and great practical consideration of detail. He would guarantee
his identity to the consul. As for James Gow, it was no more than
fair; and what he had expected of him. As to its being an
equivalent of his loss, he could not tell until the facts were
"Miss Ailsa," suggested the consul venturously, "will be pleased to
hear again from her old friend, and know that he is succeeding."
"I'm not so sure that ye could call it 'succeeding,'" returned the
old man, carefully wiping the glasses of a pair of spectacles that
he held critically to the light, "when ye consider that, saying
nothing of the waste of valuable time, it only puts James Gow back
where he was when he went away."
"But any man who has had the pleasure of knowing Mr. and Miss
Callender would be glad to be on that footing," said the consul,
with polite significance.
"I'm not agreeing with you there," said Mr. Callender quietly; "and
I'm observing in ye of late a tendency to combine business wi'
compleement. But it was kind of ye to call; and I'll be sending ye
Which he did. But the consul, passing through the locality a few
weeks later, was somewhat concerned to find the shop closed, with
others on the same block, behind a hoarding that indicated
rebuilding and improvement. Further inquiry elicited the fact that
the small leases had been bought up by some capitalist, and that
Mr. Callender, with the others, had benefited thereby. But there
was no trace nor clew to his present locality. He and his daughter
seemed to have again vanished with this second change in their
It was a late March morning when the streets were dumb with snow,
and the air was filled with flying granulations that tinkled
against the windows of the Consulate like fairy sleigh-bells, when
there was the stamping of snow-clogged feet in the outer hall, and
the door was opened to Mr. and Miss Callender. For an instant the
consul was startled. The old man appeared as usual--erect, and as
frigidly respectable as one of the icicles that fringed the window,
but Miss Ailsa was, to his astonishment, brilliant with a new-found
color, and sparkling with health and only half-repressed animation.
The snow-flakes, scarcely melting on the brown head of this true
daughter of the North, still crowned her hood; and, as she threw
back her brown cloak and disclosed a plump little scarlet jacket
and brown skirt, the consul could not resist her suggested likeness
to some bright-eyed robin redbreast, to whom the inclement weather
had given a charming audacity. And shy and demure as she still
was, it was evident that some change had been wrought in her other
than that evoked by the stimulus of her native sky and air.
To his eager questioning, the old man replied briefly that he had
bought the old cottage at Loch Dour, where they were living, and
where he had erected a small manufactory and laboratory for the
making of his inventions, which had become profitable. The consul
reiterated his delight at meeting them again.
"I'm not so sure of that, sir, when you know the business on which
I come," said Mr. Callender, dropping rigidly into a chair, and
clasping his hands over the crutch of a shepherd-like staff. "Ye
mind, perhaps, that ye conveyed to me, osteensibly at the request
of James Gow, a certain sum of money, for which I gave ye a good
and sufficient guarantee. I thought at the time that it was a most
feckless and unbusiness-like proceeding on the part of James, as
it was without corroboration or advice by letter; but I took the
"Do you mean to say that he made no allusion to it in his other
letters?" interrupted the consul, glancing at Ailsa.
"There were no other letters at the time," said Callender dryly.
"But about a month afterwards we DID receive a letter from him
enclosing a draft and a full return of the profits of the
invention, which HE HAD SOLD IN HONDURAS. Ye'll observe the
deescrepancy! I then wrote to the bank on which I had drawn as you
authorized me, and I found that they knew nothing of any damages
awarded, but that the sum I had drawn had been placed to my credit
by Mr. Robert Gray."
In a flash the consul recalled the one or two questions that Gray
had asked him, and saw it all. For an instant he felt the whole
bitterness of Gray's misplaced generosity--its exposure and defeat.
He glanced again hopelessly at Ailsa. In the eye of that fresh,
glowing, yet demure, young goddess, unhallowed as the thought might
be, there was certainly a distinctly tremulous wink.
The consul took heart. "I believe I need not say, Mr. Callender,"
he began with some stiffness, "that this is as great a surprise to
me as to you. I had no reason to believe the transaction other
than bona fide, and acted accordingly. If my friend, deeply
sympathizing with your previous misfortune, has hit upon a
delicate, but unbusiness-like way of assisting you temporarily--
I say TEMPORARILY, because it must have been as patent to him as to
you, that you would eventually find out his generous deceit--you
surely can forgive him for the sake of his kind intention. Nay,
more; may I point out to you that you have no right to assume that
this benefaction was intended exclusively for you; if Mr. Gray, in
his broader sympathy with you and your daughter, has in this way
chosen to assist and strengthen the position of a gentleman so
closely connected with you, but still struggling with hard
"I'd have ye know, sir," interrupted the old man, rising to his
feet, "that ma frien' Mr. James Gow is as independent of yours as
he is of me and mine. He has married, sir, a Mrs. Hernandez, the
rich widow of a coffee-planter, and now is the owner of the whole
estate, minus the encumbrance of three children. And now, sir,
you'll take this,"--he drew from his pocket an envelope. "It's a
draft for five thousand dollars, with the ruling rate of interest
computed from the day I received it till this day, and ye'll give
it to your frien' when ye see him. And ye'll just say to him from
But Miss Ailsa, with a spirit and independence that challenged her
father's, here suddenly fluttered between them with sparkling eyes
and outstretched hands.
"And ye'll say to him from ME that a more honorable, noble, and
generous man, and a kinder, truer, and better friend than he,
cannot be found anywhere! And that the foolishest and most
extravagant thing he ever did is better than the wisest and most
prudent thing that anybody else ever did, could, or would do! And
if he was a bit overproud--it was only because those about him were
overproud and foolish. And you'll tell him that we're wearying for
him! And when you give him that daft letter from father you'll
give him this bit line from me," she went on rapidly as she laid a
tiny note in his hand. "And," with wicked dancing eyes that seemed
to snap the last bond of repression, "ye'll give him THAT too, and
say I sent it!"
There was a stir in the official apartment! The portraits of
Lincoln and Washington rattled uneasily in their frames; but it was
no doubt only a discreet blast of the north wind that drowned the
echo of a kiss.
"Ailsa!" gasped the shocked Mr. Callender.
"Ah! but, father, if it had not been for HIM we would not have
. . . . . .
It was the last that the consul saw of Ailsa Callender; for the
next summer when he called at Loch Dour she was Mrs. Gray.
THE SHERIFF OF SISKYOU.
On the fifteenth of August, 1854, what seemed to be the entire
population of Wynyard's Bar was collected upon a little bluff which
overlooked the rude wagon road that was the only approach to the
settlement. In general appearance the men differed but little from
ordinary miners, although the foreign element, shown in certain
Spanish peculiarities of dress and color, predominated, and some of
the men were further distinguished by the delicacy of education and
sedentary pursuits. Yet Wynyard's Bar was a city of refuge,
comprised among its inhabitants a number who were "wanted" by the
State authorities, and its actual attitude at that moment was one
of open rebellion against the legal power, and of particular
resistance to the apprehension by warrant of one of its prominent
members. This gentleman, Major Overstone, then astride of a gray
mustang, and directing the movements of the crowd, had, a few days
before, killed the sheriff of Siskyou county, who had attempted to
arrest him for the double offense of misappropriating certain
corporate funds of the State and the shooting of the editor who had
imprudently exposed him. The lesser crime of homicide might have
been overlooked by the authorities, but its repetition upon the
body of their own over-zealous and misguided official could not
pass unchallenged if they expected to arrest Overstone for the more
serious offense against property. So it was known that a new
sheriff had been appointed and was coming to Wynyard's Bar with an
armed posse. But it was also understood that this invasion would
be resisted by the Bar to its last man.
All eyes were turned upon a fringe of laurel and butternut that
encroached upon the road half a mile away, where it seemed that
such of the inhabitants who were missing from the bluff were hidden
to give warning or retard the approach of the posse. A gray haze,
slowly rising between the fringe and the distant hillside, was
recognized as the dust of a cavalcade passing along the invisible
highway. In the hush of expectancy that followed, the irregular
clatter of hoofs, the sharp crack of a rifle, and a sudden halt
were faintly audible. The men, scattered in groups on the bluff,
exchanged a smile of grim satisfaction.
Not so their leader! A quick start and an oath attracted attention
to him. To their surprise he was looking in another direction, but
as they looked too they saw and understood the cause. A file of
horsemen, hitherto undetected, were slowly passing along the little
ridge on their right. Their compact accoutrements and the yellow
braid on their blue jackets, distinctly seen at that distance,
showed them to be a detachment of United States cavalry.
Before the assemblage could realize this new invasion, a nearer
clatter of hoofs was heard along the high road, and one of the
ambuscading party dashed up from the fringe of woods below. His
face was flushed, but triumphant.
"A reg'lar skunk--by the living hokey!" he panted, pointing to the
faint haze that was again slowly rising above the invisible road.
"They backed down as soon as they saw our hand, and got a hole
through their new sheriff's hat. But what are you lookin' at?
The leader impatiently pointed with a darkening face to the distant
"Reg'lars, by gum!" ejaculated the other. "But Uncle Sam ain't in
this game. Wot right have THEY"--
"Dry up!" said the leader.
The detachment was now moving at right angles with the camp, but
suddenly halted, almost doubling upon itself in some evident
commotion. A dismounted figure was seen momentarily flying down
the hillside dodging from bush to bush until lost in the underbrush.
A dozen shots were fired over its head, and then the whole
detachment wheeled and came clattering down the trail in the
direction of the camp. A single riderless horse, evidently that
of the fugitive, followed.
"Spread yourselves along the ridge, every man of you, and cover
them as they enter the gulch!" shouted the leader. "But not a shot
until I give the word. Scatter!"
The assemblage dispersed like a startled village of prairie dogs,
squatting behind every available bush and rock along the line of
bluff. The leader alone trotted quietly to the head of the gulch.
The nine cavalrymen came smartly up in twos, a young officer
leading. The single figure of Major Overstone opposed them with a
command to halt. Looking up, the young officer drew rein, said a
word to his file leader, and the four files closed in a compact
square motionless on the road. The young officer's unsworded hand
hung quietly at his thigh, the men's unslung carbines rested easily
on their saddles. Yet at that moment every man of them knew that
they were covered by a hundred rifles and shot guns leveled from
every bush, and that they were caught helplessly in a trap.
"Since when," said Major Overstone with an affectation of tone and
manner different from that in which he had addressed his previous
companions, "have the Ninth United States Cavalry helped to serve a
State court's pettifogging process?"
"We are hunting a deserter--a half-breed agent--who has just
escaped us," returned the officer. His voice was boyish--so, too,
was his figure in its slim, cadet-like smartness of belted tunic--
but very quiet and level, although his face was still flushed with
the shock and shame of his surprise.
The relaxation of relief went through the wrought and waiting camp.
The soldiers were not seeking THEM. Ready as these desperate men
had been to do their leader's bidding, they were well aware that a
momentary victory over the troopers would not pass unpunished, and
meant the ultimate dispersion of the camp. And quiet as these
innocent invaders seemed to be they would no doubt sell their lives
dearly. The embattled desperadoes glanced anxiously at their
leader; the soldiers, on the contrary, looked straight before them.
"Process or no process," said Major Overstone with a sneer, "you've
come to the last place to recover your deserter. We don't give up
men in Wynyard's Bar. And they didn't teach you at the Academy,
sir, to stop to take prisoners when you were outflanked and
"Bedad! They didn't teach YOU, Captain Overstone, to engage a
battery at Cerro Gordo with a half company, but you did it; more
shame to you now, sorr, commandin' the thayves and ruffians you
"Silence!" said the young officer.
The sleeve of the sergeant who had spoken--with the chevrons of
long service upon it--went up to a salute, and dropped again over
his carbine as he stared stolidly before him. But his shot had
told. A flush of mingled pride and shame passed over Overstone's
"Oh! it's YOU, Murphy," he said with an affected laugh, "and you
haven't improved with your stripes."
The young officer turned his head slightly.
"One moment more," said Overstone coming forward. "I have told you
that we don't give up any man who seeks our protection. But," he
added with a half-careless, half-contemptuous wave of his hand, and
a significant glance at his followers, "we don't prevent you from
seeking him. The road is clear; the camp is before you."
The young officer continued without looking at him. "Forward--in
two files--open order. Ma-arch!"
The little troop moved forward, passed Major Overstone at the head
of the gully, and spread out on the hillside. The assembled camp,
still armed, lounging out of ambush here and there, ironically made
way for them to pass. A few moments of this farcical quest, and a
glance at the impenetrably wooded heights around, apparently
satisfied the young officer, and he turned his files again into the
gully. Major Overstone was still lingering there.
"I hope you are satisfied," he said grimly. He then paused, and in
a changed and more hesitating voice added: "I am an older soldier
than you, sir, but I am always glad to make the acquaintance of
West Point." He paused and held out his hand.
West Point, still red and rigid, glanced at him with bright clear
eyes under light lashes and the peak of a smartly cocked cap,
looked coolly at the proffered hand, raised his own to a stiff
salute, said, "Good afternoon, sir," and rode away.
Major Overstone wheeled angrily, but in doing so came sharply upon
his coadjutor--the leader of the ambushed party.
"Well, Dawson," he said impatiently. "Who was it?"
"Only one of them d----d half-breed Injin agents. He's just over
there in the brush with Simpson, lying low till the soldiers clear
"Did you talk to him?"
"Not much!" returned Dawson scornfully. "He ain't my style."
"Fetch him up to my cabin; he may be of some use to us."
Dawson looked skeptical. "I reckon he ain't no more gain here than
he was over there," he said, and turned away.
The cabin of Major Overstone differed outwardly but little from
those of his companions. It was the usual structure of logs, laid
lengthwise, and rudely plastered at each point of contact with
adobe, the material from which the chimney, which entirely occupied
one gable, was built. It was pierced with two windows and a door,
roofed with smaller logs, and thatched with long half cylinders of
spruce bark. But the interior gave certain indications of the
distinction as well as the peculiar experiences of its occupant.
In place of the usual bunk or berth built against the wall stood a
small folding camp bedstead, and upon a rude deal table that held a
tin wash-basin and pail lay two ivory-handled brushes, combs, and
other elegant toilet articles, evidently the contents of the
major's dressing-bag. A handsome leather trunk occupied one
corner, with a richly caparisoned silver-mounted Mexican saddle,
a mahogany case of dueling pistols, a leather hat-box, locked and
strapped, and a gorgeous gold and quartz handled ebony "presentation"
walking stick. There was a certain dramatic suggestion in this
revelation of the sudden and hurried transition from a life of
ostentatious luxury to one of hidden toil and privation, and a
further significance in the slow and gradual distribution and
degradation of these elegant souvenirs. A pair of silver boot-hooks
had been used for raking the hearth and lifting the coffee kettle;
the ivory of the brushes was stained with coffee; the cut-glass
bottles had lost their stoppers, and had been utilized for vinegar
and salt; a silver-framed hand mirror hung against the blackened
wall. For the major's occupancy was the sequel of a hurried flight
from his luxurious hotel at Sacramento--a transfer that he believed
was only temporary until the affair blew over, and he could return
in safety to brow-beat his accusers, as was his wont. But this had
not been so easy as he had imagined; his prosecutors were bitter,
and his enforced seclusion had been prolonged week by week until the
fracas which ended in the shooting of the sheriff had apparently
closed the door upon his return to civilization forever. Only here
was his life and person secure. For Wynyard's Bar had quickly
succumbed to the domination of his reckless courage, and the
eminence of his double crime had made him respected among
spendthrifts, gamblers, and gentlemen whose performances had never
risen above a stage-coach robbery or a single assassination. Even
criticism of his faded luxuries had been delicately withheld.
He was leaning over his open trunk--which the camp popularly
supposed to contain State bonds and securities of fabulous amount--
and had taken some letters from it, when a figure darkened the
doorway. He looked up, laying his papers carelessly aside. WITHIN
Wynyard's Bar property was sacred.
It was the late fugitive. Although some hours had already elapsed
since his arrival in camp, and he had presumably refreshed himself
inwardly, his outward appearance was still disheveled and dusty.
Brier and milkweed clung to his frayed blouse and trousers. What
could be seen of the skin of his face and hands under its stains
and begriming was of a dull yellow. His light eyes had all the
brightness without the restlessness of the mongrel race. They
leisurely took in the whole cabin, the still open trunk before the
major, and then rested deliberately on the major himself.
"Well," said Major Overstone abruptly, "what brought you here?"
"Same as brought you, I reckon," responded the man almost as
The major knew something of the half-breed temper, and neither the
retort nor its tone affected him.
"You didn't come here just because you deserted," said the major
coolly. "You've been up to something else."
"I have," said the man with equal coolness.
"I thought so. Now, you understand you can't try anything of that
kind HERE. If you do, up you go on the first tree. That's Rule 1."
"I see you ain't pertickler about waiting for the sheriff here, you
The major glanced at him quickly. He seemed to be quite unconscious
of any irony in his remark, and continued grimly, "And what's
"I reckon you needn't trouble yourself beyond No. 1," returned the
major with dry significance. Nevertheless, he opened a rude
cupboard in the corner and brought out a rich silver-mounted cut-
glass drinking-flask, which he handed to the stranger.
"I say," said the half-breed, admiringly, "yours?"
"Certainly NOW, but BEFORE, eh?"
Rule No. 2 may have indicated that references to the past held no
dishonor. The major, although accustomed to these pleasantries,
laughed a little harshly.
"Mine always," he said. "But you don't drink?"
The half-breed's face darkened under its grime.
"Wot you're givin' us? I've been filled chock up by Simpson over
thar. I reckon I know when I've got a load on."
"Were you ever in Sacramento?"
"Did you hear anything about me?"
The half-breed glanced through his tangled hair at the major in
some wonder, not only at the question, but at the almost childish
eagerness with which it was asked.
"I didn't hear much of anything else," he answered grimly.
"And--what did they SAY?"
"Said you'd got to be TOOK anyhow! They allowed the new sheriff
would do it too."
The major laughed. "Well, you heard HOW the new sheriff did it--
skunked away with his whole posse before one-eighth of my men! You
saw how the rest of this camp held up your nine troopers, and that
sap-headed cub of a lieutenant--didn't you? You wouldn't have been
standing here if you hadn't. No; there isn't the civil process nor
the civil power in all California that can take me out of this
But neither his previous curiosity nor present bravado seemed to
impress the ragged stranger with much favor. He glanced sulkily
around the cabin and began to shuffle towards the door.
"Stop! Where are you going to? Sit down. I want to talk to you."
The fugitive hesitated for a moment, and then dropped ungraciously
on the edge of a camp-stool near the door. The major looked at
"I may have to remind you that I run this camp, and the boys
hereabouts do pretty much as I say. What's your name?"
"Tom? Well, look here, Tom! D--n it all! Can't you see that when
a man is stuck here alone, as I am, he wants to know what's going
on outside, and hear a little fresh talk?"
The singular weakness of this blended command and appeal apparently
struck the fugitive curiously. He fixed his lowering eyes on the
major as if in gloomy doubt if he were really the reckless
desperado he had been represented. That this man--twice an
assassin and the ruler of outlaws as reckless as himself--should
approach him in this half-confidential way evidently puzzled him.
"Wot you wanter know?" he asked gruffly.
"Well, what's my party saying or doing about me?" said the major
impatiently. "What's the 'Express' saying about me?"
"I reckon they're throwing off on you all round; they allow you
never represented the party, but worked for yourself," said the man
Here the major lashed out. A set of traitors and hirelings! He
had bought and paid for them all! He had sunk two thousand dollars
in the "Express" and saved the editor from being horsewhipped and
jailed for libel! Half the cursed bonds that they were making such
a blanked fuss about were handled by these hypocrites--blank them!
They were a low-lived crew of thieves and deserters! It is
presumed that the major had forgotten himself in this infelicitous
selection of epithets, but the stranger's face only relaxed into a
grim smile. More than that, the major had apparently forgotten his
desire to hear his guest talk, for he himself at once launched into
an elaborate exposition of his own affairs and a specious and
equally elaborate defense and justification of himself and
denunciation of his accusers. For nearly half an hour he reviewed
step by step and detail by detail the charges against him--with
plausible explanation and sophistical argument, but always with a
singular prolixity and reiteration that spoke of incessant self-
consciousness and self-abstraction. Of that dashing self-
sufficiency which had dazzled his friends and awed his enemies
there was no trace! At last, even the set smile of the degraded
recipient of these confidences darkened with a dull, bewildered
disgust. Then, to his relief, a step was heard without. The
major's manner instantly changed.
"Well?" he demanded impatiently, as Dawson entered.
"I came to know what you want done with HIM," said Dawson,
indicating the fugitive with a contemptuous finger.
"Take him to your cabin!"
"My cabin! HIM?" ejaculated Dawson, turning sharply on his chief.
The major's light eyes contracted and his thin lips became a
straight line. "I don't think you understand me, Dawson, and
another time you'd better wait until I'm done. I want you to
take him to your cabin--and then CLEAR OUT OF IT YOURSELF. You
understand? I want him NEAR ME AND ALONE!"
Dawson was not astonished the next morning to see Major Overstone
and the half-breed walking together down the gully road, for he had
already come to the conclusion that the major was planning some
extraordinary reprisals against the invaders, that would ensure the
perpetual security of the camp. That he should use so insignificant
and unimportant a tool now appeared to him to be quite natural,
particularly as the service was probably one in which the man would
be sacrificed. "The major," he suggested to his companions, "ain't
going to risk a white man's skin, when he can get an Injun's hide
The reluctant hesitating step of the half-breed as they walked
along seemed to give some color to this hypothesis. He listened
sullenly to the major as he pointed out the strategic position of
the Bar. "That wagon road is the only approach to Wynyard's, and a
dozen men along the rocks could hold it against a hundred. The
trail that you came by, over the ridge, drops straight into this
gully, and you saw what that would mean to any blanked fools who
might try it. Of course we could be shelled from that ridge if the
sheriff had a howitzer, or the men who knew how to work one, but
even then we could occupy the ridge before them." He paused a
moment and then added: "I used to be in the army, Tom; I saw
service in Mexico before that cub you got away from had his first
trousers. I was brought up as a gentleman--blank it all--and HERE
The man slouched on by his side, casting his surly, furtive glances
from left to right, as if seeking to escape from these confidences.
Nevertheless, the major kept on through the gully, until reaching
the wagon road they crossed it, and began to ascend the opposite
slope, half hidden by the underbrush and larches. Here the major
paused again and faced about. The cabins of the settlement were
already behind the bluff; the little stream which indicated the
"bar"--on which some perfunctory mining was still continued--now
and then rang out quite clearly at their feet, although the bar
itself had disappeared. The sounds of occupation and labor had at
last died away in the distance. They were quite alone. The major
sat down on a boulder, and pointed to another. The man, however,
remained sullenly standing where he was, as if to accent as
strongly as possible the enforced companionship. Either the
major was too self-absorbed to notice it, or accepted it as a
satisfactory characteristic of the half-breed's race. He continued
"Now look here, Tom. I want to leave this cursed hole, and get
clear out of the State! Anywhere; over the Oregon line into
British Columbia, or to the coast, where I can get a coasting
vessel down to Mexico. It will cost money, but I've got it. It
will cost a lot of risks, but I'll take them. I want somebody to
help me, some one to share risks with me, and some one to share my
luck if I succeed. Help to put me on the other side of the border
line, by sea or land, and I'll give you a thousand dollars down
BEFORE WE START and a thousand dollars when I'm safe."
The half-breed had changed his slouching attitude. It seemed more
indolent on account of the loosely hanging strap that had once held
his haversack, which was still worn in a slovenly fashion over his
shoulder as a kind of lazy sling for his shiftless hand.
"Well, Tom, is it a go? You can trust ME, for you'll have the
thousand in your pocket before you start. I can trust YOU, for
I'll kill you quicker than lightning if you say a word of this to
any one before I go, or play a single trick on me afterwards."
Suddenly the two men were rolling over and over in the underbrush.
The half-breed had thrown himself upon the major, bearing him down
to the ground. The haversack strap for an instant whirled like the
loop of a lasso in the air, and descended over the major's
shoulders, pinioning his arms to his side. Then the half-breed,
tearing open his ragged blouse, stripped off his waist-belt, and as
dexterously slipped it over the ankles of the struggling man.
It was all over in a moment. Neither had spoken a word. Only
their rapid panting broke the profound silence. Each probably knew
that no outcry would be overheard.
For the first time the half-breed sat down. But there was no trace
of triumph or satisfaction in his face, which wore the same
lowering look of disgust, as he gazed upon the prostrate man.
"I want to tell you first," he said, slowly wiping his face, "that
I didn't kalkilate upon doin' this in this yer kind o' way. I
expected more of a stan' up fight from you--more risk in gettin'
you out o' that hole--and a different kind of a man to tackle. I
never expected you to play into my hand like this--and it goes
against me to hev to take advantage of it."
"Who are you?" said the major, pantingly.
"I'm the new sheriff of Siskyou!"
He drew from beneath his begrimed shirt a paper wrapping, from
which he gingerly extracted with the ends of his dirty fingers a
clean, legal-looking folded paper.
"That's my warrant! I've kept it fresh for you. I reckon you
don't care to read it--you've seen it afore. It's just the same as
t'other sheriff had--what you shot."
"Then this was a plant of yours, and that whelp's troopers?" said
"Neither him nor the sojers knows any more about it than you,"
returned the sheriff slowly. "I enlisted as Injin guide or scout
ten days ago. I deserted just as reg'lar and nat'ral like when we
passed that ridge yesterday. I could be took to-morrow by the
sojers if they caught sight o' me and court-martialed--it's as
reg'lar as THAT! But I timed to have my posse, under a deputy,
draw you off by an attack just as the escort reached the ridge.
And here I am."
"And you're no half-breed?"
"There's nothin' Injin about me that water won't wash off. I
kalkilated you wouldn't suspect anything so insignificant as an
INJIN, when I fixed myself up. You saw Dawson didn't hanker after
me much. But I didn't reckon on YOUR tumbling to me so quick.
That's what gets me! You must hev been pretty low down for kempany
when you took a man like me inter your confidence. I don't see it
He looked inquiringly at his captive--with the same wondering
surliness. Nor could he understand another thing which was
evident. After the first shock of resistance the major had
exhibited none of the indignation of a betrayed man, but actually
seemed to accept the situation with a calmness that his captor
lacked. His voice was quite unemotional as he said:
"And how are you going to get me away from here?"
"That's MY look out, and needn't trouble you, major; but, seein' as
how confidential you've been to me, I don't mind tellin' you. Last
night that posse of mine that you 'skunked,' you know, halted at
the cross roads till them sojers went by. They has only to SEE
THEM to know that I had got away. They'll hang round the cross
roads till they see my signal on top of the ridge, and then they'll
make another show against that pass. Your men will have their
hands full, I reckon, without huntin' for YOU, or noticin' the
three men o' mine that will come along this ridge where the sojers
come yesterday--to help me get you down in the same way. You see,
major, your little trap in that gully ain't in this fight--WE'RE
THE OTHER SIDE OF IT. I ain't much of a sojer, but I reckon I've
got you there! And it's all owing to YOU. I ain't," he added
gloomily, "takin' much pride in it MYSELF."
"I shouldn't think you would," said the major, "and look here!
I'll double that offer I made you just now. Set me down just as I
am on the deck of some coasting vessel, and I'll pay you four
thousand dollars. You may have all the glory of having captured
me, HERE, and of making your word good before your posse. But you
can arrange afterwards on the way to let me give you the slip
somewhere near Sacramento."
The sheriff's face actually brightened. "Thanks for that, major.
I was gettin' a little sick of my share in this job, but, by God,
you've put some sand in me. Well, then! there ain't gold enough in
all Californy to make me let you go. You hear me; so drop that.
I've TOOK you, and TOOK ye'll remain until I land you in Sacramento
jail. I don't want to kill you, though your life's forfeit a dozen
times over, and I reckon you don't care for it either way, but if
you try any tricks on me I may have to MAIM ye to make you come
along comf'able and easy. I ain't hankerin' arter THAT either, but
come you shall!"
"Give your signal and have an end of this," said the major curtly.
The sheriff looked at him again curiously. "I never had my hands
in another man's pockets before, major, but I reckon I'll have to
take your derringers from yours." He slipped his hand into the
major's waistcoat and secured the weapons. "I'll have to trouble
you for your sash, too," he said, unwinding the knitted silken
girdle from the captive's waist. "You won't want it, for you ain't
walking, and it'll come in handy to me just now."
He bent over, and, passing it across the major's breast with more
gentleness and solicitude than he had yet shown, secured him in an
easy sitting posture against the tree. Then, after carefully
trying the knots and straps that held his prisoner, he turned and
lightly bounded up the hill.
He was absent scarcely ten minutes, yet when he returned the
major's eyes were half closed. But not his lips. "If you expect
to hold me until your posse comes you had better take me to some
less exposed position," he said dryly. "There's a man just crossed
the gully, coming into the brush below in the wood."
"None of your tricks, major!"
"Look for yourself."
The sheriff glanced quickly below him. A man with an axe on his
shoulder could be seen plainly making his way through the
underbrush not a hundred yards away. The sheriff instantly clapped
his hand upon his captive's mouth, but at a look from his eyes took
it away again.
"I see," he said grimly, "you don't want to lure that man within
reach of my revolver by calling to him."
"I could have called him while you were away," returned the major
The sheriff with a darkened face loosened the sash that bound his
prisoner to the tree, and then, lifting him in his arms, began to
ascend the hill cautiously, dipping into the heavier shadows. But
the ascent was difficult, the load a heavy one, and the sheriff was
agile rather than muscular. After a few minutes' climbing he was
forced to pause and rest his burden at the foot of a tree. But the
valley and the man in the underbrush were no longer in view.
"Come," said the major quietly, "unstrap my ankles and I'll WALK
up. We'll never get there at this rate."
The sheriff paused, wiped his grimy face with his grimier blouse,
and stood looking at his prisoner. Then he said slowly:--
"Look yer! Wot's your little game? Blessed if I kin follow suit."
For the first time the major burst into a rage. "Blast it all!
Don't you see that if I'm discovered HERE, in this way, there's not
a man on the Bar who would believe that I walked into your trap,
not a man, by God, who wouldn't think it was a trick of yours and
"Or," interrupted the sheriff slowly, fixing his eyes on his
prisoner, "not a man who would ever trust Major Overstone for a
"Perhaps," said the major, unmovedly again, "I don't think EITHER
OF US would ever get a chance of being trusted again by any one."
The sheriff still kept his eyes fixed on his prisoner, his gloomy
face growing darker under its grime. "THAT ain't the reason,
major. Life and death don't mean much more to you than they do to
me in this yer game. I know that you'd kill me quicker nor
lightning if you got the chance; YOU know that I'm takin' you to
"The reason is that I want to leave Wynyard's Bar," said the major
coolly; "and even this way out of it will suit me."
The sheriff took his revolver from his pocket and deliberately
cocked it. Then, leaning down, he unbuckled the strap from the
major's ankles. A wild hope that his incomprehensible captive
might seize that moment to develop his real intent--that he might
fly, fight, or in some way act up to his reckless reputation--
sustained him for a moment, but in the next proved futile. The
major only said, "Thank you, Tom," and stretched his cramped legs.
"Get up and go on," said the sheriff roughly.
The major began to slowly ascend the hill, the sheriff close on his
heels, alert, tingling, and watchful of every movement. For a few
moments this strain upon his faculties seemed to invigorate him,
and his gloom relaxed, but presently it became too evident that the
prisoner's pinioned arms made it impossible for him to balance or
help himself on that steep trail, and once or twice he stumbled and
reeled dangerously to one side. With an oath the sheriff caught
him, and tore from his arms the only remaining bonds that fettered
him. "There!" he said savagely; "go on; we're equal!"
Without replying, the major continued his ascent; it became steeper
as they neared the crest, and at last they were both obliged to
drag themselves up by clutching the vines and underbrush. Suddenly
the major stopped with a listening gesture. A strange roaring--as
of wind or water--was distinctly audible.
"How did you signal?" asked the major abruptly.
"Made a smoke," said the sheriff as abruptly.
"I thought so--well! you've set the woods on fire."
They both plunged upwards again, now quite abreast, vying with each
other to reach the summit as if with the one thought only. Already
the sting and smart of acrid fumes were in their eyes and nostrils;
when they at last stood on level ground again, it was hidden by a
thin film of grayish blue haze that seemed to be creeping along it.
But above was the clear sky, seen through the interlacing boughs,
and to their surprise--they who had just come from the breathless,
stagnant hillside--a fierce wind was blowing! But the roaring was
louder than before.
"Unless your three men are already here, your game is up," said the
major calmly. "The wind blows dead along the ridge where they
should come, and they can't get through the smoke and fire."
It was indeed true! In the scarce twenty minutes that had elapsed
since the sheriff's return the dry and brittle underbrush for half
a mile on either side had been converted into a sheet of flame,
which at times rose to a furnace blast through the tall chimney-
like conductors of tree shafts, from whose shriveled sides bark was
crackling, and lighted dead limbs falling in all directions. The
whole valley, the gully, the Bar, the very hillside they had just
left, were blotted out by a creeping, stifling smoke-fog that
scarcely rose breast high, but was beaten down or cut off cleanly
by the violent wind that swept the higher level of the forest. At
times this gale became a sirocco in temperature, concentrating its
heat in withering blasts which they could not face, or focusing its
intensity upon some mass of foliage that seemed to shrink at its
touch and open a scathed and quivering aisle to its approach. The
enormous skeleton of a dead and rotten redwood, not a hundred yards
to their right, broke suddenly like a gigantic firework into sparks
The sheriff had grasped the full meaning of their situation. In
spite of his first error--the very carelessness of familiarity--his
knowledge of woodcraft was greater than his companion's, and he saw
their danger. "Come," he said quickly, "we must make for an
opening or we shall be caught."
The major smiled in misapprehension.
"Who could catch us here?"
The sheriff pointed to the blazing tree.
"THAT," he said. "In five minutes IT will have a posse that will
wipe us both out."
He caught the major by the arm and rushed him into the smoke,
apparently in the direction of the greatest mass of flame. The
heat was suffocating, but it struck the major that the more they
approached the actual scene of conflagration the heat and smoke
became less, until he saw that the fire was retreating before them
and the following wind. In a few moments their haven of safety--
the expanse already burnt over--came in sight. Here and there,
seen dimly through the drifting smoke, the scattered embers that
still strewed the forest floor glowed in weird nebulous spots like
will-o'-the-wisps. For an instant the major hesitated; the sheriff
cast a significant glance behind them.
"Go on; it's our only chance," he said imperatively.
They darted on, skimming the blackened or smouldering surface,
which at times struck out sparks and flame from their heavier
footprints as they passed. Their boots crackled and scorched
beneath them; their shreds of clothing were on fire; their
breathing became more difficult, until, providentially, they fell
upon an abrupt, fissure-like depression of the soil, which the fire
had leaped, and into which they blindly plunged and rolled
together. A moment of relief and coolness followed, as they crept
along the fissure, filled with damp and rotting leaves.
"Why not stay here?" said the exhausted prisoner.
"And be roasted like sweet potatoes when these trees catch,"
returned the sheriff grimly. "No." Even as he spoke, a dropping
rain of fire spattered through the leaves from a splintered
redwood, before overlooked, that was now blazing fiercely in the
upper wind. A vague and indefinable terror was in the air. The
conflagration no longer seemed to obey any rule of direction. The
incendiary torch had passed invisibly everywhere. They scrambled
out of the hollow, and again dashed desperately forward.
Beaten, bruised, blackened, and smoke-grimed--looking less human
than the animals who had long since deserted the crest--they at
last limped into a "wind opening" in the woods that the fire had
skirted. The major sank exhaustedly to the ground; the sheriff
threw himself beside him. Their strange relations to each other
seemed to have been forgotten; they looked and acted as if they no
longer thought of anything beyond the present. And when the
sheriff finally arose and, disappearing for several minutes,
brought his hat full of water for his prisoner from a distant
spring that they had passed in their flight, he found him where he
had left him--unchanged and unmoved.
He took the water gratefully, and after a pause fixed his eyes
earnestly upon his captor. "I want you to do a favor to me," he
said slowly. "I'm not going to offer you a bribe to do it either,
nor ask you anything that isn't in a line with your duty. I think
I understand you now, if I didn't before. Do you know Briggs's
restaurant in Sacramento?"
The sheriff nodded.
"Well! over the restaurant are my private rooms, the finest in
Sacramento. Nobody knows it but Briggs, and he has never told.
They've been locked ever since I left; I've got the key still in my
pocket. Now when we get to Sacramento, instead of taking me
straight to jail, I want you to hold me THERE as your prisoner for
a day and a night. I don't want to get away; you can take what
precautions you like--surround the house with policemen, and sleep
yourself in the ante-room. I don't want to destroy any papers or
evidence; you can go through the rooms and examine everything
before and after; I only want to stay there a day and a night; I
want to be in my old rooms, have my meals from the restaurant as I
used to, and sleep in my own bed once more. I want to live for one
day like a gentleman, as I used to live before I came here. That's
all! It isn't much, Tom. You can do it and say you require to do
it to get evidence against me, or that you want to search the rooms."
The expression of wonder which had come into the sheriff's face at
the beginning of this speech deepened into his old look of surly
dissatisfaction. "And that's all ye want?" he said gloomily. "Ye
don't want no friends--no lawyer? For I tell you, straight out,
major, there ain't no hope for ye, when the law once gets hold of
ye in Sacramento."
"That's all. Will you do it?"
The sheriff's face grew still darker. After a pause he said: "I
don't say 'no,' and I don't say 'yes.' But," he added grimly, "it
strikes me we'd better wait till we get clear o' these woods afore
you think o' your Sacramento lodgings."
The major did not reply. The day had worn on, but the fire, now
completely encircling them, opposed any passage in or out of that
fateful barrier. The smoke of the burning underbrush hung low
around them in a bank equally impenetrable to vision. They were as
alone as shipwrecked sailors on an island, girded by a horizon of
"I'm going to try to sleep," said the major; "if your men come you
can waken me."
"And if YOUR men come?" said the sheriff dryly.
He lay down, closed his eyes, and to the sheriff's astonishment
presently fell asleep. The sheriff, with his chin in his grimy
hands, sat and watched him as the day slowly darkened around them
and the distant fires came out in more lurid intensity. The face
of the captive and outlawed murderer was singularly peaceful; that
of the captor and man of duty was haggard, wild, and perplexed.
But even this changed soon. The sleeping man stirred restlessly
and uneasily; his face began to work, his lips to move. "Tom," he
gasped suddenly, "Tom!"
The sheriff bent over him eagerly. The sleeping man's eyes were
still closed; beads of sweat stood upon his forehead. He was
"Tom," he whispered, "take me out of this place--take me out from
these dogs and pimps and beggars! Listen, Tom!--they're Sydney
ducks, ticket-of-leave men, short card sharps, and sneak thieves!
There isn't a gentleman among 'em! There isn't one I don't loathe
and hate--and would grind under my heel, elsewhere. I'm a
gentleman, Tom--yes, by God--an officer and a gentleman! I've
served my country in the 9th Cavalry. That cub of West Point knows
it and despises me, seeing me here in such company. That sergeant
knows it--I recommended him for his first stripes for all he taunts
"Come, wake up!" said the sheriff harshly.
The prisoner did not heed him; the sheriff shook him roughly, so
roughly that the major's waistcoat and shirt dragged open,
disclosing his fine silk undershirt, delicately worked and
embroidered with golden thread. At the sight of this abased and
faded magnificence the sheriff's hand was stayed; his eye wandered
over the sleeping form before him. Yes, the hair was dyed too;
near the roots it was quite white and grizzled; the pomatum was
coming off the pointed moustache and imperial; the face in the
light was very haggard; the lines from the angles of the nostril
and mouth were like deep, half-healed gashes. The major was,
without doubt, prematurely worn and played out.
The sheriff's persistent eyes, however, seemed to effect what his
ruder hand could not. The sleeping man stirred, awoke to full
consciousness, and sat up.
"Are they here? I'm ready," he said calmly.
"No," said the sheriff deliberately; "I only woke ye to say that
I've been thinkin' over what ye asked me, and if we get to
Sacramento all right, why, I'll do it and give ye that day and
night at your old lodgings."
The major reached out his hand; the sheriff hesitated, and then
extended his own. The hands of the two men clasped for the first,
and it would seem, the last time.
For the "cub of West Point" was, like most cubs, irritable when
thwarted. And having been balked of his prey, the deserter, and
possibly chaffed by his comrades for his profitless invasion of
Wynyard's Bar, he had persuaded his commanding officer to give him
permission to effect a recapture. Thus it came about that at dawn,
filing along the ridge, on the outskirts of the fire, his heart was
gladdened by the sight of the half-breed--with his hanging
haversack belt and tattered army tunic--evidently still a fugitive,
not a hundred yards away on the other side of the belt of fire,
running down the hill with another ragged figure at his side. The
command to "halt" was enforced by a single rifle shot over the
fugitives' heads--but they still kept on their flight. Then the
boy-officer snatched a carbine from one of his men, a volley rang
out from the little troop--the shots of the privates mercifully
high, those of the officer and sergeant leveled with wounded pride
and full of deliberate purpose. The half-breed fell; so did his
companion, and, rolling over together, both lay still.
But between the hunters and their fallen quarry reared a cheval de
frise of flame and fallen timber impossible to cross. The young
officer hesitated, shrugged his shoulders, wheeled his men about,
and left the fire to correct any irregularity in his action.
It did not, however, change contemporaneous history, for a week
later, when Wynyard's Bar discovered Major Overstone lying beside
the man now recognized by them as the disguised sheriff of Siskyou,
they rejoiced at this unfailing evidence of their lost leader's
unequaled prowess. That he had again killed a sheriff and fought a
whole posse, yielding only with his life, was never once doubted,
and kept his memory green in Sierran chronicles long after
Wynyard's Bar had itself become a memory.
A ROSE OF GLENBOGIE.
The American consul at St. Kentigern stepped gloomily from the
train at Whistlecrankie station. For the last twenty minutes his
spirits had been slowly sinking before the drifting procession past
the carriage windows of dull gray and brown hills--mammiform in
shape, but so cold and sterile in expression that the swathes of
yellow mist which lay in their hollows, like soiled guipure, seemed
a gratuitous affectation of modesty. And when the train moved
away, mingling its escaping steam with the slower mists of the
mountain, he found himself alone on the platform--the only
passenger and apparently the sole occupant of the station. He was
gazing disconsolately at his trunk, which had taken upon itself a
human loneliness in the emptiness of the place, when a railway
porter stepped out of the solitary signal-box, where he had
evidently been performing a double function, and lounged with
exasperating deliberation towards him. He was a hard-featured man,
with a thin fringe of yellow-gray whiskers that met under his chin
like dirty strings to tie his cap on with.
"Ye'll be goin' to Glenbogie House, I'm thinkin'?" he said moodily.
The consul said that he was.
"I kenned it. Ye'll no be gettin' any machine to tak' ye there.
They'll be sending a carriage for ye--if ye're EXPECTED." He
glanced half doubtfully at the consul as if he was not quite so
sure of it.
But the consul believed he WAS expected, and felt relieved at the
certain prospect of a conveyance. The porter meanwhile surveyed
"Ye'll be seein' Mistress MacSpadden there!"
The consul was surprised into a little over-consciousness. Mrs.
MacSpadden was a vivacious acquaintance at St. Kentigern, whom he
certainly--and not without some satisfaction--expected to meet at
Glenbogie House. He raised his eyes inquiringly to the porter's.
"Ye'll no be rememberin' me. I had a machine in St. Kentigern and
drove ye to MacSpadden's ferry often. Far, far too often! She's a
strange flagrantitious creature; her husband's but a puir fule, I'm
thinkin', and ye did yersel' nae guid gaunin' there."
It was a besetting weakness of the consul's that his sense of the
ludicrous was too often reached before his more serious
perceptions. The absurd combination of the bleak, inhospitable
desolation before him, and the sepulchral complacency of his self-
elected monitor, quite upset his gravity.
"Ay, ye'll be laughin' THE NOO," returned the porter with gloomy
The consul wiped his eyes. "Still," he said demurely, "I trust you
won't object to my giving you sixpence to carry my box to the
carriage when it comes, and let the morality of this transaction
devolve entirely upon me. Unless," he continued, even more
gravely, as a spick and span brougham, drawn by two thoroughbreds,
dashed out of the mist up to the platform, "unless you prefer to
state the case to those two gentlemen"--pointing to the smart
coachman and footman on the box--"and take THEIR opinion as to the
propriety of my proceeding any further. It seems to me that their
consciences ought to be consulted as well as yours. I'm only a
stranger here, and am willing to do anything to conform to the
"It's a saxpence ye'll be payin' anyway," said the porter, grimly
shouldering the trunk, "but I'll be no takin' any other mon's
opinion on matters of my am dooty and conscience."
"Ah," said the consul gravely, "then you'll perhaps be allowing ME
the same privilege."
The porter's face relaxed, and a gleam of approval--purely
intellectual, however,--came into his eyes.
"Ye were always a smooth deevel wi' your tongue, Mr. Consul," he
said, shouldering the box and walking off to the carriage.
Nevertheless, as soon as he was fairly seated and rattling away
from the station, the consul had a flashing conviction that he had
not only been grievously insulted but also that he had allowed the
wife of an acquaintance to be spoken of disrespectfully in his
presence. And he had done nothing! Yes--it was like him!--he had
LAUGHED at the absurdity of the impertinence without resenting it!
Another man would have slapped the porter's face! For an instant
he hung out of the carriage window, intent upon ordering the
coachman to drive back to the station, but the reflection--again a
ludicrous one--that he would now be only bringing witnesses to a
scene which might provoke a scandal more invidious to his
acquaintance, checked him in time. But his spirits, momentarily
diverted by the porter's effrontery, sunk to a lower ebb than
The clattering of his horses' hoofs echoed back from the rocky
walls that occasionally hemmed in the road was not enlivening, but
was less depressing than the recurring monotony of the open. The
scenery did not suggest wildness to his alien eyes so much as it
affected him with a vague sense of scorbutic impoverishment. It
was not the loneliness of unfrequented nature, for there was a
well-kept carriage road traversing its dreariness; and even when
the hillside was clothed with scanty verdure, there were "outcrops"
of smooth glistening weather-worn rocks showing like bare brown
knees under the all too imperfectly kilted slopes. And at a little
distance, lifting above a black drift of firs, were the square
rigid sky lines of Glenbogie House, standing starkly against the
cold, lingering northern twilight. As the vehicle turned, and
rolled between two square stone gate-posts, the long avenue before
him, though as well kept as the road, was but a slight improvement
upon the outer sterility, and the dark iron-gray rectangular
mansion beyond, guiltless of external decoration, even to the
outlines of its small lustreless windows, opposed the grim
inhospitable prospect with an equally grim inhospitable front.
There were a few moments more of rapid driving, a swift swishing
over soft gravel, the opening of a heavy door into a narrow
vestibule, and then--a sudden sense of exquisitely diffused light
and warmth from an arched and galleried central hall, the sounds of
light laughter and subdued voices half lost in the airy space
between the lofty pictured walls; the luxury of color in trophies,
armor, and hangings; one or two careless groups before the recessed
hearth or at the centre table, and the halted figure of a pretty
woman on the broad, slow staircase. The contrast was sharp,
ironical, and bewildering.
So much so that the consul, when he had followed the servant to his
room, was impelled to draw aside the heavy window-curtains and look
out again upon the bleak prospect it had half obliterated. The
wing in which he was placed overhung a dark ravine or gully choked
with shrubs and brambles that grew in a new luxuriance. As he
gazed a large black bird floated upwards slowly from its depths,
circled around the house with a few quick strokes of its wing, and
then sped away--a black bolt--in one straight undeviating line
towards the paling north. He still gazed into the abyss--half
expecting another, even fancying he heard the occasional stir
and flutter of obscure life below, and the melancholy call of
nightfowl. A long-forgotten fragment of old English verse began
to haunt him--
Hark! the raven flaps hys wing
In the briered dell belowe,
Hark! the dethe owl loude doth synge
To the night maers as thaie goe.
"Now, what put that stuff in my head?" he said as he turned
impatiently from the window. "And why does this house, with all
its interior luxury, hypocritically oppose such a forbidding front
to its neighbors?" Then it occurred to him that perhaps the
architect instinctively felt that a more opulent and elaborate
exterior would only bring the poverty of surrounding nature into
greater relief. But he was not in the habit of troubling himself
with abstruse problems. A nearer recollection of the pretty frock
he had seen on the staircase--in whose wearer he had just recognized
his vivacious friend--turned his thoughts to her. He remembered
how at their first meeting he had been interested in her bright
audacity, unconventionality, and high spirits, which did not,
however, amuse him as greatly as his later suspicion that she was
playing a self-elected role, often with difficulty, opposition, and
feverishness, rather than spontaneity. He remembered how he had
watched her in the obtrusive assumption of a new fashion, in some
reckless departure from an old one, or in some ostentatious
disregard of certain hard and set rules of St. Kentigern; but that
it never seemed to him that she was the happier for it. He even
fancied that her mirth at such times had an undue nervousness; that
her pluck--which was undoubted--had something of the defiance of
despair, and that her persistence often had the grimness of duty
rather than the thoughtlessness of pure amusement. What was she
trying to do?--what was she trying to UNDO or forget? Her married
life was apparently happy and even congenial. Her young husband was
clever, complaisant, yet honestly devoted to her, even to the
extension of a certain camaraderie to her admirers and a chivalrous
protection by half-participation in her maddest freaks. Nor could
he honestly say that her attitude towards his own sex--although
marked by a freedom that often reached the verge of indiscretion--
conveyed the least suggestion of passion or sentiment. The consul,
more perceptive than analytical, found her a puzzle--who was,
perhaps, the least mystifying to others who were content to sum up
her eccentricities under the single vague epithet, "fast." Most
women disliked her: she had a few associates among them, but no
confidante, and even these were so unlike her, again, as to puzzle
him still more. And yet he believed himself strictly impartial.
He walked to the window again, and looked down upon the ravine
from which the darkness now seemed to be slowly welling up and
obliterating the landscape, and then, taking a book from his
valise, settled himself in the easy-chair by the fire. He was in
no hurry to join the party below, whom he had duly recognized and
greeted as he passed through. They or their prototypes were
familiar friends. There was the recently created baronet, whose
"bloody hand" had apparently wiped out the stains of his earlier
Radicalism, and whose former provincial self-righteousness had been
supplanted by an equally provincial skepticism; there was his wife,
who through all the difficulties of her changed position had kept
the stalwart virtues of the Scotch bourgeoisie, and was--"decent";
there were the two native lairds that reminded him of "parts of
speech," one being distinctly alluded to as a definite article, and
the other being "of" something, and apparently governed always by
that possessive case. There were two or three "workers"--men of
power and ability in their several vocations; indeed, there was the
general over-proportion of intellect, characteristic of such Scotch
gatherings, and often in excess of minor social qualities. There
was the usual foreigner, with Latin quickness, eagerness, and
misapprehending adaptability. And there was the solitary
Englishman--perhaps less generously equipped than the others--
whom everybody differed from, ridiculed, and then looked up to and
imitated. There were the half-dozen smartly frocked women, who,
far from being the females of the foregoing species, were quite
indistinctive, with the single exception of an American wife, who
was infinitely more Scotch than her Scotch husband.
Suddenly he became aware of a faint rustling at his door, and what
seemed to be a slight tap on the panel. He rose and opened it--the
long passage was dark and apparently empty, but he fancied he could
detect the quick swish of a skirt in the distance. As he re-entered
his room, his eye fell for the first time on a rose whose stalk was
thrust through the keyhole of his door. The consul smiled at this
amiable solution of a mystery. It was undoubtedly the playful
mischievousness of the vivacious MacSpadden. He placed it in
water--intending to wear it in his coat at dinner as a gentle
recognition of the fair donor's courtesy.
Night had thickened suddenly as from a passing cloud. He lit the
two candles on his dressing-table, gave a glance into the now
scarcely distinguishable abyss below his window, as he drew the
curtains, and by the more diffused light for the first time
surveyed his room critically. It was a larger apartment than that
usually set aside for bachelors; the heavy four-poster had a
conjugal reserve about it, and a tall cheval glass and certain
minor details of the furniture suggested that it had been used for
a married couple. He knew that the guest-rooms in country houses,
as in hotels, carried no suggestion or flavor of the last tenant,
and therefore lacked color and originality, and he was consequently
surprised to find himself impressed with some distinctly novel
atmosphere. He was puzzling himself to discover what it might be,
when he again became aware of cautious footsteps apparently halting
outside his door. This time he was prepared. With a half smile he
stepped softly to the door and opened it suddenly. To his intense
surprise he was face to face with a man.
But his discomfiture was as nothing compared to that of the
stranger--whom he at once recognized as one of his fellow-guests--
the youthful Laird of Whistlecrankie. The young fellow's healthy
color at once paled, then flushed a deep crimson, and a forced
smile stiffened his mouth.
"I--beg your par-r-rdon," he said with a nervous brusqueness that
brought out his accent. "I couldna find ma room. It'll be
changed, and I--"
"Perhaps I have got it," interrupted the consul smilingly. "I've
only just come, and they've put me in here."
"Nae! Nae!" said the young man hurriedly, "it's no' thiss. That
is, it's no' mine noo."
"Won't you come in?" suggested the consul politely, holding open
The young man entered the room with the quick strides but the
mechanical purposelessness of embarrassment. Then he stiffened
and stood erect. Yet in spite of all this he was strikingly
picturesque and unconventional in his Highland dress, worn with the
freedom of long custom and a certain lithe, barbaric grace. As the
consul continued to gaze at him encouragingly, the quick resentful
pride of a shy man suddenly mantled his high cheekbones, and with
an abrupt "I'll not deesturb ye longer," he strode out of the room.
The consul watched the easy swing of his figure down the passage,
and then closed the door. "Delightful creature," he said musingly,
"and not so very unlike an Apache chief either! But what was he
doing outside my door? And was it HE who left that rose--not as
a delicate Highland attention to an utter stranger, but"--the
consul's mouth suddenly expanded--"to some fair previous occupant?
Or was it really HIS room--he looked as if he were lying--and"--
here the consul's mouth expanded even more wickedly--"and Mrs.
MacSpadden had put the flower there for him." This implied snub to
his vanity was, however, more than compensated by his wicked
anticipation of the pretty perplexity of his fair friend when HE
should appear at dinner with the flower in his own buttonhole. It
would serve her right, the arrant flirt! But here he was
interrupted by the entrance of a tall housemaid with his hot water.
"I am afraid I've dispossessed Mr.--Mr.--Kilcraithie rather
prematurely," said the consul lightly.
To his infinite surprise the girl answered with grim decision,
"Nane too soon."
The consul stared. "I mean," he explained, "that I found him
hesitating here in the passage, looking for his room."
"Ay, he's always hoaverin' and glowerin' in the passages--but it's
no' for his ROOM! And it's a deesgrace to decent Christian folk
his carryin' on wi' married weemen--mebbee they're nae better than
"That will do," said the consul curtly. He had no desire to
encourage a repetition of the railway porter's freedom.
"Ye'll no fash yoursel' aboot HIM," continued the girl, without
heeding the rebuff. "It's no' the meestreess' wish that he's
keepit here in the wing reserved for married folk, and she's no'
sorry for the excuse to pit ye in his place. Ye'll be married
yoursel', I'm hearin'. But, I ken ye's nae mair to be lippened tae
This was too much for the consul's gravity. "I'm afraid," he said
with diplomatic gayety, "that although I am married, as I haven't
my wife with me, I've no right to this superior accommodation and
comfort. But you can assure your mistress that I'll try to deserve
"Ay," said the girl, but with no great confidence in her voice as
she grimly quitted the room.
"When our foot's upon our native heath, whether our name's
Macgregor or Kilcraithie, it would seem that we must tread warily,"
mused the consul as he began to dress. "But I'm glad she didn't
see that rose, or MY reputation would have been ruined." Here
another knock at the door arrested him. He opened it impatiently
to a tall gillie, who instantly strode into the room. There was
such another suggestion of Kilcraithie in the man and his manner
that the consul instantly divined that he was Kilcraithie's
"I'll be takin' some bit things that yon Whistlecrankie left," said
the gillie gravely, with a stolid glance around the room.
"Certainly," said the consul; "help yourself." He continued his
dressing as the man began to rummage in the empty drawers. The
consul had his back towards him, but, looking in the glass of the
dressing-table, he saw that the gillie was stealthily watching him.
Suddenly he passed before the mantelpiece and quickly slipped the
rose from its glass into his hand.