Part 1 out of 3
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THE GOLDEN FLEECE
by JULIAN HAWTHORNE
The professor crossed one long, lean leg
over the other, and punched down the
ashes in his pipe-bowl with the square tip
of his middle finger. The thermometer on
the shady veranda marked eighty-seven
degrees of heat, and nature wooed the soul to
languor and revery; but nothing could abate
the energy of this bony sage.
"They talk about their Atlantises,--their
submerged continents!" he exclaimed, with
a sniff through his wide, hairy nostrils.
"Why, Trednoke, do you realize that we
are living literally at the bottom of a
Mesozoic--at any rate, Cenozoic--sea?"
The gentleman thus indignantly addressed
contemplated his questioner with the serenity
of one conscious of freedom from geologic
responsibility. He was a man of about the
professor's age,--say, sixty years,--but not
like him in appearance. His figure was
stately and massive,--that of one who in
his youth must have possessed vast physical
strength, rigidly developed and disciplined.
Well set upon his broad shoulders was a
noble head, crowned with gray, wavy hair;
the eyes and eyebrows were black and powerful,
but the expression was kindly and
humorous. His moustache and the Roman
convexity of his chin would have confirmed
your conviction that he was a retired
warrior; in which you would have been correct,
for General Trednoke always appeared what
he was, both outwardly and inwardly. His
great frame, clad in white linen, was
comfortably disposed in a Japanese straw arm-
chair; yet there was a soldierly poise in his
attitude. He was smoking a large and
excellent cigar; and a cup of coffee, with a
tiny glass of cognac beside it, stood on a
mahogany stand at his elbow.
"Do you remember, Meschines, the time
I licked you at school?" he inquired, in a
tone of pleasant reminiscence.
"I can't say I do. What's more, I
venture to challenge your statement. And
though you are a hundred pounds the better
of me in weight, and a West Point graduate,
I will wager my pipe (which is worth its
weight in diamonds) against that old woollen
shirt of Montezuma's that you showed me
yesterday, that I can lick you to-day, and
forget all about it before bedtime!"
"Well, I guess you could," returned the
general, with a little chuckle, "even if I
hadn't that Mexican bullet in my leg. But
you couldn't, forty-five years ago, though
you tried, and though I was a year younger
than you, and weighed five pounds less.
Come, now: you don't mean to say you've
forgotten Susan Brown!"
"Oh--ah--hah! Susan Brown! Well,
I declare! And what brought her into your
head, I should like to know?"
"Why, after breaking your heart first, and
then mine, I lost sight of her, and I don't
think I have seen her since. But it appears
she was married to a fellow named Parsloe."
"Don't fancy that name!" observed the
professor, wagging his head and frowning.
"Has a mean sound to it. But what of it?"
"Well, she died,--rest her soul!--and
Parsloe too. But they had a daughter, and
she survives them."
"And resembles her mother, eh?--No,
Trednoke, the time for that sort of thing
has gone by with me. Susan might have
had me, five-and-forty years ago; but I
can't undertake to revive my passion for
the benefit of Mrs. Parsloe's daughter.
Besides, I'm too busy to think of marriage,
and not--not old enough!"
At this tour de force, the general laughed
softly, and finished his coffee. An old
Indian, somewhat remarkable in appearance,
with shaggy white hair hanging down on
his shoulders, stepped forward from the
room where he had been waiting, and
removed the cup.
"No letters yet, Kamaiakan?" asked the
general, in Spanish.
"In a few minutes, general," the other
replied. "Pablo has just come in sight
over the hill. There were several errands."
"Muy buen!--I was going to say,
Meschines, her father and mother left the girl
poor, and she, being, apparently, clever and
energetic, took to----"
"I know!" the professor interrupted.
"They all do it, when they are clever and
energetic, and that's the end of them!--
"Not at all," returned General Trednoke.
"She entered a dry-goods store."
"Entered a dry-goods store! Well,
there's nothing so extraordinary in that.
I've seen quantities of women do it, of all
ages, colors, and degrees. What did she
"Oh, a fiddlestick!" exclaimed the
general. "Why don't you keep quiet and
listen to my story? I say, she went into a
great dry-goods store in New York, as sales-
"Bless my soul! You don't mean a
"That's what I said, isn't it? And why
"Oh, well!--but, shade of Susan Brown!
Ichabod!--what is the feminine of Ichabod,
by the way, Trednoke? But, seriously, it's
too bad. Susan may have been fickle, but
she was always aristocratic. And now her
daughter is a shop-girl. You and I are
"You are just as ridiculous, Meschines,
as you were thirty or fifty years ago," said
the general, tranquilly. "You declaim for
the sake of hearing your own voice. Besides,
what you say is un-American. Grace
Parsloe, as I was saying, got a place as shop-
girl in one of the great New York stores.
I don't say she mightn't have done worse:
what I say is, I doubt whether she could
have done better. That house--I know one
of its founders, and I know what I'm talking
about--is like an enormous family, where
children are born, year after year, grow up,
and take their places in life according to
their quality and merit. What I mean is,
that the boy who drives a wagon for them
to-day, at three dollars a week, may control
one of their chief departments, or even
become a partner, before they're done with
him; and, mutatis mutandis, the same with
the girls. When these girls marry, it's apt
to be into a higher rank of life than they
were born in; and that fact, I take it, is a
good indication that their shop-girl
experience has been an education and an
improvement. They are given work to do,
suited to their capacity, be it small or great;
they are in the way of learning something
of the great economic laws; they learn self-
restraint, courtesy, and----"
"And human nature! Yes, poor things:
they see the American buying-woman, and
that is a discipline more trying than any you
West Pointers know about! Oh, yes, I see
your point. If the fathers of the big family
ARE fathers, and the children ARE children to
them . . . All the same, I fancy the young
ladies, when they marry into the higher
social circles, as you say they do, don't, as
a rule, make their shop girl days a topic of
conversation at five-o'clock teas, or put
'Ex-shop-girl to So-and-so' at the bottom of
"I believe, after all, you're a snob,
Meschines," said the general, pensively. "But,
as I was about to say, when you interrupted
me ten minutes ago, Grace Parsloe is coming
on here to make us a visit. She fell ill, and
her employers, after doing what could be
done for her in the way of medical attendance,
made up their minds to give her a
change of climate. Now, you know, as she
had originally gone to them with a letter
from me, and as I live out here, on the
borders of the Southern desert, in a climate
that has no equal, they naturally thought of
writing to me about it. And of course I
said I'd be delighted to have her here, for a
month, or a year, or whatever time it may
be. She will be a pleasure to me, and a
friend for Miriam, and she may find a husband
somewhere up or down the coast, who
will give her a fortune, and think all the
better of her because she, like him, had the
ability and the pluck to make her own way
in the world."
"Humph! When do you expect her?"
"She may turn up any day. She is
coming round by way of the Isthmus.
From what I hear, she is really a very fine,
clever girl. She held a responsible position
in the shop, and----"
"Well, let us sink the shop, and get back
to the rational and instructive conversation
that we--or, to be more accurate, that I was
engaged in when this digression began. I
presume you are aware that all the indications
Hereupon, a hammock, suspended near the
talkers, and filled with what appeared to be
a bundle of lace and silken shawls, became
agitated, and developed at one end a slender
arched foot in an open-work silk stocking and
sandal-slipper, and at the other end a dark,
youthful, oval face, with glorious eyes and
dull black hair. A voice of music asked,--
"What is lacustrine, papa?"
"Oh, so you are awake again, Senorita
"I haven't been asleep. What is lacustrine?"
"Ask the professor."
"Lacus, you know, my dear," said the
latter, "means fresh-water indications as
"Then how does Great Salt Lake----"
"Oh, for that matter, the whole ocean
was fresh originally. Moisture, evaporation,
precipitation. Water is a great solvent:
earthquakes break the crust, and
there you are!"
"Then, before the earthquakes, the Salt
Lakes were fresh?" rejoined the hammock.
"There was fresh water west of the
Rockies and south of---- Why," cried
the professor, interrupting himself, "when
I was in Wyoming and around there, this
spring, in what they call the Bad Lands,--
cliffs and buttes of indurated yellow clay and
sandstone, worn and carved out by floods
long before the Aztecs started to move out
of Canada,--I saw fossil bones sticking out
of the cliffs, the least of which would make
the fortune of a museum. That was between
the Rockies and the Wahsatch."
"People's bones?" asked the hammock,
agitating itself again, and showing a glimpse
of a smooth throat and a slender ankle.
"Bless my soul! If there were people
in those days they must have had an anxious
time of it!" returned the sage. "No, no,
my dear. There was brontosaurus, and
atlantosaurus, and hydrosaurus, and iguanodon,
--lizards, you know, not like these little
black fellows that run about in the pulverized
feldspar here, but chaps eighty or a hundred
feet long, and twenty or thirty high; and
turtles, as big as a house."
"How did they get there?"
"Got mired while they were feeding,
perhaps; or the water drained off and left
them high and dry."
"But where did the water go to?"
The general chuckled at this juncture,
and lit another cigar. "She knows more
questions than you do the answers to them,"
quoth he. "But I wouldn't mind hearing
where the water went to, myself. I should
like to see some of it back again."
"Ask the earthquakes, and the sun.
There's a hundred and thirty degrees of
heat in some of these valleys,--abysses,
rather, three or four hundred feet below sea-
level. The earth is very thin-skinned in
this region, too, and whatever water wasn't
evaporated from above would be likely to
come to grief underneath."
"But, professor," said the musical voice,
"I thought there was a law that water
always seeks its own level. So how can
there be empty places below sea-level?"
"It's the fault of the aneroid barometer,
my dear. We were very comfortable and
commonplace until that came along and
revealed anomalies. The secret lies, I
suppose, in the trend of the strata, which is
generally north and south. You see the
ridges cropping out all through the desert;
and there's a good deal of lava oozing over
them, too. They probably act as walls, to
prevent the sea getting in from the west, or
the Colorado leaking in from the east."
"In that case," remarked the general, "a
little more seismic disturbance might produce
"It would have to be more than a little, I
suspect," returned Meschines.
"Kamaiakan told me that the Indians
have a prophecy that a great lake will come
back and make the desert fruitful, and that
there are some who know the very place
where the water will begin to flow." And
here the hammock, with a final convulsion,
gave birth to a beautiful young woman, in a
diaphanous silk dress and a white lace
mantilla. She crossed the veranda, and seated
herself on the broad arm of her father's
"Why, that's important!" said the
general, arching his brows. "I wonder if
Kamaiakan is one of those who know the
place? If so, it might be worth his while
to let me into the secret."
"Oh, you couldn't go there! It's
enchanted, and people who go near it die.
There are bones all about there, now."
"This Kamaiakan appears to be a remarkable
personage: where did you pick him
up?" inquired the professor.
"It was rather the other way," Trednoke
replied, taking one of his daughter's hands
in his, and caressing it. "We are appendages
to Kamaiakan. You look so natural,
sitting there, Meschines, that I forget it's
thirty years since we met, and that all the
significant events of my life have happened
in that time,--the Mexican war, my marriage,
and the rest of it! I have been a
widower ten years."
"And I've been a bachelor for over
sixty!" said Meschines, with a queer expression.
"Your wife was Spanish, was she not?"
"Her father was a Mexican of Andalusian
descent. But her mother was descended
from the race of Azatlan: there are records
and relics indicating that her ancestors were
princes in Tenochtitlan before Cortez made
"And I've been losing my heart to a
princess, and never realized my audacity!"
exclaimed the professor, laying his hand on
his waistcoat and making an obeisance to
She tossed her free foot, and played with
the fringe of her reboso.
"I will tell my maid to look for it," she
said; "but I think you must have left it in
"No: I'm an Aztec sacrifice!" cried the
professor; and they all laughed. "One
would hardly have anticipated," he resumed
after a pause, addressing Trednoke, "that
you would have made a double conquest,--
first of the men, and then of the woman!"
"The woman conquered me, without
trying or wishing to, and then, because she
was a woman, took compassion on me.
Whether my country has benefited much by
the Mexican annexation, I can't say; but I
know Inez--made a heaven on earth for
me," concluded the general, in a low voice.
His countenance, at this moment, wore a
solemn and humble expression, beautiful to
see; and Miriam bent and laid her cheek
against his. Meschines knocked the ashes
out of his pipe, and sighed.
"No woman ever took compassion on
me," he remarked, "and you see the result,
"Ashes,--with their wonted fires living in
them," said Trednoke.
"We were talking about this Indian of
yours," said Meschines.
"Ay, to be sure. Well, he was attached
to Inez's family when I first knew them. It
was a peculiar relation; not like that of a
servant. One finds such things in Mexico.
The conquered race were of as good strain
as their conquerors; the blood of Montezuma
was as blue as the best of the Castilian.
There were many intermarriages; and there
are many instances of the survival of
traditions and records; though the records are
often symbolic, and would have no meaning
to persons not initiated. But they have
been sufficient to perpetuate ties of a personal
nature through generation after generation;
and the alliance between Kamaiakan
and Inez was of this kind. His forefathers,
I imagine, were priests, and priests were a
mighty power in Tenochtitlan. For aught
I know, indeed Kamaiakan may be an original
priest of Montezuma's; no one knows
his age, but he does not look an hour older,
to-day, than when I first saw him, over
twenty years ago."
"He must be!" said Miriam, with some
positiveness. "He has told me of seeing
and doing things hundreds of years ago.
And he says----" She paused.
"What does he say, Nina adorada?"
asked her father.
"It was about the treasure, you know."
"Let us hear. The professor is one of
"It's one of our traditions that my
mother's ancestors, at the time of Cortez,
were very rich people," continued Miriam,
glancing at Meschines, and then letting her
eyes wander across the garden, blooming
with roses and fragrant with orange-trees,
and so across the trellised vines towards the
soft outline of the mountains eastward. "A
great part of their wealth was in the form
of jewels and precious stones. When Cortez
took the city, one of the priests, who
was a relative of our family, put the jewels
in a box, and hid them in a certain place in
"And does Kamaiakan know where the
place is?" asked the general.
"He can know, when the time comes."
"Which will be, perhaps, when you are
ready for your dowry," observed the
"A spell was put upon the spot," Miriam
went on, with a certain imaginative seriousness;
for she loved romance and mystery so
well, and was of a temperament so poetical,
that the wildest fairy-tales had a sort of
reality for her. "No one can find the
treasure while the spell remains. But
Kamaiakan understands the spell, and the
conjuration which dissolves it; and when he
dissolves it, the treasure will be found."
"And, between ourselves," added the
general, "Kamaiakan is himself the priestly
relative by whom the spell was wrought.
He bears an enchanted life, which cannot
cease until he has restored the jewels to
"There might be something in it, you
know," said Meschines, after a pause.
"The treasures of Montezuma have never
been found. Is there no old chart or
writing, in your collection of curiosities
and relics, that might throw light on it?"
"The scriptures of Anahuac were of the
replied the other. "No, I fear there is
nothing to the purpose; and if there were,
I shouldn't know how to decipher it."
"But, papa, the tunic!" exclaimed
"Oh! has the tunic anything to do with
"Is that the queer woollen garment with
the gold embroidery?" inquired the professor,
becoming more interested. "I took a
fancy to that, you remember. Has it a
"Well, it is a kind of an anomaly, I
believe," the general answered, looking up
at his daughter with a smile. "The Aztecs,
you are aware, dressed chiefly in cotton.
Even their defensive armor was of cotton,
thickly quilted. Their ornaments were
feathers, and embroidery of gold and precious
stones. But wool, for some reason, they
didn't wear; and yet this garment, as you
can see for yourself, is pure wool; and that
it is also pure Aztecan is beyond question."
"Admitting that, what clue does it give
to the treasure?"
"You must ask Kamaiakan," said Miriam:
"only, he wouldn't tell you."
"Possibly," the professor suggested, "the
place where the treasure is hidden is the
place whence the water is to flow out; and
the water is the treasure."
"Seriously, do you suppose that such a
phenomenon as the return of an inland sea
is physically practicable?" asked Trednoke.
"No phenomenon, in this part of the
world, would surprise me," returned
Meschines. "The Colorado might break its
barriers; or it is conceivable that some
huge stream, taking its rise in the heights
hundreds of miles north and east of us, may
be flowing through subterranean passages
into the sea, emerging from the sea-bottom
hundreds of miles to the westward. Now,
if a rattling good earthquake were to happen
along, you might awake in the morning
to find yourself on an island, or even under
"A moderate Mediterranean would satisfy
me," the general said. "I wouldn't
exchange the certainty of it for the treasures
"The thirst for gold and for water are
synonymous in your case?"
"Give this section a moist climate, and I
needn't tell you that the Great American
Desert would literally blossom as the rose.
Even as it is, I expect a great deal of it will
be redeemed by scientific irrigation. The
soil only needs water to become inexhaustibly
productive. Our desert, as you know,
is not sand, like parts of the Sahara; it has
all the ingredients that go to nourish plants,
only their present powdery condition makes
them unavailable. Now, I can, to-day, buy
a hundred square miles of desert for a few
dollars. You see the point, don't you?"
"And all you want is expert opinion as
to the likelihood of finding water?"
"The man who solves that question for
me in the affirmative is welcome to half my
share of the results that would ensue from it."
"Why don't you engage some expert to
"One can't always trust an expert. I
don't mean as to his expertness only, but as
to his good faith. He might prefer to sell
the idea to somebody who could pay cash,
--which I cannot."
"Why, you seem to have given this thing
a good deal of thought, Trednoke."
"Well, yes: it has been my hobby for a
year past; and I have made some investigations
myself. But this is the first time I
have spoken of it to any one."
"I understand. And what of the investigations?"
"I can say that I found enough to interest
me. I'll tell you about it some time. I
should be glad to leave Miriam something
to make her independent."
"I should say that her Creator had already
done that!" said Meschines. "By
the way, I know a young fellow--if he were
only here--who is just the man you want,
and can be trusted. He's a civil engineer,
--Harvey Freeman: the Lord only knows
in what part of the world he is at this
speaking. He has made a special study of these
"Don't you remember, papa, Coleridge's
poem of Kubla Khan?--
"Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea!"
"Our sacred river, when we find it, shall
be named Miriam."
"It ought to be Kamaiakan," she
rejoined; "for, if anybody finds it, it will
"I think I hear the wings of the angel of
whom we have been speaking," said the
general. "Yes, here he is; and he has got
the letters. Let us see! One for you
Meschines. And this, I see, is from our friend
Miss Parsloe, postmarked Santa Barbara.
Why, she'll be here to-morrow, at that
"Here's a queer coincidence!" exclaimed
the professor, who had meanwhile opened
his envelope and glanced through the contents.
"The very man I was speaking of,
--Harvey Freeman! Says he is in this
neighborhood, has heard I'm here, and is
coming down to pay me a visit. Methinks
I hear the rolling of the sacred river!"
"But you won't mention it to him,
"Bless me! Of course not. I'll bring
him over here, in the course of human
events, and you can take a look at him, and
act on your own intuitions. I won't say on
Princess Miriam's, for Harvey is a very fine-
looking fellow, and her intuitions might get
"A civil engineer!" said Miriam, with
an intonation worthy of the daughter of a
West-Pointer and the descendant of an
Kamaiakan (who spoke only Spanish) had
been gathering up some cushions that had
fallen out of the hammock. Having replaced
them, and cast a quick glance at
Meschines, he withdrew.
The Southern Pacific Railway passes, today,
not far from the site of General
Trednoke's ranch. But the events now to
be narrated occurred some years before the
era of transcontinental railroads: they were
in the air, but not yet bolted down to the
earth. The general, therefore, was a
pioneer, and was by no means overrun with
friends from the East in search of an
agreeable winter climate. The easiest way to
reach him--if you were not pressed for time
--was round the cape which forms the
southernmost point of South America and
sticks its sharp snout inquiringly into the
Antarctic solitudes, as if it scented something
questionable there. The speediest
route, though open to strange discomforts,
was by way of the Isthmus; and then there
were always the saddle, the wagon, and the
stage, with the accompaniments of road-
agents, tornadoes, deserts, and starvation.
Miss Grace Parsloe came via the Isthmus;
and the latter part of her journey had been
alleviated by the society of a young
gentleman from New York, Freeman by name.
There were other passengers on the vessel;
but these two discovered sympathies of
origin and education which made companionship
natural. They sat together at table,
leaned side by side over the taffrail,
discussed their fellow-travellers, and
investigated each other. As he lolled on the
bench with folded arms and straw hat tilted
back from his forehead she, glancing side-
long, as her manner was, saw a sunburnt
aquiline nose, a moustache of a lighter
brown than the visage which it decorated,
a lean, strong jaw, and a muscular neck.
His forehead, square and impending, was as
white as ivory in comparison with the face
below; his hair, in accordance with the
fashion introduced by the late war, was
cropped close. But what especially moved
Miss Grace were those long, lazy blue eyes,
which seemed to tolerate everything, but to
be interested in nothing,--hardly even in
her. Now, Grace could not help knowing
she was a pretty girl, and it was somewhat
of a novelty to her that Freeman should
appear so indifferent. It would have been
difficult to devise a better opportunity than
this to monopolize masculine admiration,
and she fell to speculating as to what sort of
an experience Mr. Freeman must have had,
so to panoply him against her magic. On
the other hand, she was the recipient of
whatever attentions he could bring himself
to detach from the horizon-line, or from his
own thoughts (which appeared to amount,
practically, to about the same thing). She
had no other rivals; and a woman will submit
amiably to a good deal of indifference,
provided she be assured that no other woman
is enjoying what she lacks.
Freeman, for his part, had nothing to
complain of. Grace Parsloe was a singularly
pretty girl. Singular properly qualifies
her. She was not like the others,--by
which phrase he epitomized the numerous
comely young women whom he had, at
various times and in several countries,
attended, teased, and kissed. Both physically
and mentally, she was very fine-wrought.
Her bones were small; her body and limbs
were slender, but beautifully fashioned. She
was supple and vigorous. Grace is a product
of brain as well as an effect of bodily
symmetry: Grace had the quality on both
counts. She answered to one's conception
of Mahomet's houris, assuming that the
conception is not of a fat person. Her head
was small, but well proportioned,--compact
as to the forehead, rather broad across the
cheek-bones, thence tapering to the chin.
Her eyes were blue, but of an Eastern
strangeness of shape and setting; they were
subject to great and sudden changes of
expression, depending, apparently, on the
varying state of her emotions, and betraying
an intensity more akin to the Oriental
temperament than to ours. There was in her
something subtle and fierce; yet overlaying
it, like a smooth and silken skin, were the
conventional polish and bearing of an
American school graduate. She was, in
deed, noticeably artificial and self-conscious
in manner and in the intonations of her
speech; though it was an aesthetic delight
to see her move or pose, and the quality of
her voice was music's self. But Freeman,
after due meditation, came to the conclusion
that this was the outcome of her recognition
of her own singularity: in trying to be like
other people, she fell into caricature. Freeman,
somehow, liked her the better for it.
Like most men of brain and pith, who
have seen and thought much, he was thankful
for a new thing, because, so far as it
went, it renewed him. It pleased him to
imagine that he could, with a word or a
look, cause this veil of artifice to be thrown
aside, and the primitive passion and fierceness
behind it to start forth. He allowed
himself to imagine, with a certain satisfaction,
that were he to make this young woman
jealous she would think nothing of thrusting
a dagger between his ribs. Reality,--what
a delight it is! The actual touch and feeling
of the spontaneous natural creature have
been so buried beneath centuries of hypocrisy
and humbug that we have ceased to
believe in them save as a metaphysical
abstraction. But even as water, long depressed
under-ground in perverse channels, surges
up to the surface, and above it, at last, in a
fountain of relief, so Nature, after enduring
ages of outrage and banishment, leaps back
to her rightful domain in some individual
whom we call extraordinary because he or
she is natural. Grace Parsloe did not seem
(regarded as to her temperament and quality)
to belong where she was: therefore she was
a delightful incident there. Had she been
met with in the days of the Old Testament,
or in the depths of Persia or India at the
present time, even, she might have appeared
commonplace. But here she was in conventional
costume, with conventional manners.
And, just as the nautch-girls, and other
Oriental dancers and posturers, wear a costume
which suggests nature more effectively
than does nature itself, so did Grace's
conventionality suggest to Freeman the essential
absence of conventionality more forcibly
than if he had seen her clad in a turban and
translucent caftan, dancing off John the
Baptist's head, or driving a nail into that of
Sisera. Grace certainly owed much of her
importance to her situation, which rendered
her foreign and piquante. But, then,
everything, in this world, is relative.
Racial types seem to be a failure: when they
become very marked, the race deteriorates
or vanishes. In the counties of England,
after only a thousand years, the women you
meet in the rural districts and country towns
all look like sisters. The Asiatics, of course,
are much more sunk in type than the Anglo-
Saxons; and they show us the way we would
be going. Only, there is hope in rapid
transit and the cosmopolitan spirit, and
especially in these United States, which bring
together the ends of the earth, and place
side by side a descendant of the Puritans
like Freeman, and a daughter of Irak-Ajemi.
"What are you coming to California for,
Freeman had already told her what he had
been in the Isthmus for,--to paddle in miasmatic
swamps with a view to the possibility
of a canal in the remote, speculative future.
He had given her a graphic and entertaining
picture of the hideous and inconceivable life
he had led there for six months, from which
he had emerged the only member of a party
of nineteen (whites, blacks, and yellows)
who was not either dead by disease, by
violence, or by misadventure, or had barely
escaped with life and a shattered constitution.
Freeman, after emerging from the
miasmatic hell and lake of Gehenna, had
taken a succession of baths, with soap and
friction, had been attended by a barber and
a tailor, and had himself attended the best
table to be found for love or money in the
charming town of Panama. He had also
spent more than half of the week of his
sojourn there in sleep; and he was now in the
best possible condition, physical and mental,
--though not, he admitted, pecuniary. As
to morals, they had not reached that discussion
yet. But, in all that he did say, Freeman
exhibited perfect unreserve and frankness,
answering without hesitation or embarrassment
any question she chose to ask (and
she asked some curious ones).
But when she asked him such an innocent
thing as what he was after in California--an
inquiry, by the way, put more in idleness
than out of curiosity--Freeman stroked his
yellow moustache with the thumb of the
hand that held his Cuban cigarette, gazed
with narrowed eyelids at the horizon, and
for some time made no reply at all. Finally
he said that California was a place he had
never visited, and that it would be a pity to
have been so near it and yet not have improved
the opportunity of taking a look at it.
Grace instantly scented a mystery, and
was not less promptly resolved to fathom it.
And what must be the nature of a mystery
attaching to a handsome man, unmarried,
and evidently no stranger to the gentler sex?
Of course there must be a woman in it!
Her eyes glowed with azure fire.
"You have some acquaintances in California,
I suppose?" she said, with an air of
"Well,--yes; I believe I have," Freeman
"Have they lived there long?"
"No; not over a few months. I accidentally
heard from a person in Panama. I
dropped a line to say I might turn up."
"She----you haven't had time to get an
Freeman inhaled a deep breath through
his cigarette, tilted his head back, and
allowed the smoke to escape slowly through
his nostrils. In this manner, familiar to his
deep-designing sex, he concealed a smile.
Grace was, in some respects, as transparent
as she was subtle. So long as the matter in
hand did not touch her emotions, she had no
difficulty in maintaining a deceptive surface;
but emotion she could not disguise, though
she was probably not aware of the fact; for
emotion has a tendency to shut one's own
eyes and open what they can no longer see
in one's self to the gaze of outsiders.
"No," he said, when he had recovered
his composure. "But that won't make any
difference. We are on rather intimate terms,
"Oh! Is it long since you have met?"
"Pretty long; at least it seems so to me."
Grace turned, and looked full at her
companion. He did not meet her glance, but
kept his profile steadily opposed, and went
on smoking with a dreamy air, as if lost in
memories and anticipations, sad, yet sweet.
"Really, Mr. Freeman, I hardly thought
--you have always seemed to care so little
about anything--I didn't suspect you of so
"I am like other men," he returned, with
a sigh. "My affections are not given
indiscriminately; but when they are given,--you
"Oh, I understand: pray don't think it
necessary to explain. I'm sure I'm very far
from wishing to listen to confidences about
"Yes, but I like to talk about it,"
interposed Freeman, earnestly. "I haven't had
a chance to open my heart, you know, for at
least six months. And though you and I
haven't known each other long, I believe
you to be capable of appreciating what a
man feels when he is on his way to meet
some one who----"
"Thank you! You are most considerate!
But I shall be additionally obliged if you
would tell me in what respect I can have so
far forgotten myself as to lead you to think
me likely to appreciate anything of the
kind. I assure you, Mr. Freeman, I have
never cared for any one; and nothing I
have seen since I left home makes it probable
that I shall begin now."
"I am sorry to hear that," said Freeman,
slowly drawing another cigarette out of his
bundle, and beginning to re-roll it with a
"Yes: the fact is, I had hoped that you
had begun to have a little friendly feeling
for me. I am more than ready to reciprocate."
"I hope you will spare me any insults,
sir. I have no one to protect me, but----"
"I assure you, I mean no insult. You
cannot help knowing that I think you as
beautiful and fascinating a woman as I have
ever met; but of course you can't help being
beautiful and fascinating. Do I insult
you by having eyes? If so, I am sorry, but
you will have to make the best of it."
With this, he turned in his seat, and
calmly confronted her. Beautiful she
certainly was, at that moment; but it was the
beauty of an angry serpent. She had a
pencil in her hand, with which, a little
while before, she had been sketching heads
of some of the passengers in her little notebook.
She was now handling this inoffensive
object in such a way as to justify the
fancy that, had it been charged with a deadly
poison in its point, instead of with a bit of
plumbago of the HH quality, she would
have driven it into Freeman's heart then
"Is it no insult," said she, in a sibilant
voice, "to talk to me as you are doing, when
you have just told me that you love another
woman, and are going to meet her?"
Freeman's brows gradually knitted themselves
in a frown of apparent perplexity.
"I must say I don't understand you," he
observed, at length. "I am quite sure I
have said nothing of the sort. How could
"If you wish to quibble about words,
perhaps not. But was not that your meaning?"
"No, it wasn't. You are the only woman
who has been in my thoughts to-day."
"You have intimated very clearly that
you are engaged--married, for aught I know
--to a woman whom you are now on your
way to meet----"
At this point she stopped. Freeman had
interrupted her with a shout of laughter.
She had been very pale. She now flushed
all over her face, and jumped to her feet.
"Sit down," he said, laying a hand on
her dress and (aided by a lurch of the
vessel) pulling her into her seat again, "and
listen to me. And then I shall insist upon
an apology. This is too much!"
"I shall ask the captain----"
"You will not, I promise you. Look
here! When I was in Panama, I met there
a fellow I used to know in New York. He
told me that he had recently crossed the
continent with Professor Meschines, who
used to teach geology and botany at Yale
College, when he and I were students there.
The professor had come over partly for the
fun of the thing, and partly to look for
specimens in the line of his profession.
My friend parted from him at San Francisco:
the professor was going farther south."
"What has all this to do with the woman
"It has this to do with it,--that the
professor is the woman! He is over sixty
years old, and has always been a good friend
of mine; but I am not going to marry him.
I am not engaged to him, he is not beautiful,
nor even fascinating, except in the way
of an elderly man of science. And he is
the only human being, besides yourself, that
I know or have ever heard of on the Pacific
coast. Now for your apology!"
Grace emitted a long breath, and sank
back in her seat, with her hands clasped in
her lap. She raised her hands and covered
her face with them. She removed them,
sat erect, and bent an open-eyed, intent
gaze upon her companion.
After this pantomime, she exclaimed, in
the lowest and most musical of tones, "Oh!
how hateful you are!" Then she cried out
with animation, "I believe you did it on
purpose!" Finally, she sank back again,
with a soft laugh and sparkling eyes, at the
same time stretching out her right arm
towards him and placing her hand on his,
with a whispered, "There, then!"
Freeman, accepting the hand for the
apology, kissed it, and continued to hold it
"Am I not a little goose?" she murmured.
"You certainly are," replied Freeman.
"You mustn't hold my hand any more."
"Do you mean to withdraw your apology?"
"N--no; but it doesn't follow that----"
"Oh, yes, it does. Besides, when a man
receives such a delicate, refined, graceful,
exquisite apology as this,"--here he lifted
the hand, looked at it critically, and
bestowed another kiss upon it,--"he would
be a fool not to make the most of it."
"Ah, I'm afraid you're dangerous. You
are well named--Freeman!"
"My name is Harvey: won't you call
me by it?"
"Oh, I can't!"
"Try! Would it make it easier if I
were to call you by yours?"
"Mine is Miss Parsloe."
"Pooh! How can that be your name
which you are going to change so soon?
When I look at you, I see your name; when
I think of you, I say it to myself,--Grace!"
"How do you know I am going to change
my name soon--or ever?"
"Whom are you talking to?"
"To you,--Harvey! Oh!" She snatched
her hand away and pressed it over her lips.
"How do I know you are beautiful,
"But I'm not! You're making fun of
me! Besides, I'm twenty."
"How many times have you been engaged?"
"Never. Nobody wants to be engaged
to a poor girl. Oh me!"
"Do you know what you are made of,
Grace? Fire and flowers! Few men in
the world are men enough to be a match for
you. But what have you been doing with
yourself all this time? Why do you come
to a place like this?"
"Maybe I had a presentiment that . . .
What nonsense we are talking! But what
you said reminds me. It's the strangest
"What is it?"
"Your Professor Meschines----"
"On the contrary, he is a most matter-
of-fact old gentleman."
"Do be quiet, and listen to me! When
my mamma was a girl in school, there were
two boys there,--it was a boy-and-girls'
school,--and they were great friends. But
they both fell in love with my mamma----"
"I can understand that," put in Freeman.
"How do you know I am like my mamma?
Well, as I was saying, they both fell in love
with her, and quarrelled with each other,
and had a fight. The boy that won the
fight is the man to whose house I am going."
"Then he didn't marry your mamma?"
"Oh, no; that was only a childish affair,
and she married another man."
"The one who got thrashed?"
"Of course not. But the one who got
thrashed is your Professor Meschines."
"I see! The poor old professor! And
he has remained a bachelor all his life."
"Mamma has often told me the story, and
that the Trednoke boy went to West Point,
and distinguished himself in the Mexican
war, and married a Mexican woman, and the
Meschines boy became a professor in Yale
College. And now I am going to see one
of them, and you to see the other. Isn't
that a coincidence?"
"The first of a long series, I trust. Is
this West-Pointer a permanent settler here?"
"Yes, for ever so long,--twenty years.
He's a widower, but he has a daughter----
Oh, I know you'll fall in love with her!"
"Is she like you?"
"I don't know. I've never seen her, or
General Trednoke either."
"Come to think of it, though, nobody is
like you, Grace. Now, will you be so good
as to apologize again?"
"Don't you think you're rather exacting,
However, the apology was finally repeated,
and continued, more or less, during the rest
of the voyage; and Grace quite forgot that
she had never made Harvey tell what was
really the cause of his coming to California.
But she, on her side, had a secret.
She never allowed him to suspect that the
past eighteen months of her life had been
passed as employee in a New York dry-
General Trednoke's house was
built by Spanish missionaries in the
sixteenth century; and in its main features
it was little altered in three hundred years.
In a climate where there is no frost, walls of
adobe last as long as granite. The house
consisted, practically, of but one story; for
although there were rooms under the roof,
they were used only for storage; no one
slept in them. The plan of the building was
not unlike that of a train of railway-cars,--
or, it might be more appropriate to say, of
emigrant-wagons. There was a series of
rooms, ranged in a line, access to them being
had from a narrow corridor, which opened
on the rear veranda. Several of the rooms
also communicated directly with each other,
and, through low windows, gave on the
veranda in front; for the house was merely
a comparatively narrow array of apartments
between two broad verandas, where most of
the living, including much of the sleeping,
Logically, there can be nothing uglier
than a Spanish-American dwelling of this
type. But, as a matter of fact, they appear
seductively beautiful. The thick white walls
acquire a certain softness of tone; the surface
scales off here and there, and cracks and
crevices appear. In a damp country, like
England, they would soon become covered
with moss; but moss is not to be had in this
region, though one were to offer for it the
price of the silk velvet, triple ply, which so
much resembles it. Nevertheless, there are
compensations. The soil is inexhaustibly
fertile, and its fertility expresses itself in the
most inveterate beauty. Such colors and
varieties of flowers exist nowhere else, and
they continue all the year round. Climbing
vines storm the walls, and toss their green
ladders all over it, for beauty to walk up and
down. Huge jars, standing on the verandas,
emit volcanoes of lovely blossoms; and
vases swung from the roof drip and overflow
with others, as if water had turned to flowers.
In the garden, which extends over several
acres at the front of the house, and, as it
were, makes it an island in a gorgeous sea of
petals, there are roses, almonds, oranges,
vines, pomegranates, and a hundred rivals
whose names are unknown to the present
historian, marching joyfully and triumphantly
through the seasons, as the symphony
moves through changes along its central
Everything that is not an animal or a
mineral seems to be a flower. There are too
many flowers,--or, rather, there is not
enough of anything else. The faculty of
appreciation wearies, and at last ceases to
take note. It is like conversing with a
person whose every word is an epigram. The
senses have their limitations, and
imagination and expectation are half of beauty and
delight, and the better half; otherwise we
should have no souls. A single violet,
discovered by chance in the by-ways of an
April forest in New England, gives a pleasure
as poignant as, and more spiritual than,
the miles upon miles of Californian splendors.
Monotony is the ruling characteristic,--
monotony of beauty, monotony of desolation,
monotony even of variety. The glorious
blue overhead is monotonous: as for the
thermometer, it paces up and down within
the narrowest limits, like a prisoner in his
cell, or a meadow-lark hopping to and fro
in a seven-inch cage. The plan and aspect
of the buildings are monotonous, and so is
the way of life of those who inhabit them.
Fortunately, the sun does rise and set in
Southern California: otherwise life there
would be at an absolute stand-still, with no
past and no future. But, as it is, one can
look forward to morning, and remember the
Then, there are the not infrequent but
seldom very destructive earthquakes; the
occasional cloud-bursts and tornadoes,
sudden and violent as a gunpowder-explosion;
and, finally, the astounding contrast between
the fertile regions and the desert. There
are places where you can stand with one
foot planted in everlasting sterility and the
other in immortal verdure. In the midst of
an arid and hopeless waste, you come suddenly
upon the brink of a narrow ravine,
sharply defined as if cut out with an axe,
and packed to the brim with enchanting and
voluptuous fertility. Or you will come upon
mountains which sweep upward out of burning
death into sumptuous life. When the
monotony of life meets the monotony of
death, Southern California becomes a land
of contrasts; and the contrasts themselves
General Trednoke's ranch was very near
the borders of these two mighty forces. An
hour's easy ride would carry him to a region
as barren and apparently as irreclaimable as
that through which Childe Roland journeyed
in quest of the Dark Tower; lying,
too, in a temperature so fiery that it
coagulated the blood in the veins, and stopped
the beating of the heart. Underfoot were
fine dust, and whitened bones; the air was
prismatic and magical, ever conjuring up
phantom pictures, whose characteristic was
that they were at the farthest remove from
any possible reality. The azure sky
descended and became a lake; the pulsations
of the atmosphere translated themselves into
the rhythmic lapse of waves; spikes of sage-
brush and blades of cactus became sylvan
glades, and hamlets cheerful with inhabitants.
Only, all was silent; and as you
drew near, the scene trembled, altered, and
Hideous black lizards and horned toads
crawl and hop amid this desolation; and
the deadly little sidewinder rattlesnake lies
basking in the blaze of sunshine, which it
distils into venom. Sometimes the level
plain is broken up into savage ridges and
awful canons, along whose arid bottoms no
water streams. As you stagger through their
chaotic bottoms, you see vast boulders poised
overhead, tottering to a fall; a shiver of
earthquake, a breath of hurricane, and they
come crashing and splintering in destruction
down. Along the sides of these acclivities
extend long, level lines and furrows, marks
of where the ocean flowed ages ago. But sometimes
the hills are but accumulations of desert
dust, which shift slowly from place to place
under the action of the wind, melting away
here to be re-erected yonder; mounding
themselves, perhaps, above a living and
struggling human being, to move forward,
anon, leaving where he was a little heap
of withered bones. A fearful place is this
broad abyss, where once murmured the
waters of a prehistoric sea. Let us return
to the cool and fragrant security of the
At right angles to the main body of the
house extend two wings, thus forming three
sides of a square, the interior of which is
the court-yard. Here the business of the
establishment is conducted. It is the liveliest
spot on the premises; though it is liveliness
of a very indolent sort. The veranda
built around these sides is twenty feet in
breadth, paved with tiles that have been
worn into hollows by innumerable lazy footsteps,
mostly shoeless, for this side of the
house is frequented chiefly by the servants
of the place, who are Mexican Indians.
Ancient wooden settles are bolted to the
walls; from hooks hang Indian baskets of
bright colors; in one corner are stretched
raw hides, which serve as beds. Small
brown children, half naked, trot, clamber,
and crawl about. Black-haired, swarthy
women squat on the tiled floor, pursuing
their vocations, or, often, doing nothing at
all beyond continuing a placid organic
existence. Boys and men saunter in and out
of the court-yard, chatting or calling in
their musical patois; once in a while there
is a thud and clatter of hoofs, a rider arriving
or departing. It is an entertaining scene,
charming in its monotony of small changes
and evolutions; you can sit watching it in a
half-doze for twenty years at a stretch, and
it may seem only as many minutes, or vice
Most of the rooms in the wings are used
for the kitchens and other servants' quarters;
but one large chamber is devoted to a
special purpose of the general's own: it is a
museum; the Curiosity-Room, he calls it. It
is lighted by two windows opening on opposite
sides, one on the court-yard, the other
on an orange grove at the south end of the
house. Besides being, in itself, a cool and
pleasant spot, it is full of interest to any
one who cares about the relics and antiquities
of an ancient and vanishing race,
concerning whom little is or ever will be
known. There are two students in it at
this moment; though whether they are
studying antiquities is another matter. Let
us give ear to their discourse and be instructed.
"But this was made for you to wear, Miss
Trednoke. Try it. It fits you perfectly,
you see. There can be no doubt about your
being a princess, now!"
"I sometimes feel it,--here!" she said,
putting her hand on her bosom. She was looking
at him as she said it, but her eyes, instead of
any longer meeting his, seemed to turn their
regard inward, and to traverse strange regions,
not of this world. "I see some one
who is myself, though I can never have been
she: she is surrounded with brightness, and
people not like ours; she thinks of things
that I have never known. It is the memory
of a dream, I suppose," she added, in another
"Heredity is a queer thing. You may be
Aztecan over again, in mind and temperament;
and every one knows how impressions
are transmitted. If features and traits
of character, why not particular thoughts
"I think it is better not to try to explain
these things," said she, with the unconscious
haughtiness which maidens acquire who have
not seen the world and are adored by their
family. "They are great mysteries,--or
else nothing." She now removed from her
head the curious cap or helmet, ornamented
with gold and with the green feathers of
the humming-bird, which her companion
had crowned her with, and hung it on its
nail in the cabinet. "Perhaps the thoughts
came with the cap," she remarked, smiling
slightly. "I don't feel that way any more.
I ought not to have spoken of it."
"I hope the time will come when you
will feel that you may trust me."
"You seem easy to know, Mr. Freeman,"
she replied, looking at him contemplatively
as she spoke, "and yet you are not. There
is one of you that thinks, and another that
speaks. And you are not the same to my
father, or to Professor Meschines, that you
are to me."
"What is the use of human beings except
to take one out of one's self?"
"But it is not your real self that comes
out," said Miriam, after a little pause.
She never spoke hurriedly, or until after
the coming speech had passed into her
Freeman laughed. "Well," he said, "if
I'm a hypocrite, I'm one of those who are
made and not born. As a boy, I was frank
enough. But a good part of my life has
been spent with people who couldn't be
trusted; and perhaps the habit of protecting
myself against them has grown upon me. If
I could only live here for a while it would
be different.--Here's an odd-looking thing.
What do you call that?"
"We call it the Golden Fleece."
"The Golden Fleece! I can imagine a
Medea; but where is the Dragon?"
"If Jason came, the Dragon might appear."
"I remember reading somewhere that the
Dragon was less to be feared than Medea's
eyes. But this fleece seems to have lost
most of its gold. There is only a little gold
"It shows where the gold is hidden."
"It's you that are concealing something
now, Miss Trednoke. How can a woollen
garment be a talisman?"
"The secret might be woven into it,
perhaps," replied Miriam, passing her fingers
caressingly over the soft tunic. "Then, when
the right person puts it on, it would----But
you don't believe in these things."
"I don't know: you don't give me a
chance. But who is the right person? The
thing seems rather small. I'm sure I
couldn't get it on."
"It can fit only the one it was made for,"
said Miriam, gravely. "And if you wanted
to find the gold, you would trust to your
science, rather than to this."
"Well, gold-hunting is not in my line,
at present. Every nugget has been paid for
more than once, before it is found. Besides,
there is something better than gold in
Southern California,--something worth any
labor to get."
"What is it?" asked Miriam, turning her
tranquil regard upon him.
Harvey Freeman had never been deficient
in audacity. But, standing in the dark
radiance of this maiden's eyes, his self-
assurance dwindled, and he could not bring
himself to say to her what he would have
said to any other pretty woman he had ever
met. For he felt that great pride and
passion were concealed beneath that tranquil
surface: it was a nature that might give
everything to love, and would never pardon
any frivolous parody thereof. Freeman had
been acquainted with Miriam scarcely two
days, but he had already begun to perceive
the main indications of a character which a
lifetime might not be long enough wholly
to explore. Marriage had never been among
the enterprises he had, in the course of his
career, proposed to himself: he did not
propose it now: yet he dared not risk the
utterance of a word that would lead Miriam
to look at him with an offended or contemptuous
glance. It was not that she was, from
the merely physical point of view, transcendently
beautiful. His first impression
of her, indeed, had been that she was
merely an unusually good example of a type
by no means rare in that region. But ere
long he became sensible of a spiritual
quality in her which lifted her to a level far
above that which can be attained by mere
harmony of features and proportions.
Beneath the outward aspect lay a profound
depth of being, glimpses of which were
occasionally discernible through her eyes,
in the tones of her voice, in her smile, in
unconscious movements of her hands and
limbs. Demonstrative she could never be;
but she could, at will, feel with tropical
intensity, and act with the swiftness and
energy of a fanatic.
In Miriam's company, Freeman forgot
every one save her,--even himself,--though
she certainly made no effort to attract him
or (beyond the commonplaces of courtesy)
to interest him. Consequently he had become
entirely oblivious of the existence of
such a person as Grace Parsloe, when, much
to his irritation, he heard the voice of that
young lady, mingled with others, approaching
along the veranda. At the same moment
he experienced acute regret at the
whim of fortune which had made himself
and that sprightly young lady fellow-
passengers from Panama, and at the idle impulse
which had prompted him to flirt with her.
But the past was beyond remedy: it was
his concern to deal with the present. In a
few seconds, Grace entered the curiosity-
room, followed by Professor Meschines, and
by a dashing young Mexican senor, whom
Freeman had met the previous evening, and
who was called Don Miguel de Mendoza.
The senor, to judge from his manner, had
already fallen violently in love with Grace,
and was almost dislocating his organs of
speech in the effort to pay her romantic
compliments in English. Freeman observed
this with unalloyed satisfaction. But the
look which Grace bent upon him and
Miriam, on entering, and the ominous
change which passed over her mobile
countenance, went far to counteract this
One story is good until another is told.
Freeman had really thought Grace a
fascinating girl, until he saw Miriam. There
was no harm in that: the trouble was, he
had allowed Grace to perceive his admiration.
He had already remarked that she
was a creature of violent extremes,
tempered, but not improved, by a thin polish
of subtlety. She was now about to give an
illustration of the passion of jealousy. But
it was not her jealousy that Freeman minded:
it was the prospect of Miriam's scorn when
she should surmise that he had given Grace
cause to be jealous. Miriam was not the
sort of character to enter into a competition
with any other woman about a lover. He
would lose her before he had a chance to
try to win her.
But fortune proved rather more favorable
than Freeman expected, or, perhaps, than
he deserved. Grace's attack was too
impetuous. She stopped just inside the threshold,
and said, in an imperious tone, "Come
here, Mr. Freeman: I wish to speak to you."
"Thank you," he replied, resolving at
once to widen the breach to the utmost
extent possible, "I am otherwise engaged."
"Upon my word," observed the professor,
with a chuckle, "you're no diplomatist,
Harvey! What are you two about here?
"The remains of ancient Mexico are
more interesting than some of her recent
products," returned Freeman, who wished
to quarrel with somebody, and had promptly
decided that Senor Don Miguel de Mendoza
was the most available person. He bowed
to the latter as he spoke.
"You--a--spoken to me?" said the senor,
stepping forward with a polite grimace. "I
no to quite comprehend----"
"Pray don't exert yourself to converse
with me out of your own language, senor,"
interrupted Freeman, in Spanish. "I was
just remarking that the Spaniards seem to
have degenerated greatly since they colonized
"Senor!" exclaimed Don Miguel,
stiffening and staring.
"Of course," added Freeman, smiling
benevolently upon him, "I judge only from
such specimens of the modern Mexican as I
happen to meet with."
Don Miguel's sallow countenance turned
greenish white. But, before he could make
a reply, Meschines, who scented mischief
in the air, and divined that the gentler sex
must somehow be at the bottom of it, struck
"You may consider yourself lucky, Harvey,
in making the acquaintance of a gentleman
like Senor de Mendoza, who exemplifies
the undimmed virtues of Cortez and
Torquemada. For my part, I brought him
here in the hope that he might be able to
throw some light on the mystery of this
embroidered garment, which I see you've
been examining. What do you say, Don
Miguel? Have these designs any significance
beyond mere ornament? Anything
in the nature of hieroglyphics?"
The senor was obliged to examine, and to
enter into a discussion, though, of course,
his ignorance of the subject in dispute was
as the depths of that abyss which has no
bottom. Miriam, who was not fond of Don
Miguel, but who felt constrained to
exceptional courtesy in view of Freeman's
unwarrantable attack upon him, stood beside
him and the Professor; and Freeman and
Grace were thus left to fight it out with each
But Grace had drawn her own conclusions
from what had passed. Freeman had
insulted Don Miguel. Wherefore? Obviously,
it could only be because he thought
that she was flirting with him. In other
words, Freeman was jealous; and to be
jealous is to love. Now, Grace was so
constituted that, though she did not like to
play second fiddle herself, yet she had no
objection to monopolizing all the members
of the male species who might happen, at a
given moment, to be in sight.
She had, consequently, already forgiven
Freeman for his apparent unfaithfulness to
her, by reason of his manifest jealousy of
Don Miguel. As a matter of fact, he was
not jealous, and he was unfaithful; but fate
had decreed that there should be, for the
moment, a game of cross-purposes; and the
decrees of fate are incorrigible.
"I had no idea you were so savage," she
"I'm not savage," replied Freeman. "I
"Well, I don't know as I can blame you,"
said Grace, still more softly: she fancied he
was referring to Miriam. "I don't much
like Spanish mixtures myself."
"One has to take what one can get,"
said Freeman, referring to Don Miguel.
"But it's all right now," rejoined she,
meaning that Freeman and herself were
reconciled after their quarrel.
"If you are satisfied, I am," observed
Freeman, too indifferent to care what she
"Only, you mustn't take that poor young
man too seriously," she went on: "these
Mexicans are absurdly demonstrative, but
they don't mean anything."
"He won't, if he values his skin," said
Freeman, meaning that if Don Miguel
attempted to interfere between himself and
Miriam he would wring his neck.
"He won't, I promise you," said Grace,
sparkling with pleasure.
"I don't quite see how you can help it,"
"I should hope I could manage a creature
like that!" murmured she, smiling.
"Well," said Freeman, after a pause,--
for Grace's seeming change of attitude puzzled
him a little,--"I'm glad you look at it
that way. I don't wish to be meddled
with; that's all."
"You shan't be," she whispered; and
then, just when they were approaching the
point where their eyes might have been
opened, in came General Trednoke. The
group round the Golden Fleece broke
The general wore his riding-dress, and
his bearing was animated, though he was
covered with dust.
"I was wondering what had become of
you all," he said, as the others gathered
about him. "I have been taking a canter
to the eastward. Kamaiakan said this morning
that one of the boys had brought news
of a cloud-burst in that direction. I rode
far enough to ascertain that there has really
been something of the kind, and I think it
has affected the arroyo on the farther side
of the little sierra. Now, I don't know
how you gentlemen feel, but it occurred to
me that it might be interesting to make up
a little party of exploration to-morrow.
Would you like to try it, Meschines?"
"To be sure I should!" the professor
replied. "I imagine I can stand as much
of the desert as you can! And I want to
catch a sidewinder."
"Good! And you, Mr. Freeman?"
"It would suit me exactly," said the
latter. "In fact, I had been intending to
gratify my curiosity by making some such
expedition on my own account."
"Ah!" said the general, eying him with
some intentness. "Well, we may be able
to show you something more curious than
you anticipate.--And now, Senor de Mendoza,
there is only you left. May we count
on your company into the desert?"
But the Mexican, with a bow and a
grimace, excused himself. Scientific
curiosity was an unknown emotion to him; but
he foresaw an opportunity to have Grace all
to himself, and he meant to improve it. He
also wished leisure to think over some plan
for getting rid of Senor Freeman, in whom
he scented a rival, and who, whether a rival
or not, had behaved to him with a lack of
consideration in the presence of ladies.
General Trednoke's household
went early to bed. As there was
more accommodation in the old house than
sufficed for its present inhabitants, it
followed that each of them had a regal
allowance of rooms. And when Grace Parsloe
became one of the occupants, she was allotted
two commodious apartments at the extremity
of the left wing. They communicated,
through long windows, with the veranda in
front, and by means of doors with the passage,
or hall, traversing the house from end
to end. If, therefore, she happened to be
sleepless, she might issue forth into the
garden, and wander about there without let
or hinderance until she was ready to accept
the wooing of the god of dreams; or, if
supernatural terrors daunted her, she could
in a few seconds transfer herself and her
fears to Miriam's chamber, which occupied
the same position in the right wing that hers
did in the left.
The night, as is customary in that climate,
where the atmosphere is pure and evaporation
rapid, was cool and still. By ten
o'clock there was no sound to indicate that
any person was awake; though, to an acute
ear, the rise and fall of regular breathing,
or even an occasional snore, might have
given evidence of slumber. At the back of
the house, the Indian retainers were lapped
in silence. They were a harmless people,--
somewhat disposed, perhaps, to small pilferings,
in an amiable and loyal way, but
incapable of anything seriously criminal.
There were no locks on the doors, and most
of them stood ajar. Tramps and burglars
Miriam, having put on her night-dress,
stood a few minutes at her window, gazing
out on the soft darkness of the garden. All
there was peacefulness and fragrance. The
leaves of the plants hung motionless; the
blossoms seemed to hush themselves to the
enjoyment of their own sweetness. The sky
was clear, but there was no moon. A beautiful
planet, however, bright enough to cast
a shadow, hung in the southwestern sky, and
its mysterious light touched Miriam's face,
and cast a dim rectangle of radiance on the
white matting that carpeted the floor of her
room. It was the planet Venus,--the star of
love. Miriam thought it would be a pleasant
place to live in. But one need not journey
to Venus to find a world where love is the
ruling passion. Circumstances over which
she has no control may cause such a world
to come into existence in a girl's heart.
She left the window at last, and got into
bed, where she soon presented an image of
perfect repose. Meanwhile, in a dark corner
of the court-yard at the rear, a dark,
pyramidal object abode without motion. It
might have been taken for a heap of blankets
piled up there. But if you examined it
more narrowly you would have detected in
it the vague outlines of a human figure,
squatting on its haunches, with its head resting
on its knees, and its arms clasped round
them,--somewhat as figures sit in Egyptian
hieroglyphics, or like Aztecan mummies in
the tomb. So still was it, it might itself
have been a mummy. But ever and anon a
blinking of the narrow eyes in the bronze
countenance told that it was no mummy, but
a living creature. In fact, it was none other