Part 3 out of 3
has perished in the wilderness."
"I believe he lives," she answered: "I
should know it, were it otherwise. But if I
cannot have him, neither shall she. I have
told you already that, unless you swear to
me not to put forth your power upon me to
dismiss me, I will not lead you to the treasure.
But that is not enough; for men deceive,
and you are a man. But if at any
time hereafter I feel within me those pangs
that tell me you are about to separate me
from this world, at that moment, Kamaiakan,
I will drive this knife through the
heart of Miriam! If I cannot keep her
body, at least it shall be but a corpse when
I leave it. You know Semitzin; and you
know that she will keep her word!"
She reined in her horse, as she spoke, and
sat gazing upon her companion with flashing
eyes. The Indian, after a pause, made a
gesture of gloomy resignation. "It shall be
as you say, then, Semitzin; and upon your
head be it! Henceforth, Miriam is no
more. But do you beware of the vengeance
of the gods, whose laws you have defied."
"Let the gods deal with me as they will,"
replied the Aztecan. "A day of happiness
with the man I love is worth an age of
Kamaiakan made no answer, and the two
rode forward in silence.
It was midnight, and a bright star, nearly
in the zenith, seemed to hang precisely above
the summit of the great white pyramid at
the mouth of the gorge.
"It was here that we stopped," observed
Semitzin. "We tied our horses among the
shrubbery round yonder point. Thence we
must go on foot. Follow me."
She struck her heels against her horse's
sides, and went forward. The long ride
seemed to have wearied her not a whit. The
lean and wiry Indian had already betrayed
symptoms of fatigue; but the young princess
appeared as fresh as when she started. Not
once had she even taken a draught from her
canteen; and yet she was closely clad, from
head to foot, in the doublet and leggings of
the Golden Fleece. One might have thought
it had some magic virtue to preserve its
wearer's vitality; and possibly, as is sometimes
seen in trance, the energy and concentration
of the spirit reacted upon the body.
She turned the corner of the pyramid, but
had not ridden far when an object lying in
her path caused her to halt and spring from
the saddle. Kamaiakan also dismounted and
The dead body of a mustang lay on the
ground, crushed beneath the weight of a
fragment of rock, which had evidently fallen
upon it from a height. He had apparently
been dead for some hours. He was without
either saddle or bridle.
"Do you know him?" demanded Semitzin.
"It is Diego," replied Kamaiakan. "I
know him by the white star on his muzzle.
He was ridden by the Senor Freeman. They
must have come here before the earthquake.
And there lie the saddle and the bridle.
But where is Senor Freeman?"
"He can be nowhere else than in this
valley," said Semitzin, confidently. "I
knew that I should find him here. Through
all the centuries, and across all spaces, we
were destined to meet. His horse was killed,
but he has escaped. I shall save him. Could
Miriam have done this? Is he not mine by
"It is at least certain, princess," responded
the old man rather dryly, "that had it not
been for Miriam you would never have met
the Senor Freeman at all."
"I thank her for so much; and some time,
perhaps, I will reward her by permitting her
to have a glimpse of him for an hour,--or,
at least, a minute. But not now, Kamaiakan,
--not till I am well assured that no thought
but of me can ever find its way into his
heart. Come, let us go forward. We will
find the treasure, and I will give it to my
lord and lover."
"Shall we bring the pack-horse with us?"
asked the Indian.
"Yes, if he can find his way among these
rocks. The earthquake has made changes
here. See how the water pours from this
spring! It has already made a stream down
the valley. It shall guide us whither we are
Leaving their own horses, they advanced
with the mule. But the trail, rough enough
at best, was now well-nigh impassable.
Masses of rock had fallen from above; large
fissures and crevasses had been formed in
the floor of the gorge, from some of which
steaming vapors escaped, while others gave
forth streams of water. The darkness added
to the difficulties of the way, for, although
the sky was now clear, the gloom was
deceptive, and things distant seemed near.
Occasionally a heavy, irregular sound would
break the stillness, as some projection of a
cliff became loosened and tumbled down the
Semitzin, however, held on her way
fearlessly and without hesitation, and the Indian,
with the pack-horse, followed as best he
might, now and then losing sight for a moment
of the slight, grayish figure in front of
him. At length she disappeared behind the
jutting profile of a great promontory which
formed a main angle of the gorge. When
he came up with her, she was kneeling
beside the prostrate form of a man, supporting
his head upon her knee.
Kamaiakan approached, and looked at the
face of the man, which was pale; the eyes
were closed. A streak of blood, from a
wound on the head, descended over the
right side of the forehead.
"Is he dead?" the Indian asked.
"He is not dead," replied Semitzin. "A
flying stone has struck him; but his heart
beats: he will be well again." She poured
some water from her canteen over his face,
and bent her ear over his lips. "He
breathes," she said. Slipping one arm
beneath his neck, she loosened the shirt at his
throat and then stooped and kissed him.
"Be alive for me, love," she murmured.
"My life is yours."
This exhortation seemed to have some
effect. The man stirred slightly, and emitted
a sigh. Presently he muttered, "I can--
"He will live, princess," remarked
Kamaiakan. "But where is the treasure?"
"My treasure is here!" was her reply;
and again she bent to kiss the half-conscious
man, who knew not of his good fortune.
After an interval she added, "It is in the
hollow beneath that archway. Go down
three paces: on the wall at the left you will
feel a ring. Pull it outwards, and the stone
will give way. Behind it lies the chest in
which the jewels are. But remember your
Kamaiakan peered into the hollow, shook
his head as one who loves not his errand,
and stepped in. The black shadow swallowed
him up. Semitzin paid no further
attention to him, but was absorbed in
ministering to her patient, whose strength was
every moment being augmented, though he
was not yet aware of his position. But all
at once a choking sound came from within
the cave, and in a few moments Kamaiakan
staggered up out of the shadow, and sank
down across the threshold of the arch.
"Semitzin," he gasped, in a faint voice,
"the curse of the gods is upon the spot!
The air within is poisonous. It withers the
limbs and stops the breath. No one may
touch the treasure and live. Let us
"The gods do not love those who fear,"
replied the princess, contemptuously. "But
the treasure is mine, and it may well be that
no other hand may touch it. Fold that
blanket, and lay it beneath his head. I will
bring the jewels."
"Do not attempt it: it will be death!"
exclaimed the old man.
"Shall a princess come to her lover
empty-handed? Do you watch beside him
while I go. Ah, if your Miriam were here,
I would not fear to have him choose between
With these words, Semitzin stepped across
the threshold of the crypt, and vanished in
its depths. The Indian, still dizzy and
faint, knelt on the rock without, bowed
down by sinister forebodings.
Several minutes passed. "She has
perished!" muttered Kamaiakan.
Freeman raised himself on one elbow,
and gazed giddily about him. "What the
deuce has happened?" he demanded, in a
sluggish voice. "Is that you, professor?"
Suddenly, a rending and rushing sound
burst from the cave. Following it, Semitzin
appeared at the entrance, dragging a heavy
metal box, which she grasped by a handle
at one end. Immediately in her steps broke
forth a great volume of water, boiling up as
if from a caldron. It filled the cave, and
poured like a cataract into the gorge. The
foundations of the great deep seemed to be
Semitzin lifted from her face the woollen
mask, or visor, which she had closed on
entering the cave. She was panting from
exertion, but neither her physical nor her
mental faculties were abated. She spoke
sharply and imperiously:
"Bring up the mule, and help me fasten
the chest upon him. We must reach higher
ground before the waters overtake us. And
now----" She turned to Freeman, who by
this time was sitting up and regarding her
"Miriam!" was all he could utter.
She shook her head, and smiled. "I am
she who loves you, and whom you will love.
I give you life, and fortune, and myself.
But come: can you mount and ride?"
"I can't make this out," he said,
struggling, with her assistance, to his feet. "I
have read fairy-tales, but this . . . Kamaiakan,
Semitzin, meanwhile, brought him to the
mule, and half mechanically he scrambled
into the saddle, the chest being made fast to
the crupper. Semitzin seized the bridle,
and started up the gorge, Kamaiakan bringing
up the rear. The lower levels were
already filling with water, which came
pouring out through the archway in a full flood,
"I see how it is," mumbled Freeman,
half to himself. "The earthquake--I
remember! I got hit somehow. They
came from the ranch to hunt me up. But
where are the general and Professor
Meschines? How long ago was it? And how
came Miriam . . . Could the mirage have
had anything to do with it?--Here, let me
walk," he called out to her, "and you get
up and ride."
She turned her head, smiling again, but
hurried on without speaking. The roar of
the torrent followed them. Once or twice
the mule came near losing his footing.
Freeman, whose head was swimming, and
his brains buzzing like a hive of bees, had
all he could do to maintain his equilibrium
in the saddle. He was excruciatingly
thirsty, and the gurgling of waters round
about made him wish he might dismount and
plunge into them. But he lacked power to
form a decided purpose, and permitted the
more energetic will to control him. It
might have been minutes, or it might have
been hours, for all he knew: at last they
halted, near the base of the white pyramid.
"Here we are safe," said Semitzin,
coming to his side. "Lean on me, my
love, and I will lift you down."
"Oh, I'm not quite so bad as that, you
know," said Freeman, with a feeble laugh;
and, to prove it, he blundered off the saddle,
and came down on the ground with a
thwack. He picked himself up, however,
and recollecting that he had a flask with
brandy in it, he felt for it, found it
intact, and, with an inarticulate murmur of
apology, raised it to his lips. It was like
the veritable elixir of life: never in his life
before had Freeman quaffed so deep a
draught of the fiery spirit. It was just what
But he felt oddly embarrassed. He did
not know what to make of Miriam. It was
not her strange costume merely, but she
seemed to have put on--or put off--something
with it that made a difference in her.
She was assertive, imperious; as loving,
certainly, as lover could wish, but not in the
manner of the Miriam he knew. He might
have liked the new Miriam better, had he
not previously fallen in love with the former
one. He could not make advances to her:
he had no opportunity to do so: she was
making advances to him!
"My love," she said, standing before
him, "I have come back to the world for
your sake. Before Semitzin first saw you,
her heart was yours. And I come to you,
not poor, but with the riches and power of
the princes of Tenochtitlan. You shall see
them: they are yours!--Kamaiakan, take
down the chest."
"What's that about Semitzin?" inquired
Freeman. "I'm not aware that I knew any
"Kamaiakan!" repeated the other, raising
her voice, and not hearing Freeman's last
words. Kamaiakan was nowhere to be seen.
Both Freeman and she had supposed that he
was following on behind the mule; but he
had either dropped behind, or had
withdrawn somewhere. "O Kamaiakan!"
shouted Freeman, as loud as he could.
A distant hail, from the direction of the
desert, seemed to reply.
"That can't be he," said Freeman. "It
was at least a quarter of a mile off, and the
wrong direction, too. He's in the gorge,
if he's anywhere."
"Hark!" said Semitzin.
They listened, and detected a low murmur,
this time from the gorge.
"He's fallen down and hurt himself,"
said Freeman. "Let's go after him."
In a few moments they stumbled upon the
old Indian, reclining with his shoulders
against a rock, and gasping heavily.
"My princess," he whispered, as she bent
over him, "I am dying. The poisonous
air in the cave was fatal to me, though the
spell that is upon the Golden Fleece
protected you. I have done what the gods
commanded. I am absolved of my vow.
The treasure is safe."
"Nonsense! you're all right!" exclaimed
Freeman. "Here, take a pull at this flask.
It did me all the good in the world!"
But the old man put it aside, with a feeble
gesture of the hand. "My time is come,----"
said he.--"Semitzin, I have been faithful."
"Semitzin, again!" muttered Freeman.
"What does it mean?"
"But what is this?" cried the girl,
suddenly starting to her feet. "I feel the sleep
coming on me again! I feel Miriam returning!
Kamaiakan, have you betrayed me at
"No, no, princess, I have done nothing,"
said he, in a voice scarcely audible. "But,
with death, the strength of my will goes
from me, and I can no longer keep you in
this world. The spirit of Miriam claims
her rightful body, and you must struggle
against her alone. The gods will not be
defied: it is the law!"
His voice sank away into nothing, and his
beard drooped upon his breast.
"He's dying, sure enough, poor old
chap," said Freeman. "But what is all
this about? I never heard anything like
this language you two talk together."
Semitzin turned towards him, and her eyes
"She shall not have you!" she cried. "I
have won you--I have saved you--you are
mine! What is Miriam? Can she be to
you what I could be?--You shall never have
him!" she continued, seeming to address
some presence invisible to all eyes but hers.
"If I must go, you shall go with me!"
She fumbled in her belt, caught the handle
of a knife there, and drew it. She lifted it
against her heart; but even then there was
an uncertainty in her movement, as if her
mind were divided against itself, or had
failed fully to retain the thread of its
purpose. But Freeman, who had passed rapidly
from one degree of bewilderment to another,
was actually relieved to see, at last,
something that he could understand. Miriam--
for some reason best known to herself--was
about to do herself a mischief. He leaped
forward, caught her in his arms, and snatched
the knife from her grasp.
For a few moments she struggled like a
young tiger. And it was marvellous and
appalling to hear two voices come from her,
in alternation, or confusedly mingled. One
said, "Let me kill her! I will not go!
Keep back, you pale-faced girl!" and then a
lower, troubled voice, "Do not let her come!
Her face is terrible! What are those strange
creatures with her? Harvey, where are
At last, with a fierce cry, that died away
in a shuddering sigh, the form of flesh and
blood, so mysteriously possessed, ceased
to struggle, and sank back in Freeman's
arms. His own strength was well-nigh at
an end. He laid her on the ground, and,
sitting beside her, drew her head on his
knee. He had been in the land of spirits,
contending with unknown powers, and he
was faint in mind and body.
Yet he was conscious of the approaching
tread of horses' feet, and recollected the
hail that had come from the desert. Soon
loomed up the shadowy figures of mounted
men, and they came so near that he was
constrained to call out, "Mind where you're
going! You'll be over us!"
"Who are you?" said a voice, which
sounded like that of General Trednoke, as
they reined up.
"There's Kamaiakan, who's dead; and
Miriam Trednoke, who has been out of her
mind, but she's got over it now, I guess;
and I,--Harvey Freeman."
"My daughter!" exclaimed General Trednoke.
"My boy!" cried Professor Meschines.
"Well, thank God we've found you, and
that some of you are alive, at any rate!"
As it was still some hours before dawn,
and Freeman was too weak to travel,
it was decided to encamp beside the pyramid
till the following evening, and then
make the trip across the desert in the
comparative coolness of starlight. Meanwhile,
there was something to be done, and much
to be explained.
The spirit of Kamaiakan had passed away,
apparently at the same moment that the
peculiar case of "possession" under which
Miriam had suffered came to an end. They
determined to bury him at the foot of the
great pyramid, which would form a fitting
monument of his antique character and virtues.
Miriam, after her struggle, had lapsed
into a state of partial lethargy, from which
she was aroused gradually. It was then
found that she could give no account what
ever of how or why she came there. The
last thing she distinctly remembered was
standing on the veranda at the ranch and
looking towards the east. She was under
the impression that Kamaiakan had approached
and spoken with her, but of that
she was not certain. The next fact in her
consciousness was that she was held in
Freeman's arms, with a feeling that she had
barely escaped from some great peril. She
could recall nothing of the journey down the
gorge, of the adventure at the bottom of it,
or of the return. It was only by degrees
that some partial light was thrown upon this
matter. Freeman knew that he was at the
entrance of the cave when the earthquake
began, and he remembered receiving a blow
on the head. Consequently it must have
been at that spot that Miriam and the Indian
found him. He had, too, a vague impression
of seeing Miriam coming out of the cave,
dragging the chest; and there, sure enough,
was a metal box, strapped to the saddle of
the pack-mule. But the mystery remained
very dense. And although the reader is in
a position to analyze events more closely
than the actors themselves could do, it may
be doubted whether the essential mystery
is much clearer to him than it was to
"We know that the ancient Aztecan
priests were adepts in magic," observed the
professor, "and it's natural that some of
their learning should have descended to
their posterity. We have been clever in
giving names to such phenomena, but we
know perhaps even less about their esoteric
meaning than the Aztecans did. I should
judge that Miriam would be what is called a
good 'subject.' Kamaiakan discovered that
fact; and as for what followed, we can only
infer it from the results. I was always an
admirer of Kamaiakan; but I must say I
am the better resigned to his departure,
from the reflection that Miriam will
henceforth be undisturbed in the possession
of her own individuality."
"As near as I could make out, she called
herself Semitzin," put in Freeman.
"Semitzin?" repeated the general.
"Why, if I'm not mistaken, there are
accounts of an Aztecan princess of that name,
an ancestress of my wife's family, in some
old documents that I have in a box, at
"That would only add the marvel of
heredity to the other marvels," said
Meschines. "Suppose we leave the things we
can't understand, and come to those we can?"
"I have something to say, General
Trednoke," said Freeman.
"I think I have already guessed what it
may be, Mr. Freeman," returned the general,
gravely. "Old people have eyes, and
hearts too, as well as young ones."
"Come, Trednoke," interposed the
professor, with a chuckle, "your eyes might
not have seen so much, if I hadn't held the
"I love your daughter, and I told her
so yesterday morning," went on Freeman,
after a pause. "I meant to tell you on my
return. I know I don't appear desirable as
a son-in-law. But I came here on a
"Meschines and I have talked it all
over," the general said. "When an old
West-Pointer and a professor of physics get
together, they are sometimes able to put two
and two together. And, to tell the truth, I
received a letter from a member of your
syndicate, who is also an acquaintance of mine,
which explained your position. Under the
circumstances, I consider your course to
have been honorable. You and I were
both in search of the same thing, and now,
as it appears, nature has sent an earthquake
to do our affair for us. No operations of
ours could have achieved such a result as
last night's disturbance did; and if that do
not prove effective, nothing else will."
"If it turns out well, I was promised a
share in the benefits," said Freeman, "and
that would put me in a rather better condition,
from a worldly point of view."
"After all," interrupted Meschines, "you
found your way to the spot from which the
waters broke forth, and may fairly be
entitled to the credit of the discovery.--Eh,
Trednoke? At any rate, we found nothing.
--Yes, I think they'll have to admit you
to partnership, Harvey: and Miriam too,--
who, by the way, seems to be the only one
who actually penetrated into this cave you
speak of. Maybe the removal of the chest
pulled the plug out of the bung-hole, as it
were: the escape of confined air through
such a vent would be apt to draw water
along with it. By the way, let's have a
look at this same chest: it looks solid
enough to hold something valuable."
"I would like, in the first place, to hear
what General Trednoke has to say about
what I have told him," said Freeman, clearing
"Miriam," said the general, "do you
wish to be married to this young man?"
The old soldier was sitting with her hand
in his, and he turned to her as he spoke.
She threw her arms round his neck, and
pressed her face against his shoulder. "He
is to me what you were to mamma," she
said, so that only he could hear.
"Then be to him what she was to me,"
answered the general, kissing her. "Ah
me, little girl! I am old, but perhaps this is
the right way for me to grow young again.
Well, if you are of the same mind six
"Worse; it will be much worse, then,"
murmured the professor. "Better make it
The chest was made of some alloy of steel
and nickel, impervious to rust, and very
hard. It resisted all gentle methods of
attack, and it was finally found necessary to
force the lock with a charge of powder.
Within was found another case, which was
pried open with the point of the general's
It was filled to the brim with precious
stones, most of them removed from their
settings. But such of the gold-work as
remained showed the jewels to be of ancient
Aztecan origin. There was value enough
in the box to buy and stock a dozen ranches
as big as the general's, and leave heirlooms
enough to decorate a family larger than that
of the most fruitful of the ancient patriarchs.
"I call that quite a respectable dowry,"
remarked Meschines. "Upon my soul,
Miriam, if I had known what you had up
your sleeve, I should have thought twice
before allowing a 'civil engineer'--do you
remember?--to run off with you so easily."
At dawn, they prepared the body of old
Kamaiakan for its interment. In doing
this, the professor noted the peculiar
appearance of the corpse.
"The flesh is absolutely withered," said
he, "especially those parts which were
uncovered. It must have been subjected to
the action of some destructive vapor or gas,
fatal not only to breathe, but to come in
contact with. I have heard of poisonous
emanations proceeding from the ground in
these regions, but I never saw an instance
of their effects before. That skull that you
say you found, Harvey, was probably that
of a victim of the same cause. But it is
strange that Miriam, who must have
remained some time in the very midst of it,
should have escaped without a mark, or
even any inconvenience."
"Kamaiakan ascribed it to the magic of
the Golden Fleece," said Freeman.
"Well," rejoined the other, "he may
have been right; but, for my part, the only
magic that I can find in it lies in the fact
that it is made of pure wool, which undoubtedly
possesses remarkable sanative properties;
or maybe the fiery soul of Semitzin was
powerful enough to repel all harmful
influences. The poor old fellow himself, being
clad in cotton, and with no soul but his
own, was destroyed. Let us wrap him in
his blanket, and bid him farewell--and
with him, I hope, to all that is uncanny
and abnormal in the lives of you young
The last rites having been paid to the
dead, the party mounted their horses and
rode out of the gorge on to the long levels
of the desert.
"Who come yonder?" said Freeman.
"A couple of Mexicans, I think," said
"One of them is a woman," said Meschines.
"They look very weary," remarked Freeman.
Miriam fixed her eyes on the approaching
pair for a moment, and then said, "They
are Senor de Mendoza and Grace Parsloe."
And so, indeed, they were; and thus, in
this lonely spot, all the dramatis personae of
this history found themselves united.
In answer to the obvious question, how
Grace and De Mendoza happened to be
there, it transpired that, left to their own
devices, they had undertaken no less an
enterprise than to discover the hidden treasure.
Grace had communicated to the Mexican
such bits of information as she had
picked up and such surmises as she had
formed, and he had been able to supplement
her knowledge to an extent that seemed to
justify them in attempting the adventure,--
not to mention the fact that Don Miguel
(such was the ardor of his sentiment for
Grace) would, had she desired it, have gone
with her into a fiery furnace or a den of
lions. Grace, who was ambitious as well as
romantic, and who longed for the power
and independence that wealth would give,
was all alight with the idea of capturing the
hoard of Montezuma: her social position
would be altered at a stroke, and the world
would be at her feet. Whether she would
then have rewarded Don Miguel for his
devotion, is possibly open to doubt: the
sudden acquisition of boundless wealth has been
known to turn larger heads than hers.
Fortunately, however, this temptation was
withheld from her: so far from finding the
treasure, she and Don Miguel very soon lost
themselves in the desert, and had been
wandering about ever since, dolely uncomfortable,
and in no small danger of losing
their lives. They were already at the end
of their last resource when they happened
to encounter the other party, as we have
seen; and immeasurable was their joy at the
unlooked-for deliverance. So there was
another halt, to enable them to rest and
recuperate; and it was not until the evening of
that day that the journey was finally resumed.
Meanwhile, Grace had time to think over
all that happened, and to arrive at certain
conclusions. She was at bottom a good
girl, though liable to be led away by her
imagination, her vanity, and her temperament.
Don Miguel's best qualities had revealed
themselves to her in the desert: he
had always thought of her before himself,
had done all that in him lay to save her
from fatigue and suffering, and had stuck to
her faithfully when he might perhaps have
increased his own chances of escape by
abandoning her. Did not such a man deserve to
be rewarded?--especially as he was a handsome
fellow, of good family, and possessed
of quite a respectable income. Moreover,
Harvey Freeman was now beyond her reach:
he was going to marry Miriam, and she had
realized that her own brief infatuation for
him had had no very deep root after all.
Accordingly, she smiled encouragingly upon
Don Miguel, and before they set out on
their homeward ride she had vouchsafed him
the bliss of knowing that he might call her
The general, as her guardian, did not
withhold his approval; but when Grace drew
him aside and besought him never to reveal
to her intended the fact that she had once
been a shop-girl, the old warrior smiled.
"You can depend upon me to keep your
secret, if you wish it, my dear," said he;
"but I warn you that such concealments
between husband and wife are not wise. He
loves you and would only love you the
more for your frankness in confessing what
you seem to consider a discreditable episode:
though I for my part am free to tell you that
you will be lucky if your future life affords
you the opportunity of doing anything else
so much to your credit. But the chances
are that he will find it out sooner or later;
and that may not be so agreeable, either to
him or to you. Better tell him all now."
But Grace pictured to herself the aristocratic
pride of an hidalgo shocked by the
suggestion of the plebeianism of trade; and
she would not consent to the revelation.
But the general's prediction was fulfilled
sooner than might have been expected.
For, after they were married, Don Miguel
decided to visit the Atlantic coast on the
wedding journey; and one of the first notable
places they reached was, of course, New
York. Don Miguel was delighted, and was
never weary of strolling up Fifth Avenue
and down Broadway, with his beautiful wife
on his arm. He marvelled at the vast white
pile of the Fifth Avenue Hotel; he frowned
at the Worth Monument; he stared inexhaustibly
into the shop-windows; he exclaimed
with admiration at the stupendous
piles of masonry which contained the goods
of New York's merchant princes. It seemed
to be his opinion that the possessors of so
much palpable wealth must be the true
aristocracy of the country.
And one afternoon it happened that as
they were strolling along Broadway, between
Twenty-third Street and Union Square, and
were crossing one of the side-streets, a horse
belonging to one of Lord and Taylor's delivery-
wagons became frightened, and bolted
round the corner. One of the hind wheels
of the vehicle came in contact with Grace's
shoulder, and knocked her down. The blow
and the fall stunned her. Don Miguel's
grief and indignation were expressed with
tropical energy; and a by-stander said,
"Better carry her into the store, mister; it's
their wagon run her down, and they can't
do less than look after her."
The counsel seemed reasonable, and Don
Miguel, with the assistance of a policeman,
lifted his wife and bore her into the stately
shop. One of the floor-walkers met them at
the door; he cast a glance at their burden,
and exclaimed, "Why, it's Miss Parsloe!"
And immediately a number of the employees
gathered round, all regarding her with
interest and sympathy, all anxious to help,
and--which was what mystified Don Miguel
--all calling her by name! How came they
to know Grace Parsloe? Nay, they even
glanced at Don Miguel, as if to ask what
was HIS business with the beautiful unconscious
"This lady are my wife," he said, with
dignity. "She not any more Miss Parsloe."
"Oh, Grace has got married!" exclaimed
the young ladies, one to another; and then
an elderly man, evidently in authority, came
forward and said, "I suppose you are aware,
sir, that Miss Parsloe was formerly one of
our girls here; and a very clever and useful
girl she was. I need not say how sorry we
are for this accident: I have sent for the
physician: but I cannot but be glad that
the misfortune has at least given me the
opportunity of telling you how highly your
wife was valued and respected here."
At this juncture, Grace opened her eyes:
she looked from one face to another, and
knew that fate had brought the truth to
light. But the physical shock tempered the
severity of the mental one: besides, she
could not help being pleased at the sight of
so many well-remembered and friendly faces;
and, finally, her husband did not look by
any means so angry and scandalized as she
had feared he would. Indeed, he appeared
almost gratified. The truth probably was,
he was flattered to see his wife the centre of
so much interest and attention, and at the
discovery that she had been in some way an
honored appanage of so imposing an
establishment. So, by the time Grace was well
enough to be driven back to her hotel, the
senor was prattling cheerfully and familiarly
with all and sundry, and was promising to
bring his wife back there the next day, to
talk over old times with her former associates.
Such was Grace's punishment: it was not
very severe; but then her fault had been a
venial one; and the episode was of much
moral benefit to her. She liked her husband
all the better for having nothing more
to conceal from him; her vanity was rebuked,
and her false pride chastened; and
when, in after-years, her pretty daughters
and black-haired sons gathered about her
knees, she was wont to warn them sagely
against the un-American absurdity of
fearing to work for their living, or being
ashamed to have it known.
But the married life of Miriam and
Harvey Freeman was characteristically American
in its happiness. The representatives of the
oldest and of the latest inhabitants of this
continent, their union seemed to produce
the flower of what was best in both. Their
wedding is still remembered in that region,
as being everything that a Southern Californian
wedding should be; and the bride, as
she stood at the altar, looked what she was,--
one of those women who, more than anything
else in this world, are fitted to bring back to
earth the gentle splendors of the Garden of
Eden. In her dark eyes, as she fixed them
upon Freeman, there was a mystic light,
telling of fathomless depths of tenderness
and intelligence: it seemed to her husband
that love had expanded and uplifted her;
or perhaps that other spirit in her, which
had battled with her own, had now become
reconciled, and therefore yielded up whatever
it had of good and noble to aggrandize
the gentle victory of its conqueror. Somehow,
somewhere, in Miriam's nature, Semitzin
lived; and, as a symbol of the peace
and atonement that were the issue of her
strange interior story, her husband preserves
with reverence and affection the mysterious
garment called the Golden Fleece.