Part 2 out of 3
"At a MEETING?" echoed the priest uneasily.
"Ah yes! a meeting--where Tiburcio says they shout and spit on the
ground, your Reverence, and only one has a chair and him they call
a 'chairman' because of it, and yet he sits not but shouts and
spits even as the others and keeps up a tapping with a hammer like
a very pico. And there it is they are ever 'resolving' that which
is not, and consider it even as done."
"Then he is still the same," said the priest gloomily, as the woman
paused for breath.
"Only more so, your Reverence, for he reads nought but the
newspaper of the Americanos that is brought in the ship, the 'New
York 'errald'--and recites to himself the orations of their
legislators. Ah! it was an evil day when the shipwrecked American
sailor taught him his uncouth tongue, which, as your Reverence
knows, is only fit for beasts and heathen incantation."
"Pray Heaven THAT were all he learned of him," said the priest
hastily, "for I have great fear that this sailor was little better
than an atheist and an emissary from Satan. But where are these
newspapers and the fantasies of publicita that fill his mind? I
would see them, my daughter."
"You shall, your Reverence, and more too," she replied eagerly,
leading the way along the passage to a grated door which opened
upon a small cell-like apartment, whose scant light and less air
came through the deeply embayed windows in the outer wall. "Here
is his estudio."
In spite of this open invitation, the padre entered with that air
of furtive and minute inspection common to his order. His glance
fell upon a rude surveyor's plan of the adjacent embryo town of
Jonesville hanging on the wall, which he contemplated with a cold
disfavor that even included the highly colored vignette of the
projected Jonesville Hotel in the left-hand corner. He then passed
to a supervisor's notice hanging near it, which he examined with a
suspicion heightened by that uneasiness common to mere worldly
humanity when opposed to an unknown and unfamiliar language. But
an exclamation broke from his lips when he confronted an election
placard immediately below it. It was printed in Spanish and
English, and Father Felipe had no difficulty in reading the
announcement that "Don Jose Sepulvida would preside at a meeting of
the Board of Education in Jonesville as one of the trustees."
"This is madness," said the padre.
Observing that Dona Maria was at the moment preoccupied in
examining the pictorial pages of an illustrated American weekly
which had hitherto escaped his eyes, he took it gently from her
"Pardon, your Reverence," she said with slightly acidulous
deprecation, "but thanks to the Blessed Virgin and your Reverence's
teaching, the text is but gibberish to me and I did but glance at
"Much evil may come in with the eye," said the priest
sententiously, "as I will presently show thee. We have here," he
continued, pointing to an illustration of certain college athletic
sports, "a number of youthful cavaliers posturing and capering in a
partly nude condition before a number of shameless women, who
emulate the saturnalia of heathen Rome by waving their
handkerchiefs. We have here a companion picture," he said,
indicating an illustration of gymnastic exercises by the students
of a female academy at "Commencement," "in which, as thou seest,
even the aged of both sexes unblushingly assist as spectators with
every expression of immodest satisfaction."
"Have they no bull-fights or other seemly recreation that they must
indulge in such wantonness?" asked Dona Maria indignantly, gazing,
however, somewhat curiously at the baleful representations.
"Of all that, my daughter, has their pampered civilization long
since wearied," returned the good padre, "for see, this is what
they consider a moral and even a religious ceremony." He turned to
an illustration of a woman's rights convention; "observe with what
rapt attention the audience of that heathen temple watch the
inspired ravings of that elderly priestess on the dais. It is even
this kind of sacrilegious performance that I am told thy nephew Don
Jose expounds and defends."
"May the blessed saints preserve us; where will it lead to?"
murmured the horrified Dona Maria.
"I will show thee," said Father Felipe, briskly turning the pages
with the same lofty ignoring of the text until he came to a
representation of a labor procession. "There is one of their
periodic revolutions unhappily not unknown even in Mexico. Thou
perceivest those complacent artisans marching with implements of
their craft, accompanied by the military, in the presence of their
own stricken masters. Here we see only another instance of the
instability of all communities that are not founded on the
principles of the Holy Church."
"And what is to be done with my nephew?"
The good father's brow darkened with the gloomy religious zeal of
two centuries ago. "We must have a council of the family, the
alcalde, and the archbishop, at ONCE," he said ominously. To the
mere heretical observer the conclusion might have seemed lame and
impotent, but it was as near the Holy inquisition as the year of
grace 1852 could offer.
A few days after this colloquy the unsuspecting subject of it, Don
Jose Sepulvida, was sitting alone in the same apartment. The
fading glow of the western sky, through the deep embrasured
windows, lit up his rapt and meditative face. He was a young man
of apparently twenty-five, with a colorless satin complexion, dark
eyes alternating between melancholy and restless energy, a narrow
high forehead, long straight hair, and a lightly penciled
moustache. He was said to resemble the well-known portrait of the
Marquis of Monterey in the mission church, a face that was alleged
to leave a deep and lasting impression upon the observers. It was
undoubtedly owing to this quality during a brief visit of the
famous viceroy to a remote and married ancestress of Don Jose at
Leon that the singular resemblance may be attributed.
A heavy and hesitating step along the passage stopped before the
grating. Looking up, Don Jose beheld to his astonishment the
slightly inflamed face of Roberto, a vagabond American whom he had
lately taken into his employment.
Roberto, a polite translation of "Bob the Bucker," cleaned out at a
monte-bank in Santa Cruz, penniless and profligate, had sold his
mustang to Don Jose and recklessly thrown himself in with the
bargain. Touched by the rascal's extravagance, the quality of the
mare, and observing that Bob's habits had not yet affected his seat
in the saddle, but rather lent a demoniac vigor to his chase of
wild cattle, Don Jose had retained rider and horse in his service
Bucking Bob, observing that his employer was alone, coolly opened
the door without ceremony, shut it softly behind him, and then
closed the wooden shutter of the grating. Don Jose surveyed him
with mild surprise and dignified composure. The man appeared
perfectly sober,--it was a peculiarity of his dissipated habits
that, when not actually raving with drink, he was singularly shrewd
"Look yer, Don Kosay," he began in a brusque but guarded voice,
"you and me is pards. When ye picked me and the mare up and set us
on our legs again in this yer ranch, I allowed I'd tie to ye
whenever you was in trouble--and wanted me. And I reckon that's
what's the matter now. For from what I see and hear on every side,
although you're the boss of this consarn, you're surrounded by a
gang of spies and traitors. Your comings and goings, your ins and
outs, is dogged and followed and blown upon. The folks you trust
is playing it on ye. It ain't for me to say why or wherefore--
what's their rights and what's yourn--but I've come to tell ye that
if you don't get up and get outer this ranch them d--d priests and
your own flesh and blood--your aunts and your uncles and your
cousins, will have you chucked outer your property, and run into a
"Me--Don Jose Sepulvida--a lunatico! You are yourself crazy of
drink, friend Roberto."
"Yes," said Roberto grimly, "but that kind ain't ILLEGAL, while
your makin' ducks and drakes of your property and going into
'Merikin ideas and 'Merikin speculations they reckon is. And
speakin' on the square, it ain't NAT'RAL."
Don Jose sprang to his feet and began to pace up and down his cell-
like study. "Ah, I remember now," he muttered, "I begin to
comprehend: Father Felipe's homilies and discourses! My aunt's too
affectionate care! My cousin's discreet consideration! The prompt
attention of my servants! I see it all! And you," he said,
suddenly facing Roberto, "why come you to tell me this?"
"Well, boss," said the American dryly, "I reckoned to stand by
"Ah," said Don Jose, visibly affected. "Good Roberto, come hither,
child, you may kiss my hand."
"If! it's all the same to you, Don Kosay,--THAT kin slide."
"Ah, if--yes," said Don Jose, meditatively putting his hand to his
forehead, "miserable that I am!--I remembered not you were
Americano. Pardon, my friend--embrace me--Conpanero y Amigo."
With characteristic gravity he reclined for a moment upon Robert's
astonished breast. Then recovering himself with equal gravity he
paused, lifted his hand with gentle warning, marched to a recess in
the corner, unhooked a rapier hanging from the wall, and turned to
"We will defend ourselves, friend Roberto. It is the sword of the
Comandante--my ancestor. The blade is of Toledo."
"An ordinary six-shooter of Colt's would lay over that," said
Roberto grimly--"but that ain't your game just now, Don Kosay. You
must get up and get, and at once. You must vamose the ranch afore
they lay hold of you and have you up before the alcalde. Once away
from here, they daren't follow you where there's 'Merikin law, and
when you kin fight 'em in the square."
"Good," said Don Jose with melancholy preciseness. "You are wise,
friend Roberto. We may fight them later, as you say--on the
square, or in the open Plaza. And you, camarado, YOU shall go with
me--you and your mare."
Sincere as the American had been in his offer of service, he was
somewhat staggered at this imperative command. But only for a
moment. "Well," he said lazily, "I don't care if I do."
"But," said Don Jose with increased gravity, "you SHALL care,
friend Roberto. We shall make an alliance, an union. It is true,
my brother, you drink of whiskey, and at such times are even as a
madman. It has been recounted to me that it was necessary to your
existence that you are a lunatic three days of the week. Who
knows? I myself, though I drink not of aguardiente, am accused of
fantasies for all time. Necessary it becomes therefore that we
should go TOGETHER. My fantasies and speculations cannot injure
you, my brother; your whiskey shall not empoison me. We shall go
together in the great world of your American ideas of which I am
much inflamed. We shall together breathe as one the spirit of
Progress and Liberty. We shall be even as neophytes making of
ourselves Apostles of Truth. I absolve and renounce myself
henceforth of my family. I shall take to myself the sister and the
brother, the aunt and the uncle, as we proceed. I devote myself to
humanity alone. I devote YOU, my friend, and the mare--though
happily she has not a Christian soul--to this glorious mission."
The few level last rays of light lit up a faint enthusiasm in the
face of Don Jose, but without altering his imperturbable gravity.
The vaquero eyed him curiously and half doubtfully.
"We will go to-morrow," resumed Don Jose with solemn decision, "for
it is Wednesday. It was a Sunday that thou didst ride the mare up
the steps of the Fonda and demanded that thy liquor should be
served to thee in a pail. I remember it, for the landlord of the
Fonda claimed twenty pesos for damage and the kissing of his wife.
Therefore, by computation, good Roberto, thou shouldst be sober
until Friday, and we shall have two clear days to fly before thy
madness again seizes thee."
"They kin say what they like, Don Kosay, but YOUR head is level,"
returned the unabashed American, grasping Don Jose's hand. "All
right, then. Hasta manana, as your folks say."
"Hasta manana," repeated Don Jose gravely.
At daybreak next morning, while slumber still weighted the lazy
eyelids of "the Blessed Innocents," Don Jose Sepulvida and his
trusty squire Roberto, otherwise known as "Bucking Bob," rode forth
unnoticed from the corral.
Three days had passed. At the close of the third, Don Jose was
seated in a cosy private apartment of the San Mateo Hotel, where
they had halted for an arranged interview with his lawyer before
reaching San Francisco. From his window he could see the
surrounding park-like avenues of oaks and the level white high
road, now and then clouded with the dust of passing teams. But his
eyes were persistently fixed upon a small copy of the American
Constitution before him. Suddenly there was a quick rap on his
door, and before he could reply to it a man brusquely entered.
Don Jose raised his head slowly, and recognized the landlord. But
the intruder, apparently awed by the gentle, grave, and studious
figure before him, fell back for an instant in an attitude of surly
"Enter freely, my good Jenkinson," said Don Jose, with a quiet
courtesy that had all the effect of irony. "The apartment, such as
it is, is at your disposition. It is even yours, as is the house."
"Well, I'm darned if I know as it is," said the landlord,
recovering himself roughly, "and that's jest what's the matter.
Yer's that man of yours smashing things right and left in the bar-
room and chuckin' my waiters through the window."
"Softly, softly, good Jenkinson," said Don Jose, putting a mark in
the pages of the volume before him. "It is necessary first that I
should correct your speech. He is not my 'MAN,' which I comprehend
to mean a slave, a hireling, a thing obnoxious to the great
American nation which I admire and to which HE belongs. Therefore,
good Jenkinson, say 'friend,' 'companion,' 'guide,' philosopher,'
if you will. As to the rest, it is of no doubt as you relate. I
myself have heard the breakings of glass and small dishes as I sit
here; three times I have seen your waiters projected into the road
with much violence and confusion. To myself I have then said, even
as I say to you, good Jenkinson, 'Patience, patience, the end is
not far.' In four hours," continued Don Jose, holding up four
fingers, "he shall make a finish. Until then, not."
"Well, I'm d--d," ejaculated Jenkinson, gasping for breath in his
"Nay, excellent Jenkinson, not dam-ned but of a possibility dam-
AGED. That I shall repay when he have make a finish."
"But, darn it all," broke in the landlord angrily.
"Ah," said Don Jose gravely, "you would be paid before! Good; for
how much shall you value ALL you have in your bar?"
Don Jose's imperturbability evidently shook the landlord's faith in
the soundness of his own position. He looked at his guest
critically and audaciously.
"It cost me two hundred dollars to fit it up," he said curtly.
Don Jose rose, and, taking a buckskin purse from his saddle-bag,
counted out four slugs* and handed them to the stupefied Jenkinson.
The next moment, however, his host recovered himself, and casting
the slugs back on the little table, brought his fist down with an
emphasis that made them dance.
* Hexagonal gold pieces valued at $50 each, issued by a private
firm as coin in the early days.
"But, look yer--suppose I want this thing stopped--you hear me--
"That would be interfering with the liberty of the subject, my good
Jenkinson--which God forbid!" said Don Jose calmly. "Moreover, it
is the custom of the Americanos--a habit of my friend Roberto--a
necessity of his existence--and so recognized of his friends.
Patience and courage, Senor Jenkinson. Stay--ah, I comprehend! you
have--of a possibility--a wife?"
"No, I'm a widower," said Jenkinson sharply.
"Then I congratulate you. My friend Roberto would have kissed her.
It is also of his habit. Truly you have escaped much. I embrace
He threw his arms gravely around Jenkinson, in whose astounded face
at last an expression of dry humor faintly dawned. After a
moment's survey of Don Jose's impenetrable gravity, he coolly
gathered up the gold coins, and saying that he would assess the
damages and return the difference, he left the room as abruptly as
he had entered it.
But Don Jose was not destined to remain long in peaceful study of
the American Constitution. He had barely taken up the book again
and renewed his serious contemplation of its excellences when there
was another knock at his door. This time, in obedience to his
invitation to enter, the new visitor approached with more
deliberation and a certain formality.
He was a young man of apparently the same age as Don Jose,
handsomely dressed, and of a quiet self-possession and gravity
almost equal to his host's.
"I believe I am addressing Don Jose Sepulvida," he said with a
familiar yet courteous inclination of his handsome head. Don Jose,
who had risen in marked contrast to his reception of his former
"You are truly making to him a great honor."
"Well, you're going it blind as far as I'M concerned certainly,"
said the young man, with a slight smile, "for you don't know ME."
"Pardon, my friend," said Don Jose gently, "in this book, this
great Testament of your glorious nation, I have read that you are
all equal, one not above, one not below the other. I salute in you
the Nation! It is enough!"
"Thank you," returned the stranger, with a face that, saving the
faintest twinkle in the corner of his dark eyes, was as immovable
as his host's, "but for the purposes of my business I had better
say I am Jack Hamlin, a gambler, and am just now dealing faro in
the Florida saloon round the corner."
He paused carelessly, as if to allow Don Jose the protest he did
not make, and then continued,--
"The matter is this. One of your vaqueros, who is, however, an
American, was round there an hour ago bucking against faro, and put
up and LOST, not only the mare he was riding, but a horse which I
have just learned is yours. Now we reckon, over there, that we can
make enough money playing a square game, without being obliged to
take property from a howling drunkard, to say nothing of it not
belonging to him, and I've come here, Don Jose, to say that if
you'll send over and bring away your man and your horse, you can
have 'em both."
"If I have comprehended, honest Hamlin," said Don Jose slowly,
"this Roberto, who was my vaquero and is my brother, has approached
this faro game by himself unsolicited?"
"He certainly didn't seem shy of it," said Mr. Hamlin with equal
gravity. "To the best of my knowledge he looked as if he'd been
"And if he had won, excellent Hamlin, you would have given him the
equal of his mare and horse?"
"A hundred dollars for each, yes, certainly."
"Then I see not why I should send for the property which is truly
no longer mine, nor for my brother who will amuse himself after the
fashion of his country in the company of so honorable a caballero
as yourself? Stay! oh imbecile that I am. I have not remembered.
You would possibly say that he has no longer of horses! Play him;
play him, admirable yet prudent Hamlin. I have two thousand
horses! Of a surety he cannot exhaust them in four hours.
Therefore play him, trust to me for recompensa, and have no fear."
A quick flush covered the stranger's cheek, and his eyebrows
momentarily contracted. He walked carelessly to the window,
however, glanced out, and then turned to Don Jose.
"May I ask, then," he said with almost sepulchral gravity, "is
anybody taking care of you?"
"Truly," returned Don Jose cautiously, "there is my brother and
"Ah! Roberto, certainly," said Mr. Hamlin profoundly.
"Why do you ask, considerate friend?"
"Oh! I only thought, with your kind of opinions, you must often
feel lonely in California. Good-bye." He shook Don Jose's hand
heartily, took up his hat, inclined his head with graceful
seriousness, and passed out of the room. In the hall he met the
"Well," said Jenkinson, with a smile half anxious, half
insinuating, "you saw him? What do you think of him?"
Mr. Hamlin paused and regarded Jenkinson with a calmly
contemplative air, as if he were trying to remember first who he
was, and secondly why he should speak to him at all. "Think of
whom?" he repeated carelessly.
"Why him--you know--Don Jose."
"I did not see anything the matter with him," returned Hamlin with
"What? nothing queer?"
"Well, no--except that he's a guest in YOUR house," said Hamlin
with great cheerfulness. "But then, as you keep a hotel, you can't
help occasionally admitting a--gentleman."
Mr. Jenkinson smiled the uneasy smile of a man who knew that his
interlocutor's playfulness occasionally extended to the use of a
derringer, in which he was singularly prompt and proficient, and
Mr. Hamlin, equally conscious of that knowledge on the part of his
companion, descended the staircase composedly.
But the day had darkened gradually into night, and Don Jose was at
last compelled to put aside his volume. The sound of a large bell
rung violently along the hall and passages admonished him that the
American dinner was ready, and although the viands and the mode of
cooking were not entirely to his fancy, he had, in his grave
enthusiasm for the national habits, attended the table d'hote
regularly with Roberto. On reaching the lower hall he was informed
that his henchman had early succumbed to the potency of his
libations, and had already been carried by two men to bed.
Receiving this information with his usual stoical composure, he
entered the dining-room, but was surprised to find that a separate
table had been prepared for him by the landlord, and that a rude
attempt had been made to serve him with his own native dishes.
"Senores y Senoritas," said Don Jose, turning from it and with
grave politeness addressing the assembled company, "if I seem to-
day to partake alone and in a reserved fashion of certain viands
that have been prepared for me, it is truly from no lack of
courtesy to your distinguished company, but rather, I protest, to
avoid the appearance of greater discourtesy to our excellent
Jenkinson, who has taken some pains and trouble to comport his
establishment to what he conceives to be my desires. Wherefore, my
friends, in God's name fall to, the same as if I were not present,
and grace be with you."
A few stared at the tall, gentle, melancholy figure with some
astonishment; a few whispered to their neighbors; but when, at the
conclusion of his repast, Don Jose arose and again saluted the
company, one or two stood up and smilingly returned the courtesy,
and Polly Jenkinson, the landlord's youngest daughter, to the great
delight of her companions, blew him a kiss.
After visiting the vaquero in his room, and with his own hand
applying some native ointment to the various contusions and
scratches which recorded the late engagements of the unconscious
Roberto, Don Jose placed a gold coin in the hands of the Irish
chamber-maid, and bidding her look after the sleeper, he threw his
serape over his shoulders and passed into the road. The loungers
on the veranda gazed at him curiously, yet half acknowledged his
usual serious salutation, and made way for him with a certain
respect. Avoiding the few narrow streets of the little town, he
pursued his way meditatively along the highroad, returning to the
hotel after an hour's ramble, as the evening stage-coach had
deposited its passengers and departed.
"There's a lady waiting to see you upstairs," said the landlord
with a peculiar smile. "She rather allowed it wasn't the proper
thing to see you alone, or she wasn't quite ekal to it, I reckon,
for she got my Polly to stand by her."
"Your Polly, good Jenkinson?" said Don Jose interrogatively.
"My darter, Don Jose."
"Ah, truly! I am twice blessed," said Don Jose, gravely ascending
On entering the room he perceived a tall, large-featured woman with
an extraordinary quantity of blond hair parted on one side of her
broad forehead, sitting upon the sofa. Beside her sat Polly
Jenkinson, her fresh, honest, and rather pretty face beaming with
delighted expectation and mischief. Don Jose saluted them with a
formal courtesy, which, however, had no trace of the fact that he
really did not remember anything of them.
"I called," said the large-featured woman with a voice equally
pronounced, "in reference to a request from you, which, though
perhaps unconventional in the extreme, I have been able to meet by
the intervention of this young lady's company. My name on this
card may not be familiar to you--but I am 'Dorothy Dewdrop.'"
A slight movement of abstraction and surprise passed over Don
Jose's face, but as quickly vanished as he advanced towards her and
gracefully raised the tips of her fingers to his lips. "Have I
then, at last, the privilege of beholding that most distressed and
deeply injured of women! Or is it but a dream!"
It certainly was not, as far as concerned the substantial person of
the woman before him, who, however, seemed somewhat uneasy under
his words as well as the demure scrutiny of Miss Jenkinson. "I
thought you might have forgotten," she said with slight acerbity,
"that you desired an interview with the authoress of"--
"Pardon," interrupted Don Jose, standing before her in an attitude
of the deepest sympathizing dejection, "I had not forgotten. It is
now three weeks since I have read in the journal 'Golden Gate' the
eloquent and touching poem of your sufferings, and your
aspirations, and your miscomprehensions by those you love. I
remember as yesterday that you have said, that cruel fate have
linked you to a soulless state--that--but I speak not well your own
beautiful language--you are in tears at evenfall 'because that you
are not understood of others, and that your soul recoiled from iron
bonds, until, as in a dream, you sought succor and release in some
true Knight of equal plight.'"
"I am told," said the large-featured woman with some satisfaction,
"that the poem to which you allude has been generally admired."
"Admired! Senora," said Don Jose, with still darker sympathy, "it
is not the word; it is FELT. I have felt it. When I read those
words of distress, I am touched of compassion! I have said, This
woman, so disconsolate, so oppressed, must be relieved, protected!
I have wrote to you, at the 'Golden Gate,' to see me here."
"And I have come, as you perceive," said the poetess, rising with a
slight smile of constraint; "and emboldened by your appreciation, I
have brought a few trifles thrown off"--
"Pardon, unhappy Senora," interrupted Don Jose, lifting his hand
deprecatingly without relaxing his melancholy precision, "but to a
cavalier further evidence is not required--and I have not yet make
finish. I have not content myself to WRITE to you. I have sent my
trusty friend Roberto to inquire at the 'Golden Gate' of your
condition. I have found there, most unhappy and persecuted friend--
that with truly angelic forbearance you have not told ALL--that
you are MARRIED, and that of a necessity it is your husband that is
cold and soulless and unsympathizing--and all that you describe."
"Sir!" said the poetess, rising in angry consternation.
"I have written to him," continued Don Jose, with unheeding
gravity; "have appealed to him as a friend, I have conjured him as
a caballero, I have threatened him even as a champion of the Right,
I have said to him, in effect--that this must not be as it is. I
have informed him that I have made an appointment with you even at
this house, and I challenged him to meet you here--in this room--
even at this instant, and, with God's help, we should make good our
charges against him. It is yet early; I have allowed time for the
lateness of the stage and the fact that he will come by another
conveyance. Therefore, O Dona Dewdrop, tremble not like thy
namesake as it were on the leaf of apprehension and expectancy. I,
Don Jose, am here to protect thee. I will take these charges"--
gently withdrawing the manuscripts from her astonished grasp--
"though even, as I related to thee before, I want them not, yet we
will together confront him with them and make them good against
"Are you mad?" demanded the lady in almost stentorious accents, "or
is this an unmanly hoax?" Suddenly she stopped in undeniable
consternation. "Good heavens," she muttered, "if Abner should
believe this. He is SUCH a fool! He has lately been queer and
jealous. Oh dear!" she said, turning to Polly Jenkinson with the
first indication of feminine weakness, "Is he telling the truth? is
he crazy? what shall I do?"
Polly Jenkinson, who had witnessed the interview with the intensest
enjoyment, now rose equal to the occasion.
"You have made a mistake," she said, uplifting her demure blue eyes
to Don Jose's dark and melancholy gaze. "This lady is a POETESS!
The sufferings she depicts, the sorrows she feels, are in the
IMAGINATION, in her fancy only."
"Ah!" said Don Jose gloomily; "then it is all false."
"No," said Polly quickly, "only they are not her OWN, you know.
They are somebody elses. She only describes them for another,
don't you see?"
"And who, then, is this unhappy one?" asked the Don quickly.
"Well--a--friend," stammered Polly, hesitatingly.
"A friend!" repeated Don Jose. "Ah, I see, of possibility a dear
one, even," he continued, gazing with tender melancholy into the
untroubled cerulean depths of Polly's eyes, "even, but no, child,
it could not be! THOU art too young."
"Ah," said Polly, with an extraordinary gulp and a fierce nudge of
the poetess, "but it WAS me."
"You, Senorita," repeated Don Jose, falling back in an attitude of
mingled admiration and pity. "You, the child of Jenkinson!"
"Yes, yes," joined in the poetess hurriedly; "but that isn't going
to stop the consequences of your wretched blunder. My husband will
be furious, and will be here at any moment. Good gracious! what is
The violent slamming of a distant door at that instant, the sounds
of quick scuffling on the staircase, and the uplifting of an irate
voice had reached her ears and thrown her back in the arms of Polly
Jenkinson. Even the young girl herself turned an anxious gaze
towards the door. Don Jose alone was unmoved.
"Possess yourselves in peace, Senoritas," he said calmly. "We have
here only the characteristic convalescence of my friend and
brother, the excellent Roberto. He will ever recover himself from
drink with violence, even as he precipitates himself into it with
fury. He has been prematurely awakened. I will discover the
With an elaborate bow to the frightened women, he left the room.
Scarcely had the door closed when the poetess turned quickly to
Polly. "The man's a stark staring lunatic, but, thank Heaven,
Abner will see it at once. And now let's get away while we can.
To think," she said, snatching up her scattered manuscripts, "that
THAT was all the beast wanted."
"I'm sure he's very gentle and kind," said Polly, recovering her
dimples with a demure pout; "but stop, he's coming back."
It was indeed Don Jose re-entering the room with the composure of a
relieved and self-satisfied mind. "It is even as I said, Senora,"
he began, taking the poetess's hand,--"and MORE. You are SAVED!"
As the women only stared at each other, he gravely folded his arms
and continued: "I will explain. For the instant I have not
remember that, in imitation of your own delicacy, I have given to
your husband in my letter, not the name of myself, but, as a mere
Don Fulano, the name of my brother Roberto--'Bucking Bob.' Your
husband have this moment arrive! Penetrating the bedroom of the
excellent Roberto, he has indiscreetly seize him in his bed,
without explanation, without introduction, without fear! The
excellent Roberto, ever ready for such distractions, have respond!
In a word, to use the language of the good Jenkinson--our host, our
father--who was present, he have 'wiped the floor with your
husband,' and have even carried him down the staircase to the
street. Believe me, he will not return. You are free!"
"Fool! Idiot! Crazy beast!" said the poetess, dashing past him
and out of the door. "You shall pay for this!"
Don Jose did not change his imperturbable and melancholy calm.
"And now, little one," he said, dropping on one knee before the
half-frightened Polly, "child of Jenkinson, now that thy perhaps
too excitable sponsor has, in a poet's caprice, abandoned thee for
some newer fantasy, confide in me thy distress, to me, thy Knight,
and tell the story of thy sorrows."
"But," said Polly, rising to her feet and struggling between a
laugh and a cry. "I haven't any sorrows. Oh dear! don't you see,
it's only her FANCY to make me seem so. There's nothing the matter
"Nothing the matter," repeated Don Jose slowly. "You have no
distress? You want no succor, no relief, no protector? This,
then, is but another delusion!" he said, rising sadly.
"Yes, no--that is--oh, my gracious goodness!" said Polly,
hopelessly divided between a sense of the ridiculous and some
strange attraction in the dark, gentle eyes that were fixed upon
her half reproachfully. "You don't understand."
Don Jose replied only with a melancholy smile, and then going to
the door, opened it with a bowed head and respectful courtesy. At
the act, Polly plucked up courage again, and with it a slight dash
of her old audacity.
"I'm sure I'm very sorry that I ain't got any love sorrows," she
said demurely. "And I suppose it's very dreadful in me not to have
been raving and broken-hearted over somebody or other as that woman
has said. Only," she waited till she had gained the secure vantage
of the threshold, "I never knew a gentleman to OBJECT to it
With this Parthian arrow from her blue eyes she slipped into the
passage and vanished through the door of the opposite parlor. For
an instant Don Jose remained motionless and reflecting. Then,
recovering himself with grave precision, he deliberately picked up
his narrow black gloves from the table, drew them on, took his hat
in his hand, and solemnly striding across the passage, entered the
door that had just closed behind her.
It must not be supposed that in the meantime the flight of Don Jose
and his follower was unattended by any commotion at the rancho of
the Blessed Innocents. At the end of three hours' deliberation, in
which the retainers were severally examined, the corral searched,
and the well in the courtyard sounded, scouts were dispatched in
different directions, who returned with the surprising information
that the fugitives were not in the vicinity. A trustworthy
messenger was sent to Monterey for "custom-house paper," on which
to draw up a formal declaration of the affair. The archbishop was
summoned from San Luis, and Don Victor and Don Vincente Sepulvida,
with the Donas Carmen and Inez Alvarado, and a former alcalde,
gathered at a family council the next day. In this serious
conclave the good Father Felipe once more expounded the alienated
condition and the dangerous reading of the absent man. In the
midst of which the ordinary post brought a letter from Don Jose,
calmly inviting the family to dine with him and Roberto at San
Mateo on the following Wednesday. The document was passed gravely
from hand to hand. Was it a fresh evidence of mental aberration--
an audacity of frenzy--or a trick of the vaquero? The archbishop
and alcalde shook their heads--it was without doubt a lawless, even
a sacrilegious and blasphemous fete. But a certain curiosity of
the ladies and of Father Felipe carried the day. Without formally
accepting the invitation it was decided that the family should
examine the afflicted man, with a view of taking active measures
hereafter. On the day appointed, the traveling carriage of the
Sepulvidas, an equipage coeval with the beginning of the century,
drawn by two white mules gaudily caparisoned, halted before the
hotel at San Mateo and disgorged Father Felipe, the Donas Carmen
and Inez Alvarado and Maria Sepulvida, while Don Victor and Don
Vincente Sepulvida, their attendant cavaliers on fiery mustangs,
like outriders, drew rein at the same time. A slight thrill of
excitement, as of the advent of a possible circus, had preceded
them through the little town; a faint blending of cigarette smoke
and garlic announced their presence on the veranda.
Ushered into the parlor of the hotel, apparently set apart for
their reception, they were embarrassed at not finding their host
present. But they were still more disconcerted when a tall full-
bearded stranger, with a shrewd amused-looking face, rose from a
chair by the window, and stepping forward, saluted them in fluent
Spanish with a slight American accent.
"I have to ask you, gentlemen and ladies," he began, with a certain
insinuating ease and frankness that alternately aroused and lulled
their suspicions, "to pardon the absence of our friend Don Jose
Sepulvida at this preliminary greeting. For to be perfectly frank
with you, although the ultimate aim and object of our gathering is
a social one, you are doubtless aware that certain infelicities and
misunderstandings--common to most families--have occurred, and a
free, dispassionate, unprejudiced discussion and disposal of them
at the beginning will only tend to augment the goodwill of our
"The Senor without doubt is"--suggested the padre, with a polite
"Pardon me! I forgot to introduce myself. Colonel Parker--
entirely at your service and that of these charming ladies."
The ladies referred to allowed their eyes to rest with evident
prepossession on the insinuating stranger. "Ah, a soldier," said
"Formerly," said the American lightly; "at present a lawyer, the
counsel of Don Jose."
A sudden rigor of suspicion stiffened the company; the ladies
withdrew their eyes; the priest and the Sepulvidas exchanged
"Come," said Colonel Parker, with apparent unconsciousness of the
effect of his disclosure, "let us begin frankly. You have, I
believe, some anxiety in regard to the mental condition of Don
"We believe him to be mad," said Padre Felipe promptly,
"That is your opinion; good," said the lawyer quietly.
"And ours too," clamored the party, "without doubt."
"Good," returned the lawyer with perfect cheerfulness. "As his
relations, you have no doubt had superior opportunities for
observing his condition. I understand also that you may think it
necessary to have him legally declared non compos, a proceeding
which, you are aware, might result in the incarceration of our
distinguished friend in a mad-house."
"Pardon, Senor," interrupted Dona Maria proudly, "you do not
comprehend the family. When a Sepulvida is visited of God we do
not ask the Government to confine him like a criminal. We protect
him in his own house from the consequences of his frenzy."
"From the machinations of the worldly and heretical," broke in the
priest, "and from the waste and dispersion of inherited
"Very true," continued Colonel Parker, with unalterable good-humor;
"but I was only about to say that there might be conflicting
evidence of his condition. For instance, our friend has been here
three days. In that time he has had three interviews with three
individuals under singular circumstances." Colonel Parker then
briefly recounted the episodes of the landlord, the gambler, Miss
Jenkinson and the poetess, as they had been related to him. "Yet,"
he continued, "all but one of these individuals are willing to
swear that they not only believe Don Jose perfectly sane, but
endowed with a singularly sound judgment. In fact, the testimony
of Mr. Hamlin and Miss Jenkinson is remarkably clear on that
The company exchanged a supercilious smile. "Do you not see, O
Senor Advocate," said Don Vincente compassionately, "that this is
but a conspiracy to avail themselves of our relative's weakness.
Of a necessity they find him sane who benefits them."
"I have thought of that, and am glad to hear you say so," returned
the lawyer still more cheerfully, "for your prompt opinion
emboldens me to be at once perfectly frank with you. Briefly then,
Don Jose has summoned me here to make a final disposition of his
property. In the carrying out of certain theories of his, which it
is not my province to question, he has resolved upon comparative
poverty for himself as best fitted for his purpose, and to employ
his wealth solely for others. In fact, of all his vast possessions
he retains for himself only an income sufficient for the bare
necessaries of life."
"And you have done this?" they asked in one voice.
"Not yet," said the lawyer.
"Blessed San Antonio, we have come in time!" ejaculated Dona
Carmen. "Another day and it would have been too late; it was an
inspiration of the Blessed Innocents themselves," said Dona Maria,
crossing herself. "Can you longer doubt that this is the wildest
madness?" said Father Felipe with flashing eyes.
"Yet," returned the lawyer, caressing his heavy beard with a
meditative smile, "the ingenious fellow actually instanced the vows
of YOUR OWN ORDER, reverend sir, as an example in support of his
theory. But to be brief. Conceiving, then, that his holding of
property was a mere accident of heritage, not admitted by him,
unworthy his acceptance, and a relic of superstitious ignorance"--
"This is the very sacrilege of Satanic prepossession," broke in the
"He therefore," continued the lawyer composedly, "makes over and
reverts the whole of his possessions, with the exceptions I have
stated, to his family and the Church."
A breathless and stupefying silence fell upon the company. In the
dead hush the sound of Polly Jenkinson's piano, played in a distant
room, could be distinctly heard. With their vacant eyes staring at
him the speaker continued:
"That deed of gift I have drawn up as he dictated it. I don't mind
saying that in the opinion of some he might be declared non compos
upon the evidence of that alone. I need not say how relieved I am
to find that your opinion coincides with my own."
"But," gasped Father Felipe hurriedly, with a quick glance at the
others, "it does not follow that it will be necessary to resort to
these legal measures. Care, counsel, persuasion--"
"The general ministering of kinship--nursing, a woman's care--the
instincts of affection," piped Dona Maria in breathless eagerness.
"Any light social distraction--a harmless flirtation--a possible
attachment," suggested Dona Carmen shyly.
"Change of scene--active exercise--experiences--even as those you
have related," broke in Don Vincente.
"I for one have ever been opposed to LEGAL measures," said Don
Victor. "A mere consultation of friends--in fact, a fete like this
"Good friends," said Father Felipe, who had by this time recovered
himself, taking out his snuff-box portentously, "it would seem
truly, from the document which this discreet caballero has spoken
of, that the errors of our dear Don Jose are rather of method than
intent, and that while we may freely accept the one"--
"Pardon," interrupted Colonel Parker with bland persistence, "but I
must point out to you that what we call in law 'a consideration' is
necessary to the legality of a conveyance, even though that
consideration be frivolous and calculated to impair the validity of
"Truly," returned the good padre insinuatingly; "but if a discreet
advocate were to suggest the substitution of some more pious and
"But that would be making it a perfectly sane and gratuitous
document, not only glaringly inconsistent with your charges, my
good friends, with Don Jose's attitude towards you and his flight
from home, but open to the gravest suspicion in law. In fact, its
apparent propriety in the face of these facts would imply improper
The countenances of the company fell. The lawyer's face, however,
became still more good-humored and sympathizing. "The case is
simply this. If in the opinion of judge and jury Don Jose is
declared insane, the document is worthless except as a proof of
that fact or a possible indication of the undue influence of his
relations, which might compel the court to select his guardians and
trustees elsewhere than among them."
"Friend Abogado," said Father Felipe with extraordinary
deliberation, "the document thou hast just described so eloquently
convinces me beyond all doubt that Don Jose is not only perfectly
sane but endowed with a singular discretion. I consider it as a
delicate and high-spirited intimation to us, his friends and
kinsmen, of his unalterable and logically just devotion to his
family and religion, whatever may seem to be his poetical and
imaginative manner of declaring it. I think there is not one
here," continued the padre, looking around him impressively, "who
is not entirely satisfied of Don Jose's reason and competency to
arrange his own affairs."
"Entirely," "truly," "perfectly," eagerly responded the others with
"Nay, more. To prevent any misconception, we shall deem it our
duty to take every opportunity of making our belief publicly
known," added Father Felipe.
The padre and Colonel Parker gazed long and gravely into each
other's eyes. It may have been an innocent touch of the sunlight
through the window, but a faint gleam seemed to steal into the
pupil of the affable lawyer at the same moment that, probably from
the like cause, there was a slight nervous contraction of the left
eyelid of the pious father. But it passed, and the next instant
the door opened to admit Don Jose Sepulvida.
He was at once seized and effusively embraced by the entire company
with every protest of affection and respect. not only Mr. Hamlin
and Mr. Jenkinson, who accompanied him as invited guests, but
Roberto, in a new suit of clothes and guiltless of stain or trace
of dissipation, shared in the pronounced friendliness of the
kinsmen. Padre Felipe took snuff, Colonel Parker blew his nose
Nor were they less demonstrative of their new convictions later at
the banquet. Don Jose, with Jenkinson and the padre on his right
and left, preserved his gentle and half-melancholy dignity in the
midst of the noisy fraternization. Even Padre Felipe, in a brief
speech or exhortation proposing the health of their host, lent
himself in his own tongue to this polite congeniality. "We have
had also, my friends and brothers," he said in peroration, "a
pleasing example of the compliment of imitation shown by our
beloved Don Jose. No one who has known him during his friendly
sojourn in this community but will be struck with the conviction
that he has acquired that most marvelous faculty of your great
American nation, the exhibition of humor and of the practical
Every eye was turned upon the imperturbable face of Don Jose as he
slowly rose to reply. "In bidding you to this fete, my friends and
kinsmen," he began calmly, "it was with the intention of formally
embracing the habits, customs, and spirit of American institutions
by certain methods of renunciation of the past, as became a
caballero of honor and resolution. Those methods may possibly be
known to some of you." He paused for a moment as if to allow the
members of his family to look unconscious. "Since then, in the
wisdom of God, it has occurred to me that my purpose may be as
honorably effected by a discreet blending of the past and the
present--in a word, by the judicious combination of the interests
of my native people and the American nation. In consideration of
that purpose, friends and kinsmen, I ask you to join me in drinking
the good health of my host Senor Jenkinson, my future father-in-
law, from whom I have to-day had the honor to demand the hand of
the peerless Polly, his daughter, as the future mistress of the
Rancho of the Blessed Innocents."
The marriage took place shortly after. Nor was the free will and
independence of Don Jose Sepulvida in the least opposed by his
relations. Whether they felt they had already committed
themselves, or had hopes in the future, did not transpire. Enough
that the escapade of a week was tacitly forgotten. The only
allusion ever made to the bridegroom's peculiarities was drawn from
the demure lips of the bride herself on her installation at the
"And what, little one, didst thou find in me to admire?" Don Jose
had asked tenderly.
"Oh, you seemed to be so much like that dear old Don Quixote, you
know," she answered demurely.
"Don Quixote," repeated Don Jose with gentle gravity. "But, my
child, that was only a mere fiction--a romance, of one Cervantes.
Believe me, of a truth there never was any such person!"
A SECRET OF TELEGRAPH HILL
As Mr. Herbert Bly glanced for the first time at the house which
was to be his future abode in San Francisco, he was somewhat
startled. In that early period of feverish civic improvement the
street before it had been repeatedly graded and lowered until the
dwelling--originally a pioneer suburban villa perched upon a slope
of Telegraph Hill--now stood sixty feet above the sidewalk,
superposed like some Swiss chalet on successive galleries built in
the sand-hill, and connected by a half-dozen distinct zigzag
flights of wooden staircase. Stimulated, however, by the thought
that the view from the top would be a fine one, and that existence
there would have all the quaint originality of Robinson Crusoe's
tree-dwelling, Mr. Bly began cheerfully to mount the steps. It
should be premised that, although a recently appointed clerk in a
large banking house, Mr. Bly was somewhat youthful and imaginative,
and regarded the ascent as part of that "Excelsior" climbing
pointed out by a great poet as a praiseworthy function of ambitious
Reaching at last the level of the veranda, he turned to the view.
The distant wooded shore of Contra Costa, the tossing white-caps
and dancing sails of the bay between, and the foreground at his
feet of wharves and piers, with their reed-like jungles of masts
and cordage, made up a bright, if somewhat material, picture. To
his right rose the crest of the hill, historic and memorable as the
site of the old semaphoric telegraph, the tossing of whose gaunt
arms formerly thrilled the citizens with tidings from the sea.
Turning to the house, he recognized the prevailing style of light
cottage architecture, although incongruously confined to narrow
building plots and the civic regularity of a precise street
frontage. Thus a dozen other villas, formerly scattered over the
slope, had been laboriously displaced and moved to the rigorous
parade line drawn by the street surveyor, no matter how irregular
and independent their design and structure. Happily, the few
scrub-oaks and low bushes which formed the scant vegetation of this
vast sand dune offered no obstacle and suggested no incongruity.
Beside the house before which Mr. Bly now stood, a prolific Madeira
vine, quickened by the six months' sunshine, had alone survived the
displacement of its foundations, and in its untrimmed luxuriance
half hid the upper veranda from his view.
Still glowing with his exertion, the young man rang the bell and
was admitted into a fair-sized drawing-room, whose tasteful and
well-arranged furniture at once prepossessed him. An open piano, a
sheet of music carelessly left on the stool, a novel lying face
downwards on the table beside a skein of silk, and the distant
rustle of a vanished skirt through an inner door, gave a suggestion
of refined domesticity to the room that touched the fancy of the
homeless and nomadic Bly. He was still enjoying, in half
embarrassment, that vague and indescribable atmosphere of a refined
woman's habitual presence, when the door opened and the mistress of
the house formally presented herself.
She was a faded but still handsome woman. Yet she wore that
peculiar long, limp, formless house-shawl which in certain phases
of Anglo-Saxon spinster and widowhood assumes the functions of the
recluse's veil and announces the renunciation of worldly vanities
and a resigned indifference to external feminine contour. The most
audacious masculine arm would shrink from clasping that shapeless
void in which the flatness of asceticism or the heavings of passion
might alike lie buried. She had also in some mysterious way
imported into the fresh and pleasant room a certain bombaziny
shadow of the past, and a suggestion of that appalling reminiscence
known as "better days." Though why it should be always represented
by ashen memories, or why better days in the past should be
supposed to fix their fitting symbol in depression in the present,
Mr. Bly was too young and too preoccupied at the moment to
determine. He only knew that he was a little frightened of her,
and fixed his gaze with a hopeless fascination on a letter which
she somewhat portentously carried under the shawl, and which seemed
already to have yellowed in its arctic shade.
"Mr. Carstone has written to me that you would call," said Mrs.
Brooks with languid formality. "Mr. Carstone was a valued friend
of my late husband, and I suppose has told you the circumstances--
the only circumstances--which admit of my entertaining his
proposition of taking anybody, even temporarily, under my roof.
The absence of my dear son for six months at Portland, Oregon,
enables me to place his room at the disposal of Mr. Carstone's
young protege, who, Mr. Carstone tells me, and I have every reason
to believe, is, if perhaps not so seriously inclined nor yet a
church communicant, still of a character and reputation not
unworthy to follow my dear Tappington in our little family circle
as he has at his desk in the bank."
The sensitive Bly, struggling painfully out of an abstraction as to
how he was ever to offer the weekly rent of his lodgings to such a
remote and respectable person, and also somewhat embarrassed at
being appealed to in the third person, here started and bowed.
"The name of Bly is not unfamiliar to me," continued Mrs. Brooks,
pointing to a chair and sinking resignedly into another, where her
baleful shawl at once assumed the appearance of a dust-cover; "some
of my dearest friends were intimate with the Blys of Philadelphia.
They were a branch of the Maryland Blys of the eastern shore, of
whom my Uncle James married. Perhaps you are distantly related?"
Mrs. Brooks was perfectly aware that her visitor was of unknown
Western origin, and a poor but clever protege of the rich banker;
but she was one of a certain class of American women who, in the
midst of a fierce democracy, are more or less cat-like conservators
of family pride and lineage, and more or less felinely inconsistent
and treacherous to republican principles. Bly, who had just
settled in his mind to send her the rent anonymously--as a weekly
valentine--recovered himself and his spirits in his usual boyish
"I am afraid, Mrs. Brooks," he said gayly, "I cannot lay claim to
any distinguished relationship, even to that 'Nelly Bly' who, you
remember, 'winked her eye when she went to sleep.'" He stopped in
consternation. The terrible conviction flashed upon him that this
quotation from a popular negro-minstrel song could not possibly be
remembered by a lady as refined as his hostess, or even known to
her superior son. The conviction was intensified by Mrs. Brooks
rising with a smileless face, slightly shedding the possible
vulgarity with a shake of her shawl, and remarking that she would
show him her son's room, led the way upstairs to the apartment
recently vacated by the perfect Tappington.
Preceded by the same distant flutter of unseen skirts in the
passage which he had first noticed on entering the drawing-room,
and which evidently did not proceed from his companion, whose self-
composed cerements would have repressed any such indecorous
agitation, Mr. Bly stepped timidly into the room. It was a very
pretty apartment, suggesting the same touches of tasteful
refinement in its furniture and appointments, and withal so
feminine in its neatness and regularity, that, conscious of his
frontier habits and experience, he felt at once repulsively
incongruous. "I cannot expect, Mr. Bly," said Mrs. Brooks
resignedly, "that you can share my son's extreme sensitiveness to
disorder and irregularity; but I must beg you to avoid as much as
possible disturbing the arrangement of the book-shelves, which, you
observe, comprise his books of serious reference, the Biblical
commentaries, and the sermons which were his habitual study. I
must beg you to exercise the same care in reference to the valuable
offerings from his Sabbath-school scholars which are upon the
mantel. The embroidered book-marker, the gift of the young ladies
of his Bible-class in Dr. Stout's church, is also, you perceive,
kept for ornament and affectionate remembrance. The harmonium--
even if you are not yourself given to sacred song--I trust you will
not find in your way, nor object to my daughter continuing her
practice during your daily absence. Thank you. The door you are
looking at leads by a flight of steps to the side street."
"A very convenient arrangement," said Bly hopefully, who saw a
chance for an occasional unostentatious escape from a too
protracted contemplation of Tappington's perfections. "I mean," he
added hurriedly, "to avoid disturbing you at night."
"I believe my son had neither the necessity nor desire to use it
for that purpose," returned Mrs. Brooks severely; "although he
found it sometimes a convenient short cut to church on Sabbath when
he was late."
Bly, who in his boyish sensitiveness to external impressions had by
this time concluded that a life divided between the past
perfections of Tappington and the present renunciations of Mrs.
Brooks would be intolerable, and was again abstractedly inventing
some delicate excuse for withdrawing without committing himself
further, was here suddenly attracted by a repetition of the
rustling of the unseen skirt. This time it was nearer, and this
time it seemed to strike even Mrs. Brooks's remote preoccupation.
"My daughter, who is deeply devoted to her brother," she said,
slightly raising her voice, "will take upon herself the care of
looking after Tappington's precious mementoes, and spare you the
trouble. Cherry, dear! this way. This is the young gentleman
spoken of by Mr. Carstone, your papa's friend. My daughter
Cherubina, Mr. Bly."
The fair owner of the rustling skirt, which turned out to be a
pretty French print, had appeared at the doorway. She was a tall,
slim blonde, with a shy, startled manner, as of a penitent nun who
was suffering for some conventual transgression--a resemblance that
was heightened by her short-cut hair, that might have been cropped
as if for punishment. A certain likeness to her mother suggested
that she was qualifying for that saint's ascetic shawl--subject,
however, to rebellious intervals, indicated in the occasional
sidelong fires of her gray eyes. Yet the vague impression that she
knew more of the world than her mother, and that she did not look
at all as if her name was Cherubina, struck Bly in the same
"Mr. Bly is naturally pleased with what he has seen of our dear
Tappington's appointments; and as I gather from Mr. Carstone's
letter that he is anxious to enter at once and make the most of the
dear boy's absence, you will see, my dear Cherry, that Ellen has
everything ready for him?"
Before the unfortunate Bly could explain or protest, the young girl
lifted her gray eyes to his. Whether she had perceived and
understood his perplexity he could not tell; but the swift shy
glance was at once appealing, assuring, and intelligent. She was
certainly unlike her mother and brother. Acting with his usual
impulsiveness, he forgot his previous resolution, and before he
left had engaged to begin his occupation of the room on the
The next afternoon found him installed. Yet, after he had unpacked
his modest possessions and put them away, after he had placed his
few books on the shelves, where they looked glaringly trivial and
frivolous beside the late tenant's severe studies; after he had set
out his scanty treasures in the way of photographs and some curious
mementoes of his wandering life, and then quickly put them back
again with a sudden angry pride at exposing them to the
unsympathetic incongruity of the other ornaments, he, nevertheless,
felt ill at ease. He glanced in vain around the pretty room. It
was not the delicately flowered wall-paper; it was not the white
and blue muslin window-curtains gracefully tied up with blue and
white ribbons; it was not the spotless bed, with its blue and white
festooned mosquito-net and flounced valances, and its medallion
portrait of an unknown bishop at the back; it was not the few
tastefully framed engravings of certain cardinal virtues, "The Rock
of Ages," and "The Guardian Angel"; it was not the casts in relief
of "Night" and "Morning"; it was certainly not the cosy dimity-
covered arm-chairs and sofa, nor yet the clean-swept polished grate
with its cheerful fire sparkling against the chill afternoon sea-
fogs without; neither was it the mere feminine suggestion, for that
touched a sympathetic chord in his impulsive nature; nor the
religious and ascetic influence, for he had occupied a monastic
cell in a school of the padres at an old mission, and slept
profoundly;--it was none of those, and yet a part of all. Most
habitations retain a cast or shell of their previous tenant that,
fitting tightly or loosely, is still able to adjust itself to the
newcomer; in most occupied apartments there is still a shadowy
suggestion of the owner's individuality; there was nothing here
that fitted Bly--nor was there either, strange to say, any evidence
of the past proprietor in this inhospitality of sensation. It did
not strike him at the time that it was this very LACK of
individuality which made it weird and unreal, that it was strange
only because it was ARTIFICIAL, and that a REAL Tappington had
never inhabited it.
He walked to the window--that never-failing resource of the unquiet
mind--and looked out. He was a little surprised to find, that,
owing to the grading of the house, the scrub-oaks and bushes of the
hill were nearly on the level of his window, as also was the
adjoining side street on which his second door actually gave.
Opening this, the sudden invasion of the sea-fog and the figure of
a pedestrian casually passing along the disused and abandoned
pavement not a dozen feet from where he had been comfortably
seated, presented such a striking contrast to the studious quiet
and cosiness of his secluded apartment that he hurriedly closed the
door again with a sense of indiscreet exposure. Returning to the
window, he glanced to the left, and found that he was overlooked by
the side veranda of another villa in the rear, evidently on its way
to take position on the line of the street. Although in actual and
deliberate transit on rollers across the backyard and still
occulting a part of the view, it remained, after the reckless
fashion of the period, inhabited. Certainly, with a door fronting
a thoroughfare, and a neighbor gradually approaching him, he would
not feel lonely or lack excitement.
He drew his arm-chair to the fire and tried to realize the all-
pervading yet evasive Tappington. There was no portrait of him in
the house, and although Mrs. Brooks had said that he "favored" his
sister, Bly had, without knowing why, instinctively resented it.
He had even timidly asked his employer, and had received the vague
reply that he was "good-looking enough," and the practical but
discomposing retort, "What do you want to know for?" As he really
did not know why, the inquiry had dropped. He stared at the
monumental crystal ink-stand half full of ink, yet spotless and
free from stains, that stood on the table, and tried to picture
Tappington daintily dipping into it to thank the fair donors--
"daughters of Rebecca." Who were they? and what sort of man would
they naturally feel grateful to?
What was that?
He turned to the window, which had just resounded to a slight tap
or blow, as if something soft had struck it. With an instinctive
suspicion of the propinquity of the adjoining street he rose, but a
single glance from the window satisfied him that no missile would
have reached it from thence. He scanned the low bushes on the
level before him; certainly no one could be hiding there. He
lifted his eyes toward the house on the left; the curtains of the
nearest window appeared to be drawn suddenly at the same moment.
Could it have come from there? Looking down upon the window-ledge,
there lay the mysterious missile--a little misshapen ball. He
opened the window and took it up. It was a small handkerchief tied
into a soft knot, and dampened with water to give it the necessary
weight as a projectile.
Was it apparently the trick of a mischievous child? or--
But here a faint knock on the door leading into the hall checked
his inquiry. He opened it sharply in his excitement, and was
embarrassed to find the daughter of his hostess standing there,
shy, startled, and evidently equally embarrassed by his abrupt
"Mother only wanted me to ask you if Ellen had put everything to
rights," she said, making a step backwards.
"Oh, thank you. Perfectly," said Herbert with effusion. "Nothing
could be better done. In fact"--
"You're quite sure she hasn't forgotten anything? or that there
isn't anything you would like changed?" she continued, with her
eyes leveled on the floor.
"Nothing, I assure you," he said, looking at her downcast lashes.
As she still remained motionless, he continued cheerfully, "Would
you--would you--care to look round and see?"
"No; I thank you."
There was an awkward pause. He still continued to hold the door
open. Suddenly she moved forward with a school-girl stride,
entered the room, and going to the harmonium, sat down upon the
music-stool beside it, slightly bending forward, with one long,
slim, white hand on top of the other, resting over her crossed
Herbert was a little puzzled. It was the awkward and brusque act
of a very young person, and yet nothing now could be more gentle
and self-composed than her figure and attitude.
"Yes," he continued, smilingly; "I am only afraid that I may not be
able to live quite up to the neatness and regularity of the example
I find here everywhere. You know I am dreadfully careless and not
at all orderly. I shudder to think what may happen; but you and
your mother, Miss Brooks, I trust, will make up your minds to
overlook and forgive a good deal. I shall do my best to be worthy
of Mr. Tap--of my predecessor--but even then I am afraid you'll
find me a great bother."
She raised her shy eyelids. The faintest ghost of a long-buried
dimple came into her pale cheek as she said softly, to his utter
Had she uttered an oath he could not have been more startled than
he was by this choice gem of Western saloon-slang from the pure
lips of this Evangeline-like figure before him. He sat gazing at
her with a wild hysteric desire to laugh. She lifted her eyes
again, swept him with a slightly terrified glance, and said:
"Tap says you all say that when any one makes-believe politeness to
"Oh, your BROTHER says that, does he?" said Herbert, laughing.
"Yes, and sometimes 'Old rats.' But," she continued hurriedly, "HE
doesn't say it; he says YOU all do. My brother is very particular,
and very good. Doctor Stout loves him. He is thought very much of
in all Christian circles. That book-mark was given to him by one
of his classes."
Every trace of her dimples had vanished. She looked so sweetly
grave, and withal so maidenly, sitting there slightly smoothing the
lengths of her pink fingers, that Herbert was somewhat embarrassed.
"But I assure you, Miss Brooks, I was not making-believe. I am
really very careless, and everything is so proper--I mean so neat
and pretty--here, that I"--he stopped, and, observing the same
backward wandering of her eye as of a filly about to shy, quickly
changed the subject. "You have, or are about to have, neighbors?"
he said, glancing towards the windows as he recalled the incident
of a moment before.
"Yes; and they're not at all nice people. They are from Pike
County, and very queer. They came across the plains in '50. They
say 'Stranger'; the men are vulgar, and the girls very forward.
Tap forbids my ever going to the window and looking at them.
They're quite what you would call 'off color.'"
Herbert, who did not dare to say that he never would have dreamed
of using such an expression in any young girl's presence, was
plunged in silent consternation.
"Then your brother doesn't approve of them?" he said, at last,
"Oh, not at all. He even talked of having ground-glass put in all
these windows, only it would make the light bad."
Herbert felt very embarrassed. If the mysterious missile came from
these objectionable young persons, it was evidently because they
thought they had detected a more accessible and sympathizing
individual in the stranger who now occupied the room. He concluded
he had better not say anything about it.
Miss Brooks's golden eyelashes were bent towards the floor. "Do
you play sacred music, Mr. Bly?" she said, without raising them.
"I am afraid not."
"Perhaps you know only negro-minstrel songs?"
"I am afraid--yes."
"I know one." The dimples faintly came back again. "It's called
'The Ham-fat Man.' Some day when mother isn't in I'll play it for
Then the dimples fled again, and she immediately looked so
distressed that Herbert came to her assistance.
"I suppose your brother taught you that too?"
"Oh dear, no!" she returned, with her frightened glance; "I only
heard him say some people preferred that kind of thing to sacred
music, and one day I saw a copy of it in a music-store window in
Clay Street, and bought it. Oh no! Tappington didn't teach it to
In the pleasant discovery that she was at times independent of her
brother's perfections, Herbert smiled, and sympathetically drew a
step nearer to her. She rose at once, somewhat primly holding back
the sides of her skirt, school-girl fashion, with thumb and finger,
and her eyes cast down.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Bly."
"Must you go? Good afternoon."
She walked directly to the open door, looking very tall and stately
as she did so, but without turning towards him. When she reached
it she lifted her eyes; there was the slightest suggestion of a
return of her dimples in the relaxation of her grave little mouth.
Then she said, "good-bye, Mr. Bly," and departed.
The skirt of her dress rustled for an instant in the passage.
Herbert looked after her. "I wonder if she skipped then--she looks
like a girl that might skip at such a time," he said to himself.
"How very odd she is--and how simple! But I must pull her up in
that slang when I know her better. Fancy her brother telling her
THAT! What a pair they must be!" Nevertheless, when he turned
back into the room again he forbore going to the window to indulge
further curiosity in regard to his wicked neighbors. A certain new
feeling of respect to his late companion--and possibly to himself--
held him in check. Much as he resented Tappington's perfections,
he resented quite as warmly the presumption that he was not quite
as perfect, which was implied in that mysterious overture. He
glanced at the stool on which she had been sitting with a half-
brotherly smile, and put it reverently on one side with a very
vivid recollection of her shy maidenly figure. In some mysterious
way too the room seemed to have lost its formal strangeness;
perhaps it was the touch of individuality--HERS--that had been
wanting? He began thoughtfully to dress himself for his regular
dinner at the Poodle Dog Restaurant, and when he left the room he
turned back to look once more at the stool where she had sat. Even
on his way to that fast and famous cafe of the period he felt, for
the first time in his thoughtless but lonely life, the gentle
security of the home he had left behind him.
It was three or four days before he became firmly adjusted to his
new quarters. During this time he had met Cherry casually on the
staircase, in going or coming, and received her shy greetings; but
she had not repeated her visit, nor again alluded to it. He had
spent part of a formal evening in the parlor in company with a
calling deacon, who, unappalled by the Indian shawl for which the
widow had exchanged her household cerements on such occasions,
appeared to Herbert to have remote matrimonial designs, as far at
least as a sympathetic deprecation of the vanities of the present,
an echoing of her sighs like a modest encore, a preternatural
gentility of manner, a vague allusion to the necessity of bearing
"one another's burdens," and an everlasting promise in store, would
seem to imply. To Herbert's vivid imagination, a discussion on the
doctrinal points of last Sabbath's sermon was fraught with delicate
suggestion and an acceptance by the widow of an appointment to
attend the Wednesday evening "Lectures" had all the shy reluctant
yielding of a granted rendezvous. Oddly enough, the more formal
attitude seemed to be reserved for the young people, who, in the
suggestive atmosphere of this spiritual flirtation, alone appeared
to preserve the proprieties and, to some extent, decorously
chaperon their elders. Herbert gravely turned the leaves of
Cherry's music while she played and sang one or two discreet but
depressing songs expressive of her unalterable but proper devotion
to her mother's clock, her father's arm-chair, and her aunt's
Bible; and Herbert joined somewhat boyishly in the soul-subduing
refrain. Only once he ventured to suggest in a whisper that he
would like to add HER music-stool to the adorable inventory; but he
was met by such a disturbed and terrified look that he desisted.
"Another night of this wild and reckless dissipation will finish
me," he said lugubriously to himself when he reached the solitude
of his room. "I wonder how many times a week I'd have to help the
girl play the spiritual gooseberry downstairs before we could have
any fun ourselves?"
Here the sound of distant laughter, interspersed with vivacious
feminine shrieks, came through the open window. He glanced between
the curtains. His neighbor's house was brilliantly lit, and the
shadows of a few romping figures were chasing each other across the
muslin shades of the windows. The objectionable young women were
evidently enjoying themselves. In some conditions of the mind
there is a certain exasperation in the spectacle of unmeaning
enjoyment, and he shut the window sharply. At the same moment some
one knocked at his door.
It was Miss Brooks, who had just come upstairs.
"Will you please let me have my music-stool?"
He stared at her a moment in surprise, then recovering himself,
said, "Yes, certainly," and brought the stool. For an instant he
was tempted to ask why she wanted it, but his pride forbade him.
"Thank you. Good-night."
"I hope it wasn't in your way?"
"Not at all."
She vanished. Herbert was perplexed. Between young ladies whose
naive exuberance impelled them to throw handkerchiefs at his window
and young ladies whose equally naive modesty demanded the
withdrawal from his bedroom of a chair on which they had once sat,
his lot seemed to have fallen in a troubled locality. Yet a day or
two later he heard Cherry practising on the harmonium as he was
ascending the stairs on his return from business; she had departed
before he entered the room, but had left the music-stool behind
her. It was not again removed.
One Sunday, the second or third of his tenancy, when Cherry and her
mother were at church, and he had finished some work that he had
brought from the bank, his former restlessness and sense of
strangeness returned. The regular afternoon fog had thickened
early, and, driving him back from a cheerless, chilly ramble on the
hill, had left him still more depressed and solitary. In sheer
desperation he moved some of the furniture, and changed the
disposition of several smaller ornaments. Growing bolder, he even
attacked the sacred shelf devoted to Tappington's serious
literature and moral studies. At first glance the book of sermons
looked suspiciously fresh and new for a volume of habitual
reference, but its leaves were carefully cut, and contained one or
two book-marks. It was only another evidence of that perfect
youth's care and neatness. As he was replacing it he noticed a
small object folded in white paper at the back of the shelf. To
put the book back into its former position it was necessary to take
this out. He did so, but its contents slid from his fingers and
the paper to the floor. To his utter consternation, looking down
he saw a pack of playing-cards strewn at his feet!
He hurriedly picked them up. They were worn and slippery from use,
and exhaled a faint odor of tobacco. Had they been left there by
some temporary visitor unknown to Tappington and his family, or had
they been hastily hidden by a servant? Yet they were of a make and
texture superior to those that a servant would possess; looking at
them carefully, he recognized them to be of a quality used by the
better-class gamblers. Restoring them carefully to their former
position, he was tempted to take out the other volumes, and was
rewarded with the further discovery of a small box of ivory
counters, known as "poker-chips." It was really very
extraordinary! It was quite the cache of some habitual gambler.
Herbert smiled grimly at the irreverent incongruity of the hiding-
place selected by its unknown and mysterious owner, and amused
himself by fancying the horror of his sainted predecessor had he
made the discovery. He determined to replace them, and to put some
mark upon the volumes before them in order to detect any future
disturbance of them in his absence.
Ought he not to take Miss Brooks in his confidence? Or should he
say nothing about it at present, and trust to chance to discover
the sacrilegious hider? Could it possibly be Cherry herself,
guilty of the same innocent curiosity that had impelled her to buy
the "Ham-fat Man"? Preposterous! Besides, the cards had been
used, and she could not play poker alone!
He watched the rolling fog extinguish the line of Russian Hill, the
last bit of far perspective from his window. He glanced at his
neighbor's veranda, already dripping with moisture; the windows
were blank; he remembered to have heard the girls giggling in
passing down the side street on their way to church, and had
noticed from behind his own curtains that one was rather pretty.
This led him to think of Cherry again, and to recall the quaint yet
melancholy grace of her figure as she sat on the stool opposite.
Why had she withdrawn it so abruptly; did she consider his jesting
allusion to it indecorous and presuming? Had he really meant it
seriously; and was he beginning to think too much about her? Would
she ever come again? How nice it would be if she returned from
church alone early, and they could have a comfortable chat together
here! Would she sing the "Ham-fat Man" for him? Would the dimples
come back if she did? Should he ever know more of this quaint
repressed side of her nature? After all, what a dear, graceful,
tantalizing, lovable creature she was! Ought he not at all hazards
try to know her better? Might it not be here that he would find a
perfect realization of his boyish dreams, and in HER all that--what
nonsense he was thinking!
Suddenly Herbert was startled by the sound of a light but hurried
foot upon the wooden outer step of his second door, and the quick
but ineffective turning of the door-handle. He started to his
feet, his mind still filled with a vision of Cherry. Then he as
suddenly remembered that he had locked the door on going out,
putting the key in his overcoat pocket. He had returned by the
front door, and his overcoat was now hanging in the lower hall.
The door again rattled impetuously. Then it was supplemented by a
female voice in a hurried whisper: "Open quick, can't you? do
He was confounded. The voice was authoritative, not unmusical; but
it was NOT Cherry's. Nevertheless he called out quickly, "One
moment, please, and I'll get the key!" dashed downstairs and up
again, breathlessly unlocked the door and threw it open.
Nobody was there!
He ran out into the street. On one side it terminated abruptly on
the cliff on which his dwelling was perched; on the other, it
descended more gradually into the next thoroughfare; but up and
down the street, on either hand, no one was to be seen. A slightly
superstitious feeling for an instant crept over him. Then he
reflected that the mysterious visitor could in the interval of his
getting the key have easily slipped down the steps of the cliff or
entered the shrubbery of one of the adjacent houses. But why had
she not waited? And what did she want? As he reentered his door
he mechanically raised his eyes to the windows of his neighbor's.
This time he certainly was not mistaken. The two amused,
mischievous faces that suddenly disappeared behind the curtain as
he looked up showed that the incident had not been unwitnessed.
Yet it was impossible that it could have been either of THEM.
Their house was only accessible by a long detour. It might have
been the trick of a confederate; but the tone of half familiarity
and half entreaty in the unseen visitor's voice dispelled the idea
of any collusion. He entered the room and closed the door angrily.
A grim smile stole over his face as he glanced around at the dainty
saint-like appointments of the absent Tappington, and thought what
that irreproachable young man would have said to the indecorous
intrusion, even though it had been a mistake. Would those
shameless Pike County girls have dared to laugh at HIM?
But he was again puzzled to know why he himself should have been
selected for this singular experience. Why was HE considered fair
game for these girls? And, for the matter of that, now that he
reflected upon it, why had even this gentle, refined, and
melancholy Cherry thought it necessary to talk slang to HIM on
their first acquaintance, and offer to sing him the "Ham-fat Man"?
It was true he had been a little gay, but never dissipated. Of
course he was not a saint, like Tappington--oh, THAT was it! He
believed he understood it now. He was suffering from that
extravagant conception of what worldliness consists of, so common
to very good people with no knowledge of the world. Compared to
Tappington he was in their eyes, of course, a rake and a roue. The
explanation pleased him. He would not keep it to himself. He
would gain Cherry's confidence and enlist her sympathies. Her
gentle nature would revolt at this injustice to their lonely
lodger. She would see that there were degrees of goodness besides
her brother's. She would perhaps sit on that stool again and NOT
sing the "Ham-fat Man."
A day or two afterwards the opportunity seemed offered to him. As
he was coming home and ascending the long hilly street, his eye was
taken by a tall graceful figure just preceding him. It was she.
He had never before seen her in the street, and was now struck with
her ladylike bearing and the grave superiority of her perfectly
simple attire. In a thoroughfare haunted by handsome women and
striking toilettes, the refined grace of her mourning costume, and
a certain stateliness that gave her the look of a young widow, was
a contrast that evidently attracted others than himself. It was
with an odd mingling of pride and jealousy that he watched the
admiring yet respectful glances of the passers-by, some of whom
turned to look again, and one or two to retrace their steps and
follow her at a decorous distance. This caused him to quicken his
own pace, with a new anxiety and a remorseful sense of wasted
opportunity. What a booby he had been, not to have made more of
his contiguity to this charming girl--to have been frightened at
the naive decorum of her maidenly instincts! He reached her side,
and raised his hat with a trepidation at her new-found graces--with
a boldness that was defiant of her other admirers. She blushed
"I thought you'd overtake me before," she said naively. "I saw YOU
ever so long ago."
He stammered, with an equal simplicity, that he had not dared to.
She looked a little frightened again, and then said hurriedly: "I
only thought that I would meet you on Montgomery Street, and we
would walk home together. I don't like to go out alone, and mother
cannot always go with me. Tappington never cared to take me out--I
don't know why. I think he didn't like the people staring and stop
ping us. But they stare more--don't you think?--when one is alone.
So I thought if you were coming straight home we might come
together--unless you have something else to do?"
Herbert impulsively reiterated his joy at meeting her, and averred
that no other engagement, either of business or pleasure, could or
would stand in his way. Looking up, however, it was with some
consternation that he saw they were already within a block of the
"Suppose we take a turn around the hill and come back by the old
street down the steps?" he suggested earnestly.
The next moment he regretted it. The frightened look returned to
her eyes; her face became melancholy and formal again.
"No!" she said quickly. "That would be taking a walk with you like
these young girls and their young men on Saturdays. That's what
Ellen does with the butcher's boy on Sundays. Tappington often
used to meet them. Doing the 'Come, Philanders,' as he says you
It struck Herbert that the didactic Tappington's method of
inculcating a horror of slang in his sister's breast was open to
some objection; but they were already on the steps of their house,
and he was too much mortified at the reception of his last unhappy
suggestion to make the confidential disclosure he had intended,
even if there had still been time.
"There's mother waiting for me," she said, after an awkward pause,
pointing to the figure of Mrs. Brooks dimly outlined on the
veranda. "I suppose she was beginning to be worried about my being
out alone. She'll be so glad I met you." It didn't appear to
Herbert, however, that Mrs. Brooks exhibited any extravagant joy
over the occurrence, and she almost instantly retired with her
daughter into the sitting-room, linking her arm in Cherry's, and,
as it were, empanoplying her with her own invulnerable shawl.
Herbert went to his room more dissatisfied with himself than ever.
Two or three days elapsed without his seeing Cherry; even the well-
known rustle of her skirt in the passage was missing. On the third
evening he resolved to bear the formal terrors of the drawing-room
again, and stumbled upon a decorous party consisting of Mrs.
Brooks, the deacon, and the pastor's wife--but not Cherry. It
struck him on entering that the momentary awkwardness of the
company and the formal beginning of a new topic indicated that HE
had been the subject of their previous conversation. In this idea
he continued, through that vague spirit of opposition which attacks
impulsive people in such circumstances, to generally disagree with
them on all subjects, and to exaggerate what he chose to believe
they thought objectionable in him. He did not remain long; but
learned in that brief interval that Cherry had gone to visit a
friend in Contra Costa, and would be absent a fortnight; and he was
conscious that the information was conveyed to him with a peculiar
The result of which was only to intensify his interest in the
absent Cherry, and for a week to plunge him in a sea of conflicting
doubts and resolutions. At one time he thought seriously of
demanding an explanation from Mrs. Brooks, and of confiding to her--
as he had intended to do to Cherry--his fears that his character
had been misinterpreted, and his reasons for believing so. But
here he was met by the difficulty of formulating what he wished to
have explained, and some doubts as to whether his confidences were
prudent. At another time he contemplated a serious imitation of
Tappington's perfections, a renunciation of the world, and an
entire change in his habits. He would go regularly to church--HER
church, and take up Tappington's desolate Bible-class. But here
the torturing doubt arose whether a young lady who betrayed a
certain secular curiosity, and who had evidently depended upon her
brother for a knowledge of the world, would entirely like it. At
times he thought of giving up the room and abandoning for ever this
doubly dangerous proximity; but here again he was deterred by the
difficulty of giving a satisfactory reason to his employer, who had
procured it as a favor. His passion--for such he began to fear it
to be--led him once to the extravagance of asking a day's holiday
from the bank, which he vaguely spent in the streets of Oakland in
the hope of accidentally meeting the exiled Cherry.
The fortnight slowly passed. She returned, but he did not see her.
She was always out or engaged in her room with some female friend
when Herbert was at home. This was singular, as she had never
appeared to him as a young girl who was fond of visiting or had
ever affected female friendships. In fact, there was little doubt
now that, wittingly or unwittingly, she was avoiding him.
He was moodily sitting by the fire one evening, having returned
early from dinner. In reply to his habitual but affectedly
careless inquiry, Ellen had told him that Mrs. Brooks was confined
to her room by a slight headache, and that Miss Brooks was out. He
was trying to read, and listening to the wind that occasionally
rattled the casement and caused the solitary gas-lamp that was
visible in the side street to flicker and leap wildly. Suddenly he
heard the same footfall upon his outer step and a light tap at the
door. Determined this time to solve the mystery, he sprang to his
feet and ran to the door; but to his anger and astonishment it was
locked and the key was gone. Yet he was positive that HE had not
taken it out.
The tap was timidly repeated. In desperation he called out,
"Please don't go away yet. The key is gone; but I'll find it in a
moment." Nevertheless he was at his wits' end.
There was a hesitating pause and then the sound of a key cautiously
thrust into the lock. It turned; the door opened, and a tall
figure, whose face and form were completely hidden in a veil and
long gray shawl, quickly glided into the room and closed the door
behind it. Then it suddenly raised its arms, the shawl was parted,
the veil fell aside, and Cherry stood before him!
Her face was quite pale. Her eyes, usually downcast, frightened,
or coldly clear, were bright and beautiful with excitement. The
dimples were faintly there, although the smile was sad and half
hysterical. She remained standing, erect and tall, her arms
dropped at her side, holding the veil and shawl that still depended
from her shoulders.
"So--I've caught you!" she said, with a strange little laugh. "Oh
yes. 'Please don't go away yet. I'll get the key in a moment,'"
she continued, mimicking his recent utterance.
He could only stammer, "Miss Brooks--then it was YOU?"
"Yes; and you thought it was SHE, didn't you? Well, and you're
caught! I didn't believe it; I wouldn't believe it when they said
it. I determined to find it out myself. And I have; and it's
Unable to determine whether she was serious or jesting, and
conscious only of his delight at seeing her again, he advanced
impulsively. But her expression instantly changed: she became at
once stiff and school-girlishly formal, and stepped back towards
"Don't come near me, or I'll go," she said quickly, with her hand
upon the lock.
"But not before you tell me what you mean," he said half laughingly
half earnestly. "Who is SHE? and what wouldn't you have believed?
For upon my honor, Miss Brooks, I don't know what you are talking
His evident frankness and truthful manner appeared to puzzle her.
"You mean to say you were expecting no one?" she said sharply.
"I assure you I was not."
"And--and no woman was ever here--at that door?"
He hesitated. "Not to-night--not for a long time; not since you
returned from Oakland."
"Then there WAS one?"
"I believe so."
"You BELIEVE--you don't KNOW?"
"I believed it was a woman from her voice; for the door was locked,
and the key was downstairs. When I fetched it and opened the door,
she--or whoever it was--was gone."
"And that's why you said so imploringly, just now, 'Please don't go
away yet'? You see I've caught you. Ah! I don't wonder you
If he had, his cheeks had caught fire from her brilliant eyes and
the extravagantly affected sternness--as of a school-girl monitor--
in her animated face. Certainly he had never seen such a
"Yes; but, you see, I wanted to know who the intruder was," he
said, smiling at his own embarrassment.
"You did--well, perhaps THAT will tell you? It was found under
your door before I went away." She suddenly produced from her
pocket a folded paper and handed it to him. It was a misspelt
scrawl, and ran as follows:--
"Why are you so cruel? Why do you keep me dansing on the stepps
before them gurls at the windows? Was it that stuckup Saint, Miss
Brooks, that you were afraid of, my deer? Oh, you faithless
trater! Wait till I ketch you! I'll tear your eyes out and hern!"
It did not require great penetration for Herbert to be instantly
convinced that the writer of this vulgar epistle and the owner of
the unknown voice were two very different individuals. The note
was evidently a trick. A suspicion of its perpetrators flashed
"Whoever the woman was, it was not she who wrote the note," he said
positively. "Somebody must have seen her at the door. I remember
now that those girls--your neighbors--were watching me from their
window when I came out. Depend upon it, that letter comes from
Cherry's eyes opened widely with a sudden childlike perception, and
then shyly dropped. "Yes," she said slowly; "they DID watch you.
They know it, for it was they who made it the talk of the
neighborhood, and that's how it came to mother's ears." She
stopped, and, with a frightened look, stepped back towards the door
"Then THAT was why your mother"--
"Oh yes," interrupted Cherry quickly. "That was why I went over to
Oakland, and why mother forbade my walking with you again, and why
she had a talk with friends about your conduct, and why she came
near telling Mr. Carstone all about it until I stopped her." She
checked herself--he could hardly believe his eyes--the pale, nun-
like girl was absolutely blushing.
"I thank you, Miss Brooks," he said gravely, "for your
thoughtfulness, although I hope I could have still proven my
innocence to Mr. Carstone, even if some unknown woman tried my door
by mistake, and was seen doing it. But I am pained to think that
YOU could have believed me capable of so wanton and absurd an
impropriety--and such a gross disrespect to your mother's house."
"But," said Cherry with childlike naivete, "you know YOU don't
think anything of such things, and that's what I told mother."
"You told your mother THAT?"
"Oh yes--I told her Tappington says it's quite common with young
men. Please don't laugh--for it's very dreadful. Tappington
didn't laugh when he told it to me as a warning. He was shocked."
"But, my dear Miss Brooks"--
"There--now you're angry--and that's as bad. Are you sure you
didn't know that woman?"
"Yet you seemed very anxious just now that she should wait till you
opened the door."
"That was perfectly natural."
"I don't think it was natural at all."
"But--according to Tappington"--
"Because my brother is very good you need not make fun of him."
"I assure you I have no such intention. But what more can I say?
I give you my word that I don't know who that unlucky woman was.
No doubt she may have been some nearsighted neighbor who had
mistaken the house, and I dare say was as thoroughly astonished at
my voice as I was at hers. Can I say more? Is it necessary for me
to swear that since I have been here no woman has ever entered that
"I know what you mean," she said hurriedly, with her old frightened
look, gliding to the outer door. "It's shameful what I've done.
But I only did it because--because I had faith in you, and didn't
believe what they said was true." She had already turned the lock.
There were tears in her pretty eyes.
"Stop," said Herbert gently. He walked slowly towards her, and
within reach of her frightened figure stopped with the timid
respect of a mature and genuine passion. "You must not be seen
going out of that door," he said gravely. "You must let me go
first, and, when I am gone, lock the door again and go through the
hall to your own room. No one must know that I was in the house
when you came in at that door. Good-night."
Without offering his hand he lifted his eyes to her face. The
dimples were all there--and something else. He bowed and passed
Ten minutes later he ostentatiously returned to the house by the
front door, and proceeded up the stairs to his own room. As he
cast a glance around he saw that the music-stool had been moved
before the fire, evidently with the view of attracting his
attention. Lying upon it, carefully folded, was the veil that she
had worn. There could be no doubt that it was left there
purposely. With a smile at this strange girl's last characteristic
act of timid but compromising recklessness, after all his
precautions, he raised it tenderly to his lips, and then hastened