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The Little Lady of Lagunitas by Richard Henry Savage

Part 8 out of 8

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you let me handle your movements, up to the legal issue. After that
you are free. I'll give you the word of an honest man, you shall
not suffer. Will you trust me?"

Joe's big eyes are looking very appealingly in hers.

Without a word, she places her hand in his. "I am yours until that
time, but spare me as much as you can--the old histories, you know,"
her voice falters. She is a woman, after all.

"Now see here, madame! I swear to you I am the only private man in
California who knows your secret, except Hardin, now. I got it in
the days long past. No one shall know your identity." He fixes a
keen glance on her: "Is there anyone else you wish to spare?" he
softly says.

"Yes." She is sobbing now. "It is my child. Don't let her know
that awful past."

Joseph's eyes are filled with manly sorrow. He whispers with

"Her father is"--

"Philip Hardin," falters the woman, whose stately head is now bowed
in her hands.

"I'll protect that child. She shall never want a friend, if you do
one thing," Joe falters.

Natalie raises a white face to his.

"What is it?" she huskily whispers.

"Will you swear, in open court, which of these two girls is your
own child, if I ask you to?" He is eager and pleading.

She reads his very soul. She hesitates. "And you will protect the
innocent girl, against his wrath?" There is all a mother's love in
her appeal.

"Both of you. I swear it. You shall not want for money or protection,"
Joe solemnly says.

"Then, I will!" Natalie firmly answers.

He springs to her side.

"Does Hardin know which girl is his daughter?"

"He does not!" Natalie says slowly.

There is a silence; Joe can hear his own heart beat. Victory at

"I have nothing to ask you, except to see no one but myself, Padre
Francisco, or my lawyer. If Hardin wants to see you, I'll be present.
Now I am going to see him to-night. You will be watched over night
and day. I am going to have every precaution taken. I shall be near
you always. Rest in safety. I think I can save you any opening up
of the old days.

"I will see you early."

Her hands clasp his warmly! She says: "Colonel, send PŠre Fran‡ois
to me. I will tell him all you need to know. He will know what to
keep back."

"That's right," cries Joseph, warmly. "I know how to handle Hardin
now. You can bank on the padre. He's dead game."

"And your reward?" Natalie whispers, with bowed head.

A wild thought makes the blood surge to Joe's brain. He slowly
stammers, "My reward?" His eyes tell him he must make no mistake.
A flash of genius.

"You will square my account, madame, if you make no objection to
the immediate marriage of your daughter to Dauvray. He's a fine
fellow for a Frenchman, and she shall never know this story. She'll
have money enough. I'll see to that." Joe's voice is earnest.

Natalie's arms are stretched to him in thanks. "In God's name, be
it, my noble friend."

Joe dares not trust himself longer.

He retires, leaving Natalie standing, a splendid statue, with
shining, hopeful eyes. Her blessing follows him; sin-shadowed though
she be, it reaches the Court of Heaven.

Natalie, in silent sorrow, sees her labor of years brushed away.
Her child can never be the heiress of Lagunitas. Fate has brought
the gentle Louise Moreau to the very threshold of her old home.
It is Providence. Destiny. The all-knowing PŠre Fran‡ois reveals
to her how strangely the life-path of the heiress has been guarded.
"My daughter," the priest solemnly says, "be comforted. Right shall
prevail. Trust me, trust Colonel Woods. Your child may fall heir
yet to a name and to her own inheritance. The ways of Him who
pardons are mysterious." He leaves her comforted and yet not daring
to break the seal of silence to the lovely claimants.

While PŠre Fran‡ois confers with Natalie, as the moon sails high
in heaven over the fragrant pines, Woods and Peyton exchange a few
quiet words over their cigars.

By the repeater which Joe consults it is now a quarter of ten. The
two gentlemen stroll over the grassy plaza. By a singular provincial
custom each carries a neat navy revolver, where a hand could drop
easily on it. Joe also caresses his favorite knife in his overcoat

In five minutes they are seated with Philip Hardin in his room. There
is an air of gloomy readiness in Hardin which shows the unbending
nature of the man. He is alone. Woods frankly says: "Judge Hardin,
I wish you to know my friend, Mr. Henry Peyton. If anything should
happen to me, he knows all my views. He will represent me. As you
are alone, I will ask Mr. Peyton to wait for me below."

Henry Peyton bows and passes downstairs, where he is regarded as
an archangel of the enemy. For the Hardin headquarters are loyal to
their great chief. The man who controls the millions of Lagunitas
is surrounded by his loyal body-guard at Mariposa.

When the two men are alone, Woods waits for Hardin to speak. He is
silent. There is a gulf between them which never can be bridged.
Joseph feels he is no match for Hardin in chicanery, but he has
his little surprise in store for the lawyer. It is an armed truce.

"Hardin, I've come over to-night to talk a little politics with
you," begins Joseph. His eye is glued on the Judge's, who steadily
returns the glance.



"You need not trouble yourself about my political aspirations,
sir," haughtily remarks Hardin, glaring at the stolid visitor,
who calmly continues.

"I don't allow no trouble, Jedge," Woods drawls. "I'll play
my cards open. I run this here joint convention, which makes or
breaks you. I'm dead-flat plain in my meaning. I can burst up your
election as United States Senator, unless you and me can make 'a

"Your terms?" sneers Hardin, with a glance at Joe's hand in his
pocket, "Toujours pret" is Joseph's motto.

"Oh, my terms! I'll be open, Jedge. I leave this here lawsuit between
us, to our lawyers. I will fight you fair in that. You will find
me on the square."

"Do you threaten me, sir?" demands Hardin.

"Now, make your own game." Joe's brow darkens. "Hardin, I want
you to hear me out; you can take it then, in any shape you want
to. Fight or trade." Woods' old Missouri grit is aroused.

"Go on," says Hardin, with a rising gorge.

"You're talking marriage." Joe's sneer maddens Hardin." I tell you
now to settle old scores with the lady whom I found in your hands
to-night. If you don't, you're not going to the Senate."

Hardin gathers himself. Ah, that hand in the pocket!

"Don't make a mistake, Jedge," coldly interjects Woods. "Drop that
gun. We're no bravos."

"I positively decline to have any bargain with you on my private
matters. After you leave this room, you can look out for yourself,
if you cross my path," hisses the Judge, his face pale and ghastly.

"Now, Jedge," Joe snaps out, "watch your own scalp. Hardin, I'll
not dodge you. You are going on the wrong road. We split company
here. But there's room enough in California for you and me. As for
any 'shooting talk,' it's all bosh. You will get in a hot corner,
unless you hear me out. I tell you now, to acknowledge your child
by that woman. Save your election; save yourself, old man.

"She'll go off to France, but you've got to give her child a square
name and a set-out."

"Never!" yells Hardin, forgetting himself, as with blind rage he
points to the door.

"All right," says Joseph, coolly. "You'll never be senator till
you send for me. You have fair warning. My cards are face-up on
the table." Hardin, speechless with rage, sees him disappear.

Peyton and Joe Woods walk over the silent plaza, with the twinkling
stars sweeping overhead. They exchange but few words. They seek
the rest of their pillows. Joe's prayers consist of reloading his

The last watcher in Mariposa is Hardin, the hate of hell in
his heart. A glass of neat brandy is tossed off. He throws himself
heavily on the bed. The world is a torment to him now. "On to
Sacramento" is his last thought. Money, in hoards and heaps, will
drown this rich booby's vain interference. For, legislatures sell
senatorial honors in California openly like cabbage in a huckster's
wagon, only at higher prices.

Before the gray squirrels are leaping on the madronas and nutty oaks
next dawn of day, Hardin is miles away towards the State capital.
His legal forces remain. He takes one trusty agent, to distribute
his golden arguments.

When Woods leisurely finishes his breakfast he strolls under the
pines with PŠre Fran‡ois. There are also two youthful couples.
They are reading lessons, not of law, but of love, in each other's
shining eyes as they wander in the lonely forest paths.

Seated by a dashing mountain brook which runs past the town, PŠre
Fran‡ois gravely informs Joe that Natalie de Santos has given him
the dark history of her chequered life. Though the seal of the
confessional protects it, he has her consent to supply Woods and
Judge Davis with certain facts. Her sworn statements will verify
these if needed.

After a long interview with Madame de Santos, Colonel Joseph follows
Hardin to Sacramento. He has one or two resolute friends with him
as a guard against the coarse Western expedient of assassination.
He knows Hardin's deft touches of old.

As the stage rattles around dizzy heights, below massy cliffs,
swinging under the forest arches, the Missouri champion reasons out
that Hardin's hands are tied personally as regards a bloody public
quarrel, by the coming senatorial fight. To pluck the honors of the
Senate at last from a divided State, is a testimony to the lawyer's
great abilities. Joe thinks, with a sigh of regret, that some mere
animated money-bag may sit under the white dome, and misrepresent
the sovereign State of California. "Well, if Hardin won't bend,
he's got to break." The miner puffs his cigar in search of wisdom.

Single-minded and unswerving, Woods goes directly to his splendid
rooms at the "Golden Eagle," on reaching Sacramento.

The capital city of the State is crowded with legislators and attach‚s.
The lobby banditti, free lances, and camp followers of the annual
raid upon the pockets of the people are on guard. While his meal is
being served in his parlor, he indites a note to Hardin's political
Mark Antony. It will rest with him to crown a triumph or deliver
his unheard oration over the body of a politically dead Caesar.
The billet reads:

"I want you instantly, on a matter deciding Hardin's election. You
can show him this."

In half an hour, over burgundy and the ever-flowing champagne,
Woods, feeling his visitor in good humor, fires his first gun. He
begins with half-shut eyes, in a genial tone:

"Harris, I have sent for you to tell you Hardin and me have locked
horns over some property. Now I won't vote for him, but I'll hold
off my dogs. I won't work against him if he signs a sealed paper
I'm goin' to give you. If he don't, I'll open out, and tell an old
yarn to our secret nominating caucus. I am solidly responsible for
the oration. He will be laid out. It rests only with his friends
then, to spread this scandal. He has time to square this. It does
not hang on party interests. I am a man of my word, you know.
Now, I leave it to you to consider if he has any right to ask his
friends to back him in certain defeat. See him quick. If he tells
you to hear the story from me, I will tell you all. If he flies
the track, I am silent until the caucus. THEN, I will speak, if
I'm alive. If I am dead, my pard will speak for me. My death would
seal his utter ruin. I can stand the consequences. He has got to
come up to the captain's office and settle." The astounded Harris
gloomily muses while Woods quietly inscribes a few lines on a sheet
of paper. He seals the envelop, and hands it to Senator Harris.

"I won't leave this camp, Harris, till I get your answer," calmly
remarks Joseph. He refuses to waste more words in explanation.
"See Hardin," is his only phrase. "It's open war then between him
and me."

Harris, with a very grave face, enters the private rooms of Judge
Hardin at the Orleans Hotel.

Hardin listens, with scowling brow as black as night. He tears open
the envelop! His faithful henchman wonders what can bring night's
blackness to Judge Hardin's face.

The lines are a careful acknowledgment of the paternity of the girl
child of "Natalie de Santos," born at San Francisco and now about
eighteen years of age. It closes with a statement of her right to
inherit as a lawful heiress from him.

"I will shoot that dog on sight, if he carries out this threat,"
deliberately says Hardin.

"Judge," coldly replies his lieutenant, "does this note refer to
public affairs, or to party interests?"

"Private matters!" replies Hardin, his eyes flashing.

"Then, let me say, I will keep silent in this matter. I shall
ask you to name some other man to handle your candidacy before the
Legislature. Joe Woods is honest, and absolutely of iron nerve.
You can send for any of your other friends, and choose a man to
take my place. I won't fight Joe. Woods never lied in his life.

"If you will state that you have adjusted this difference with him,
I am at your service. Let me know your decision soon. He waits for
me. In all else, I am yours, as a friend, but I will not embroil
the State now for a mere private feud. Send for me, Judge, when
you have decided."

In the long and heated conferences of the night, before the
sun again pours its shimmering golden waves on the parched plains
of Sacramento, Hardin finds no one who will face the mysterious

Harris finds the patient Joe playing seven-up with a couple of
friends, and his pistols on the table.

"All right, Harris; let him think it over." Joe nods, and continues
his game.

Calmly expectant, when Harris sends his name up next morning,
Joe Woods is in very good humor. The gathering forces are anxious
for the hour when a solemn secret party caucus shall name the man
to be officially balloted in as Senator of the United States for
six years. The term is not to begin for three months, but great
corporations, the banks, with their heaped millions, and all the
mighty high-priests of the dollar-god, need that sense of security
which Hardin's ability will give to their different schemes. Their
plans can be safely laid out then.

In simple straightforwardness, Harris hands Woods a sealed envelop,
without a word.

In the vigils of one awful night, Philip Hardin knows that he must
fence off the maddened woman who seems to have a mysterious hold
upon his destiny at this crisis. What force impels her?

Hardin has enjoined Harris to have Woods repeat his pledge of

"Did you see the Jedge sign this here paper?" says Woods dryly, as
he inspects the signature. His face is solemn.

"I did," Harris answers.

"Then just write your name here as witness," Joseph briskly says,
handing him a pen, and covering the few lines of the document,
leaving only Philip Hardin's well-known signature visible.

Harris hesitates. Joe's eyes are blazing; no foolery now! Harris
quietly signs. The name of Joseph Woods is added, at once, with
the date.

"Harris," says Joseph, "you're a man of honor. I pledge you now I
will not make public the nature of this document. Hardin can grab
for the Senate now, if you boys can elect him. I'll not fight him."

Harris retires in silence. The day is saved. Though the election is
within three days, Joseph Woods finds private business so pressing
that his seat is vacant, when Philip Hardin is declared Senator-elect.
The pledge has been kept. Not a rumor of the secret incident reaches
the public. The cautious Joseph is grateful for not being obliged
to shorten Hardin's life.

Fly as fast as Hardin may to Mariposa, Joe Woods is there before
him. The telegraph bears to every hamlet of the Golden State the
news of the senatorial choice.

Philip Hardin, seated on the porch of the old mansion at Lagunitas,
reads the eulogies crowding the columns of fifty journals.

From San Diego to Siskiyou one general voice hails the new-made
member of that august body, who are now so rapidly giving America
"Roman liberties."

The friend of Mammon, nurtured in conspiracy, skilled in deceit,
Hardin, the hidden Mokanna, grins behind his silver veil.

His deep-laid plans seem all safe now. The local meshes of his golden
net hold the District Judge firmly. It will be easy to postpone, to
weary out, to harass this strange faction. He has stores of coin
ready. They are the heaped-up reserves of his "senatorial ammunition."
And yet Joe Woods, that burly meddling fool. To placate Natalie!
To induce her to leave at once for Paris! How shall this be done?
Ha! The marriage is her dream in life! He is elected now. He fears
not her Southern rival. The ambitious political lady aspirant! He
can explain to her now in private, To give Natalie an acknowledgment
of a private marriage will content her. Then his bought Judge can
quietly grant a separation for desertion, after Natalie has returned
to France. She will care nothing for the squabble over the acres
of Lagunitas, if well paid. As for the priest, he may swear as
strongly as he likes. The girl will surely be declared illegitimate.
He has destroyed all the papers. Valois' will is never to see the
light. If deception has been practiced he cares not. Senatorial
privilege raises him too high for the voice of slander.

He has the golden heart of these hills now to himself.

Yes, he will fool the priest and divide his enemies. The money
for Natalie will be deposited in Paris banks. The principal to be
paid her in one year, on condition of never again coming to the
United States. Long before that time he will be legally free and
remarried. Hardin rubs his hands in glee. Neither reporter nor
the public will ever see the divorce proceedings. That is easily
handled in Mariposa.

In his local legal experience, he has many times seen wilder schemes
succeed. Spanish grants have been shifted leagues to suit the occasion.
Boundaries are removed bodily. Witnesses are manufactured under
golden pressure. The eyes of Justice are blinded with opaque weights
of the yellow treasure.

But he must work rapidly. It is now only a short week to the trial.
The court-house and records are regularly watched. Not a move
indicates any prying into the matter beyond the mere identity of
the heiress. But who has set up the other claimant?

It would be madness for Natalie to raise this quarrel! Some schemers
have imposed a strange girl on the other party. Hardin recalls
Natalie's wild astonishment at the apparition of another "Isabel

And the second girl did not even know who Natalie was. What devil's
work is this?

Hardin decides to "burn his ships." Alone in the home of the
Peraltas, he prepares for a campaign "… l'outrance." That crafty
priest might know too much. The evening before his departure he
burns up every paper at the ranch which would cause any remark, even
in case of his death. Next morning, as he rides out of Lagunitas,
he gazes on the fair domain. The last thing he sees is the chapel
cross. A chill suddenly strikes him. He gallops on. Rapidly
journeying to Mariposa, he installs himself in the headquarters
of his friends. His ablest counsel has provided the bought Judge,
with full secret instructions to meet every contingency.

Sober and serious in final judgment, Philip Hardin quickly summons
a discreet friend. He requests a last personal interview with
Natalie de Santos. The ambassador is received by good-humored Joe
Woods. He declines an interview, by the lady's orders, unless its
object is stated.

Hardin requests that some friend other than the Missouri miner,
may be named to represent Natalie.

His eyes gleam when the selection is made of PŠre Fran‡ois. Just
what he would wish.

It lacks now but three days of the final hearing. An hour after the
message, Hardin and the priest are seated, in quiet commune. There
are no papers. There is no time lost, none to lose. No witnesses,
no interlopers.

Hardin opens his proposals. The priest seems tractable. "I do not
wish to refer to any present legal matters. I speak only of the
past. I will refer only to the future of 'Madame de Santos.' You
may say to her that if she will grant me a brief interview, I feel
I can make her a proposition she will accept, as very advantageous.
In justice to her, I cannot communicate its details, even to you.
But if she wishes to advise with you, I have no objection to giving
you the guarantees of my provision for her future. You shall know
as much of our whole arrangement as she wishes you to. She can
have you or other friends, in an adjoining room. You can be called
in to witness the papers, and examine the details."

The grave priest returns in half an hour. Hardin ponders uneasily.
The priest plays an unimpassioned part. "Madame de Santos will
receive Judge Hardin on his terms, with the condition, that if there
is any exciting difference, Judge Hardin will retire at once, and
not renew his proposals." Hardin accepts. Now for work.

Side by side, the new-made senator and the old priest walk across
the plaza. Success smiles on Hardin.

Local quid-nuncs mutter "Compromise," as they seek the spiritual
consolation of the Magnolia Saloon and Palace Varieties. Is there
to be no pistol practice after all?

Alas, these degenerate days! The camp has lost its glory. Betting
has been two to one that Colonel Joe Woods riddles the Judge before
the trial is over.

Now these bets will be off. A fraud on the innocent public. The
decadence of Mariposa.

Yet, Hardin is not easy. In the first struggle of his life with a
priest, Hardin feels himself no match for his passionless antagonist.
The waxen mask of the Church hides the inner soul of the man.

Only when PŠre Fran‡ois turns his searching gaze on the Judge,
parrying every move, does the lawyer feel how the immobility of
the clergyman is proof against his wiles and professional ambushes.

PŠre Fran‡ois conducts Hardin into the room whence Natalie dismissed
him, in her roused but sadly wounded spirit. She is there, waiting.
Her face is marble in pallor.

With a grave bow, the old ecclesiastic retires to an adjoining room
and leaves them alone. There is a writing table.

"Madame, to spare you discussion," Hardin remarks seriously, "I
will write on two sheets of paper what I ask and what I offer. You
may confer with your adviser. I will retire. You can add to either
anything you propose. We can then, at once, observe if we can
approach each other."

Natalie's stately head bows assent in silence. In five minutes
Hardin hands her the two sheets.

Natalie's face puzzles him. Calm and unmoved, she looks him quietly
in the eyes, as if in a mute farewell. She has simply uttered
monosyllables, in answer to his few explanations.

Hardin walks up and down upon the veranda, while Natalie, the priest,
and Colonel Joe scan the two sheets. His heart beats quickly while
the trio read his proposals.

They are simple enough. What he gets and what he gives. Madame de
Santos is to absent herself from the trial. She is to leave Isabel
Valois, her charge, with the priest. She is to be silent as to the
entire past.

Hardin's lawyers are to stipulate, in case of Isabel Valois being
defeated in any of her rights, she shall be free to receive a fund
equal to that settled on the absent child of Natalie. Her freedom
comes with her majority in any case.

Judge Hardin offers, on the other hand:

To give a written recognition of the private marriage, and to
fully legalize the absent Irene.

To admit her to his succession, and to surrender all control to
the mother.

On condition of Natalie de Santos ceasing all marital claims
and disappearing at once, she is to receive five hundred thousand
dollars, in bankers' drafts to her order in Paris, six months after
the legal separation.

Hardin's tread re-echoes on the porch. His mind is busied. Is he
to have a closing career of unsullied honor in the Senate? He is
yet in a firm, if frosty age. A dignified halo will surround his
second marriage. It is better thus. Peace and silence at any cost.
And Lagunitas' millions to come. The mine--his dear-bought treasure.
It is coming, Philip Hardin. Peace and rest? it will be peace and
silence. He starts! The black-robed priest is at the door. Father
Fran‡ois has now resumed his soutane.

"Will you kindly enter?" he says.

Hardin, with unmoved face, seats himself opposite Natalie. PŠre
Fran‡ois remains.

"I will accept your terms, Judge Hardin," she steadily says,
"with the addition that the advice of Judge Davis be at my service
regarding the papers, and that I leave to-morrow for San Francisco.

"You are to send an agent, also. The money to be transferred by
telegraph, payable absolutely to me at Paris, by my bankers, at
the appointed time. Your agent may accompany me to the frontier
of the State. I will leave as soon as the bankers acknowledge the

"In case of any failure on your part, the obligation to keep silent
ceases. I retain the marriage papers."

Hardin bows his head. The priest is silent. In a few moments, the
senator-elect says:

"I agree to all." His senatorial debut pictures itself in his mind.

Madame de Santos rises, "I authorize PŠre Fran‡ois to remain with
you, on my behalf. Let the papers be at once prepared. I am ready
to leave to-morrow morning. I only insist the two papers which would
affect my child, be duplicated, and both witnessed by our lawyers."

Hardin bows assent. Natalie de Santos walks toward the door of her
rooms. Her last words fall on his ear: "PŠre Fran‡ois will represent
me in all." She is going. Hardin springs to the door: "And I shall
see you again?" His voice quivers slightly. Old days throng back
to his memory. "Is it for ever?" His iron heart softens a moment.

"I pray God, never! Philip Hardin, you are dead to me. The past is
dead. I can only think of you with your cruel grasp on my throat!"
She is gone.

As the door closes, Hardin buries his face in his hands. Thoughts
of other days are rending his heart-strings.

Before three hours, the papers are all executed. The morning stage
takes Natalie de Santos, with the priest, and guarded by Armand
Valois, away from the scene of the coming legal battle.

In the early gray of the dawn, Philip Hardin only catches a glimpse
of a muffled form in a coach. He will see the mother of his child
no more. With a wild dash, the stage sweeps away. It is all over.

His agent, in a special conveyance, is already on the road. He has
orders to telegraph the completion of the transfer. He is to verify
the departure for New York, of the ex-queen of the El Dorado.

On the day of the hearing, the court-house is crowded. PŠre Fran‡ois
and Armand Valois have not yet returned. Both sides have received,
by telegraph, the news of the completion of the work. By stipulation,
the newly-acknowledged marriage is not to be made public.

Hardin, pale and thoughtful, enters the court with his supporters.
There is but one young lady present. With her, Peyton, Judge Davis,
and Joseph Woods are seated. Raoul Dauvray seats himself quietly
between the two parties.

When the case is reached, there is the repression of a deathly
silence. Hardin, by the advice of his lawyers, will stand strictly
on the defensive. He has decided to acknowledge his entire readiness
to close his guardianship. He will leave the heirship to be finally
adjusted by the Court. The Court is under his thumb.

His senatorial duties call for this relief. It will take public
attention from the unpleasant matter. Rid of the burden of the
ranch, still the "bonanza of Lagunitas" will be his, as always.

The great lawyer he relies on states plausibly this entire
willingness to such a relief, and requests the Court to appoint a
successor to the distinguished trustee. Hardin feels that he has
now covered his past with a solid barrier. Safe at last. No living
man can roll away the huge rock from the "tomb of the dead past."
It would need a voice from the grave. He can defy the whole world.
No thought of his dead friend haunts him.

When the advocate ceases speaking, while the Judge ponders over
the disputed heirship, and the contest as to the legitimacy of
Maxime Valois' child, when clearly identified, Judge Davis rises
quietly to address the Court. Philip Hardin feels a slight chill
icing down his veins, as he notes the gravity of the Eastern
lawyer's manner. Is there a masked battery?

"Your Honor," begins Davis, "we oppose any action tending to
discharge or relieve the present guardian of Isabel Valois.

"A most important discovery of new matters in the affairs of this
estate, makes it my duty to lay some startling facts before your

There is a pause. Hardin's heart flutters madly. He sees a stony
look gather on Joe Woods' face. There is a peculiar grimness also
in the visage of the watchful Peyton. Everyone in the room is on
the alert. Crowding to the front, Hardin is elbowed by a man who
seats himself in a chair reserved by Judge Davis.

His eyes are blinded for a moment. Great Heavens! It is his old
law-clerk. The wily and once hilarious Jaggers.

He is here for some purpose. That devil Woods' work.

Hardin's hand clutches a revolver in his pocket. He glares uneasily
at Joe Woods, at Peyton, at the ex-clerk. He breathlessly waits
for the solemn voice of Davis:

"We propose, your Honor, to introduce evidence that the late Maxime
Valois left a will. We propose to prove that the estate has been
maladministered. We will prove to your Honor that a gigantic fraud
has been perpetrated during the minority of the child of Colonel
Valois. The most valuable element of the estate, the Lagunitas
mine, has been fraudulently enjoyed by the administrator."

Hardin springs to his feet. He is forced into his chair by his
counsel. There is the paleness of death on his face, but murder
lurks in his heart. Away with patience now. A hundred eyes are
gazing in his direction. The Judge is anchored, in amazement, on
the bench. Woods and Peyton are facing Hardin, with steady defiance.

As he struggles to rise, he feels his blood boiling like molten

He has been trapped by this devil, Woods. Davis resumes: "I shall
show your Honor, by the man who held Colonel Valois in his arms on
the battlefield as he lay dying, that a will was duly forwarded
to the guardian and administrator, who concealed it. I will also
prove, your Honor, that Colonel Valois repeated that will in a
document taken from his dead body, in which he acknowledged his
marriage, and the legitimacy of his true child. I will file these
papers, and prove them by testimony of the gallant officer who
buried him, and who succeeded to his regiment."

A deep growl from Hardin is heard. He knows now who Peyton is. What
avenging fiends are on his track? But the mine, the mine is safe.
Always the mine, The deeds will hold. Davis resumes, his voice
ringing cold and clear:

"I shall also prove by documents, concealed by the administrator,
that Maxime Valois never parted with the title to the Lagunitas
mine; that the millions have been stolen, which it has yielded.
I will bring in the evidence of the clerk who received these last
letters from the absent owner in the field, that they are genuine.
They state his utter inability to sell the mine, as the whole
property belonged to his wife."

There is a blood-red film before Hardin's eyes now. Prudence flies
after patience. It is his Waterloo. All is lost, even honor.

"I venture to remind your Honor, that even if the daughter, whom
I produce here, is proved illegitimate, that she takes the whole
property, including the mine, as the legal heir of her mother,
under the laws of California." A murmur is suppressed by the clerk's

There is an awful silence as Judge Davis adds: "I will further
produce before your Honor, Armand Valois, the only other heir of
the decedent, to whom the succession would fall by law. He is named
in the will I will establish, made twelve hours before the writer
was killed at the battle of Peachtree Creek.

"I am aware," Judge Davis concludes, "that some one has forged
the titles to the Lagunitas mine. I will prove the forgery to have
been executed in the interest of Philip Hardin, the administrator,
whom I now formally ask you to remove pending this trial, as a
man false to his trust. He has robbed the orphan daughter of his
friend. He deceived the man who laid his life down for the cause
of the South, while he plotted in the safe security of distant
California homes. Colonel Valois was robbed by his trusted friend."

A mighty shudder shakes the crowd. Men gaze at each other, wildly.
The blinking Judge is dazed on the bench he pollutes. Before any
one can draw a breath in relief, Hardin, bending himself below the
restraining arms, springs to his feet and levels a pistol full at
Joe Woods' breast.

"You hound!" he yells. His arm is struck up; Raoul Dauvray has
edged every moment nearer the disgraced millionaire. The explosion
of the heavy pistol deafens those near. When the smoke floats away,
a gaping wound tells where its ball crashed through Hardin's brain.
Slain by his own hand. Dead and disgraced. The senatorial laurels
never touch his brow!

In five minutes the court is cleared. An adjournment to the next
day is forced by the sudden tragedy. The wild mob are thronging
the plaza.

Silent in death lies the man who realized at last how the awful
voice of the dead Confederate called down the vengeance of God on
the despoiler of the orphan.

The telegraph, lightning-winged, bears the news far and wide. By
the evening PŠre Fran‡ois and Armand Valois return. In a few hours
Natalie de Santos turns backward. The swift wheels speeding down the
Truckee are slower than the electric spark bearing to the ex-queen
of the El Dorado, the wife of a day, the news of her legal widowhood.

Henry Peyton brings back the traveller, whose presence is now
absolutely needed.

A lonely grave on the red hillside claims the last remains of the
dark Chief of the Golden Circle. Few stand by its yawning mouth,
to see the last of the man whose name has been just hailed everywhere
with wild enthusiasm.

Unloved, unhonored, unregretted, unshriven, with all his imperfections
on his head, he waits the last trump. Alone in death, as in life.

In the brief and formal verification of all these facts, the Court
finds an opportunity to at once establish the identity of the
heiress of Lagunitas. For, there is no contest now.

In formal devotion to the profession, Hardin's lawyer represents
the estate of the dark schemer.

The legal tangles yield to final proofs.

There is a family party at Lagunitas once more. Judge Davis and Peyton
guard the interests of the girl who has only lost the millions of
Lagunitas to inherit a fortune from the father who scorned to even
gaze upon her face. Joseph Woods joyfully guides the beautiful
heiress of the domain, who kneels besides the grave of Dolores
Peralta, her unknown mother, with her lover by her side. The last
of the Valois stand there, hand in hand. She is Louise Moreau no

PŠre Fran‡ois is again in his old home by the little chapel, where
twenty years ago he raised his voice in the daily supplication for
God's sinful children.

While Raoul Dauvray and Armand ride in voyages of discovery over
the great domain, the two heiresses are happy with each other.
There is no question between them. They are innocent of each other's
sorrows. They now know much of the shadowy past with its chequered
romance. The transfer of all the mine and its profits to the young
girl, who finds the domain in the hills a fairyland, is accomplished.

Judge Davis hies himself away to the splendid excitement of his
Eastern metropolitan practise. His "honorarium" causes him to
have an added and tender feeling for the all-conquering Joe Woods.
Henry Peyton is charged with the general supervision of the Lagunitas
estate. He is aided by a mine superintendent selected by that wary
old Argonaut, Joe.

Natalie de Santos leaves the refuge of lovely Lagunitas in a few
weeks. There is a shadow resting on her heart which will never
be lifted. In vain, beside the old chapel, seated under the giant
rose-vines, PŠre Fran‡ois urges her to witness the marriage of
her daughter. Under the care of Joseph Woods, she leaves for San
Francisco. Her daughter, who is soon to take a rightful name, learns
from PŠre Fran‡ois the agreed-on reasons of her absence. Natalie
will not make a dark background to the happiness to come. Silence
and expiation await her beyond the surges of the Atlantic.

Joseph Woods and PŠre Fran‡ois have buried all awkward references
to past history. Irene Dauvray will never know the story of the
lovely "Queen of the El Dorado."

There are no joy bells at Lagunitas on the day when the old priest
unites Armand and Isabel Valois in marriage. The same solemn
consecration gives gallant Raoul Dauvray, the woman he adores. It
is a sacrament of future promise. Peyton and Joe Woods are the men
who stand in place of the fathers of these two dark-eyed brides.
It is a solemn and tender righting of the old wrongs. A funeral of
the past--a birth of a brighter day, for all.

The load of care and strife has been taken from the shoulders of
the three elders, who gravely watch the four glowing and enraptured

In a few weeks, Raoul Dauvray and his bride leave for San Francisco.
Fittingly they choose France for their home. In San Francisco,
Joseph Woods leads the young bride through the silent halls of the
old house on the hill. The Missourian gravely bids the young wife
remember that it was here her feet wandered over the now neglected

Joseph Woods convoys the departing voyagers to the border of the
State. The ample fortune secured to them, will engage his occasional
leisure in advice as to its local management.

Natalie de Santos goes forth with them. Her home in Paris awaits
her. The Golden State knows her no more. Her feet will never wander
back to the shores where her stormy youth was passed.

A lover's pilgrimage to beloved Paris and the old castle by the
blue waters of Lake Geneva claims the Lord and Lady of Lagunitas.
For, they will return to dwell in the mountains of Mariposa. Before
they cross the broad Atlantic, they have a sacred duty to perform.
It is to visit the grave of the soldier of the Lost Cause and lay
their wreaths upon the turf which covers his gallant breast.

The old padre sits on the porch of his house at Lagunitas. He
waits only for the last solemn act. Henry Peyton is to follow the
travellers East, and remove the soldier of the gray to the little
chapel grounds of Lagunitas.

When Padre Francisco has seen the master come home, and raised his
weakening voice in requiem over the friend of his youth, he will
seek once more his dear Paris, and find again his cloistered home
near Notre Dame.

He has, as a memorial of mother and daughter, a deed of the old home
of Philip Hardin. It is given to the Church for a hospital. It is
well so. None of the living ever wish to pass again its shadowed

While waiting the time for their departure, the priest and Henry
Peyton watch the splendid beauties of Lagunitas, in peaceful
brotherhood. The man of war and the servant of peace are drawn
towards each other strangely.

The Virginian often gazes on the sword of Maxime Valois, hanging now
over the hearthplace he left in his devotion to the Lost Cause. He
thanks God that the children of the old blood are in the enjoyment
of their birthright.

Padre Francisco, telling his beads, or whiling an hour away with
his breviary, begins to nod easily as the lovely summer days deepen
in splendor. He is an old man now, yet his heart is touched with
the knowledge of God's infinite mercy as he looks over the low wall
to where the roses bloom around: the grave of Dolores Valois.

He hopes to live yet to know, that gallant father and patient
mother will live over again in the happy faces of the children of
their orphaned child.

In the United States of America, at this particular juncture,
no happier man than Colonel and State Senator Joseph Woods can be
found. His mines are unfailing in their yield; his bachelor bungalow,
in its splendor, will extinguish certain ambitious rivals, and he
is freed from the nightmare of investigating the tangled web of the
mysterious struggle for the millions of Lagunitas. He is confirmed
in his resolve to remain a bachelor.

"I have two home camps now, one in Paris and one in California,
where I am a sort of a brevet father. I won't be lonely," Joe
merrily says.

Joseph's cheery path in life is illuminated by his gorgeous diamonds,
and roped in with his massive watch-chains. More precious than the
gold and gems is the rough and ready manhood of the old Argonaut.
He seriously thinks of eschewing the carrying of weapons, and
abandoning social adventures, becoming staid and serene like Father

He often consoles himself in his loneliness by the thought that
Henry Peyton is also a man without family. "I will capture Peyton
when he gets the young people in good shape, and they are tired
of Paris style," Joe muses. "He's a man and a brother, and we will
spend our old days in peace together."

One haunting, sad regret touches Colonel Joe's heart. He learns
of the intention of Natalie to spend her days in retirement and in
helping others.

Thinking of her splendid beauty, her daring struggle for her
friendless child's rights, and all that is good of the only woman
he ever could have desperately loved, he guards her secret in his
breast. He dare not confess to his own heart that if there had
been an honorable way, he would fain have laid his fortune at the
feet of the peerless "Queen of the El Dorado."

Fran‡ois Ribaut, walking the deck of the steamer, gazes on the
great white stars above him. The old man is peaceful, and calmly
thankful. The night breezes moan over the lonely Atlantic! As the
steamer bravely dashes the spray aside, his heart bounds with a
new happiness. Every hour brings the beloved France nearer to him.
Looking back at the life and land he leaves behind him, the old
priest marvels at the utter uselessness of Philip Hardin's life.
Apples of Sodom were all his treasures. His wasted gifts, his dark
schemes, his sly plans, all gone for naught. Blindly driven along
in the darkness of evil, his own hand pulled down his palace of sin
on his head. And even "French Charlie" was avenged by the murderer's
self-executed sentence. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord; I will
repay." The innocent and helpless have wandered past each dark
pitfall dug by the wily Hardin, and enjoy their own. PŠre Fran‡ois,
with his eyes cast backward on his own life path, feels that he
has not fought the good fight in vain. His gentle heart throbs in
sympathy, filled with an infinite compassion for the lonely Natalie
de Santos. Sinned against and sinning. A free lance, with only
her love for her child to hallow and redeem her. Her own plans,
founded in guile, have all miscarried. Blood stains the gold bestowed
on her by Philip Hardin's death. Her life has been a stormy sea.
Yet, to her innocent child, a name and fortune have been given by
the hand of Providence. In turning away her face from the vain and
glittering world she has adorned, the chase and plaything of men,
one pure white flower will bloom from the red ashes of her dead
life. The unshaken affection of the child for whom she struggled,
who can always, in ignorance of the dark past, lift happy eyes to
hers and call her in love, by the holy name of mother. With bowed
head and thankful heart, Padre Francisco's thoughts linger around
beautiful Lagunitas. Its groves and forest arches, its mirrored
lake, its smiling beauties and fruitful fields, return to him. The
old priest murmurs: "God made Lagunitas; but man made California
what it has been."

A land of wild adventure, of unrighted wrongs. A land of sad
histories, of many shattered hopes. Fierce waves of adventurers
swept away the simple early folk. Lawless license, flaunting vice,
and social disorganization made its early life as a State, one mad

The Indians have perished, rudely despoiled. The old Dons have
faded into the gray mists of a dead past. The early Argonauts have
lived out the fierce fever of their wild lives. To the old individual
freebooters, a new order of great corporate monopolies and gigantic
rough-hewn millionaires succeeds. There is always some hand on the
people's throat in California. Yet the star of hope glitters.

Slowly, through all the foamy restless waves of transient adventurers
the work of the homebuilders is showing the dry land decked with
the olive branches of peace.

The native sons and daughters of the Golden West, bright, strong,
self-reliant and full of promise, are the glittering-eyed young
guardians of the Golden Gate. Born of the soil, with life's battle
to fight on their native hills, may they build around the slopes
of the Pacific, a State great in its hearths and homes. The future
shines out. The gloomy past recedes. The sunlight of freedom
sparkles on the dreamy lake of Lagunitas!

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