Part 2 out of 6
"It may not be to you, but it is to me, if you don't mind," he persisted.
"I--I made sure you'd know why I didn't--send you any word or--or
anything. But if you didn't see it the right way, I've got to tell you
now. It was because--of course, it was because--I just didn't dare butt
in. I was afraid you'd feel, if I had the cheek to write a note, or follow
up and speak to you in the hotel, that I was--kind of takin' advantage of
what was an accident--my luck in gettin' a chance to do a little thing for
you. A mighty small thing; 'twouldn't have been visible except in a
high-powered microscope, and only then if you looked hard for it. So I
said to myself, 'Twas enough luck to have had that chance.' I'd be a
yellow dog to presume on it."
Instantly Angela realized that it was her vanity which had been hurt by
his seeming negligence, and that it was stroked the right way by this
embarrassed explanation. She was ashamed of herself for drawing it out,
yet she was pleased; because she had been really hurt. Now that she need
not puzzle over the man's motives, she would perhaps cease to think of
him. But she must be kind, just for a minute or two--to make up for
putting him in the confessional, and to prove the gratitude she wished to
"You must be a very modest person, if you didn't understand that I longed
to hear--_lots_ of things you wouldn't let the newspapers get hold of,"
she smiled. "Of course, it was interesting to read about that wretched
man--Dutchy, or whatever they called him. And as he seems to have stolen
from heaps of people, I suppose it's well for the world that he'll be shut
up in prison--although I can't bear the thought of prison for any one. It
stifles me. There ought to be some other kind of punishment. But I _did_
want to know what happened in your room after----"
"Nothing much happened," said Nick. "The little beast was all in. I'd kind
of got on his nerves, and he knew I'd dig a hole in the ground with him if
he so much as peeped. I just rounded him up, and then the police came and
played out the rest of the hand. As for you spoilin' my visit to New York,
why ma'am, you _made_ it. I had the time of my life."
Angela laughed, because he called her "ma'am" (which was even funnier than
"lady," from the hero who had saved her life), and because all his
expressions struck her as extremely "quaint."
"It was a very short time of your life then. I should have thought you'd
want to stay weeks in New York, as you hadn't been there for so long--and
you'd travelled so far. You see, I saw in the paper that you'd come from
California. And that interested me, because my--because dear friends of
mine have told me so much about California." She did not add that she was
on her way there, but, of course, he might suspect, meeting her in New
Orleans, if he were curious concerning her movements.
"I did mean to stay some time when I went East," he admitted, "but--well,
perhaps I was homesick. Anyhow, I felt as if I'd got a hurry call to go
"What an odd coincidence, our meeting here!" Angela spoke out her thought.
"Ye-es," assented Nick. "I reckon it does seem that way." He was
interested in the pattern of the carpet. "If you won't think it a liberty,
now I _am_ here," he began again, "I'll be mighty glad to try and find
your bag. If you'll tell me just how and where you lost it----"
Angela shook her head. "You're not to spend your time fussing with the
police, as you did in New York."
"But I'd like it better than anything," he said. "I didn't come to New
Orleans to see the sights, anyhow. I'll feel down and out if you won't let
me help. 'Twill seem as if I'd managed wrong in New York."
"Oh, if you're going to feel like _that_!" And forthwith Angela told him
the story of her loss.
"All your money and a check-book full of blank checks!" he echoed.
"Yes. I've wired already to have the checks stopped for the bank's sake.
But it's a bore. And I was fond of that bag. Besides, I had about five
hundred dollars in my purse. Now I shall have to wait here till I can get
"You wanted to go?" he asked.
"Yes--to-morrow. However, that doesn't matter."
"It does, if you wanted to. But, see here, ma'am, I've thought of
"My name is Mrs. May," said Angela, smiling.
"I know--I mean, are you willing I should call you it, just as if I was
really acquainted with you?"
"Of course. Why not?"
"Well, you see," he explained. "What I don't know about society and the
right way to act with ladies could be put in a book bigger than the Bible.
And I wouldn't offend you, for--for a good deal."
"I feel certain you'd know the 'right way to act,' by instinct," Angela
assured him. "You were splendid to me that night in New York. Very few men
would have known how to do what you did."
"Thank you a thousand times for saying that, though I don't deserve one
word," Nick burst out, flushing again, and hoping she did not see, because
he had a trying task before him. "But my idea is this. Couldn't you let me
lend the money you need, and go on when you like, instead of waiting? You
could send it back, any old way--check or anything. And I wouldn't care a
hang--I wouldn't care a red cent--when."
"Oh, I couldn't----" Angela began, but the look on his face stopped her.
It was so strong a mixture of disappointment and chagrin, as to make him
instantly pathetic in her eyes. She had just said that he was a man whose
instinct would always be right, and she had meant it sincerely. She knew,
if she knew anything about men, that here was one of Nature's gentlemen.
He had proved that already; and--it was a shame to hurt his feelings
after all he had done for her.
"I beg your pardon if I've said the wrong thing. I meant no harm," he
apologized warmly. "But I get left-handed and tongue-tied, I guess, when
it comes to being civilized--where there's a lady in the case. It must
have been I said it the wrong way, for, I _do_ know the thing itself would
be right. You want to go. You've lost your money. And I expect your bank
wouldn't send it on a telegram. They mostly won't. That means waiting
days, perhaps. So I thought----"
"It would mean waiting," she broke into his pause. "My bank is a long way
off. You're very kind, and I _will_ borrow the money, if it won't
inconvenience you, on condition that--you let me give you security."
"That would hurt my feelings badly," said he; "but I'd rather you'd do it
than not take the money, because your convenience is a heap more important
than my feelings."
"If I go I can get money in a few days, and wire it back to you here,"
Angela reflected aloud, at a loss how to treat the situation when it
became a question of hurting Mr. Hilliard's feelings.
Nick's face fell. "I--unless you give me your orders--I don't want to stay
here very long," said he. "I don't care when I get the money back."
"Why, you've only just arrived, haven't you?"
"Ye-es. But I feel my homesickness coming on again. I shouldn't wonder if
I'll always be sort of restless, now, away from the West. It's my
country--anyhow, the country of my heart."
Angela came near saying, "So it is mine." But that might have necessitated
explanations. "Well, you must take the security, I'm afraid," she said,
"or I can't take the loan. As I told you, I left most of my things in New
York, to be sent on when I settle down. Still, there's _one_ thing, which
I couldn't pawn, or leave with hotel people. But I wouldn't mind giving it
to you. It's a diamond frame for a miniature I always carry with me. I
could take the miniature out."
Nick stared hard at the carpet again. He was afraid to let her see the
look on his face. "It's her dead husband's picture," he thought. "She must
have loved him, if she always carries his portrait around." Aloud he said,
"Very well, if you won't do my way, I'll have to do yours."
"I'll give you the address of my bank; and I must have your address,"
Angela went on. "Then, if you should change your mind and stay here----"
"I'm going to stay just long enough to get your bag," he replied.
She laughed. "That may be forever."
"I reckon it will be some hours at longest."
"You must be a wonderful detective!"
"There's more of the bulldog than the detective in me. But it will go hard
if we don't find that bag."
"Thank you again. We shall see!" she said. "Anyway, as you're to be my
banker I can tell the hotel clerk I shan't need to keep people in
bathrooms, waiting for my suite, after to-night."
"Oh, was it you?" exclaimed Nick. "The fellow was telling me a lady wanted
"Then it's _you_ they've stuffed into a laundry!"
"I like it," Nick assured her. "It's a mighty clean place. I wish you
could see some of the holes I've slept in--that is, I _don't_ wish so! But
it's all right. And now, just say how much money you want. Anything up to
three thousand dollars I can give you in a minute----"
"Oh, not nearly so much. A few hundreds. But I'm going to lunch now. Would
you care to lunch at the same table, and we can arrange about the loan?
Also you can tell me more of Dutchy."
"I'd like it better than anything," said Nick. "But first I've got to fix
things about your bag with the police. I'll be back, and look you up by
the time you're halfway to dessert. I remember just what that bag was
like, because--maybe you've forgotten--I picked it up in the hotel hall
when you dropped it. I can see it as plain as if it was here. 'Twas a kind
of knitted gold, like chain armour for a doll. And there was a rim all
smothered in diamonds and blue stones."
"Sapphires," said Angela.
"That's right. Well, I'll be back in twenty minutes."
It was useless to protest against his going, for he had gone before she
could speak. And instead of beginning luncheon, Angela went upstairs to
take from its diamond frame her father's miniature. On the gold back of
this frame there was an inscription: "Angela, on her eleventh birthday,
from her father. The day before she sails." And it was because of the
inscription that she could not have offered the frame to an ordinary
person as security, no matter how desperately she had wanted a loan. But
Mr. Nickson Hilliard was not an ordinary person.
A POLICE MYSTERY
It was a blow to Nick to be told that there was little hope of finding the
lost bag. He had pledged himself to "see the thing through," but he had
reasons--immensely important reasons they seemed to him--for wishing to
leave New Orleans next day.
So far as was known, Cohensohn was an honest man. There was nothing
against him, and his shop could not be searched by the police. All they
could do was to get a description of the people who had called between the
times of Mrs. May's going out and coming in. But ten chances to one, like
most women, she had mislaid her bag somewhere else, or left it at home.
Nick did not like these insinuations against the sex to which an angel
deigned to belong; but he took them quietly, and instructed the police to
offer five-hundred dollars reward for the bag alone, or a thousand with
the contents intact. Then he went back and had lunch with Mrs. May, which
was, without exception, the most exquisite experience of his life. Yet he
did not know what he ate, or afterward, whether he had eaten anything at
all--unless it was some bread which, with bitter disgust at his bad
manners, he vaguely remembered crumbling on the table.
He was cheered, however, by a plan he had, and by the inscription on
Angela's miniature frame. He would have hated the thing if it had been her
Evening came and there was no news of the missing bag. There were not even
any satisfactory clues.
When Nick heard this he thought very hard for a few minutes, and then
inquired at what time the shops closed. He was told; and consulting his
watch, realized that they would shut in less than an hour.
"What's the name of the best jewellery store in this town?" he wanted to
There were several which ranked about the same, and scribbling three or
four names on his shirt-cuff, he rushed off to find the first.
"Got any gold handbags?" he asked in a low voice, as if he had something
to conceal. "Kind made of chain, with diamonds and sapphires along the
He was shown the stock; saw nothing apparently which struck his fancy, and
was off like a shot in search of the next name on his list.
At this place lived a bag which, so far as he could remember, seemed the
duplicate of Mrs. May's except that the stones alternating with the
diamonds were emeralds instead of sapphires.
"Just keep that thing for twenty minutes," said he. "I'll come back to
tell you whether I'll take it or not, and what I want done to it, if I
"Another gentleman was in to-day looking at that bag," said the attendant.
"If he comes before you, I must let him have it."
"What price did you make for him?" asked Nick.
"Seven hundred and seventy-five dollars," was the reply.
"Well, will you do a little gamble? Keep it till I come in, and if I take
it I'll pay eight hundred. If I don't, you can have twenty-five dollars
interest on your time."
The attendant laughed. "We don't do business that way. But I guess I can
promise to keep the bag till you come back, if you hurry."
Nick did hurry, and visited three other shops within ten minutes, though
they were at some distance from each other. He found nothing to suit him.
"I'll take that bag, if you can change the stones and put in sapphires
instead of emeralds," he announced, somewhat breathlessly, wiping his
forehead. "I know it will come dearer. But I'm willing to pay."
"When would you want it?" asked the shopman.
"To-morrow morning by ten o'clock at latest."
"I don't know much about that word," said Nick. "We've cut it out of the
dictionary up my way. Offer your men what they want to do night work, and
I guess they'll name a price."
After all, even in a smart jewellery shop they do not sell a gold bag
every day; and a point was stretched to gratify the purchaser, who had a
way which made people glad to please him.
He went back to his hotel, feeling guilty but happy. "She's going to have
a gold bag, anyhow," he thought. "I don't believe she'll ever know the
difference." And Nick began to rejoice that the old bag would never be
found. It would be splendid to know that she was using a thing _he_ had
given her. If the other bag did turn up, the police would let him know.
That was arranged; and he would manage somehow.
"Only to think," he said to himself, "a year ago I might have been as wild
to do this deal as I am now, but I couldn't have run to it. This is the
first real fun I've got out of my money. Mighty good thing money
is--though I used not to know it mattered. Dollars, even if I'd a million,
could never put me in the same class with an angel. But they give me a
chance to travel with her, and that'll be something to remember."
For Nick had found the angel of his dreams, and had recognized her at
first glance that day in the hall of the Valmont. He would have known the
angel by her eyes and hair, if nothing else had answered the description;
but all the rest belonged to the same picture--the picture of his ideal,
the girl he had never expected to see in real life. And it was all the
more wonderful that her name should be Angel, or something near it. He
might not have learned that exquisite detail if she had not given him the
diamond frame to hold as security. And to be sure of his security he was
keeping it in a pocket over his heart. He knew that this was sentimental,
but he did not care a red cent! Indeed, he gloried in it. Soon all would
be over, for she was of a world different from his, and presently she
would vanish back to her own high place, wherever that might be. He could
not have defined the difference between their worlds, if he had been
called upon to do so, but he felt it intensely. Still, he meant to make
the most of every minute, and he intended to have as many minutes as he
could get. Each could be separately treasured as if it were a pearl. He
would make a jewel-case of his memory, he told himself, for he was very
sure that never would so good a thing come to him again.
When he reached the hotel it was dinner-time, and hoping that Mrs. May
might invite him to her table, as she had before, he dressed carefully,
despite his inconvenient quarters. When he was ready, however, his heart
failed him. It seemed too good to be true that his luck should hold. She
would probably be dining in her own sitting-room, or else she would have
had enough of his company earlier in the day. But no, there she was in the
restaurant, at the same table where they had lunched together; and after
all everything arranged itself very simply. He had to tell her the news of
the gold bag--his version of it; and hearing that it might be restored,
she exclaimed, "You're wonderful! I'm sure it's all through you. It will
be nice to have my dear bag again, when I go aboard the train."
It was a pleasant dinner for both, and each seemed to find out a good deal
about the other's likings and dislikings, though--perhaps purposely,
perhaps by accident--they said singularly little about their own affairs,
their past lives, or future intentions. Afterward, in her own room, Angela
laughed as she thought over the day and the queer things she had somehow
been led into doing.
"It's too quaint that I should have borrowed money of him!" she said to
herself, giggling under her breath like a schoolgirl. "Of course, on top
of that, it's nothing at all that I should invite him to lunch and dine.
And the funniest part is, it never once seemed queer at the time, or as if
I could do anything else."
At all events she had no regrets. The coincidence of Mr. Nickson
Hilliard's appearance in New Orleans, just as her hour of need was
striking, had given a bright side to what would otherwise have been a
disagreeable and sordid adventure. Certainly there was something about him
that inspired confidence. She felt that through him she might retrieve her
bag; and, if, by chance, the money were intact she could pay him what she
owed. He would then return the miniature frame, and it would not be
necessary to give her address or say where she was going! Not that he
would misuse such information. She was sure of this now, and she could not
help being pleased that he had come back into her life just for one
day--long enough to explain himself.
Next morning, at a quarter-past ten precisely, a note was brought to her
room. It began:
"Dear Madam" (Nick had not dared venture upon "Dear Mrs. May"; it had not
even occurred to him that he might), and informed her primly that the bag
had arrived. Also it inquired in stiff language whether the writer might
be permitted to place it in her hands.
Angela laughed as she read, partly with pleasure because her bag was
found, partly because the poor young man's stiffness amused her. She knew
enough about him now to understand that it was shyness and ignorance of
social customs; but earlier she might have thought she had offended him.
"Anyway, he writes a good hand," she thought. "Full of character and
strength and not a bit uneducated."
"Ask Mr. Hilliard to come to my sitting-room," she said to the bellboy.
A few minutes later Nick appeared, his manner strained in a painful
endeavour to hide anxiety.
"So you've got my bag. How splendid!" Angela exclaimed, as they shook
hands. "I'm sure I have your efforts to thank more than those of the
"No, indeed," said Nick valiantly. "The police of this town are a fine set
"How did they find it?" she asked eagerly.
Nick looked grave.
"Well, it seems there's--er--a kind of secret concerned," he explained.
"The thing required is that we don't ask questions. And perhaps you'll
agree, for what you want is the bag."
Desperately obliterating all expression from his face, and hoping that his
eyes were not anxious, Nick took from his pocket a gold bag whose
diamonds, alternating with sapphires, sparkled as the sunshine struck
Angela accepted it delightedly, with but a superficial glance at the bag
itself. "Why, there's something inside!" she exclaimed.
"Only money," he hurried to break the news. "Not the purse, nor the
check-book. I'm mighty sorry, but they're both gone. The police did their
best. May get them later."
Angela opened the bag. "Five hundred dollars," she said counting rapidly.
"Now, isn't that odd? I didn't think I had quite so much! How queer the
_money_ should have come back without the purse it was in, and especially
the check-book. One would think that would be of little value to a thief."
"There's no accounting for a thief's ways," said Nick solemnly. "And I
guess a lady can't always remember to a dollar or two what money she had."
"No-o," Angela admitted. "But--it looks different, somehow." She glanced
again at the outside of the bag, and Nick's heart jumped. "The _bag_ looks
different, too," she said. "Newer, and----"
"As a matter of fact I took the liberty of having it cleaned up before it
came back to your hands."
"But the stones----"
"The worst of it is they had to be put back in again," said Nick. "That
gives a different look."
"The thief had taken out the stones?"
"Somebody had, anyhow--some of them."
"And I'm not to ask questions! It's the most mysterious thing I ever
"I expect it's one of those cases where 'the least said soonest mended,'"
"But do _you_ know who took the bag, and what happened?"
"No more than you do. I--just had to make the best of a bad business. I
hope you don't think I did wrong?"
"No, indeed. That would be ungrateful. Only--it's very strange. I suppose
this _must_ be my bag, but----"
"You can take your oath of that, anyhow. And it's your money."
"More than I thought I had. And the bag looks prettier. It's as if I'd
cast my bread on the waters and it had returned--buttered. One good thing
is, I can pay you. Four hundred dollars I borrowed. Here it is."
Nick had not bargained for this transaction, and it was the last thing he
"But--but--you're not leaving yourself enough," he objected.
"Oh, yes. I can pay for my ticket as far as my first stopping-place.
Already I've written the bank to have money to meet me there, and it will
be in time, for I shall stay in that town several days. You must take
He could not refuse, although it meant that he would not have her address,
or an excuse for giving his. Slowly he drew the miniature frame out from
an inside pocket of his coat. "I kept it there so as to be sure it was
safe," he explained, lest the lady should think he had taken a liberty in
wearing her property close to his heart.
Then, with many more thanks from Angela, and protestations on his part,
they said good-bye. Although the newspapers had told her that Mr. Hilliard
lived near Bakersfield, California, she had no association with that part
of the State, and it seemed improbable to Angela that she should ever meet
the handsome forest creature again. As she had no home she could not, even
if it seemed best, invite him to call upon her at some future time; but
she felt a stirring of regret that her travelling adventure was
After that she had not much time to think, because there were things to do
before she took the train. And then she was in the express, getting
settled in a stateroom, which would be hers all the way to Los Angeles.
Kate, who was to have a berth in the same car, arranged her mistress's
things, and beamed with excitement and joy. They were really going West
now--she and Timmy the cat: and going West meant getting nearer and nearer
to Oregon. Meanwhile the girl was happy, for she adored Angela.
When Kate had finished her work everything was delightfully compact in the
pretty green room, which was almost as big as Mrs. May's cabin on the
ship. A white silk dressing-gown hung from a hook. The gold-backed brushes
and crystal bottles from her fitted bag were arranged conveniently. There
were lilies of the valley in a vase.
"Where did those flowers come from?" Angela asked.
"I don't know ma'am. I found them here," said Kate. "Perhaps the railway
people supply them to the state-rooms."
Perhaps they did. But Angela suspected something different. She was
touched and pleased. _He_ must have taken some trouble in getting the
lilies placed in the right room. And it was like him not to have come
forward himself to bid her good-bye. But--suddenly the question sprang
into her head--how had he found out that she was travelling in this train?
All the afternoon she watched the Louisiana plantations, lakes, and bayous
fly by in sunshine and shadow; or she read a novel of the South as it had
been in old days. It was an interesting story and held her attention so
closely that she was late in going to dinner. When at last she went there
was only one chair left, at a table for two. Mr. Nickson Hilliard sat in
THE GOLD BAG COMEDY
If ever there was a blush of guilt, it was Nick's.
Angela lifted her eyebrows, though she smiled. It would have been
ungracious not to smile, and Angela hated to be ungracious. All the youth
in her was glad to see him again; but all that was conventional, all that
responded to her early training, disapproved of his presence.
"This is very unexpected!" she exclaimed, wondering if he would say it was
a surprise to him, almost hoping that he might say so, because she could
then seem to accept his word; which would save bother.
Nick hung his head. He jumped up when Mrs. May was shown to the table, and
did not sit down again until she was seated. Now he disappointed Angela by
making no attempt to defend himself. "Will you please forgive me?" he
This forced Angela to be stern, and she decided to spare him no pang.
"Forgive you for what?" she asked.
"For coming," he answered to the first turn of the rack.
She was coldly puzzled. "But--do you mean your being in this train? Surely
that can have nothing to do with me."
Nick was silent for a moment. The dining-car was full, and the waiters
all busy. No one had come to take Mrs. May's order. Gathering his mental
forces he resolved upon honesty as the best and only policy. "'Twould be
easy enough to say it had nothing to do with you; that I'd have been
travelling by this train to-day, anyhow," he began bravely. "The fact is,
I came on board meanin' to try and make you think so, without exactly
tellin' lies. But you've asked me a straight question, and I've just got
to answer it straight, even if you refuse to speak to me ever again. I'm
here because you're here, Mrs. May. But I promise I won't trouble you. And
maybe you won't believe me, after my tellin' you this, but it's true; I
didn't intend ever to let you see me to-night, and maybe not the whole
journey. I only wanted to be on the same train and then, supposin' you
should happen to need help any way, I'd be ready."
"But--that's rather too much self-sacrifice," said Angela, looking him
full in the face with her dark-lashed, slate-gray eyes. "I'm not alone. I
have my maid. I shan't need help."
"I guess you know I'm not making a self-sacrifice," Nick said honestly.
"I'd be gladder than glad to do anything for the first angel I ever met on
earth. But please don't be worrying, Mrs. May. This ain't any hold-up. I
won't come near you, unless you happen to need a man to look after you.
I'll fade away this minute, if----"
"Certainly not!" cried Angela. "It was your table before it was mine.
But--I don't understand yet. I think it would have been better if you'd
finished your visit to New Orleans."
"I was sure there for the same reason I'm here," Nick blurted out. "I
guess I have to tell you the whole thing now."
"You mean--you came to New Orleans because I----"
"Yes, that's right," he finished for her, when she paused, at a loss for
words. "Something made me do it. Something stronger than I am. You were a
kind of dissolving view, and I couldn't let it get out of my sight for
good. When I heard you'd gone to New Orleans by boat----"
"How did you find out?" Angela's sweet voice had a sharp edge.
"In the travel bureau of the Valmont Hotel."
"Ah! Was that quite--considerate?"
"I know how it sounds to you. But it wasn't so bad as you think. I
inquired as if from a friend of yours, a man I know out home----"
"How--how _horrid_ of you! I'd rather you didn't explain any more."
Angela's cheeks were bright pink, and she was more beautiful than Nick had
ever seen her before, except the night of the burglar, when she had been
drowned in the gold waves of her hair, the angel of his dreams. "But you
may go on about the rest," she added hastily, when he was struck into
silence, without being able to bring in the name of his one excuse, Mr.
Henry Morehouse. "I'd better know the _worst_. When you heard where I'd
"Well, I was too late for your ship, because I had to hang on and see
Dutchy's case through, so I took the first train I could get when that
business was wound up. And in New Orleans I found you. I didn't know for
certain where you were going next, but----"
"I was pretty sure you were bound for California. And anyhow, wherever it
was, I made up my mind to go. Not to bother you--no more than if I was
your hired man. Just to see you through, from a distance, to know you were
all right, and--and not to lose sight of you. I--of course you can't
understand. I reckon no woman could. I don't wonder you're mad. I was dead
sure you would be. Yet I had to stand for it."
"It's the most extraordinary thing I ever heard," said Angela, working
herself up to be as angry as she ought to be. "That you should have left
New York, after being there only a few days, and--oh, it doesn't bear
thinking of! And I'd rather not believe it."
Again Nick wished to wave the name of Morehouse like a white flag of
truce, but the San Franciscan lawyer, lying far away in a New York
hospital, seemed too weak to flutter in the breeze of Mrs. May's
"I'd rather have jogged along without tellin' you this," he said. "But as
things worked out, it seemed as if I had to speak."
Angela was silent, busily thinking for a moment.
"Would you leave the train at the next stop, if I asked you?" she
"No. I'd be real sorry, but I wouldn't do that, even if you asked." And
here was his chance to use Mr. Morehouse--a chance which might never come
again. "I was going to tell you, I _do_ know a man who's acquainted with
you, Mrs. May. We came East together. His name's Morehouse, and when he
was taken sick, I went to see him, and--and had a little talk--all the
nurses would let me have. I wanted him to write a note I could give you
in New Orleans, but he wasn't strong enough. He did say I could mention
his name when I told him I meant to go back West and look after you; but
somehow it never seemed the right time in New Orleans. And now, when I
began to explain how I inquired about you at the Valmont, as if it was
from Morehouse, you didn't----"
"I felt there could be no explanation I'd care to hear," Angela finished
for him. "I beg your pardon! Still I don't see why you should take Mr.
Morehouse's responsibilities on your shoulders--for my sake."
"No, you'll never see that," Nick sighed. "Only, if you could just see
your way to forgiving me, I should be mighty thankful. I promise to switch
off till you send for me. I'm in the next car to yours, if you should need
to--if there's anything I could do, between here and Los Angeles----"
"How do you know my journey ends there? Did Mr. Morehouse tell you that,
"When he and I were travelling East, he said Mrs. May had the notion to
see California; and I thought you'd be sure to begin with Los Angeles."
"You, no doubt, will go on to Bakersfield," remarked Angela coldly, making
a statement rather than putting a question.
"I suppose so, pretty soon," Nick assented, too crushed by the angel's
displeasure to be flattered because she remembered where he lived.
"Of course you will, at once," she announced relentlessly. "Meanwhile, I
hold you to your word, Mr. Hilliard. It was--wrong of you to come, and
knowing Mr. Henry Morehouse--of whom I never heard till after I
landed--doesn't make it much more--sensible. I'm sure your motives
were--most kind. But--you've made a mistake, as you must realize now, and
the only way to atone is to--to----"
"I know. Keep out of your way. And I've promised. But I _don't_ realize
that I've made a mistake, Mrs. May. There's no use sayin' I do; for, in
spite of all, if 'twas to do over again, I would. I wouldn't change
"Then you shouldn't boast of it!" exclaimed Angela. "Confession may be
good for the soul of the confessor, but it can be embarrassing for the one
confessed to. You oughtn't to have told me why you came. The only thing to
save the situation would have been to let me think it was an accident."
"You wouldn't have thought so long--unless I lied. Ought I to have lied?"
She was rather thankful that the waiter came just then with the menu, and
saved her from answering. She ordered her dinner, and the smiling negro
turned to Nick.
"I don't think I want----" he began. But Angela sternly caught his eye,
mutely commanding him to eat. When he had chosen several dishes at random,
and the waiter had gone, she reproached him again. "What would people
think if you went away in the midst of dinner? There's a man opposite
staring at us now! You're not as tactful as you were the night of the
burglar. Then, you did just the right thing, cleverly and bravely. For
that I can forgive you a good deal--but not everything. Now you make one
blunder after another."
"That night in New York you wanted me. This time you don't. I guess that's
what makes the difference in the quality of my gray matter," said Nick.
"I feel riddled with bullets, and they've hit me right where I live. I--I
suppose you'll never forgive me, will you? If you only half guessed how
little I meant to butt in, or be rude, or annoy you, maybe you could,
"Maybe I can--by and by; for the sake of your kindness in the past."
Angela relented. "But not even for that quite yet. And not _ever_, if you
look so stricken that you make people stare."
"I _am_ stricken," Nick confessed.
"You deserve to be." She crushed him deeper into the mire. Whereupon the
soup arrived, and they began to eat, and talk politely. Nick had never
known before that a man could be wildly happy and desperately miserable at
the same time, but now he knew. And he would not have changed places with
any other man in the world. "I'm under a spell," he said to himself, "and
I wouldn't get out of it if I could."
At the same moment Angela conjectured that there must be something strange
about the air she was breathing in this New World. "It makes one want to
act queerly," she thought. "I'm sure I should have acted quite differently
about this whole affair in Europe. It's so easy to feel conventional in
places where you've always lived, and where you know everybody. Or is it
only because this man's so different from any one else? I thought I was
beginning to understand his nature, but now I see I don't. The thing is, I
was _too_ nice to him. I oughtn't to have asked him to lunch and dine in
New Orleans. That began the mischief. And it was my fault more than his."
But then, according to the man's own confession, the mischief had begun
in New York. "I wish I could make myself enjoy snubbing the extraordinary
creature," she went on, as she ate her dinner, throwing an occasional
sentence concerning the scenery, or, as a last resort, the weather, to her
chastened companion. "But it's difficult to snub a person who's saved your
life and lent you money and found your gold bag. That's why he oughtn't to
have put me in this position--because I owe him gratitude. It's really
horrid." And she began to feel sincerely that the New Type had conducted
She gave Nick a cool bow when she was ready to go, and left him plunged in
gloom, but stubbornly unrepentant. "It's a tough proposition I'm up
against," he thought, "but a man's as good as his nerve. And I'll fight
till the next spring rains sooner than let her slip away out of my life."
It was deep blue dusk when Angela went back to her stateroom, too dark to
look out of the window; yet she had lost interest in the book which she
had found absorbing earlier in the day. It seemed irrelevant somehow; and
though there was no reason why they should do so, her own affairs appeared
more insistently exciting than before. "It's the call of the West
already," she answered her own question. "I hear the voice of my father's
And then her thoughts returned to Nick.
"I wonder what _he_ is doing now--whether I made him see the error of his
ways?" she asked herself, stroking Timmy, lent by Kate. And she was not
sorry for the forest creature: not sorry at all. It was stupid even to
think of him. But in her lap, a splendid plaything for the black cat, was
the gold bag. It seemed associated with Mr. Hilliard now. Odd, how
different it looked since she had got it back! Bigger, somehow, though, of
course, it was the same. There couldn't have been a mistake. Almost
mechanically she began to count the jewels set along the mouth of the bag.
Fifteen sapphires--fifteen diamonds. Why, there had been only twenty-eight
altogether! She was sure of that. She had counted them before, in
absent-minded moments. What could this mean? Suddenly an explanation of
what it might mean flashed into her head. The theory seemed too
elaborate--yet it would account for the mystery Hilliard had made of the
whole matter, and his anxiety that she should not interview the police, or
come into contact with them. And the five hundred dollars--more money than
ought to have been in the bag. She recalled now having mentioned that sum
in telling of her loss. And the forest creature had said that he "knew
exactly what her bag was like." If he had found a duplicate, and palmed it
off upon her, the absence of the check-book and the presence of the money
without the purse would be explained. But could he have found a bag,
ready-made, so like the lost one as to deceive her until now? She must
question him at once. Yet, with her finger on the bell, ready to summon
the porter, she paused. Only half an hour ago she had forbidden Mr.
Hilliard to come near her. Now she was about to send for him. This would
appear to be a triumph for the enemy. "But I'll soon show him it _isn't_ a
triumph," she thought, and pushed the electric button.
"In the car between this and the dining-car, there's a Mr. Hilliard," she
announced when the porter arrived. "Please ask him to come and speak to
"Yes, miss, I'll tell the gen'leman with pleasure," replied the elderly
negro, trotting off to cry aloud a name more or less resembling Hilliard.
Nick, not daring to hope that luck might change so soon, had drifted into
the observation car; but a man answered to the call, beckoning the porter.
"Sure you understood the name right, George?" he inquired. "My name's
Millard. What kind of a looking lady is this Mrs. May?"
The black porter, who was not George, but who had answered to the name a
thousand times, smiled a smile like a diamond tiara. "She sure is the
prettiest young lady I evah see, sah," said he. "Most ob dese wite ladies
look jest alike to me. I cyant tell one ob dere faces from de odders. But
dis one--my! I won't forget her in a month o' Sundays."
"I know who you mean now, and I guess it's Millard she inquired for," said
the gentleman of that name. "You got it a little mixed."
So a minute or two later Angela had her second surprise of the evening.
Expecting Nick, and with her first shot prepared, she saw at her stateroom
door a man as different as night from day--the man who had stared in the
dining-car. He had a dyed black moustache, like the brand of Cain, and an
air of thinking that women and other animals of the chase were made for
him to hunt.
"Mrs. May, I believe?" he began politely. "I'm Mr. Millard. I think you
sent for me. We've met somewhere before, and----"
Angela explained matters coldly, in three words; though she fancied that
no explanation was needed. Mr. Millard showed signs of seeking an excuse
to linger, but none was granted. Even Timmy was in a dangerous mood, and,
as Kate appeared, on her way back from dinner, the gentleman from the next
car retired in good order.
"You saw Mr. Hilliard, who brought my--a gold bag to the sitting-room in
New Orleans?" Angela said to Kate. "He's in the car between this and the
dining-car. Please find him, and let him know that I should like to see
Kate's quest produced Nick; and Mrs. May did not mention Mr. Millard. She
fired her shot without warning.
"This is not my gold bag."
Nick's jaw squared itself. "It is your bag," he insisted.
"Mine had twenty-eight stones. This has thirty. How is that to be
"How should I tell?" he echoed, bold as brass. "It's a question for the
police." She had scolded him for confessing. He would not court the lash
"I wonder if you _couldn't_ tell--if you would? I insist, Mr. Hilliard,
that you give me the whole truth, if you know it. And I think you must
"I warned you there was a mystery," he mumbled.
"You gave me the impression that it was a police mystery. Now I believe it
was of your making. A little while ago you asked me to forgive you. Don't
you see I _never_ can, unless you tell the truth about this wretched bag?"
"A little while ago you wouldn't forgive me because I did tell the truth."
She answered like a woman. "That's _entirely_ different." And dimly Nick
realized that it would be worse than useless to ask why. Queer how a
woman seemed to want only the things you were just out of!
"You--_bought_ this bag," she stated.
"Oh, well, it's no use!" groaned Nick. "Once I thought 'twas a fake about
little George Washington; but I see now it can be harder to tell lies than
truth to some people. I can't tell one to you," the prisoner in the dock
confessed. "I did buy the bag, but when yours is found, they'll send it on
to me. Then we can change."
"It will never be found. Oh, how _could_ you?--and the five hundred
dollars!--your money. How idiotic of me--and how you must have laughed
when I paid you back the four hundred I owed--out of your own pocket."
"I never felt less like laughing in my life than I did then. Unless it's
"You can't feel as distressed as you've made me feel. I still owe you the
four hundred; and another hundred besides. That makes up the five. And the
worst of all is, I can't pay you till Los Angeles. But here is the bag."
"Do you hate me so much you've got to give it back?" Nick's eyes implored
mercy from the court.
"I'm more vexed than I can tell. This is beyond everything! Please take
your bag at once."
"I swore just now it was your bag. And it is."
"Surely, it's hardly necessary for me to tell you I can't keep it?"
She held the bag out to him, and when he would have none of it, forced the
soft gold mesh into his hand. He let the thing drop, and at the instant of
its fall Kate returned, hovering uncertainly. She supposed that Mrs.
May's visitor had gone by this time, and had come to ask for a promised
"Kate, there's been a mistake." Angela said. "This gold bag isn't mine
after all, though they look so much alike. Please pick it up from the
floor and give it to Mr. Hilliard."
These tactics overmastered Nick. He could not let a woman, be she maid or
mistress, grovel on the carpet in his presence. He dived for the bag, and,
pale and troubled, handed it to Kate. "It seems this has got to be mine,"
he stammered. "But I don't want it. Will you take the thing? If you won't,
it goes out of the window, sure as fate."
"Oh, ma'am, what will I do?" cried Kate. "Why, it's a rale fortune!
I--_must_ I let him throw it out the window? What all them jewels and gold
would mean to me and Tim--the difference in our lives! If I won't have the
bag some wicked tramp may find and sell it for drink."
"Do as you choose. It has ceased to be my affair," said Angela.
"Are you _sure_ you'd fling the bag away, sir, if I say no to it?" the
Irish girl implored.
"Then--oh, I _must_ take it! I can't give it up to a tramp, when 'twould
buy Tim and me a home. You must be a millionaire, sir, throwing away good
money like that."
"I've got more than I know what to do with, good or bad," said Nick,
drowned in gloom. "Thank you very much for taking it. It's real kind of
you. And it's a comfort to me the thing'll be of use to some one."
He looked at Angela, but she would not see him. And without another word
he effaced himself.
"I suppose that snuffs me out," he muttered, dolefully, returning to his
own car. Almost, he was minded to leave the train in Texas--to go on by
another; or to return to New York and do what he could to forget the
hard-hearted angel. But he did not leave the train. He went on doggedly.
"I'm hanged if I give up," was his last thought. "It's no soft snap, but
I'll make her forgive me before we're through."
"You'll not be cross with me, ma'am because I couldn't be lettin' him
throw away the beautiful bag?" Kate coaxed her mistress. "I seen he
_would_ ha' done it. There was fire in his eyes."
"Yes, he would have done it," Angela echoed. "I'm not cross with you,
though I hoped you would refuse. I'd no right to dictate when it meant
your sacrificing a lot of money--a hundred pounds at least, which would go
begging unless you accepted."
"A hundred pounds!" the girl stammered. "Oh, I didn't know the bag was
worth the half of that! Will I give it back to the gentleman?"
"It's too late. There would only be a scene. He'd refuse to take the
Kate looked relieved. "Then I'll just try and sell it in the first big
city where we're stopping ma'am," she said, with a happy sigh. "You
_tould_ me a black cat brought luck!"
Angela neither slept well nor lay awake well that night. Whenever she
closed her eyes she seemed to meet Nick Hilliard's beseeching look; and
next day, angrily pushing him and his problems out of her mind, she
devoted herself passionately to scenery. He must have taken his meals very
early or very late, or else had none at all, for not once did she see him
in the dining-car. The following day at luncheon, however, he was going
out as she came in. She bowed to him coldly, but her heart beat as if
something exciting had happened. That night she forgot to set back her
watch, and so went to dinner earlier than usual. Not far ahead, also bound
for the dining-car, was Mr. Hilliard. She disliked the large tables laid
for four; and when he could, her favourite waiter kept a place for Mrs.
May at a small table for two persons. Often she got one to herself, but
this evening, as she sat down, Mr. Millard appropriated the other chair.
Had he not been rather stout, he would have squeezed himself into place
before she could protest; but being a tight fit, inadvertently he gave her
time to think.
"This seat is engaged," she said, raising her voice to reach the ears of
Mr. Nickson Hilliard. He turned and saw invitation in her eyes. "I'm
keeping your chair," she calmly informed him--since between two evils it
is wise to choose the less.
"Thank you," said Nick, as quietly as if it had been a long engagement.
"Did that galoot annoy you?" he asked, dropping into the seat.
"No," said Angela. "But I preferred you for a neighbour."
Having explained her motives, she made it clear that conversation was not
included, and Nick, knowing that a man in disgrace should be seen and not
heard, was silent. When Mrs. May had finished a light meal, she unbent
far enough to say: "It was clever--and kind of you to understand. One
thing more! I must have your address at Bakersfield, to send the money."
Then Nick told her that he lived on a ranch a good many miles from
Bakersfield. "I call it the 'Lucky Star Ranch,'" he added.
"I'll write you from Los Angeles," said she, and became conscious that her
last words had been overheard by Mr. Millard. He had seated himself at a
table close by, and now glanced up with such an intelligent look that she
was sure he had taken in something of the situation.
When the journey through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona was over, and the
train slowed into the station at Los Angeles, she had cause to remember
this incident, for Millard was on the car steps, just in front of her. He
caught up the large dressing-bag which the porter had carried out of her
stateroom, and, looking back, said:
"It's my turn to help you a little now, Mrs. May, since your friend's
going on farther. You're English, I guess; and if you haven't got anybody
to show you around here, you must let me make myself useful."
"I would rather the porter took all my luggage, please," replied Angela,
glancing about for her black friend. But doubtless Mr. Millard had claimed
authority, and "George" was giving his services to some one else.
"Porter isn't here. You'd better let me look after you, and get a
carriage," said Millard, whose legitimate business it was to travel for a
The train stopped, and he jumped off with Angela's dressing-bag, but only
in time to have it taken in a business-like manner by Nick, who had swung
down from his own car while the train was still in motion.
"It just occurred to me you might be giving yourself a little unnecessary
trouble," said he. "I'll see to this lady."
"I thought you were going on," stammered the commercial traveller.
"Not just yet," Nick spoke mildly, but his eyes looked dangerous, and Mr.
Millard thought best to give up the point without further argument.
"I always have to thank you for something! It's too bad!" laughed Angela,
as Nick put her and Kate into a carriage which he had secured. "Good-bye;
I suppose it's fated that I must forgive you, as we shan't see each other
With this she put out her hand, half friendly, half reluctant, and as Nick
shook it eagerly, the train moved away.
Angela gave a little cry. "Now I've made you miss your train! And your
"I won't howl about that," said he. "I'll wire. And I can get another
train by and by--when I want it," he added under his breath. Then he let
the carriage drive away.
THE LAST ACT OF THE GOLD BAG COMEDY
"May I go out, ma'am, and see what they'll be givin' me for the gold bag?"
Kate asked, when the unpacking--for a few days--was done at a Los Angeles
This was a sore subject with Angela. She believed that she disliked the
bag; but also she disliked having it go out of her life beyond recall.
"Think of the money he spent, and the trouble he took!" something seemed
to moan in her mind. But with an impersonal air she gave Kate permission,
dismissing the past as represented by the Hilliard incident, and plunging
into the joy of arranging future motor-cars and trains--a future which was
to concern her, and Kate, and Kate's cat alone, not Mr. Hilliard.
A singularly sympathetic and apparently intelligent hotel clerk not only
advised a motor for sightseeing in the neighbourhood, but recommended one
owned and invented by a friend. It was a "clipper," he said; could do
anything but climb trees or jump brooks, and might be hired by Mrs. May,
at a reasonable price, for a day, a week, a month, a year. Angela felt
bound to say that she should like to see it; and--almost before the last
word was out of her mouth--the garage was rung up by telephone.
The car arrived with startling promptness, and if Angela had been given
time to think it might have occurred to her that there was not, perhaps,
as much competition for this new invention as the hotel clerk had implied.
The inventor, who was driver and chauffeur as well, bore a striking
resemblance to a sulky codfish, but his half-boiled eyes lighted up and
glittered (even as his car glittered with blue paint), at the prospect of
business. Other vehicles were now being produced by a firm who had bought
his patent, said he, but at present his own; appropriately named the
"Model," was the "only one running." He lifted the brilliant bonnet, and
revealed intricate things, all new and silvery and glistening like
crystallized sugar. Angela fell an easy victim. She knew nothing about the
mechanical virtues and vices of cars, though she had two at home for her
own use, and the Prince a dozen, valued only less than his aeroplanes.
Hers had been gray and dark green. She had always wanted a blue car, and
this was a lovely colour. Though she was no more vain than a pretty young
woman ought to be, she consented to an experimental run, with an undertone
of conviction that the car would become her as a background.
As she made her decision, Kate arrived, breathless with the excitement of
bargaining, to find her mistress on the curbstone.
"Oh, ma'am!" she panted. "I've _done_ it! I've got five hundred dollars in
"And they've got the bag," Angela regretfully murmured.
"Yes, ma'am, they have. Unless they've sold it since. Such a fine
jewellery shop. The name an Oirish one, and I went there first, for luck.
Then I tried another place, but they offered less, and I ran back to
Barrymore's. They said 'twas a splendid bag, and they'd 'a give more, but
they haven't the same call for the article as if 'twas Paris or New York;
and they must make their profit."
"No doubt they will make it," Angela almost snapped. She felt as a certain
type of woman feels on hearing that the first man who ever proposed to her
has married some one else. And when the codfish, whose name was Sealman,
asked her where she would go for a trial spin, she said that he might take
her to the shop of Barrymore the jeweller. But that was when Kate had
disappeared into the hotel.
The automobile ran quietly, and the springs, as the codfish said, were
"grasshoppers." The motor made a pleasant purring, not much louder than
Timmy's when you scratched his head through the open roof of his basket.
It was a small car, but as Angela wanted it only to run about the
neighbouring country, keeping Los Angeles as a centre, she began to think
that she might as well engage it. After the poor codfish had given her
this run for nothing, how could she disappoint him?
Exactly what she meant to do when she stopped before the shop of Thomas
Barrymore & Company she could not have explained, even to herself. Perhaps
she had the curiosity to see how the bag would look in the window, in case
the jeweller had placed it there; and sure enough, he had displayed it,
anxious not to miss a sale. There were other gold bags, but this one--of
many adventures--was by far the most beautiful; and suddenly she knew why
she had come. She was going to buy the thing for herself. She could not
bear to let any one else own that bag.
Of course, if she had been sensible and business-like, she might have told
Kate before selling to inquire at some shop what would be a fair price;
and then she might have offered the girl that amount. Now she must pay for
her pride; and having less than half the income of the Princess di Sereno,
Mrs. May ought to have been thinking about the California land she wished
to purchase before committing useless extravagances which she could no
longer afford. Besides, if she bought back the bag, she would always be
ashamed to use it under the eyes of Kate.
She pointed it out to one of the Barrymore assistants, who said it had
just arrived from Paris, and the price was seven hundred and fifty
dollars. For her life, Angela could not have contradicted him or haggled.
Luckily, or unluckily, her money had come from San Francisco. It served
her right, she thought, to pay two hundred and fifty dollars more than if
she had dealt with Kate. She should have been ashamed even to want Mr.
Hilliard's bag, still more to buy it; and she took away her purchase in a
beautiful box, with all the joy of a normal female thing who has secured
for her own something which she ought not to have. When Angela di Sereno
had been able to afford everything, she had longed for nothing. There was
a new spice in life. And the redemption of the bag was to be a dead
"Back to the hotel, please; and I'll engage your car for the next three or
four days," said Mrs. May to Sealman, suddenly full of kindness for him
and all the world.
Nick sat in the window of a better hotel than Angela's. She had chosen
hers on the advice of a lady in the dining-car, a lovely blonde, _nee_
brunette, who had once enjoyed a honeymoon in Los Angeles, and was now on
her way Nevadaward to get a divorce. Nick had been to Los Angeles before,
and knew where to go without asking advice, though the same lovely lady
would have been enchanted to give him some. Mr. Millard was also in his
hotel, and would not move to Mrs. May's (although it was cheaper), so long
as Nick remained on guard. That was one of the reasons why Nick stayed.
But there were others. His luggage he had wired for, and it would come
He sat by the window, wondering whether Mrs. May would be angry if he
showed himself; or whether, on the principle that a cat may look at a
king, she would consider that he had as much right to be in Los Angeles as
Then she flashed by in the blue automobile, which was as becoming as she
had expected. Nevertheless, Nick jumped up from the chair in which he had
been lounging, and frowned. "Great guns! If there ain't that bandy-legged,
crop-eared, broken-nosed auto Sealman came to offer Mrs. Gaylor last
winter, and wanted to palm off on me!" he grumbled to himself. "How in
creation did that maverick get hold of Mrs. May? Bet there've been bribes
flyin' around somewhere."
Angela, being on the way back to her hotel from Barrymore's when Nick
caught sight of her, had returned by the time he strolled in to ask if Mr.
Sealman was staying there. Mr. Sealman was not; but the clerk admitted
acquaintance with him.
"I want to know if his car's engaged," began Nick.
Yes, the clerk happened to know that it was engaged for the next three
days, perhaps longer, to a young lady in the hotel who intended to do some
touring in the neighbourhood.
"Contract all fixed up?" asked Nick.
Everything was arranged; had just been settled; in fact, Mr. Sealman had
Nick stood still and thought for a moment, looking as sad as if he had
earnestly desired the Model for himself, which was, of course, the
impression conveyed. As he reflected (not so much wondering what he wanted
to do next, as whether the thing he wanted to do would "work") Kate came
down, with a letter in her hand ready to post to Mr. Timothy Moriarty,
White Orchard, Oregon.
"Oh, sir!" she exclaimed, flitting up to Nick. "P'raps you don't remember
me, but I'm maid to Mrs. May, and 'twas to me you gave that beautiful bag
you said you'd throw out o' window if I didn't take it. Ye don't mind if I
sold it, do ye?"
"Of course not," Nick assured her. "I gave it to you for that."
"I thought so, sir; and I've done fine with it to-day. A gentleman named
Barrymore, who keeps a smart jewellery shop, paid me five hundred dollars.
I'm all in a flutter, sir! Just to think, it's the same as if you'd give
me the money."
"Not a bit of it," said Nick. "Some cow might have swallowed the bag by
this time if you'd let me chuck it out of the car window. Or a goat,
"Well, thank you again a thousand times. And what with you, and my lady,
Mrs. May, I'm the happiest girl in the wurruld." And Kate tripped away to
post her letter.
"'My lady, Mrs. May,'" echoed Nick, beneath his breath. "She's _my_ lady,
too--my angel--though she doesn't know it. And nothing can change that
He had hated the gold bag when it was rejected by Angela; but now he felt
differently. His heart warmed toward it. Had it not been hers, if only for
a little while? It had hung on her wrist. It had been in her hand. It had
held her lace handkerchief, which smelled like some mysterious flower of
fairyland. Now he knew what he had come to learn, there was nothing to
keep him any longer; and, walking out of the hotel, he asked the first
intelligent-looking man he met where to find Barrymore's.
"A young lady in black, in a blue auto, sir, bought the bag you must have
seen in the window," he was presently informed by the youth who had served
Angela. "A young lady with golden hair. You might almost have met her on
"I rather think I did meet her," drawled Nick. And though the bag was gone
forever, he was suddenly so happy that he could have sung for joy. He
hurried away to telegraph Henry Morehouse, at Doctor Beal's Nursing Home,
asking a favour which he was sure Morehouse would grant, because they had
grown very friendly on the journey East. Next, he called at the largest
garage in Los Angeles, and asked advice of the manager about buying a
motor-car. "You wrote me in the winter, saying you had a fine one here to
dispose of," he said. "Maybe you remember?"
Remember? Why, of course, the manager remembered Mr. Hilliard! Every one
had been talking of his Lucky Star gusher.
Nick laughed. "A right smart lot of letters wanting me to buy things came
along about that time. I hadn't got any use for an auto then. Now I have.
And I want a good one, for touring. The best there is."
"Any make you fancy?"
"I don't know much more about motors than elephants," Nick confessed. "No
use pretendin' to be an expert, but I'm going to learn the whole game from
A to Z."
"I've got a machine here now," said the man of the garage, "that might
suit you if you want something first-rate. Belongs to a millionaire who
went broke before he'd had his auto a week. Best American on the market,
and better than new. She's found herself. Come and have a look at her."
Nick went. "She" was a beauty, inside and out a pale primrose yellow.
"Almost the colour of _her_ hair," he thought.
"I must have a shuvver to overhaul the machine, until I've been put wise,"
he said, when, after some discussion, he had agreed to buy the yellow car
if it were satisfactory. "But I want to learn to drive right away. I'd
sure be on pins and needles, sittin' like a duke, in behind, with somebody
else at the helm. How long will it take me? I'm pretty quick at pickin' up
"Can you drive a horse?" the man inquired.
Nick laughed. "I can worry along some."
Few men in California knew more about horses than he.
"Well, then, you'll get the trick of steering sooner. Six or seven lessons
might do you."
"Lessons of an hour or two?"
"Well, yes. That's about it."
"Suppose I pay extra, and practise extra? If I keep at it all day and
every day, will I be warranted safe and kind after, say, four lessons? I
can have several men to teach me maybe, if I tire one out."
"But you're only one man. Keeping at it like that you'd feel a strain."
"No, I wouldn't," said Nick. "I'd have a doze or two and a sandwich or two
in between spins. No harder work than a round-up."
"All right, then. In four days like that you'll be a dandy driver, I
promise you, Mr. Hilliard," said the man of the garage.
"Fit to drive--ladies?"
"Fit to drive a queen."
"That's what I want to do," mumbled Nick under his breath.
WHEN ANGELA WENT SIGHTSEEING
The next five days Angela spent in seeing the country her father had
helped to create, and in breaking down in the blue motor-car at brief and
inconvenient intervals. At first they were unexpected intervals; but soon
they were taken for granted; for the more she knew of Mr. Sealman's
invention the less was Angela surprised at anything it chose to do. The
Model was a model of all the vices. It smoked like a chimney, drank like a
fish, and developed, one after another or all together, every malady to
which motor-metal is heir. The stages of the way, even to the Mission of
San Gabriel, in its sleepy old Mexican village on the fringe of Los
Angeles, were punctuated with disasters. A burst tire was a comma;
carburetor trouble a colon; nervous prostration of the sparking-plug a
period. But Mr. Sealman never lost confidence. He explained everything,
justified himself and the car; told anecdotes of his courage, and let fall
pathetic words concerning an invalid mother dependent on him and his
"I'm a pioneer, I tell you," he said. "You and I are making history this
Angela would gladly have turned from so lurid an occupation to any other
pursuit; but Mr. Sealman looked as if his health were more fragile than
that of the car. When he clawed obscurely at the crystallized sugar
ornaments under the bright bonnet of the fainting Model, his air looked so
dejected, his eyes so hollow, and his smile so wan that Angela's fury
melted into pity. Passionate resolves to shed him and his blue abomination
died within her as she watched his struggles. His whole future depended,
he said, on the Model. If Mrs. May should throw him over and hire another
car, the news would fly like lightning from garage to garage of Los
Angeles; indeed, from end to end of California. He would be ruined. His
mother, who had been forbidden excitement, would, without doubt, die of
The heart of Angela failed also, again and yet again. She began to see
that Mr. Sealman had cast himself for the part of Old Man of the Sea, in a
travel drama of which she was heroine. She felt alone in the world. "It
will probably end in my having to buy the little blue brute and burn it,"
she thought. "But even then the codfish will probably insist on being my
These gloomy forebodings shadowed her mind one morning when the Model
broke down about half a mile from fantastic little Venice, the Coney
Island of South California. In a rage she got out and walked, past a
kaleidoscopic pattern of tiny bazaars, shooting-galleries, paper icebergs,
and cardboard mountains. She threaded her way through a good-natured crowd
of tall, tanned young Americans, pretty girls with wonderful erections of
golden hair, dark-faced Mexicans, yellow-faced Japanese, a few Hindus and
negroes. Then, by the pier, she saw an old Spanish galleon disguised as a
restaurant, and drifted in to lunch on fried sand-dabs attractively
advertised in big black letters. How old, how Spanish, and how galleon
the craft might really be, none could tell--or would. But the sand-dabs
were delicious; and from the queer window near her table--a window cut in
the ship's side--she could see the Pacific, blue in distance, green where
it tossed white foam-blossoms on a beach of gold.
"Breakdowns would be fun if I'd some one to laugh at them with me," she
thought; and her mind conjured up the image of Nick Hilliard, seating him
opposite her at the little table.
She had ordered him home and he had apparently obeyed; which seemed unkind
and poor-spirited, and altogether unlike him. Ever until now he had been
at hand to save her from all that was disagreeable. Even at Los Angeles he
had jumped off the train to circumvent Mr. Millard. His ways had been like
the ways of story-book heroes, who, by some extraordinary coincidence,
invariably appear in time to rescue the heroine from a villain, a mad
bull, a runaway horse or a burning house. The only difference was that Mr.
Hilliard could not possibly be the hero of this story, and his opportune
arrival was, on his own confession, never a coincidence. He came on
purpose; and that was bad taste. But as he had done it so often, why
couldn't he have transgressed just once again, to rescue her from Sealman?
She thought of the tall forest creature with yearnings, which interfered
with her appetite for sand-dabs. He might unobtrusively have stayed, she
thought, and put himself at her service. Not the most clinging Old Man of
the Sea could continue to cling if that square-chinned bronze statue
pointed out the wisdom of letting go. But no doubt _he_ was at home near
Bakersfield, before this--Angela seldom named Nick in her mind--otherwise
she must have run across him somewhere that first day at the City of the
Angels when she had spun gaily from park to park, the Model for once
behaving well. Almost, she had expected to see him the next morning when
the car refused to move, and she had taken a trolley car, halfway to San
Gabriel. It would have seemed appropriate, somehow, to meet him strolling
in front of the Mission, his hands in his pockets, gazing up at the
beautiful half-ruined facade, with its delicate chain-armour of gold
lichen, its tower, and its flowers like blossoming barnacles.
Angela knew now that she had felt certain of meeting Hilliard
"accidentally," in the Mission church. That while she walked beside the
elderly Spanish verger, chatting of his native Cordova, listening to tales
of Father Juniperra Serra, Father Somera, and the legend of the Indians
with the miraculous portrait of the Madonna, she had started more than
once at a footfall, fancying it that of her lost hero.
Of course, if he had ventured to show himself at any time she would have
known that it was no coincidence; and she would have lifted her eyebrows
in silent reproach, talking more earnestly to the verger, who had been
happy because she knew Cordova and all his beloved Spanish cathedrals.
Nevertheless, the bronze statue would have fitted well into the scene, and
something lacked because it was absent.
"I do think he might write from his ranch and acknowledge the money I sent
him," she told herself now, neglecting the sand-dabs to stare through the
galleon window at the floating seaweed on the tide-dark gold-green kelp,
like lost laurel-wreaths torn from the brows of drowned divinities. "I
posted the letter myself, that first day. He must have got it--if he _is_
Just then a tall, dark young man walked into the ship-restaurant, taking
off a sombrero. Angela gathered herself together, ready to administer a
gentle snub. But she might have saved herself the trouble. It was not
Nick. She could have cried with disappointment. Snubs of the past were
coming home to roost.
There was time to buy California jewels in the bazaars--tourmalines and
pearl-blisters--before the car came up, purring sweetly, and looking
innocent as a cat gorged with canary birds. Mr. Sealman was so sure that
nothing could or would go wrong ever again that Angela had no heart to
receive him coldly.
They started off for a run through bungalow-land, and the Model conducted
itself like a newly converted sinner.
"I've been thinking out a dandy plan, while I was tinkering on the auto,"
remarked Mr. Sealman in an engaging manner. "What do you say to doing a
tour of the Missions? You know, I guess, there's a chain of 'em, and the
fine thing it would be to see the lot by road! I tell you, this little
auto's going to be all right--all right. It'd be the best kind of a stunt
for a lady from Europe; and if the papers got hold of it, I bet they'd
give us a bang-up notice--a photo too, maybe, you could send your friends
on the other side."
Angela shuddered. She could hardly bear even to hear this proposal from
the codfish, for a pilgrimage to the Missions of California had been a
dream of Franklin Merriam's. He and she were to have followed the
footsteps of the Franciscan Fathers, stage by stage; and if a Mission here
or there were falling into ruin, Merriam had talked of offering to restore
it at his own expense. Now the money had gone to restore the Palazzo di
Sereno, and to buy motors and aeroplanes and ladies' favours for the
Prince of that name. Yet some day Angela meant to make the pilgrimage,
when she had built her house and given herself a starting-point.
"I've other things to do," she replied coldly. "I shall see only the
Missions I may happen to pass on this tour."
"Well, some folks'd ruther save this trip for a weddin' journey," Sealman
suggested. "I suppose widows have weddin' trips, don't they?" He gazed
thoughtfully at the gray coat and gray-veiled motor hat which Angela wore
to protect her from the dust. She sat in front beside the chauffeur for
the motion of the car was less there, but she decided that, if she were
ever hypnotized into associating with the Model again, she would take the
"The Missions for mine," he went on, when his passenger made no reply.
"There's some prefers the Yosemite, but there's no motorin' there. And if
I was a girl I wouldn't feel married without a motor. In the Yosemite
there's; so much honeymoonin', the minute you see a lady with a man you
put 'em down for bride and groom."
Angela had cause to remember this remark later.
"Speakin' of honeymoons, looks as if there'd been some around here," the
codfish continued chattily.
They were running about through the suburbs of Los Angeles, and if
Sealman's passenger had deigned to answer she would have been compelled
to agree. It was ideal honeymoon-land; a moving picture, painted in
colours, seemingly by rival artists of different nations, for the mingling
of effects was mysterious as the scenery of dreams.
Just as Angela told herself that it was like Holland in the jewel-box
neatness of little streets and little houses--behold the Riviera, with
groups of palms among tropical flowers, and feathery pepper-trees,
graceful and large as giant willows! Then, when she had decided on Italy
or Southern France as a simile, far-off, sharp mountain peaks, a dark,
grotesquely branching pine in filmy distance, and a doll's house with a
red pointed roof, suggested a sketch on a Japanese fan.
This was a spick-and-span little world for a perpetual honeymoon, and at
the entrance of the streets there should have been signs, Angela thought,
saying, "No one but brides and grooms need apply." It was all
distractingly pretty; and though Angela had already admired the big
handsome houses of Los Angeles and Pasadena, these rose-bowered bungalows
caught her fancy more. After all, there is a sameness about millionaires'
mansions the whole world over; but here was something new, invented by
Cupid himself might have been the architect so daintily was each little
dwelling planned for the happiness of two lovers; so, of course, all the
women who lived in these houses must be young and beautiful. All the men
must be handsome, and husbands and wives must adore each other. No
creatures old or fat or inclined to be disagreeable would dare come
house-hunting here; or if they did come, surely some wise suburban by-law
would rule them out! Once in, as residents, the happy lovers would remain
"It's to be Riverside to-morrow, ain't it?" Sealman inquired, when, full
two hours later than she had expected, he brought her back to the door of
Angela hesitated. In California, at most times of year, it is hopeless to
use the weather as a handle to hang an excuse upon. She looked at the sky.
It was a vast inverted cup of turquoise.
"Are you sure the car is equal to so long a run?" she asked mildly.
The likeness between Mr. Sealman and a codfish became so marked that
Angela feared he was going to be ill.
"You don't know what the car can do," he answered reproachfully.
"Perhaps not," she admitted. "Very well, we'll start at eight."
"Better make it earlier."
She made it earlier, and was actually ready; but at half-past eight
Sealman appeared on foot. Of the car's health he said nothing, but of his
mother's health he said much. She had suffered a relapse. The doctor had
been with her all night. How Sealman was going to pay the bill he did not
know. Would Mrs. May go to Santa Catalina Island this morning, and to
Riverside to-morrow? There was time to catch the boat.
The doctor's bill was a trump card. Angela consented to wait for
Riverside, and she took Kate to that fair island loved by Californians,
and by fishermen all over the world.
The name Avalon alone would have lured her; for who would not set sail for
Avalon at a moment's notice?
Santa Catalina is Corsica in miniature, Corsica without Napoleon or
vendetta. But it has sea-gardens, fathoms deep under green water, where
flowers bloom and fish glitter in a dazzle of jewelled armour beneath the
glass floors of flat-bottomed boats. The fishermen were catching
yellow-tail that day, too, just as Franklin Merriam had caught them in his
time; and his daughter went back to Los Angeles full of thoughts of him.
To-morrow was to be held sacred to her father's memory; for his old home,
vanished off the face of the earth now, had been near Riverside. Angela
wanted the day to be perfect, unmarred by trouble or vexation; and though
she had her fears, when morning came the Model started off so well that
hope began to rise.
Making a detour, they spun past the old Mission San Gabriel, where she had
arrived ignominiously by trolley four days ago; and turning for a look at
the facade, Angela saw a yellow car drawn up in the fleecy shadow of a
pepper-tree. A chauffeur sat next the driver's empty seat, apparently half
"That's the motor I wanted to ask you about, a day or two ago," Angela
said, bending forward to speak to Sealman--for she had kept her resolution
to sit behind him. "It's the handsomest I've seen; and we've met it
several times; two men in it always, in chauffeur's caps and goggles."
"Oh, _that_ car!" remarked the inventor with indifference. "That's what we
call Smith's Folly. Thad Smith, a fellow who made a pile of money, had the
thing built to order, and it brought him bad luck--lost every cent the
day she was finished, and he's been trying to sell her ever since. _I_
wouldn't take her for a present."
Angela leaned back, hiding a smile behind her motor veil. She did not
believe that Mr. Sealman would have the offer. His little car looked a
badly made toy compared with that golden chariot. She wondered if it had
been sold, or if it would be worth while to make inquiries. Somebody was
perhaps trying it, she thought, for often it followed the road taken by
Sealman; or, when their car broke down, as it usually did, the yellow
giant shot ahead, disappeared and occasionally appeared again.
"I should like to find out if it's still for sale," she said to herself,
gazing back admiringly. "Why shouldn't I have a motor of my own?"
As the Model trundled her out of sight, a man walked round the corner,
and, springing into the yellow car, took the driver's seat.
THE MAN AT THE WHEEL
Nick had not been visiting the Mission that day. But he had been there
before, gabbling fluent Spanish with the verger. This was more than Angela
could do, though she knew the cathedrals of Spain! In the morning Nick had
made an early start with his new car, and, after four long days of
constant practice, at last he experienced the joy of confidence in
himself, at the wheel. He was now licensed to drive, and the yellow
automobile was his, body and soul.
The chauffeur, a reedy and extremely young youth, with a sharp nose and a
keen sense of humour, had scraped acquaintance with Sealman. Without
giving away any information on his side, he had always contrived to find
out, if not where the Model was going, at least where it was hoped she
might go. It was to be Riverside to-day; and after a preliminary spin from
six to eight, Nick had been lingering near the Mission, paying a friendly
visit to the owner of the Big Grapevine and the Trained Owls. This man was
the most taciturn of mortals. But something behind the locked windows of
his soul recognized a congenial spirit in the open windows of Nick
Hilliard's, and the two had made friends years ago. The morning's call was
a renewal of old acquaintance; and the sea-green light under the
Grapevine was as clear as on another May day, when Nick was six years
younger. The alligators were larger; but the white-faced owls were
unchanged--unless perhaps a little wiser, a little more instructed in the
oldest secrets of an old, secretive world.
"See the way that white-veiled witch stares at me with her golden eyes?"
said Nick. "Wish I could flatter myself she remembers me."
"Of course she remembers," said her master, "She's the same one told your
fortune when you were here before."
"I asked her if I was going to amount to anything in the world, and she
nodded her head three times. I felt like sending her a present when Gaylor
made me foreman, and again when I got my ranch. She ought to have had a
diamond crown when the gusher came. But, like an ungrateful beast, I
forgot all about her."
"She knows her business," said the Grapevine man. "Three nods mean three
big strokes of luck."
"Good king!" exclaimed Nick. "I hope that doesn't mean I'm not going to
have any more than three?"
"Anything you want in particular?"
"Well, yes, there _is_ something I'm sort of set on."
"Ask her if you get your wish."
Nick fixed his eyes upon the owl.
"Do I get my wish?"
She sat motionless on her perch for a moment, consulting her oracle. Then
she suddenly lifted her wings and flapped violently.
"Is that the best answer you can give?" Nick reproached her.
The owl repeated the gesture.
"I guess you want something she doesn't approve of," said the Grapevine
"She might give me a civil 'yes' or 'no.' See here, you Witch of
Endor--_do_ I get my wish?"
The owl closed her eyes, then opened them with a sudden flash of gold, but
would neither nod nor shake her head.
"She knows, but she won't tell," said her master. "Maybe she doesn't want
to upset your feelings."
"She can't scare me with her mysteries," Nick laughed. "I'm going right
ahead on the same lines." Then he said good-bye to his friend and went out
to his motor. But there was enough of the boy in him to be disappointed
because the white witch had refused an answer.
The car had a proud way of dismissing the landscape impatiently, if given
her head; but as her new owner was not out to show what he could do, she
was compelled to crawl when she would have flown, like Pegasus harnessed
to the plough.
To-day, the task of subduing herself was not so painful as usual, for the
blue car went on mile after mile, through the far-stretching orange
groves, without a stop; and Nick enjoyed driving.
"Wish I could remember," he thought, "how I felt when I was a kid, and
walked alone across a room the first time without tumbling on my nose. I
wonder if it was as good as this?"
"This" was very good indeed, and would have been good anywhere--for Nick
was, according to his own way of putting it, a "crank" about doing well
whatever he undertook, and he knew now that he had conquered the
machine--but on such a road, and in the light and shade of orange groves,
it was superlative.
The vast plain, walled with mountains, was an endless city of domed green
temples, richly decorated with the gold of the late orange crop. Beyond
its boundary were vines, cut close in Spanish fashion, which perhaps the
Fathers had taught in Mission days; and there were tall, pink-trunked
eucalyptus trees from whose wood beautiful furniture could be made; then
cities of green and golden temples again, in a desert-frame of tawny
yellow. Everything that was not green was golden. The sun poured gold;
oranges blazed in golden splendour; and California poppies, golden with
orange hearts, swept in a yellow flame over the landscape.
"Gold under the earth, and gold over the earth," thought Nick. "That's
California!" And he thought, too, of the gold of Angela's hair. "She'd
look mighty well in this yellow car, floating along among the white and
gold of oranges and orange-blossoms, all white and gold herself," he said.
"And she's _going_ to look well in it. That's what I got it for. That's
what I've been working for till this auto's fit to eat out of my hand. And
gee! but I've been going some!"
He grinned under his motor mask as he recalled the strenuous hours. He had
enjoyed them, but he had hated the mask; and so soon as the time came--he
thought it must come soon--when he could reap the reward of labour he
meant to shed the abomination. It had served its purpose by letting him
come by accident once or twice within full sight of the Model, safe from
recognition. He had not wanted Mrs. May to find out prematurely that he
was dogging her tire tracks in a car which might have shot past her like
a comet. She had misunderstood him too often already, and he wished her to
think him safe at Lucky Star Ranch; until the moment when she would
rejoice to see him at any price.
More than once during the last four days of practice and probation Nick
had been tempted to offer his services. But common-sense had held him back
when the blue car was in trouble. It had warned him that a little bitter
experience might incline the lady to be lenient. Several minor breakdowns,
disappointments, and vexations were needed before she would see matters
eye to eye with him. And Nick thought himself lucky that, so far, the
Model had not been permanently disabled. Now, if anything happened, he was
* * * * *
Sealman had the air of slowing down, after an unusually long nonstop run,
to show off his acquaintance with the country. "That great sandy stretch
is the bed of the Santa Ana," said he. "Why, there's so much sand and so
little water mostly, they have to sprinkle the bed to keep it from flyin'
about the landscape, as if 'twas a pile o' feathers. It ain't like the
Oro, where first they found gold, and then, when they thought they'd got
the lot, come across more in the cobbles. Not only that, but by some
scientific process or other--you wouldn't understand if I told you--they
washed the river-bed, so the sand and stones riz. 'Stirrin' up the
alluvial deposits' was what they called it; till they could get hold of
the cobbles again, to crush 'em for road-makin'. Roads was needed bad them
days! And at last they hauled out the mud from the bottom to plaster over
the desert that was here, so oranges and olives and grapes could take to
growin'. Sort of wonderful, wasn't it?"
Angela could have told him a great deal more than he had told her, about
these "scientific processes," for her father had been one of the men most
interested in their success. But she kept her knowledge to herself.
"Yes, it's wonderful," she replied. "But--don't you think we'd better be
going on? We've a long way before us, according to the map."
"Yes, we'll go right on," said Sealman. "I just thought I'd stop her and
point out the Santa Ana, for fear you'd miss it." He was anxious to
conceal the fact that it was the Model who had "just thought," but, urging
her to begin again where she had left off, the little brute refused to
"Is anything wrong?" asked Angela, when Sealman had worked in worried
silence for several minutes.
"Can't see nothing," said he, increasing in codfishiness. "She'll be all
right in a minute. Give her time to breathe!"
Angela gave her time to breathe, but the minute passed, and other minutes
limped after. Sealman sweated and grunted under the open lid of the bright
bonnet. Angela was sorry for him. But she was more sorry for herself, as
she counted the nearest rows of orange-trees for the twenty-fifth time,
following them with her eyes, as they ran up the ankles and legs of the
little yellow mountains. It was luncheon-time, and she was hungry. She had
been reading about the Mission Inn at Riverside, and picturing herself
there, in a cool, large dining-room.
"How far are we from a railway station?" she asked desperately, when her
watch said that they had sat by the Santa Ana's bedside for thirty-five
"Can't tell you that, ma'am," snapped Sealman. "But it's too far to walk,
unless you've got seven-league boots."
"What's the matter? Haven't you found out _yet?_"
"Thought it might be the pump. But it doesn't seem to be. I give it up!"
And he wiped his forehead with a handkerchief that left green streaks of
"But you mustn't give it up. We can't stop here all day."
Sealman grinned viciously. Perhaps he, too, hungered. Certainly he was
hot, and felt like a Socialist. What was this young woman that she should
sit there comfortably and nag him while he was down in the dust? "I don't
see any reason against our stayin' all day," said he. "And I guess the
"Hateful little beast!" exclaimed Angela.
"Who, me or the Model?" Sealman wanted to know.
"I meant the--_alleged_--Model. She's a fraud--a horror. If only I
get--somewhere--I don't care where--I'll never come out with you again,
"You're engaged to me till the end of the month," said Sealman as firmly
as if he alluded to a promise of marriage. "I've refused two other
gentlemen. If you don't use the machine, you'll pay, anyhow."
Angela would have given much if she had brought Kate. To be alone with
these two monsters in an uninhabited world under a blazing sun,
passionately hungry and futilely angry, was a dull adventure.
"You know perfectly well I engaged you only for three or four days," she
said. "That settles it! You shall not cheat me. And since you don't seem
to know what's to become of you or your car for the rest of the day, I
shall decide on my own movements. I'm going to walk."
She sprang out; and Nick, awaiting developments at a safe distance of a
hundred yards in the background, saw a slim gray figure separate itself
from the motionless Model.
"Now's my time, I reckon," he said to himself, and started the car, which
could be done from the chauffeur's seat. He drove at low speed, as if he
were out to enjoy the scenery, and slowed down gently beside Angela, who
was walking in the direction of Riverside. At that rate she might have
reached the nearest railway station in an hour and a half.
Nick's goggles and chauffeur's hat were off. "Why, how do you do, Mrs.
May?" he asked, in his pleasant voice. "Your machine's broke down for good
this time, I'm afraid. Now do let me give you a lift."
"Mr. Hilliard!" cried Angela, taken completely by surprise, as she looked
up from under her sunshade. "Where are you going?"
"I've no particular choice," said Nick. "I'm only in this part of the
country because this part of the country happens to be here. I'd be just
as pleased if 'twas anywhere else. Where are _you_ going?"
Angela began to laugh, and could not stop laughing. Nick, seeing this, and
seeing that she looked a schoolgirl of sixteen in her little motor-bonnet,
ventured to laugh too.
"I was taking to the desert," she said. "But I _wanted_ to go to
Riverside. Is--is this the same old story?"
She could not put her meaning more plainly, because of Mr. Hilliard's
chauffeur; but Nick understood. "I've been learnin' to drive, the last
few days," he said. "And I've seen you, now and then, runnin' about in
that little car. It's an old acquaintance of mine. Sealman tried to sell
it to me last winter. I was sort of sorry to see he'd got hold of you."
Nick was out in the road now, standing beside her, and the big yellow car
was purring an invitation.
"I was sorry for _him_," said Angela. "But I'm not now. He's a cheat. He
pretends I've engaged the car for a fortnight."
"I guess he won't go on along that line now he's seen who I am," remarked
Nick, "because if he does, I'll make his Model an orphan. He remembers me
from last winter. I'll deal with him for you, if you please."
Angela laughed again. "Thank you! He doesn't seem likely to go on very
soon, along any line, does he?"
"Shouldn't wonder if that car's ball-bearings ain't broken," said the
sharp-nosed chauffeur. "That's a real favourite accident of Sealman's.
We've got to know it by heart in Los Angeles. It generally happens with
him--across a trolley track. Takes all day to dismount and fix up again."
"We can't go away and leave him to his fate," said Angela. "After all,
Nick could have shouted "Hurrah!" That "we" of hers told him that he had
"Shall we tow him to the next town?" he asked, keeping triumph out of his
tone. "We'll land him in a garage. And then--if instead of his car you'll
take mine to Riverside, why, I'll be mighty honoured."
"You expected me to come to grief!" she said.
"Well, I knew that Model."
"And you've been----"
"Just practising with my new machine. I thought I might as well keep
around in your neighbourhood as anywhere."
"I've seen your car. But you were so goggled----"
"I hated to have you misunderstand me again, till I could explain. I
thought maybe some day you'd be a little glad to see me--not for myself,
"_Myself!_" Angela finished. "Yes, I'm selfish enough to be glad
now--_very_ glad. You're a friend in need."
"Then I'm happy. That's all I ask to be--just a friend in need. Will you
let me drive you to Riverside?"
"I'd let you drive me--_anywhere_, to lunch. But you mustn't ask just now
if I've forgiven you. It would be taking an unfair advantage of a
"I shouldn't think of doing such a low-down thing," protested the forest
THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY OF MAKE-BELIEVE
Nick refrained from mentioning this to Mrs. May, but when he had last seen
the Mission Inn at Riverside he had thought that he would like to come
there, next time, on his wedding trip. There had been no bride in view
then, or since; but now he remembered that wish. It was a good omen that
fate should have made the one woman of all the world his companion to-day.
He had not expected such a wonderful stroke of luck. The little blue auto
might actually have gone a whole day without mishap, or might not have
collapsed until after Mrs. May had lunched alone at the Glenwood. But here
they were, he and she, in his yellow car, sailing into Riverside together;
he driving, Angela by his side, talking as kindly as if she had forgiven
him his sins without being asked. If he had not thought it "wasn't playing
fair," he would have "made believe" like a small boy building air-castles,
pretending that it really was a wedding trip, and that he and his Angel
were about to have their first luncheon together.
"But she'd hate me even to make believe," he said to himself. "No! It
wouldn't be a fair dream to have, behind her back."
Yet it was difficult not to dream. Angela was so delighted with the
garden city watched by desert hills; and she said so innocently, "What
_sweet_ houses for brides and grooms! Oh, _no_ one except people in love
ought to live here!" that Nick had to bang the door of his dream-house
with violence. And for the first time since he had fallen in love with
Angela, he began to say, "Why not--why shouldn't I try to make her care?
There are folks who think you need only to want a thing enough to get it."
She appeared to him radiant as a being from a higher planet. Never could
she be content with his world, he had told himself. Dimly and wordlessly
he had felt that here was a creature who had reached an orchidlike
perfection through a long process of evolution, and generations of luxury.
The earth was her playground. Men in Greenland hunted seal, and in Russia
beautiful animals died, merely that she should have rich fur to fold round
her shoulders. In the South perfumes were distilled for her. There were
whole districts engaged in weaving velvets and silks that she might have
dresses worthy of her loveliness, and men spent their lives toiling in
mines to find jewels for her arms and fingers, or dived under deep waters
to bring up pearls for her pleasure. It was right and just that it should
be so, for there was nothing under heaven fairer than she. And since such
things must always have been part of her life, because she was born for
them and would take them for granted, was it reasonable to hope that she
would waste two thoughts on a man like Nick Hilliard, a fellow reared on
hardships, who had learned to read in night schools, and had considered it
promotion to punch cattle?
All this was as true to-day in Riverside as it had been in New York and
New Orleans. Angela was prettier than ever in the simple dress she wore
for motoring, and the gray silk cap that framed her face, making a halo of
her pale gold hair. Her dainty and expensive clothes were a part of her
individuality, as its petals are of a rose; and she appeared to think of
them no more than a nun thinks of her veil. But Nick felt this morning
that Angela had come down from her shining heights to be human with him.
She laughed like a schoolgirl, in sheer pleasure of motion which the big
car gave after martyrdom with the Model. She had travelled all over the
Old World, yet she said there was nothing anywhere prettier than
Riverside; no such petticoated palms as those that trailed the gray fans
of other years down to their feet like the feathers of giant owls; no such
pepper-trees; no such cypresses even in Italy, as these standing black as
burnt-out torches against the desert sky; no such rose-covered bungalows;
and, above all, no hotel so quaint as the Mission Inn.
The hour for luncheon was past, but Nick ordered flowers and a feast for a
dream-bride. Then, while it was preparing, the two walked in the garden
court and under pergolas where bunches of wistaria, lit from above by the
sun, hung like thousands of amethyst lanterns.
"I shall build a house like this in miniature," said Angela, half to
herself. "I can't have the shrines and the 'Mission' Arches with the
bell-windows; but I can have the court and the arcades and the pergolas;
and a well and lots of fountains. Inside there shall be walls of natural
wood, and great beams across the ceilings, and big brick
chimneys--'Mission' furniture too, and Indian rugs and pottery. I can
hardly wait to begin that house!"
"Where will it be?" Nick asked, afraid of the answer.
"In California somewhere," she said.
"You mean it?"
"Oh, yes! I don't know where, yet. I'm falling in love with the South now,
but I won't let myself fall too deep in, till I've seen the North."
"If you're in love, _can_ you keep yourself from falling deeper in?" said
Nick. "I don't think I could; I'd sure have to let myself go."
It had been so good to see the forest creature at the moment when he was
needed most, that Angela had melted toward him as snow melts in the spring
sun. She had not only forgiven, but forgotten--for the moment--that there