Part 4 out of 6
same things, every day."
Nick was not sure whether to take this as an excuse or a stab. He was sure
of but one thing. Something hideous had come between him and his angel,
while he slept and dreamed of her; and nothing would ever be the same
again. Of course it must be his fault; and if he were used to women he
would perhaps see what he had done that a woman would disapprove. Or
perhaps, even so, he would be in the dark, for there were all the other
women in the world, and there was Angela May. She was a law unto herself.
It looked just now as if she were a hard and cruel law, but she must not
be blamed. She had a right to break with him. She had promised nothing.
"I think," said Nick, when he had learned that the McCloud was to be
"hitched" to a train, in the afternoon, "I'd better be getting on. I might
as well say good-bye to you all now." When he shook hands with Mrs. May,
Falconer and Sonia Dobieski turned aside a little, speaking to each other.
"I hope you understand, Mr. Hilliard, and don't think I'm being rude after
all your kindness," Angela said, melting a little; "I could hardly refuse
them, when it was a question of chaperoning a newly engaged couple; and I
thought you would join us, of course."
This concession gave Nick an unexpected chance. He dared to hope that it
was an olive branch held out. "Did you really think that?" he asked
quickly, in a low voice.
"Certainly. Why not?"
"Oh, I don't know! That's the trouble. But--if you did think it, maybe
you'll let me see you again--maybe this won't be good-bye for always?"
"Dear me, I hope not, indeed!" she answered in a light, frivolous tone
again. "We're sure to meet. You come to San Francisco sometimes I've heard
you say. I shall be there--oh, ages."
"You'll let me call?" Nick was faintly--very faintly--encouraged, not to
hope for much, but for a very little; for a chance to retrieve some of the
ground he had lost in a night; to begin low down, and work up.
"I shall be glad to see you at the Fairmont Hotel, when I get there." She
was almost too frankly cordial suddenly. The tone would have been perfect
if the words had been spoken in New Orleans, before a thousand things had
happened. But they had passed that stage now--for good or ill.
Then they finished shaking hands, and a few minutes later Nick left her
with Falconer and Sonia Dobieski. The instant he had gone, Angela would
have given a good deal to call him back, although she was sure she had
done only her duty to herself and him.
Her reasons for the great change were not mysterious at all. They were
very clear, and seemed to her very virtuous, very praiseworthy--up to the
last minute. Then she thought that she was a prig, and a wretch, and
several other things which she would have been furious to be thought by
anybody else. She had wanted Nick to realize--that is, she had felt it her
duty to make him realize--that things could not go on as they were, after
last night. She had been incredibly silly in the Mission church. All night
long she had scolded herself for the way she had "behaved" and let the
"forest creature" behave--holding her hand, and sitting as close to her on
the gallery stairs as if they were engaged in a desperate ballroom
flirtation. She must show him that she was not really a stupid,
sentimental person. She made up her mind that they must begin all over
again, the very first thing in the morning; and, true to her resolution,
she had, indeed, begun all over again. She had torn a hole in the net
which was binding them together--all through her own silly fault!
In her heart, she had wanted him to accept Falconer's invitation; but she
had not wanted him to know that she had wanted him. The thing was to give
the impression that she would be pleased if he went, and not miserable if
he refused. If they all went to Monterey together on Mr. Falconer's
private car, they would not be losing each other--as friends; they would
merely be adjusting their relations, which, owning to San Miguel, had
suddenly got dangerously out of hand.
It was only when Nick's back was turned, and he was going, that she saw
things from his point of view. Why had she not been clever enough to keep
to the happy medium and not make him think that he had done something
dreadfully wrong--that on second thoughts she was blaming him for last
night, and punishing him? Surely she might have managed better--she a
woman of the world, and he a mere "forest creature"?
But it was too late. The thing was done, and badly done. Angela saw
herself a worm, and Nick noble as a tall pine-tree of the mountains.
Still, it was best that the break should have come, one way or another.
"Why on earth should I care?" she asked herself angrily. '"We could never
go on having a real friendship, all our lives--I and a man like that. He's
a splendid fellow--of course, above me in lots of ways; but we're of
different worlds. I don't see how anything could change that. What a pity
it all is--not for my sake, but for his!" And she thought how awkward his
fit of shy self-consciousness had made him appear in contrast with a
cultured man, a cosmopolitan like Falconer. It was she who had made him
self-conscious. She knew that. But there was the fact. Falconer was a man
of her world. Nick Hilliard was not. It was sad that Nick, with his good
looks and intelligence and fine qualities, could not have had advantages
when a boy--could not have gone to a university or at least associated
with gentlefolk as their equal--which he was in heart. But now he had got
those slipshod ways of speaking he could never change. And there were a
thousand other things which put him outside the pale of the men she knew.
She would not listen when a sarcastic voice within defended Nick,
sneering, "Oh, yes, Prince Paolo di Sereno and some of his friends are
_far_ superior to Mr. Hilliard, aren't they?"
Irritated because the "forest creature" had become of paramount importance
in her life when he should remain the merest episode, she was surprised
and even horrified to find herself despairing because he had done what
she forced him to do. She could have cried for what he must be thinking of
her. She wanted to go on seeing his faults, but in her changing mood she
could see only her own. "He is one of the noblest gentlemen in the world,"
something inside her said. "You aren't worthy to black his boots!" Then
the picture of herself blacking them--the shiny ones that were too
tight--rose before her eyes, and she was afraid that she was going to
laugh--or else to sob. Anyhow, he was gone, and there was an end of it
But when afternoon came, things were different again. In Falconer's
private car, where she, Princess di Sereno, was the chaperon, and Sonia
Dobieski was queen, Angela was so desperately homesick for Nick Hilliard
that she did not see how she could get on without his--friendship. "After
all," she reminded herself, excusing her inconsistency, "_I_ didn't send
him away. He went of his own accord. He might be here now. He refused to
come with us. It's only that we oughtn't to be rushing about together any
more in that absurd way. It won't do. Things keep happening--unexpected
things--like last night. Still if he comes to San Francisco--if he asks
again to 'show me the sights' I don't see why I shouldn't say yes--just to
so small a favour--and to make up--in case his feelings are hurt."
In her heart she knew that his feelings were hurt. But had she not hurt
There was a piano in the drawing-room part of the car. Sonia was singing
to Falconer. They had forgotten Mrs. May, without whose martyred presence
they could not have had this happiness. The soul of the Russian girl
seemed to pour out with her voice, as upon a tide. The sorrow and pain of
her past exile were in it at first: then it rose to the joy of new life in
a new world. The sweetness of the voice and all that it meant of love
after anguish stabbed Angela as she listened in the distance, like a knife
dipped in honey.
Things were better at Del Monte. Mrs. Harland was there, and made a
delightful hostess. It rather amused Angela to watch Theo Dene with Sonia
Dobieski, and to see how delightful Falconer's sister was to both. But
somehow she contrived that Miss Dene should not be of the motoring party
for the Seventeen-Mile Drive. A young officer from the Presidio was
produced, to compensate as far as could be for her frankly lamented
"failure"; and Theo resigned herself to a second-best flirtation. It was
consoling to think that Falconer had been in love with the Dobieski long
before he saw her: and Theo could almost forgive the Russian, whom she
considered plain and gawky compared to herself. She could not, however,
forgive "Mrs. May" for having come into the party, and for being liked by
the host better than she was liked. Judging another woman by herself, she
thought that, out of revenge for one or two little things (such as the
talk about Mrs. Gaylor and Nick Hilliard), Angela was trying to "take
away" her California friends. If Theo had considered it worth while, she
would have broken her word, and told who "Mrs. May" really was; but that
would be worse than useless, as it would only make Angela seem of more
importance than at present. However, on hearing that Mrs. May might
decide to "run up to Shasta and the McCloud River," she promised herself a
certain amount of fun. She had reminded Mrs. Harland so often about
writing to Mrs. Gaylor, that at last the letter had been sent. The lady
who was supposed to have a claim upon Nick Hilliard was asked to visit
Rushing River Camp, as Falconer's place was called; and a telegram had
been dispatched by Falconer himself to Hilliard at the St. Francis Hotel
in San Francisco, whither he was bound. If they all came--yes, Theo would
have her fun.
She thought of this, as she flirted with the officer from the Presidio,
and promised to make him the hero of her next book. But the party in
Falconer's motor thought of her not at all.
Angela was enchanted with the peninsula of Monterey. In the dark arbour of
the cedar forest Falconer kept ordering the chauffeur of a hired car to
slow down, or stop. The practically minded young man believed that this
great gentleman and the three ladies must be slightly mad. It was so queer
to stop a car when she was going well just to stare around and talk poetry
about a lot of trees.
One of the ladies, the prettiest and youngest, with yellow hair under her
gray motor-bonnet, said they weren't trees but people--either nymphs or
witches--and the rest of the party humoured her, talking nonsense about
Greece and goddesses. He thought the pleasure of a motor trip was "going
some"; but his passengers seemed to have other ideas. They were idiots, of
course, but they seemed mighty happy.
Angela, however, was less happy than the others, less happy than she tried
to seem. She had a dim idea that, if she had come with Nick, she would
have thought this the most beautiful place on earth, and that she had
found the ideal spot for a home. As it was, in spite of all the
loveliness, she was not sure of herself, or what she wanted. This made her
ashamed. She was as self-conscious as Nick had been yesterday, and in
sheer panic fear lest "they" should think she was pining for Hilliard, or
grieving over some stupid quarrel, she said that she would certainly buy
land in the forest. She must not lose such a chance. If for any reason she
should change her mind, she could always sell, couldn't she? On this point
Falconer reassured her. "You can sell to me," he laughed in the
light-hearted way that surprised the chauffeur. "You build a house and
furnish it, and take all the trouble, and I'll buy it from you--to live in
myself when I want to imagine I'm in Greece or Sicily, as I do sometimes
when I'm too busy to go there." And he looked at Sonia.
Though he laughed, he was in earnest, and Angela began to feel that she
might want to keep her house--if she built it. She saw herself walking
under the strange dark trees to the gray rocks, to look at the seals. Nick
was with her.... She hurried to think of something else. Nick would not be
here. They would have forgotten each other by the time her house was
built. Perhaps he would be married to his Mrs. Gaylor.
[Illustration: "Angela was enchanted with the peninsula of Monterey"]
After all it did not seem so romantic to have a place where she could go
and look at some seals, alone. Stupid! Because she had come to California
on purpose to have a place where she could be alone.
"How absurd women, are!" she thought, irritably. "As soon as we can have
what we want, we don't want it. I suppose it must be that. Now I long for
all kinds of new things I can't possibly have, which would be very bad for
me if I could."
After lunching at the wonderful Club House built of logs, they went back
by way of Monterey, and in the sleepy old town which holds more California
history than any other they wandered about, "seeing the sights," one after
another. They paid their respects to the monument of Father Juniperra
Serra, who landed at Monterey with his soldiers a hundred and forty years
ago--a long time in America, where life moves quickly. Then, next in
interest, came the verandaed Custom House, built under Spanish rule, and
looking just the place to spend a lazy afternoon in gossiping about lovely
ladies, and pretending to do important business for the Crown. There was
the oldest Court-house in California, too, and the oldest brick house, and
the oldest frame building--"brought round the Horn"; the oldest theatre,
glorified by Jenny Lind's singing; and, indeed, all the oldest old things
to be found anywhere in history or romance. But, though Angela dared not
say so, she wondered what had become of the really old things, new in the
beginning of the seventeenth century when Don Sebastian Viscanio landed to
name the town--in honour of Philip the Third--Monterey or "King of the
That night they all walked together under the great trees of the park at
Del Monte. A lake (where black swans threaded their way like dark spirits
among white water-lilies) drank the last light of day, and little waves
the swans made were ruffled with dim silver. Above, the sky was another
deep blue lake lilied with stars; and as darkness fell, hot and
sweet-scented as the veil of an Eastern woman, slowly the boundaries were
lost between forest and garden. Outlines faded and blended into one
another. The fuchsias, big as babies' fists, the poppies like dolls' crepe
sunbonnets, the roses large enough for nightingales' nests, lost their
colour, and seemed to go out in the dark, like brilliant bubbles that
break into nothingness. Here and there yellow light flashed near the
ground, far from the walkers, as if a faint firefly were astray in a
tangle of flowers. Chinese gardeners, deft and mysterious as brownies,
were working at night to change the arrangement of flower-beds so that the
dwellers in the hotel should have a surprise by day.
Theo Dene talked of Carmen Gaylor, telling stories she had heard of the
rich widow from people whose acquaintance she had first made at Del Monte.
"I am longing to meet the woman," she said; "I think she must be an
interesting character, typically Spanish, or Mexican--or, anyhow, not
American--from what they all say. A beauty--vain and jealous, and a
fearful temper. I shouldn't like to interfere with a woman of that sort in
what she thought her 'rights,' should you?"
[Illustration: "_They weren't trees, but people, either nymphs or
"One can't interfere with a person one has never met, can one?" Angela
remarked, pretending not to understand.
"Maybe not, in real life," Theo agreed. "I'm always losing myself in my
books, and forgetting that the world outside isn't like _my_ world, made
of romance. But you can understand, can't you; here where it's so
beautiful that even a _married woman_--who has, of course, left love far
behind her in Europe--must feel some faint yearning to be the heroine of a
Princess di Sereno wondered why she had ever been nice to Theo in Rome.
LA DONNA E MOBILE
Angela stood at her hotel window, looking down over the gilded hills and
purple valleys of the most romantic city in America--San Francisco, the
port of adventure; away to the Golden Gate, where the sea poured in a
flood of gold under a sea of rosy fog--a foaming, rushing sea of sunset
cloud, beneath a high dome of fire away to the fortified islands and to
She had arrived only a few hours ago, after two days spent at Del Monte,
and was waiting for Nick.
There had been a note sent up the day before, and she had not been in the
hotel twenty minutes when he had telephoned. It had been good to hear his
voice, so good that Angela had felt obliged to stiffen her resolution.
Would she let him call? he asked; and she said: "Yes, come before dinner."
Her impulse was to say, "Dine with me," but she would not. Instead, she
added, "I dine at eight." It was now after seven, and she had dressed to
be ready for Nick. He might arrive at any minute. Angela's heart was
beating quickly--but perhaps it was the glory of the sunset that made her
blood run fast. She was listening for the bell of the telephone, yet when
the sharp sound came it went through her nerves with the thrill of the
"A gentleman, Mr. Hilliard, has called," announced the small impersonal
voice at the other end of the wire.
"Ask him to come up," Angela answered, feeling virtuously firm in her
resolve that really had not weakened once in the last five days!
The pretty white room was full of rose-coloured twilight, so pink, it
seemed, that if you closed your hand tightly you might find a little ball
of crushed rose-petals there when you opened it. It would be a pity to
shut out so much loveliness by switching on the electricity, so when Nick
came he found Angela, a tall, slim black figure, with a faint gold nimbus
round its head, silhouetted against a background of flaming sky. Standing
as she did with her back to the window, he could hardly see her face, but
the sunset streamed full into his as he crossed the room, holding out his
His dark face and deep-lighted eyes looked almost unearthly to Angela seen
in this wonderful light. No man could really be as handsome as he seemed!
She must remember that he had never been so before, never would be again.
It was only an effect. "It's like meeting him transformed, in another
world," was the thought that flashed through her head. And the immense
height of this great house on a hill, the apparent distance from the
veiled city beneath, with its starlike lights beginning to glitter through
clouds of shadow, all intensified the fancy. For an instant it was as if
they two met alone together on a mountain-top, immeasurably high above the
tired, struggling crowd of human things where once their place had been.
Strange what fantastic ideas jump into your mind! Angela was ashamed; and
her embarrassment, mingling with admiration of Nick which must be hidden,
chilled her greeting into commonplace. Yet she could hardly take her eyes
from his good looks.
Nick had dressed himself for evening in some of those clothes bought in
haste, ready-made, to please a woman who had laughed at them and at him,
during his abbreviated visit in New York. The woman did not laugh now. She
forgot that she had ever laughed; and the thought was in her mind that the
large white oval of evening shirt set off his head like a marble pedestal.
"How do you do?" she said, giving him her hand, and holding it rather
high, in the English way, which seemed excessively formal to Nick. "I'm
glad to see you again."
Nick's heart went down. Her voice did not sound glad. This was just what
he had expected, though not what he had hoped. She had changed toward him
the day they parted, and though she had flung him a word of encouragement,
evidently she had gone on changing more and more. There seemed little good
in asking what he had come to ask; but he had to get through with it now.
"I guess I don't need to tell you I'm glad to see you," he said. He looked
at that nimbus round her head, as she stood with her back to the window.
He could say no more, though he had meant to add something.
"What are you thinking about?" she questioned him almost sharply.
Nick laughed, embarrassed. "I was thinking some words that sound like
poetry--or no, they were thinking themselves. Night in her eyes, morning
in her hair! Because standing like you do, Mrs. May, a kind of gold
powder wreath seems to be floating around your head."
She laughed too. "You must have been reading poetry since I left you!"
"No, that came out of my head. But I've been thinking a whole lot. About a
good many things--only most of them were about you, or came back to you if
they didn't begin there. Don't you know how one idea can sort of run
through all your thoughts?"
"I know," said Angela. Just so had the idea of him been running through
all her thoughts these last few days. "But," she added with an effort,
"why should you have been thinking of me? We're such--_new_ friends."
"Yes," Nick admitted, "but you can't always account for your thoughts."
"Of course not. And I'm grateful for a few of yours. Have you been
enjoying San Francisco? Do sit down. And would you mind putting on the
"Must I? It's beautiful like this."
"Very well. Leave it so."
She sat on a sofa, still with her back to the window, and Nick took a
chair facing the light.
"I've had a feeling on me of waiting," said Nick. "Just that. I haven't
gone around much, though this is the first time I've been in San
Francisco, except for a day, since the city's grown up after the fire. I
was waiting to see if you'd let me show you things, as you----"
"As I--what?" Angela asked, when he paused.
"I was going to say, as you partly promised. But that wouldn't be fair,
because you didn't really promise anything."
If he had claimed a right, it would have been easy to say that it didn't
exist, but he made things harder by claiming nothing. Still, she went on:
"No, of course, I couldn't promise. As I'm situated now, it's difficult to
make plans. However, if you've really waited for me, it was kind, and
there's no reason why I shouldn't ask you to show me San Francisco.
Already, even though I haven't gone about at all, except just 'taxying' up
to the hotel, I can see it's wonderful. From this window, it's like
looking out on Rome, with all its hills--Rome transplanted to the sea. And
I know you, and don't know Mr. Morehouse, who's my only other resource
here. Besides, he's a busy man; and if you're busy, you pretend not to
"I'm having a vacation," Nick explained.
"All the nicer of you, spending some of it on me. But I mustn't let you
spend too much. Besides, I have as little time as you have for running
about the country. Everything has changed with me since I saw you last."
"I was afraid so!" Nick exclaimed, before he could stop to think.
"Only because I've bought land," Angela said hastily. "Some of
California--five acres on the peninsula of Monterey--is mine! I must
decide on an architect. Isn't that exciting? Then, while he's working out
our joint ideas, perhaps I'll make a visit to Mrs. Harland. I'm rather
tired, and I believe it will do me good."
"I expect it will," said Nick bravely.
"Think of the journey I've had from Europe, and not a day's rest since,"
went on Angela, with the air of excusing herself.
"It must have been mighty hard on you," Nick agreed. He flushed faintly,
as if he deserved reproach for inconsiderateness.
"Not that I felt the need of rest till--till now," she hurried on. "It was
delicious sailing along with your Bright Angel. When I'm at Rushing River
Camp I shall think of her again, wondering who is spinning about with you
in my place. For you'll often take your friends out when you're at home?"
It was on the tip of Nick's tongue to answer, "Bright Angel was bought for
you; named after you, and I can never bear to take anybody else, now
you've finished with her--and me." But that, like claiming a promise half
made, "wouldn't have been fair." If he hinted that the car had been got
for her sake, she would be distressed. Some men in his place would have
said--whether meaning it or not--"No other woman shall ever go with me in
that auto." And the wish to say this was in Nick's mind, but he knew that
it would be in bad taste. Besides, there was a woman who would want to try
his car, and it would be unfriendly to deny her. So he said, "There _is_
one friend I must take: Mrs. Gaylor. I've talked to you about her. She'll
be interested in Bright Angel when I get home."
"Yes; of course," replied Angela. It was extraordinary how much she
disliked the picture of Nick and a beautiful dark woman together in the
car where _her_ place had been by his side. Could it be that Theo Dene was
right? Was Nick's interest in her--Angela--less than, and different from,
his interest in Mrs. Gaylor? She had no right to know, no right to want to
know, still less to try to find out. Yet she felt that not to know very
soon would make her lose sleep, and appetite, and interest in daily life.
Silence fell between them for a moment. The rose of sunset burned to
ashes-of-rose. A small clock on the mantelpiece mentioned in a discreet
voice that it was a quarter to eight. Nick got up, rather heavily for a
man so lithe as he.
"Well, I must go," he said. "Thank you for letting me take, you around San
Francisco. May I come to-morrow morning?"
"Oh, do. About half-past nine." She got up also, feeling miserable,
though, as she pointed out to herself, for no real reason.
"I'll be prompt." He put out his hand, and she laid hers in it, looking up
to his face with a smile which would not for the world have been wistful.
Suddenly his fingers gripped hers convulsively.
"So it's all over!" he whispered.
"No, no; not all over," she contradicted him. "There's to-morrow."
"Yes, there's to-morrow," he echoed.
"I told you at first," and she tried to laugh, "that 'sufficient for the
day was the trip thereof.' Nothing was to be planned ahead."
"It's all right, Mrs. May," Nick answered.. "I want to be glad you're
going to have that McCloud River visit. And, of course, you've got your
new place to think of. No wonder you're sick of travelling and want to
settle down. It's all right, and there's to-morrow, as you say."
He shook her hand, moving it up and down mechanically, then dropped it,
and turned to go. Another second and the door was opening. Then it was
shutting behind him. He had gone! And though he was coming to-morrow for a
little while, nothing would ever be as it had been between them. It was
now, not to-morrow, that she was sending him definitely out of her life;
and he understood.
Never had Angela thought so quickly. She trembled as she stood staring at
the shut door. Her cheeks burned, and a pulse beat in her throat, under
the string of pearls. She clasped and unclasped her hands, and they were
"He _shan't_ go to that woman, and take her out in my place in the Bright
Angel!" she said out aloud, and flew to the door.
"Mr. Hilliard!--Mr. Hilliard!" she called.
Everything seemed to depend--though this was nonsense!--on his not having
got to the elevator. She stood in the doorway, waiting to see what would
happen, her blood pounding as if she had taken a really important step;
which, of course, was not the case.
He had turned a corner of the corridor and was out of sight, but her voice
reached him, and he came back.
"Was there something you forgot to tell me?" he asked. Perhaps she was
going to say that after all she would not go out to-morrow.
"No, not that I forgot--something I _want_ to say. Come in again."
She whisked the tail of her black chiffon dress back into the room. He
followed her, wondering and silently anxious.
"I've changed my mind," she said in a low voice. (There! He had known it.
She was not going.)
"_Would_ you still care to be my 'trail guide' in the Yosemite Valley?"
"Would I care?" echoed Nick.
"Then we'll go. I'll give up the McCloud River. I'll telephone Mrs.
Harland--she's in San Francisco till day after to-morrow. I'll find an
excuse--I haven't had time to think it out yet. But I don't care _what_
happens, I won't change again! I'm going to the Yosemite if you'll take
He looked at her searchingly. "Because you're kind-hearted, and afraid
you've hurt me----"
"No--no! _Because I want to go!_"
Women are strange, and hard to understand, when they are worth taking the
trouble to understand; and even then they cannot understand themselves.
THE CITY OF ROMANCE
Angela was ridiculously happy next morning. She had no regrets. Nick had
stayed to dinner after all, and they had made plans. There was nothing in
this, really, she reminded herself, laughing five times an hour; nothing
at all. But it was about as wild and exciting as if--as if it were an
elopement: to have given up everything she had almost decided upon, and to
be going to the Yosemite Valley--with Nick, whom she had intended gently
to put in his place--at a distance from hers.
"There will never, never be anything in my life again like this," she
said. "I've never lived. I've never done the things I wanted to do. There
was always some one or something to keep me back. Now, for a week or a
fortnight, I shall live--live! nothing and no one shall keep me back." She
knew how absolutely contradictory this was, after taking so much pains to
"let the 'forest creature' down gently," and begin all over again. But she
did not care. Nothing mattered, except that she could not send him to Mrs.
Gaylor. As gaily as she had embarked upon the "little adventure" at Los
Angeles, did she now face the great one.
Nick, too, was violently happy, happier than he had ever been or supposed
it possible to be. At Los Angeles he had hardly dared to hope for
anything beyond the pleasure of having this woman by his side for a few
hours. Since then, his feelings had, as he expressed it to himself, been
running up and down, like a thermometer in changeable weather; but they
had been "mostly down," and during the last few days had mounted little
above freezing-point. Now the sudden bound bewildered him. He did not know
why Angela had changed again at the very moment when she had seemed most
cold; but she _had_ changed, and almost fiercely he determined now to
fight for her. He loved her, and she must know what was in his heart. She
could not do what she had just agreed to do unless she liked and trusted
him: and he would make the most of all the days to come. He would keep her
forever if he could.
Her sudden throwing over of her own plans, for his sake, seemed too good
to be true, especially after her strange conduct at Paso Robles; but like
a boy who dreams he has all the Christmas presents he ever coveted in
vain, and wakes to find them his, he reminded himself that it was
Angela did not tell Nick the excuse she offered Mrs. Harland for giving up
her visit. It was enough for him that it was given up. He would have been
even more proud and pleased, however, if he had known how frankly she
confessed her real intentions.
To do that seemed to Angela the only way. To have fibbed a little, or even
to have prevaricated whitely, would have spoiled everything.
"I find, dear Mrs. Harland," she said in her letter, "that I can't tear
myself from San Francisco. If I go with you to Shasta and the McCloud
River, and come back in a week or a fortnight to do my sightseeing,
nothing will be the same. I believe you will understand how I feel. My
impressions will be broken. Besides, Mr. Hilliard is here now, and willing
to show me what I ought to see. I'm afraid I seemed to repay his kindness
by being rude to him at Paso Robles. After San Francisco, he volunteers to
be my 'trail guide' through the Yosemite Valley, and if I put off that
trip too long I mayn't get so good a guide. Mr. Morehouse has advised me
to take him, and says these things are done in this Western World, where
gossip is blown away like mist by the winds that sweep through the Golden
Gate. Besides, why should any one gossip? There is no cause; and I am
nobody, and known to few. I'm not worth gossiping about! But I wonder if
you'll ever again invite me to Rushing River Camp? I hardly dare expect
it. Yet I hope!"
Already Mrs. Gaylor had been invited, and had accepted; but Angela was not
thinking of Mrs. Gaylor at the moment, and she was doing her best to keep
Nick's thoughts from his "boss's widow." He and "Mrs. May" went about San
Francisco together like two children on a holiday.
The place was a surprise to Angela. Her father's stories had pictured for
her a strange, wild city, of many wooden houses, a tangle of steep streets
running up hill and down dale, a few great mansions, a thousand or more
acres of park in the making. But the San Francisco which he had known as a
boy had greatly changed, even before the fire. Angela was aware of this,
though she had not been able to realize the vastness of the change; and
though she knew that the city was reborn since the epic tragedy which laid
it low, she had expected to find it in a confused turmoil of growing. The
work done in six or seven years by men who loved the City of the Golden
Gate--men who gave blood and fortune for her, as men will for an adored
woman--was almost incredible. "Rome was not built in a day" she had often
heard; but this great town of many hills, so like a Rome of a new world,
seemed to have risen from its ashes by magic.
The place began to take on in her eyes a curious, startling individuality.
She began to think of the city not as a town, but as a person. A woman,
young, lovely, and beloved, who had gone gaily to bed one night to dream
of her lovers, her jewels, and her triumphs. While she lay smiling in her
beauty sleep, this woman had been rudely aroused by a cry of fire and
shouts that warned her to fly. Dazed, she dressed in wildest haste,
putting on all the gorgeous jewels she could find, for fear of losing them
forever, and wrapping herself in exquisite laces. But in her hurry, she
had been obliged to fling on some very queer garments rather than not be
clothed at all; and, losing her head, had contrived to save a few
worthless things. All this the woman had done, laughing through her fear
of death, because nothing could conquer her brave spirit and because she
knew that, scared and destitute, near to death, she would be rescued at
last, loved better than ever for her sufferings, and by and by would be
more regal than before.
Now, here was this vital creature, rewarded for her faith by the worship
and the prowess of her lovers. What matter if she still wore some of the
odd things she had picked up in a hurry? Gowns better than she had ever
boasted were being fashioned for her; and the contrast between a tiara
showing under a sunbonnet, a scarf of rose-point covering a cotton belt,
and diamond-buckled shoes slipped on to torn stockings, made her beauty
more piquant, as she sat watching the work of her lovers, on her throne by
the sea. No wonder that the men who adored such a woman were brave as she!
generous and reckless as she, and on fire with energy and courage.
"But the beautiful woman worked, too, to help her lovers," Nick answered
Angela's little allegory. "When she was wounded, she said, 'Just give me a
hand up and I won't die. You shall have a big reward for all you do--only
hurry, for I can't bear to be seen like this by any one but you.'"
"And what did her lovers say?" Angela asked.
"'We'll die for you, gladly. You have our hearts. You can have our hearts'
blood.'" And his eyes spoke to her of himself.
* * * * *
The first day was tiring, nevertheless Angela went out to Oakland that
night to the Greek theatre, where a classic tragedy was to be performed;
and next day it was the Presidio and Golden Gate Park. They lunched at the
Cliff House, and fed the barking sea-lions on the seal rocks. Then came a
few hours' rest: and Chinatown was saved as a _bonne-bouche_ for the
evening. They dined in the most stately and expensive of the Chinese
restaurants--"no chop suey house," as their waiter said, where they
entered through the kitchen to see cakes being baked, and pots of rice in
the act of cooking. Upstairs the walls were adorned with golden flowers,
panel paintings by artists of China, and strange dragons, and Buddhas
that nodded on shelves. There were open-work screens, and tables and
chairs of black, carved teakwood. Angela would have been aghast had she
dreamed that the queer dinner, which she liked and laughed at, cost Nick
more than a hundred dollars, but luckily she was not initiated in the
rarity of bird's-nest soup or other Chinese delicacies.
It was half-past eight when they finished dining, the hour when Chinatown
begins to be most lively, most ready to amuse itself and, incidentally,
strangers. Therein lay the kernel of the nut, the blossom of the clove:
that this bit of the old, old East, inlaid in the heart of the new West
was not an "exhibition" like "Japan in London," but a large, busy town,
living for itself alone. The big posters in Chinese characters, pasted on
the walls, were for Chinese eyes; not meant to amuse foreigners. The two
or three daily papers printed in Chinese, and filled with advertisements,
were for the Chinese; the bazaars, crammed with strange Eastern things,
were meant to attract women of the Orient, little flitting creatures in
embroidered silk jackets and long, tight trousers, who passed and gazed,
with dark eyes aslant; let European women come, or stay away, as they
pleased, there were plenty of Chinese husbands whose purses were full
enough to keep the merchants of Chinatown contented. The tiny, dressed-up
Oriental dolls--boy and girls--who strolled about with pink balloons or
butterfly kites, in the short intervals between "Mellican" school and
Chinese school, were not baby-actors playing parts on the stage, but real
flesh and blood children, who had no idea that they were odd to look at in
their gay-coloured gowns and tiny caps.
They did not even know that the streets through which, they toddled were
any more strange than the "Mellican" streets outside Chinatown, which they
doubtless considered extremely dull, made up of huge gray and white
buildings like mountains or prisons; whereas the tortuous ways and blind
alleys of their home-town were full of colour; balconied house fronts,
high and low, huddled together, painted red or blue, and decorated with
flowers, or shaped like Chinese junks or toy castles and temples. It was
all new, of course, this town of theirs, since the fire; at least what was
above-ground and known to foreigners was new; but it had been built in
imitation of past glories. The alleys were as blind, there were as many
mysterious, hidden little courts, and packing-case houses and bazaars as
ever, so that the children saw no difference; and already a curious look
of age, a drugged weariness, had fallen upon the seven-year-old Chinatown.
Angela walked beside Nick through the lighted streets, enchanted with the
flowerlike lanterns that bloomed in front of balconied restaurants or
places of entertainment, and with the crowding figures that shuffled
silently by in felt-soled slippers or high rocker shoes. Tiny, elaborate
women, young and old, slim youths with greeny-yellow faces like full
summer moons, little old men with hands hidden in flowing sleeves, and
dull eyes staring straight ahead, were to her ghosts of the Far East, or
creatures of a fantastic dream from which she would soon awake.
When they had "done" the principal thoroughfares and Angela had bought
ivory boxes, jade bracelets, and a silver bell collar for Timmy the cat,
Nick said that the time had come to join their guide. He had engaged a man
supposed to know Chinatown inside and out, and the rendezvous was at 9:30
in Portsmouth Square, the "lungs of Chinatown"--close to the memorial
statue of Robert Louis Stevenson.
It was quiet there, and pleasant in the starlight, faintly gilded by the
street lamps. The young moon of the sixth month, which had sunk with the
sun when Angela was in Monterey, had not yet dropped beyond distant house
roofs. Its pearly profile looked down, surrounded by a clear-cut ring,
like the face of a pale saint seen through the rose-window of a cathedral.
Soon the guide came, a little dark man with a Jewish face, a German name,
an American accent, and the polite manner of an Oriental.
"What would you like the lady to see?" he asked.
"Everything you advise," said Nick. "We've dined in a Chinese restaurant,
and seen the things everybody sees. Now we'll do a few barber shops and
drug stores, and anything else queer you can think of."
"There's an old fellow," suggested the guide, "who used to be head
musician in the big Chinese theatre. He has a place of his own now, about
four storeys underground, where he tinkles on every sort of Chinese
instrument. Probably the lady would like to visit him. And I know a house
where children sing and dance. It's underground too; and the poor little
brutes, who go to two kinds of schools till nine o'clock, are at it till
midnight. But the lady needn't mind. If she doesn't go, somebody else
will, so the kids are kept out of their beds all the same--the more money
the merrier. You may get to see a Chinese funeral too, though I ain't sure
of one to-night----"
"I guess the lady wouldn't enjoy butting in at a funeral," said Nick.
"No, she wouldn't!" Angela added hastily. "But I should love to see them
playing fan-fan--isn't that what they call the gambling game?--and--and
"Afraid the gambling can't be managed," said Mr. Jacob Schermerhorn, sadly
shaking his head, as if the good days were gone. "But you'd like a little
curio store I'll take you to--owned by an American lady married to a
Chinese, and wearing the costume. They sell relics of the fire. And a
joss-house is interesting----"
"But the opium smoking----" Angela persisted, suspecting that he meant to
slide off the subject.
"That's not easy. Opium smoking's forbidden, and----"
But Angela grew obstinate. "I shan't feel I've seen Chinatown unless I've
seen that. The books say it goes on."
"It does, on the quiet--_very_ quiet! But they're scared to death of being
found out. Besides----"
"Well, ma'am, your husband said when he engaged me he thought it would be
best not to try and get you into any such place. It might hurt your
"Oh!" exclaimed Angela. Her "feelings," if not hurt, were in commotion.
"He--he _isn't_ my husband."
Then she wondered if it would not have been better to have kept silence,
and let the man think what he pleased. He would never see or hear of her
again. She laughed to show Nick that she was not embarrassed, and then
hurried on. "I _must_ see them smoking!"
"It would make you feel mighty sad, Mrs. May," said Nick. "I went once,
and--it kind of haunted me. I thought to myself, I'd never take a woman
who had a heart----"
"I haven't a heart," laughed Angela, piqued. "I've only a will.
But--you're my host, so I suppose I shall have to give my will up to
To her surprise, Nick did not yield. "We'd better begin with the singing
children," he said to Schermerhorn, "and then we won't feel we're keeping
them up late."
The guide led them through Dupont Street, the street of the bazaars, and
another smaller, less noisy street, where fat, long-gowned men, and women
with gold clasps in their glittering edifices of ebony hair, chaffered for
dried abalones, green sugarcane, and Chinese nuts. In basements they could
see through half-open doors at the bottom of ladderlike steps,
earnest-faced men, with long, well-tended queues of hair, busily tonsuring
sleepy clients. Stooping merchants, with wrinkled brown masks like the
soft shells of those nuts which others sold, could be discerned in dim,
tiny offices, poring through huge round spectacles as they wrote with
paint brushes, in volumes apparently made of brown paper. Here and there,
in a badly lit shop with a greenish glass window, an old chemist with the
air of a wizard was measuring out for a blue-coated customer an ounce of
dried lizard flesh, some powdered shark's eggs, or slivered horns of
mountain deer. These things would cure chills and fever; many other
diseases, too, and best of all, win love denied, or frighten away bad
By and by they turned out of the street into a dim passage. This led into
another, and so on, until Angela lost count. But at last, when she began
to think they must be threading a maze, they plunged into a little square
court, where a lantern over one dark doorway showed faintly the blacks of
irregularly built houses. Several small windows which looked upon the
court were barred, and there was a door with a grated peephole, where
Angela fancied that she caught the glint of eyes as the lantern swung in a
light breeze. But there was no such _grille_ in the low-browed door which
the guide approached. It stood ajar, and he pushed it open without
"Follow, please," he said, "it's better for me to go first." And Angela
followed, with Nick close behind her, down a narrow flight of steps, more
a ladder than a stairway, which descended abruptly from the threshold.
One, two, three flights there were, so steep that you had to go slowly or
tumble on your nose, and then down at the bottom of the third ran a long
passage, where a greenish yellow dusk from some unseen lamp prevailed. The
walls were of unpainted wood, made of slips as thin as laths, and several
doors were roughly cut in it. At the end, one of these doors gaped open,
music of a peculiar shrillness floated out. Also a smell as of musk and
sandalwood drifted through the crack, with small, fitful trails of smoke
or curling mist.
On the other side they were burning incense inside; a Chinese man and a
woman, two tiny children like gilded idols, and three or four Europeans.
The latter were evidently tourists, with a guide. They sat on a rough
bench, their backs to the door; and the Chinaman was perched on a smaller,
higher seat, in front of a rack hung with several odd, brightly painted
Chinese musical instruments. He was playing solemnly and delicately on an
object like a guitar gone mad--so thought Angela--bringing forth a singing
sound, small and crystalline; but, glancing over his shoulder as the
newcomer appeared, at once he snatched up another curious object, smiling
at Angela, as much as to say the change was a compliment to her. The
instrument was of the mandolin type, covered with evil-looking snake-skin,
and having only a few strings, which the player's fingers touched lightly.
Each gave out a separate vibration, though all blended together with a
strange, alluring sweetness, and, underneath, Angela thought that she
could hear, faintly, a wicked impish voice hissing and chuckling, as if
something alive and vilely clever were curled up inside the
instrument--perhaps the spirit of the snake whose skin had been stolen.
The fat man nodded to the children who stood opposite on a piece of
matting, their silk-clad backs against the wooden wall, which was
panelled with paintings, very cheap, and not beautiful like those of the
restaurant. But the colours were harmonious; and on a low table stood a
blue dragon vase, holding in its mouth a single mariposa lily, such as
Angela had never seen before. Nick, standing beside her, whispered the
name of the white-and-crimson-spotted butterfly flower, and she smiled her
thanks, as the Chinese woman gave the boy's cap a pat, and tweaked the
American ribbon bow which tied the queue of the little girl. Both
children began to sing, keeping time with the snake-skinned imp.
The boy, who looked about two feet in height--no more--sang stolidly, with
an unchanging countenance, and no expression in the black beads which were
his eyes. He had on a primrose-coloured silk jacket, fastened across his
miniature chest with a loop. His blue pantaloons were bound round his
ankles, and his queue, mostly artificial, was braided with scarlet. The
girl, however--still smaller than her brother, or perhaps her
_fiance_--lifted her voice emotionally, singing very high, with the notes
of a musical insect, or thin silver strings stretched tight. Her eyes
rolled, she appeared self-conscious, though tired, and tinkled her silver
bracelets and anklets. She saw Angela enter, and admired the newcomer's
pearly skin and gold hair, which seemed to attract all the light in the
mean room. The child stared at her intently, taking in every detail of the
black hat and simple though perfect dress. But the singing insect was not
alone in her admiration.
Suddenly Angela felt a touch on her arm. She turned, and saw a Chinese
girl, who might have been sixteen or seventeen, smiling up at her. Angela
smiled too, and the girl kissed her own fingers, dimpling with pleasure,
her eyes sparkling. Then, with a nod of her head, and a gesture of the
hand, she invitingly indicated the half-open door.
Angela glanced at Nick. He was intent on the children and had not seen the
girl. Again the pretty creature nodded and beckoned, and Angela's
curiosity was fired. Apparently there was something which she alone was
privileged to see. She was amused and childishly flattered. It would be
fun, she thought, to steal away and give Mr. Hilliard a surprise when he
turned round to find her gone. Then, just when he was beginning to be
frightened, she would come back and tell him her small adventure--whatever
it might prove to be.
Cautiously she moved to the door, which the girl as cautiously opened
wider. Then, in a second, she was out in the dusky passageway, beside her
THE DOOR WITH THE RED LABEL
"Mellican gell see ole Chineseman smokee opum pipe?" the girl asked.
"Why, you speak English!" exclaimed Angela, forgetting in her surprise
that here was only a very little of China set in the midst of a great deal
"I go school one time," said the girl. "Dis times I fo'get sometings. You
come Chinese gell. You velly pletty."
Angela laughed, and went, guilty but excited. This was too good an
adventure to miss. Schermerhorn must know the inhabitants and habits of
this place, and he would guess what had become of her, when they found her
gone. "So are you very pretty," she smiled.
"Yes," replied the girl, in her little metallic voice. "I like you. You
like me. You give one dollah; I take you see Chinese man smokes mo' 'n all
oddeh mens. He velly old--knows ebelyting."
"Oh, I am to pay you a dollar! So it isn't all for love of my _beaux
yeux_," murmured Angela. But she gave the sum, glad that she had spent
most of her money in buying jade and ivory, which now encumbered Nick's
pockets. The girl took first her dollar and next her gloved hand. Then,
opening one of the unpainted doors in the long, dusky passage, she led
her companion into a dark cellar.
"Where are you taking me?" Angela inquired, thinking with sudden longing
of the lighted room of the musician, where Nick was perhaps beginning to
look for her.
"Next-do'h house," replied the girl calmly; and Angela would have been
ashamed to draw back, even had curiosity and a faint excitement not
compelled her to go on. At one end of the cellar was a wooden stairway,
very steep, going both up and down. She and her conductor went down one
flight, then along a short passage, then up some steps, then down a few
more. Angela was enjoying the experience, but her joy was spiced with
The two girls were in a very strange house, much stranger, Angela thought,
than the one they had left. It was a rabbit-warren of tiny, boxlike rooms,
threaded with narrow, labyrinthine passages, just wide enough for two slim
persons to pass side by side. The rough wooden walls were neither painted
nor stained, and the knot-holes were stuffed with rags. Here and there a
rude door was open, hanging crookedly on its hinges, while the occupant
talked with a friend outside, or prepared for an expedition, laden with
kitchen utensils, coal and food, to the common cooking-place of the rabbit
colony--a queer and dismal set of iron shelves, long and narrow, sticking
out from a wall, and calling itself an oven.
Each door of each tiny room, which housed an individual or a whole family,
had the name of the owner upon it, in Chinese characters, black and
sprawling, on a red label; and at one whose paper name-plate was peeling
off, Angela's companion stopped. "Li Hung Sun; we makee visit," she
announced, and opened the door without knocking.
Angela had seen furniture packing cases as big as that room, and extremely
like it. On one of the wooden walls, above a bunk which took up nearly
half the space, were a rough shelf and a few cheap, Chinese panel pictures
and posters. Beside the bunk, and exactly the same height from the floor
with its ragged strip of old matting was a box, in use as a table, covered
with black oilcloth. On this were grouped some toy chairs and chests, made
of tiny seashells pasted on cardboard; a vase with one flower in it; a
miniature mirror, and some fetish charms and photographs, evidently for
sale. But on the bunk itself lay a thing which made Angela forget all the
surroundings. A thin, stabbing pain shot through her heart, as if it had
been pricked with a needle. She was face to face with tragedy in a form
hardly human; and though her plump little guide was smiling, Angela wished
that she had listened to Nick's advice. For here was something never to be
forgotten, something which would haunt her through years of dark hours,
dreaming or waking. She knew that the thought of this box of a room and
what she now saw in it would come suddenly to darken bright moments, as
the sun is all at once overcast by a black thundercloud; and that in the
midst of some pleasure she would find herself wondering if the idol-like
figure still lived and suffered.
A little bag of bones and yellow skin that once had been a man lay on the
wooden bunk, whose hard surface was softened only by a piece of matting.
From the shrivelled face a pair of eyes looked up; deep-set, utterly
tragic, utterly resigned. The face might have been on earth for sixty or
seventy years perhaps. But the eyes were as old as the world, neither
bright nor dull, yet wise with a terrible wisdom far removed from joy or
sorrow. The shrivelled shell of a body was a mere prison for a soul to
which torture and existence had become inseparable, and almost equally
"Oh, we ought not to come in!" Angela exclaimed involuntarily, on the
threshold of this secret.
The weary face faintly smiled, with a smile like a dim gleam of light
flickering over the features of a mummy.
"Come in. Many people come see me," said a voice as old as the eyes, and
sad with the fatal sadness that has forgotten hope. It was a very small,
weak voice, almost like a voice heard at the other end of a long-distance
telephone, and it spoke excellent English.
Silently Angela obeyed; and seeing a broken, cane-seated chair which she
had not noticed before, dropped into it as the low voice asked her to sit
down. She was not afraid now, but sadness gripped her.
"You wish see me smoke opium, lady?" the old man asked, his tone
monotonous, devoid of interest, his face a mask. The light of a tallow
candle flared into his eyes, and wavered over his egg-shaped head, which
was entirely bald save for its queue.
"Oh, no," Angela answered, horrified, "I beg you won't smoke for me!"
"Not for you," he said. "I smoke all times. I must now. If not, I suffer
too much. It is the smoking keeps me alive. I cannot eat, or only a
little. My throats shuts up. But when I smoke, for a few minutes after I
am happy. Then I wait a while, and bimeby I smoke again."
"Surely--surely--you can't smoke opium all day and all night?" Angela
murmured, her lips dry. She seemed to know what he felt, and to feel it
with him. It was a dreadful sensation, that physical knowledge, racking
her nerves like a phase of nightmare.
"Nearly all day and all night, for I do not sleep much; perhaps two hours
in twenty-four. Once, a long time ago, the opium made me sleep. I had nice
dreams. Now it makes me wide awake. But I do not suffer, only for a few
minutes. When it gets too bad, I begin again."
"What is it like--the suffering?" Angela half whispered.
"Cramps, and aching in my bones. Maybe you never had a toothache--you are
too young. But it is like that all over my body. I wish to die then. And I
will before long. The death will not hurt much if I keep on smoking. My
heart will stop, that is all. It will give me a chance to begin again."
"In another world--yes," said Angela. "But--couldn't you stop smoking?
Take medicine of some sort--have treatment from a doctor----"
"Too late, long time ago," he answered, with a calm, fatal smile. But his
eyes lit with a faint spark of anticipation, and his cheeks worked with a
slight twitching of the nerves, for, as he talked, in short sentences, he
was quietly rolling and cooking his dose of opium. Into a large pipe,
which looked to Angela like a queer, enormous flute with a metal spout
halfway down its length, he pushed a pill he had rolled, ramming it in
with a long pin, and cooking it in the flame of a small spirit lamp. He
did not speak again until he had pulled strenuously at the pipe a few
times. Then he went on talking, his face unchanged, unless it appeared
rather fuller, less seamed with the wrinkles of intense nerve strain.
"You see," he said, "that is all I do. I was in a good deal of pain, but I
am used to it. Now I'm contented for a few minutes. While I have this
happiness, I feel willing to pay the price. But it is a big price. I warn
the young men who come to see me not to begin opium smoking. It is so
easy. You think you will try, to find out what it is like; and then you
will stop. But you do not stop. Four weeks--six weeks--and it is finished
for you. You are on the road where I am. That was the way with me. It is
the way with every one who starts on that road and goes not back before
the turn. Better not start, for the dreams are too good at first."
His resignation to the chains forged by himself seemed to Angela the
saddest part of all. He was beyond help, and knew it, did not even think
She had a strange burning behind her eyes, as she listened, though she was
not inclined to cry.
"It is awful," she whispered. "Such days--such nights--such years.
But--you do not lie here always?"
"Most of the time," he answered, the little spark of physical contentment
beginning to dim in his eyes already. "I am very weak. I do not walk,
except when I go down the passage to cook a little coffee once a day. Or
sometimes I crawl out in the sun. But soon I come back. I can stand only a
few minutes. I am too light in the head, when I get on my feet. When I was
young I was tall and large. But a man shrinks small after the opium gets
"How you must regret!" Angela sighed.
"I do not know. Why regret when it is too late? I regret that it is hard
to find opium. It is forbidden now, and very dear. I sell the cleanings of
my pipe--the yenshee, we call it--so I keep going."
"How can you bear to sell to others what has ruined your life?" Angela
could not help asking.
"I would do anything now to have opium," he said calmly. "But it is the
old smokers who smoke the yenshee, not the young ones. So I do no harm."
Angela sprang up, shuddering. "Is there nothing I can do to help you?" she
pleaded, her eyes turned from him, as he began to cook another pill.
"You can buy something I sell. That will help. Do you like this?" And he
pointed to a little painted china group of three monkeys, one of which
covered its ears, another its eyes, and the third its mouth. "You know
what it means? 'See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.' It is the motto
of our people."
"Yes--I'll buy that. It's a good motto," Angela stammered. Taking up the
little figures, she laid a five-dollar gold piece on the box table,
knowing only too well what it would buy.
"You wish to see me smoke this other pipe?" and he put it to his toothless
"No--I can't bear it."
She pushed past the Chinese girl, hardly knowing what she did. She felt
faint and sick, as if she must have fresh air. As her hand fumbled for the
latch, the door was pushed violently open, and Hilliard came in, with
Schermerhorn at his back.
"Thank Heaven!" Nick stammered. He was very pale.
"You gave us a pretty bad scare, Miss," added the man, who had been
informed that Nick was "not her husband."
"Lucky I thought of this house, and this old chap."
"But--there was no danger," Angela defended herself. "Nothing could have
"Most anything can happen--in Chinatown," mumbled Schermerhorn. "Did you
ever read a story by Norris called _The Third Circle?_"
"Not yet," said Angela. "I bought the book, but----"
"Well, read that story when you get home to-night, Miss, and maybe you'll
know what your young gentleman here went through."
Her "young gentleman!" But Angela did not smile. A thing would have had to
be very funny to strike her as laughable just then.
"No, don't read it to-night," said Nick. "Wait till another time."
"Will you forgive me?" she asked, looking at him. "I'm sorry. I didn't
suppose you'd mind much."
"I was in--Hades for a few minutes," said Nick, hastily qualifying the
remark he had been about to make.
"WHO IS MRS. MAY?"
Only one letter had Nick written to Carmen Gaylor--the one he had promised
to write, telling her of his arrival in New York; that he was "pretty
lonely, and didn't know how long he could stand for seeing no home
sights." It never occurred to him to write again; and Carmen was not
surprised at his remissness. She knew that Nick was not the sort of man
who likes to write letters or can put his feelings upon paper. But when
she received her invitation to visit Rushing River Camp, she could have
sung for joy.
"We are hoping that an old friend of yours, Mr. Nickson Hilliard, may be
with us when you come; as well as Miss Dene, the authoress," Mrs. Harland
said in her note. And Carmen believed that she had Hilliard to thank for
the compliment paid her by Falconer and his sister.
She knew that he had met Falconer and admired him; and putting two and two
together, she fancied that already Nick must have come West, meaning to
surprise her by his sudden appearance; that he had fallen in with Mrs.
Harland and Falconer on the journey, perhaps been invited by them, and
suggested, or at least hinted, that she should be asked to join the
house-party at the same time.
"Otherwise, I don't believe they'd ever have thought of me," she told
herself, with a humility which would have had an element of sulkiness if
she had not been half out of her wits with happiness over the idea that
Nick was near, and wanting her. If he had not wanted her, he would not
have schemed to have her with him at Rushing River Camp.
All the anxieties and suspicions of the past weeks were forgotten. She
telegraphed her acceptance, and began thinking what to wear during the
visit. She admitted in her mind that Mrs. Harland was a "bigger swell"
than she, and knew more of the world and Society. But she determined that
the hostess should not outdo her guest in the way of "smart" dresses,
hats, and jewellery.
Carmen broke her journey at San Francisco, staying there two days at the
Palace Hotel. On the first of these days, as it happened, Nick and Angela
motored to Mount Hamilton, and stayed late at the Lick Observatory. On the
second day they went to Mount Tamalpais, lunching at the delightful
"tavern" on the mountain-top, and rushing madly down the wondrous steeps
at sunset, in the little "gravity car" guided by the landlord.
So it was that Carmen got no chance glimpse of the two together, and had
no suspicion that in the hotel register of the St. Francis was inscribed
the name of Nickson Hilliard. She shopped contentedly, and enjoyed looking
at the prettily dressed women, because she saw none whom she thought as
good-looking as herself. Then, on the second evening, just as Angela and
Nick were tearing down the rocky height known familiarly to San Francisco
as "the mountain," Carmen left for Shasta Springs.
It was early next morning after the long journey north, that the white
pinnacle of Mount Shasta appeared floating in the sky above dark pines,
and the rushing stream of the Sacramento, fed by eternal snows. But Carmen
hardly glanced out of her stateroom window at the hovering white glory,
though her maid mentioned that Shasta was in sight. Mrs. Harland and
Falconer were both coming to meet her at the Springs station, and would
motor her to Rushing River Camp by the fifty-mile road over the mountains.
Carmen hoped that Nick might be with them, though nothing had been said
about him in the telegram they had sent. In any case, her one care was to
be beautiful after the night journey. She took no interest in mountains
and rivers. Her whole soul was concentrated upon the freshness of her
complexion and the angle of the mauve hat on her dark waved hair. Never a
good sleeper, she had been too feverish at the prospect of seeing Nick to
do more than doze off for a few minutes in her berth; consequently, there
were annoying brown shadows under her eyes, and her cheeks looked a little
sallow; but Mariette was an accomplished maid, who had been with Carmen
ever since the old theatrical days, and when Mrs. Gaylor was ready to
leave her stateroom at Shasta Springs station she looked as bright-eyed
and rosy as if she had slept without dreaming. This effect was partly due
to liquid rouge and bismuth, but largely to happy excitement--a woman's
Her heart was beating fast under embroidered, dove-coloured chiffon and
pale gray Shantung, a dress too elaborate for a railway journey; and she
had no eyes for the fairylike greenness of the place, the mountain-side
shadowed by tall trees, or rocks clothed in delicate ferns and spouting
forth white cascades. The full, rich summer she had left at home in the
South was early spring in the cool North. The earth was like a bride,
displaying her trousseau of lace, fall after fall of it, on green velvet
cushions, and the gold of her dowry, the splendour of her wedding gifts,
in a riot of flowers. No money coined in mints could buy diamonds such as
this bride had been given by her mother--Nature; diamonds flashing in
river and cascade upon cascade. But Carmen Gaylor had no eyes for them.
She had merely a pleasant impression that Shasta Springs seemed to be a
pretty place, and no wonder it was popular with millionaires, who built
themselves houses up there on the height, in the forest! But it was only a
passing thought, as he alighted from the train in the welcoming music of
many waters, which she hardly heard. Her attention was centred on picking
out Mrs. Harland and Falconer among the people who were waiting to meet
friends, and on seeing whether Nick Hilliard was with them.
There was a crowd on the platform. Pretty "summer girls" with bare heads,
over which they held parasols of bright green, or rose-red, that threw
charming lights and shadows on their tanned faces: brown young men in
khaki knickerbockers, shaking hands with paler men just coming from town,
and little children in white, laughing at sight of arriving "daddies".
Soon Falconer, towering over most others, appeared with his sister by his
side, and Carmen was pleased to see that Mrs. Harland's clothes could not
compare with hers. Having no idea of suiting her costume to the country,
she thought herself infinitely preferable in her Paris gown to Mrs.
Harland in a cotton frock, and shady straw hat. But no Nick was visible,
and Carmen's pleasure was dashed.
The brother and sister met her cordially, took her to look at the bubbling
spring in its kiosk, and then up the height on the scenic railway.
Presently they landed on the level of the parklike plateau, where a big
hotel and its attendant cottages were visible, with many golden dolomitic
peaks and great white Shasta itself peeping through the trees. Still
nothing had been said about Nick; and Carmen dared not ask. She feared
some disappointment, and shrank from the blow.
Mariette had brought coffee to her mistress's stateroom very early, but
Carmen was not averse to the suggestion of breakfast at the hotel before
motoring over the mountains. As they ate, they talked of impersonal
things: the colony under the trees; the making of the mountain road; and
Falconer told how Mount Shasta--long ago named by Indians "Iska, the
White"--was the abode of the Great Spirit; and how, in old, old times,
before the Indians, the sole inhabitants of the country were grizzly
bears. Carmen listened to the unfolding of the tale into a fantastic
love-story, saying, "Oh!" or "How interesting!" at polite intervals.
Always she asked herself, "Where's Nick? Hasn't he come yet? Is it
possible he's been prevented from coming at all?" She tried to brace
herself against disappointment and not show that she cared, but she turned
red and white when Mrs. Harland said at last, "We're so sorry Mr. Hilliard
couldn't be with us. We both like him so much, and it would have been very
nice to have him too, while you are at Rushing River Camp."
"Oh, he couldn't come!" Carmen echoed dully.
"No. Isn't it too bad? We thought you'd know--that he might have
"Perhaps he has, and I've missed the letter," Carmen broke in, hating to
let these strangers think her slighted by Hilliard. "I've been in San
Francisco two days. But--where is he? On his way home?"
"I don't quite know," replied Mrs. Harland, rather evasively, it seemed.
And then she changed the subject.
Carmen had never seen anything like that winding road over the mountains,
with the white, phantom glimpses of Shasta at every forest turning.
Falconer's big automobile, which he kept at the "Camp," ran up the steep
gradients without appearing to know that they existed, and Carmen strove
to be cheerful, to look as if she were enjoying the drive. But her heart
was a lump of ice, though she talked and laughed a great deal, telling
Mrs. Harland about the rich or important people she knew, instead of
drinking in the sweet air, and giving her eyes to the wild loveliness. It
was bad enough that Nick was not coming, but the air of reserve or
uneasiness with which Mrs. Harland had said, "I don't quite know," touched
the situation with mystery. She realized that, if there were anything to
hide, she would not find it out from her host or hostess; but when on the
veranda of the glorified log-house overhanging the river she saw Theo
Dene, Carmen instantly said to herself with conviction, "If _she_ knows,
I'll get it out of her!"
And seeing Miss Dene at Rushing River Camp she was almost inclined to be
glad that Nick was not there. She admired Theo's splendid red hair and
dazzling skin. She saw that, though the young woman's clothes were simple,
their simplicity was Parisian and expensive; and she saw also that Theo
was a flirt--a "man-eater," as she put it to herself, her dark eyes
meeting the green eyes in a first understanding glance.
Miss Dene was far from unwilling to be pumped. In fact, she meant to be
pumped; and that afternoon, while Mrs. Harland was writing letters and
Falconer was with his secretary, whom he could not escape even in the
country, she invited Mrs. Gaylor to sit with her on the broad veranda,
beneath which the river ran singing a never-ending song.
The two pretty women, the one dark the other fair, made a charming
picture, and neither was oblivious of the fact; but it would not have
occurred to Carmen that her self-appreciation might be put into words.
However, she laughed when Theo said:
"What a shame there aren't any men to admire us! We're both looking too
adorable, aren't we? I should love to snapshot you in that Indian hammock,
though the picture would lose a lot without colour. And it's very unkind
of you if you wouldn't like to have a picture of me in my green
rocking-chair on the scarlet rug."
This gave Carmen a chance to touch upon the subject in her heart without,
as she thought, arousing any suspicion.
"You look awfully pretty," she said; "and this balcony is lovely, hanging
over the river. It's quite different from my home; though mine's nice,
too. And we have got one man--Mr. Falconer."
"He's engaged," said Theo.
"Oh, is he? I didn't know that. Well, and Mr. Hilliard will come, perhaps.
Have you met him?"
"Yes," replied Theo promptly; "at Santa Barbara. He was motoring with Mrs.
May. I thought him one of the handsomest men I ever saw. But I'm afraid he
isn't coming. She isn't either--of course."
Carmen's face crimsoned; then her colour died away and left her sickly
white, all but the little pink spots of rouge she had put on in the
"Motoring with Mrs. May!" she repeated, harshly, then controlled her voice
by a violent effort. "Was Mrs. May expected here?"
"Was expected," Theo echoed with emphasis. She was enjoying herself
thoroughly; literally enjoying "herself." This was almost as good as if
Hilliard had not refused the invitation and Angela had not basely slipped
out of the engagement after practically accepting. "She won't come. I
suppose she thinks she's having more fun where she is. Though if Mr.
Hilliard had come I haven't the ghost of a doubt that she would. Do you
know Mr. Hilliard well?"
This in a tone as innocent as that of a little child talking of its dolls.
"Pretty well," answered Carmen, moistening her lips. "Who is Mrs. May? I
heard of her once. She's a friend of the Morehouses."
"She's a new importation," replied Theo lightly. "So far as I can make
out, she and Mr. Hilliard met in New York."
"Yes, very. Fair hair and gray eyes that look dark. Mourning is becoming
"Is she a widow?"
"She--gives that impression," Miss Dene smiled. This Carmen Gaylor was
like a beautiful, fiery thundercloud. Teasing her was delightful. Theo
felt as if she were in a play. It was a dreadful waste of good material
not to have an audience. But she would "use the scene" afterward. She
remembered hearing a great actress tell how she visited hospitals for
consumptives, and even ran up to Davos one winter, when she was preparing
to play _La Dame aux Camelias_. Theo would have done all that if she had
been an actress. She was fond of realism in every form, and did not stick
"A grass widow?" exclaimed Carmen eagerly.
Theo shrugged her shoulders. "Really, I can't tell you."
Carmen supposed that she knew little of Mrs. May, and had met her for the
first time at Santa Barbara with Nick. With Nick--motoring! The thought
gave Carmen a strange sensation, as if her blood had turned to little
cold, sharp crystals freezing in her veins.
"Not very young, I suppose?" she hazarded, her lips so dry that she had to
touch them with her tongue. But that was dry, too.
"Oh, about twenty-three or four, and looks nineteen."
There was no hope, then! Nick was with a woman, beautiful, young,
presumably a widow, and evidently in love with him, as Miss Dene said that
she would be here at Rushing River Camp if Nick had come. A deadly
sickness caught Carmen by the throat. Her love for Nick was one with her
life, and had been for years. Always she had believed that some day she
would be happy with Nick, would have him for her own. Anything else would
be impossible--too bad to be true. Even when he went East without asking
her to marry him, though she was free, she had assured herself that he
loved her. Had he not as much as said that the anniversary of her
husband's death was not a lucky night to choose for love-making? Carmen
had made certain that she was the only woman in Nick's life; and he had
laughed when she hinted that "some lovely lady" might persuade him to stay
in New York.
"Where is Mrs. May now?" she asked sharply, past caring much whether or no
Miss Dene saw her agony.
"In San Francisco--unless she's gone to the Yosemite Valley with Mr.
"With him! Why should she go everywhere with him?"
Theo laughed. "Because she likes his society, I suppose, and he likes
hers. He is supposed to be her unpaid, amateur guide, I believe, and she
trots her maid about with her, to play propriety. Also a cat. Don't you
think a black cat a charmingly original chaperon?"
Carmen did not answer. Anguish and rage in her heart were like vitriol
dashed on a raw wound. No wonder Nick had not written! And she had been
happy, and trusting, while he forgot his debt of gratitude, and ignoring
her existence, travelled about the country with another woman. Only this
morning Carmen had dreamed of meeting him here, and that he had asked for
her invitation, as a favour to himself. She could have screamed, and torn
her flesh, in agony. She suffered too much. Some one else would have to
pay for this! Nick would have to pay, and that woman, that love pirate
sailing from strange seas to steal the treasure of others.
Her one uncontrollable impulse was to go and find them both, to do
something to part them, she did not know what yet, but inspiration would
come. She felt unable to bear any delay. Somehow, she must find an excuse
to get away from this place. She would have to go San Francisco, or
perhaps even to the Yosemite Valley, and find Nick and the woman together.
It occurred to her that she might contrive to telegraph to Simeon Harp,
telling him to wire her that something had gone wrong on the ranch, that
she must return home at once. Mariette could find out how to send
telegrams from here--there was sure to be a way--and get the message off
* * * * *
That night a telegram came for Mrs. Gaylor, announcing that there had been
a fire on the ranch. She was needed at home. She showed the bit of paper
to Mrs. Harland and Falconer, and there was much sympathy and regret that
her visit must be broken short.
Next morning she left, having been but twenty-four hours at Rushing River
Camp. And late that night, she arrived in San Francisco. But she was in no
hurry to obey the summons from the Gaylor ranch.
THE BOX OF MYSTERY
Again Angela was expecting Hilliard. They were to dine, and then she and
Nick and Kate and the cat were going by train to El Porto, the gate of the
Yosemite Valley. Angela was waiting in her sitting-room, as on that first
evening there, when she had changed one decision for another all in a
moment; but now she was in travelling dress, and a week had passed since
that other night. It had been, perhaps, the happiest week of her life; but
the week to which she was looking forward would be happier still.
Afterward, of course, there would be an end. For the end must come. She
was clear-sighted enough to realize that.
As she thought these things--and quickly put away the thoughts, since
nothing must spoil this hour--there was a rap at the door, and she went to
throw it open, confident that she would see Nick smiling at her, saying in
his nice voice, "Well, are you ready?"
But it was not Nick. A bellboy of the hotel had brought up a large
cardboard box which had arrived by post. The address was printed: "Mrs.
May, Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco," and there were several stamps upon
it; but Angela could not make out the postmark. She found a pair of
scissors and cut the string. The box was tightly packed with a quantity
of beautiful foliage, lovely leaves shaped like oak leaves, and of bright
autumn colours, purple, gold, and crimson, though spring had hardly turned
She plunged her hands into the box, lifting out the gorgeous mass, looking
for a card or note, but finding none. It was a pity that this mysterious
gift had arrived just as she was going away. However, she was keeping on
her rooms, and would leave instructions with the chambermaid to take great
care of the beauties.
Some one else was tapping at the door now, and this time it was Nick.
Angela's hands overflowed with their brilliant burden as she called aloud,
"Come in!" and he came with the very words she had expected: "Well, are
But they died on his lips, and it seemed to her, in the waning light, that
his face grew pale.
"Drop that stuff, quick, Mrs. May!"
He flung the words at her, and Angela, bewildered and amazed, threw down
the coloured leaves as if a tarantula hid among them.
"Have you got any ammonia?" Nick asked sharply.
"Go wash your hands in it while I use your telephone. Don't be frightened,
but that's poison-oak, and I want to prevent it from hurting you."
"Can it--kill me?" Her face quivered.
"No. And it shan't do you any harm if I can help it. But be quick as you
can. Keep your hands in the basin till I get what I'm sending out for."
Without another word Angela ran into the next room, and so to the bath.
As she poured ammonia into the marble basin, feeling a little faint, she
could hear Nick's voice at the telephone: "Send to the nearest drug store
for some gamgee tissue, a bundle of lint, and a pint bottle of lime-water.
This is a hurry call."
Angela's heart was thumping. It was horrible that there should be some one
in the world--a lurking, mysterious some one--who planned in secret to do
her dreadful harm. The incident seemed unreal. Whom did she know, on this
side of the world, who could hate her so bitterly? She was afraid, as of
eyes that she could not see, staring through the dark.
Nick called from the sitting-room: "How do you feel? Are you all right?"
And when she answered "Yes," tried to reassure her. It began to look as if
there were much to fear. Luckily he had come in time. Was she sure she
hadn't held the leaves near her face? No. Then she might hope that there
would be no trouble now. Already he had bundled the bunch of fire into a
newspaper and it had been taken out of the room to be destroyed, like a
wicked witch. Luckily there were people who could touch poison-oak and
suffer no harm. Nick told Angela he "felt in his bones" that no evil thing
could have power over her.
Soon, almost before she could have believed it possible, the messenger
arrived with a strange assortment of packets from the chemist. Nick
shouted that all was ready, and she went back to the sitting-room, her
hands dripping ammonia. Kate had been summoned, and having just appeared,
was about to empty a large flower bowl, which Nick had ordered her to
wash. The Irish girl was pale, and looked dazed. She knew nothing yet of
what had happened, but guessed at some mysterious accident to her
A great bouquet of roses which Nick had sent that morning now lay on a
side table, and into the flower bowl they had adorned he poured the
lime-water. In this he soaked the gamgee tissue (Angela had never heard of
the stuff before), and bade her hold out both hands. Then he bound them
quickly and skilfully, intent on what he was doing, though his head was
bent closer to Angela's than it had ever been before, and the fragrance of
her hair was sweet, as in his dreams of angels. As for her, she felt a
childlike confidence in his ability to cure her, to save her from harm.
Over the tissue, wet with lime-water, Nick wrapped bandages of lint; and
the operation finished, Angela was as helpless as if she had pulled on a
pair of tight, thick gloves whose fingers would not bend.
"Does this mean that we aren't to go to-night?" she asked mournfully.
"I hope it doesn't mean that. But we can't be dead certain yet," answered
Nick. He looked at her searchingly, his face drawn and anxious; but it
relaxed as if he were suddenly relieved from some great strain as his eyes
travelled over the smooth, pure features, and met her questioning gaze at
last with assurance.
"If we are not certain soon, it will be too late to start, and I can't
bear to put off going. I'm looking forward to the trip so much!" she said.
"Shall we dine here? You'll have to feed me, I'm afraid." She laughed; but
a slow flush crept up to Nick's forehead.
"Would you let me?"
"Yes. Why not? If you don't mind. Anything rather than miss our
train--unless some horrid symptoms are coming on that you haven't the
courage to tell me about. Ring for dinner, Kate. And you can go and have
yours. We'll do everything exactly as if we expected to start."
"Sure, ma'am, don't make me leave the room till I've heard what Mr.
Hilliard has to say. I'm that worried till I know the worst," Kate
Angela smiled. "I'm just beginning to learn," she said, "that it's a
mistake to think of the _worst_. I used to make a point of doing it, and
it generally happened. Now--I expect the best!" She spoke to Kate, and
looked at Nick. "But tell me what poison-oak can do."
Nick shivered. For an instant, a picture of that adored young face
hideously disfigured turned him sick. And even her little white hands--no,
it did not bear thinking of! But he controlled himself and tried to speak
"Why, it affects some people so their faces and hands swell up, and--and
get red and spotted. Of course, that doesn't last many days: but--it isn't
nice while it does last, and I--couldn't bear the thought of its happening
to you. I just couldn't bear it! It isn't going to happen, though," he
added hastily, seeing the colour leave her lips. "By this time you'd have
begun to feel mighty bad, if you were in for trouble. You can't be easy to
affect, for if you were, the poison might have gone to your face, without
your even touching the leaves. Your hands don't burn, do they?"
"Only a little--from the ammonia."
"That saved them. If you feel all right in an hour more, you can have the
bandages off, and the danger'll be over for good. Then we can start,
unless the shock's been too much for you?"
"I'm too bewildered to be shocked," said Angela.
"Who could have played such a horrid practical joke on me? It's a little
bit like--in a ridiculous way--the play of _Adrienne Lecouvreur_, where a
woman is poisoned by a bouquet of flowers sent by a jealous rival. Only I
haven't a jealous rival!"
Nick's face hardened. "I'm going to find out who did send the stuff. While
you were in the other room I was looking at the wrapper of the box. I
can't make out the postmark; but I reckon there are those who can, and I
won't rest till I know."
"What can you do to find out?" asked Angela.
"I can put the best detective in San Francisco on to the job. He shall
follow up the clues like a bloodhound, and hang on to them when he's got
'em, like a bulldog."
"Oh, but don't let's put off our journey!" Angela exclaimed. "I feel, if
we do that, we'll never go. It has always----" she half-whispered, "seemed
too good to come true."
"I'd rather do 'most anything than put off the trip," said Nick. "But
there's time for everything. We don't leave the hotel till after nine.
Dinner won't be ready for a bit; and if you'll let me, I'll go out now and
see a man I've heard of--a very smart detective."
But Angela begged him to wait. She hated the thought of being left alone
till she was sure that no ill effect need be feared from the poison. So
Nick stayed, not unwillingly, and a simple dinner was ordered in haste.
Kate was sure that after what had happened she would have no appetite for
dinner; but, like a true Irish girl, she was romantic to the core of her
heart; and because she was deeply in love with her Tim, she had the
"seeing eye" which showed her clearly what was in Nick Hilliard's heart
Of course, he was not good enough for her lady; no man could be. But Kate
had a sneaking kindness for Nick, the splendid giver of the golden bag,
and would not, by offering her services as cutter-up-of-food for the
queen, rob him of the privilege.
So Kate slipped out unobtrusively, and the privilege in question became
Nick's. It was a joy, even a delirious joy, but it was also an ordeal; for
as he fed her, Angela smiled at him. Each time that he proffered a
spoonful of soup or a morsel of chicken she met his gaze with laughing
eyes, roguish, under dark lashes, as the eyes of a child. The difficulty
when this happened, as it did constantly, was to keep hands steady and
mind calm, as if for the performance of a delicate surgical operation;
because to drop a thing, or aim it wrongly, would have been black
disgrace. And to ensure perfection of aim, attention must be concentrated
upon the lady's lips as she opened them to receive supplies. It was to
watch the unfolding of a rosebud into a rose while forbidden to touch the
rose. And even monks of the severest brotherhoods may pluck the flowers
that grow beside their cloisters.
Nick did not leave Angela until Kate had come back; then he and the Irish
girl together unwound the bandages. There was a moment of suspense, but
the hands were satin-smooth.
"It seems to be written that you shall save me always from horrors--ever
since the night of the burglar," Angela said, when Kate had gone to the
next room to dispose of the lint.
"I shall be like a child learning to walk alone when my journeyings with
you come to an end."
There was his chance to say, "_Must_ they come to an end?" But Kate was
near; and besides, a snub from Angela might stop the "journeyings" then
and there. So he answered with a mere compliment, as any man may, meaning
nothing at all or a great deal. To save her from danger, it was worth
while to have been born, he said. And he remembered, as he had remembered
many times, how clear had been the call he had heard to go East; a call
like a voice in his ears, crying, "Nick, I want you. Come." He was tempted
to be superstitious, and to believe that unconsciously, in some mysterious
way, Angela had summoned him to be her knight. To be even more, perhaps,
in the end. Who could tell--yet?
It was a good sign, at all events, that she was reluctant to give up the
trip; and Nick decided not to risk confiding in the police. Put the affair
of the poison-oak into their hands, and they would lasso every one
concerned, with yards of red tape! In that case, he and Mrs. May might be
detained in San Francisco. No! A private detective would do the trick; and
Nick had the name of one pigeon-holed in his brain: Max Wisler, a shrewd
fellow, once employed with success by "old Grizzly Gaylor" when there had
been a leakage of money and vanishing of cattle on the ranch. Nick went in
search of Max Wisler now, in a taxi, and found him at the old address; a
queer little frame house, in a part of San Francisco which had been left
untouched by the great fire.
Wisler was at home, and remembered Hilliard. He was fair and fat, with a
manner somewhat cold; unlit by enthusiasm; yet as he listened a gleam
flashed out from his carefully controlled gray eyes, which hinted at
hidden fires. He heard Nick to the end of the story, in silence, playing
always with the leaves of a book which he had been reading--a volume of
Fenimore Cooper's. Still he went on fingering the pages for a minute, when
Hilliard paused expecting questions. Then he looked up suddenly, seeming
literally to catch Nick's eye and hold it by force.
"What woman is jealous of this lady--Mrs. May?" he asked.
"I don't think she knows any woman in California, except Mrs. Falconer's
sister--and a Miss Dene from England, an authoress who is travelling about
with Mrs. Harland in Falconer's car."
"Ah! Mrs. Harland's out of the running. And that Miss Dene's gone East. I
happened to see her start, yesterday. She had a collection of people
giving her a send-off. Of course, she could have employed some one else to
do the job, and keep out of the way herself. But--I guess we must look
further. Now see here, Mr. Hilliard, a patient has got to be frank with
his doctor if the doctor's to do any good. Are you engaged to marry Mrs.
Gaylor, the widow of my old client?"
"Good Lord, no!" exclaimed Nick, scarlet to his forehead. "Such an idea
never entered my head."
"Humph! Rumour's wrong, then. But that isn't to say it never entered her
head. Does she know Mrs. May?"
"No," said Nick. "Surely you're not hinting----"
"I'm not hinting anything. I'm feeling my way in the dark."
"It isn't quite dark. You've got the paper that was round the box. I saw
you looking at it, through a magnifying glass, just now."
"That postmark means the longest way round that we can take. Do you think
any one with an ounce of brains would send poison from a place where
she--or he, if you like--was known? No. She--or he--would go a long way,
and a roundabout way. Or send a trusted messenger. Tell me straight, Mr.
Hilliard, has Mrs. Gaylor got in her employ a confidential maid, or man?"
Nick, distressed and embarrassed, angry with the detective, yet unwilling
to offend and put him off his work, knew not what to answer. There was
Simeon Harp, of course, who would do anything for Carmen. But Nick could
not, would not, play into Wisler's hands by mentioning the name of Harp,
or telling of the old man's doglike devotion to his mistress. It was a
detestable and vulgar suggestion which connected Mrs. Gaylor with this
affair--detestable for every one concerned; for Carmen, for Nick; above
all, for Angela.
"Mrs. Gaylor hasn't a servant who isn't loyal," he returned at last,
evading Wisler's eye. "But you'd better get this notion out of your mind,
to start with, or you'll find yourself on the wrong track. Mrs. Gaylor and
I are good friends, no more. She doesn't know anything about Mrs. May; and
if she did, there's nothing to make her jealous, even if--if we were
warmer friends than we are."
"Sure she never heard of the lady?"
Nick hesitated. "I don't see how she can have heard. I haven't written to
her since I--met Mrs. May."
"Ah, you haven't written to her since then. H'm! Does Mrs. Gaylor know Mr.
Falconer and his sister, and their authoress friend Miss Dene?"
"Not Miss Dene. Come to think of it, I heard Miss Dene say she'd like to
meet Mrs. Gaylor. She asked questions about her. But that's nothing."
"Perhaps they've been visiting back and forth since then."
"If they have, it hasn't come to my knowledge."
"Women do a lot of things that don't come to men's knowledge. That's one
reason detectives exist. Well, you don't seem much inclined to help me,
Mr. Hilliard, though you say you're anxious to get to the bottom of this
little mystery as soon as possible."
"I am anxious. And if I don't help you, it's because I can't. I don't want
you to lose yourself in the woods, and have to find your way back, to
begin all over again."
"No. I don't want that, either," said Wisler, smiling his slow smile.
"It's a long time since I got lost in the woods, and I'll do my best not
to lose my reckoning this time. I must worry along without you, I see. But
I'm not discouraged. When you've finished up this trip that you seem to
think so important, I may have news for you, of one kind or another."
Nick looked at his watch. It was time to go back to the Fairmount if he
meant to take Angela away that night.
THE HAPPY VALLEY
In thinking of the Yosemite, Angela had, half-unconsciously, pictured
herself and Nick Hilliard alone in the valley together, separated from
"mere tourists" by a kind of magic wall. But down it tumbled with her
first moment at El Portal; and behold, on the other side of the wall were
hundreds of eager young men and women who no doubt resented her existence
as much as she resented theirs.
The huge veranda of the log-built hotel, on the hill above the railway,
swarmed with brides and bridegrooms. It was extremely early in the
morning, and everybody was sleepy, even those who had passed their night
in the hotel, not in the train; nevertheless, though good-natured, one and
all wore an air of square-chinned, indomitable determination which puzzled
Something was evidently about to happen, something of immense importance,
for which each man with all his feminine belongings intended to be ready
if possible before any one else. Angela watched the silent preparations
with impersonal interest while she waited for Hilliard to come from the
office and tell her about the special carriage for which he had
By this time a hasty breakfast had been snatched, and in a crowded
dining-room full of laughter and chattering she had resigned herself to
the falling of the magic wall. Other people had a right to enjoy the
Yosemite and she must not grudge them their place. "I suppose," she said
to Kate, who stood beside her on the veranda, "that all these nice girls
and men are going off for different excursions. They seem a good deal
excited. I wonder why?"
Just then a stage drawn by four splendid horses drove up the veranda
steps. Something was shouted. Angela could not catch the announcement, for
she had all she could do not to be carried off her feet in the general
rush. A dozen of the firm-faced men and resolute girls made a dash for the
box seat. With no malice in their eyes, they fought and wrestled with each
other; and it was a case of the best man wins. Those worsted in the
struggle with the utmost good-nature contented themselves with the next
best places; and so on to the back seat, into which the weakest fell,
almost before the driver had brought his horses to a full stop. Away tore
the stage with its laughing load, and another vehicle whirled up to the
hotel steps, to be filled in a breathless instant.
As Angela stood watching, fascinated yet appalled, Nick came out to her,
with the air of a general who has lost a battle.
"How glad I am," she whispered, "that we haven't got to fight for our
lives like that. I simply couldn't do it."
"Mrs. May, we _have_ got to!" he groaned. "I've failed, after all my
boastings of what I could do for you in the Yosemite. A private carriage
can't be had, and they've made a rule that no one's allowed to book a seat
in advance. When the stage for the Sentinel Hotel comes along, I shall
swing you on to the box seat, if I kill ten men."
Angela rebelled. She pitied herself so intensely that she had no
compassion left for Nick. "What--dash people away, and push ahead of them?
I'd rather--yes, I'd rather turn back to San Francisco."
"I don't see myself letting you turn back," said Nick. And said it so
firmly that Angela, never opposed by him before, looked up in surprise. He
was not smiling. Evidently he was in earnest, deadly earnest. She knew
that what he told her she would have to do, and, oddly enough, she grew
"When our stage comes along," he said in a low voice, "I shall get in
before any one else, and keep a place for you. Don't hesitate a second,
but be ready for a jump. I'll have you up by my side before you know
what's happened. Kate must be close behind, and I'll try to swing her up
to the next seat."
"Why shouldn't _we_ have the back places, since somebody must?" Angela
"Because I want you to have the best there is, and I'm going to get it for
you, that's the only reason," Nick explained, leaving no room for further
argument. "It's the least I owe you, after failing to keep my other
She said no more; and round her the fight for places went on, desperate,
yet extraordinarily good-natured. People tried with all their might to
grab what they coveted, but if somebody else snatched it from under their
noses, why, blame Kismet! The rule of the game was to make no moan.
Always, as a new relay surged forward, Nick by some insidious manoeuvre
edged Angela and Kate nearer to the front. At last he got them wedged
behind the foremost row of travellers who were waiting to spring upon and
overwhelm an approaching stage. Those who had won the way to the front and
achieved safety, unless defeated by an unexpected rear attack, wore an
appearance of deceitful calm. Two extremely big young men, who had the air
of footballers in training, did what they could to form a hollow square
round a couple of fragile but determined girls. The party, while in
reality bent upon securing the two best seats at any cost to life or limb,
pretended to be looking at an illustrated newspaper. This feint was
intended to put others off their guard; and the four concealed their
emotions by discussing the pictures on the uppermost page.
A name spoken by one of the girls was an electric shock for Angela. In an
instant the veranda, the crowd on it, and the stage whose turn would come
next, vanished from before her eyes like a dissolving view.
"Prince di Sereno! What a romantic name. And say, _isn't_ he handsome? I
wonder if he's as good-looking as that, really?"
"She's handsome, too," the other girl added. "I do hope they won't be
"Come along, kids--look sharp!" said the two young men. And before others
who hoped to annex the box seat could breathe after an interlude of
footballing, the conquering four secured what they wanted. Those less
fortunate were tumbling up as best they could; and Angela had scarcely
time to realize that she had not dreamed the incident, when the stageload
had bounced away.
She was left dazed, and blushing deeply, so deeply that Nick, quick to
notice lights and shadows on her face, wondered what match had lit that
Angela's first thought was that somehow she had been found out. Then she
remembered that the girls had seen the name in a newspaper. Also they had
been looking at Paolo's picture. And he _could_ be handsome--in a picture.
But of whom had they said, "She's handsome, too?" Could it be that her own
photograph had been published with Paolo's? If so, who had dared to
reproduce it, and why? What if Nick should come across the picture and
recognize the face as hers? She did not want him to know that she was the
Princess di Sereno until, for her own reasons and in her own time, she
should choose to tell him the story of her life. Once she had thought
there was no reason why he need ever know; that they would part, and she
would remain in his memory as Angela May. Now, however, she began to see
that the moment must come when she would not only need, but wish, to tell
him all, so that he might know why. But she never quite finished this
explanation in her mind. It was too fond of trying to finish itself
without waiting to be put into words.
She was a little frightened now, lest by chance there should be a
premature revelation, for in the rush to get away the girls dropped the
paper they had been reading. It lay on the veranda steps, and though the
cover was turned back, and only an advertisement page could be seen,
Angela discovered that it was the _Illustrated London News_.
Perhaps the page which lay face down was the page of the photograph. She
half longed, half dreaded that a flutter of wind or a passing foot might
turn the paper over. What could the girl have meant by saying, "I hope
they won't be killed?"
Could Angela have read Theo Dene's mind the day at Santa Barbara, this
picture and paragraph would have been less mysterious to her. "I wonder if
Mrs. May _knows about the Prince_?" Theo had asked herself.
"There's an English paper on the step," said Nick, following the direction
of her eyes. "Does it make you homesick? If it does, I'll put in a claim
to it. There may be time for you to glance it over before the right stage
"No, no," said Angela, hastily. "I don't want the paper. And oh, look, it
says 'Sentinel' on this stage that's coming."
The next thing she knew, she was swaying between earth and heaven, over
heads that surged beneath her. Somehow, Nick had got that place on the box
seat, and he was beside her, resolutely helping Kate on to the high step.
Suddenly, however, Timmy's covered basket flew open. Kate had been playing
with the cat, and had forgotten to fasten Tim in. Resenting the confusion,
Timmy made a leap, Kate screamed and jumped down from the stage, carrying
not only the cat's basket, but a small dressing-bag of Angela's--all she
had brought, except a suit-case containing a dress or two for the journey.
Some one else had, of course, scrambled into the coveted seat so
miraculously vacated, and the stage, with its full complement of
passengers, went swinging down the road, with Kate and Timmy and the
dressing-bag left behind.
"Shall we try to stop?" Nick began; but Angela cut him short, her face now
as determined as those of the square-chinned girls who had passed
triumphantly on their way. "No!" she said. "I can't go through that again!
Kate will have to come on later."
"There'll be another 'Sentinel' stage in about an hour, I guess,"
announced the good-natured driver. "She'll be all right."
"She knows where we're going," said Angela. "She's a quick-witted girl,
and I shan't worry. I mean to be happy in spite of everything--and
_because_ of everything!"