Part 6 out of 6
"You're safe, precious one, safe," he whispered, as he might have soothed
a child. "There's nothing to be afraid of now."
Angela opened her eyes and looked at him through her lashes as she had
never looked before. "I--thought of you then," she murmured. "I thought of
you--I wanted you. Just when I expected to die."
Her eyes, her voice, her words, broke down the last barrier that held him
back; and he would have been more or less than man if he had not poured
out, in a torrent, all his love and worship in a flood of words.
"Darling--heart's dearest--do you think I'd have let you die so? I must
have felt--I must have heard you call me. It had to be. I'd feel a thought
of yours across the world," he stammered. "If I were in my grave and you
wanted me, my spirit would come back into my body to serve you. How I love
you, love you, dear! It can't be that such love can leave you cold. I'm
not of your world, but come down to mine, or help me to come into yours.
Give me a little love, just a little love, and I'll give you my soul."
"Don't--oh, don't!" faltered Angela. She raised her head from his arm and
sat up, leaning away from him.
"I know I'm a wretch!" he said. "I ought to be shot for speaking of
myself, when you're all broken to pieces. The words came. I've been
keeping them back day by day, but that's no excuse. Forgive me!"
"No--you mustn't use the word forgive--when you've just saved my life!
It's only this--I can't let you go on."
"Not now. I know. But some time----"
"No. Not ever. Don't think I couldn't care for you. It isn't that. I
could. I----But I _mustn't_ care. It's all impossible! I ought to have
told you long ago. The only thing is to forget--for us both. Oh, if I
could have kept you for my friend! But I feel now that's impossible, too.
After this, we can't be friends, can we?"
"No, we can't be friends," he echoed, very pale, suddenly weary and almost
broken by the strain he had endured. "But are you sure----"
"Sure. The more I care, the more sure. Oh, Nick, my dear, my dear, I wish
you had let me die!"
He looked at her strangely and very sadly, after his first start and
stiffening of the muscles. "Would that have been better than caring for
me?" he asked in a voice so low that she could just catch the words.
"Yes, it would have been much better," she answered, covering her face
with her hands to hide the tears that burned her eyes. She was too weak
for the explanation she would have given at sunset among the redwoods.
This was no time, and she was in no state for explanations. She could only
feel and hide from him what she felt, or part of it; for if he but half
guessed how she loved him and wanted his love, she would be in his arms,
his lips on hers. There was no thought in her mind how terribly he might
His lips were white. "Very well," he said. "It's better for me that you've
been frank. All the same and all the more I want you to forgive me for
speaking at a time like this. I won't offend you again. Only I don't take
back anything. So now you know. Don't try to talk, and I won't talk much
to you. I don't think I could if I would. I'm going to drive you to
Bakersfield. But shall I take you to a kind old doctor I know, who can
give you something to pick you up, or would you rather I'd drop you at a
hotel? For--I can't explain, so please don't ask--but I mustn't let you go
to Mrs. Gaylor's again. There's a good reason why. Maybe you'll know some
time, but I don't believe it can ever be from me. I'll fetch your maid and
your baggage when you're settled somewhere. And if you're strong enough,
the best thing will be to start for San Francisco to-night. When you're
there, see Mr. Morehouse, and let him take good care of you. For it's
true, as you said; you and I can't go on being friends."
Angela opened her lips to answer him, but could not. He started the car
once more, and drove on faster.
"I'll go to a hotel, thank you, not to a doctor," she said when she could
* * * * *
Soon the news of the stampede among the new bunch of steers from Arizona
found its way to the house, and Carmen was told what had happened. The
rush of the cattle had been stopped by the time she heard of it, but only
at the brink of the big irrigation canal. Two fences had been broken down
and a good many animals killed. Others had had to be shot.
"Anybody hurt?" Carmen asked in a queer, dry voice. She seemed to take
little interest in the fate of the new cattle, though they had been a
So far as was known, nobody had been hurt. But it was too soon to be sure
yet. And there was no one who could tell up to that moment how the
stampede had been started. But some of the boys talked about a gun going
off mysteriously. And a lady had been seen in the disused pasture. The
boys had seen her running, and afterward being caught up by a man in a big
yellow motor, what man they weren't sure--they'd been going too fast and
were too far off--but he was like Nick Hilliard.
And it was then that Simeon Harp came on to the terrace where Carmen was
standing to hear the story. Seeing his face she knew that things had gone
utterly wrong, and that all hope was lost.
"Nick will know what I did!" she told herself, as the death-stab of
failure struck her in the heart. "Maybe he knows already. If that woman
has told him how I sent her out alone, and how I lied about his plans
being changed, and the men he had to meet, then he must guess. They're
sure to compare notes, and he'll suspect about the poison-oak."
The ice of despair was a frozen dagger in her breast. Even before the
chance came for a talk with Simeon Harp she made up her mind what to do.
It would be a cruel wrench, but there was nothing else. She could not face
Nick's look of loathing, even though gratitude for the past should close
his lips upon his knowledge, and upon his secret thoughts of her. To go
away, far away, this very hour, before he could come, would be a
confession of guilt and of utter defeat; but to Carmen, crushed and
hopeless and ashamed, it was the only thing to do. She would go and never
come back. She would live in the East, or, better still, in Europe, and
sell the hateful ranch. She had received many tempting offers since her
husband's death, and through her lawyers she would accept one that was
still open. Life here would be too hateful with Nick for a silent enemy;
Nick married by and by, perhaps, to the other woman.
The excitement of her decision kept Carmen from a physical collapse.
Quickly, if a little confusedly, she thought out a plan. There would, of
course, be a question of insurance for the dead and injured cattle, she
said to the elderly foreman who had taken Nick's place on the ranch. She
would go to San Francisco at once. No use to point out that it was
unnecessary. She wished to go. That was enough. And she gave directions to
every one what was to be done in her absence, for she might be away some
days. She would not take her maid. She preferred to travel alone. And when
some question was asked later by one of the house servants about the
guest, Mrs. May, Carmen answered: "She has been suddenly called away from
here by telegram. I don't think she'll be coming back to the house.
There'll be a message for that Irish girl of hers by and by, I expect.
Anyhow, I can't trouble about them now. Their affairs must take care of
Mariette, Carmen's French maid, hurriedly and sulkily packed enough things
to last her mistress for a week; and by the time the trunk and bag were
ready the carriage was waiting to take Mrs. Gaylor into Bakersfield.
Everybody knew that no train would leave Kern for San Francisco until
night, but the imperious lady was in no mood to receive extraneous
information. She had said something about seeing a lawyer in Bakersfield.
If she chose to waste hours there it was her business, not that of the
But driving to the town, Carmen decided not to go to San Francisco by that
night's train. She had had time to reflect a little, not only upon what
had happened, but upon what was likely to happen. If Angela May suspected
the truth--and Carmen's conscience told her that this was more than
probable--she would not go back to the ranch. Nick would not let her go
there, even if she wished it. He would send for or fetch the Irish maid
and the luggage, while Mrs. May--already engaged to marry him,
perhaps--waited at his place, or at a Bakersfield hotel. In any case it
was almost certain that "the woman" (as Carmen called Angela always, in
her mind) would travel to San Francisco that night. And it seemed likely
to Mrs. Gaylor that Nick would go with her and the maid. Carmen could not
risk an encounter in the train.
Arrived at Bakersfield, fortunately without meeting Nick in his motor, she
hired a large automobile. And at the hour when Hilliard was being informed
that Mrs. Gaylor had gone away for a few days, on business which had come
up suddenly, she was travelling swiftly by road to San Francisco.
The car she had engaged was a powerful touring automobile, with
side-curtains of canvas, and these she ordered to be kept down; for she
had some wild fear that Nick might discover her plan, try to follow and
find her during her journey, necessarily much longer by motor than by
train. Always by daylight she was peeping out, nervously, from under her
thick veil, but the Bright Angel never flashed into sight. She knew at
last that it would not come, that Nick did not mean to follow; that she
would not see him again this side the grave; for she did not intend ever
to return to the Gaylor ranch. Where she would live she did not know yet,
though she thought vaguely of some great city in Europe--Paris, perhaps,
where there would be plenty of excitement which might help her to forget.
Meanwhile, the thing was to get away--away, not only from California, but
even from America--as quickly as possible, it hardly mattered how, for
luckily--the one piece of luck she had left!--there was plenty of money.
And the ranch could take care of itself.
The day Carmen reached San Francisco a ship happened to be sailing for
Japan. She was able to engage a cabin, and went on board almost at the
last moment. Among others who arrived very late was a bent old man, with a
worn face which had once been handsome. Carmen did not see him till the
third day out. Then, from the deck sacred to second-class passengers, a
pair of dark blue, red-rimmed eyes looked up at her as she leaned
listlessly on the rail, gazing down.
Madame Vestris had seen in the crystal a man standing beside her, a man in
shadow. After all, it was not Nick Hilliard but Simeon Harp.
THE MAKING OF A GENTLEMAN
One evening, when July was beginning, Nick Hilliard sat on the veranda of
his plain little house, which he had grown to love. Swinging back and
forth in a big rocking-chair, he smoked a pipe and thought very hard. As
he thought and smoked, he looked dreamily at a young owl in a big cage;
the owl he had sent home from Paso Robles.
If he had been thinking about it, he could have seen, dark against the
pale fire of the desert sky, the source of his fortune; the great gusher
throwing up its black spout of oil, like tons upon tons of coal. For the
famous Lucky Star oil supply showed no sign yet of giving out, though it
had been playing like a huge geyser for many months; and already, since
its mysterious birth, many younger brothers had been born, small and
insignificant comparatively, but money-makers. If Nick's thought had not
drawn down a curtain in front of his eyes, he must have seen, across a
blue lake and a black desert created by a rain of oil, a forest of
derricks, like a scattered group of burnt fir-trees with low-hung bare
branches. But instead of these his mind's eye saw a new road, shaded by
walnuts and oaks, that marched in long straight lines between rough
pasture and irrigated land. He saw in the tree-shadows a yellow motor-car
drawn up by the side of the road, and in it a beautiful, pale girl,
hatless, with disordered golden hair and a torn white dress. He saw a man
with the girl, and heard her say that it would have been better to die
than let herself care for him.
"Yet she _did_ care for me," Nick told himself obstinately. "There's no
getting over that. She said, 'You mustn't think I don't care.'" And even
if she hadn't said it, there was that look in her eyes. Could he ever
forget the look, or cease to thrill at the memory? No; he knew that he
could not, till the hour of his death. "It was because I'm not of her
world, that she couldn't bear to let herself go, and love me as she was
beginning to love me, I know," he thought, as he had thought countless
times before, in the weeks since he had quietly let her go out of his
life. "I'm not what she's been brought up to call a gentleman," his mind
went on drearily preaching to him. "I suppose I can't realize the bigness
and deepness of the gulf between us, as she sees it. I've only my own
standards to judge by. Hers are mighty different. I knew there _was_ a
gulf, but I hoped love would bridge it. She thought no bridge could be
strong enough for her to walk on to me. I wonder if she thinks the same
yet, or if the feeling I have sometimes, that she's calling to me from far
off, means anything? I told her that day I'd feel her thinking of me
across the world. Well--what if she's thinking of me now?"
Nick had often debated this subject, and looked at it from every point of
view; for after the first blow over the heart, a dim, scarcely perceptible
light of hope had come creeping back to him. Knowing from her words, and
better still from her eyes, that Angela had cared a little, at least
enough to suffer, Nick had wondered whether he might not make himself more
acceptable to her than he had been.
He did not disparage himself with undue humility in asking this question.
He knew that he was a man, and that honour and strength and cleanness of
living counted for something in this world. But if he could become more
like the men she knew--in other words, a gentleman fit to mate with a
great lady--what then?
For Nick was aware that his manners were not polished. In what Mrs. May
would call "society," no doubt he would be guilty of a thousand mistakes,
a thousand awkwardnesses. If he did anything rightly it would be by
instinct--instinct implanted by generations of his father's well-born,
well-bred ancestors--rather than from knowledge of what was conventionally
the "proper thing." If Angela had let love win, perhaps she might often
have been humiliated by his ignorances and stupidities, Nick reminded
himself; and for him that would have been worse than death, even as for
her, according to her admission, it would have been worse than death to go
on caring for him. Perhaps she had been wise. Maybe he was "impossible."
But, if ever she suffered a moment's regret, now that they were parted,
and if he could yet find a way of happiness for both, better than cold
wisdom, was there no hope? It was of a way to reach her that he was
thinking to-night; and abruptly the big chair ceased to swing and creak.
"I'll go and see that chap they call the Dook!" Nick mumbled on a sudden
resolution, and knocked out the ashes from his pipe.
A minute later he was strolling through the hot purple twilight toward
Lucky Star City, one of the queerest little towns on earth. It had not,
however, the remotest conception that it was queer. On the contrary, it
thought itself a gay and pleasant place, singularly up-to-date, and
lacking nothing except water, which was now worth a good deal more than
the fortune-giving oil of which it had too much.
The rough, mostly unpainted, wooden houses, shops, and hotels composing
Lucky Star City were so near the great oil gusher which accounted for the
town's existence that the front rank of frame buildings was peppered all
over with a jetty spray. This disfigurement had come when the gusher was
at its highest, and its black, blowing spume had been borne by the wind
for long distances. The earth seemed to have gone into mourning and to be
spread with a pall almost as far as the boundary of the ranch which Nick
had retained for himself; yet there was a strong dividing-line. He had
kept some pasture land, for he loved cattle; but his great pleasure had
been in irrigation; and literally he had made the desert "blossom as a
rose." Even the smell was different when he turned his back upon his own
fragrant alfalfa fields, and drew in breaths laden with the fumes of crude
petroleum. But he was used to the scent of oil and hardly noticed it.
He skirted round the desert lake and steered clear of another lesser lake,
formed entirely of petroleum from the great gusher. By day its greasy
blackness glared in hideous contrast to the blue though brackish water;
but now night lent its ugliness a strange disguise. All the faint twilight
that remained glimmered on the gloss of its surface like phosphorus in
the palm of a negro's hand; and as Nick passed on toward the town, stars
shone out in its dark mirror. He could hear the thick splash of the gusher
that rose and fell, like the beating of a giant's heart, and from the
brightly lighted town sounds of laughter and fiddling came to him.
Lucky Star City had no suburbs. The whole place had grown up in less than
a year, and, in fact, such buildings as had existed for six months were
known as "old." There was but one street, though a few ambitious
landowners had run up houses in "gardens" at a short but haughty distance
from the "business part"; and at night the town was seen at its best. The
three two-storeyed, verandaed hotels--one painted white, another green,
the third and noisiest not painted at all--blazed with lights. The drug
store, the jewellery store (for there was a jewellery store, and a
prosperous one), the grocery store--combining a large trade in candy--the
post office, and the dry-goods store--where two extremes were made to meet
with a display of hats and shoes in the same window--were every one open
and crowded. Men in shirt-sleeves, and men in khaki, men of almost all
conditions and nations, sat or lounged on the hotel verandas making music
or listening to it, swapping stories and yelling with laughter. Away in
the distance at one end of the long street--which had no pavement but
yellow sand--there was a shooting gallery, and every second or two was
marked off with a shot, or a shout of applause or derision. At the other
end, equally far away from the populous centre of shops, was a variety
theatre, a mere shanty, run up in a day; and as Nick took his way toward
the green-painted hotel he could hear the shrill squalling of a woman's
untrained voice, shrieking out the latest comic song.
"Hello, Nick!" "How go things, High-pockets?" friendly voices saluted
Hilliard as he marched through the cigarette-strewn sand. And he had a
laughing word for each one. Everybody who was anybody had a nickname at
Lucky Star City, and Hilliard was rather pleased with "High-pockets"
--bestowed upon him because of his height and his long straight
legs. "The Dook" was the sobriquet of the person he had come to
see; and it was by this name that Nick inquired for him, gravely, of the
The man addressed chuckled. "I guess he's gone over to Meek's to try and
borrow some cash off his dear country-man. I seen him strollin' down that
way. Hope Meek'll fork out. The Dook owes me two weeks' board, and I've
give him notice to pay up or quit. London hotels may hand out free meals
to the nobility and gentry for the sake o' the ad. But this ain't London.
"Is he nobility?" inquired Nick.
"Blamed if I know. Puts on airs enough. Ain't got much else to put on now,
I guess. No one never told me you and he was chums."
"No more we are. I never had a word with him; but I'm lookin' for a few,"
said Nick. "If he can make good, we may do some business together."
"Huh!" grunted the landlord of the emerald-painted hotel, which had
received its colour in honour and subtle advertisement of the owner's
name--Green. "I don't see you two swappin' canteens any, Nick, but it
ain't for me to bust into your game; and I guess if you sling him a roll
o' your good greenbacks, I'll contrive to switch some o' 'em off the line
into my pocket. That's to say, if you give him a job he can stick to his
bunk and his grub in my hotel."
Mr. Green was just about to round off his ultimatum with a spurt of
tobacco-juice aimed at a passing cat, when he checked himself hastily at
sight of a woman. What became of the tobacco-juice was a mystery or a
conjuring trick, but the cat's somewhat blunted sensibilities, and the
lady's--not yet blunted--were spared.
"Who's that?" Nick inquired in a low, respectful voice, when Green had
touched the place where his hat would have been if he had had it on, and
the young woman, bowing with stiff politeness, had gone by.
"What, don't you know?" the landlord of the Eureka Hotel replied with a
question. "But I forgot, you ain't shown up around here much since you
blow'd hack from the East. The fellers say Noo York's kinder got your
goat, and you're sheddin' your feathers in these lonesome wilds, pinin'
after the theayters and swell doin's in the Waldorf-Astoria. But I tell
'em 'nope, that ain't Nick Hilliard. He's true-blue to the Golden West."
"Right you are," said Nick. "All the same, I don't know who the lady is,
and I'm sure I never saw her here, though I have a sort of feelin' I
remember her face."
"Met in another world, mebbe?" Green chuckled. "She ain't no great looker,
though, more's the pity for our young sparks that could do with a noo
beauty at Lucky Star. She's no chicken, either; and her face is the kind
of face that to see once is to forget twice, accordin' to your friend the
Dook, who's great on what he calls epergrams, when he's feelin' well."
"Oh, is he?" Nick's hopeful expression lost some of its glow, for this
trait of the Dook's did not strike him as attractive. "He ain't my friend
yet. But you haven't told me who the lady is. Maybe her name will shake up
my recollection box, for I've seen her somewhere, sure."
"She's Miss Sara Wilkins, the new school-teacher," Green replied, glad to
impart information. "She was imported from the fur East while you was
away; called on in a hurry to take the place of Mrs. Pears, who died on
us, right in the midst of the last term, poor critter. She had no way with
youngsters, Mrs. Pears hadn't, though she came recommended as a treasure:
so p'raps it's just as well for us our treasure's laid up in heaven. We've
got a surprisin' lot of children in this city, for such a young one; but
our men are doin' that well they feel justified in sendin' fur their
families. We're gettin' a mighty nice society: some o' our ladies from the
East, as far off as Omaha; and 'twas the minister's wife stood out for
this Miss Wilkins, an old school-fellow o' hern. Pity she ain't handsome,
as we can't boast but two other unmarried gals in our set."
Nick reflected. Where had he seen that small-featured, conscientious
little face? He seemed to associate it with some agreeable and not very
distant episode; yet its intelligent insignificance was so overshadowed by
the pleasantness of the episode itself, that he now tried in vain to
identify it with a searchlight of recognition. "I give up," he said to
himself discontentedly. "Maybe it'll come to me later." And then,
suddenly, it did.
The new school-teacher at Lucky Star City was the little woman who had
arrived with the Native Daughters at the Santa Barbara hotel, and would
have been swamped by them had not Angela taken pity on her. No wonder it
had been an effort to label his impression, for no woman had a face worth
the name of face for Nick when Angela's was to be seen. But perhaps Miss
Wilkins had not had the same difficulty in disentangling him from among
her impressions of the past, for she had flashed upon him a glance, bright
with interest, before casting down her eyes decorously and passing on.
"Here comes the Dook now," remarked the landlord of the Eureka. "By the
look of him I guess his country-man wouldn't part with anything 'cept a
drink. If he keeps clear of the liquor belt, as a general thing, it's only
because his fee-nan-shel situation don't run to it. I'll introduce you."
A man approached, wearing a shambling air of discouragement, until he saw
that he was under observation; whereupon his muscles tightened, and he
pulled himself together, straightening his narrow shoulders and throwing
back his small head.
"Mr. Nickson Hilliard, this is Mr. Montagu Jerrold, _alias_ the Dook, a
blarsted Britisher," announced Green affably. "Dook, this is Mr. Nickson
Hilliard, who wants to meet you, the Lord knows why; late owner of Lucky
Star gusher and the whitest man and the biggest man we've got in this
section. His other name is High-pockets, as I guess you hev heard, and it
might be Full-pockets too, wuthout steerin' wide o' the mark."
Nick put out his hand to the newcomer who had a haughty beak of a nose,
little forehead, and less chin. Wretched bit of flotsam and jetsam on the
sands of life, one keen look into his self-satisfied light eyes was
enough to learn the secret of his failure; failure which, go where he
would, seek as he might, could never be turned into success. Nick's heart
pitied the man, while it shut involuntarily against him.
Montagu Jerrold crooked his elbow and lifted the brown strong hand of
High-pockets to a level with his own weak chin, before he deigned to shake
it. He did so then with an air, and a drawled "How d'y' do?" which was the
most English thing that Nick had ever met with off the stage.
"Little brute, I'd like to kick him if he wasn't such a duffer," was
Nick's reluctant thought, for he had wanted to be favourably impressed by
the Dook. If this were really anything like an English duke, give _him_ a
crossing-sweeper! But he must not be too hasty in his generalization. He
was unhappily sure that Mrs. May's position in her far-off world (world
for which he was deemed unworthy) associated her with dukes, earls,
barons, counts, and all sorts of titled anachronisms of every nation.
Repulsive as this draggled specimen appeared, it might know something
worth his, Nick Hilliard's, while to learn; and he was not going to give
up because of first impressions. He had not met Montagu Jerrold before,
but had heard of him often during the last three or four months since the
Englishman "blew into" Lucky Star City. He was a boaster as well as a
waster, no doubt; for according to himself, he knew "everybody at home,"
from the King down the whole gamut of the British peerage. Also he
"claimed" to be an Oxford man, and it was that which, in this emergency,
had focused Nick's attention upon him.
The landlord, aware that Nick had a "proposition" to make, excused himself
when he had brought off the introduction; and the two men were left more
or less alone at their end of the hotel veranda. Nevertheless, so
complicated was the nature of Nick's business that he wished for greater
privacy, and he suggested a stroll in the direction of the gusher.
"You're an Oxford graduate, aren't you?" he began.
"Ya-as, I went up to Oxford from Eton," drawled Jerrold with an accent
which Nick disliked, but was ready to believe in as well-bred, because few
Englishmen to the "manner born" had happened to come his way. "All the
elder sons of my family, since the days of Charles the Second, don't you
know, have gone in for the Army; and that's what I should have liked, but
my eldest brother has the money as well as the title, d'you see, and I'm
only third son. I----"
"Yes," said Nick curtly. "But you mustn't worry to tell me all your
private affairs unless you really want to. Because what I'm most
interested in is the Oxford part. I never went to college, nor to any
school for the matter of that, except a night one, but I've tried to make
up a bit with reading all I could. I suppose I don't know much about
books, compared with you----"
"Oh, I was never much of a grind," the other cut in hastily. "I went in
for other things. I was cox----".
"It's etiquette I'm thinking of," Nick confessed humbly. "You'd be born
knowin' a lot about that, I dare say, in your family. And then, being at
Oxford, too! I always notice college men have a different way from those
who haven't been to any university. It's hard to explain the difference,
but it's there."
"Oh, rather," agreed the Englishman. "You know our King himself will send
all his sons to Oxford and Cambridge. Nothin' like it, my dear fellow,
what? Our family----"
"Could you give lessons, sort of object-lessons, in what to do and what
not do in society?" inquired Nick, eager yet shy, not ashamed of his
motive in asking, but fearful by instinct that he was not getting hold of
the right man.
"Nothing easier," returned Montagu Jerrold, the prominent gooseberries,
which were his eyes, looking somewhat less thoroughly boiled. "I was
thinkin' of leavin' this beastly hole, don't you know. Nothin' in it for a
gentleman, what? But if you've somethin' to offer worth takin', why I
might stick it out for a bit, I dessay."
Nick longed to box the' creature's ears; but they were well-shaped and
might be the ears of a man born with etiquette flowing with his blue
blood, through azure veins. The shape of his nose wasn't bad, but those
eyes and that chin! They were, as Nick grimly expressed it to himself, the
_limit_. Nevertheless, he would persevere, and try a course of lessons
from the Dook.
They began to discuss terms, and Nick did not bargain. Mr. Jerrold was to
have an advance payment of twenty-five dollars, on account of fifty, for
ten "lessons"; and he was to come to Nick's house every evening to
"supper" at half-past seven, remaining until half-past nine. Hilliard was
to be watched through the meal and corrected if he did anything wrong with
his knife and fork, or his bread; and they were to have conversations and
discussions covering various imagined emergencies.
Details were arranged, much to the satisfaction of Montagu Jerrold, whose
real name was Herbert Higgins, and who had been a house decorator,
employed--and discharged--by a small London firm. Never had he been inside
an Oxford college: never had he seen the King--except on a post card. He
returned joyously to his hotel, where, as Mr. Green was lying in wait, he
had to part with most of his advance. And Nick tramped home torn in mind,
fearing instinctively that he was about to jump from the frying-pan of
ignorance into a fire of vulgarity at which Angela would shudder.
Every night for a week the Dook appeared promptly in time for Nick's
substantial supper, which, by the way, he advised his host to transform
into dinner. "You simply can't have 'supper' at half-past seven, my deah
fellow. It isn't _done!_ Dinner should be at eight, at earliest. Our
royalties prefer it at nine. If you have supper it is after the theatre or
opera, don't you know." But when Nick stolidly refused to be such an
"affected donkey" as to call his evening meal by another name to make it
sweeter, Mr. Jerrold did not scorn the meal because it lacked refinement.
On the seventh night, however, Hilliard gave his noble instructor notice.
"I'm real sorry," he remarked pleasantly, "but I can't help it. I'd rather
go on as I am, and pin myself to a prickly pear, than shine in society by
doing any of these monkey tricks you've been tryin' to put me on to. You
say they're 'the thing' and the newest dope and all that, and maybe
they're real nice for your sort, but I tell you they're not for mine! It
seems to me you know a wonderful lot of fool things that ain't so, and I
can't yoke up with 'em. What's more, I don't mean to. And now I see
they're the only cards you've got in your hand I don't want any more dealt
out to me--Hook up my little finger when I come to grips with a
coffee-cup! No, thank you! I _see_ myself doin' it or any other of the
pussy-catisms you've been tryin' to unload on me. And you drop your 'g's'
just as bad as I do. No, you'll have to switch off, doc; and after
to-night you can go your way and I'll go mine, for there's nothin' doin'
here for you except this little roll of bills. Good night, bud. That's all
the trumps in the game!"
But the bills--which were the trumps for Jerrold--amounted to fifty
dollars more than he had been promised for the whole course of lessons. So
he had not done badly after all. And leaving Lucky Star City, which had no
oil nor milk of human kindness for him, he drifted on somewhere else, as
he will continue to drift until he stumbles into an ignominious grave.
But Nick was angry and thwarted--angry with himself because he had been a
fool, and thwarted because he remained as before, handicapped by his own
ignorance. In spite of Jerrold's boasts, Nick's instinct had told him
after the first words exchanged that the man was not only a cad, but a
rank pretender. Still, in his desire for social knowledge, he had refused
at first to listen to the voice of instinct and had been punished for
obtuseness. The very thought of the little drawling outsider who had
delighted in his sobriquet of "the Dook" made Hilliard feel sick, and he
opened wide all the windows and doors when the contemptible creature went
out of the house. "Wanted to turn me into a dry-goods clerk, did he?" Nick
grumbled. And the episode was closed.
One afternoon, not many days after the expulsion of Montagu Jerrold, Nick
kept a long-made promise, by going to call on the wife of the Presbyterian
minister, the only professional purveyor of religion who had yet settled
in Lucky Star City. Mrs. Kenealy was out, but was coming back soon, and
Nick was urged by her small daughter to wait. This he consented to do, and
found the school-teacher also waiting in the pleasant little
The young man and woman were introduced by the child, who, then relieved
of responsibility, left them to each other's mercy, and flew to a friend
with whom she had been playing dolls on the back porch.
"I don't suppose you remember me," said Miss Sara Wilkins rather
wistfully. "But I remember you very well."
"So do I you," Nick was glad to reply with truth; and his heart warmed to
the wisp of a woman to whom Miss Dene had been catty and Mrs. May kind.
"It was at Santa Barbara."
"Why, you _do_ remember!" she exclaimed delightedly. "I never thought you
would. I always think there's nothing about me that any one _could_
recollect. Oh, would you mind telling me how that lovely lady is who was
so good to me? I often think about her. She was the most beautiful thing I
ever saw in my life."
Nick could have kissed her hands--little thin hands--kissed them even in
their gray lisle-thread gloves; Needless to say, however, he did nothing
of the sort. He answered quietly that it was now some time since he had
seen Mrs. May, but he supposed she was well, and still in California,
probably in San Francisco. She was planning to build a house near
Monterey. Though his voice and manner were particularly calm, his eyes
were as wistful, perhaps, as the school-teacher's smile had been. And just
because Sara Wilkins knew well what it was to be wistful and try to hide
it, perhaps she saw more clearly than a more attractive woman would.
"Something had happened," she said to herself. That splendid young couple,
about whom she had built up such a gorgeous romance, had been parted, and
this handsome fellow with the kind smile and heroic shoulders was unhappy,
far unhappier than Sara Wilkins had ever been, strange as that might
seem--he who had looked so fortunate! Sara wondered if the lovely lady
were unhappy, too, or if she had been cruel; and because Miss Wilkins
adored romance (having nothing more personally her own to adore), not
because she was naturally curious, the little woman positively ached to
know the story.
They had nearly half an hour together she and Nick before Mrs. Kenealy
returned, and in that time they had come close to the beginning of a
friendship, each being secretly in need of sympathy, and dimly detecting
the need in the other. Their liking for one another enchanted Mrs.
Kenealy, who was a born matchmaker. To be sure, Miss Sara Wilkins was not
pretty, and would never see twenty-nine again, but she was a good girl,
clever and affectionate, and would make Nick Hilliard the best of wives
if only he could be brought to see it. She sat between them, chattily
telling each one nice things about the other, and soon she suggested
bringing Miss Wilkins to visit Nick's ranch. School was off now, and the
poor dear had nothing to do but read and write letters home, whither it
cost far too much to return for only a few weeks. Nick said that he would
be delighted; and offered to send Miss Wilkins as many books as she liked
to her boarding house. Books were great friends of his, he admitted
somewhat shyly. She was welcome to borrow any she cared to have.
They saw a good deal of each other during the next fortnight, too much for
the school-teacher's peace of mind; for the oftener they met the more was
she convinced that Nick was in love, perhaps hopelessly in love, with
another woman as different from herself as a lily from a dusty sprig of
lavender. Then, one day when Nick had started to carry her some books and
they had met on the way, the two sat down and talked by the side of the
blue, brackish lake, sheltering from the sun behind a bank of yellow sand
that was like the high back of a queerly shaped throne. At a distance
passed Green, the landlord of the Eureka, out walking with his little
daughter, and in speaking of him and the odd folk who stopped at the green
hotel the "Dook" was mentioned. He had disappeared from Lucky Star City
some time before, but Miss Wilkins had met and disliked him.
"Horrid little pretentious toad!" she exclaimed sharply. "He was always
talking to every one he could get hold of about his family and his swell
friends and Oxford. But I don't believe any of his stories. He was just
worse than nobody at all; and East I've met real nice Englishmen who had
a _lovely_ accent, and wouldn't be found dead drawling like he did."
Nick laughed. "You're jolly right," he said; and then being in a humorous
as well as confidential mood, he told the story of himself and Montagu
"Wasn't I a Johnny?" he asked at the end. "Served me right for trying to
make a silk purse of myself. Can't be done, I guess."
"But you are a silk purse!" Sara protested indignantly. "How can you talk
about yourself the way you do?"
"I'm a little down on my luck these days," he answered. "Did you ever read
about the moth who loved a star? I guess, when that moth got to thinking
of himself and his chances, he saw himself pretty well as he really was,
poor old chap. Fusty brown wings, too many legs, antennae the wrong shape,
and a clumsy way of usin' 'em. I've gone and made a moth of myself, Miss
"Maybe the star doesn't think you a moth, or anyhow not a common moth,"
the little school-teacher tried to comfort him loyally, though her heart
ached as a lonely woman's heart must ache when the man she could have
loved, if she had dared, confides in her about the "other." She had known
quite well that there was another, but to have the confession come out in
words seemed to make her feel the grayness of life rather more intensely
than she had felt it before. Yet she rallied her forces and longed to
fight Nick Hilliard's battles and wave his banner in the face of the
enemy--if enemy there were.
"That's just what the star does think!" laughed Nick. "She thinks I'm
Miss Wilkins stiffened with indignation. "I don't believe it--if she's a
_real_ star. And you wouldn't mistake an imitation one for real, would
"She's the brightest star in the heavens; as good as a whole
"Then she can't think you common."
"Well, put in another way. She thinks me 'impossible'--impossible for her,
that is. She told me so. But I might have known it without telling. I
guess she thought I would know. I had the cheek to hope, though, that I
might polish myself up enough to pass muster in a crowd, even a crowd of
_her_ sort of people, and that she might change her mind about me."
"As if that disgusting little Montagu Jerrold could teach you anything!"
"I found he couldn't. Not anything she'd like me better for knowing."
"If she doesn't find you good enough as you are she isn't worth loving,"
insisted the school-teacher. "Oh, I know I'm not the same kind of woman
she is! I'm only a little 'provincial,' as I expect she'd call me in her
own mind, but--but I can tell a _man_ when I see him."
"Thank you a whole lot for sticking up for me," said Nick, boyishly. "But
how do you know what kind of a woman my star is?"
Miss Wilkins blushed and was silent. She did not look pretty when she
blushed, like Angela, but Nick thought she had one of the nicest little
faces in the world.
"I expect I've gone and given myself away," he said. "Well, I don't care,
for you're so good and sympathetic. You've seen my star, and you can judge
just what kind of a blame fool I was to hope she could ever really care
for a rough fellow like me--care enough to be yoked up with me for life."
"Are you sure she didn't care?" asked the school-teacher.
If he had "given himself away" he did not intend to give away Angela. "I
told you she said I was impossible," he answered discreetly. "Well, thank
you again for listenin' to my whinings. It's done me a lot of good. Now
I've talked enough and too much about myself. Let's talk about you."
"There's nothing interesting to say about me," Miss Wilkins defended
herself, with the faintest sigh that only a man who loved her would have
heard. "We won't talk about you any more, though, if you don't want to.
That book of Mr. Muir's you sent me is beautiful. I've been wishing to
read it for years."
So they fell to discussing _The National Parks of America_; but Sara's
heart was not in the discussion, much as she admired the book. She was
thinking about Nick and Angela.
"It doesn't seem," she told herself, "that a woman who could be so kind to
another woman as she was to me, when she didn't even know me, could be
cruel to a man she _did_ know and like, even if she didn't love him. And
could a woman he loved not love him back again?"
Miss Wilkins had resigned herself long ago, or thought she had, to going
through life without any intimate personal interests of her own, and when
her heart ached hardest that night in her mean little boarding-house
bedroom, it was going out most warmly toward Nick, and yearning for the
happiness of making him happy.
"If I could only do something!" she said to her mossy-smelling pillow.
"And I owe _her_ a good turn too, although maybe she doesn't deserve it. I
wonder what I _could_ do?"
THE BREAKING OF THE SPELL
The spell was broken for Angela. She knew now, if she had not known
before, that it was Nick Hilliard who lit the world for her with the light
never seen on land or sea, where love is not. Some quality was gone from
the sunshine, and the glory of the golden poppies had withered.
Back in San Francisco, living in the rooms which he had helped to make
beautiful with daily gifts of flowers, she realized how completely Nick
had meant for her the spirit of the West. It was because he had been with
her that, from morning till night, she had thrilled with the joy of life
and excited anticipation of each new day which had never failed or let her
Every moment she missed him and wanted him, and would have given anything
to call him back to her; but she had no right to call, for what had she to
give worth his pain in coming?
Angela was an anxiety to Kate and a responsibility to Mr. Morehouse. The
banker would have liked to send his friends to call upon Mrs. May, but she
was in no mood to meet people. Then he suggested that she should go to Del
Monte for the summer and watch the beginning of the new home, but she
dismissed this idea, saying that as the architect had not yet even
finished his plan it would be a long time before the house could reach an
"We all go somewhere in summer," Mr. Morehouse urged. Whereupon Angela
merely shrugged her shoulders. "You who live here may want a change," she
said. "I've had plenty of changes. I'm very happy where I am, thanks."
But she did not look happy, and Kate, who loved her, realized the
alteration far more keenly than Mr. Morehouse, though even he felt vaguely
that something had gone wrong with the Princess di Sereno. Kate, who knew
well what a difference happiness could make in a woman's health and looks,
guessed that the loss of her mistress's colour and spirits was connected
with the disappearance of Hilliard. A paragraph she had read in that
exciting number of the _Illustrated London News_ had, together with some
vague hints unconsciously dropped by Angela and a few words of the
banker's overheard, set Kate's wits to working, and thus she arrived,
through sympathy, at something like the truth. But Mr. Morehouse's
diagnosis of the case had in it no such romantic ingredient as hopeless
He alone in America (since Theo Dene was gone, and Kate merely suspected)
knew that Mrs. May was the Princess di Sereno, who had never been a wife
to Paolo di Sereno except in name. He knew that the Princess had
grievances, and that she had left her identity in the Old World in the
wish to forget the past completely. Knowing this, when a certain piece of
news came his way he felt it his disagreeable duty to pass it on to Mrs.
May. And it was the very piece of news which had set Theo Dene wondering
whether Angela "knew about the Prince."
Most California journals are apt to give local matters of interest
precedence over affairs at a distance, and so it was that (though Angela
usually glanced through a newspaper every day or two during her travels)
she had never come upon Paolo di Sereno's name except in that old copy of
the _Illustrated London News_. There she learned how well he was amusing
himself while Mrs. May saw California under Nick Hilliard's guidance. But
after that came a blank. She knew only that he and a somewhat notorious
woman were making ascents together in an aeroplane. But it remained for
Mr. Morehouse to tell her of the sensation the pair were creating in
There was a woman--indeed, there was invariably a woman, though not always
the same--whose flaunting friendship with the Prince had fixed Angela's
resolve to turn her back on the old life. The woman had begun a career on
the very humblest plane, had become an artist's model, then had learned to
sing and dance, and at length her reputation as a beauty had made her name
famous. A marquis had married her, and when his heart was broken and his
money spent, had obligingly killed himself in an inconspicuous and
gentlemanly manner. After that his widow had achieved an even greater
popular success, and had attracted the attention of Paolo di Sereno.
It was about this time that Angela left Rome, and what Theo Dene wondered
if Mrs. May "knew about the Prince," was his hope to break the record for
distance in a new aeroplane. Mr. Morehouse, who took one or two French and
English illustrated weeklies as well as New York daily papers, saw these
things as soon as Theo Dene saw them; and, when Angela returned to San
Francisco from Bakersfield, he told her of the Prince's project.
"I reasoned," he said, "that it would be better for you to hear what is
going on from me rather than be exposed to a surprise and shock from some
London or Paris paper lying on a hotel table."
Angela interrupted him to reply that nothing the Prince di Sereno could do
had power to shock her, for they had never been really in each other's
lives, and had now passed out of one another's orbits forever. In spite of
this assurance, however, when Mr. Morehouse saw the Princess looking pale
and listless taking little interest in the plans for her new house, he
attributed the change to humiliation, or possibly even to fears for the
Prince's safety, for women are strange. Luckily she could not be annoyed
in this new country where she would make her home, for nobody knew who she
was or could associate her with the Prince's eccentricities! Nevertheless,
Mr. Morehouse thought it natural that her health and spirits should
suffer; and because of his old and close friendship with Franklin Merriam
he longed to find some wholesome distraction for Angela.
But after all it was Kate, not he, who succeeded in supplying it. Poor
Kate, so near to, yet so far from, Oregon, dared in her insignificance to
follow her mistress's example. Though she would have had a hand cut off
rather than "give notice" to her beloved lady, as a matter of fact, she
was pining; Tim was growing impatient. His affairs were marching well.
Something had been saved out of the disaster caused by his dishonest
partner. He had got in with a "good man," and they believed that together
they would some day "beat the world" with their apples. Already they had
obtained a London market. There wasn't much ready money to spare yet; but
Tim could manage to pay Kate's way from San Francisco to Portland, and on
to his place, if she would come. Besides, there was her nest egg, her
dowry, from the sale of the gold bag.
Of course, Kate was dying to go, but would not even tell her sad-eyed,
pale-cheeked mistress that Tim was wanting her. It was only when, one day,
Angela noticed how miserable poor Kate was looking, that little by little
she drew out the whole truth. Then she was roused to interest, and
forgetfulness of herself.
"I'll tell you what I will do, Kate," she said with more animation than
she had shown for weeks. "I'll take Mr. Morehouse's very latest advice,
and run up north to Lake Tahoe, to stay till my new house is born. Then,
instead of your going to your Tim, he must come to you; and I'll give you
a wedding--oh, a beautiful wedding, with a white silk dress and a veil and
orange blossoms, and a cake big enough to last you the rest of your life.
You're not to make any objections, because I shouldn't be happy to have
you stay with me now that Tim's ready, and you know the idea always was
for you to go when I'd reached my farthest point north and nearest to
Oregon. Besides, it will do me good to plan for a wedding. And I mean to
give you your trousseau. You shall get the things here in San Francisco
before we start for Tahoe."
So that was why one evening Nick read in a San Francisco paper that "Mrs.
May, who has been staying at the Fairmont Hotel for several weeks, left
last night for Lake Tahoe, where she has engaged rooms at the famous
Tahoe Tavern, and may remain for some time."
Afterward, when he sent the paper on to Sara Wilkins, as he did send
papers now, with parcels of books and magazines, she too noticed the
"His star's gone as far north and as far from him as she can possibly go
and be in California," thought the school-teacher. And because Nick was
right, and her good little face hid a heart that was still better, she was
not glad, but very, very sorry.
When Kate was married to her good-looking Irishman, and the little
excitement of the wedding was over, Angela began to feel rather desolate.
There were a great many pleasant people at the tavern who would have been
kind to the stranger if she had let them be kind, but they were all so
merry and had so many intimate interests of their own that their goodness
to her seemed only to emphasize her loneliness. Kate had insisted on
"lending" her Timmy in fact, the bride and bridegroom both insisted, for
there was no doubt in their minds that the black cat had brought them good
fortune. Now they had all the fortune they wanted, to "go on with," and as
poor, pretty Mrs. May seemed "a bit down on her luck," they would leave
her Timmy to bring it back again. And really the topaz-eyed creature, in
its becoming jade collar--a gift from Nick Hilliard--was often a comfort
to Angela, curled up in her lap and purring cosily under her book as she
read. It seemed curiously fond of her, even fonder than of Kate, and had
"taken to" her from the first.
Angela had travelled through a region of snowsheds to reach the lake in
the heart of the Sierra Nevada, and the scenery was as different from any
she had met in California as was her mood from the mood of the south. At
Tahoe she was a mile above sea-level, and ringed in by higher mountains
which had not lost their dazzling crowns of snow.
On the shore of the long blue lake that mirrored eternally, a clear, cool
sky and immense dark trees--pines and cedars--Angela felt that a line had
been drawn between her and her California past, with its flame of golden,
poppies and flowers of the forest. Here she had reached a high note of
beauty which rang crystalline as a silver rod striking upon ice. The place
gave Angela a sense of purity and remoteness which she had felt by no
lake-shore of Europe. The charm of other lakes had been their
villa-sprinkled shores, their historical associations. The charm of Tahoe
was loneliness. She liked to row out on the water alone, and rest on her
oars to look down, down, through miles (it seemed) of liquid sapphire and
emerald blending together.
Tahoe was not remote, really since luxurious trains had brought it into
close touch with San Francisco and with the East; but Angela liked to
cultivate the impression of remoteness as if she were a nun in retreat,
and the beauty was of a kind that called to her spirit, making
renunciation easier than in the luscious south, scented with lilies and
roses. Tahoe had its roses, too; but its chief perfume was of pines and
the pure freshness of breezes that blow over water and snow mountains.
The journey, too, had prepared her for the isolation that she craved; the
glimpse of tragic Donner Lake, where the pioneers starved and agonized in
1848; the wild Truckee River sweeping its flood past thickets of pale
sagebrush and forests of black pines; the tang of cold and the smell of
snow in the air; the lonely farmhouses folded among green hills; and the
primitive look of Truckee town with its little frame buildings called by
pretentious foreign names; Firenze Saloon; Roma Hotel.
Nobody else, however, seemed to have the half-sad, half-delicious sense of
remoteness from the world, at Tahoe, which Angela had. That month was very
gay, and the immense verandas of the tavern were flower-gardens of pretty
girls--those American "summer girls," of whom Angela had often heard. They
swam, and boated and fished, and, above all, flirted, for there were
always plenty of men; and in the evenings they danced in the ballroom of
the casino, built on the edge of the water.
Angela never tired of going from end to end of the lake in the steamboat
that set out from the tavern jetty in the morning and returned in the
afternoon. The captain, a great character, let her sit in a room behind
the pilot-box, where her luncheon was brought by an eager-eyed youth
working his way through college by serving as steward in the holidays. He
was in love with a girl at his university, equally poor and equally
plucky; but because she was earning dollars as a waitress at the tavern,
the boy thought Tahoe a place "where you couldn't help being happy."
Angela thought it a place where, more than most others, it might be
possible to find peace, though happiness was gone.
She no longer opened her diary. Never again, she told herself, would she
keep a record of her days. But, some time--years from now, maybe--when
she could read what she had written without a heartache, she would open
the unfinished volume where she had broken off a sentence in the great
redwood forest. She might be able to think of Nick Hilliard then without
longing for him; but that time seemed far, very far away.
* * * * *
One August evening Angela came back from an excursion to the top of Mount
Tallac. She was tired, and had made up her mind to dine in her own
sitting-room, then to go immediately to bed; but asking for her key she
was told that "a lady was waiting to see her; had been waiting nearly all
"A lady!" she echoed. Could it be Mrs. Gaylor? Angela hoped not; for,
though she had not heard from Nick those things which Carmen had feared
and expected her to hear, she guessed something of Carmen's hate. The fact
that she had not been allowed to go back; that Kate had arrived in
Bakersfield with a story of Mrs. Gaylor's being called suddenly away from
home; that Carmen had never answered a short letter she wrote; all these
things roused her suspicions. Indeed, she had even gone so far as to
associate the box of poison-oak leaves with Mrs. Gaylor; and now the
thought that the Spanish woman might have followed her to Tahoe sent a
shiver through her veins. Who could the lady be, if not Carmen Gaylor? Who
but Carmen would wait patiently for her coming, through a whole day?
For an instant Angela was tempted to answer: "I'm too tired to see any one
this evening." But that would be cowardly. Besides, she was curious to
see her visitor, whoever it might be.
"The lady's waiting in the veranda now," said a hotel clerk. "She's been
here ever since morning, but she went away at lunch time and came back
afterward. I don't know what she means to do to-night, for the train for
Truckee will be leaving in a few minutes, and she hasn't engaged a room."
Angela went out on the veranda, feeling' a little tense and excited, but
when a small, blue-frocked, gray-hatted figure, dejectedly lost in a big
rocking-chair, was pointed out to her, excitement died while bewilderment
Her first thought was that she had never seen this countrified-looking
person before, but as her guest turned, raising to hers a pair of
singularly intelligent, rather frightened eyes, she knew that she had met
the same glance from the same eyes somewhere before.
The little woman's face was so pale, so tired, her whole personality so
pathetic yet indomitable, that Angela's heart softened.
"How do you do?" she asked kindly. "I hear you have come to see me, so we
must know each other, I'm sure----"
The visitor was on her feet, the chair, from which she had sprung with a
nervous jerk, rocking frantically as if a nervous ghost were sitting in
"We don't know each other exactly," Miss Wilkins hastened to explain, as
though eager not to begin with false pretences. "The only time you ever
saw me was at Santa Barbara last May, but you were very good to me
and--and I found out your name----"
"Of course. I remember quite well!" Mrs. May smiled reassuringly, for the
poor little thing was certainly terrified and ill at ease as well as
tired. Angela sprang to the conclusion that the young woman was in money
difficulties, and having remembered the loan of the sitting-room at Santa
Barbara had somehow found her way to Tahoe in the hope of getting help.
Well, she should have it. Angela was only too glad to be able to do
something for any one in trouble. "I'm glad to see you again," she said,
as if it were quite a commonplace thing for a stranger to have dropped
apparently from the clouds in search of her. "But I'm so sorry you've had
to wait. Perhaps you wrote and I haven't got the letter yet?"
"No, I didn't write. I couldn't have explained in a letter," said the
weary-faced visitor; "and maybe you wouldn't have wanted me to come if
you'd known before-hand. I thought if I'd travelled all this way though,
just to speak to you, you wouldn't refuse. I've been two nights on the
"Oh, how dreadful!" exclaimed Angela. "You must let me get you a room at
once. Some people are leaving to-night. They surely can put you up in the
"Thank you very much," returned the young woman, "but I couldn't impose on
you as your guest. You'll see that when I've told you why I came. I can't
get away to Truckee, I know, for the train goes too soon, but I'll take a
room at some simpler place where it's cheaper than this."
"We'll talk of that later," said Angela soothingly. "Now I hope you'll
come to my rooms and rest, and tell me about yourself. When we're both
washed and refreshed we'll dine together in my sitting-room quietly."
"But it isn't about myself I want to talk," protested the stranger. "I
must tell you my name, Mrs. May. Of course, you've forgotten it. It's Miss
She didn't want to talk about herself! That was puzzling and didn't fit in
with Angela's deductions. However, she made no comment, and talking of her
day on Mount Tallac, escorted Miss Wilkins to a pretty sitting-room, which
in her absence had been supplied with fresh flowers.
"Shall we talk first?" Angela asked. "Or would you like to rest and
"If you're not too tired yourself to listen to me, I'd rather talk now,"
Sara answered with a kind of suppressed desperation. "But you do look
tired. You're thinner and paler than at Santa Barbara! Yet I've been
screwing my courage up to this for so long I can hardly bear to wait."
"If I was tired I've forgotten it now," said Angela. "And I'm as eager to
begin as you can be. But you mustn't feel that it needs courage to speak
out, whatever you have to say. And if there's any way for me to make it
easier for you, I should be so glad if you could give me just the
slightest hint. Shall we both sit down on this sofa together?"
"You sit there," replied Sara. "I don't _want_ to be comfortable. I
couldn't lean back. I'm all on edge."
"Oh, but you mustn't be 'on edge'!"
"I don't tell you that to get sympathy, Mrs. May," said the
school-teacher, "but only because I'd like you to understand before I
begin that I haven't come just to be 'cheeky' and bold. I came because I
felt I must--on somebody's account, if not yours. For myself, I didn't
want to force myself on you. I didn't want it one bit! And now I'm here,
if I could do what I feel most like doing, I'd run away as fast as ever I
could go, without saying one more word."
"You almost frighten me," said Angela, her eyes dark and serious. "Have I
done something dreadful that--that I ought to be warned not to do again,
and you have come to tell me because you think I was once a little kind to
you? Not that I was really kind--for it was nothing at all that I did."
Miss Wilkins, sitting stiff and upright on the smallest, straightest,
least luxurious chair in the pretty room, was silent for an instant, as if
collecting all her forces. "No," she answered at last. "It wouldn't be
fair to say exactly that. And yet you _have_ done something dreadful. Oh,
my goodness, this is even harder to get out than--than I supposed it would
be, for, of course, you'll think it's not my business anyhow. And isn't or
wouldn't be if--if----"
"If--what?" Angela prompted her gently.
Sara Wilkins swallowed a lump in her throat and pressed her lips together.
They were dry and pale. "Well," she broke out, "I'll have to tell you the
truth and not care for my own feelings. They don't matter really. It
wouldn't be my business if I didn't love him myself, dearly--oh, but not
selfishly! And he doesn't dream of it. He never will. And he never thinks
about me except to pity me a little and do kind things because I'm alone
in the world. And that's all I want of him. It is, truly, though I can't
explain very well. I just want him to be happy, and to have made him so.
Because _somebody_ had to act if anything was to be done. And there was
nobody but me."
"Him!" Angela repeated in a whisper. Yet the name was in her mind now, as
always it was in her heart.
"Mr. Hilliard, of course. You see"--desperately--"I'm school-teacher at
Lucky Star City, close to his place. All the land there and the big gusher
were his. When he came back in June I was at Lucky Star, and we were
introduced. He remembered my face dimly, more I guess because he couldn't
forget even the least thing associated with you than for any other reason.
Since then we've got to be friends."
Angela did not speak, even when Sara Wilkins made a slight hesitating
pause. Her heart was beating too fast and thickly for words to come, and,
besides, there seemed to be nothing to say yet, until she had heard more.
"Don't think," Sara went on, gathering courage, "that he confided in me in
any ordinary way. I just couldn't bear you should do him that injustice.
If you did I should have done harm instead of good by coming all this way
to see you. But the very first day I met him at Lucky Star I asked about
you, and I--_saw_; though he only said he believed you were in San
Francisco--that he was heart-broken about you. Even at Santa Barbara I
couldn't help making up a romance round you both--you so beautiful and
somehow like a great lady, though you didn't put on any airs at all; he so
handsome and splendid, like a hero in some book of the West. It was weeks
before we mentioned you again--he and I--though I saw a lot of him at
Lucky Star. He was kind, and it was holidays, so I hadn't much to do
except read books he lent me."
Still Angela said nothing, though it was evident that Miss Wilkins would
have been thankful at this stage for some leading question which might
help her over a difficult place. Angela could not now give the help she
had once offered. Rather was she in need of it herself. She sat waiting,
her eyes disconcertingly fixed upon the other woman's flushed face. But
that was because she could not bring herself to look away from it.
"Before we spoke of you again, what do you think he'd been doing?" the
school-teacher went on, almost fiercely.
"Oh, I can hardly tell you, it's so sad! If you're the sweet woman that in
spite of everything I think you _are_, you'll be sorry all the way through
to your heart. He--he hired a wretched humbug of a man who pretended to be
an English swell to teach him _manners_, so that he could be a little
worthier of you. He, _Nick Hilliard_, the noblest gentleman that ever drew
breath, to stoop to learning from a little thing who called itself Montagu
Jerrold. He did it because of what _you_ said to him."
"Oh!" cried Angela, her cheeks scarlet. "I said nothing--nothing which
could make him feel that I didn't think him a gentleman. I----"
"That's what I told him," Sara broke in. "I knew his reason for employing
Jerrold, because he made up a sort of allegory about a moth loving a star
and trying to fly up to heaven and be near her, or something like that. I
said that a _real_ star couldn't be stupid enough to think him a moth, or,
anyway, not a common one. And he said, 'That's just what she does think
me, _common_.' I knew he meant you, though he didn't speak your name
then. And I thought to myself, 'She didn't look like a silly doll stuffed
with sawdust,' I did you the justice to believe that a great lady,
experienced in the world, would know and appreciate a _man_. I'm just
nobody at all, Mrs. May; but even I'm clever enough for that. I'm sure as
fate, if I were acquainted with all the best kings and princes there are
in the world, I couldn't find a better gentleman than Nick Hilliard. Yet
according to him you didn't have the eyes to see what he was worth. You
not only turned him down, but turned him down saying he was too common for
Angela could stand no more. It was as if the fierce little woman in dusty
blue serge had struck her in the face. She sprang up, very white, her eyes
blazing. "It is not true," she said in a low voice. "He couldn't have told
you I said that."
"He told me you said just the same thing: that he was 'impossible.' That
was the word--a cruel, cruel word."
She was up too, the fiery little school-teacher, and they faced each
other--the tall girl, white as lily grown in a king's garden, and the
little snub-nosed, freckled country schoolma'am.
"Do you mean when I used the word 'impossible,'" asked Angela, "that he
thought I meant it in _such_ a way--meant to tell him that he was an
"Yes, I do mean just that."
"You're _sure_ of what you say?"
"Dreadfully sure. When I'd got that much out of him--somehow. I hardly
know how--I felt wounded and sore, as I knew he was feeling, and, would
feel all the rest of his life. Oh, I'd have given mine for him! I would
then, and I would now, to make him happy. That's why I came up here--to
find out whether, after all, there could be any misunderstanding between
you that could be righted. He doesn't know I've come. He thinks I'm
staying with a friend in San Francisco. I don't want him to know, ever. I
should die of shame. I wish I could talk in some wise, clever way to you,
and get you to see what a mistake you've made. He loves you so, Mrs. May!"
Then a thing happened which was the last that Sara Wilkins had expected.
With a stifled cry Angela turned away, and, covering her face with both
hands, sobbed as if her heart would break.
The little school-teacher trembled all over. She had come here--giving her
time and money--far more than she could afford--and her nerve-tissue, in
Nick Hilliard's cause; and all in the hope of making his "star" see the
error of her ways. But when the cruel star broke down and cried
uncontrollably, in anguish of soul, the hardness and anger which Nick's
champion had cherished melted into pity.
"I do hope you'll forgive me," she stammered. "I--I didn't mean to make
you suffer like this. I'm so afraid I've done everything all wrong! But I
let my feelings carry me away. I thought if you loved him a little after
"Loved him! I love him so much that it's killing me!" Angela broke out
through her tears. "I can't sleep at night, for thinking of him, longing
for him, and telling myself it's all over--all the joy of waking up to a
new day and knowing I shall see him. Ah, night is terrible! I pray for
peace, and just as I begin to hope--to be a little calmer, at least by
day, out in the sunshine looking at the white mountains, you, a stranger,
come and tell me that I _don't love him!_"
"I wouldn't have dared if I didn't love him myself," Sara retorted,
choking on the words. "You see--I _know_. But if you care for him like
this, if you're so unhappy without him, why did you send him away
Angela flung her hands up, then dropped them hopelessly. With no attempt
to hide her tear-blurred face she answered: "I sent him away because I am
married. I said 'It is impossible'; not--what he seems to think I said."
"Oh, how sad!" The little school-teacher was confronting real tragedy for
the first time in her gray, conscientious existence. "How sorry I am.
Forgive me! But--you know, it isn't I who matter."
"No," Angela echoed. "It isn't you."
"You didn't tell him? You gave him no idea?"
"I hadn't a chance. There'd been an evening, a little while before, when
I'd meant to tell if--if anything happened. But--we were interrupted."
"He thinks you're a young widow."
"Yes. It's only in the sight of the world that I have a husband--that I
_ever_ had one. When I came to America I left the man for good, and took
"'Mrs. May' isn't your real name?"
"No. I'll tell you if you like----"
"You needn't. But you ought to tell _him_. That, and everything. I don't
mean _confess_, or anything like that. Probably you thought, till you
fell in love with him, that there was no reason why you should give him
your secrets. What I mean is--oh, the difference it would make to Mr.
Hilliard, knowing that you sent him away, not because you looked down on
him as common and impossible, but because you had no _right_ to care!"
Angela stared at the earnest little face as if she were dazed, bewildered
in a dark place, and groping for light.
"I had no idea he misunderstood me so," she said slowly. "If I'd guessed
at the time, I couldn't have resisted telling him how much I loved him. I
couldn't have let him go, so wounded. But now, since no happiness can ever
come for us together, and perhaps by this time he is getting over his
first suffering, wouldn't it be better just to leave the veil of silence
down between us? I don't want to hurt him all his life long. It must make
it easier for him to forget, if he believes me a 'doll stuffed with
sawdust,' or a snob. He can't go on for long loving a poor thing like
that. And so he will be cured. Oh, though I long to send him a message--I
mustn't. I mustn't be tempted! Let him think badly of me. It's the best
and kindest thing."
"No," said Sara Wilkins, "that is not the right way; not for _him_. It
might be with a vain man. But he doesn't get over it. He doesn't stop
loving you. Only the pain is worse because he thinks you scorned him. Mrs.
May, I implore you to write him a letter. I can't take a message, because
he mustn't know I came to see you. It would spoil it all for him, I think.
Write as if it were of your own accord. Don't _explain_ in the letter.
Letters are such hard, unsatisfactory things. The best one you could write
wouldn't make up to him a bit for what he's suffered and what he must go
on suffering, for you couldn't help studying your words, and they'd be
stiff and disappointing, no matter how hard you tried to say the things
just right. Ask him to come here and let you explain in your own words why
you seemed so harsh. Only, warn him that it isn't to change your mind
about--about saying _yes_. It would be awful to rush up here happy and
hopeful, only to find out--what he'll have to find out."
"You don't understand," said Angela. "I care too much to dare see him
again. I couldn't trust myself. I----"
"Ah, but you could trust _him_. He's strong and high in his nature--like
the great redwoods."
"Yes, like the great redwoods," Angela echoed, in a whisper.
"He'd be a rock, too--a rock to rely upon," Sara went on. "Do this, Mrs.
May. Do it for my sake. I know it's the right thing. It will give him back
his self-respect. That's even more important than happiness, especially to
him. I've done all I could for you--not much, but my best. Do this for me,
"Yes, I will!" Angela answered suddenly and impulsively. She put out her
hands to the little school-teacher and drew her close. They kissed each
other, the two women who loved Nick Hilliard.
AN END--AND A BEGINNING
"Come to me if you can. I can give you no hope of happiness, but there is
something I should like to explain," Angela said in her letter.
She expected an answer, though she asked for none; but no word came on the
morning when she had thought that she might hear. Other people had their
letters and were reading them on the veranda, but there was nothing for
her. She sat there for a while, cold with disappointment, listening to the
tearing open of envelopes and the pleasant crackle of thick letter-paper.
Then, when Timmy, the black cat, suddenly leapt off her lap, as if in a
mad rush after something he fondly hoped was a mouse, Angela was glad of
an excuse to follow. But Timmy, who was of an independent character,
evidently believed that he was in for a good thing. He darted across the
grass, and with a whisk of eager tail disappeared behind a clump of trees.
"A dragon-fly!" Angela said to herself. For Timmy could not resist the
fascination of dragon-flies--a bright and beautiful kind that spent the
summer at Lake Tahoe. She followed round the clump of trees, and there was
Nick Hilliard coming toward her with Timmy in his arms.
"Oh!" she cried, "I--I thought----"
"I was afraid you'd think it was too early," said Nick as quietly as
possible, though his voice shook. "I got in on the train; and after my
bath I was taking a walk around, till a decent time to call. Then Timmy
came running to welcome me----"
"I believe he must really have seen you!" cried Angela, grateful to Timmy,
who was saving them both the first awkwardness of the situation. "He is
the most extraordinary cat--quite a super-cat. And you remember, he used
always to know what time you were coming to call when we were in San
Owing to Timmy, they were spared a meeting on the veranda, and Angela did
not offer to take her visitor into the house yet.
There were some quiet places in the garden in the deep shadow of trees,
where she could say what she had to say better than between four walls.
They strolled on, Nick holding Timmy, who purred loudly, as if glad to
welcome the giver of his jade collar.
"I got your letter just in time to catch the train for San Francisco, and
then to get on here," Hilliard explained. "Of course, you knew I'd come at
"No--I wasn't sure. I thought--I might hear from you this morning--a
telegram or letter," Angela stammered. "But--I'm glad, very glad. It was
good of you to come, and so soon."
"I wanted so much to talk to you. I've been wanting it for a long time.
Ever since--we parted. But it was only the other night I made up my mind
that I had any right to send for you."
"What did I say to you that last day about coming from the end of the
world? It's only a step from Lucky Star here."
"I know what you said. There isn't one word I've forgotten. Shall we sit
under that arbour? It's my favourite seat, and no one ever disturbs me."
They sat down on a rustic bench curtained with trails of Virginia creeper,
red as the blood of the dying summer. Nick kept Timmy on his knee,
stroking the glossy back. His hand looked very strong and brown, and
Angela longed to snatch it up and lay it against her cheek. How she loved
him! How much more even than she had known when she couldn't see his face,
his eyes and the light there was in his eyes for her! It had not changed,
that wonderful light, though his face was sadder, and, she thought,
"Are you glad to see me again--Nick?" she could not resist asking.
He smiled at her wistfully. "Just about as glad as a man would be to see
God's sunlight if he'd been in prison, or starving in a mine that had
fallen in on him. Only perhaps a little gladder than that."
She answered him with a look; and then, as involuntarily she put out her
hand to stroke Timmy, their fingers met. He caught hers, held them for an
instant, and let them go.
"Nick, that day when you saved my life and told me you loved me, did I
make you realize that I loved you, too?" she asked.
"No. I couldn't think you meant that. I thought you tried to save my
feelings by saying you cared; that you were sorry for me, and----"
"I was sorry for myself, because, you see, you'd begun to be the one
person in the whole world who mattered. Oh, wait; don't speak yet! I had
to make you understand that we couldn't be anything to each other, and it
was so hard for me, that often I've wondered if, inadvertently, I said
things to hurt you more than you need have been hurt. Tell me, truly and
frankly, what did you believe I meant by that word I used--'_impossible_'?"
He hesitated, then answered slowly: "I felt that I ought to have known,
without your telling me, I wasn't the sort of man for you."
"You did think that! Oh, Nick, then I'm glad I sent for you--I can't help
being glad. If you loved me, and I were free, nothing in the world could
come between us, and I should be the happiest creature on earth."
"If you were free?" His hand lay heavily on Timmy's back, and the cat
resented it by jumping down. But both had forgotten Timmy's existence and
their late gratitude to him.
"If I were free. You thought I was--you saw me in mourning. I never meant
to make you, or any one, believe a lie. All I thought of at first was
getting away from the old life. But, oh, Nick, though I'm not a widow, I
was never any man's wife except in name. I'm Franklin Merriam's
daughter--you must have heard of him. And when I was seventeen I married
Prince Paolo di Sereno. That very day I found out there was--some one who
had more right to him that I had. She came, and threatened to kill
herself. You see, it was not me, it was money he cared for. But he hated
me for saying I would be his wife only in the eyes of the world. That made
him so angry, that he has spent his life since in taking revenge. When my
mother died, nearly a year ago, I made up my mind to leave him altogether,
and I did as soon as I could. I gave him more than half the money, so he
didn't care, for he'd grown quite indifferent; and I took the name of
'May.' It is one of my names really. I was so glad to be some one else and
come to a new country to begin a new life! It never entered my head that I
could fall in love with any one--that there might be complications in my
plan. It seemed so simple. All I wanted was peace and a quiet life, with a
few kind people round me. Then--_you_ came. At first I didn't realize what
was happening to me--for it had never happened before. But soon I might
have seen if I hadn't closed my eyes and drifted. I was happy. I didn't
want you to go out of my life. Then came the Yosemite, with you, and--I
couldn't close my eyes any more. I saw my own heart. I thought--I saw
yours. Now you understand, Nick, why I told you it was impossible for you
and me to be anything more to each other than friends. It was you who said
we couldn't be friends. And you know--I _want_ you to know--that it's as
hard for me as it can be for you, because I love you."
She had hurried on to get it all over, not daring to look at him until
just at the end. When he did not speak she had to look at last, and see
his bowed head--the dear black head that she loved.
"Oh!" she murmured. "I ought never to have gone with you to the Yosemite.
If I hadn't, you would have forgotten me by this time--perhaps."
"No," said Nick. "I'd not have forgotten you. Not if I'd never seen you
again after that first day in New York. You see, you were my ideal. Every
man has one, I guess. And I just recognized you, the first minute, in the
hall of the hotel. I didn't expect to know you--and yet, somehow, it was
as if I couldn't let you go--even then. _Have_ I got to let you go, now,
after what you've told me? You're not the wife of that man--that prince,
except in law. You don't love him, and you do love me--you say you do.
Why, that makes you already more mine than his."
"Heart and spirit, I'm all yours," Angela said. "Oh, Nick, I don't love
you, I worship you, you--_man!_ I never thought there were men like you. I
don't believe there are any more. Paolo di Sereno is--a mere husk."
"Divorce him," Nick implored. "You've got cause."
"He's Italian," she answered. "So am I, as his wife, in the eyes of the
law. He and his people don't recognize divorce, even if I----"
"But here----" Nick began, then stopped, and shut his lips together. No,
he would not propose that. Angela guessed what he had wanted to say, and
loved him better for not saying it.
"I used to think," she went on hastily, "that I knew the worst of being
married to a man without love. But now I see I didn't know half. A woman
can't know till she loves another man. Oh, Nick, I can't get on without
you--not _quite_ without you. I've been trying--and every day it grows
harder instead of easier. Nothing _matters_--but you. I'm not Paolo di
Sereno's real wife, and he hates me. So it's not wrong to love you, Nick,
or for you to love me. Only, we--we----"
"You don't have to get on without me," said Nick. "My angel one, you
needn't be frightened. Wait till I tell you. I'll go away--this minute if
you tell me to. I'll do whatever you say, because what you say will be
right for _you_, and that's the important thing. What I mean is--I'm
always there. My love can't change, except to grow bigger and
brighter--and make me more of a man--so you won't have to worry about
hurting _me_. Once I told you we couldn't be friends, but now I know you
better, and what you've got in your heart for me--and what stands between
us--I take that back. A friend can worship his friend. I worship you. I
_will_ be your friend, angel, in the biggest sense of the word."
"Oh, thank you, Nick," she cried. "Thank you a thousand times. Now I can
live again--just thinking--as you say--that you're _there_. The world
can't be blank. But you must go. I--I don't think I could bear this long,
and keep true--to myself--and----"
It was the same with Nick. He had felt that he could not bear this long
and be true either to himself or to her. Yet he would have stayed if she
had bidden him stay, and fought for his manhood against odds. "Am I to
go--now?" he asked.
"Yes--oh, please, yes!" she begged him, holding out her hands. "I am keyed
up to bear it now. It might be different later. But--let us write to each
other, Nick. I'll write little things every day--that I think and feel.
Then, if they're worthy, I'll send them to you--once a month or so. Will
you do the same?"
"And you'll take care of yourself--for me--won't you?"
He could not answer in words. He crushed her hands against his lips, and
then, turning from her abruptly, walked away, without looking back.
* * * * *
It grew cold at Lake Tahoe. When weeks had passed, there was no excuse to
stay: the plans of the architect were finished, and the new house begun.
Angela went to Del Monte, and motored nearly every day to the forest on
the peninsula to see how her home grew. She had not the old interest in
thinking of it, but she was no longer unhappy, for she had not lost Nick
Hilliard out of her life. She could almost feel the thrill of his
thoughts. And at Del Monte she was much nearer Lucky Star City than she
had been at Tahoe.
Sometimes she wondered if it would be very wrong and unwise to have him
come to look at the house when it was finished. If, afterward, she could
have the memory of him in the rooms, walking through them with her--just
that, no more; and then going away--it would make all the difference
between a live home and a dead house, or a house that never had really
"come alive." But generally, when she had dreamed this dream, she said to
herself, "Better not," or "It would never do."
One morning in October, just six months to the day after her coming to
California, she read in a San Francisco paper--a mere tucked-away
paragraph to fill up a corner--that the Italian amateur aeronaut, Prince
di Sereno, had arranged a sensational flight from Naples to Algiers in his
new aeroplane, an improvement on a celebrated older make. The machine had
just been named the _Vittoria_ in honour of the brave and beautiful lady
whom he called his "mascot," and who had made so many daring journeys
through the air with him. The projected dash would be the most ambitious
so far attempted, and it was exciting considerable interest. It was said
that Prince di Sereno, in gratitude to his "mascot" had lately made a will
in her favour, leaving all his personal property to her. In event of
death, his great estates would go to a nephew, as he was without a direct
Angela wondered how much of her money was left for him to bequeath to the
celebrated Vittoria di Cancellini. She did not grudge it either to the
Prince or his mascot. She took no interest in the great flight from Naples
to Algiers, but she felt certain that Paolo would succeed in accomplishing
it. He had always succeeded in everything he had ever wanted to do, except
perhaps in winning her love. But then he had not really wanted that.
The day came for the flight, but she had forgotten it. She went in the
morning to the new house, picnicked there, and returned to Del Monte only
at dusk. She was thinking on the way back of several things she would put
in the diary she kept for Nick, sending it off to him in a fat envelope
the first of each month. One bit of news she wanted to tell him was that
his favourite flowers--pansies--were to be planted in a great bed under
the windows of her own room. "Then, whenever I look out, I shall think of
you. Not that I shouldn't do that anyway." She wondered if she had better
add that last sentence, or if it would be better to leave it out.
"There's a telegram for you, Mrs. May; just this minute come," said the
Angela took it, her heart beating fast, for whenever a telegram
arrived--which happened seldom--she always wondered if it would tell her
that, for some good reason or other, Nick was coming. But he never had
come, and had never telegraphed.
She opened the envelope, and glanced first at the signature: "James
Morehouse." Why should he have wired? Then she read:
"In flight to-day aeroplane fell into Sea off Sardinia. Aeronaut
killed. Companion injured. Forgive abruptness. Wished get ahead of
For a moment she felt absolutely unconcerned, as if reading of the death
of some stranger aeronaut, of Japan or South America. Then:
"I hope you've not got bad news, Mrs. May?" a concerned voice was saying.
She was vaguely conscious that the hotel clerk who had given her the
telegram was hovering distressfully before her. She had been standing up
when she began to read the message. Now she was sitting down. But her
voice sounded quite calm and natural in her own ears as she answered, "No,
thank you very much. A surprise--that is all. A great surprise."
"You are all right?"
"Nothing I can do for you?"
"Nothing, thanks. I will go up to my room."
* * * * *
Her first thought, when she could think connectedly, was to send her
unfinished letter to Nick, with a few hastily scribbled words at the
end--not about the pansies. And perhaps to enclose the telegram.
But she did neither. Two days passed before she sent the long diary
letter, and when she did send it, nothing more had been written. She
waited. She did not know what would happen. She did not even read the
newspapers, though she knew there must be paragraphs, not tucked into
corners, for this was, in a way, world's news. There had been
On the third day she was given another telegram. This time the name at the
bottom was the only name that could make her heart beat:
"I have seen what has happened. When will you let me come?"
He did not say "Will you let me come?" but "When." She thought if she did
not answer soon he would come all the same. It seemed wonderful,
unbelievable, that now there was no wrong, no cruelty, no terrible
unwisdom in having him near her. But there was none. Even she could see
none. So she telegraphed, not the immediate summons he hoped for and she
was tempted to send him, but the message of her second thought. "Come; not
yet, but on the day I have a home of my own to welcome you in. Till then,
let me be alone with my thoughts of you."
* * * * *
The architect thought Mrs. May's impatience to get into her new house, and
to have even the garden finished, a charming whim. As she seemed not to
care how much money was spent, relays of men, many men, were put on to
work night as well as day. Angela chose furniture in San Francisco, all
made of beautiful California woods. "We shall have two homes," she
thought. It was heavenly to say "we" again.
"You can have Christmas dinner at your own place," said the architect.
"Oh, but I want Christmas _Eve_ there!" Angela exclaimed. "Of all things,
I want Christmas Eve!"
"Very well, I promise you Christmas Eve," the architect answered, almost
as if she were a child.
But she was not a child. She was a woman loving and longing. Always she
had wanted to have a happy Christmas Eve, and she had never had one since
Franklin Merriam died.
At last she wrote: "I am going to have a house-warming at Christmas-time:
only five guests, and you, Nick, are the principal one. The others, are
Mrs. Harland, Mr. Falconer and his bride, and little Miss Wilkins, your
school-teacher at Lucky Star. Some day I'll tell you how we renewed our
Nick did not care to know. He wanted to be the only guest: yet somehow he
felt that she did not mean to disappoint him. She meant him to be happy
that day--the day of Christmas Eve, when she asked him to come to her--at
last. But how could she contrive, with other guests, not to let it be a
She contrived it by letting him arrive first at the beautiful new house,
which was as like as possible, in miniature, to the Mission Inn where they
had once "made-believe." They did not speak when they met. Their hearts
were too full. There was no question, "Will you marry me?" No answer,
"Yes, I am free to love you now." But when the others came, Angela said:
"Congratulate me. I am engaged to the best and dearest man on earth, and
I--am the happiest woman."