Part 1 out of 3
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The Twins of Table Mountain
by Bret Harte
I. THE TWINS OF TABLE MOUNTAIN
II. AN HEIRESS OF RED DOG
III. THE GREAT DEADWOOD MYSTERY
IV. A LEGEND OF SAMMTSTADT
V. VIEWS FROM A GERMAN SPION
THE TWINS OF TABLE MOUNTAIN.
A CLOUD ON THE MOUNTAIN.
They lived on the verge of a vast stony level, upheaved so far
above the surrounding country that its vague outlines, viewed from
the nearest valley, seemed a mere cloud-streak resting upon the
lesser hills. The rush and roar of the turbulent river that washed
its eastern base were lost at that height; the winds that strove
with the giant pines that half way climbed its flanks spent their
fury below the summit; for, at variance with most meteorological
speculation, an eternal calm seemed to invest this serene altitude.
The few Alpine flowers seldom thrilled their petals to a passing
breeze; rain and snow fell alike perpendicularly, heavily, and
monotonously over the granite bowlders scattered along its brown
expanse. Although by actual measurement an inconsiderable
elevation of the Sierran range, and a mere shoulder of the nearest
white-faced peak that glimmered in the west, it seemed to lie so
near the quiet, passionless stars, that at night it caught something
of their calm remoteness.
The articulate utterance of such a locality should have been a
whisper; a laugh or exclamation was discordant; and the ordinary
tones of the human voice on the night of the 15th of May, 1868, had
a grotesque incongruity.
In the thick darkness that clothed the mountain that night, the
human figure would have been lost, or confounded with the outlines
of outlying bowlders, which at such times took upon themselves the
vague semblance of men and animals. Hence the voices in the
following colloquy seemed the more grotesque and incongruous from
being the apparent expression of an upright monolith, ten feet
high, on the right, and another mass of granite, that, reclining,
peeped over the verge.
"I lost the trail, and climbed up the slide."
Here followed a stumble, the clatter of stones down the mountain-
side, and an oath so very human and undignified that it at once
relieved the bowlders of any complicity of expression. The voices,
too, were close together now, and unexpectedly in quite another
"Looey Napoleon's declared war agin Germany."
Notwithstanding this exclamation, the interest of the latter
speaker was evidently only polite and perfunctory. What, indeed,
were the political convulsions of the Old World to the dwellers on
this serene, isolated eminence of the New?
"I reckon it's so," continued the first voice. "French Pete and
that thar feller that keeps the Dutch grocery hev hed a row over
it; emptied their six-shooters into each other. The Dutchman's got
two balls in his leg, and the Frenchman's got an onnessary
buttonhole in his shirt-buzzum, and hez caved in."
This concise, local corroboration of the conflict of remote
nations, however confirmatory, did not appear to excite any further
interest. Even the last speaker, now that he was in this calm,
dispassionate atmosphere, seemed to lose his own concern in his
tidings, and to have abandoned every thing of a sensational and
lower-worldly character in the pines below. There were a few
moments of absolute silence, and then another stumble. But now the
voices of both speakers were quite patient and philosophical.
"Hold on, and I'll strike a light," said the second speaker. "I
brought a lantern along, but I didn't light up. I kem out afore
sundown, and you know how it allers is up yer. I didn't want it,
and didn't keer to light up. I forgot you're always a little dazed
and strange-like when you first come up."
There was a crackle, a flash, and presently a steady glow, which
the surrounding darkness seemed to resent. The faces of the two
men thus revealed were singularly alike. The same thin, narrow
outline of jaw and temple; the same dark, grave eyes; the same
brown growth of curly beard and mustache, which concealed the
mouth, and hid what might have been any individual idiosyncrasy of
thought or expression,--showed them to be brothers, or better known
as the "Twins of Table Mountain." A certain animation in the face
of the second speaker,--the first-comer,--a certain light in his
eye, might have at first distinguished him; but even this faded out
in the steady glow of the lantern, and had no value as a permanent
distinction, for, by the time they had reached the western verge of
the mountain, the two faces had settled into a homogeneous calmness
The vague horizon of darkness, that a few feet from the lantern
still encompassed them, gave no indication of their progress, until
their feet actually trod the rude planks and thatch that formed the
roof of their habitation; for their cabin half burrowed in the
mountain, and half clung, like a swallow's nest, to the side of the
deep declivity that terminated the northern limit of the summit.
Had it not been for the windlass of a shaft, a coil of rope, and a
few heaps of stone and gravel, which were the only indications of
human labor in that stony field, there was nothing to interrupt its
monotonous dead level. And, when they descended a dozen well-worn
steps to the door of their cabin, they left the summit, as before,
lonely, silent, motionless, its long level uninterrupted, basking
in the cold light of the stars.
The simile of a "nest" as applied to the cabin of the brothers was
no mere figure of speech as the light of the lantern first flashed
upon it. The narrow ledge before the door was strewn with
feathers. A suggestion that it might be the home and haunt of
predatory birds was promptly checked by the spectacle of the
nailed-up carcasses of a dozen hawks against the walls, and the
outspread wings of an extended eagle emblazoning the gable above
the door, like an armorial bearing. Within the cabin the walls and
chimney-piece were dazzlingly bedecked with the party-colored wings
of jays, yellow-birds, woodpeckers, kingfishers, and the poly-
tinted wood-duck. Yet in that dry, highly-rarefied atmosphere,
there was not the slightest suggestion of odor or decay.
The first speaker hung the lantern upon a hook that dangled from
the rafters, and, going to the broad chimney, kicked the half-dead
embers into a sudden resentful blaze. He then opened a rude
cupboard, and, without looking around, called, "Ruth!"
The second speaker turned his head from the open doorway where he
was leaning, as if listening to something in the darkness, and
"I don't believe you have touched grub to-day!"
Ruth grunted out some indifferent reply.
"Thar hezen't been a slice cut off that bacon since I left,"
continued Rand, bringing a side of bacon and some biscuits from the
cupboard, and applying himself to the discussion of them at the
table. "You're gettin' off yer feet, Ruth. What's up?"
Ruth replied by taking an uninvited seat beside him, and resting
his chin on the palms of his hands. He did not eat, but simply
transferred his inattention from the door to the table.
"You're workin' too many hours in the shaft," continued Rand.
"You're always up to some such d--n fool business when I'm not
"I dipped a little west to-day," Ruth went on, without heeding the
brotherly remonstrance, "and struck quartz and pyrites."
"Thet's you!--allers dippin' west or east for quartz and the color,
instead of keeping on plumb down to the 'cement'!"*
* The local name for gold-bearing alluvial drift,--the bed of a
"We've been three years digging for cement," said Ruth, more in
abstraction than in reproach,--"three years!"
"And we may be three years more,--may be only three days. Why, you
couldn't be more impatient if--if--if you lived in a valley."
Delivering this tremendous comparison as an unanswerable climax,
Rand applied himself once more to his repast. Ruth, after a
moment's pause, without speaking or looking up, disengaged his hand
from under his chin, and slid it along, palm uppermost, on the
table beside his brother. Thereupon Rand slowly reached forward
his left hand, the right being engaged in conveying victual to his
mouth, and laid it on his brother's palm. The act was evidently an
habitual, half mechanical one; for in a few moments the hands were
as gently disengaged, without comment or expression. At last Rand
leaned back in his chair, laid down his knife and fork, and,
complacently loosening the belt that held his revolver, threw it
and the weapon on his bed. Taking out his pipe, and chipping some
tobacco on the table, he said carelessly, "I came a piece through
the woods with Mornie just now."
The face that Ruth turned upon his brother was very distinct in its
expression at that moment, and quite belied the popular theory that
the twins could not be told apart. "Thet gal," continued Rand,
without looking up, "is either flighty, or--or suthin'," he added
in vague disgust, pushing the table from him as if it were the lady
in question. "Don't tell me!"
Ruth's eyes quickly sought his brother's, and were as quickly
averted, as he asked hurriedly, "How?"
"What gets me," continued Rand in a petulant non sequitur, "is that
YOU, my own twin-brother, never lets on about her comin' yer,
permiskus like, when I ain't yer, and you and her gallivantin' and
promanadin', and swoppin' sentiments and mottoes."
Ruth tried to contradict his blushing face with a laugh of worldly
"She came up yer on a sort of pasear."
"Oh, yes!--a short cut to the creek," interpolated Rand satirically.
"Last Tuesday or Wednesday," continued Ruth, with affected
"Oh, in course, Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday! You've so many
folks climbing up this yer mountain to call on ye," continued the
ironical Rand, "that you disremember; only you remembered enough
not to tell me. SHE did. She took me for you, or pretended to."
The color dropped from Ruth's cheek.
"Took you for me?" he asked, with an awkward laugh.
"Yes," sneered Rand; "chirped and chattered away about OUR picnic,
OUR nose-gays, and lord knows what! Said she'd keep them blue-
jay's wings, and wear 'em in her hat. Spouted poetry, too,--the
same sort o' rot you get off now and then."
Ruth laughed again, but rather ostentatiously and nervously.
"Ruth, look yer!"
Ruth faced his brother.
"What's your little game? Do you mean to say you don't know what
thet gal is? Do you mean to say you don't know thet she's the
laughing-stock of the Ferry; thet her father's a d----d old fool,
and her mother's a drunkard and worse; thet she's got any right to
be hanging round yer? You can't mean to marry her, even if you
kalkilate to turn me out to do it, for she wouldn't live alone with
ye up here. 'Tain't her kind. And if I thought you was thinking
"What?" said Ruth, turning upon his brother quickly.
"Oh, thet's right! holler; swear and yell, and break things, do!
Tear round!" continued Rand, kicking his boots off in a corner,
"just because I ask you a civil question. That's brotherly," he
added, jerking his chair away against the side of the cabin, "ain't
"She's not to blame because her mother drinks, and her father's a
shyster," said Ruth earnestly and strongly. "The men who make her
the laughing-stock of the Ferry tried to make her something worse,
and failed, and take this sneak's revenge on her. 'Laughing-
stock!' Yes, they knew she could turn the tables on them."
"Of course; go on! She's better than me. I know I'm a fratricide,
that's what I am," said Rand, throwing himself on the upper of the
two berths that formed the bedstead of the cabin.
"I've seen her three times," continued Ruth.
"And you've known me twenty years," interrupted his brother.
Ruth turned on his heel, and walked towards the door.
"That's right; go on! Why don't you get the chalk?"
Ruth made no reply. Rand descended from the bed, and, taking a
piece of chalk from the shelf, drew a line on the floor, dividing
the cabin in two equal parts.
"You can have the east half," he said, as he climbed slowly back
This mysterious rite was the usual termination of a quarrel between
the twins. Each man kept his half of the cabin until the feud was
forgotten. It was the mark of silence and separation, over which
no words of recrimination, argument, or even explanation, were
delivered, until it was effaced by one or the other. This was
considered equivalent to apology or reconciliation, which each were
equally bound in honor to accept.
It may be remarked that the floor was much whiter at this line of
demarcation, and under the fresh chalk-line appeared the faint
evidences of one recently effaced.
Without apparently heeding this potential ceremony, Ruth remained
leaning against the doorway, looking upon the night, the bulk of
whose profundity and blackness seemed to be gathered below him.
The vault above was serene and tranquil, with a few large far-
spaced stars; the abyss beneath, untroubled by sight or sound.
Stepping out upon the ledge, he leaned far over the shelf that
sustained their cabin, and listened. A faint rhythmical roll,
rising and falling in long undulations against the invisible
horizon, to his accustomed ears told him the wind was blowing among
the pines in the valley. Yet, mingling with this familiar sound,
his ear, now morbidly acute, seemed to detect a stranger inarticulate
murmur, as of confused and excited voices, swelling up from the
mysterious depths to the stars above, and again swallowed up in the
gulfs of silence below. He was roused from a consideration of this
phenomenon by a faint glow towards the east, which at last
brightened, until the dark outline of the distant walls of the
valley stood out against the sky. Were his other senses
participating in the delusion of his ears? for with the brightening
light came the faint odor of burning timber.
His face grew anxious as he gazed. At last he rose, and re-entered
the cabin. His eyes fell upon the faint chalk-mark, and, taking
his soft felt hat from his head, with a few practical sweeps of the
brim he brushed away the ominous record of their late estrangement.
Going to the bed whereon Rand lay stretched, open-eyed, he would
have laid his hand upon his arm lightly; but the brother's fingers
sought and clasped his own. "Get up," he said quietly; "there's a
strange fire in the Canyon head that I can't make out."
Rand slowly clambered from his shelf, and hand in hand the brothers
stood upon the ledge. "It's a right smart chance beyond the Ferry,
and a piece beyond the Mill, too," said Rand, shading his eyes with
his hand, from force of habit. "It's in the woods where--" He
would have added where he met Mornie; but it was a point of honor
with the twins, after reconciliation, not to allude to any topic of
their recent disagreement.
Ruth dropped his brother's hand. "It doesn't smell like the
woods," he said slowly.
"Smell!" repeated Rand incredulously. "Why, it's twenty miles in a
bee-line yonder. Smell, indeed!"
Ruth was silent, but presently fell to listening again with his
former abstraction. "You don't hear anything, do you?" he asked
after a pause.
"It's blowin' in the pines on the river," said Rand shortly.
"You don't hear anything else?"
Rand, who had been listening with an intensity that distorted the
left side of his face, interrupted him impatiently.
"Like a woman sobbin'?"
"Ruth," said Rand, suddenly looking up in his brother's face,
"what's gone of you?"
Ruth laughed. "The fire's out," he said, abruptly re-entering the
cabin. "I'm goin' to turn in."
Rand, following his brother half reproachfully, saw him divest
himself of his clothing, and roll himself in the blankets of his
Rand hesitated. He would have liked to ask his brother another
question; but there was clearly nothing to be done but follow his
"Good-night, Ruthy!" he said, and put out the light. As he did so,
the glow in the eastern horizon faded, too, and darkness seemed to
well up from the depths below, and, flowing in the open door,
wrapped them in deeper slumber.
THE CLOUDS GATHER.
Twelve months had elapsed since the quarrel and reconciliation,
during which interval no reference was made by either of the
brothers to the cause which had provoked it. Rand was at work in
the shaft, Ruth having that morning undertaken the replenishment of
the larder with game from the wooded skirt of the mountain. Rand
had taken advantage of his brother's absence to "prospect" in the
"drift,"--a proceeding utterly at variance with his previous
condemnation of all such speculative essay; but Rand, despite his
assumption of a superior practical nature, was not above certain
local superstitions. Having that morning put on his gray flannel
shirt wrong side out,--an abstraction recognized among the miners
as the sure forerunner of divination and treasure-discovery,--he
could not forego that opportunity of trying his luck, without
hazarding a dangerous example. He was also conscious of feeling
"chipper,"--another local expression for buoyancy of spirit, not
common to men who work fifty feet below the surface, without the
stimulus of air and sunshine, and not to be overlooked as an
important factor in fortunate adventure. Nevertheless, noon came
without the discovery of any treasure. He had attacked the walls
on either side of the lateral "drift" skilfully, so as to expose
their quality without destroying their cohesive integrity, but had
found nothing. Once or twice, returning to the shaft for rest and
air, its grim silence had seemed to him pervaded with some vague
echo of cheerful holiday voices above. This set him to thinking of
his brother's equally extravagant fancy of the wailing voices in
the air on the night of the fire, and of his attributing it to a
"I laid it to his being struck after that gal; and yet," Rand
continued to himself, "here's me, who haven't been foolin' round no
gal, and dog my skin if I didn't think I heard one singin' up
thar!" He put his foot on the lower round of the ladder, paused,
and slowly ascended a dozen steps. Here he paused again. All at
once the whole shaft was filled with the musical vibrations of a
woman's song. Seizing the rope that hung idly from the windlass,
he half climbed, half swung himself, to the surface.
The voice was there; but the sudden transition to the dazzling
level before him at first blinded his eyes, so that he took in only
by degrees the unwonted spectacle of the singer,--a pretty girl,
standing on tiptoe on a bowlder not a dozen yards from him, utterly
absorbed in tying a gayly-striped neckerchief, evidently taken from
her own plump throat, to the halliards of a freshly-cut hickory-
pole newly reared as a flag-staff beside her. The hickory-pole,
the halliards, the fluttering scarf, the young lady herself, were
all glaring innovations on the familiar landscape; but Rand, with
his hand still on the rope, silently and demurely enjoyed it.
For the better understanding of the general reader, who does not
live on an isolated mountain, it may be observed that the young
lady's position on the rock exhibited some study of POSE, and a
certain exaggeration of attitude, that betrayed the habit of an
audience; also that her voice had an artificial accent that was not
wholly unconscious, even in this lofty solitude. Yet the very next
moment, when she turned, and caught Rand's eye fixed upon her, she
started naturally, colored slightly, uttered that feminine
adjuration, "Good Lord! gracious! goodness me!" which is seldom
used in reference to its effect upon the hearer, and skipped
instantly from the bowlder to the ground. Here, however, she
alighted in a POSE, brought the right heel of her neatly-fitting
left boot closely into the hollowed side of her right instep, at
the same moment deftly caught her flying skirt, whipped it around
her ankles, and, slightly raising it behind, permitted the chaste
display of an inch or two of frilled white petticoat. The most
irreverent critic of the sex will, I think, admit that it has some
movements that are automatic.
"Hope I didn't disturb ye," said Rand, pointing to the flag-staff.
The young lady slightly turned her head. "No," she said; "but I
didn't know anybody was here, of course. Our PARTY"--she
emphasized the word, and accompanied it with a look toward the
further extremity of the plateau, to show she was not alone--"our
party climbed this ridge, and put up this pole as a sign to show
they did it." The ridiculous self-complacency of this record in
the face of a man who was evidently a dweller on the mountain
apparently struck her for the first time. "We didn't know," she
stammered, looking at the shaft from which Rand had emerged, "that--
that--" She stopped, and, glancing again towards the distant
range where her friends had disappeared, began to edge away.
"They can't be far off," interposed Rand quietly, as if it were the
most natural thing in the world for the lady to be there. "Table
Mountain ain't as big as all that. Don't you be scared! So you
thought nobody lived up here?"
She turned upon him a pair of honest hazel eyes, which not only
contradicted the somewhat meretricious smartness of her dress, but
was utterly inconsistent with the palpable artificial color of her
hair,--an obvious imitation of a certain popular fashion then known
in artistic circles as the "British Blonde,"--and began to
ostentatiously resume a pair of lemon-colored kid gloves. Having,
as it were, thus indicated her standing and respectability, and put
an immeasurable distance between herself and her bold interlocutor,
she said impressively, "We evidently made a mistake: I will rejoin
our party, who will, of course, apologize."
"What's your hurry?" said the imperturbable Rand, disengaging
himself from the rope, and walking towards her. "As long as you're
up here, you might stop a spell."
"I have no wish to intrude; that is, our party certainly has not,"
continued the young lady, pulling the tight gloves, and smoothing
the plump, almost bursting fingers, with an affectation of
"Oh! I haven't any thing to do just now," said Rand, "and it's
about grub time, I reckon. Yes, I live here, Ruth and me,--right
The young woman glanced at the shaft.
"No, not down there," said Rand, following her eye, with a laugh.
"Come here, and I'll show you."
A strong desire to keep up an appearance of genteel reserve, and an
equally strong inclination to enjoy the adventurous company of this
good-looking, hearty young fellow, made her hesitate. Perhaps she
regretted having undertaken a role of such dignity at the
beginning: she could have been so perfectly natural with this
perfectly natural man, whereas any relaxation now might increase
his familiarity. And yet she was not without a vague suspicion
that her dignity and her gloves were alike thrown away on him,--a
fact made the more evident when Rand stepped to her side, and,
without any apparent consciousness of disrespect or gallantry, laid
his large hand, half persuasively, half fraternally, upon her
shoulder, and said, "Oh, come along, do!"
The simple act either exceeded the limits of her forbearance, or
decided the course of her subsequent behavior. She instantly
stepped back a single pace, and drew her left foot slowly and
deliberately after her; then she fixed her eyes and uplifted
eyebrows upon the daring hand, and, taking it by the ends of her
thumb and forefinger, lifted it, and dropped it in mid-air. She
then folded her arms. It was the indignant gesture with which
"Alice," the Pride of Dumballin Village, received the loathsome
advances of the bloated aristocrat, Sir Parkyns Parkyn, and had at
Marysville, a few nights before, brought down the house.
This effect was, I think, however, lost upon Rand. The slight
color that rose to his cheek as he looked down upon his clay-soiled
hands was due to the belief that he had really contaminated her
outward superfine person. But his color quickly passed: his frank,
boyish smile returned, as he said, "It'll rub off. Lord, don't
mind that! Thar, now--come on!"
The young woman bit her lip. Then nature triumphed; and she
laughed, although a little scornfully. And then Providence
assisted her with the sudden presentation of two figures, a man and
woman, slowly climbing up over the mountain verge, not far from
them. With a cry of "There's Sol, now!" she forgot her dignity and
her confusion, and ran towards them.
Rand stood looking after her neat figure, less concerned in the
advent of the strangers than in her sudden caprice. He was not so
young and inexperienced but that he noted certain ambiguities in
her dress and manner: he was by no means impressed by her dignity.
But he could not help watching her as she appeared to be volubly
recounting her late interview to her companions; and, still
unconscious of any impropriety or obtrusiveness, he lounged down
lazily towards her. Her humor had evidently changed; for she
turned an honest, pleased face upon him, as she girlishly attempted
to drag the strangers forward.
The man was plump and short; unlike the natives of the locality, he
was closely cropped and shaven, as if to keep down the strong blue-
blackness of his beard and hair, which nevertheless asserted itself
over his round cheeks and upper lip like a tattooing of Indian ink.
The woman at his side was reserved and indistinctive, with that
appearance of being an unenthusiastic family servant peculiar to
some men's wives. When Rand was within a few feet of him, he
started, struck a theatrical attitude, and, shading his eyes with
his hand, cried, "What, do me eyes deceive me!" burst into a hearty
laugh, darted forward, seized Rand's hand, and shook it briskly.
"Pinkney, Pinkney, my boy! how are you? And this is your little
'prop'? your quarter-section, your country-seat, that we've been
trespassing on, eh? A nice little spot, cool, sequestered,
remote,--a trifle unimproved; carriage-road as yet unfinished. Ha,
ha! But to think of our making a discovery of this inaccessible
mountain, climbing it, sir, for two mortal hours, christening it
'Sol's Peak,' getting up a flag-pole, unfurling our standard to the
breeze, sir, and then, by Gad, winding up by finding Pinkney, the
festive Pinkney, living on it at home!"
Completely surprised, but still perfectly good-humored, Rand shook
the stranger's right hand warmly, and received on his broad
shoulders a welcoming thwack from the left, without question. "She
don't mind her friends making free with ME evidently," said Rand to
himself, as he tried to suggest that fact to the young lady in a
The stranger noted his glance, and suddenly passed his hand
thoughtfully over his shaven cheeks. "No," he said--"yes, surely,
I forget--yes, I see; of course you don't! Rosy," turning to his
wife, "of course Pinkney doesn't know Phemie, eh?"
"No, nor ME either, Sol," said that lady warningly.
"Certainly!" continued Sol. "It's his misfortune. You weren't
with me at Gold Hill.--Allow me," he said, turning to Rand, "to
present Mrs. Sol Saunders, wife of the undersigned, and Miss
Euphemia Neville, otherwise known as the 'Marysville Pet,' the best
variety actress known on the provincial boards. Played Ophelia at
Marysville, Friday; domestic drama at Gold Hill, Saturday; Sunday
night, four songs in character, different dress each time, and a
clog-dance. The best clog-dance on the Pacific Slope," he added in
a stage aside. "The minstrels are crazy to get her in 'Frisco.
But money can't buy her--prefers the legitimate drama to this sort
of thing." Here he took a few steps of a jig, to which the
"Marysville Pet" beat time with her feet, and concluded with a
laugh and a wink--the combined expression of an artist's admiration
for her ability, and a man of the world's scepticism of feminine
Miss Euphemia responded to the formal introduction by extending her
hand frankly with a re-assuring smile to Rand, and an utter
obliviousness of her former hauteur. Rand shook it warmly, and
then dropped carelessly on a rock beside them.
"And you never told me you lived up here in the attic, you rascal!"
continued Sol with a laugh.
"No," replied Rand simply. "How could I? I never saw you before,
that I remember."
Miss Euphemia stared at Sol. Mrs. Sol looked up in her lord's
face, and folded her arms in a resigned expression. Sol rose to
his feet again, and shaded his eyes with his hand, but this time
quite seriously, and gazed at Rand's smiling face.
"Good Lord! Do you mean to say your name isn't Pinkney?" he asked,
with a half embarrassed laugh.
"It IS Pinkney," said Rand; "but I never met you before."
"Didn't you come to see a young lady that joined my troupe at Gold
Hill last month, and say you'd meet me at Keeler's Ferry in a day
"No-o-o," said Rand, with a good-humored laugh. "I haven't left
this mountain for two months."
He might have added more; but his attention was directed to Miss
Euphemia, who during this short dialogue, having stuffed
alternately her handkerchief, the corner of her mantle, and her
gloves, into her mouth, restrained herself no longer, but gave way
to an uncontrollable fit of laughter. "O Sol!" she gasped
explanatorily, as she threw herself alternately against him, Mrs.
Sol, and a bowlder, "you'll kill me yet! O Lord! first we take
possession of this man's property, then we claim HIM." The
contemplation of this humorous climax affected her so that she was
fain at last to walk away, and confide the rest of her speech to
Sol joined in the laugh until his wife plucked his sleeve, and
whispered something in his ear. In an instant his face became at
once mysterious and demure. "I owe you an apology," he said,
turning to Rand, but in a voice ostentatiously pitched high enough
for Miss Euphemia to overhear: "I see I have made a mistake. A
resemblance--only a mere resemblance, as I look at you now--led me
astray. Of course you don't know any young lady in the profession?"
"Of course he doesn't, Sol," said Miss Euphemia. "I could have
told you that. He didn't even know ME!"
The voice and mock-heroic attitude of the speaker was enough to
relieve the general embarrassment with a laugh. Rand, now
pleasantly conscious of only Miss Euphemia's presence, again
offered the hospitality of his cabin, with the polite recognition
of her friends in the sentence, "and you might as well come along
"But won't we incommode the lady of the house?" said Mrs. Sol
"What lady of the house"? said Rand almost angrily.
"Why, Ruth, you know!"
It was Rand's turn to become hilarious. "Ruth," he said, "is short
for Rutherford, my brother." His laugh, however, was echoed only
"Then you have a brother?" said Mrs. Sol benignly.
"Yes," said Rand: "he will be here soon." A sudden thought dropped
the color from his cheek. "Look here," he said, turning impulsively
upon Sol. "I have a brother, a twin-brother. It couldn't be HIM--"
Sol was conscious of a significant feminine pressure on his right
arm. He was equal to the emergency. "I think not," he said
dubiously, "unless your brother's hair is much darker than yours.
Yes! now I look at you, yours is brown. He has a mole on his right
cheek hasn't he?"
The red came quickly back to Rand's boyish face. He laughed. "No,
sir: my brother's hair is, if any thing, a shade lighter than mine,
and nary mole. Come along!"
And leading the way, Rand disclosed the narrow steps winding down
to the shelf on which the cabin hung. "Be careful," said Rand,
taking the now unresisting hand of the "Marysville Pet" as they
descended: "a step that way, and down you go two thousand feet on
the top of a pine-tree."
But the girl's slight cry of alarm was presently changed to one of
unaffected pleasure as they stood on the rocky platform. "It isn't
a house: it's a NEST, and the loveliest!" said Euphemia breathlessly.
"It's a scene, a perfect scene, sir!" said Sol, enraptured. "I
shall take the liberty of bringing my scene-painter to sketch it
some day. It would do for 'The Mountaineer's Bride' superbly, or,"
continued the little man, warming through the blue-black border of
his face with professional enthusiasm, "it's enough to make a play
itself. 'The Cot on the Crags.' Last scene--moonlight--the
struggle on the ledge! The Lady of the Crags throws herself from
the beetling heights!--A shriek from the depths--a woman's wail!"
"Dry up!" sharply interrupted Rand, to whom this speech recalled
his brother's half-forgotten strangeness. "Look at the prospect."
In the full noon of a cloudless day, beneath them a tumultuous sea
of pines surged, heaved, rode in giant crests, stretched and lost
itself in the ghostly, snow-peaked horizon. The thronging woods
choked every defile, swept every crest, filled every valley with
its dark-green tilting spears, and left only Table Mountain sunlit
and bare. Here and there were profound olive depths, over which
the gray hawk hung lazily, and into which blue jays dipped. A
faint, dull yellowish streak marked an occasional watercourse; a
deeper reddish ribbon, the mountain road and its overhanging murky
cloud of dust.
"Is it quite safe here?" asked Mrs. Sol, eying the little cabin.
"I mean from storms?"
"It never blows up here," replied Rand, "and nothing happens."
"It must be lovely," said Euphemia, clasping her hands.
"It IS that," said Rand proudly. "It's four years since Ruth and I
took up this yer claim, and raised this shanty. In that four years
we haven't left it alone a night, or cared to. It's only big
enough for two, and them two must be brothers. It wouldn't do for
mere pardners to live here alone,--they couldn't do it. It
wouldn't be exactly the thing for man and wife to shut themselves
up here alone. But Ruth and me know each other's ways, and here
we'll stay until we've made a pile. We sometimes--one of us--takes
a pasear to the Ferry to buy provisions; but we're glad to crawl up
to the back of old 'Table' at night."
"You're quite out of the world here, then?" suggested Mrs. Sol.
"That's it, just it! We're out of the world,--out of rows, out of
liquor, out of cards, out of bad company, out of temptation.
Cussedness and foolishness hez got to follow us up here to find us,
and there's too many ready to climb down to them things to tempt
'em to come up to us."
There was a little boyish conceit in his tone, as he stood there,
not altogether unbecoming his fresh color and simplicity. Yet,
when his eyes met those of Miss Euphemia, he colored, he hardly
knew why, and the young lady herself blushed rosily.
When the neat cabin, with its decorated walls, and squirrel and
wild-cat skins, was duly admired, the luncheon-basket of the
Saunders party was re-enforced by provisions from Rand's larder,
and spread upon the ledge; the dimensions of the cabin not
admitting four. Under the potent influence of a bottle, Sol became
hilarious and professional. The "Pet" was induced to favor the
company with a recitation, and, under the plea of teaching Rand, to
perform the clog-dance with both gentlemen. Then there was an
interval, in which Rand and Euphemia wandered a little way down the
mountain-side to gather laurel, leaving Mr. Sol to his siesta on a
rock, and Mrs. Sol to take some knitting from the basket, and sit
When Rand and his companion had disappeared, Mrs. Sol nudged her
sleeping partner. "Do you think that WAS the brother?"
Sol yawned. "Sure of it. They're as like as two peas, in looks."
"Why didn't you tell him so, then?"
"Will you tell me, my dear, why you stopped me when I began?"
"Because something was said about Ruth being here; and I supposed
Ruth was a woman, and perhaps Pinkney's wife, and knew you'd be
putting your foot in it by talking of that other woman. I supposed
it was for fear of that he denied knowing you."
"Well, when HE--this Rand--told me he had a twin-brother, he looked
so frightened that I knew he knew nothing of his brother's doings
with that woman, and I threw him off the scent. He's a good
fellow, but awfully green, and I didn't want to worry him with
tales. I like him, and I think Phemie does too."
"Nonsense! He's a conceited prig! Did you hear his sermon on the
world and its temptations? I wonder if he thought temptation had
come up to him in the person of us professionals out on a picnic.
I think it was positively rude."
"My dear woman, you're always seeing slights and insults. I tell
you he's taken a shine to Phemie; and he's as good as four seats
and a bouquet to that child next Wednesday evening, to say nothing
of the eclat of getting this St. Simeon--what do you call him?--
"Stylites," suggested Mrs. Sol.
"Stylites, off from his pillar here. I'll have a paragraph in the
paper, that the hermit crabs of Table Mountain--"
"Don't be a fool, Sol!"
"The hermit twins of Table Mountain bespoke the chaste performance."
"One of them being the protector of the well-known Mornie Nixon,"
responded Mrs. Sol, viciously accenting the name with her knitting-
"Rosy, you're unjust. You're prejudiced by the reports of the
town. Mr. Pinkney's interest in her may be a purely artistic one,
although mistaken. She'll never make a good variety-actress: she's
too heavy. And the boys don't give her a fair show. No woman can
make a debut in my version of 'Somnambula,' and have the front row
in the pit say to her in the sleepwalking scene, 'You're out rather
late, Mornie. Kinder forgot to put on your things, didn't you?
Mother sick, I suppose, and you're goin' for more gin? Hurry
along, or you'll ketch it when ye get home.' Why, you couldn't do
it yourself, Rosy!"
To which Mrs. Sol's illogical climax was, that, "bad as Rutherford
might be, this Sunday-school superintendent, Rand, was worse."
Rand and his companion returned late, but in high spirits. There
was an unnecessary effusiveness in the way in which Euphemia kissed
Mrs. Sol,--the one woman present, who UNDERSTOOD, and was to be
propitiated,--which did not tend to increase Mrs. Sol's good humor.
She had her basket packed all ready for departure; and even the
earnest solicitation of Rand, that they would defer their going
until sunset, produced no effect.
"Mr. Rand--Mr. Pinkney, I mean--says the sunsets here are so
lovely," pleaded Euphemia.
"There is a rehearsal at seven o'clock, and we have no time to
lose," said Mrs. Sol significantly.
"I forgot to say," said the "Marysville Pet" timidly, glancing at
Mrs. Sol, "that Mr. Rand says he will bring his brother on
Wednesday night, and wants four seats in front, so as not to be
Sol shook the young man's hand warmly. "You'll not regret it, sir:
it's a surprising, a remarkable performance."
"I'd like to go a piece down the mountain with you," said Rand,
with evident sincerity, looking at Miss Euphemia; "but Ruth isn't
here yet, and we make a rule never to leave the place alone. I'll
show you the slide: it's the quickest way to go down. If you meet
any one who looks like me, and talks like me, call him 'Ruth,' and
tell him I'm waitin' for him yer."
Miss Phemia, the last to go, standing on the verge of the
declivity, here remarked, with a dangerous smile, that, if she met
any one who bore that resemblance, she might be tempted to keep him
with her,--a playfulness that brought the ready color to Rand's
cheek. When she added to this the greater audacity of kissing her
hand to him, the young hermit actually turned away in sheer
embarrassment. When he looked around again, she was gone, and for
the first time in his experience the mountain seemed barren and
The too sympathetic reader who would rashly deduce from this any
newly awakened sentiment in the virgin heart of Rand would quite
misapprehend that peculiar young man. That singular mixture of
boyish inexperience and mature doubt and disbelief, which was
partly the result of his temperament, and partly of his cloistered
life on the mountain, made him regard his late companions, now that
they were gone, and his intimacy with them, with remorseful
distrust. The mountain was barren and lonely, because it was no
longer HIS. It had become a part of the great world, which four
years ago he and his brother had put aside, and in which, as two
self-devoted men, they walked alone. More than that, he believed
he had acquired some understanding of the temptations that assailed
his brother, and the poor little vanities of the "Marysville Pet"
were transformed into the blandishments of a Circe. Rand, who
would have succumbed to a wicked, superior woman, believed he was a
saint in withstanding the foolish weakness of a simple one.
He did not resume his work that day. He paced the mountain,
anxiously awaiting his brother's return, and eager to relate his
experiences. He would go with him to the dramatic entertainment;
from his example and wisdom, Ruth should learn how easily
temptation might be overcome. But, first of all, there should be
the fullest exchange of confidences and explanations. The old rule
should be rescinded for once, the old discussion in regard to
Mornie re-opened, and Rand, having convinced his brother of error,
would generously extend his forgiveness.
The sun sank redly. Lingering long upon the ledge before their
cabin, it at last slipped away almost imperceptibly, leaving Rand
still wrapped in revery. Darkness, the smoke of distant fires in
the woods, and the faint evening incense of the pines, crept slowly
up; but Ruth came not. The moon rose, a silver gleam on the
farther ridge; and Rand, becoming uneasy at his brother's prolonged
absence, resolved to break another custom, and leave the summit, to
seek him on the trail. He buckled on his revolvers, seized his
gun, when a cry from the depths arrested him. He leaned over the
ledge, and listened. Again the cry arose, and this time more
distinctly. He held his breath: the blood settled around his heart
in superstitious terror. It was the wailing voice of a woman.
"Ruth, Ruth! for God's sake come and help me!"
The blood flew back hotly to Rand's cheek. It was Mornie's voice.
By leaning over the ledge, he could distinguish something moving
along the almost precipitous face of the cliff, where an abandoned
trail, long since broken off and disrupted by the fall of a portion
of the ledge, stopped abruptly a hundred feet below him. Rand knew
the trail, a dangerous one always: in its present condition a
single mis-step would be fatal. Would she make that mis-step? He
shook off a horrible temptation that seemed to be sealing his lips,
and paralyzing his limbs, and almost screamed to her, "Drop on your
face, hang on to the chaparral, and don't move!"
In another instant, with a coil of rope around his arm, he was
dashing down the almost perpendicular "slide." When he had nearly
reached the level of the abandoned trail, he fastened one end of
the rope to a jutting splinter of granite, and began to "lay out,"
and work his way laterally along the face of the mountain.
Presently he struck the regular trail at the point from which the
woman must have diverged.
"It is Rand," she said, without lifting her head.
"It is," replied Rand coldly. "Pass the rope under your arms, and
I'll get you back to the trail."
"Where is Ruth?" she demanded again, without moving. She was
trembling, but with excitement rather than fear.
"I don't know," returned Rand impatiently. "Come! the ledge is
already crumbling beneath our feet."
"Let it crumble!" said the woman passionately.
Rand surveyed her with profound disgust, then passed the rope
around her waist, and half lifted, half swung her from her feet.
In a few moments she began to mechanically help herself, and
permitted him to guide her to a place of safety. That reached, she
sank down again.
The rising moon shone full upon her face and figure. Through his
growing indignation Rand was still impressed and even startled with
the change the few last months had wrought upon her. In place of
the silly, fanciful, half-hysterical hoyden whom he had known, a
matured woman, strong in passionate self-will, fascinating in a
kind of wild, savage beauty, looked up at him as if to read his
"What are you staring at?" she said finally. "Why don't you help
"Where do you want to go?" said Rand quietly.
"Where! Up there!"--she pointed savagely to the top of the
mountain,--"to HIM! Where else should I go?" she said, with a
"I've told you he wasn't there," said Rand roughly. "He hasn't
"I'll wait for him--do you hear?--wait for him; stay there till he
comes. If you won't help me, I'll go alone."
She made a step forward but faltered, staggered, and was obliged to
lean against the mountain for support. Stains of travel were on
her dress; lines of fatigue and pain, and traces of burning
passionate tears, were on her face; her black hair flowed from
beneath her gaudy bonnet; and, shamed out of his brutality, Rand
placed his strong arm round her waist, and half carrying, half
supporting her, began the ascent. Her head dropped wearily on his
shoulder; her arm encircled his neck; her hair, as if caressingly,
lay across his breast and hands; her grateful eyes were close to
his; her breath was upon his cheek: and yet his only consciousness
was of the possibly ludicrous figure he might present to his
brother, should he meet him with Mornie Nixon in his arms. Not a
word was spoken by either till they reached the summit. Relieved
at finding his brother still absent, he turned not unkindly toward
the helpless figure on his arm. "I don't see what makes Ruth so
late," he said. "He's always here by sundown. Perhaps--"
"Perhaps he knows I'm here," said Mornie, with a bitter laugh.
"I didn't say that," said Rand, "and I don't think it. What I
meant was, he might have met a party that was picnicking here to-
day,--Sol. Saunders and wife, and Miss Euphemia--"
Mornie flung his arm away from her with a passionate gesture.
"THEY here!--picnicking HERE!--those people HERE!"
"Yes," said Rand, unconsciously a little ashamed. "They came here
Mornie's quick passion had subsided: she had sunk again wearily and
helplessly on a rock beside him. "I suppose," she said, with a
weak laugh--"I suppose, they talked of ME. I suppose they told you
how, with their lies and fair promises, they tricked me out, and
set me before an audience of brutes and laughing hyenas to make
merry over. Did they tell you of the insults that I received?--how
the sins of my parents were flung at me instead of bouquets? Did
they tell you they could have spared me this, but they wanted the
few extra dollars taken in at the door? No!"
"They said nothing of the kind," replied Rand surlily.
"Then you must have stopped them. You were horrified enough to
know that I had dared to take the only honest way left me to make a
living. I know you, Randolph Pinkney! You'd rather see Joaquin
Muriatta, the Mexican bandit, standing before you to-night with a
revolver, than the helpless, shamed, miserable Mornie Nixon. And
you can't help yourself, unless you throw me over the cliff.
Perhaps you'd better," she said, with a bitter laugh that faded
from her lips as she leaned, pale and breathless, against the
"Ruth will tell you--" began Rand.
Rand turned away.
"Stop!" she said suddenly, staggering to her feet. "I'm sick--for
all I know, dying. God grant that it may be so! But, if you are a
man, you will help me to your cabin--to some place where I can lie
down NOW, and be at rest. I'm very, very tired."
She paused. She would have fallen again; but Rand, seeing more in
her face than her voice interpreted to his sullen ears, took her
sullenly in his arms, and carried her to the cabin. Her eyes
glanced around the bright party-colored walls, and a faint smile
came to her lips as she put aside her bonnet, adorned with a
companion pinion of the bright wings that covered it.
"Which is Ruth's bed?" she asked.
Rand pointed to it.
"Lay me there!"
Rand would have hesitated, but, with another look at her face,
She lay quite still a moment. Presently she said, "Give me some
brandy or whiskey!"
Rand was silent and confused.
"I forgot," she added half bitterly. "I know you have not that
commonest and cheapest of vices."
She lay quite still again. Suddenly she raised herself partly on
her elbow, and in a strong, firm voice, said, "Rand!"
"If you are wise and practical, as you assume to be, you will do
what I ask you without a question. If you do it AT ONCE, you may
save yourself and Ruth some trouble, some mortification, and
perhaps some remorse and sorrow. Do you hear me?"
"Go to the nearest doctor, and bring him here with you."
Her voice was strong, confident, steady, and patient. "You can
safely leave me until then."
In another moment Rand was plunging down the "slide." But it was
past midnight when he struggled over the last bowlder up the
ascent, dragging the half-exhausted medical wisdom of Brown's Ferry
on his arm.
"I've been gone long, doctor," said Rand feverishly, "and she
looked SO death-like when I left. If we should be too late!"
The doctor stopped suddenly, lifted his head, and pricked his ears
like a hound on a peculiar scent. "We ARE too late," he said, with
a slight professional laugh.
Indignant and horrified, Rand turned upon him.
"Listen," said the doctor, lifting his hand.
Rand listened, so intently that he heard the familiar moan of the
river below; but the great stony field lay silent before him. And
then, borne across its bare barren bosom, like its own
articulation, came faintly the feeble wail of a new-born babe.
The doctor hurried ahead in the darkness. Rand, who had stopped
paralyzed at the ominous sound, started forward again mechanically;
but as the cry arose again more distinctly, and the full
significance of the doctor's words came to him, he faltered,
stopped, and, with cheeks burning with shame and helpless
indignation, sank upon a stone beside the shaft, and, burying his
face in his hands, fairly gave way to a burst of boyish tears. Yet
even then the recollection that he had not cried since, years ago,
his mother's dying hands had joined his and Ruth's childish fingers
together, stung him fiercely, and dried his tears in angry heat
upon his cheeks.
How long he sat there, he remembered not; what he thought, he
recalled not. But the wildest and most extravagant plans and
resolves availed him nothing in the face of this forever desecrated
home, and this shameful culmination of his ambitious life on the
mountain. Once he thought of flight; but the reflection that he
would still abandon his brother to shame, perhaps a self-contented
shame, checked him hopelessly. Could he avert the future? He
MUST; but how? Yet he could only sit and stare into the darkness
in dumb abstraction.
Sitting there, his eyes fell upon a peculiar object in a crevice of
the ledge beside the shaft. It was the tin pail containing his
dinner, which, according to their custom, it was the duty of the
brother who staid above ground to prepare and place for the brother
who worked below. Ruth must, consequently, have put it there
before he left that morning, and Rand had overlooked it while
sharing the repast of the strangers at noon. At the sight of this
dumb witness of their mutual cares and labors, Rand sighed, half in
brotherly sorrow, half in a selfish sense of injury done him.
He took up the pail mechanically, removed its cover, and--started;
for on top of the carefully bestowed provisions lay a little note,
addressed to him in Ruth's peculiar scrawl.
He opened it with feverish hands, held it in the light of the
peaceful moon, and read as follows:
DEAR, DEAR BROTHER,--When you read this, I shall be far away. I go
because I shall not stay to disgrace you, and because the girl that
I brought trouble upon has gone away too, to hide her disgrace and
mine; and where she goes, Rand, I ought to follow her, and, please
God, I will! I am not as wise or as good as you are, but it seems
the best I can do; and God bless you, dear old Randy, boy! Times
and times again I've wanted to tell you all, and reckoned to do so;
but whether you was sitting before me in the cabin, or working
beside me in the drift, I couldn't get to look upon your honest
face, dear brother, and say what things I'd been keeping from you
so long. I'll stay away until I've done what I ought to do, and if
you can say, "Come, Ruth," I will come; but, until you can say it,
the mountain is yours, Randy, boy, the mine is yours, the cabin is
yours, ALL is yours. Rub out the old chalk-marks, Rand, as I rub
them out here in my--[A few words here were blurred and indistinct,
as if the moon had suddenly become dim-eyed too]. God bless you,
P.S.--You know I mean Mornie all the time. It's she I'm going to
seek; but don't you think so bad of her as you do, I am so much
worse than she. I wanted to tell you that all along, but I didn't
dare. She's run away from the Ferry half crazy; said she was going
to Sacramento, and I am going there to find her alive or dead.
Forgive me, brother! Don't throw this down right away; hold it in
your hand a moment, Randy, boy, and try hard to think it's my hand
in yours. And so good-by, and God bless you, old Randy!
From your loving brother,
A deep sense of relief overpowered every other feeling in Rand's
breast. It was clear that Ruth had not yet discovered the truth of
Mornie's flight: he was on his way to Sacramento, and before he
could return, Mornie could be removed. Once despatched in some
other direction, with Ruth once more returned and under his
brother's guidance, the separation could be made easy and final.
There was evidently no marriage as yet; and now, the fear of an
immediate meeting over, there should be none. For Rand had already
feared this; had recalled the few infelicitous relations, legal and
illegal, which were common to the adjoining camp,--the flagrantly
miserable life of the husband of a San Francisco anonyma who lived
in style at the Ferry, the shameful carousals and more shameful
quarrels of the Frenchman and Mexican woman who "kept house" at
"the Crossing," the awful spectacle of the three half-bred Indian
children who played before the cabin of a fellow miner and
townsman. Thank Heaven, the Eagle's Nest on Table Mountain should
never be pointed at from the valley as another--
A heavy hand upon his arm brought him trembling to his feet. He
turned, and met the half-anxious, half-contemptuous glance of the
"I'm sorry to disturb you," he said dryly; "but it's about time you
or somebody else put in an appearance at that cabin. Luckily for
HER, she's one woman in a thousand; has had her wits about her
better than some folks I know, and has left me little to do but
make her comfortable. But she's gone through too much,--fought her
little fight too gallantly,--is altogether too much of a trump to
be played off upon now. So rise up out of that, young man, pick up
your scattered faculties, and fetch a woman--some sensible creature
of her own sex--to look after her; for, without wishing to be
personal, I'm d----d if I trust her to the likes of you."
There was no mistaking Dr. Duchesne' s voice and manner; and Rand
was affected by it, as most people were throughout the valley of
the Stanislaus. But he turned upon him his frank and boyish face,
and said simply, "But I don't know any woman, or where to get one."
The doctor looked at him again. "Well, I'll find you some one," he
"Thank you!" said Rand.
The doctor was disappearing. With an effort Rand recalled him.
"One moment, doctor." He hesitated, and his cheeks were glowing.
"You'll please say nothing about this down there"--he pointed to
the valley--"for a time. And you'll say to the woman you send--"
Dr. Duchesne, whose resolute lips were sealed upon the secrets of
half Tuolumne County, interrupted him scornfully. "I cannot answer
for the woman--you must talk to her yourself. As for me, generally
I keep my professional visits to myself; but--" he laid his hand on
Rand's arm--"if I find out you're putting on any airs to that poor
creature, if, on my next visit, her lips or her pulse tell me you
haven't been acting on the square to her, I'll drop a hint to
drunken old Nixon where his daughter is hidden. I reckon she could
stand his brutality better than yours. Good-night!"
In another moment he was gone. Rand, who had held back his quick
tongue, feeling himself in the power of this man, once more alone,
sank on a rock, and buried his face in his hands. Recalling
himself in a moment, he rose, wiped his hot eyelids, and staggered
toward the cabin. It was quite still now. He paused on the
topmost step, and listened: there was no sound from the ledge, or
the Eagle's Nest that clung to it. Half timidly he descended the
winding steps, and paused before the door of the cabin. "Mornie,"
he said, in a dry, metallic voice, whose only indication of the
presence of sickness was in the lowness of its pitch,--"Mornie!"
There was no reply. "Mornie," he repeated impatiently, "it's me,--
Rand. If you want anything, you're to call me. I am just
outside." Still no answer came from the silent cabin. He pushed
open the door gently, hesitated, and stepped over the threshold.
A change in the interior of the cabin within the last few hours
showed a new presence. The guns, shovels, picks, and blankets had
disappeared; the two chairs were drawn against the wall, the table
placed by the bedside. The swinging-lantern was shaded towards the
bed,--the object of Rand's attention. On that bed, his brother's
bed, lay a helpless woman, pale from the long black hair that
matted her damp forehead, and clung to her hollow cheeks. Her face
was turned to the wall, so that the softened light fell upon her
profile, which to Rand at that moment seemed even noble and strong.
But the next moment his eye fell upon the shoulder and arm that lay
nearest to him, and the little bundle, swathed in flannel, that it
clasped to her breast. His brow grew dark as he gazed. The
sleeping woman moved. Perhaps it was an instinctive consciousness
of his presence; perhaps it was only the current of cold air
from the opened door: but she shuddered slightly, and, still
unconscious, drew the child as if away from HIM, and nearer to her
breast. The shamed blood rushed to Rand's face; and saying half
aloud, "I'm not going to take your precious babe away from you," he
turned in half-boyish pettishness away. Nevertheless he came back
again shortly to the bedside, and gazed upon them both. She
certainly did look altogether more ladylike, and less aggressive,
lying there so still: sickness, that cheap refining process of some
natures, was not unbecoming to her. But this bundle! A boyish
curiosity, stronger than even his strong objection to the whole
episode, was steadily impelling him to lift the blanket from it.
"I suppose she'd waken if I did," said Rand; "but I'd like to know
what right the doctor had to wrap it up in my best flannel shirt."
This fresh grievance, the fruit of his curiosity, sent him away
again to meditate on the ledge. After a few moments he returned
again, opened the cupboard at the foot of the bed softly, took
thence a piece of chalk, and scrawled in large letters upon the
door of the cupboard, "If you want anything, sing out: I'm just
outside.--RAND." This done, he took a blanket and bear-skin from
the corner, and walked to the door. But here he paused, looked
back at the inscription (evidently not satisfied with it),
returned, took up the chalk, added a line, but rubbed it out again,
repeated this operation a few times until he produced the polite
postscript,--"Hope you'll be better soon." Then he retreated to
the ledge, spread the bear-skin beside the door, and, rolling
himself in a blanket, lit his pipe for his night-long vigil. But
Rand, although a martyr, a philosopher, and a moralist, was young.
In less than ten minutes the pipe dropped from his lips, and he was
He awoke with a strange sense of heat and suffocation, and with
difficulty shook off his covering. Rubbing his eyes, he discovered
that an extra blanket had in some mysterious way been added in the
night; and beneath his head was a pillow he had no recollection of
placing there when he went to sleep. By degrees the events of the
past night forced themselves upon his benumbed faculties, and he
sat up. The sun was riding high; the door of the cabin was open.
Stretching himself, he staggered to his feet, and looked in through
the yawning crack at the hinges. He rubbed his eyes again. Was he
still asleep, and followed by a dream of yesterday? For there,
even in the very attitude he remembered to have seen her sitting at
her luncheon on the previous day, with her knitting on her lap, sat
Mrs. Sol Saunders! What did it mean? or had she really been
sitting there ever since, and all the events that followed only a
A hand was laid upon his arm; and, turning, he saw the murky black
eyes and Indian-inked beard of Sol beside him. That gentleman put
his finger on his lips with a theatrical gesture, and then, slowly
retreating in the well-known manner of the buried Majesty of
Denmark, waved him, like another Hamlet, to a remoter part of the
ledge. This reached, he grasped Rand warmly by the hand, shook it
heartily, and said, "It's all right, my boy; all right!"
"But--" began Rand. The hot blood flowed to his cheeks: he
stammered, and stopped short.
"It's all right, I say! Don't you mind! We'll pull you through."
"But, Mrs. Sol! what does she--"
"Rosey has taken the matter in hand, sir; and when that woman takes
a matter in hand, whether it's a baby or a rehearsal, sir, she
makes it buzz."
"But how did she know?" stammered Rand.
"How? Well, sir, the scene opened something like this," said Sol
professionally. "Curtain rises on me and Mrs. Sol. Domestic
interior: practicable chairs, table, books, newspapers. Enter Dr.
Duchesne,--eccentric character part, very popular with the boys,--
tells off-hand affecting story of strange woman--one 'more
unfortunate'--having baby in Eagle's Nest, lonely place on 'peaks
of Snowdon,' midnight; eagles screaming, you know, and far down
unfathomable depths; only attendant, cold-blooded ruffian,
evidently father of child, with sinister designs on child and
"He didn't say THAT!" said Rand, with an agonized smile.
"Order! Sit down in front!" continued Sol easily. "Mrs. Sol--
highly interested, a mother herself--demands name of place. 'Table
Mountain.' No; it cannot be--it is! Excitement. Mystery! Rosey
rises to occasion--comes to front: 'Some one must go; I--I--will go
myself!' Myself, coming to center: 'Not alone, dearest; I--I will
accompany you!' A shriek at right upper center. Enter the
'Marysville Pet.' 'I have heard all. 'Tis a base calumny. It
cannot be HE--Randolph! Never!'--'Dare you accompany us will!'
"Is Miss Euphemia--here?" gasped Rand, practical even in his
"Or-r-rder! Scene second. Summit of mountain--moonlight Peaks of
Snowdon in distance. Right--lonely cabin. Enter slowly up defile,
Sol, Mrs. Sol, the 'Pet.' Advance slowly to cabin. Suppressed
shriek from the 'Pet,' who rushes to recumbent figure--Left--
discovered lying beside cabin-door. ''Tis he! Hist! he sleeps!'
Throws blanket over him, and retires up stage--so." Here Sol
achieved a vile imitation of the "Pet's" most enchanting stage-
manner. "Mrs. Sol advances--Center--throws open door. Shriek!
''Tis Mornie, the lost found!' The 'Pet' advances: 'And the father
is?'--'Not Rand!' The 'Pet' kneeling: 'Just Heaven, I thank thee!'
No, it is--'"
"Hush!" said Rand appealingly, looking toward the cabin.
"Hush it is!" said the actor good-naturedly. "But it's all right,
Mr. Rand: we'll pull you through."
Later in the morning, Rand learned that Mornie's ill-fated
connection with the Star Variety Troupe had been a source of
anxiety to Mrs. Sol, and she had reproached herself for the girl's
"But, Lord bless you, Mr. Rand!" said Sol, "it was all in the way
of business. She came to us--was fresh and new. Her chance,
looking at it professionally, was as good as any amateur's; but
what with her relations here, and her bein' known, she didn't take.
We lost money on her! It's natural she should feel a little ugly.
We all do when we get sorter kicked back onto ourselves, and find
we can't stand alone. Why, you wouldn't believe it," he continued,
with a moist twinkle of his black eyes; "but the night I lost my
little Rosey, of diphtheria in Gold Hill, the child was down on the
bills for a comic song; and I had to drag Mrs. Sol on, cut up as
she was, and filled up with that much of Old Bourbon to keep her
nerves stiff, so she could do an old gag with me to gain time, and
make up the 'variety.' Why, sir, when I came to the front, I was
ugly! And when one of the boys in the front row sang out, 'Don't
expose that poor child to the night air, Sol,'--meaning Mrs. Sol,--
I acted ugly. No, sir, it's human nature; and it was quite natural
that Mornie, when she caught sight o' Mrs. Sol's face last night,
should rise up and cuss us both. Lord, if she'd only acted like
that! But the old lady got her quiet at last; and, as I said
before, it's all right, and we'll pull her through. But don't YOU
thank us: it's a little matter betwixt us and Mornie. We've got
everything fixed, so that Mrs. Sol can stay right along. We'll
pull Mornie through, and get her away from this, and her baby too,
as soon as we can. You won't get mad if I tell you something?"
said Sol, with a half-apologetic laugh. "Mrs. Sol was rather down
on you the other day, hated you on sight, and preferred your
brother to you; but when she found he'd run off and left YOU, you,--
don't mind my sayin',--a 'mere boy,' to take what oughter be HIS
place, why, she just wheeled round agin' him. I suppose he got
flustered, and couldn't face the music. Never left a word of
explanation? Well, it wasn't exactly square, though I tell the old
woman it's human nature. He might have dropped a hint where he was
goin'. Well, there, I won't say a word more agin' him. I know how
you feel. Hush it is."
It was the firm conviction of the simple-minded Sol that no one
knew the various natural indications of human passion better than
himself. Perhaps it was one of the fallacies of his profession
that the expression of all human passion was limited to certain
conventional signs and sounds. Consequently, when Rand colored
violently, became confused, stammered, and at last turned hastily
away, the good-hearted fellow instantly recognized the unfailing
evidence of modesty and innocence embarrassed by recognition. As
for Rand, I fear his shame was only momentary. Confirmed in the
belief of his ulterior wisdom and virtue, his first embarrassment
over, he was not displeased with this halfway tribute, and really
believed that the time would come when Mr. Sol should eventually
praise his sagacity and reservation, and acknowledge that he was
something more than a mere boy. He, nevertheless, shrank from
meeting Mornie that morning, and was glad that the presence of Mrs.
Sol relieved him from that duty.
The day passed uneventfully. Rand busied himself in his usual
avocations, and constructed a temporary shelter for himself and Sol
beside the shaft, besides rudely shaping a few necessary articles
of furniture for Mrs. Sol.
"It will be a little spell yet afore Mornie's able to be moved,"
suggested Sol, "and you might as well be comfortable."
Rand sighed at this prospect, yet presently forgot himself in the
good humor of his companion, whose admiration for himself he began
to patronizingly admit. There was no sense of degradation in
accepting the friendship of this man who had traveled so far, seen
so much, and yet, as a practical man of the world, Rand felt was so
inferior to himself. The absence of Miss Euphemia, who had early
left the mountain, was a source of odd, half-definite relief.
Indeed, when he closed his eyes to rest that night, it was with a
sense that the reality of his situation was not as bad as he had
feared. Once only, the figure of his brother--haggard, weary, and
footsore, on his hopeless quest, wandering in lonely trails and
lonelier settlements--came across his fancy; but with it came the
greater fear of his return, and the pathetic figure was banished.
"And, besides, he's in Sacramento by this time, and like as not
forgotten us all," he muttered; and, twining this poppy and
mandragora around his pillow, he fell asleep.
His spirits had quite returned the next morning, and once or twice
he found himself singing while at work in the shaft. The fear that
Ruth might return to the mountain before he could get rid of
Mornie, and the slight anxiety that had grown upon him to know
something of his brother's movements, and to be able to govern them
as he wished, caused him to hit upon the plan of constructing an
ingenious advertisement to be published in the San Francisco
journals, wherein the missing Ruth should be advised that news of
his quest should be communicated to him by "a friend," through the
same medium, after an interval of two weeks. Full of this amiable
intention, he returned to the surface to dinner. Here, to his
momentary confusion, he met Miss Euphemia, who, in absence of Sol,
was assisting Mrs. Sol in the details of the household.
If the honest frankness with which that young lady greeted him was
not enough to relieve his embarrassment, he would have forgotten
it in the utterly new and changed aspect she presented. Her
extravagant walking-costume of the previous day was replaced by
some bright calico, a little white apron, and a broad-brimmed
straw-hat, which seemed to Rand, in some odd fashion, to restore
her original girlish simplicity. The change was certainly not
unbecoming to her. If her waist was not as tightly pinched, a la
mode, there still was an honest, youthful plumpness about it; her
step was freer for the absence of her high-heel boots; and even the
hand she extended to Rand, if not quite so small as in her tight
gloves, and a little brown from exposure, was magnetic in its
strong, kindly grasp. There was perhaps a slight suggestion of the
practical Mr. Sol in her wholesome presence; and Rand could not
help wondering if Mrs. Sol had ever been a Gold Hill "Pet" before
her marriage with Mr. Sol. The young girl noticed his curious
"You never saw me in my rehearsal dress before," she said, with a
laugh. "But I'm not 'company' to-day, and didn't put on my best
harness to knock round in. I suppose I look dreadful."
"I don't think you look bad," said Rand simply.
"Thank you," said Euphemia, with a laugh and a courtesy. "But this
isn't getting the dinner."
As part of that operation evidently was the taking-off of her hat,
the putting-up of some thick blond locks that had escaped, and the
rolling-up of her sleeves over a pair of strong, rounded arms, Rand
lingered near her. All trace of the "Pet's" previous professional
coquetry was gone,--perhaps it was only replaced by a more natural
one; but as she looked up, and caught sight of Rand's interested
face, she laughed again, and colored a little. Slight as was the
blush, it was sufficient to kindle a sympathetic fire in Rand's own
cheeks, which was so utterly unexpected to him that he turned on
his heel in confusion. "I reckon she thinks I'm soft and silly,
like Ruth," he soliloquized, and, determining not to look at her
again, betook himself to a distant and contemplative pipe. In vain
did Miss Euphemia address herself to the ostentatious getting of
the dinner in full view of him; in vain did she bring the coffee-
pot away from the fire, and nearer Rand, with the apparent
intention of examining its contents in a better light; in vain,
while wiping a plate, did she, absorbed in the distant prospect,
walk to the verge of the mountain, and become statuesque and
forgetful. The sulky young gentleman took no outward notice of
Mrs. Sol's attendance upon Mornie prevented her leaving the cabin,
and Rand and Miss Euphemia dined in the open air alone. The
ridiculousness of keeping up a formal attitude to his solitary
companion caused Rand to relax; but, to his astonishment, the "Pet"
seemed to have become correspondingly distant and formal. After a
few moments of discomfort, Rand, who had eaten little, arose, and
"believed he would go back to work."
"Ah, yes!" said the "Pet," with an indifferent air, "I suppose you
must. Well, good-by, Mr. Pinkney."
Rand turned. "YOU are not going?" he asked, in some uneasiness.
"I'VE got some work to do too," returned Miss Euphemia a little
"But," said the practical Rand, "I thought you allowed that you
were fixed to stay until to-morrow?"
But here Miss Euphemia, with rising color and slight acerbity of
voice, was not aware that she was "fixed to stay" anywhere, least
of all when she was in the way. More than that, she MUST say--
although perhaps it made no difference, and she ought not to say
it--that she was not in the habit of intruding upon gentlemen who
plainly gave her to understand that her company was not desirable.
She did not know why she said this--of course it could make no
difference to anybody who didn't, of course, care--but she only
wanted to say that she only came here because her dear friend, her
adopted mother,--and a better woman never breathed,--had come, and
had asked her to stay. Of course, Mrs. Sol was an intruder
herself--Mr. Sol was an intruder--they were all intruders: she only
wondered that Mr. Pinkney had borne with them so long. She knew it
was an awful thing to be here, taking care of a poor--poor,
helpless woman; but perhaps Mr. Rand's BROTHER might forgive them,
if he couldn't. But no matter, she would go--Mr. Sol would go--ALL
would go; and then, perhaps, Mr, Rand--
She stopped breathless; she stopped with the corner of her apron
against her tearful hazel eyes; she stopped with--what was more
remarkable than all--Rand's arm actually around her waist, and his
astonished, alarmed face within a few inches of her own.
"Why, Miss Euphemia, Phemie, my dear girl! I never meant anything
like THAT," said Rand earnestly. "I really didn't now! Come now!"
"You never once spoke to me when I sat down," said Miss Euphemia,
feebly endeavoring to withdraw from Rand's grasp.
"I really didn't! Oh, come now, look here! I didn't! Don't!
There's a dear--THERE!"
This last conclusive exposition was a kiss. Miss Euphemia was not
quick enough to release herself from his arms. He anticipated that
act a full half-second, and had dropped his own, pale and breathless.
The girl recovered herself first. "There, I declare, I'm forgetting
Mrs. Sol's coffee!" she exclaimed hastily, and, snatching up the
coffee-pot, disappeared. When she returned, Rand was gone. Miss
Euphemia busied herself demurely in clearing up the dishes, with the
tail of her eye sweeping the horizon of the summit level around her.
But no Rand appeared. Presently she began to laugh quietly to
herself. This occurred several times during her occupation, which
was somewhat prolonged. The result of this meditative hilarity was
summed up in a somewhat grave and thoughtful deduction as she walked
slowly back to the cabin: "I do believe I'm the first woman that
that boy ever kissed."
Miss Euphemia staid that day and the next, and Rand forgot his
embarrassment. By what means I know not, Miss Euphemia managed to
restore Rand's confidence in himself and in her, and in a little
ramble on the mountain-side got him to relate, albeit somewhat
reluctantly, the particulars of his rescue of Mornie from her
dangerous position on the broken trail.
"And, if you hadn't got there as soon as you did, she'd have
fallen?" asked the "Pet."
"I reckon," returned Rand gloomily: "she was sorter dazed and
"And you saved her life?"
"I suppose so, if you put it that way," said Rand sulkily.
"But how did you get her up the mountain again?"
"Oh! I got her up," returned Rand moodily.
"But how? Really, Mr. Rand, you don't know how interesting this
is. It's as good as a play," said the "Pet," with a little excited
"Oh, I carried her up!"
"In your arms?"
Miss Euphemia paused, and bit off the stalk of a flower, made a wry
face, and threw it away from her in disgust.
Then she dug a few tiny holes in the earth with her parasol, and
buried bits of the flower-stalk in them, as if they had been tender
memories. "I suppose you knew Mornie very well?" she asked.
"I used to run across her in the woods," responded Rand shortly, "a
year ago. I didn't know her so well then as--" He stopped.
"As what? As NOW?" asked the "Pet" abruptly. Rand, who was
coloring over his narrow escape from a topic which a delicate
kindness of Sol had excluded from their intercourse on the
mountain, stammered, "as YOU do, I meant."
The "Pet" tossed her head a little. "Oh! I don't know her at all--
except through Sol."
Rand stared hard at this. The "Pet," who was looking at him
intently, said, "Show me the place where you saw Mornie clinging
"It's dangerous," suggested Rand.
"You mean I'd be afraid! Try me! I don't believe she was SO
"Why?" asked Rand, in astonishment.
Rand sat down in vague wonderment.
"Show it to me," continued the "Pet," "or--I'll find it ALONE!"
Thus challenged, he rose, and, after a few moments' climbing, stood
with her upon the trail. "You see that thorn-bush where the rock
has fallen away. It was just there. It is not safe to go farther.
No, really! Miss Euphemia! Please don't! It's almost certain
But the giddy girl had darted past him, and, face to the wall of
the cliff, was creeping along the dangerous path. Rand followed
mechanically. Once or twice the trail crumbled beneath her feet;
but she clung to a projecting root of chaparral, and laughed. She
had almost reached her elected goal, when, slipping, the
treacherous chaparral she clung to yielded in her grasp, and Rand,
with a cry, sprung forward.
But the next instant she quickly transferred her hold to a cleft in
the cliff, and was safe. Not so her companion. The soil beneath
him, loosened by the impulse of his spring, slipped away: he was
falling with it, when she caught him sharply with her disengaged
hand, and together they scrambled to a more secure footing.
"I could have reached it alone," said the "Pet," "if you'd left me
"Thank Heaven, we're saved!" said Rand gravely.
"AND WITHOUT A ROPE," said Miss Euphemia significantly.
Rand did not understand her. But, as they slowly returned to the
summit, he stammered out the always difficult thanks of a man who
has been physically helped by one of the weaker sex. Miss Euphemia
was quick to see her error.
"I might have made you lose your footing by catching at you," she
said meekly. "But I was so frightened for you, and could not help
The superior animal, thoroughly bamboozled, thereupon complimented
her on her dexterity.
"Oh, that's nothing!" she said, with a sigh. "I used to do the
flying-trapeze business with papa when I was a child, and I've not
forgotten it." With this and other confidences of her early life,
in which Rand betrayed considerable interest, they beguiled the
tedious ascent. "I ought to have made you carry me up," said the
lady, with a little laugh, when they reached the summit; "but you
haven't known me as long as you have Mornie, have you?" With this
mysterious speech she bade Rand "good-night," and hurried off to
And so a week passed by,--the week so dreaded by Rand, yet passed
so pleasantly, that at times it seemed as if that dread were only a
trick of his fancy, or as if the circumstances that surrounded him
were different from what he believed them to be. On the seventh
day the doctor had staid longer than usual; and Rand, who had been
sitting with Euphemia on the ledge by the shaft, watching the
sunset, had barely time to withdraw his hand from hers, as Mrs.
Sol, a trifle pale and wearied-looking, approached him.
"I don't like to trouble you," she said,--indeed, they had seldom
troubled him with the details of Mornie's convalescence, or even
her needs and requirements,--"but the doctor is alarmed about
Mornie, and she has asked to see you. I think you'd better go in
and speak to her. You know," continued Mrs. Sol delicately, "you
haven't been in there since the night she was taken sick, and maybe
a new face might do her good."
The guilty blood flew to Rand's face as he stammered, "I thought
I'd be in the way. I didn't believe she cared much to see me. Is
"The doctor is looking very anxious," said Mrs. Sol simply.
The blood returned from Rand's face, and settled around his heart.
He turned very pale. He had consoled himself always for his
complicity in Ruth's absence, that he was taking good care of
Mornie, or--what is considered by most selfish natures an
equivalent--permitting or encouraging some one else to "take good
care of her;" but here was a contingency utterly unforeseen. It
did not occur to him that this "taking good care" of her could
result in anything but a perfect solution of her troubles, or that
there could be any future to her condition but one of recovery.
But what if she should die? A sudden and helpless sense of his
responsibility to Ruth, to HER, brought him trembling to his feet.
He hurried to the cabin, where Mrs. Sol left him with a word of
caution: "You'll find her changed and quiet,--very quiet. If I was
you, I wouldn't say anything to bring back her old self."
The change which Rand saw was so great, the face that was turned to
him so quiet, that, with a new fear upon him, he would have
preferred the savage eyes and reckless mien of the old Mornie whom
he hated. With his habitual impulsiveness he tried to say
something that should express that fact not unkindly, but faltered,
and awkwardly sank into the chair by her bedside.
"I don't wonder you stare at me now," she said in a far-off voice.
"It seems to you strange to see me lying here so quiet. You are
thinking how wild I was when I came here that night. I must have
been crazy, I think. I dreamed that I said dreadful things to you;
but you must forgive me, and not mind it. I was crazy then." She
stopped, and folded the blanket between her thin fingers. "I
didn't ask you to come here to tell you that, or to remind you of
it; but--but when I was crazy, I said so many worse, dreadful
things of HIM; and you--YOU will be left behind to tell him of it."
Rand was vaguely murmuring something to the effect that "he knew
she didn't mean anything," that "she musn't think of it again,"
that "he'd forgotten all about it," when she stopped him with a
"Perhaps I was wrong to think, that, after I am gone, you would
care to tell him anything. Perhaps I'm wrong to think of it at
all, or to care what he will think of me, except for the sake of
the child--his child, Rand--that I must leave behind me. He will
know that IT never abused him. No, God bless its sweet heart! IT
never was wild and wicked and hateful, like its cruel, crazy
mother. And he will love it; and you, perhaps, will love it too--
just a little, Rand! Look at it!" She tried to raise the helpless
bundle beside her in her arms, but failed. "You must lean over,"
she said faintly to Rand. "It looks like him, doesn't it?"
Rand, with wondering, embarrassed eyes, tried to see some
resemblance, in the little blue-red oval, to the sad, wistful face
of his brother, which even then was haunting him from some
mysterious distance. He kissed the child's forehead, but even then
so vaguely and perfunctorily, that the mother sighed, and drew it
closer to her breast.
"The doctor says," she continued in a calmer voice, "that I'm not
doing as well as I ought to. I don't think," she faltered, with
something of her old bitter laugh, "that I'm ever doing as well as
I ought to, and perhaps it's not strange now that I don't. And he
says that, in case anything happens to me, I ought to look ahead.
I have looked ahead. It's a dark look ahead, Rand--a horror of
blackness, without kind faces, without the baby, without--without
She turned her face away, and laid it on the bundle by her side.
It was so quiet in the cabin, that, through the open door beyond,
the faint, rhythmical moan of the pines below was distinctly heard.
"I know it's foolish; but that is what 'looking ahead' always meant
to me," she said, with a sigh. "But, since the doctor has been
gone, I've talked to Mrs. Sol, and find it's for the best. And I
look ahead, and see more clearly. I look ahead, and see my
disgrace removed far away from HIM and you. I look ahead, and see
you and HE living together happily, as you did before I came
between you. I look ahead, and see my past life forgotten, my
faults forgiven; and I think I see you both loving my baby, and
perhaps loving me a little for its sake. Thank you, Rand, thank
For Rand's hand had caught hers beside the pillow, and he was
standing over her, whiter than she. Something in the pressure of
his hand emboldened her to go on, and even lent a certain strength
to her voice.
"When it comes to THAT, Rand, you'll not let these people take the
baby away. You'll keep it HERE with you until HE comes. And
something tells me that he will come when I am gone. You'll keep
it here in the pure air and sunlight of the mountain, and out of
those wicked depths below; and when I am gone, and they are gone,
and only you and Ruth and baby are here, maybe you'll think that it
came to you in a cloud on the mountain,--a cloud that lingered only
long enough to drop its burden, and faded, leaving the sunlight and
dew behind. What is it, Rand? What are you looking at?"
"I was thinking," said Rand in a strange altered voice, "that I
must trouble you to let me take down those duds and furbelows that
hang on the wall, so that I can get at some traps of mine behind
them." He took some articles from the wall, replaced the dresses
of Mrs. Sol, and answered Mornie's look of inquiry.
"I was only getting at my purse and my revolver," he said, showing
them. "I've got to get some stores at the Ferry by daylight."
Mornie sighed. "I'm giving you great trouble, Rand, I know; but it
won't be for long."
He muttered something, took her hand again, and bade her "good-
night." When he reached the door, he looked back. The light was
shining full upon her face as she lay there, with her babe on her
breast, bravely "looking ahead."
THE CLOUDS PASS.
It was early morning at the Ferry. The "up coach" had passed, with
lights unextinguished, and the "outsides" still asleep. The
ferryman had gone up to the Ferry Mansion House, swinging his
lantern, and had found the sleepy-looking "all night" bar-keeper on
the point of withdrawing for the day on a mattress under the bar.
An Indian half-breed, porter of the Mansion House, was washing out
the stains of recent nocturnal dissipation from the bar-room and
veranda; a few birds were twittering on the cotton-woods beside the
river; a bolder few had alighted upon the veranda, and were trying
to reconcile the existence of so much lemon-peel and cigar-stumps
with their ideas of a beneficent Creator. A faint earthly
freshness and perfume rose along the river banks. Deep shadow
still lay upon the opposite shore; but in the distance, four miles
away, Morning along the level crest of Table Mountain walked with
The sleepy bar-keeper was that morning doomed to disappointment;
for scarcely had the coach passed, when steps were heard upon the
veranda, and a weary, dusty traveller threw his blanket and
knapsack to the porter, and then dropped into a vacant arm-chair,
with his eyes fixed on the distant crest of Table Mountain. He
remained motionless for some time, until the bar-keeper, who had
already concocted the conventional welcome of the Mansion House,
appeared with it in a glass, put it upon the table, glanced at the
stranger, and then, thoroughly awake, cried out,--
"Ruth Pinkney--or I'm a Chinaman!"
The stranger lifted his eyes wearily. Hollow circles were around
their orbits; haggard lines were in his checks. But it was Ruth.
He took the glass, and drained it at a single draught. "Yes," he
said absently, "Ruth Pinkney," and fixed his eyes again on the
distant rosy crest.
"On your way up home?" suggested the bar-keeper, following the
direction of Ruth's eyes.
"Been upon a pasear, hain't yer? Been havin' a little tear round
Sacramento,--seein' the sights?"
Ruth smiled bitterly. "Yes."
The bar-keeper lingered, ostentatiously wiping a glass. But Ruth
again became abstracted in the mountain, and the barkeeper turned
How pure and clear that summit looked to him! how restful and
steadfast with serenity and calm! how unlike his own feverish,
dusty, travel-worn self! A week had elapsed since he had last
looked upon it,--a week of disappointment, of anxious fears, of
doubts, of wild imaginings, of utter helplessness. In his hopeless
quest of the missing Mornie, he had, in fancy, seen this serene
eminence haunting his remorseful, passion-stricken soul. And now,
without a clew to guide him to her unknown hiding-place, he was
back again, to face the brother whom he had deceived, with only the
confession of his own weakness. Hard as it was to lose forever the
fierce, reproachful glances of the woman he loved, it was still
harder, to a man of Ruth's temperament, to look again upon the face
of the brother he feared. A hand laid upon his shoulder startled
him. It was the bar-keeper.
"If it's a fair question, Ruth Pinkney, I'd like to ask ye how long
ye kalkilate to hang around the Ferry to-day."
"Why?" demanded Ruth haughtily.
"Because, whatever you've been and done, I want ye to have a square
show. Ole Nixon has been cavoortin' round yer the last two days,
swearin' to kill you on sight for runnin' off with his darter.
Sabe? Now, let me ax ye two questions. FIRST, Are you heeled?"
Ruth responded to this dialectical inquiry affirmatively by putting
his hand on his revolver.
"Good! Now, SECOND, Have you got the gal along here with you?"
"No," responded Ruth in a hollow voice.
"That's better yet," said the man, without heeding the tone of the
reply. "A woman--and especially THE woman in a row of this kind--
handicaps a man awful." He paused, and took up the empty glass.
"Look yer, Ruth Pinkney, I'm a square man, and I'll be square with
you. So I'll just tell you you've got the demdest odds agin' ye.
Pr'aps ye know it, and don't keer. Well, the boys around yer are
all sidin' with the old man Nixon. It's the first time the old rip
ever had a hand in his favor: so the boys will see fair play for
Nixon, and agin' YOU. But I reckon you don't mind him!"
"So little, I shall never pull trigger on him," said Ruth gravely.
The bar-keeper stared, and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Well,
thar's that Kanaka Joe, who used to be sorter sweet on Mornie,--
he's an ugly devil,--he's helpin' the old man."
The sad look faded from Ruth's eyes suddenly. A certain wild
Berserker rage--a taint of the blood, inherited from heaven knows
what Old-World ancestry, which had made the twin-brothers'
Southwestern eccentricities respected in the settlement--glowed in
its place. The barkeeper noted it, and augured a lively future for
the day's festivities. But it faded again; and Ruth, as he rose,
turned hesitatingly towards him.
"Have you seen my brother Rand lately?"
"He hasn't been here, or about the Ferry?"
"You haven't heard," said Ruth, with a faint attempt at a smile,
"if he's been around here asking after me,--sorter looking me up,
"Not much," returned the bar-keeper deliberately. "Ez far ez I
know Rand,--that ar brother o' yours,--he's one of yer high-toned
chaps ez doesn't drink, thinks bar-rooms is pizen, and ain't the
sort to come round yer, and sling yarns with me."
Ruth rose; but the hand that he placed upon the table, albeit a
powerful one, trembled so that it was with difficulty he resumed
his knapsack. When he did so, his bent figure, stooping shoulders,
and haggard face, made him appear another man from the one who had
sat down. There was a slight touch of apologetic deference and
humility in his manner as he paid his reckoning, and slowly and
hesitatingly began to descend the steps.
The bar-keeper looked after him thoughtfully. "Well, dog my skin!"
he ejaculated to himself, "ef I hadn't seen that man--that same
Ruth Pinkney--straddle a friend's body in this yer very room, and
dare a whole crowd to come on, I'd swar that he hadn't any grit in
him. Thar's something up!"
But here Ruth reached the last step, and turned again.