Part 7 out of 7
would hear the truth, which Lorry had learned from Pancha Lopez. Lorry
had also decided that the world must never know just what _did_ happen to
the second Miss Alston. The advertisement in the _Despatch_ was withdrawn
in time, and those who shared the knowledge were sworn to secrecy. Her
efforts to invent a plausible explanation caused Chrystie intense
amusement. She hid it at first, was properly attentive and helpful, but
to see Lorry trying to tell lies, worrying and struggling over it, was
too much. A day came when she forgot both manners and sympathy, began to
titter and then was lost. Lorry was vexed at first, looked cross, but
when the sinner gasped out, "Oh, Lorry, I never thought I'd see _you_
come to this," couldn't help laughing herself.
On a bright Saturday afternoon Chrystie and Sadie were sitting on the
front balcony in the shade of the Maréchal Niel rose. Mrs. Burrage and
Lorry had gone for a drive, later to meet Mark--who was to stay with them
over Sunday--at the station. Upstairs Aunt Ellen and Mrs. Kirkham were
closeted with a dressmaker, fashioning festal attire. For that night
there was to be a dinner, the first since the move. Beside the household
Mark was coming, and Crowder was expected on a later train with Pancha
Lopez and her father--eight people, quite an affair. Fong had been
marketing half the morning, and was now in the kitchen in a state of
temperamental irritation, having even swept Lorry from his presence with
a commanding, "Go away, Miss Lolly. I get clazy if you wolly me now."
Sadie and Chrystie had become very friendly. Sadie was not disinclined to
adore the youngest Miss Alston, so easy to get on with, so full of fun
and chatter. Chrystie had fulfilled her expectations of what an heiress
should be, handsome as a picture, clothed in silken splendors, regally
accepting her plenty, carelessly spendthrift.
Lorry had rather disappointed her. She was not pretty, didn't seem to
care what she had on, and was so quiet. And as an engaged girl there was
nothing romantic about her, no shy glances at Mark, no surreptitious hand
pressures. Sadie would have set her down as dreadfully matter-of-fact
except that now and then she did such queer, unexpected things. For
example the first afternoon they were there, she had astonished Sadie by
suddenly getting up and without a word kissing Mother on the forehead.
Mother, whom you never could count on, had begun to talk about the days
when she was waitress in The Golden Nugget Hotel--broke into it as if it
didn't matter at all. It made Sadie get hot all over; she didn't suppose
they knew, and under her eyelids looked from one girl to the other to
see how they'd take it. They didn't show anything, only seemed
interested, and Sadie was calming down when Mother started off on George
Alston--how fine he used to treat her and all that. It was then that
Lorry did the queer thing--not a word out of her; just got up and kissed
Mother and sat down. In her heart Sadie marveled at the perversity of
men--Mark to have fallen in love with the elder when the younger sister
She spoke about it to Mother upstairs that night, but Mother was
unsatisfactory, smiled ambiguously and said:
"I guess Mark's the smart one of _our_ family."
In the shade of the Maréchal Niel rose the girls talked and Chrystie, her
tongue unloosed by growing intimacy, told about her wild adventure. She
could not help it; after all Sadie knew a lot already, and it hampered
conversation and the spontaneities of friendship to have to stop and
think whether one ought to say this or not say that. It completed Sadie's
subjugation: here _was_ a romance. She breathlessly listened, in a state
of staring attention that would have made a less garrulous person than
Chrystie tell secrets. When she knew all she couldn't help asking--no
"But did you love him _really_?"
Chrystie, stretching a white hand for a branch of the rose and drawing
it, blossom-weighted, to her face, answered:
"No, I thought I did at first; it was so exciting and all the girls said
he was such a star. But I was always afraid of him. He sort of
magnetized me--made me feel I'd be a poor-spirited chump if I didn't run
away with him. You don't want to have a man think that about you, so I
said I would and I did go. But that night--shall I ever forget it? It
was pure misery."
"Do you think you _would_ have gone with him?"
"I guess so, just because I hadn't the nerve not to. I felt as if I _had_
to see it through--was sort of pledged to it. Maybe I didn't want to go
back on him, and maybe I was ashamed to. You can hardly call the
earthquake a piece of luck, but it was for me."
She sniffed at the roses while Sadie eyed her almost awed. Eighteen and
with this behind her! The more she knew of the youngest Miss Alston the
more her respect and admiration increased. She waited expectantly for the
heroine to resume, which she did after a last, luxurious inhalation of
the rose's breath.
"Wasn't it wonderful that the person who found me was Pancha Lopez? I
keep thinking of it all the time. You know I was always crazy about
her, but I never thought I'd meet her. And then to finally do it the
way I did!"
Sadie's comment showed a proper comprehension of this strange happening,
and then she wanted to know what Pancha Lopez was like.
"Oh, she's a priceless thing--there's nobody anywhere like her, in looks
or any other way. She's different. You can't take your eyes off her, and
yet she's not pretty. Remarkable people never are."
This was a new thought to Sadie who, absorbing it slowly, ventured a
"No, it's only the second-class ones who don't amount to anything who are
good-looking. I must say it was a blow to me to hear that her real name
was Michaels. But of course actresses generally have other names, and
Lopez does belong to her in a sort of way. She told Lorry about it and
about her father, too. Nobody knew she had a father."
"What's he like?"
"Oh, he's a grand old dear--rough, but he would be naturally, just a
miner all his life. He took care of me as if I was a baby."
"He won't have to be a miner any more now."
They exchanged a glance of bright meaning, and Chrystie, drawing herself
up in the chair, spoke with solemn emphasis:
"Sadie, I've always been glad I had money, because I'd be lost without
it. But I'm glad now for another reason--because we could do something
for those two. If we couldn't they'd have had to go back and begin all
over again. Pancha's got some money saved up, but it'll be a long time
before she gets it, and Lorry says it wouldn't be enough any way. Think
of that kind old bear with his hair getting gray trudging up and down the
Mother Lode! If I'd thought that was to go on I'd never have had a
peaceful night's sleep again. We'd have had to adopt him, and I _know_ he
wouldn't have liked that. Now, thank heaven, we can make him comfortable
in his own way."
"Did he tell you what it was he wanted to do?"
"No, he wouldn't, but Lorry got hold of Pancha and wormed it all out of
her. For years he's been longing to settle down on a ranch--that was his
dream. Poor little dream! Well, it's coming true. We've got several
ranches, but there's only one that counts--in Mexico. There's a small one
down in Kern that father bought ages ago for a weighmaster he had who got
consumption. He died there--the weighmaster, I mean--and we've gone on
renting it out and the trustees having all sorts of bother with the
tenants. So that's going to be Mr. Michael's. Lorry had the transfer
made, or whatever you call it, yesterday in town. She's going to give
him the papers tonight."
"It'll be the last time you'll see them for a long while, I guess."
Chrystie, suddenly pensive, dropped back in the chair.
"Um, it will. Before we see Pancha again it may be years. She's going
abroad to study. But she's promised to write and tell us all about how
she's getting on. And when she comes back--a real grand opera
singer--won't I be in a state! I get all wrought up now thinking about
it. If she makes her first appearance in New York I'm going on there
to see her."
"How long will it take--getting her ready, training her and
"No one can tell exactly. People here who've heard her and know about
those things say she has such a fine voice and is so quick and clever
that she might go on the stage over there in a year or two. She's got a
lot to learn of course; even the way I feel about her I can see she needs
to be more educated. But no matter how long it takes she's going to be
financed--that's what they call it--till she's finished and ready.
Lorry's guaranteed that."
"Lorry's awful grateful to them, isn't she?"
"Lorry!" Chrystie's glance showed surprise at such a question. "She's
ready to give them everything she has. She's not just grateful, she's
_bowed down _with it. Why she advertised in all the papers for that
doctor who saw me on the floor, and now she's found him she'd build him a
whole hospital if he'd let her. Lorry's not like me. _She's_ got _deep_
The carriage, turning in at the gate, stopped the conversation, and
Chrystie rose and sauntered to the top of the steps. Mother Burrage, in
her new black silk mantle, bought through a catalogue, and a perfect
fit, came up the path, Mark and Lorry behind her. Mark waved a greeting
hand and Lorry called instructions--please tell Fong to bring out
something cold to drink and tell Aunt Ellen and Mrs. Kirkham to come
downstairs even if they were in their wrappers--they must be worn out
shut up with the dressmaker all day. It was exactly the sort of thing
Sadie knew she would say--and Mark only just off the train.
The dinner that night was a brilliant success. Fong had outdone himself,
the menu was a triumph, the table a shining splendor. He had insisted on
setting it--no green second boy could lay a hand on the family treasures,
now almost sacred, like vessels lost from a church and miraculously
restored. In the center he had placed the great silver bowl given to
George Alston by the miners of The Silver Queen when he had retired from
the management. Fong had been at the presentation ceremony, and valued
the bowl above all his old boss's possessions. In the flight from the
Pine Street house he had trusted it to no hands but his own, and finding
it hard to hold had carried it on his head. He had also elected to wait
on the table--the reunion had a character of intimacy upon which no
second boy should intrude--and to do the occasion honor had put on his
lilac crepe jacket and green silk trousers. From behind the chairs he
looked approvingly at the glistening spread of silver and glass, the
flowered mound of the Silver Queen bowl, the ring of faces, and "Miss
Lolly" and "Miss Clist" in the dresses he had saved.
Clothes of any kind were at a premium, and the Misses Alstons'
hospitality extended to their wardrobe. Sadie had no need to avail
herself of it; she had stocked hers well before coming, making a special
trip to Sacramento for that purpose. But Pancha, who had lost everything
but a nightgown and slippers, was scantily provided. Before dinner there
had been a withdrawal to Lorry's room, whence had issued much laughter
and cries of admiration from Chrystie. Now, between Mark and Crowder,
Pancha loomed radiant, duskily flushed, gleamingly scintillant, in the
white net dress with the crystal trimmings that Lorry had worn on an
Yes, it was a very fine dinner. At intervals each told his neighbor so,
and then told his hostess, and then told Fong. Crowder, whose customary
haunts were burned and who was eating anything, anywhere, sighed
rapturously over every succeeding course, and Mrs. Kirkham said she'd
never seen its peer "except in Virginia in the seventies." Toward the end
of it they drank toasts--to Lorry and Mark on their engagement, to Mother
and Sadie as the new relations, to Pancha and Mr. Michaels as the
saviors, to Chrystie on her restoration to health, to Crowder as the
mutual friend, to Aunt Ellen as the ambulating chaperon, to Mrs. Kirkham
as the dispenser of hospitality and wisdom, and finally, on their feet
with raised glasses, to Fong.
The party broke up early; there were trains and boats to catch for those
going back to the city. With the hour of departure a drop came in their
high spirits, a prevailing pensiveness in the face of farewells. Chrystie
quite broke down, kissed Mr. Michaels to his great confusion, and wept in
Pancha's arms. Father and daughter were to go their several ways early in
the week and this was good-by. They stumbled over last phrases to Lorry,
good wishes, reiterated thanks. She hushed them, hurried their adieux to
the others, herself affected but anxious to get them off; such excitement
was bad for Chrystie. As the carriage rolled away she stood on the steps,
a waving hand aloft, hearing over the roll of the wheels and the talk in
the hall, Pancha's clear voice calling, "Good-by, good-by; oh, good-by!"
When she came back the others were already preparing to disperse for bed.
The old ladies were tired, yawning as they exchanged good-nights and
moved, heavy-footed, for the stairs. They began to mount, their silks
rustling, muttering wearily as they toiled upward. Chrystie had to go
too, at once, and straight to bed; no reading or talking to Sadie. She
agreed dejectedly and trailed after the ascending group, throwing sleepy
farewells over her shoulder.
Sadie, who felt very wide-awake, was for lingering. It was only ten, and
what with the unwonted excitement and two cups of black coffee, she did
not feel at all inclined toward sleep. She thought she would stay down a
little longer, and then her glance slipping from the file of backs fell
on her brother and Lorry, side by side, their faces raised, their eyes
on the retreating procession. Sadie waited a moment, then seeing they
made no move to follow it, bade them a brisk good-night and went up the