Part 1 out of 5
This etext was prepared by Donald Lainson, firstname.lastname@example.org.
TRENT'S TRUST AND OTHER STORIES
by Bret Harte
MR. MACGLOWRIE'S WIDOW
A WARD OF COLONEL STARBOTTLE
PROSPER'S "OLD MOTHER"
THE CONVALESCENCE OF JACK HAMLIN
A PUPIL OF CHESTNUT RIDGE
DICK BOYLE'S BUSINESS CARD
Randolph Trent stepped from the Stockton boat on the San Francisco
wharf, penniless, friendless, and unknown. Hunger might have been
added to his trials, for, having paid his last coin in passage
money, he had been a day and a half without food. Yet he knew it
only by an occasional lapse into weakness as much mental as
physical. Nevertheless, he was first on the gangplank to land, and
hurried feverishly ashore, in that vague desire for action and
change of scene common to such irritation; yet after mixing for a
few moments with the departing passengers, each selfishly hurrying
to some rendezvous of rest or business, he insensibly drew apart
from them, with the instinct of a vagabond and outcast. Although
he was conscious that he was neither, but merely an unsuccessful
miner suddenly reduced to the point of soliciting work or alms of
any kind, he took advantage of the first crossing to plunge into a
side street, with a vague sense of hiding his shame.
A rising wind, which had rocked the boat for the last few hours,
had now developed into a strong sou'wester, with torrents of rain
which swept the roadway. His well-worn working clothes, fitted to
the warmer Southern mines, gave him more concern from their
visible, absurd contrast to the climate than from any actual sense
of discomfort, and his feverishness defied the chill of his soaking
garments, as he hurriedly faced the blast through the dimly lighted
street. At the next corner he paused; he had reached another, and,
from its dilapidated appearance, apparently an older wharf than
that where he had landed, but, like the first, it was still a
straggling avenue leading toward the higher and more animated part
of the city. He again mechanically--for a part of his trouble was
a vague, undefined purpose--turned toward it.
In his feverish exaltation his powers of perception seemed to be
quickened: he was vividly alive to the incongruous, half-marine,
half-backwoods character of the warehouses and commercial
buildings; to the hull of a stranded ship already built into a
block of rude tenements; to the dark stockaded wall of a house
framed of corrugated iron, and its weird contiguity to a Swiss
chalet, whose galleries were used only to bear the signs of the
shops, and whose frame had been carried across seas in sections to
be set up at random here.
Moving past these, as in a nightmare dream, of which even the
turbulency of the weather seemed to be a part, he stumbled,
blinded, panting, and unexpectedly, with no consciousness of his
rapid pace beyond his breathlessness, upon the dazzling main
thoroughfare of the city. In spite of the weather, the slippery
pavements were thronged by hurrying crowds of well-dressed people,
again all intent on their own purposes,--purposes that seemed so
trifling and unimportant beside his own. The shops were
brilliantly lighted, exposing their brightest wares through plate-
glass windows; a jeweler's glittered with precious stones; a
fashionable apothecary's next to it almost outrivaled it with its
gorgeous globes, the gold and green precision of its shelves, and
the marble and silver soda fountain like a shrine before it. All
this specious show of opulence came upon him with the shock of
contrast, and with it a bitter revulsion of feeling more hopeless
than his feverish anxiety,--the bitterness of disappointment.
For during his journey he had been buoyed up with the prospect of
finding work and sympathy in this youthful city,--a prospect
founded solely on his inexperienced hopes. For this he had
exchanged the poverty of the mining district,--a poverty that had
nothing ignoble about it, that was a part of the economy of nature,
and shared with his fellow men and the birds and beasts in their
rude encampments. He had given up the brotherhood of the miner,
and that practical help and sympathy which brought no degradation
with it, for this rude shock of self-interested, self-satisfied
civilization. He, who would not have shrunk from asking rest,
food, or a night's lodging at the cabin of a brother miner or
woodsman, now recoiled suddenly from these well-dressed citizens.
What madness had sent him here, an intruder, or, even, as it seemed
to him in his dripping clothes, an impostor? And yet these were
the people to whom he had confidently expected to tell his story,
and who would cheerfully assist him with work! He could almost
anticipate the hard laugh or brutal hurried negative in their
faces. In his foolish heart he thanked God he had not tried it.
Then the apathetic recoil which is apt to follow any keen emotion
overtook him. He was dazedly conscious of being rudely shoved once
or twice, and even heard the epithet "drunken lout" from one who
had run against him.
He found himself presently staring vacantly in the apothecary's
window. How long he stood there he could not tell, for he was
aroused only by the door opening in front of him, and a young girl
emerging with some purchase in her hand. He could see that she was
handsomely dressed and quite pretty, and as she passed out she
lifted to his withdrawing figure a pair of calm, inquiring eyes,
which, however, changed to a look of half-wondering, half-amused
pity as she gazed. Yet that look of pity stung his pride more
deeply than all. With a deliberate effort he recovered his energy.
No, he would not beg, he would not ask assistance from these
people; he would go back--anywhere! To the steamboat first; they
might let him sleep there, give him a meal, and allow him to work
his passage back to Stockton. He might be refused. Well, what
then? Well, beyond, there was the bay! He laughed bitterly--his
mind was sane enough for that--but he kept on repeating it vaguely
to himself, as he crossed the street again, and once more made his
way to the wharf.
The wind and rain had increased, but he no longer heeded them in
his feverish haste and his consciousness that motion could alone
keep away that dreadful apathy which threatened to overcloud his
judgment. And he wished while he was able to reason logically to
make up his mind to end this unsupportable situation that night.
He was scarcely twenty, yet it seemed to him that it had already
been demonstrated that his life was a failure; he was an orphan,
and when he left college to seek his own fortune in California, he
believed he had staked his all upon that venture--and lost.
That bitterness which is the sudden recoil of boyish enthusiasm,
and is none the less terrible for being without experience to
justify it,--that melancholy we are too apt to look back upon with
cynical jeers and laughter in middle age,--is more potent than we
dare to think, and it was in no mere pose of youthful pessimism
that Randolph Trent now contemplated suicide. Such scraps of
philosophy as his education had given him pointed to that one
conclusion. And it was the only refuge that pride--real or false--
offered him from the one supreme terror of youth--shame.
The street was deserted, and the few lights he had previously noted
in warehouses and shops were extinguished. It had grown darker
with the storm; the incongruous buildings on either side had become
misshapen shadows; the long perspective of the wharf was a strange
gloom from which the spars of a ship stood out like the cross he
remembered as a boy to have once seen in a picture of the tempest-
smitten Calvary. It was his only fancy connected with the future--
it might have been his last, for suddenly one of the planks of the
rotten wharf gave way beneath his feet, and he felt himself
violently precipitated toward the gurgling and oozing tide below.
He threw out his arms desperately, caught at a strong girder, drew
himself up with the energy of desperation, and staggered to his
feet again, safe--and sane. For with this terrible automatic
struggle to avoid that death he was courting came a flash of
reason. If he had resolutely thrown himself from the pier head as
he intended, would he have undergone a hopeless revulsion like
this? Was he sure that this might not be, after all, the terrible
penalty of self-destruction--this inevitable fierce protest of mind
and body when TOO LATE? He was momentarily touched with a sense of
gratitude at his escape, but his reason told him it was not from
his ACCIDENT, but from his intention.
He was trying carefully to retrace his steps, but as he did so he
saw the figure of a man dimly lurching toward him out of the
darkness of the wharf and the crossed yards of the ship. A gleam
of hope came over him, for the emotion of the last few minutes had
rudely displaced his pride and self-love. He would appeal to this
stranger, whoever he was; there was more chance that in this rude
locality he would be a belated sailor or some humbler wayfarer, and
the darkness and solitude made him feel less ashamed. By the last
flickering street lamp he could see that he was a man about his own
size, with something of the rolling gait of a sailor, which was
increased by the weight of a traveling portmanteau he was swinging
in his hand. As he approached he evidently detected Randolph's
waiting figure, slackened his speed slightly, and changed his
portmanteau from his right hand to his left as a precaution for
Randolph felt the blood flush his cheek at this significant proof
of his disreputable appearance, but determined to accost him. He
scarcely recognized the sound of his own voice now first breaking
the silence for hours, but he made his appeal. The man listened,
made a slight gesture forward with his disengaged hand, and
impelled Randolph slowly up to the street lamp until it shone on
both their faces. Randolph saw a man a few years his senior, with
a slightly trimmed beard on his dark, weather-beaten cheeks, well-
cut features, a quick, observant eye, and a sailor's upward glance
and bearing. The stranger saw a thin, youthful, anxious, yet
refined and handsome face beneath straggling damp curls, and dark
eyes preternaturally bright with suffering. Perhaps his
experienced ear, too, detected some harmony with all this in
"And you want something to eat, a night's lodging, and a chance of
work afterward," the stranger repeated with good-humored
"Yes," said Randolph.
"You look it."
Randolph colored faintly.
"Do you ever drink?"
"Yes," said Randolph wonderingly.
"I thought I'd ask," said the stranger, "as it might play hell with
you just now if you were not accustomed to it. Take that. Just a
swallow, you know--that's as good as a jugful."
He handed him a heavy flask. Randolph felt the burning liquor
scald his throat and fire his empty stomach. The stranger turned
and looked down the vacant wharf to the darkness from which he
came. Then he turned to Randolph again and said abruptly,--
"Strong enough to carry this bag?"
"Yes," said Randolph. The whiskey--possibly the relief--had given
him new strength. Besides, he might earn his alms.
"Take it up to room 74, Niantic Hotel--top of next street to this,
one block that way--and wait till I come."
"What name shall I say?" asked Randolph.
"Needn't say any. I ordered the room a week ago. Stop; there's
the key. Go in; change your togs; you'll find something in that
bag that'll fit you. Wait for me. Stop--no; you'd better get some
grub there first." He fumbled in his pockets, but fruitlessly.
"No matter. You'll find a buckskin purse, with some scads in it,
in the bag. So long." And before Randolph could thank him, he
lurched away again into the semi-darkness of the wharf.
Overflowing with gratitude at a hospitality so like that of his
reckless brethren of the mines, Randolph picked up the portmanteau
and started for the hotel. He walked warily now, with a new
interest in life, and then, suddenly thinking of his own miraculous
escape, he paused, wondering if he ought not to warn his benefactor
of the perils of the rotten wharf; but he had already disappeared.
The bag was not heavy, but he found that in his exhausted state
this new exertion was telling, and he was glad when he reached the
hotel. Equally glad was he in his dripping clothes to slip by the
porter, and with the key in his pocket ascend unnoticed to 74.
Yet had his experience been larger he might have spared himself
that sensitiveness. For the hotel was one of those great
caravansaries popular with the returning miner. It received him
and his gold dust in his worn-out and bedraggled working clothes,
and returned him the next day as a well-dressed citizen on
Montgomery Street. It was hard indeed to recognize the unshaven,
unwashed, and unkempt "arrival" one met on the principal staircase
at night in the scrupulously neat stranger one sat opposite to at
breakfast the next morning. In this daily whirl of mutation all
identity was swamped, as Randolph learned to know.
At present, finding himself in a comfortable bedroom, his first act
was to change his wet clothes, which in the warmer temperature and
the decline of his feverishness now began to chill him. He opened
the portmanteau and found a complete suit of clothing, evidently a
foreign make, well preserved, as if for "shore-going." His pride
would have preferred a humbler suit as lessening his obligation,
but there was no other. He discovered the purse, a chamois leather
bag such as miners and travelers carried, which contained a dozen
gold pieces and some paper notes. Taking from it a single coin to
defray the expenses of a meal, he restrapped the bag, and leaving
the key in the door lock for the benefit of his returning host,
made his way to the dining room.
For a moment he was embarrassed when the waiter approached him
inquisitively, but it was only to learn the number of his room to
"charge" the meal. He ate it quickly, but not voraciously, for his
appetite had not yet returned, and he was eager to get back to the
room and see the stranger again and return to him the coin which
was no longer necessary.
But the stranger had not yet arrived when he reached the room.
Over an hour had elapsed since their strange meeting. A new fear
came upon him: was it possible he had mistaken the hotel, and his
benefactor was awaiting him elsewhere, perhaps even beginning to
suspect not only his gratitude but his honesty! The thought made
him hot again, but he was helpless. Not knowing the stranger's
name, he could not inquire without exposing his situation to the
landlord. But again, there was the key, and it was scarcely
possible that it fitted another 74 in another hotel. He did not
dare to leave the room, but sat by the window, peering through the
streaming panes into the storm-swept street below. Gradually the
fatigue his excitement had hitherto kept away began to overcome
him; his eyes once or twice closed during his vigil, his head
nodded against the pane. He rose and walked up and down the room
to shake off his drowsiness. Another hour passed--nine o'clock,
blown in fitful, far-off strokes from some wind-rocked steeple.
Still no stranger. How inviting the bed looked to his weary eyes!
The man had told him he wanted rest; he could lie down on the bed
in his clothes until he came. He would waken quickly and be ready
for his benefactor's directions. It was a great temptation. He
yielded to it. His head had scarcely sunk upon the pillow before
he slipped into a profound and dreamless sleep.
He awoke with a start, and for a few moments lay vaguely staring at
the sunbeams that stretched across his bed before he could recall
himself. The room was exactly as before, the portmanteau strapped
and pushed under the table as he had left it. There came a tap at
the door--the chambermaid to do up the room. She had been there
once already, but seeing him asleep, she had forborne to wake him.
Apparently the spectacle of a gentleman lying on the bed fully
dressed, even to his boots, was not an unusual one at that hotel,
for she made no comment. It was twelve o'clock, but she would come
He was bewildered. He had slept the round of the clock--that was
natural after his fatigue--but where was his benefactor? The
lateness of the time forbade the conclusion that he had merely
slept elsewhere; he would assuredly have returned by this time to
claim his portmanteau. The portmanteau! He unstrapped it and
examined the contents again. They were undisturbed as he had left
them the night before. There was a further change of linen, the
buckskin bag, which he could see now contained a couple of Bank of
England notes, with some foreign gold mixed with American half-
eagles, and a cheap, rough memorandum book clasped with elastic,
containing a letter in a boyish hand addressed "Dear Daddy" and
signed "Bobby," and a photograph of a boy taken by a foreign
photographer at Callao, as the printed back denoted, but nothing
giving any clue whatever to the name of the owner.
A strange idea seized him: did the portmanteau really belong to the
man who had given it to him? Had he been the innocent receiver of
stolen goods from some one who wished to escape detection? He
recalled now that he had heard stories of robbery of luggage by
thieves "Sydney ducks"--on the deserted wharves, and remembered,
too,--he could not tell why the thought had escaped him before,--
that the man had spoken with an English accent. But the next
moment he recalled his frank and open manner, and his mind cleared
of all unworthy suspicion. It was more than likely that his
benefactor had taken this delicate way of making a free, permanent
gift for that temporary service. Yet he smiled faintly at the
return of that youthful optimism which had caused him so much
Nevertheless, something must be done: he must try to find the man;
still more important, he must seek work before this dubious loan
was further encroached upon. He restrapped the portmanteau and
replaced it under the table, locked the door, gave the key to the
office clerk, saying that any one who called upon him was to await
his return, and sallied forth. A fresh wind and a blue sky of
scudding clouds were all that remained of last night's storm. As
he made his way to the fateful wharf, still deserted except by an
occasional "wharf-rat,"--as the longshore vagrant or petty thief
was called,--he wondered at his own temerity of last night, and the
trustfulness of his friend in yielding up his portmanteau to a
stranger in such a place. A low drinking saloon, feebly disguised
as a junk shop, stood at the corner, with slimy green steps leading
to the water.
The wharf was slowly decaying, and here and there were occasional
gaps in the planking, as dangerous as the one from which he had
escaped the night before. He thought again of the warning he might
have given to the stranger; but he reflected that as a seafaring
man he must have been familiar with the locality where he had
landed. But had he landed there? To Randolph's astonishment,
there was no sign or trace of any late occupation of the wharf, and
the ship whose crossyards he had seen dimly through the darkness
the night before was no longer there. She might have "warped out"
in the early morning, but there was no trace of her in the stream
or offing beyond. A bark and brig quite dismantled at an adjacent
wharf seemed to accent the loneliness. Beyond, the open channel
between him and Verba Buena Island was racing with white-maned seas
and sparkling in the shifting sunbeams. The scudding clouds above
him drove down the steel-blue sky. The lateen sails of the Italian
fishing boats were like shreds of cloud, too, blown over the blue
and distant bay. His ears sang, his eyes blinked, his pulses
throbbed, with the untiring, fierce activity of a San Francisco day.
With something of its restlessness he hurried back to the hotel.
Still the stranger was not there, and no one had called for him.
The room had been put in order; the portmanteau, that sole
connecting link with his last night's experience, was under the
table. He drew it out again, and again subjected it to a minute
examination. A few toilet articles, not of the best quality, which
he had overlooked at first, the linen, the buckskin purse, the
memorandum book, and the suit of clothes he stood in, still
comprised all he knew of his benefactor. He counted the money in
the purse; it amounted, with the Bank of England notes, to about
seventy dollars, as he could roughly guess. There was a scrap of
paper, the torn-off margin of a newspaper, lying in the purse, with
an address hastily scribbled in pencil. It gave, however, no name,
only a number: "85 California Street." It might be a clue. He put
it, with the purse, carefully in his pocket, and after hurriedly
partaking of his forgotten breakfast, again started out.
He presently found himself in the main thoroughfare of last night,
which he now knew to be Montgomery Street. It was more thronged
than then, but he failed to be impressed, as then, with the selfish
activity of the crowd. Yet he was half conscious that his own
brighter fortune, more decent attire, and satisfied hunger had
something to do with this change, and he glanced hurriedly at the
druggist's broad plate-glass windows, with a faint hope that the
young girl whose amused pity he had awakened might be there again.
He found California Street quickly, and in a few moments he stood
before No. 85. He was a little disturbed to find it a rather large
building, and that it bore the inscription "Bank." Then came the
usual shock to his mercurial temperament, and for the first time he
began to consider the absurd hopelessness of his clue.
He, however, entered desperately, and approaching the window of the
receiving teller, put the question he had formulated in his mind:
Could they give him any information concerning a customer or
correspondent who had just arrived in San Francisco and was putting
up at the Niantic Hotel, room 74? He felt his face flushing, but,
to his astonishment, the clerk manifested no surprise. "And you
don't know his name?" said the clerk quietly. "Wait a moment." He
moved away, and Randolph saw him speaking to one of the other
clerks, who consulted a large register. In a few minutes he
returned. "We don't have many customers," he began politely, "who
leave only their hotel-room addresses," when he was interrupted by
a mumbling protest from one of the other clerks. "That's very
different," he replied to his fellow clerk, and then turned to
Randolph. "I'm afraid we cannot help you; but I'll make other
inquiries if you'll come back in ten minutes." Satisfied to be
relieved from the present perils of his questioning, and doubtful
of returning, Randolph turned away. But as he left the building he
saw a written notice on the swinging door, "Wanted: a Night
Porter;" and this one chance of employment determined his return.
When he again presented himself at the window the clerk motioned
him to step inside through a lifted rail. Here he found himself
confronted by the clerk and another man, distinguished by a certain
air of authority, a keen gray eye, and singularly compressed lips
set in a closely clipped beard. The clerk indicated him
deferentially but briefly--everybody was astonishingly brief and
businesslike there--as the president. The president absorbed and
possessed Randolph with eyes that never seemed to leave him. Then
leaning back against the counter, which he lightly grasped with
both hands, he said: "We've sent to the Niantic Hotel to inquire
about your man. He ordered his room by letter, giving no name. He
arrived there on time last night, slept there, and has occupied the
room No. 74 ever since. WE don't know him from Adam, but"--his
eyes never left Randolph's--"from the description the landlord gave
our clerk, you're the man himself."
For an instant Randolph flushed crimson. The natural mistake of
the landlord flashed upon him, his own stupidity in seeking this
information, the suspicious predicament in which he was now placed,
and the necessity of telling the whole truth. But the president's
eye was at once a threat and an invitation. He felt himself
becoming suddenly cool, and, with a business brevity equal to their
"I was looking for work last night on the wharf. He employed me to
carry his bag to the hotel, saying I was to wait for him. I have
waited since nine o'clock last night in his room, and he has not
"What are you in such a d----d hurry for? He's trusted you; can't
you trust him? You've got his bag?" returned the president.
Randolph was silent for a moment. "I want to know what to do with
it," he said.
"Hang on to it. What's in it?"
"Some clothes and a purse containing about seventy dollars."
"That ought to pay you for carrying it and storage afterward," said
the president decisively. "What made you come here?"
"I found this address in the purse," said Randolph, producing it.
"Is that all?"
"And that's the only reason you came here, to find an owner for
The president disengaged himself from the counter.
"I'm sorry to have given you so much trouble," said Randolph
concludingly. "Thank you and good-morning."
As Randolph turned away he remembered the advertisement for the
night watchman. He hesitated and turned back. He was a little
surprised to find that the president had not gone away, but was
looking after him.
"I beg your pardon, but I see you want a night watchman. Could I
do?" said Randolph resolutely.
"No. You're a stranger here, and we want some one who knows the
city,-- Dewslake," he returned to the receiving teller, "who's
taken Larkin's place?"
"No one yet," returned the teller, "but," he added parenthetically,
"Judge Boompointer, you know, was speaking to you about his son."
"Yes, I know that." To Randolph: "Go round to my private room and
wait for me. I won't be as long as your friend last night." Then
he added to a negro porter, "Show him round there."
He moved away, stopping at one or two desks to give an order to the
clerks, and once before the railing to speak to a depositor.
Randolph followed the negro into the hall, through a "board room,"
and into a handsomely furnished office. He had not to wait long.
In a few moments the president appeared with an older man whose
gray side whiskers, cut with a certain precision, and whose black
and white checked neckerchief, tied in a formal bow, proclaimed the
English respectability of the period. At the president's dictation
he took down Randolph's name, nativity, length of residence, and
occupation in California. This concluded, the president, glancing
at his companion, said briefly,--
"He had better come to-morrow morning at nine," was the answer.
"And ask for Mr. Dingwall, the deputy manager," added the
president, with a gesture that was at once an introduction and a
dismissal to both.
Randolph had heard before of this startling brevity of San
Francisco business detail, yet he lingered until the door closed on
Mr. Dingwall. His heart was honestly full.
"You have been very kind, sir," he stammered.
"I haven't run half the risks of that chap last night," said the
president grimly, the least tremor of a smile on his set mouth.
"If you would only let me know what I can do to thank you,"
"Trust the man that trusts you, and hang on to your trust," returned
the president curtly, with a parting nod.
Elated and filled with high hopes as Randolph was, he felt some
trepidation in returning to his hotel. He had to face his landlord
with some explanation of the bank's inquiry. The landlord might
consider him an impostor, and request him to leave, or, more
dreadful still, insist upon keeping the bag. He thought of the
parting words of the president, and resolved upon "hanging on to
his trust," whatever happened. But he was agreeably surprised to
find that he was received at the office with a certain respect not
usually shown to the casual visitor. "Your caller turned up to-
day"--Randolph started--"from the Eureka bank," continued the
clerk. "Sorry we could not give your name, but you know you only
left a deposit in your letter and sent a messenger for your key
yesterday afternoon. When you came you went straight to your room.
Perhaps you would like to register now." Randolph no longer
hesitated, reflecting that he could explain it all later to his
unknown benefactor, and wrote his name boldly. But he was still
more astonished when the clerk continued: "I reckon it was a case
of identifying you for a draft--it often happens here--and we'd
have been glad to do it for you. But the bank clerk seemed
satisfied with out description of you--you're easily described, you
know (this in a parenthesis, complimentarily intended)--"so it's
all right. We can give you a better room lower down, if you're
going to stay longer." Not knowing whether to laugh or to be
embarrassed at this extraordinary conclusion of the blunder,
Randolph answered that he had just come from the bank, adding, with
a pardonable touch of youthful pride, that he was entering the
bankís employment the next day.
Another equally agreeable surprise met him on his arrival there the
next morning. Without any previous examination or trial he was
installed at once as a corresponding clerk in the place of one just
promoted to a sub-agency in the interior. His handwriting, his
facility of composition, had all been taken for granted, or perhaps
predicated upon something the president had discerned in that one
quick, absorbing glance. He ventured to express the thought to
"The boss," said that gentleman, "can size a man in and out, and
all through, in about the time it would take you and me to tell the
color of his hair. HE donít make mistakes, you bet; but old Dingy--
the dep--you settled with your clothes."
"My clothes!" echoed Randolph, with a faint flush.
"Yes, English cut--that fetched him."
And so his work began. His liberal salary, which seemed to him
munificent in comparison with his previous earnings in the mines,
enabled him to keep the contents of the buckskin purse intact, and
presently to return the borrowed suit of clothes to the
portmanteau. The mysterious owner should find everything as when
he first placed it in his hands. With the quick mobility of youth
and his own rather mercurial nature, he had begun to forget, or
perhaps to be a little ashamed of his keen emotions and sufferings
the night of his arrival, until that night was recalled to him in a
One Sunday a vague sense of duty to his still missing benefactor
impelled him to spend part of his holiday upon the wharves. He had
rambled away among the shipping at the newer pier slips, and had
gazed curiously upon decks where a few seamen or officers in their
Sunday apparel smoked, paced, or idled, trying vainly to recognize
the face and figure which had once briefly flashed out under the
flickering wharf lamp. Was the stranger a shipmaster who had
suddenly transferred himself to another vessel on another voyage?
A crowd which had gathered around some landing steps nearer shore
presently attracted his attention. He lounged toward it and looked
over the shoulders of the bystanders down upon the steps. A boat
was lying there, which had just towed in the body of a man found
floating on the water. Its features were already swollen and
defaced like a hideous mask; its body distended beyond all
proportion, even to the bursting of its sodden clothing. A
tremulous fascination came over Randolph as he gazed. The
bystanders made their brief comments, a few authoritatively and
with the air of nautical experts.
"Been in the water about a week, I reckon."
"'Bout that time; just rucked up and floated with the tide."
"Not much chance o' spottin' him by his looks, eh?"
"Nor anything else, you bet. Reg'larly cleaned out. Look at his
"Wharf-rats or shanghai men?"
"Betwixt and between, I reckon. Man who found him says he's got an
ugly cut just back of his head. Ye can't see it for his floating
"Wonder if he got it before or after he got in the water."
"That's for the coroner to say."
"Much he knows or cares," said another cynically. "It'll just be a
case of 'Found drowned' and the regular twenty-five dollars to HIM,
and five to the man who found the body. That's enough for him to
Thrilled with a vague anxiety, Randolph edged forward for a nearer
view of the wretched derelict still gently undulating on the
towline. The closer he looked the more he was impressed by the
idea of some frightful mask that hid a face that refused to be
recognized. But his attention became fixed on a man who was giving
some advice or orders and examining the body scrutinizingly.
Without knowing why, Randolph felt a sudden aversion to him, which
was deepened when the man, lifting his head, met Randolph's eyes
with a pair of shifting yet aggressive ones. He bore,
nevertheless, an odd, weird likeness to the missing man Randolph
was seeking, which strangely troubled him. As the stranger's eyes
followed him and lingered with a singular curiosity on Randolph's
dress, he remembered with a sudden alarm that he was wearing the
suit of the missing man. A quick impulse to conceal himself came
upon him, but he as quickly conquered it, and returned the man's
cold stare with an anger he could not account for, but which made
the stranger avert his eyes. Then the man got into the boat beside
the boatman, and the two again towed away the corpse. The head
rose and fell with the swell, as if nodding a farewell. But it was
still defiant, under its shapeless mask, that even wore a smile, as
if triumphant in its hideous secret.
The opinion of the cynical bystander on the wharf proved to be a
correct one. The coroner's jury brought in the usual verdict of
"Found drowned," which was followed by the usual newspaper comment
upon the insecurity of the wharves and the inadequate protection of
Randolph Trent read it with conflicting emotions. The possibility
he had conceived of the corpse being that of his benefactor was
dismissed when he had seen its face, although he was sometimes
tortured with doubt, and a wonder if he might not have learned more
by attending the inquest. And there was still the suggestion that
the mysterious disappearance might have been accomplished by
violence like this. He was satisfied that if he had attempted
publicly to identify the corpse as his missing friend he would have
laid himself open to suspicion with a story he could hardly
He had once thought of confiding his doubts to Mr. Revelstoke, the
bank president, but he had a dread of that gentleman's curt
conclusions and remembered his injunction to "hang on to his
trust." Since his installation, Mr. Revelstoke had merely
acknowledged his presence by a good-humored nod now and then,
although Randolph had an instinctive feeling that he was perfectly
informed as to his progress. It was wiser for Randolph to confine
himself strictly to his duty and keep his own counsel.
Yet he was young, and it was not strange that in his idle moments
his thoughts sometimes reverted to the pretty girl he had seen on
the night of his arrival, nor that he should wish to parade his
better fortune before her curious eyes. Neither was it strange
that in this city, whose day-long sunshine brought every one into
the public streets, he should presently have that opportunity. It
chanced that one afternoon, being in the residential quarter, he
noticed a well-dressed young girl walking before him in company
with a delicate looking boy of seven or eight years. Something in
the carriage of her graceful figure, something in a certain
consciousness and ostentation of coquetry toward her youthful
escort, attracted his attention. Yet it struck him that she was
neither related to the child nor accustomed to children's ways, and
that she somewhat unduly emphasized this to the passers-by,
particularly those of his own sex, who seemed to be greatly
attracted by her evident beauty. Presently she ascended the steps
of a handsome dwelling, evidently their home, and as she turned he
saw her face. It was the girl he remembered. As her eye caught
his, he blushed with the consciousness of their former meeting;
yet, in the very embarrassment of the moment, he lifted his hat in
recognition. But the salutation was met only by a cold, critical
stare. Randolph bit his lip and passed on. His reason told him
she was right, his instinct told him she was unfair; the
contradiction fascinated him.
Yet he was destined to see her again. A month later, while seated
at his desk, which overlooked the teller's counter, he was startled
to see her enter the bank and approach the counter. She was
already withdrawing a glove from her little hand, ready to affix
her signature to the receipted form to be proffered by the teller.
As she received the gold in exchange, he could see, by the
increased politeness of that official, his evident desire to
prolong the transaction, and the sidelong glances of his fellow
clerks, that she was apparently no stranger but a recognized object
of admiration. Although her face was slightly flushed at the
moment, Randolph observed that she wore a certain proud reserve,
which he half hoped was intended as a check to these attentions.
Her eyes were fixed upon the counter, and this gave him a brief
opportunity to study her delicate beauty. For in a few moments she
was gone; whether she had in her turn observed him he could not
say. Presently he rose and sauntered, with what he believed was a
careless air, toward the paying teller's counter and the receipt,
which, being the last, was plainly exposed on the file of that
day's "taking." He was startled by a titter of laughter from the
clerks and by the teller ironically lifting the file and placing it
"That's her name, sonny, but I didn't think that you'd tumble to it
quite as quick as the others. Every new man manages to saunter
round here to get a sight of that receipt, and I've seen hoary old
depositors outside edge around inside, pretendin' they wanted to
see the dep, jest to feast their eyes on that girl's name. Take a
good look at it and paste a copy in your hat, for that's all you'll
know of her, you bet. Perhaps you think she's put her address and
her 'at home' days on the receipt. Look hard and maybe you'll see
The instinct of youthful retaliation to say he knew her address
already stirred Randolph, but he shut his lips in time, and moved
away. His desk neighbor informed him that the young lady came
there once a month and drew a hundred dollars from some deposit to
her credit, but that was all they knew. Her name was Caroline
Avondale, yet there was no one of that name in the San Francisco
But Randolph's romantic curiosity would not allow the incident to
rest there. A favorable impression he had produced on Mr. Dingwall
enabled him to learn more, and precipitated what seemed to him a
singular discovery. "You will find," said the deputy manager, "the
statement of the first deposit to Miss Avondale's credit in letters
in your own department. The account was opened two years ago
through a South American banker. But I am afraid it will not
satisfy your curiosity." Nevertheless, Randolph remained after
office hours and spent some time in examining the correspondence of
two years ago. He was rewarded at last by a banker's letter from
Callao advising the remittance of one thousand dollars to the
credit of Miss Avondale of San Francisco. The letter was written
in Spanish, of which Randolph had a fair knowledge, but it was made
plainer by a space having been left in the formal letter for the
English name, which was written in another hand, together with a
copy of Miss Avondale's signature for identification--the usual
proceeding in those early days, when personal identification was
difficult to travelers, emigrants, and visitors in a land of
But here he was struck by a singular resemblance which he at first
put down to mere coincidence of names. The child's photograph
which he had found in the portmanteau was taken at Callao. That
was a mere coincidence, but it suggested to his mind a more
singular one--that the handwriting of the address was, in some odd
fashion, familiar to him. That night when he went home he opened
the portmanteau and took from the purse the scrap of paper with the
written address of the bank, and on comparing it with the banker's
letter the next day he was startled to find that the handwriting of
the bank's address and that in which the girl's name was introduced
in the banker's letter were apparently the same. The letters in
the words "Caroline" and "California" appeared as if formed by the
same hand. How this might have struck a chirographical expert he
did not know. He could not consult the paying teller, who was
supposed to be familiar with signatures, without exposing his
secret and himself to ridicule. And, after all, what did it prove?
Nothing. Even if this girl were cognizant of the man who supplied
her address to the Callao banker two years ago, and he was really
the missing owner of the portmanteau, would she know where he was
now? It might make an opening for conversation if he ever met her
familiarly, but nothing more. Yet I am afraid another idea
occasionally took possession of Randolph's romantic fancy. It was
pleasant to think that the patron of his own fortunes might be in
some mysterious way the custodian of hers. The money was placed to
her credit--a liberal sum for a girl so young. The large house in
which she lived was sufficient to prove to the optimistic Randolph
that this income was something personal and distinct from her
family. That his unknown benefactor was in the habit of
mysteriously rewarding deserving merit after the fashion of a
marine fairy godmother, I fear did not strike him as being
But an unfortunate query in that direction, addressed to a cynical
fellow clerk, who had the exhaustive experience with the immature
mustaches of twenty-three, elicited a reply which shocked him. To
his indignant protest the young man continued:--
"Look here; a girl like that who draws money regularly from some
man who doesn't show up by name, who comes for it herself, and
hasn't any address, and calls herself 'Avondale'--only an innocent
from Dutch Flat, like you, would swallow."
"Impossible," said Randolph indignantly. "Anybody could see she's
a lady by her dress and bearing."
"Dress and bearing!" echoed the clerk, with the derision of blase
youth. "If that's your test, you ought to see Florry ----."
But here one may safely leave the young gentleman as abruptly as
Randolph did. Yet a drop of this corrosive criticism irritated his
sensitiveness, and it was not until he recalled his last meeting
with her and her innocent escort that he was himself again.
Fortunately, he did not relate it to the critic, who would in all
probability have added a precocious motherhood to the young lady's
He could now only look forward to her reappearance at the bank, and
here he was destined to a more serious disappointment. For when
she made her customary appearance at the counter, he noticed a
certain businesslike gravity in the paying teller's reception of
her, and that he was consulting a small register before him instead
of handing her the usual receipt form. "Perhaps you are unaware,
Miss Avondale, that your account is overdrawn," Randolph distinctly
heard him say, although in a politely lowered voice.
The young girl stopped in taking off her glove; her delicate face
expressed her wonder, and paled slightly; she cast a quick and
apparently involuntary glance in the direction of Randolph, but
"I don't think I understand."
"I thought you did not--ladies so seldom do," continued the paying
teller suavely. "But there are no funds to your credit. Has not
your banker or correspondent advised you?"
The girl evidently did not comprehend. "I have no correspondent or
banker," she said. "I mean--I have heard nothing."
"The original credit was opened from Callao," continued the
official, "but since then it has been added to by drafts from
Melbourne. There may be one nearly due now."
The young girl seemed scarcely to comprehend, yet her face remained
pale and thoughtful. It was not until the paying teller resumed
with suggestive politeness that she roused herself: "If you would
like to see the president, he might oblige you until you hear from
your friends. Of course, my duty is simply to"--
"I don't think I require you to exceed it," returned the young girl
quietly, "or that I wish to see the president." Her delicate
little face was quite set with resolution and a mature dignity,
albeit it was still pale, as she drew away from the counter.
"If you would leave your address," continued the official with
persistent politeness, "we could advise you of any later deposit to
"It is hardly necessary," returned the young lady. "I should learn
it myself, and call again. Thank you. Good-morning." And
settling her veil over her face, she quietly passed out.
The pain and indignation with which Randolph overheard this
colloquy he could with the greatest difficulty conceal. For one
wild moment he had thought of calling her back while he made a
personal appeal to Revelstoke; but the conviction borne in upon him
by her resolute bearing that she would refuse it, and he would only
lay himself open to another rebuff, held him to his seat. Yet he
could not entirely repress his youthful indignation.
"Where I come from," he said in an audible voice to his neighbor,
"a young lady like that would have been spared this public
disappointment. A dozen men would have made up that sum and let
her go without knowing anything about her account being overdrawn."
And he really believed it.
"Nice, comf'able way of doing banking business in Dutch Flat,"
returned the cynic. "And I suppose you'd have kept it up every
month? Rather a tall price to pay for looking at a pretty girl
once a month! But I suppose they're scarcer up there than here.
All the same, it ain't too late now. Start up your subscription
right here, sonny, and we'll all ante up."
But Randolph, who seldom followed his heroics to their ultimate
prosaic conclusions, regretted he had spoken, although still
unconvinced. Happily for his temper, he did not hear the comment
of the two tellers.
"Won't see HER again, old boy," said one.
"I reckon not," returned the other, "now that she's been chucked by
her fancy man--until she gets another. But cheer up; a girl like
that won't want friends long."
It is not probable that either of these young gentlemen believed
what they said, or would have been personally disrespectful or
uncivil to any woman; they were fairly decent young fellows, but
the rigors of business demanded this appearance of worldly wisdom
between themselves. Meantime, for a week after, Randolph indulged
in wild fancies of taking his benefactor's capital of seventy
dollars, adding thirty to it from his own hard-earned savings,
buying a draft with it from the bank for one hundred dollars, and
in some mysterious way getting it to Miss Avondale as the delayed
The brief wet winter was nearly spent; the long dry season was due,
although there was still the rare beauty of cloud scenery in the
steel-blue sky, and the sudden return of quick but transient
showers. It was on a Sunday of weather like this that the nature-
loving Randolph extended his usual holiday excursion as far as
Contra Costa by the steamer after his dutiful round of the wharves
and shipping. It was with a gayety born equally of his youth and
the weather that he overcame his constitutional shyness, and not
only mingled without restraint among the pleasure-seekers that
thronged the crowded boat, but, in the consciousness of his good
looks and a new suit of clothes, even penetrated into the
aristocratic seclusion of the "ladies' cabin"--sacred to the fair
sex and their attendant swains or chaperones.
But he found every seat occupied, and was turning away, when he
suddenly recognized Miss Avondale sitting beside her little escort.
She appeared, however, in a somewhat constrained attitude,
sustaining with one hand the boy, who had clambered on the seat.
He was looking out of the cabin window, which she was also trying
to do, with greater difficulty on account of her position. He
could see her profile presented with such marked persistency that
he was satisfied she had seen him and was avoiding him. He turned
and left the cabin.
Yet, once on the deck again, he repented his haste. Perhaps she
had not actually recognized him; perhaps she wished to avoid him
only because she was in plainer clothes--a circumstance that, with
his knowledge of her changed fortunes, struck him to the heart. It
seemed to him that even as a humble employee of the bank he was in
some way responsible for it, and wondered if she associated him
with her humiliation. He longed to speak with her and assure her
of his sympathy, and yet he was equally conscious that she would
When the boat reached the Alameda wharf she slipped away with the
other passengers. He wandered about the hotel garden and the main
street in the hope of meeting her again, although he was
instinctively conscious that she would not follow the lines of the
usual Sunday sight-seers, but had her own destination. He
penetrated the depths of the Alameda, and lost himself among its
low, trailing oaks, to no purpose. The hope of the morning had
died within him; the fire of adventure was quenched, and when the
clouds gathered with a rising wind he felt that the promise of that
day was gone. He turned to go back to the ferry, but on consulting
his watch he found that he had already lost so much time in his
devious wanderings that he must run to catch the last boat. The
few drops that spattered through the trees presently increased to a
shower; he put up his umbrella without lessening his speed, and
finally dashed into the main street as the last bell was ringing.
But at the same moment a slight, graceful figure slipped out of the
woods just ahead of him, with no other protection from the pelting
storm than a handkerchief tied over her hat, and ran as swiftly
toward the wharf. It needed only one glance for Randolph to
recognize Miss Avondale. The moment had come, the opportunity was
here, and the next instant he was panting at her side, with the
umbrella over her head.
The girl lifted her head quickly, gave a swift look of recognition,
a brief smile of gratitude, and continued her pace. She had not
taken his arm, but had grasped the handle of the umbrella, which
linked them together. Not a word was spoken. Two people cannot be
conversational or sentimental flying at the top of their speed
beneath a single umbrella, with a crowd of impatient passengers
watching and waiting for them. And I grieve to say that, being a
happy American crowd, there was some irreverent humor. "Go it,
sis! He's gainin' on you!" "Keep it up!" "Steady, sonny! Don't
prance!" "No fancy licks! You were nearly over the traces that
time!" "Keep up to the pole!" (i. e. the umbrella). "Don't crowd
her off the track! Just swing on together; you'll do it."
Randolph had glanced quickly at his companion. She was laughing,
yet looking at him shyly as if wondering how HE was taking it. The
paddle wheels were beginning to revolve. Another rush, and they
were on board as the plank was drawn in.
But they were only on the edge of a packed and seething crowd.
Randolph managed, however, to force a way for her to an angle of
the paddle box, where they were comparatively alone although still
exposed to the rain. She recognized their enforced companionship
by dropping her grasp of the umbrella, which she had hitherto been
holding over him with a singular kind of mature superiority very
like--as Randolph felt--her manner to the boy.
"You have left your little friend?" he said, grasping at the idea
for a conversational opening.
"My little cousin? Yes," she said. "I left him with friends. I
could not bear to make him run any risk in this weather. But," she
hesitated half apologetically, half mischievously, "perhaps I
"Oh, no," said Randolph quickly. "This is the last boat, and I
must be at the bank to-morrow morning at nine."
"And I must be at the shop at eight," she said. She did not speak
bitterly or pointedly, nor yet with the entire familiarity of
custom. He noticed that her dress was indeed plainer, and yet she
seemed quite concerned over the water-soaked state of that cheap
thin silk pelerine and merino skirt. A big lump was in his throat.
"Do you know," he said desperately, yet trying to laugh, "that this
is not the first time you have seen me dripping?"
"Yes," she returned, looking at him interestedly; "it was outside
of the druggist's in Montgomery Street, about four months ago. You
were wetter then even than you are now."
"I was hungry, friendless, and penniless, Miss Avondale." He had
spoken thus abruptly in the faint hope that the revelation might
equalize their present condition; but somehow his confession, now
that it was uttered, seemed exceedingly weak and impotent. Then he
blundered in a different direction. "Your eyes were the only kind
ones I had seen since I landed." He flushed a little, feeling
himself on insecure ground, and ended desperately: "Why, when I
left you, I thought of committing suicide."
"Oh, dear, not so bad as that, I hope!" she said quickly, smiling
kindly, yet with a certain air of mature toleration, as if she were
addressing her little cousin. "You only fancied it. And it isn't
very complimentary to my eyes if their kindness drove you to such
horrid thoughts. And then what happened?" she pursued smilingly.
"I had a job to carry a man's bag, and it got me a night's lodging
and a meal," said Randolph, almost brusquely, feeling the utter
collapse of his story.
"And then?" she said encouragingly.
"I got a situation at the bank."
"The next day," faltered Randolph, expecting to hear her laugh.
But Miss Avondale heaved the faintest sigh.
"You are very lucky," she said.
"Not so very," returned Randolph quickly, "for the next time you
saw me you cut me dead."
"I believe I did," she said smilingly.
"Would you mind telling me why?"
"Are you sure you won't be angry?"
"I may be pained," said Randolph prudently.
"I apologize for that beforehand. Well, that first night I saw a
young man looking very anxious, very uncomfortable, and very weak.
The second time--and not very long after--I saw him well dressed,
lounging like any other young man on a Sunday afternoon, and I
believed that he took the liberty of bowing to me then because I
had once looked at him under a misapprehension."
"Oh, Miss Avondale!"
"Then I took a more charitable view, and came to the conclusion
that the first night he had been drinking. But," she added, with a
faint smile at Randolph's lugubrious face, "I apologize. And you
have had your revenge; for if I cut you on account of your smart
clothes, you have tried to do me a kindness on account of my plain
"Oh, Miss Avondale," burst out Randolph, "if you only knew how
sorry and indignant I was at the bank--when--you know--the other
day"--he stammered. "I wanted to go with you to Mr. Revelstoke,
you know, who had been so generous to me, and I know he would have
been proud to befriend you until you heard from your friends."
"And I am very glad you did nothing so foolish," said the young
lady seriously, "or"--with a smile--"I should have been still more
aggravating to you when we met. The bank was quite right. Nor
have I any pathetic story like yours. Some years ago my little
half-cousin whom you saw lost his mother and was put in my charge
by his father, with a certain sum to my credit, to be expended for
myself and the child. I lived with an uncle, with whom, for some
family reasons, the child's father was not on good terms, and this
money and the charge of the child were therefore intrusted entirely
to me; perhaps, also, because Bobby and I were fond of each other
and I was a friend of his mother. The father was a shipmaster,
always away on long voyages, and has been home but once in the
three years I have had charge of his son. I have not heard from
him since. He is a good-hearted man, but of a restless, roving
disposition, with no domestic tastes. Why he should suddenly cease
to provide for my little cousin--if he has done so--or if his
omission means only some temporary disaster to himself or his
fortunes, I do not know. My anxiety was more for the poor boy's
sake than for myself, for as long as I live I can provide for him."
She said this without the least display of emotion, and with the
same mature air of also repressing any emotion on the part of
Randolph. But for her size and girlish figure, but for the
dripping tangles of her hair and her soft eyes, he would have
believed he was talking to a hard, middle-aged matron.
"Then you--he--has no friends here?" asked Randolph.
"No. We are all from Callao, where Bobby was born. My uncle was a
merchant there, who came here lately to establish an agency. We
lived with him in Sutter Street--where you remember I was so
hateful to you," she interpolated, with a mischievous smile--"until
his enterprise failed and he was obliged to return; but I stayed
here with Bobby, that he might be educated in his father's own
tongue. It was unfortunate, perhaps," she said, with a little
knitting of her pretty brows, "that the remittances ceased and
uncle left about the same time; but, like you, I was lucky, and I
managed to get a place in the Emporium."
"The Emporium!" repeated Randolph in surprise. It was a popular
"magasin of fashion" in Montgomery Street. To connect this refined
girl with its garish display and vulgar attendants seemed
"The Emporium," reiterated Miss Avondale simply. "You see, we used
to dress a good deal in Callao and had the Paris fashions, and that
experience was of great service to me. I am now at the head of
what they call the 'mantle department,' if you please, and am
looked up to as an authority." She made him a mischievous bow,
which had the effect of causing a trickle from the umbrella to fall
across his budding mustache, and another down her own straight
little nose--a diversion that made them laugh together, although
Randolph secretly felt that the young girl's quiet heroism was
making his own trials appear ridiculous. But her allusion to
Callao and the boy's name had again excited his fancy and revived
his romantic dream of their common benefactor. As soon as they
could get a more perfect shelter and furl the umbrella, he plunged
into the full story of the mysterious portmanteau and its missing
owner, with the strange discovery that he had made of the
similarity of the two handwritings. The young lady listened
intently, eagerly, checking herself with what might have been a
half smile at his enthusiasm.
"I remember the banker's letter, certainly," she said, "and Captain
Dornton--that was the name of Bobby's father--asked me to sign my
name in the body of it where HE had also written it with my
address. But the likeness of the handwriting to your slip of paper
may be only a fancied one. Have you shown it to any one," she said
quickly--"I mean," she corrected herself as quickly, "any one who
is an expert?"
"Not the two together," said Randolph, explaining how he had shown
the paper to Mr. Revelstoke.
But Miss Avondale had recovered herself, and laughed. "That that
bit of paper should have been the means of getting you a situation
seems to me the more wonderful occurrence. Of course it is quite a
coincidence that there should be a child's photograph and a letter
signed 'Bobby' in the portmanteau. But"--she stopped suddenly and
fixed her dark eyes on his--"you have seen Bobby. Surely you can
say if it was his likeness?"
Randolph was embarrassed. The fact was he had always been so
absorbed in HER that he had hardly glanced at the child. He
ventured to say this, and added a little awkwardly, and coloring,
that he had seen Bobby only twice.
"And you still have this remarkable photograph and letter?" she
said, perhaps a little too carelessly.
"Yes. Would you like to see them?"
"Very much," she returned quickly; and then added, with a laugh,
"you are making me quite curious."
"If you would allow me to see you home," said Randolph, "we have to
pass the street where my room is, and," he added timidly, "I could
show them to you."
"Certainly," she replied, with sublime unconsciousness of the cause
of his hesitation; "that will be very nice?"
Randolph was happy, albeit he could not help thinking that she was
treating him like the absent Bobby.
"It's only on Commercial Street, just above Montgomery," he went
on. "We go straight up from the wharf"--he stopped short here, for
the bulk of a bystander, a roughly clad miner, was pressing him so
closely that he was obliged to resist indignantly--partly from
discomfort, and partly from a sense that the man was overhearing
him. The stranger muttered a kind of apology, and moved away.
"He seems to be perpetually in your way," said Miss Avondale,
smiling. "He was right behind you, and you nearly trod on his
toes, when you bolted out of the cabin this morning."
"Ah, then you DID see me!" said Randolph, forgetting all else in
his delight at the admission.
But Miss Avondale was not disconcerted. "Thanks to your collision,
I saw you both."
It was still raining when they disembarked at the wharf, a little
behind the other Passengers, who had crowded on the bow of the
steamboat. It was only a block or two beyond the place where
Randolph had landed that eventful night. He had to pass it now;
but with Miss Avondale clinging to his arm, with what different
feelings! The rain still fell, the day was fading, but he walked
in an enchanted dream, of which the prosaic umbrella was the mystic
tent and magic pavilion. He must needs even stop at the corner of
the wharf, and show her the exact spot where his unknown benefactor
"Coming out of the shadow like that man there," she added brightly,
pointing to a figure just emerging from the obscurity of an
overhanging warehouse. "Why, it's your friend the miner!"
Randolph looked. It was indeed the same man, who had probably
reached the wharf by a cross street.
"Let us go on, do!" said Miss Avondale, suddenly tightening her
hold of Randolph's arm in some instinctive feminine alarm. "I
don't like this place."
But Randolph, with the young girl's arm clinging to his, felt
supremely daring. Indeed, I fear he was somewhat disappointed when
the stranger peacefully turned into the junk shop at the corner and
left them to pursue their way.
They at last stopped before some business offices on a central
thoroughfare, where Randolph had a room on the third story. When
they had climbed the flight of stairs he unlocked a door and
disclosed a good-sized apartment which had been intended for an
office, but which was now neatly furnished as a study and bedroom.
Miss Avondale smiled at the singular combination.
"I should fancy," she said, "you would never feel as if you had
quite left the bank behind you." Yet, with her air of protection
and mature experience, she at once began to move one or two
articles of furniture into a more tasteful position, while
Randolph, nevertheless a little embarrassed at his audacity in
asking this goddess into his humble abode, hurriedly unlocked a
closet, brought out the portmanteau, and handed her the letter and
Woman-like, Miss Avondale looked at the picture first. If she
experienced any surprise, she repressed it. "It is LIKE Bobby,"
she said meditatively, "but he was stouter then; and he's changed
sadly since he has been in this climate. I don't wonder you didn't
recognize him. His father may have had it taken some day when they
were alone together. I didn't know of it, though I know the
photographer." She then looked at the letter, knit her pretty
brows, and with an abstracted air sat down on the edge of
Randolph's bed, crossed her little feet, and looked puzzled. But
he was unable to detect the least emotion.
"You see," she said, "the handwriting of most children who are
learning to write is very much alike, for this is the stage of
development when they 'print.' And their composition is the same:
they talk only of things that interest all children--pets, toys,
and their games. This is only ANY child's letter to ANY father. I
couldn't really say it WAS Bobby's. As to the photograph, they
have an odd way in South America of selling photographs of anybody,
principally of pretty women, by the packet, to any one who wants
them. So that it does not follow that the owner of this photograph
had any personal interest in it. Now, as to your mysterious patron
himself, can you describe him?" She looked at Randolph with a
certain feline intensity.
He became embarrassed. "You know I only saw him once, under a
street lamp"--he began.
"And I have only seen Captain Dornton--if it were he--twice in
three years," she said. "But go on."
Again Randolph was unpleasantly impressed with her cold, dryly
practical manner. He had never seen his benefactor but once, but
he could not speak of him in that way.
"I think," he went on hesitatingly, "that he had dark, pleasant
eyes, a thick beard, and the look of a sailor."
"And there were no other papers in the portmanteau?" she said, with
the same intense look.
"These are mere coincidences," said Miss Avondale, after a pause,
"and, after all, they are not as strange as the alternative. For
we would have to believe that Captain Dornton arrived here--where
he knew his son and I were living--without a word of warning, came
ashore for the purpose of going to a hotel and the bank also, and
then unaccountably changed his mind and disappeared."
The thought of the rotten wharf, his own escape, and the dead body
were all in Randolph's mind; but his reasoning was already
staggered by the girl's conclusions, and he felt that it might only
pain, without convincing her. And was he convinced himself? She
smiled at his blank face and rose. "Thank you all the same. And
now I must go."
Randolph rose also. "Would you like to take the photograph and
letter to show your cousin?"
"Yes. But I should not place much reliance on his memory."
Nevertheless, she took up the photograph and letter, and Randolph,
putting the portmanteau back in the closet, locked it, and stood
ready to accompany her.
On their way to her house they talked of other things. Randolph
learned something of her life in Callao: that she was an orphan
like himself, and had been brought from the Eastern States when a
child to live with a rich uncle in Callao who was childless; that
her aunt had died and her uncle had married again; that the second
wife had been at variance with his family, and that it was
consequently some relief to Miss Avondale to be independent as the
guardian of Bobby, whose mother was a sister of the first wife;
that her uncle had objected as strongly as a brother-in-law could
to his wife's sister's marriage with Captain Dornton on account of
his roving life and unsettled habits, and that consequently there
would be little sympathy for her or for Bobby in his mysterious
disappearance. The wind blew and the rain fell upon these
confidences, yet Randolph, walking again under that umbrella of
felicity, parted with her at her own doorstep all too soon,
although consoled with the permission to come and see her when the
He went back to his room a very hopeful, foolish, but happy youth.
As he entered he seemed to feel the charm of her presence again in
the humble apartment she had sanctified. The furniture she had
moved with her own little hands, the bed on which she had sat for a
half moment, was glorified to his youthful fancy. And even that
magic portmanteau which had brought him all this happiness, that,
too,--but he gave a sudden start. The closet door, which he had
shut as he went out, was unlocked and open, the portmanteau--his
Randolph Trent's consternation at the loss of the portmanteau was
partly superstitious. For, although it was easy to make up the
small sum taken, and the papers were safe in Miss Avondale's
possession, yet this displacement of the only link between him and
his missing benefactor, and the mystery of its disappearance,
raised all his old doubts and suspicions. A vague uneasiness, a
still more vague sense of some remissness on his own part,
That the portmanteau was taken from his room during his absence
with Miss Avondale that afternoon was evident. The door had been
opened by a skeleton key, and as the building was deserted on
Sunday, there had been no chance of interference with the thief.
If mere booty had been his object, the purse would have satisfied
him without his burdening himself with a portmanteau which might be
identified. Nothing else in the room had been disturbed. The
thief must have had some cognizance of its location, and have kept
some espionage over Randolph's movements--a circumstance which
added to the mystery and his disquiet. He placed a description of
his loss with the police authorities, but their only idea of
recovering it was by leaving that description with pawnbrokers and
second-hand dealers, a proceeding that Randolph instinctively felt
was in vain.
A singular but instinctive reluctance to inform Miss Avondale of
his loss kept him from calling upon her for the first few days.
When he did, she seemed concerned at the news, although far from
participating in his superstition or his suspicions.
"You still have the letter and photograph--whatever they may be
worth--for identification," she said dryly, "although Bobby cannot
remember about the letter. He thinks he went once with his father
to a photographer and had a picture taken, but he cannot remember
seeing it afterward." She was holding them in her hand, and
Randolph almost mechanically took them from her and put them in his
pocket. He would not, perhaps, have noticed his own brusqueness
had she not looked a little surprised, and, he thought, annoyed.
"Are you quite sure you won't lose them?" she said gently.
"Perhaps I had better keep them for you."
"I shall seal them up and put them in the bank safe," he said
quickly. He could not tell whether his sudden resolution was an
instinct or the obstinacy that often comes to an awkward man.
"But," he added, coloring, "I shall always regret the loss of the
portmanteau, for it was the means of bringing us together."
"I thought it was the umbrella," said Miss Avondale dryly.
She had once before halted him on the perilous edge of sentiment by
a similar cynicism, but this time it cut him deeply. For he could
not be blind to the fact that she treated him like a mere boy, and
in dispelling the illusions of his instincts and beliefs seemed as
if intent upon dispelling his illusions of HER; and in her half-
smiling abstraction he read only the well-bred toleration of one
who is beginning to be bored. He made his excuses early and went
home. Nevertheless, although regretting he had not left her the
letter and photograph, he deposited them in the bank safe the next
day, and tried to feel that he had vindicated his character for
Then, in his conflicting emotions, he punished himself, after the
fashion of youth, by avoiding the beloved one's presence for
several days. He did this in the belief that it would enable him
to make up his mind whether to reveal his real feelings to her, and
perhaps there was the more alluring hope that his absence might
provoke some manifestations of sentiment on her part. But she made
no sign. And then came a reaction in his feelings, with a
heightened sense of loyalty to his benefactor. For, freed of any
illusion or youthful fancy now, a purely unselfish gratitude to the
unknown man filled his heart. In the lapse of his sentiment he
clung the more closely to this one honest romance of his life.
One afternoon, at the close of business, he was a little astonished
to receive a message from Mr. Dingwall, the deputy manager, that he
wished to see him in his private office. He was still more
astonished when Mr. Dingwall, after offering him a chair, stood up
with his hands under his coat tails before the fireplace, and, with
a hesitancy half reserved, half courteous, but wholly English,
"I--er--would be glad, Mr. Trent, if you would--er--give me the
pleasure of your company at dinner to-morrow."
Randolph, still amazed, stammered his acceptance.
"There will be--er--a young lady in whom you were--er--interested
some time ago. Er--Miss Avondale."
Randolph, feeling he was coloring, and uncertain whether he should
speak of having met her since, contented himself with expressing
"In fact," continued Mr. Dingwall, clearing his throat as if he
were also clearing his conscience of a tremendous secret, "she--er--
mentioned your name. There is Sir William Dornton coming also.
Sir William has recently succeeded his elder brother, who--er--it
seems, was the gentleman you were inquiring about when you first
came here, and who, it is now ascertained, was drowned in the bay a
few months ago. In fact--er--it is probable that you were the last
one who saw him alive. I thought I would tell you," continued Mr.
Dingwall, settling his chin more comfortably in his checked cravat,
"in case Sir William should speak of him to you."
Randolph was staggered. The abrupt revelation of his benefactor's
name and fate, casually coupled with an invitation to dinner,
shocked and confounded him. Perhaps Mr. Dingwall noticed it and
misunderstood the cause, for he added in parenthetical explanation:
"Yes, the man whose portmanteau you took charge of is dead; but you
did your duty, Mr. Trent, in the matter, although the recovery of
the portmanteau was unessential to the case."
"Dead," repeated Randolph, scarcely heeding him. "But is it true?
Are they sure?"
Mr. Dingwall elevated his eyebrows. "The large property at stake
of course rendered the most satisfactory proofs of it necessary.
His father had died only a month previous, and of course they were
seeking the presumptive heir, the so-called 'Captain John Dornton'--
your man--when they made the discovery of his death."
Randolph thought of the strange body at the wharf, of the coroner's
vague verdict, and was unconvinced. "But," he said impulsively,
"there was a child." He checked himself as he remembered this was
one of Miss Avondale's confidences to him.
"Ah--Miss Avondale has spoken of a child?" said Mr. Dingwall dryly.
"I saw her with one which she said was Captain Dornton's, which had
been left in her care after the death of his wife," said Randolph
in hurried explanation.
"John Dornton had no WIFE," said Mr. Dingwall severely. "The boy
is a natural son. Captain John lived a wild, rough, and--er--an
"I thought--I understood from Miss Avondale that he was married,"
stammered the young man.
"In your rather slight acquaintance with that young lady I should
imagine she would have had some delicacy in telling you otherwise,"
returned Mr. Dingwall primly.
Randolph felt the truth of this, and was momentarily embarrassed.
Yet he lingered.
"Has Miss Avondale known of this discovery long?" he asked.
"About two weeks, I should say," returned Mr. Dingwall. "She was
of some service to Sir William in getting up certain proofs he
It was three weeks since she had seen Randolph, yet it would have
been easy for her to communicate the news to him. In these three
weeks his romance of their common interest in his benefactor--even
his own dream of ever seeing him again--had been utterly dispelled.
It was in no social humor that he reached Dingwall's house the next
evening. Yet he knew the difficulty of taking an aggressive
attitude toward his previous idol or of inviting a full explanation
from her then.
The guests, with the exception of himself and Miss Avondale, were
all English. She, self-possessed and charming in evening dress,
nodded to him with her usual mature patronage, but did not evince
the least desire to seek him for any confidential aside. He
noticed the undoubted resemblance of Sir William Dornton to his
missing benefactor, and yet it produced a singular repulsion in
him, rather than any sympathetic predilection. At table he found
that Miss Avondale was separated from him, being seated beside the
distinguished guest, while he was placed next to the young lady he
had taken down--a Miss Eversleigh, the cousin of Sir William. She
was tall, and Randolph's first impression of her was that she was
stiff and constrained--an impression he quickly corrected at the
sound of her voice, her frank ingenuousness, and her unmistakable
youth. In the habit of being crushed by Miss Avondale's
unrelenting superiority, he found himself apparently growing up
beside this tall English girl, who had the naivete of a child.
After a few commonplaces she suddenly turned her gray eyes on his,
"Didn't you like Jack? I hope you did. Oh, say you did--do!"
"You mean Captain John Dornton?" said Randolph, a little confused.
"Yes, of course; HIS brother"--glancing toward Sir William. "We
always called him Jack, though I was ever so little when he went
away. No one thought of calling him anything else but Jack. Say
you liked him!"
"I certainly did," returned Randolph impulsively. Then checking
himself, he added, "I only saw him once, but I liked his face and
manner--and--he was very kind to me."
"Of course he was," said the young girl quickly. "That was only
like him, and yet"--lowering her voice slightly--"would you believe
that they all say he was wild and wicked and dissipated? And why?
Fancy! Just because he didn't care to stay at home and shoot and
hunt and race and make debts, as heirs usually do. No, he wanted
to see the world and do something for himself. Why, when he was
quite young, he could manage a boat like any sailor. Dornton Hall,
their place, is on the coast, you know, and they say that, just for
adventure's sake, after he went away, he shipped as first mate
somewhere over here on the Pacific, and made two or three voyages.
You know--don't you?--and how every one was shocked at such conduct
in the heir."
Her face was so girlishly animated, with such sparkle of eye and
responsive color, that he could hardly reconcile it with her first
restraint or with his accepted traditions of her unemotional race,
or, indeed, with her relationship to the principal guest. His
latent feeling of gratitude to the dead man warmed under the young
"It's so dreadful to think of him as drowned, you know, though even
that they put against him," she went on hurriedly, "for they say he
was probably drowned in some drunken fit--fell through the wharf or
something shocking and awful--worse than suicide. But"--she turned
her frank young eyes upon him again--"YOU saw him on the wharf that
night, and you could tell how he looked."
"He was as sober as I was," returned Randolph indignantly, as he
recalled the incident of the flask and the dead man's caution.
From recalling it to repeating it followed naturally, and he
presently related the whole story of his meeting with Captain
Dornton to the brightly interested eyes beside him. When he had
finished, she leaned toward him in girlish confidence, and said:--
"Yes; but EVEN THAT they tell to show how intoxicated be must have
been to have given up his portmanteau to an utter stranger like
you." She stopped, colored, and yet, reflecting his own half
smile, she added: "You know what I mean. For they all agree how
nice it was of you not to take any advantage of his condition, and
Dingwall said your honesty and faithfulness struck Revelstoke so
much that he made a place for you at the bank. Now I think," she
continued, with delightful naivete, "it was a proof of poor Jack's
BEING PERFECTLY SOBER, that he knew whom he was trusting, and saw
just what you were, at once. There! But I suppose you must not
talk to me any longer, but must make yourself agreeable to some one
else. But it was very nice of you to tell me all this. I wish you
knew my guardian. You'd like him. Do you ever go to England? Do
come and see us."
These confidences had not been observed by the others, and Miss
Avondale appeared to confine her attentions to Sir William, who
seemed to be equally absorbed, except that once he lifted his eyes
toward Randolph, as if in answer to some remark from her. It
struck Randolph that he was the subject of their conversation, and
this did not tend to allay the irritation of a mind already wounded
by the contrast of HER lack of sympathy for the dead man who had
befriended and trusted her to the simple faith of the girl beside
him, who was still loyal to a mere childish recollection.
After the ladies had rustled away, Sir William moved his seat
beside Randolph. His manner seemed to combine Mr. Dingwall's
restraint with a certain assumption of the man of the world, more
notable for its frankness than its tactfulness.
"Sad business this of my brother's, eh," he said, lighting a cigar;
"any way you take it, eh? You saw him last, eh?" The
interrogating word, however, seemed to be only an exclamation of
habit, for he seldom waited for an answer.
"I really don't know," said Randolph, "as I saw him only ONCE, and
he left me on the wharf. I know no more where he went to then than
where he came from before. Of course you must know all the rest,
and how he came to be drowned."
"Yes; it really did not matter much. The whole question was
identification and proof of death, you know. Beastly job, eh?"
"Was that his body YOU were helping to get ashore at the wharf one
Sunday?" asked Randolph bluntly, now fully recognizing the likeness
that had puzzled him in Sir William. "I didn't see any
"Precious few would. I didn't--though it's true I hadn't seen him
for eight years. Poor old chap been knocked about so he hadn't a
feature left, eh? But his shipmate knew him, and there were his
traps on the ship."
Then, for the first time, Randolph heard the grim and sordid
details of John Dornton's mysterious disappearance. He had arrived
the morning before that eventful day on an Australian bark as the
principal passenger. The vessel itself had an evil repute, and was
believed to have slipped from the hands of the police at Melbourne.
John Dornton had evidently amassed a considerable fortune in
Australia, although an examination of his papers and effects showed
it to be in drafts and letters of credit and shares, and that he
had no ready money--a fact borne out by the testimony of his
shipmates. The night he arrived was spent in an orgy on board
ship, which he did not leave until the early evening of the next
day, although, after his erratic fashion, he had ordered a room at
a hotel. That evening he took ashore a portmanteau, evidently
intending to pass the night at his hotel. He was never seen again,
although some of the sailors declared that they had seen him on the
wharf WITHOUT THE PORTMANTEAU, and they had drunk together at a low
grog shop on the street corner. He had evidently fallen through
some hole in the wharf. As he was seen only with the sailors, who
also knew he had no ready money on his person, there was no
suspicion of foul play.
"For all that, don't you know," continued Sir William, with a
forced laugh, which struck Randolph as not only discordant, but as
having an insolent significance, "it might have been a deuced bad
business for YOU, eh? Last man who was with him, eh? In
possession of his portmanteau, eh? Wearing his clothes, eh?
Awfully clever of you to go straight to the bank with it. 'Pon my
word, my legal man wanted to pounce down on you as 'accessory'
until I and Dingwall called him off. But it's all right now."
Randolph's antagonism to the man increased. "The investigation
seems to have been peculiar," he said dryly, "for, if I remember
rightly, at the coroner's inquest on the body I saw you with, the
verdict returned was of the death of an UNKNOWN man."
"Yes; we hadn't clear proof of identity then," he returned coolly,
"but we had a reexamination of the body before witnesses afterward,
and a verdict according to the facts. That was kept out of the
papers in deference to the feelings of the family and friends. I
fancy you wouldn't have liked to be cross-examined before a stupid
jury about what you were doing with Jack's portmanteau, even if WE
were satisfied with it."
"I should have been glad to testify to the kindness of your
brother, at any risk," returned Randolph stoutly. "You have heard
that the portmanteau was stolen from me, but the amount of money it
contained has been placed in Mr. Dingwall's hands for disposal."
"Its contents were known, and all that's been settled," returned
Sir William, rising. "But," he continued, with his forced laugh,
which to Randolph's fancy masked a certain threatening significance,
"I say, it would have been a beastly business, don't you know, if
you HAD been called upon to produce it again--ha, ha!--eh?"
Returning to the dining room, Randolph found Miss Avondale alone on
a corner of the sofa. She swept her skirts aside as he approached,
as an invitation for him to sit beside her. Still sore from his
experience, he accepted only in the hope that she was about to
confide to him her opinion of this strange story. But, to his
chagrin, she looked at him over her fan with a mischievous
tolerance. "You seemed more interested in the cousin than the
brother of your patron."
Once Randolph might have been flattered at this. But her speech
seemed to him only an echo of the general heartlessness. "I found
Miss Eversleigh very sympathetic over the fate of the unfortunate
man, whom nobody else here seems to care for," said Randolph
"Yes," returned Miss Avondale composedly; "I believe she was a
great friend of Captain Dornton when she was quite a child, and I
don't think she can expect much from Sir William, who is very
different from his brother. In fact, she was one of the relatives
who came over here in quest of the captain, when it was believed he
was living and the heir. He was quite a patron of hers."
"But was he not also one of yours?" said Randolph bluntly.
"I think I told you I was the friend of the boy and of poor
Paquita, the boy's mother," said Miss Avondale quietly. "I never
saw Captain Dornton but twice."
Randolph noticed that she had not said "wife," although in her
previous confidences she had so described the mother. But, as
Dingwall had said, why should she have exposed the boy's
illegitimacy to a comparative stranger; and if she herself had been
deceived about it, why should he expect her to tell him? And yet--
he was not satisfied.
He was startled by a little laugh. "Well, I declare, you look as
if you resented the fact that your benefactor had turned out to be
a baronet--just as in some novel--and that you have rendered a
service to the English aristocracy. If you are thinking of poor
Bobby," she continued, without the slightest show of self-
consciousness, "Sir William will provide for him, and thinks of
taking him to England to restore his health. Now"--with her
smiling, tolerant superiority--"you must go and talk to Miss
Eversleigh. I see her looking this way, and I don't think she half
likes me as it is."
Randolph, who, however, also saw that Sir William was lounging
toward them, here rose formally, as if permitting the latter to
take the vacated seat. This partly imposed on him the necessity of
seeking Miss Eversleigh, who, having withdrawn to the other end of
the room, was turning over the leaves of an album. As Randolph
joined her, she said, without looking up, "Is Miss Avondale a
friend of yours?"
The question was so pertinent to his reflections at the moment that
he answered impulsively, "I really don't know."
"Yes, that's the answer, I think, most of her acquaintances would
give, if they were asked the same question and replied honestly,"
said the young girl, as if musing.
"Even Sir William?" suggested Randolph, half smiling, yet wondering
at her unlooked-for serious shrewdness as he glanced toward the
"Yes; but HE wouldn't care. You see, there would be a pair of
them." She stopped with a slight blush, as if she had gone too
far, but corrected herself in her former youthful frankness: "You
don't mind my saying what I did of her? You're not such a
"We both owe a debt of gratitude to your cousin Jack," said
Randolph, in some embarrassment.
"Yes, but YOU feel it and she doesn't. So that doesn't make you
"But she has taken good care of Captain Dornton's child," suggested
He stopped, however, feeling that he was on dangerous ground. But
Miss Eversleigh put her own construction on his reticence, and
"I don't think she cares for it much--or for ANY children."
Randolph remembered his own impression the only time he had ever
seen her with the child, and was struck with the young girl's
instinct again coinciding with his own. But, possibly because he
knew he could never again feel toward Miss Avondale as he had, he
was the more anxious to be just, and he was about to utter a
protest against this general assumption, when the voice of Sir
William broke in upon them. He was taking his leave--and the
opportunity of accompanying Miss Avondale to her lodgings on the
way to his hotel. He lingered a moment over his handshaking with
"Awfully glad to have met you, and I fancy you're awfully glad to
get rid of what they call your 'trust.' Must have given you a
beastly lot of bother, eh--might have given you more?"
He nodded familiarly to Miss Eversleigh, and turned away with Miss
Avondale, who waved her usual smiling patronage to Randolph, even
including his companion in that half-amused, half-superior
salutation. Perhaps it was this that put a sudden hauteur into the
young girl's expression as she stared at Miss Avondale's departing
"If you ever come to England, Mr. Trent," she said, with a pretty
dignity in her youthful face, "I hope you will find some people not
quite so rude as my cousin and"--
"Miss Avondale, you would say," returned Randolph quietly. "As to
HER, I am quite accustomed to her maturer superiority, which, I am
afraid, is the effect of my own youth and inexperience; and I
believe that, in course of time, your cousin's brusqueness might be
as easily understood by me. I dare say," he added, with a laugh,
"that I must seem to them a very romantic visionary with my
'trust,' and the foolish importance I have put upon a very trivial
"I don't think so," said the girl quickly, "and I consider Bill
very rude, and," she added, with a return of her boyish frankness,
"I shall tell him so. As for Miss Avondale, she's AT LEAST thirty,
I understand; perhaps she can't help showing it in that way, too."
But here Randolph, to evade further personal allusions, continued
laughingly: "And as I've LOST my 'trust,' I haven't even that to
show in defense. Indeed, when you all are gone I shall have
nothing to remind me of my kind benefactor. It will seem like a
Miss Eversleigh was silent for a moment, and then glanced quickly
around her. The rest of the company were their elders, and,
engaged in conversation at the other end of the apartment, had
evidently left the young people to themselves.
"Wait a moment," she said, with a youthful air of mystery and
earnestness. Randolph saw that she had slipped an Indian bracelet,
profusely hung with small trinkets, from her arm to her wrist, and
was evidently selecting one. It proved to be a child's tiny ring
with a small pearl setting. "This was given to me by Cousin Jack,"
said Miss Eversleigh in a low voice, "when I was a child, at some
frolic or festival, and I have kept it ever since. I brought it
with me when we came here as a kind of memento to show him. You
know that is impossible now. You say you have nothing of his to
keep. Will you accept this? I know he would be glad to know you
had it. You could wear it on your watch chain. Don't say no, but
Protesting, yet filled with a strange joy and pride, Randolph took
it from the young girl's hand. The little color which had deepened
on her cheek cleared away as he thanked her gratefully, and with a
quiet dignity she arose and moved toward the others. Randolph did
not linger long after this, and presently took his leave of his
host and hostess.
It seemed to him that he walked home that night in the whirling
clouds of his dispelled dream. The airy structure he had built up
for the last three months had collapsed. The enchanted canopy
under which he had stood with Miss Avondale was folded forever.
The romance he had evolved from his strange fortune had come to an
end, not prosaically, as such romances are apt to do, but with a
dramatic termination which, however, was equally fatal to his
hopes. At any other time he might have projected the wildest hopes
from the fancy that he and Miss Avondale were orphaned of a common
benefactor; but it was plain that her interests were apart from
his. And there was an indefinable something he did not understand,
and did not want to understand, in the story she had told him. How
much of it she had withheld, not so much from delicacy or contempt
for his understanding as a desire to mislead him, he did not know.
His faith in her had gone with his romance. It was not strange
that the young English girl's unsophisticated frankness and simple
confidences lingered longest in his memory, and that when, a few
days later, Mr. Dingwall informed him that Miss Avondale had sailed
for England with the Dornton family, he was more conscious of a
loss in the stranger girl's departure.
"I suppose Miss Avondale takes charge of--of the boy, sir?" he said
Mr. Dingwall gave him a quick glance. "Possibly. Sir William has
behaved with great--er--consideration," he replied briefly.
Randolph's nature was too hopeful and recuperative to allow him to
linger idly in the past. He threw himself into his work at the
bank with his old earnestness and a certain simple
conscientiousness which, while it often provoked the raillery of
his fellow clerks, did not escape the eyes of his employers. He
was advanced step by step, and by the end of the year was put in
charge of the correspondence with banks and agencies. He had saved
some money, and had made one or two profitable investments. He was
enabled to take better apartments in the same building he had
occupied. He had few of the temptations of youth. His fear of
poverty and his natural taste kept him from the speculative and
material excesses of the period. A distrust of his romantic
weakness kept him from society and meaner entanglements which might
have beset his good looks and good nature. He worked in his rooms
at night and forbore his old evening rambles.
As the year wore on to the anniversary of his arrival, he thought
much of the dead man who had inspired his fortunes, and with it a
sense of his old doubts and suspicions revived. His reason had
obliged him to accept the loss of the fateful portmanteau as an
ordinary theft; his instinct remained unconvinced. There was no
superstition connected with his loss. His own prosperity had not
been impaired by it. On the contrary, he reflected bitterly that
the dead man had apparently died only to benefit others. At such
times he recalled, with a pleasure that he knew might become
perilous, the tall English girl who had defended Dornton's memory
and echoed his own sympathy. But that was all over now.
One stormy night, not unlike that eventful one of his past
experience, Randolph sought his rooms in the teeth of a southwest
gale. As he buffeted his way along the rain-washed pavement of
Montgomery Street, it was not strange that his thoughts reverted to
that night and the memory of his dead protector. But reaching his
apartment, he sternly banished them with the vanished romance they
revived, and lighting his lamp, laid out his papers in the prospect
of an evening of uninterrupted work. He was surprised, however,
after a little interval, by the sound of uncertain and shuffling
steps on the half-lighted passage outside, the noise of some heavy
article set down on the floor, and then a tentative knock at his
door. A little impatiently he called, "Come in."
The door opened slowly, and out of the half obscurity of the
passage a thickset figure lurched toward him into the full light of
the room. Randolph half rose, and then sank back into his chair,
awed, spellbound, and motionless. He saw the figure standing
plainly before him; he saw distinctly the familiar furniture of his
room, the storm-twinkling lights in the windows opposite, the flash
of passing carriage lamps in the street below. But the figure
before him was none other than the dead man of whom he had just
The figure looked at him intently, and then burst into a fit of
unmistakable laughter. It was neither loud nor unpleasant, and yet
it provoked a disagreeable recollection. Nevertheless, it
dissipated Randolph's superstitious tremor, for he had never before
heard of a ghost who laughed heartily.
"You don't remember me," said the man. "Belay there, and I'll
freshen your memory." He stepped back to the door, opened it, put
his arm out into the hall, and brought in a portmanteau, closed the
door, and appeared before Randolph again with the portmanteau in
his hand. It was the one that had been stolen. "There!" he said.
"Captain Dornton," murmured Randolph.
The man laughed again and flung down the portmanteau. "You've got
my name pat enough, lad, I see; but I reckoned you'd have spotted
ME without that portmanteau."
"I see you've got it back," stammered Randolph in his embarrassment.
"It was--stolen from me."
Captain Dornton laughed again, dropped into a chair, rubbed his
hands on his knees, and turned his face toward Randolph. "Yes; I
stole it--or had it stolen--the same thing, for I'm responsible."
"But I would have given it up to YOU at once," said Randolph
reproachfully, clinging to the only idea he could understand in his
utter bewilderment. "I have religiously and faithfully kept it for
you, with all its contents, ever since--you disappeared."
"I know it, lad," said Captain Dornton, rising, and extending a
brown, weather-beaten hand which closed heartily on the young
man's; "no need to say that. And you've kept it even better than
you know. Look here!"
He lifted the portmanteau to his lap and disclosed BEHIND the usual
small pouch or pocket in the lid a slit in the lining. "Between
the lining and the outer leather," he went on grimly, "I had two or
three bank notes that came to about a thousand dollars, and some
papers, lad, that, reckoning by and large, might be worth to me a
million. When I got that portmanteau back they were all there,
gummed in, just as I had left them. I didn't show up and come for
them myself, for I was lying low at the time, and--no offense, lad--
I didn't know how you stood with a party who was no particular
friend of mine. An old shipmate whom I set to watch that party
quite accidentally run across your bows in the ferry boat, and
heard enough to make him follow in your wake here, where he got the
portmanteau. It's all right," he said, with a laugh, waving aside
with his brown hand Randolph's protesting gesture. "The old bag's
only got back to its rightful owner. It mayn't have been got in
shipshape 'Frisco style, but when a man's life is at stake, at
least, when it's a question of his being considered dead or alive,
he's got to take things as he finds 'em, and I found 'em d--- bad."
In a flash of recollection Randolph remembered the obtruding miner
on the ferry boat, the same figure on the wharf corner, and the
advantage taken of his absence with Miss Avondale. And Miss
Avondale was the "party" this man's shipmate was watching! He felt