Part 2 out of 4
How long she lay there she never knew. She was at last conscious
of some one bending over her, and a voice--the voice of Mr. Brooks--
in her ear, saying, "I beg your pardon; you seem ill. Shall I
call some one?"
"No!" she gasped, quickly recovering herself with an effort, and
staring round her. "Where is--when did you come in?"
"Only this moment. I was leaving tonight, sooner than I expected,
and thought I'd say good-by. They told me that you had been
engaged with a stranger, but he had just gone. I beg your pardon--
I see you are ill. I won't detain you any longer."
"No! no! don't go! I am better--better," she said feverishly. As
she glanced at his strong and sympathetic face a wild idea seized
her. He was a stranger here, an alien to these people, like
herself. The advice that she dare not seek from others, from her
half-estranged religious friends, from even her superintendent and
his wife, dare she ask from him? Perhaps he saw this frightened
doubt, this imploring appeal, in her eyes, for he said gently, "Is
it anything I can do for you?"
"Yes," she said, with the sudden desperation of weakness; "I want
you to keep a secret."
"Yours?--yes!" he said promptly.
Whereat poor Mrs. Wade instantly burst into tears. Then, amidst
her sobs, she told him of the stranger's visit, of his terrible
accusations, of his demands, his expected return, and her own utter
helplessness. To her terror, as she went on she saw a singular
change in his kind face; he was following her with hard, eager
intensity. She had half hoped, even through her fateful instincts,
that he might have laughed, manlike, at her fears, or pooh-poohed
the whole thing. But he did not. "You say he positively recognized
your husband?" he repeated quickly.
"Yes, yes!" sobbed the widow, "and knew that daguerreotype!" she
pointed to the desk.
Brooks turned quickly in that direction. Luckily his back was
towards her, and she could not see his face, and the quick,
startled look that came into his eyes. But when they again met
hers, it was gone, and even their eager intensity had changed to a
gentle commiseration. "You have only his word for it, Mrs. Wade,"
he said gently, "and in telling your secret to another, you have
shorn the rascal of half his power over you. And he knew it. Now,
dismiss the matter from your mind and leave it all to me. I will
be here a few minutes before nine--AND ALONE IN THIS ROOM. Let
your visitor be shown in here, and don't let us be disturbed.
Don't be alarmed," he added with a faint twinkle in his eye, "there
will be no fuss and no exposure!"
It lacked a few minutes of nine when Mr. Brooks was ushered into
the sitting-room. As soon as he was alone he quietly examined the
door and the windows, and having satisfied himself, took his seat
in a chair casually placed behind the door. Presently he heard the
sound of voices and a heavy footstep in the passage. He lightly
felt his waistcoat pocket--it contained a pretty little weapon of
power and precision, with a barrel scarcely two inches long.
The door opened, and the person outside entered the room. In an
instant Brooks had shut the door and locked it behind him. The man
turned fiercely, but was faced by Brooks quietly, with one finger
calmly hooked in his waistcoat pocket. The man slightly recoiled
from him--not as much from fear as from some vague stupefaction.
"What's that for? What's your little game?" he said half
"No game at all," returned Brooks coolly. "You came here to sell a
secret. I don't propose to have it given away first to any
"YOU don't--who are YOU?"
"That's a queer question to ask of the man you are trying to
personate--but I don't wonder! You're doing it d----d badly."
"Personate--YOU?" said the stranger, with staring eyes.
"Yes, ME," said Brooks quietly. "I am the only man who escaped
from the robbery that night at Heavy Tree Hill and who went home by
the Overland Coach."
The stranger stared, but recovered himself with a coarse laugh.
"Oh, well! we're on the same lay, it appears! Both after the
widow--afore we show up her husband."
"Not exactly," said Brooks, with his eyes fixed intently on the
stranger. "You are here to denounce a highwayman who is DEAD and
escaped justice. I am here to denounce one who is LIVING!--Stop!
drop your hand; it's no use. You thought you had to deal only with
a woman to-night, and your revolver isn't quite handy enough.
There! down!--down! So! That'll do."
"You can't prove it," said the man hoarsely.
"Fool! In your story to that woman you have given yourself away.
There were but two travelers attacked by the highwaymen. One was
killed--I am the other. Where do YOU come in? What witness can
you be--except as the highwayman that you are? Who is left to
identify Wade but--his accomplice!"
The man's suddenly whitened face made his unshaven beard seem to
bristle over his face like some wild animal's. "Well, ef you
kalkilate to blow me, you've got to blow Wade and his widder too.
Jest you remember that," he said whiningly.
"I've thought of that," said Brooks coolly, "and I calculate that
to prevent it is worth about that hundred dollars you got from that
poor woman--and no more! Now, sit down at that table, and write as
The man looked at him in wonder, but obeyed.
"Write," said Brooks, "'I hereby certify that my accusations
against the late Pulaski Wade of Heavy Tree Hill are erroneous and
groundless, and the result of mistaken identity, especially in
regard to any complicity of his in the robbery of John Stubbs,
deceased, and Henry Brooks, at Heavy Tree Hill, on the night of the
13th August, 1854.'"
The man looked up with a repulsive smile. "Who's the fool now,
Cap'n? What's become of your hold on the widder, now?"
"Write!" said Brooks fiercely.
The sound of a pen hurriedly scratching paper followed this first
outburst of the quiet Brooks.
"Sign it," said Brooks.
The man signed it.
"Now go," said Brooks, unlocking the door, "but remember, if you
should ever be inclined to revisit Santa Ana, you will find ME
living here also."
The man slunk out of the door and into the passage like a wild
animal returning to the night and darkness. Brooks took up the
paper, rejoined Mrs. Wade in the parlor, and laid it before her.
"But," said the widow, trembling even in her joy, "do you--do you
think he was REALLY mistaken?"
"Positive," said Brooks coolly. "It's true, it's a mistake that
has cost you a hundred dollars, but there are some mistakes that
are worth that to be kept quiet."
. . . . . .
They were married a year later; but there is no record that in
after years of conjugal relations with a weak, charming, but
sometimes trying woman, Henry Brooks was ever tempted to tell her
the whole truth of the robbery of Heavy Tree Hill.
THE MERMAID OF LIGHTHOUSE POINT
Some forty years ago, on the northern coast of California, near the
Golden Gate, stood a lighthouse. Of a primitive class, since
superseded by a building more in keeping with the growing magnitude
of the adjacent port, it attracted little attention from the
desolate shore, and, it was alleged, still less from the desolate
sea beyond. A gray structure of timber, stone, and glass, it was
buffeted and harried by the constant trade winds, baked by the
unclouded six months' sun, lost for a few hours in the afternoon
sea-fog, and laughed over by circling guillemots from the Farallones.
It was kept by a recluse--a preoccupied man of scientific tastes,
who, in shameless contrast to his fellow immigrants, had applied to
the government for this scarcely lucrative position as a means of
securing the seclusion he valued more than gold. Some believed that
he was the victim of an early disappointment in love--a view
charitably taken by those who also believed that the government
would not have appointed "a crank" to a position of responsibility.
Howbeit, he fulfilled his duties, and, with the assistance of an
Indian, even cultivated a small patch of ground beside the
lighthouse. His isolation was complete! There was little to attract
wanderers here: the nearest mines were fifty miles away; the virgin
forest on the mountains inland were penetrated only by sawmills and
woodmen from the Bay settlements, equally remote. Although by the
shore-line the lights of the great port were sometimes plainly
visible, yet the solitude around him was peopled only by Indians,--a
branch of the great northern tribe of "root-diggers,"--peaceful and
simple in their habits, as yet undisturbed by the white man, nor
stirred into antagonism by aggression. Civilization only touched
him at stated intervals, and then by the more expeditious sea from
the government boat that brought him supplies. But for his
contiguity to the perpetual turmoil of wind and sea, he might have
passed a restful Arcadian life in his surroundings; for even his
solitude was sometimes haunted by this faint reminder of the great
port hard by that pulsated with an equal unrest. Nevertheless, the
sands before his door and the rocks behind him seemed to have been
untrodden by any other white man's foot since their upheaval from
the ocean. It was true that the little bay beside him was marked on
the map as "Sir Francis Drake's Bay," tradition having located it as
the spot where that ingenious pirate and empire-maker had once
landed his vessels and scraped the barnacles from his adventurous
keels. But of this Edgar Pomfrey--or "Captain Pomfrey," as he was
called by virtue of his half-nautical office--had thought little.
For the first six months he had thoroughly enjoyed his seclusion.
In the company of his books, of which he had brought such a fair
store that their shelves lined his snug corners to the exclusion of
more comfortable furniture, he found his principal recreation.
Even his unwonted manual labor, the trimming of his lamp and
cleaning of his reflectors, and his personal housekeeping, in which
his Indian help at times assisted, he found a novel and interesting
occupation. For outdoor exercise, a ramble on the sands, a climb
to the rocky upland, or a pull in the lighthouse boat, amply
sufficed him. "Crank" as he was supposed to be, he was sane enough
to guard against any of those early lapses into barbarism which
marked the lives of some solitary gold-miners. His own taste, as
well as the duty of his office, kept his person and habitation
sweet and clean, and his habits regular. Even the little
cultivated patch of ground on the lee side of the tower was
symmetrical and well ordered. Thus the outward light of Captain
Pomfrey shone forth over the wilderness of shore and wave, even
like his beacon, whatever his inward illumination may have been.
It was a bright summer morning, remarkable even in the monotonous
excellence of the season, with a slight touch of warmth which the
invincible Northwest Trades had not yet chilled. There was still a
faint haze off the coast, as if last night's fog had been caught in
the quick sunshine, and the shining sands were hot, but without the
usual dazzling glare. A faint perfume from a quaint lilac-colored
beach-flower, whose clustering heads dotted the sand like bits of
blown spume, took the place of that smell of the sea which the
odorless Pacific lacked. A few rocks, half a mile away, lifted
themselves above the ebb tide at varying heights as they lay on the
trough of the swell, were crested with foam by a striking surge, or
cleanly erased in the full sweep of the sea. Beside, and partly
upon one of the higher rocks, a singular object was moving.
Pomfrey was interested but not startled. He had once or twice seen
seals disporting on these rocks, and on one occasion a sea-lion,--
an estray from the familiar rocks on the other side of the Golden
Gate. But he ceased work in his garden patch, and coming to his
house, exchanged his hoe for a telescope. When he got the mystery
in focus he suddenly stopped and rubbed the object-glass with his
handkerchief. But even when he applied the glass to his eye for a
second time, he could scarcely believe his eyesight. For the
object seemed to be a WOMAN, the lower part of her figure submerged
in the sea, her long hair depending over her shoulders and waist.
There was nothing in her attitude to suggest terror or that she was
the victim of some accident. She moved slowly and complacently
with the sea, and even--a more staggering suggestion--appeared to
be combing out the strands of her long hair with her fingers. With
her body half concealed she might have been a mermaid!
He swept the foreshore and horizon with his glass; there was
neither boat nor ship--nor anything that moved, except the long
swell of the Pacific. She could have come only from the sea; for
to reach the rocks by land she would have had to pass before the
lighthouse, while the narrow strip of shore which curved northward
beyond his range of view he knew was inhabited only by Indians.
But the woman was unhesitatingly and appallingly WHITE, and her
hair light even to a golden gleam in the sunshine.
Pomfrey was a gentleman, and as such was amazed, dismayed, and
cruelly embarrassed. If she was a simple bather from some vicinity
hitherto unknown and unsuspected by him, it was clearly his
business to shut up his glass and go back to his garden patch--
although the propinquity of himself and the lighthouse must have
been as plainly visible to her as she was to him. On the other
hand, if she was the survivor of some wreck and in distress--or, as
he even fancied from her reckless manner, bereft of her senses, his
duty to rescue her was equally clear. In his dilemma he determined
upon a compromise and ran to his boat. He would pull out to sea,
pass between the rocks and the curving sand-spit, and examine the
sands and sea more closely for signs of wreckage, or some
overlooked waiting boat near the shore. He would be within hail if
she needed him, or she could escape to her boat if she had one.
In another moment his boat was lifting on the swell towards the
rocks. He pulled quickly, occasionally turning to note that the
strange figure, whose movements were quite discernible to the naked
eye, was still there, but gazing more earnestly towards the nearest
shore for any sign of life or occupation. In ten minutes he had
reached the curve where the trend opened northward, and the long
line of shore stretched before him. He swept it eagerly with a
single searching glance. Sea and shore were empty. He turned
quickly to the rock, scarcely a hundred yards on his beam. It was
empty too! Forgetting his previous scruples, he pulled directly
for it until his keel grated on its submerged base. There was
nothing there but the rock, slippery with the yellow-green slime of
seaweed and kelp--neither trace nor sign of the figure that had
occupied it a moment ago. He pulled around it; there was no cleft
or hiding-place. For an instant his heart leaped at the sight of
something white, caught in a jagged tooth of the outlying reef, but
it was only the bleached fragment of a bamboo orange-crate, cast
from the deck of some South Sea trader, such as often strewed the
beach. He lay off the rock, keeping way in the swell, and
scrutinizing the glittering sea. At last he pulled back to the
lighthouse, perplexed and discomfited.
Was it simply a sporting seal, transformed by some trick of his
vision? But he had seen it through his glass, and now remembered
such details as the face and features framed in their contour of
golden hair, and believed he could even have identified them. He
examined the rock again with his glass, and was surprised to see
how clearly it was outlined now in its barren loneliness. Yet he
must have been mistaken. His scientific and accurate mind allowed
of no errant fancy, and he had always sneered at the marvelous as
the result of hasty or superficial observation. He was a little
worried at this lapse of his healthy accuracy,--fearing that it
might be the result of his seclusion and loneliness,--akin to the
visions of the recluse and solitary. It was strange, too, that it
should take the shape of a woman; for Edgar Pomfrey had a story--
the usual old and foolish one.
Then his thoughts took a lighter phase, and he turned to the memory
of his books, and finally to the books themselves. From a shelf he
picked out a volume of old voyages, and turned to a remembered
passage: "In other seas doe abound marvells soche as Sea Spyders of
the bigness of a pinnace, the wich they have been known to attack
and destroy; Sea Vypers which reach to the top of a goodly maste,
whereby they are able to draw marinners from the rigging by the
suction of their breathes; and Devill Fyshe, which vomit fire by
night which makyth the sea to shine prodigiously, and mermaydes.
They are half fyshe and half mayde of grate Beauty, and have been
seen of divers godly and creditable witnesses swymming beside
rocks, hidden to their waist in the sea, combing of their hayres,
to the help of whych they carry a small mirrore of the bigness of
their fingers." Pomfrey laid the book aside with a faint smile.
To even this credulity he might come!
Nevertheless, he used the telescope again that day. But there was
no repetition of the incident, and he was forced to believe that he
had been the victim of some extraordinary illusion. The next
morning, however, with his calmer judgment doubts began to visit
him. There was no one of whom he could make inquiries but his
Indian helper, and their conversation had usually been restricted
to the language of signs or the use of a few words he had picked
up. He contrived, however, to ask if there was a "waugee" (white)
woman in the neighborhood. The Indian shook his head in surprise.
There was no "waugee" nearer than the remote mountain-ridge to
which he pointed. Pomfrey was obliged to be content with this.
Even had his vocabulary been larger, he would as soon have thought
of revealing the embarrassing secret of this woman, whom he
believed to be of his own race, to a mere barbarian as he would of
asking him to verify his own impressions by allowing him to look at
her that morning. The next day, however, something happened which
forced him to resume his inquiries. He was rowing around the
curving spot when he saw a number of black objects on the northern
sands moving in and out of the surf, which he presently made out as
Indians. A nearer approach satisfied him that they were wading
squaws and children gathering seaweed and shells. He would have
pushed his acquaintance still nearer, but as his boat rounded the
point, with one accord they all scuttled away like frightened
sandpipers. Pomfrey, on his return, asked his Indian retainer if
they could swim. "Oh, yes!" "As far as the rock?" "Yes." Yet
Pomfrey was not satisfied. The color of his strange apparition
remained unaccounted for, and it was not that of an Indian woman.
Trifling events linger long in a monotonous existence, and it was
nearly a week before Pomfrey gave up his daily telescopic inspection
of the rock. Then he fell back upon his books again, and, oddly
enough, upon another volume of voyages, and so chanced upon the
account of Sir Francis Drake's occupation of the bay before him. He
had always thought it strange that the great adventurer had left no
trace or sign of his sojourn there; still stranger that he should
have overlooked the presence of gold, known even to the Indians
themselves, and have lost a discovery far beyond his wildest dreams
and a treasure to which the cargoes of those Philippine galleons he
had more or less successfully intercepted were trifles. Had the
restless explorer been content to pace those dreary sands during
three weeks of inactivity, with no thought of penetrating the inland
forests behind the range, or of even entering the nobler bay beyond?
Or was the location of the spot a mere tradition as wild and
unsupported as the "marvells" of the other volume? Pomfrey had the
skepticism of the scientific, inquiring mind.
Two weeks had passed and he was returning from a long climb inland,
when he stopped to rest in his descent to the sea. The panorama of
the shore was before him, from its uttermost limit to the
lighthouse on the northern point. The sun was still one hour high,
it would take him about that time to reach home. But from this
coign of vantage he could see--what he had not before observed--
that what he had always believed was a little cove on the northern
shore was really the estuary of a small stream which rose near him
and eventually descended into the ocean at that point. He could
also see that beside it was a long low erection of some kind,
covered with thatched brush, which looked like a "barrow," yet
showed signs of habitation in the slight smoke that rose from it
and drifted inland. It was not far out of his way, and he resolved
to return in that direction. On his way down he once or twice
heard the barking of an Indian dog, and knew that he must be in the
vicinity of an encampment. A camp-fire, with the ashes yet warm,
proved that he was on the trail of one of the nomadic tribes, but
the declining sun warned him to hasten home to his duty. When he
at last reached the estuary, he found that the building beside it
was little else than a long hut, whose thatched and mud-plastered
mound-like roof gave it the appearance of a cave. Its single
opening and entrance abutted on the water's edge, and the smoke he
had noticed rolled through this entrance from a smouldering fire
within. Pomfrey had little difficulty in recognizing the purpose
of this strange structure from the accounts he had heard from
"loggers" of the Indian customs. The cave was a "sweat-house"--a
calorific chamber in which the Indians closely shut themselves,
naked, with a "smudge" or smouldering fire of leaves, until,
perspiring and half suffocated, they rushed from the entrance and
threw themselves into the water before it. The still smouldering
fire told him that the house had been used that morning, and he
made no doubt that the Indians were encamped near by. He would
have liked to pursue his researches further, but he found he had
already trespassed upon his remaining time, and he turned somewhat
abruptly away--so abruptly, in fact, that a figure, which had
evidently been cautiously following him at a distance, had not time
to get away. His heart leaped with astonishment. It was the woman
he had seen on the rock.
Although her native dress now only disclosed her head and hands,
there was no doubt about her color, and it was distinctly white,
save for the tanning of exposure and a slight red ochre marking on
her low forehead. And her hair, long and unkempt as it was, showed
that he had not erred in his first impression of it. It was a
tawny flaxen, with fainter bleachings where the sun had touched it
most. Her eyes were of a clear Northern blue. Her dress, which
was quite distinctive in that it was neither the cast off finery of
civilization nor the cheap "government" flannels and calicoes
usually worn by the Californian tribes, was purely native, and of
fringed deerskin, and consisted of a long, loose shirt and leggings
worked with bright feathers and colored shells. A necklace, also
of shells and fancy pebbles, hung round her neck. She seemed to be
a fully developed woman, in spite of the girlishness of her flowing
hair, and notwithstanding the shapeless length of her gaberdine-
like garment, taller than the ordinary squaw.
Pomfrey saw all this in a single flash of perception, for the next
instant she was gone, disappearing behind the sweat-house. He ran
after her, catching sight of her again, half doubled up, in the
characteristic Indian trot, dodging around rocks and low bushes as
she fled along the banks of the stream. But for her distinguishing
hair, she looked in her flight like an ordinary frightened squaw.
This, which gave a sense of unmanliness and ridicule to his own
pursuit of her, with the fact that his hour of duty was drawing
near and he was still far from the lighthouse, checked him in full
career, and he turned regretfully away. He had called after her at
first, and she had not heeded him. What he would have said to her
he did not know. He hastened home discomfited, even embarrassed--
yet excited to a degree he had not deemed possible in himself.
During the morning his thoughts were full of her. Theory after
theory for her strange existence there he examined and dismissed.
His first thought, that she was a white woman--some settler's wife--
masquerading in Indian garb, he abandoned when he saw her moving;
no white woman could imitate that Indian trot, nor would remember
to attempt it if she were frightened. The idea that she was a
captive white, held by the Indians, became ridiculous when he
thought of the nearness of civilization and the peaceful, timid
character of the "digger" tribes. That she was some unfortunate
demented creature who had escaped from her keeper and wandered into
the wilderness, a glance at her clear, frank, intelligent, curious
eyes had contradicted. There was but one theory left--the most
sensible and practical one--that she was the offspring of some
white man and Indian squaw. Yet this he found, oddly enough, the
least palatable to his fancy. And the few half-breeds he had seen
were not at all like her.
The next morning he had recourse to his Indian retainer, "Jim."
With infinite difficulty, protraction, and not a little
embarrassment, he finally made him understand that he had seen a
"white squaw" near the "sweat-house," and that he wanted to know
more about her. With equal difficulty Jim finally recognized the
fact of the existence of such a person, but immediately afterwards
shook his head in an emphatic negation. With greater difficulty
and greater mortification Pomfrey presently ascertained that Jim's
negative referred to a supposed abduction of the woman which he
understood that his employer seriously contemplated. But he also
learned that she was a real Indian, and that there were three or
four others like her, male and female, in that vicinity; that from
a "skeena mowitch" (little baby) they were all like that, and that
their parents were of the same color, but never a white or "waugee"
man or woman among them; that they were looked upon as a distinct
and superior caste of Indians, and enjoyed certain privileges with
the tribe; that they superstitiously avoided white men, of whom
they had the greatest fear, and that they were protected in this by
the other Indians; that it was marvelous and almost beyond belief
that Pomfrey had been able to see one, for no other white man had,
or was even aware of their existence.
How much of this he actually understood, how much of it was lying
and due to Jim's belief that he wished to abduct the fair stranger,
Pomfrey was unable to determine. There was enough, however, to
excite his curiosity strongly and occupy his mind to the exclusion
of his books--save one. Among his smaller volumes he had found a
travel book of the "Chinook Jargon," with a lexicon of many of the
words commonly used by the Northern Pacific tribes. An hour or
two's trial with the astonished Jim gave him an increased
vocabulary and a new occupation. Each day the incongruous pair
took a lesson from the lexicon. In a week Pomfrey felt he would be
able to accost the mysterious stranger. But he did not again
surprise her in any of his rambles, or even in a later visit to the
sweat-house. He had learned from Jim that the house was only used
by the "bucks," or males, and that her appearance there had been
accidental. He recalled that he had had the impression that she
had been stealthily following him, and the recollection gave him a
pleasure he could not account for. But an incident presently
occurred which gave him a new idea of her relations towards him.
The difficulty of making Jim understand had hitherto prevented
Pomfrey from intrusting him with the care of the lantern; but with
the aid of the lexicon he had been able to make him comprehend its
working, and under Pomfrey's personal guidance the Indian had once
or twice lit the lamp and set its machinery in motion. It remained
for him only to test Jim's unaided capacity, in case of his own
absence or illness. It happened to be a warm, beautiful sunset,
when the afternoon fog had for once delayed its invasion of the
shore-line, that he left the lighthouse to Jim's undivided care,
and reclining on a sand-dune still warm from the sun, lazily
watched the result of Jim's first essay. As the twilight deepened,
and the first flash of the lantern strove with the dying glories of
the sun, Pomfrey presently became aware that he was not the only
watcher. A little gray figure creeping on all fours suddenly
glided out of the shadow of another sand-dune and then halted,
falling back on its knees, gazing fixedly at the growing light. It
was the woman he had seen. She was not a dozen yards away, and in
her eagerness and utter absorption in the light had evidently
overlooked him. He could see her face distinctly, her lips parted
half in wonder, half with the breathless absorption of a devotee.
A faint sense of disappointment came over him. It was not HIM she
was watching, but the light! As it swelled out over the darkening
gray sand she turned as if to watch its effect around her, and
caught sight of Pomfrey. With a little startled cry--the first she
had uttered--she darted away. He did not follow. A moment before,
when he first saw her, an Indian salutation which he had learned
from Jim had risen to his lips, but in the odd feeling which her
fascination of the light had caused him he had not spoken. He
watched her bent figure scuttling away like some frightened animal,
with a critical consciousness that she was really scarce human, and
went back to the lighthouse. He would not run after her again!
Yet that evening he continued to think of her, and recalled her
voice, which struck him now as having been at once melodious and
childlike, and wished he had at least spoken, and perhaps elicited
He did not, however, haunt the sweat-house near the river again.
Yet he still continued his lessons with Jim, and in this way,
perhaps, although quite unpremeditatedly, enlisted a humble ally.
A week passed in which he had not alluded to her, when one morning,
as he was returning from a row, Jim met him mysteriously on the
"S'pose him come slow, slow," said Jim gravely, airing his newly
acquired English; "make no noise--plenty catchee Indian maiden."
The last epithet was the polite lexicon equivalent of squaw.
Pomfrey, not entirely satisfied in his mind, nevertheless softly
followed the noiselessly gliding Jim to the lighthouse. Here Jim
cautiously opened the door, motioning Pomfrey to enter.
The base of the tower was composed of two living rooms, a storeroom
and oil-tank. As Pomfrey entered, Jim closed the door softly
behind him. The abrupt transition from the glare of the sands and
sun to the semi-darkness of the storeroom at first prevented him
from seeing anything, but he was instantly distracted by a
scurrying flutter and wild beating of the walls, as of a caged
bird. In another moment he could make out the fair stranger,
quivering with excitement, passionately dashing at the barred
window, the walls, the locked door, and circling around the room in
her desperate attempt to find an egress, like a captured seagull.
Amazed, mystified, indignant with Jim, himself, and even his
unfortunate captive, Pomfrey called to her in Chinook to stop, and
going to the door, flung it wide open. She darted by him, raising
her soft blue eyes for an instant in a swift, sidelong glance of
half appeal, half-frightened admiration, and rushed out into the
open. But here, to his surprise, she did not run away. On the
contrary, she drew herself up with a dignity that seemed to
increase her height, and walked majestically towards Jim, who at
her unexpected exit had suddenly thrown himself upon the sand, in
utterly abject terror and supplication. She approached him slowly,
with one small hand uplifted in a menacing gesture. The man
writhed and squirmed before her. Then she turned, caught sight of
Pomfrey standing in the doorway, and walked quietly away. Amazed,
yet gratified with this new assertion of herself, Pomfrey
respectfully, but alas! incautiously, called after her. In an
instant, at the sound of his voice, she dropped again into her
slouching Indian trot and glided away over the sandhills.
Pomfrey did not add any reproof of his own to the discomfiture of
his Indian retainer. Neither did he attempt to inquire the secret
of this savage girl's power over him. It was evident he had spoken
truly when he told his master that she was of a superior caste.
Pomfrey recalled her erect and indignant figure standing over the
prostrate Jim, and was again perplexed and disappointed at her
sudden lapse into the timid savage at the sound of his voice.
Would not this well-meant but miserable trick of Jim's have the
effect of increasing her unreasoning animal-like distrust of him?
A few days later brought an unexpected answer to his question.
It was the hottest hour of the day. He had been fishing off the
reef of rocks where he had first seen her, and had taken in his
line and was leisurely pulling for the lighthouse. Suddenly a
little musical cry not unlike a bird's struck his ear. He lay on
his oars and listened. It was repeated; but this time it was
unmistakably recognizable as the voice of the Indian girl, although
he had heard it but once. He turned eagerly to the rock, but it
was empty; he pulled around it, but saw nothing. He looked towards
the shore, and swung his boat in that direction, when again the cry
was repeated with the faintest quaver of a laugh, apparently on the
level of the sea before him. For the first time he looked down,
and there on the crest of a wave not a dozen yards ahead, danced
the yellow hair and laughing eyes of the girl. The frightened
gravity of her look was gone, lost in the flash of her white teeth
and quivering dimples as her dripping face rose above the sea.
When their eyes met she dived again, but quickly reappeared on the
other bow, swimming with lazy, easy strokes, her smiling head
thrown back over her white shoulder, as if luring him to a race.
If her smile was a revelation to him, still more so was this first
touch of feminine coquetry in her attitude. He pulled eagerly
towards her; with a few long overhand strokes she kept her
distance, or, if he approached too near, she dived like a loon,
coming up astern of him with the same childlike, mocking cry. In
vain he pursued her, calling her to stop in her own tongue, and
laughingly protested; she easily avoided his boat at every turn.
Suddenly, when they were nearly abreast of the river estuary, she
rose in the water, and, waving her little hands with a gesture of
farewell, turned, and curving her back like a dolphin, leaped into
the surging swell of the estuary bar and was lost in its foam. It
would have been madness for him to have attempted to follow in his
boat, and he saw that she knew it. He waited until her yellow
crest appeared in the smoother water of the river, and then rowed
back. In his excitement and preoccupation he had quite forgotten
his long exposure to the sun during his active exercise, and that
he was poorly equipped for the cold sea-fog which the heat had
brought in earlier, and which now was quietly obliterating sea and
shore. This made his progress slower and more difficult, and by
the time he had reached the lighthouse he was chilled to the bone.
The next morning he woke with a dull headache and great weariness,
and it was with considerable difficulty that he could attend to his
duties. At nightfall, feeling worse, he determined to transfer the
care of the light to Jim, but was amazed to find that he had
disappeared, and what was more ominous, a bottle of spirits which
Pomfrey had taken from his locker the night before had disappeared
too. Like all Indians, Jim's rudimentary knowledge of civilization
included "fire-water;" he evidently had been tempted, had fallen,
and was too ashamed or too drunk to face his master. Pomfrey,
however, managed to get the light in order and working, and then,
he scarcely knew how, betook himself to bed in a state of high
fever. He turned from side to side racked by pain, with burning
lips and pulses. Strange fancies beset him; he had noticed when he
lit his light that a strange sail was looming off the estuary--a
place where no sail had ever been seen or should be--and was
relieved that the lighting of the tower might show the reckless or
ignorant mariner his real bearings for the "Gate." At times he had
heard voices above the familiar song of the surf, and tried to rise
from his bed, but could not. Sometimes these voices were strange,
outlandish, dissonant, in his own language, yet only partly
intelligible; but through them always rang a single voice, musical,
familiar, yet of a tongue not his own--hers! And then, out of his
delirium--for such it proved afterwards to be--came a strange
vision. He thought that he had just lit the light when, from some
strange and unaccountable reason, it suddenly became dim and defied
all his efforts to revive it. To add to his discomfiture, he could
see quite plainly through the lantern a strange-looking vessel
standing in from the sea. She was so clearly out of her course for
the Gate that he knew she had not seen the light, and his limbs
trembled with shame and terror as he tried in vain to rekindle the
dying light. Yet to his surprise the strange ship kept steadily
on, passing the dangerous reef of rocks, until she was actually in
the waters of the bay. But stranger than all, swimming beneath her
bows was the golden head and laughing face of the Indian girl, even
as he had seen it the day before. A strange revulsion of feeling
overtook him. Believing that she was luring the ship to its
destruction, he ran out on the beach and strove to hail the vessel
and warn it of its impending doom. But he could not speak--no
sound came from his lips. And now his attention was absorbed by
the ship itself. High-bowed and pooped, and curved like the
crescent moon, it was the strangest craft that he had ever seen.
Even as he gazed it glided on nearer and nearer, and at last
beached itself noiselessly on the sands before his own feet. A
score of figures as bizarre and outlandish as the ship itself now
thronged its high forecastle--really a castle in shape and warlike
purpose--and leaped from its ports. The common seamen were nearly
naked to the waist; the officers looked more like soldiers than
sailors. What struck him more strangely was that they were one and
all seemingly unconscious of the existence of the lighthouse,
sauntering up and down carelessly, as if on some uninhabited
strand, and even talking--so far as he could understand their old
bookish dialect--as if in some hitherto undiscovered land. Their
ignorance of the geography of the whole coast, and even of the sea
from which they came, actually aroused his critical indignation;
their coarse and stupid allusions to the fair Indian swimmer as the
"mermaid" that they had seen upon their bow made him more furious
still. Yet he was helpless to express his contemptuous anger, or
even make them conscious of his presence. Then an interval of
incoherency and utter blankness followed. When he again took up
the thread of his fancy the ship seemed to be lying on her beam
ends on the sand; the strange arrangement of her upper deck and
top-hamper, more like a dwelling than any ship he had ever seen,
was fully exposed to view, while the seamen seemed to be at work
with the rudest contrivances, calking and scraping her barnacled
sides. He saw that phantom crew, when not working, at wassail and
festivity; heard the shouts of drunken roisterers; saw the placing
of a guard around some of the most uncontrollable, and later
detected the stealthy escape of half a dozen sailors inland, amidst
the fruitless volley fired upon them from obsolete blunderbusses.
Then his strange vision transported him inland, where he saw these
seamen following some Indian women. Suddenly one of them turned
and ran frenziedly towards him as if seeking succor, closely
pursued by one of the sailors. Pomfrey strove to reach her,
struggled violently with the fearful apathy that seemed to hold his
limbs, and then, as she uttered at last a little musical cry, burst
his bonds and--awoke!
As consciousness slowly struggled back to him, he could see the
bare wooden-like walls of his sleeping-room, the locker, the one
window bright with sunlight, the open door of the tank-room, and
the little staircase to the tower. There was a strange smoky and
herb-like smell in the room. He made an effort to rise, but as he
did so a small sunburnt hand was laid gently yet restrainingly upon
his shoulder, and he heard the same musical cry as before, but this
time modulated to a girlish laugh. He raised his head faintly.
Half squatting, half kneeling by his bed was the yellow-haired
With the recollection of his vision still perplexing him, he said
in a weak voice, "Who are you?"
Her blue eyes met his own with quick intelligence and no trace of
her former timidity. A soft, caressing light had taken its place.
Pointing with her finger to her breast in a childlike gesture, she
"Olooya!" He remembered suddenly that Jim had always used that
word in speaking of her, but until then he had always thought it
was some Indian term for her distinct class.
"Olooya," he repeated. Then, with difficulty attempting to use her
own tongue, he asked, "When did you come here?"
"Last night," she answered in the same tongue. "There was no
witch-fire there," she continued, pointing to the tower; "when it
came not, Olooya came! Olooya found white chief sick and alone.
White chief could not get up! Olooya lit witch-fire for him."
"You?" he repeated in astonishment. "I lit it myself."
She looked at him pityingly, as if still recognizing his delirium,
and shook her head. "White chief was sick--how can know? Olooya
He cast a hurried glance at his watch hanging on the wall beside
him. It had RUN DOWN, although he had wound it the last thing
before going to bed. He had evidently been lying there helpless
beyond the twenty-four hours!
He groaned and turned to rise, but she gently forced him down
again, and gave him some herbal infusion, in which he recognized
the taste of the Yerba Buena vine which grew by the river. Then
she made him comprehend in her own tongue that Jim had been
decoyed, while drunk, aboard a certain schooner lying off the shore
at a spot where she had seen some men digging in the sands. She
had not gone there, for she was afraid of the bad men, and a slight
return of her former terror came into her changeful eyes. She knew
how to light the witch-light; she reminded him she had been in the
"You have saved my light, and perhaps my life," he said weakly,
taking her hand.
Possibly she did not understand him, for her only answer was a
vague smile. But the next instant she started up, listening
intently, and then with a frightened cry drew away her hand and
suddenly dashed out of the building. In the midst of his amazement
the door was darkened by a figure--a stranger dressed like an
ordinary miner. Pausing a moment to look after the flying Olooya,
the man turned and glanced around the room, and then with a coarse,
familiar smile approached Pomfrey.
"Hope I ain't disturbin' ye, but I allowed I'd just be neighborly
and drop in--seein' as this is gov'nment property, and me and my
pardners, as American citizens and tax-payers, helps to support it.
We're coastin' from Trinidad down here and prospectin' along the
beach for gold in the sand. Ye seem to hev a mighty soft berth of
it here--nothing to do--and lots of purty half-breeds hangin'
The man's effrontery was too much for Pomfrey's self-control,
weakened by illness. "It IS government property," he answered
hotly, "and you have no more right to intrude upon it than you have
to decoy away my servant, a government employee, during my illness,
and jeopardize that property."
The unexpectedness of this attack, and the sudden revelation of the
fact of Pomfrey's illness in his flushed face and hollow voice
apparently frightened and confused the stranger. He stammered a
surly excuse, backed out of the doorway, and disappeared. An hour
later Jim appeared, crestfallen, remorseful, and extravagantly
penitent. Pomfrey was too weak for reproaches or inquiry, and he
was thinking only of Olooya.
She did not return. His recovery in that keen air, aided, as he
sometimes thought, by the herbs she had given him, was almost as
rapid as his illness. The miners did not again intrude upon the
lighthouse nor trouble his seclusion. When he was able to sun
himself on the sands, he could see them in the distance at work on
the beach. He reflected that she would not come back while they
were there, and was reconciled. But one morning Jim appeared,
awkward and embarrassed, leading another Indian, whom he introduced
as Olooya's brother. Pomfrey's suspicions were aroused. Except
that the stranger had something of the girl's superiority of
manner, there was no likeness whatever to his fair-haired
acquaintance. But a fury of indignation was added to his
suspicions when he learned the amazing purport of their visit. It
was nothing less than an offer from the alleged brother to SELL his
sister to Pomfrey for forty dollars and a jug of whiskey!
Unfortunately, Pomfrey's temper once more got the better of his
judgment. With a scathing exposition of the laws under which the
Indian and white man equally lived, and the legal punishment of
kidnaping, he swept what he believed was the impostor from his
presence. He was scarcely alone again before he remembered that
his imprudence might affect the girl's future access to him, but it
was too late now.
Still he clung to the belief that he should see her when the
prospectors had departed, and he hailed with delight the breaking
up of the camp near the "sweat-house" and the disappearance of the
schooner. It seemed that their gold-seeking was unsuccessful; but
Pomfrey was struck, on visiting the locality, to find that in their
excavations in the sand at the estuary they had uncovered the
decaying timbers of a ship's small boat of some ancient and
obsolete construction. This made him think of his strange dream,
with a vague sense of warning which he could not shake off, and on
his return to the lighthouse he took from his shelves a copy of the
old voyages to see how far his fancy had been affected by his
reading. In the account of Drake's visit to the coast he found a
footnote which he had overlooked before, and which ran as follows:
"The Admiral seems to have lost several of his crew by desertion,
who were supposed to have perished miserably by starvation in the
inhospitable interior or by the hands of savages. But later
voyagers have suggested that the deserters married Indian wives,
and there is a legend that a hundred years later a singular race of
half-breeds, bearing unmistakable Anglo-Saxon characteristics, was
found in that locality." Pomfrey fell into a reverie of strange
hypotheses and fancies. He resolved that, when he again saw
Olooya, he would question her; her terror of these men might be
simply racial or some hereditary transmission.
But his intention was never fulfilled. For when days and weeks had
elapsed, and he had vainly haunted the river estuary and the rocky
reef before the lighthouse without a sign of her, he overcame his
pride sufficiently to question Jim. The man looked at him with
"Olooya gone," he said.
The Indian made a gesture to seaward which seemed to encompass the
"How? With whom?" repeated his angry yet half-frightened master.
"With white man in ship. You say YOU no want Olooya--forty dollars
too much. White man give fifty dollars--takee Olooya all same."
UNDER THE EAVES
The assistant editor of the San Francisco "Daily Informer" was
going home. So much of his time was spent in the office of the
"Informer" that no one ever cared to know where he passed those six
hours of sleep which presumably suggested a domicile. His business
appointments outside the office were generally kept at the
restaurant where he breakfasted and dined, or of evenings in the
lobbies of theatres or the anterooms of public meetings. Yet he
had a home and an interval of seclusion of which he was jealously
mindful, and it was to this he was going to-night at his usual
His room was in a new building on one of the larger and busier
thoroughfares. The lower floor was occupied by a bank, but as it
was closed before he came home, and not yet opened when he left, it
did not disturb his domestic sensibilities. The same may be said
of the next floor, which was devoted to stockbrokers' and companies
offices, and was equally tomb-like and silent when he passed; the
floor above that was a desert of empty rooms, which echoed to his
footsteps night and morning, with here and there an oasis in the
green sign of a mining secretary's office, with, however, the
desolating announcement that it would only be "open for transfers
from two to four on Saturdays." The top floor had been frankly
abandoned in an unfinished state by the builder, whose ambition had
"o'erleaped itself" in that sanguine era of the city's growth.
There was a smell of plaster and the first coat of paint about it
still, but the whole front of the building was occupied by a long
room with odd "bull's-eye" windows looking out through the heavy
ornamentations of the cornice over the adjacent roofs.
It had been originally intended for a club-room, but after the ill
fortune which attended the letting of the floor below, and possibly
because the earthquake-fearing San Franciscans had their doubts of
successful hilarity at the top of so tall a building, it remained
unfinished, with the two smaller rooms at its side. Its incomplete
and lonely grandeur had once struck the editor during a visit of
inspection, and the landlord, whom he knew, had offered to make it
habitable for him at a nominal rent. It had a lavatory with a
marble basin and a tap of cold water. The offer was a novel one,
but he accepted it, and fitted up the apartment with some cheap
second-hand furniture, quite inconsistent with the carved mantels
and decorations, and made a fair sitting-room and bedroom of it.
Here, on a Sunday, when its stillness was intensified, and even a
passing footstep on the pavement fifty feet below was quite
startling, he would sit and work by one of the quaint open windows.
In the rainy season, through the filmed panes he sometimes caught a
glimpse of the distant, white-capped bay, but never of the street
The lights were out, but, groping his way up to the first landing,
he took from a cup-boarded niche in the wall his candlestick and
matches and continued the ascent to his room. The humble
candlelight flickered on the ostentatious gold letters displayed on
the ground-glass doors of opulent companies which he knew were
famous, and rooms where millionaires met in secret conclave, but
the contrast awakened only his sense of humor. Yet he was always
relieved after he had reached his own floor. Possibly its
incompleteness and inchoate condition made it seem less lonely than
the desolation of the finished and furnished rooms below, and it
was only this recollection of past human occupancy that was
He opened his door, lit the solitary gas jet that only half
illuminated the long room, and, it being already past midnight,
began to undress himself. This process presently brought him to
that corner of his room where his bed stood, when he suddenly
stopped, and his sleepy yawn changed to a gape of surprise. For,
lying in the bed, its head upon the pillow, and its rigid arms
accurately stretched down over the turned-back sheet, was a child's
doll! It was a small doll--a banged and battered doll, that had
seen service, but it had evidently been "tucked in" with maternal
tenderness, and lay there with its staring eyes turned to the
ceiling, the very genius of insomnia!
His first start of surprise was followed by a natural resentment of
what might have been an impertinent intrusion on his privacy by
some practical-joking adult, for he knew there was no child in the
His room was kept in order by the wife of the night watchman
employed by the bank, and no one else had a right of access to it.
But the woman might have brought a child there and not noticed its
disposal of its plaything. He smiled. It might have been worse!
It might have been a real baby!
The idea tickled him with a promise of future "copy"--of a story
with farcical complications, or even a dramatic ending, in which
the baby, adopted by him, should turn out to be somebody's stolen
offspring. He lifted the little image that had suggested these
fancies, carefully laid it on his table, went to bed, and presently
forgot it all in slumber.
In the morning his good-humor and interest in it revived to the
extent of writing on a slip of paper, "Good-morning! Thank you--
I've slept very well," putting the slip in the doll's jointed arms,
and leaving it in a sitting posture outside his door when he left
his room. When he returned late at night it was gone.
But it so chanced that, a few days later, owing to press of work on
the "Informer," he was obliged to forego his usual Sunday holiday
out of town, and that morning found him, while the bells were
ringing for church, in his room with a pile of manuscript and proof
before him. For these were troublous days in San Francisco; the
great Vigilance Committee of '56 was in session, and the offices of
the daily papers were thronged with eager seekers of news. Such
affairs, indeed, were not in the functions of the assistant editor,
nor exactly to his taste; he was neither a partisan of the so-
called Law and Order Party, nor yet an enthusiastic admirer of the
citizen Revolutionists known as the Vigilance Committee, both
extremes being incompatible with his habits of thought.
Consequently he was not displeased at this opportunity of doing his
work away from the office and the "heady talk" of controversy.
He worked on until the bells ceased and a more than Sabbath
stillness fell upon the streets. So quiet was it that once or
twice the conversation of passing pedestrians floated up and into
his window, as of voices at his elbow.
Presently he heard the sound of a child's voice singing in subdued
tone, as if fearful of being overheard. This time he laid aside
his pen--it certainly was no delusion! The sound did not come from
the open window, but from some space on a level with his room. Yet
there was no contiguous building as high.
He rose and tried to open his door softly, but it creaked, and the
singing instantly ceased. There was nothing before him but the
bare, empty hall, with its lathed and plastered partitions, and the
two smaller rooms, unfinished like his own, on either side of him.
Their doors were shut; the one at his right hand was locked, the
other yielded to his touch.
For the first moment he saw only the bare walls of the apparently
empty room. But a second glance showed him two children--a boy of
seven and a girl of five--sitting on the floor, which was further
littered by a mattress, pillow, and blanket. There was a cheap
tray on one of the trunks containing two soiled plates and cups and
fragments of a meal. But there was neither a chair nor table nor
any other article of furniture in the room. Yet he was struck by
the fact that, in spite of this poverty of surrounding, the
children were decently dressed, and the few scattered pieces of
luggage in quality bespoke a superior condition.
The children met his astonished stare with an equal wonder and, he
fancied, some little fright. The boy's lips trembled a little as
he said apologetically--
"I told Jinny not to sing. But she didn't make MUCH noise."
"Mamma said I could play with my dolly. But I fordot and singed,"
said the little girl penitently.
"Where's your mamma?" asked the young man. The fancy of their
being near relatives of the night watchman had vanished at the
sound of their voices.
"Dorn out," said the girl.
"When did she go out?"
"Were you all alone here last night?"
Perhaps they saw the look of indignation and pity in the editor's
face, for the boy said quickly--
"She don't go out EVERY night; last night she went to"--
He stopped suddenly, and both children looked at each other with a
half laugh and half cry, and then repeated in hopeless unison,
"She's dorn out."
"When is she coming back again?"
"To-night. But we won't make any more noise."
"Who brings you your food?" continued the editor, looking at the
Evidently Roberts, the night watchman! The editor felt relieved;
here was a clue to some explanation. He instantly sat down on the
floor between them.
"So that was the dolly that slept in my bed," he said gayly, taking
God gives helplessness a wonderful intuition of its friends. The
children looked up at the face of their grown-up companion,
giggled, and then burst into a shrill fit of laughter. He felt
that it was the first one they had really indulged in for many
days. Nevertheless he said, "Hush!" confidentially; why he
scarcely knew, except to intimate to them that he had taken in
their situation thoroughly. "Make no noise," he added softly, "and
come into my big room."
They hung back, however, with frightened yet longing eyes. "Mamma
said we mussent do out of this room," said the girl.
"Not ALONE," responded the editor quickly, "but with ME, you know;
The logic sufficed them, poor as it was. Their hands slid quite
naturally into his. But at the door he stopped, and motioning to
the locked door of the other room, asked:--
"And is that mamma's room, too?"
Their little hands slipped from his and they were silent.
Presently the boy, as if acted upon by some occult influence of the
girl, said in a half whisper, "Yes."
The editor did not question further, but led them into his room.
Here they lost the slight restraint they had shown, and began,
child fashion, to become questioners themselves.
In a few moments they were in possession of his name, his business,
the kind of restaurant he frequented, where he went when he left
his room all day, the meaning of those funny slips of paper, and
the written manuscripts, and why he was so quiet. But any attempt
of his to retaliate by counter questions was met by a sudden
reserve so unchildlike and painful to him--as it was evidently to
themselves--that he desisted, wisely postponing his inquiries until
he could meet Roberts.
He was glad when they fell to playing games with each other quite
naturally, yet not entirely forgetting his propinquity, as their
occasional furtive glances at his movements showed him. He, too,
became presently absorbed in his work, until it was finished and it
was time for him to take it to the office of the "Informer." The
wild idea seized him of also taking the children afterwards for a
holiday to the Mission Dolores, but he prudently remembered that
even this negligent mother of theirs might have some rights over
her offspring that he was bound to respect.
He took leave of them gayly, suggesting that the doll be replaced
in his bed while he was away, and even assisted in "tucking it up."
But during the afternoon the recollection of these lonely
playfellows in the deserted house obtruded itself upon his work and
the talk of his companions. Sunday night was his busiest night,
and he could not, therefore, hope to get away in time to assure
himself of their mother's return.
It was nearly two in the morning when he returned to his room. He
paused for a moment on the threshold to listen for any sound from
the adjoining room. But all was hushed.
His intention of speaking to the night watchman was, however,
anticipated the next morning by that guardian himself. A tap upon
his door while he was dressing caused him to open it somewhat
hurriedly in the hope of finding one of the children there, but he
met only the embarrassed face of Roberts. Inviting him into the
room, the editor continued dressing. Carefully closing the door
behind him, the man began, with evident hesitation,--
"I oughter hev told ye suthin' afore, Mr. Breeze; but I kalkilated,
so to speak, that you wouldn't be bothered one way or another, and
so ye hadn't any call to know that there was folks here"--
"Oh, I see," interrupted Breeze cheerfully; "you're speaking of the
family next door--the landlord's new tenants."
"They ain't exactly THAT," said Roberts, still with embarrassment.
"The fact is--ye see--the thing points THIS way: they ain't no
right to be here, and it's as much as my place is worth if it leaks
out that they are."
Mr. Breeze suspended his collar-buttoning, and stared at Roberts.
"You see, sir, they're mighty poor, and they've nowhere else to go--
and I reckoned to take 'em in here for a spell and say nothing
"But the landlord wouldn't object, surely? I'll speak to him
myself," said Breeze impulsively.
"Oh, no; don't!" said Roberts in alarm; "he wouldn't like it. You
see, Mr. Breeze, it's just this way: the mother, she's a born lady,
and did my old woman a good turn in old times when the family was
rich; but now she's obliged--just to support herself, you know--to
take up with what she gets, and she acts in the bally in the
theatre, you see, and hez to come in late o' nights. In them cheap
boarding-houses, you know, the folks looks down upon her for that,
and won't hev her, and in the cheap hotels the men are--you know--a
darned sight wuss, and that's how I took her and her kids in here,
where no one knows 'em."
"I see," nodded the editor sympathetically; "and very good it was
of you, my man."
Roberts looked still more confused, and stammered with a forced
laugh, "And--so--I'm just keeping her on here, unbeknownst, until
her husband gets"-- He stopped suddenly.
"So she has a husband living, then?" said Breeze in surprise.
"In the mines, yes--in the mines!" repeated Roberts with a
monotonous deliberation quite distinct from his previous
hesitation, "and she's only waitin' until he gets money enough--
to--to take her away." He stopped and breathed hard.
"But couldn't you--couldn't WE--get her some more furniture?
There's nothing in that room, you know, not a chair or table; and
unless the other room is better furnished"--
"Eh? Oh, yes!" said Roberts quickly, yet still with a certain
embarrassment; "of course THAT'S better furnished, and she's quite
satisfied, and so are the kids, with anything. And now, Mr.
Breeze, I reckon you'll say nothin' o' this, and you'll never go
back on me?"
"My dear Mr. Roberts," said the editor gravely, "from this moment I
am not only blind, but deaf to the fact that ANYBODY occupies this
floor but myself."
"I knew you was white all through, Mr. Breeze," said the night
watchman, grasping the young man's hand with a grip of iron, "and I
telled my wife so. I sez, 'Jest you let me tell him EVERYTHIN','
but she"-- He stopped again and became confused.
"And she was quite right, I dare say," said Breeze, with a laugh;
"and I do not want to know anything. And that poor woman must
never know that I ever knew anything, either. But you may tell
your wife that when the mother is away she can bring the little
ones in here whenever she likes."
"Thank ye--thank ye, sir!--and I'll just run down and tell the old
woman now, and won't intrude upon your dressin' any longer."
He grasped Breeze's hand again, went out and closed the door behind
him. It might have been the editor's fancy, but he thought there
was a certain interval of silence outside the door before the night
watchman's heavy tread was heard along the hall again.
For several evenings after this Mr. Breeze paid some attention to
the ballet in his usual round of the theatres. Although he had
never seen his fair neighbor, he had a vague idea that he might
recognize her through some likeness to her children. But in vain.
In the opulent charms of certain nymphs, and in the angular
austerities of others, he failed equally to discern any of those
refinements which might have distinguished the "born lady" of
Roberts's story, or which he himself had seen in her children.
These he did not meet again during the week, as his duties kept him
late at the office; but from certain signs in his room he knew that
Mrs. Roberts had availed herself of his invitation to bring them in
with her, and he regularly found "Jinny's" doll tucked up in his
bed at night, and he as regularly disposed of it outside his door
in the morning, with a few sweets, like an offering, tucked under
its rigid arms.
But another circumstance touched him more delicately; his room was
arranged with greater care than before, and with an occasional
exhibition of taste that certainly had not distinguished Mrs.
Roberts's previous ministrations. One evening on his return he
found a small bouquet of inexpensive flowers in a glass on his
writing-table. He loved flowers too well not to detect that they
were quite fresh, and could have been put there only an hour or two
before he arrived.
The next evening was Saturday, and, as he usually left the office
earlier on that day, it occurred to him, as he walked home, that it
was about the time his fair neighbor would be leaving the theatre,
and that it was possible he might meet her.
At the front door, however, he found Roberts, who returned his
greeting with a certain awkwardness which struck him as singular.
When he reached the niche on the landing he found his candle was
gone, but he proceeded on, groping his way up the stairs, with an
odd conviction that both these incidents pointed to the fact that
the woman had just returned or was expected.
He had also a strange feeling--which may have been owing to the
darkness--that some one was hidden on the landing or on the stairs
where he would pass. This was further accented by a faint odor of
patchouli, as, with his hand on the rail, he turned the corner of
the third landing, and he was convinced that if he had put out his
other hand it would have come in contact with his mysterious
neighbor. But a certain instinct of respect for her secret, which
she was even now guarding in the darkness, withheld him, and he
passed on quickly to his own floor.
Here it was lighter; the moon shot a beam of silver across the
passage from an unshuttered window as he passed. He reached his
room door, entered, but instead of lighting the gas and shutting
the door, stood with it half open, listening in the darkness.
His suspicions were verified; there was a slight rustling noise,
and a figure which had evidently followed him appeared at the end
of the passage. It was that of a woman habited in a grayish dress
and cloak of the same color; but as she passed across the band of
moonlight he had a distinct view of her anxious, worried face. It
was a face no longer young; it was worn with illness, but still
replete with a delicacy and faded beauty so inconsistent with her
avowed profession that he felt a sudden pang of pain and doubt.
The next moment she had vanished in her room, leaving the same
faint perfume behind her. He closed his door softly, lit the gas,
and sat down in a state of perplexity. That swift glimpse of her
face and figure had made her story improbable to the point of
absurdity, or possibly to the extreme of pathos!
It seemed incredible that a woman of that quality should be forced
to accept a vocation at once so low, so distasteful, and so
unremunerative. With her evident antecedents, had she no friends
but this common Western night watchman of a bank? Had Roberts
deceived him? Was his whole story a fabrication, and was there
some complicity between the two? What was it? He knit his brows.
Mr. Breeze had that overpowering knowledge of the world which only
comes with the experience of twenty-five, and to this he superadded
the active imagination of a newspaper man. A plot to rob the bank?
These mysterious absences, that luggage which he doubted not was
empty and intended for spoil! But why encumber herself with the
two children? Here his common sense and instinct of the ludicrous
returned and he smiled.
But he could not believe in the ballet dancer! He wondered,
indeed, how any manager could have accepted the grim satire of that
pale, worried face among the fairies, that sad refinement amid
their vacant smiles and rouged checks. And then, growing sad
again, he comforted himself with the reflection that at least the
children were not alone that night, and so went to sleep.
For some days he had no further meeting with his neighbors. The
disturbed state of the city--for the Vigilance Committee were still
in session--obliged the daily press to issue "extras," and his work
at the office increased.
It was not until Sunday again that he was able to be at home.
Needless to say that his solitary little companions were duly
installed there, while he sat at work with his proofs on the table
The stillness of the empty house was only broken by the habitually
subdued voices of the children at their play, when suddenly the
harsh stroke of a distant bell came through the open window. But
it was no Sabbath bell, and Mr. Breeze knew it. It was the tocsin
of the Vigilance Committee, summoning the members to assemble at
their quarters for a capture, a trial, or an execution of some
wrongdoer. To him it was equally a summons to the office--to
distasteful news and excitement.
He threw his proofs aside in disgust, laid down his pen, seized his
hat, and paused a moment to look round for his playmates. But they
were gone! He went into the hall, looked into the open door of
their room, but they were not there. He tried the door of the
second room, but it was locked.
Satisfied that they had stolen downstairs in their eagerness to
know what the bell meant, he hurried down also, met Roberts in the
passage,--a singularly unusual circumstance at that hour,--called
to him to look after the runaways, and hurried to his office.
Here he found the staff collected, excitedly discussing the news.
One of the Vigilance Committee prisoners, a notorious bully and
ruffian, detained as a criminal and a witness, had committed
suicide in his cell. Fortunately this was all reportorial work,
and the services of Mr. Breeze were not required. He hurried back,
relieved, to his room.
When he reached his landing, breathlessly, he heard the same quick
rustle he had heard that memorable evening, and was quite satisfied
that he saw a figure glide swiftly out of the open door of his
room. It was no doubt his neighbor, who had been seeking her
children, and as he heard their voices as he passed, his uneasiness
and suspicions were removed.
He sat down again to his scattered papers and proofs, finished his
work, and took it to the office on his way to dinner. He returned
early, in the hope that he might meet his neighbor again, and had
quite settled his mind that he was justified in offering a civil
"Good-evening" to her, in spite of his previous respectful ignoring
of her presence. She must certainly have become aware by this time
of his attention to her children and consideration for herself, and
could not mistake his motives. But he was disappointed, although
he came up softly; he found the floor in darkness and silence on
his return, and he had to be content with lighting his gas and
settling down to work again.
A near church clock had struck ten when he was startled by the
sound of an unfamiliar and uncertain step in the hall, followed by
a tap at his door. Breeze jumped to his feet, and was astonished
to find Dick, the "printer's devil," standing on the threshold with
a roll of proofs in his hand.
"How did you get here?" he asked testily.
"They told me at the restaurant they reckoned you lived yere, and
the night watchman at the door headed me straight up. When he knew
whar I kem from he wanted to know what the news was, but I told him
he'd better buy an extra and see."
"Well, what did you come for?" said the editor impatiently.
"The foreman said it was important, and he wanted to know afore he
went to press ef this yer correction was YOURS?"
He went to the table, unrolled the proofs, and, taking out the
slip, pointed to a marked paragraph. "The foreman says the
reporter who brought the news allows he got it straight first-hand!
But ef you've corrected it, he reckons you know best."
Breeze saw at a glance that the paragraph alluded to was not of his
own writing, but one of several news items furnished by reporters.
These had been "set up" in the same "galley," and consequently
appeared in the same proof-slip. He was about to say curtly that
neither the matter nor the correction was his, when something odd
in the correction of the item struck him. It read as follows:--
"It appears that the notorious 'Jim Bodine,' who is in hiding and
badly wanted by the Vigilance Committee, has been tempted lately
into a renewal of his old recklessness. He was seen in Sacramento
Street the other night by two separate witnesses, one of whom
followed him, but he escaped in some friendly doorway."
The words "in Sacramento Street" were stricken out and replaced by
the correction "on the Saucelito shore," and the words "friendly
doorway " were changed to "friendly dinghy." The correction was
not his, nor the handwriting, which was further disguised by being
an imitation of print. A strange idea seized him.
"Has any one seen these proofs since I left them at the office?"
"No, only the foreman, sir."
He remembered that he had left the proofs lying openly on his table
when he was called to the office at the stroke of the alarm bell;
he remembered the figure he saw gliding from his room on his
return. She had been there alone with the proofs; she only could
have tampered with them.
The evident object of the correction was to direct the public
attention from Sacramento Street to Saucelito, as the probable
whereabouts of this "Jimmy Bodine." The street below was
Sacramento Street, the "friendly doorway" might have been their
That she had some knowledge of this Bodine was not more improbable
than the ballet story. Her strange absences, the mystery
surrounding her, all seemed to testify that she had some
connection--perhaps only an innocent one--with these desperate
people whom the Vigilance Committee were hunting down. Her attempt
to save the man was, after all, no more illegal than their attempt
to capture him. True, she might have trusted him, Breeze, without
this tampering with his papers; yet perhaps she thought he was
certain to discover it--and it was only a silent appeal to his
mercy. The corrections were ingenious and natural--it was the act
of an intelligent, quick-witted woman.
Mr. Breeze was prompt in acting upon his intuition, whether right
or wrong. He took up his pen, wrote on the margin of the proof,
"Print as corrected," said to the boy carelessly, "The corrections
are all right," and dismissed him quickly.
The corrected paragraph which appeared in the "Informer" the next
morning seemed to attract little public attention, the greater
excitement being the suicide of the imprisoned bully and the effect
it might have upon the prosecution of other suspected parties,
against whom the dead man had been expected to bear witness.
Mr. Breeze was unable to obtain any information regarding the
desperado Bodine's associates and relations; his correction of the
paragraph had made the other members of the staff believe he had
secret and superior information regarding the fugitive, and he thus
was estopped from asking questions. But he felt himself justified
now in demanding fuller information from Roberts at the earliest
For this purpose he came home earlier that night, hoping to find
the night watchman still on his first beat in the lower halls. But
he was disappointed. He was amazed, however, on reaching his own
landing, to find the passage piled with new luggage, some of that
ruder type of rolled blanket and knapsack known as a "miner's kit."
He was still more surprised to hear men's voices and the sound of
laughter proceeding from the room that was always locked. A sudden
sense of uneasiness and disgust, he knew not why, came over him.
He passed quickly into his room, shut the door sharply, and lit the
gas. But he presently heard the door of the locked room open, a
man's voice, slightly elevated by liquor and opposition, saying, "I
know what's due from one gen'leman to 'nother"--a querulous,
objecting voice saying, "Hole on! not now," and a fainter feminine
protest, all of which were followed by a rap on his door.
Breeze opened it to two strangers, one of whom lurched forward
unsteadily with outstretched hand. He had a handsome face and
figure, and a certain consciousness of it even in the abandon of
liquor; he had an aggressive treacherousness of eye which his
potations had not subdued. He grasped Breeze's hand tightly, but
dropped it the next moment perfunctorily as he glanced round the
"I told them I was bound to come in," he said, without looking at
Breeze, "and say 'Howdy!' to the man that's bin a pal to my women
folks and the kids--and acted white all through! I said to Mame,
'I reckon HE knows who I am, and that I kin be high-toned to them
that's high-toned; kin return shake for shake and shot for shot!'
Aye! that's me! So I was bound to come in like a gen'leman, sir,
and here I am!"
He threw himself in an unproffered chair and stared at Breeze.
"I'm afraid," said Breeze dryly, "that, nevertheless, I never knew
who you were, and that even now I am ignorant whom I am addressing."
"That's just it," said the second man, with a querulous protest,
which did not, however, conceal his admiring vassalage to his
friend; "that's what I'm allus telling Jim. 'Jim,' I says, 'how is
folks to know you're the man that shot Kernel Baxter, and dropped
three o' them Mariposa Vigilants? They didn't see you do it! They
just look at your fancy style and them mustaches of yours, and
allow ye might be death on the girls, but they don't know ye! An'
this man yere--he's a scribe in them papers--writes what the boss
editor tells him, and lives up yere on the roof, 'longside yer wife
and the children--what's he knowin' about YOU?' Jim's all right
enough," he continued, in easy confidence to Breeze, "but he's too
fresh 'bout himself."
Mr. James Bodine accepted this tribute and criticism of his
henchman with a complacent laugh, which was not, however, without a
certain contempt for the speaker and the man spoken to. His bold,
selfish eyes wandered round the room as if in search of some other
amusement than his companions offered.
"I reckon this is the room which that hound of a landlord, Rakes,
allowed he'd fix up for our poker club--the club that Dan Simmons
and me got up, with a few other sports. It was to be a slap-up
affair, right under the roof, where there was no chance of the
police raiding us. But the cur weakened when the Vigilants started
out to make war on any game a gen'leman might hev that wasn't in
their gummy-bag, salt pork trade. Well, it's gettin' a long time
between drinks, gen'lemen, ain't it?" He looked round him
Only the thought of the woman and her children in the next room,
and the shame that he believed she was enduring, enabled Breeze to
keep his temper or even a show of civility.
"I'm afraid," he said quietly, "that you'll find very little here
to remind you of the club--not even the whiskey; for I use the room
only as a bedroom, and as I am a workingman, and come in late and
go out early, I have never found it available for hospitality, even
to my intimate friends. I am very glad, however, that the little
leisure I have had in it has enabled me to make the floor less
lonely for your children."
Mr. Bodine got up with an affected yawn, turned an embarrassed yet
darkening eye on Breeze, and lunged unsteadily to the door. "And
as I only happened in to do the reg'lar thing between high-toned
gen'lemen, I reckon we kin say 'Quits.'" He gave a coarse laugh,
said "So long," nodded, stumbled into the passage, and thence into
the other room.
His companion watched him pass out with a relieved yet protecting
air, and then, closing the door softly, drew nearer to Breeze, and
said in husky confidence,--
"Ye ain't seein' him at his best, mister! He's bin drinkin' too
much, and this yer news has upset him."
"What news?" asked Breeze.
"This yer suicide o' Irish Jack!"
"Was he his friend?"
"Friend?" ejaculated the man, horrified at the mere suggestion.
"Not much! Why, Irish Jack was the only man that could hev hung
Jim! Now he's dead, in course the Vigilants ain't got no proof
agin Jim. Jim wants to face it out now an' stay here, but his wife
and me don't see it noways! So we are taking advantage o' the lull
agin him to get him off down the coast this very night. That's why
he's been off his head drinkin'. Ye see, when a man has been for
weeks hidin'--part o' the time in that room and part o' the time on
the wharf, where them Vigilants has been watchin' every ship that
left in order to ketch him, he's inclined to celebrate his chance
o' getting away"--
"Part of the time in that room?" interrupted Breeze quickly.
"Sartin! Don't ye see? He allus kem in as you went out--sabe!--
and got away before you kem back, his wife all the time just a-
hoverin' between the two places, and keeping watch for him. It was
killin' to her, you see, for she wasn't brought up to it, whiles
Jim didn't keer--had two revolvers and kalkilated to kill a dozen
Vigilants afore he dropped. But that's over now, and when I've got
him safe on that 'plunger' down at the wharf to-night, and put him
aboard the schooner that's lying off the Heads, he's all right
"And Roberts knew all this and was one of his friends?" asked
"Roberts knew it, and Roberts's wife used to be a kind of servant
to Jim's wife in the South, when she was a girl, but I don't know
ez Roberts is his FRIEND!"
"He certainly has shown himself one," said Breeze.
"Ye-e-s," said the stranger meditatively, "ye-e-s." He stopped,
opened the door softly, and peeped out, and then closed it again
softly. "It's sing'lar, Mr. Breeze," he went on in a sudden yet
embarrassed burst of confidence, "that Jim thar--a man thet can
shoot straight, and hez frequent; a man thet knows every skin game
goin'--that THET man Jim," very slowly, "hezn't really--got--any
friends--'cept me--and his wife."
"Indeed?" said Mr. Breeze dryly.
"Sure! Why, you yourself didn't cotton to him--I could see THET."
Mr. Breeze felt himself redden slightly, and looked curiously at
the man. This vulgar parasite, whom he had set down as a worshiper
of sham heroes, undoubtedly did not look like an associate of
Bodine's, and had a certain seriousness that demanded respect. As
he looked closer into his wide, round face, seamed with small-pox,
he fancied he saw even in its fatuous imbecility something of that
haunting devotion he had seen on the refined features of the wife.
He said more gently,--
"But one friend like you would seem to be enough."
"I ain't what I uster be, Mr. Breeze," said the man meditatively,
"and mebbe ye don't know who I am. I'm Abe Shuckster, of
Shuckster's Ranch--one of the biggest in Petalumy. I was a rich
man until a year ago, when Jim got inter trouble. What with
mortgages and interest, payin' up Jim's friends and buying off some
ez was set agin him, thar ain't much left, and when I've settled
that bill for the schooner lying off the Heads there I reckon I'm
about played out. But I've allus a shanty at Petalumy, and mebbe
when things is froze over and Jim gets back--you'll come and see
him--for you ain't seen him at his best."
"I suppose his wife and children go with him?" said Breeze.
"No! He's agin it, and wants them to come later. But that's all
right, for you see she kin go back to their own house at the
Mission, now that the Vigilants are givin' up shadderin' it. So
long, Mr. Breeze! We're startin' afore daylight. Sorry you didn't
see Jim in condition."
He grasped Breeze's hand warmly and slipped out of the door softly.
For an instant Mr. Breeze felt inclined to follow him into the room
and make a kinder adieu to the pair, but the reflection that he
might embarrass the wife, who, it would seem, had purposely avoided
accompanying her husband when he entered, withheld him. And for
the last few minutes he had been doubtful if he had any right to
pose as her friend. Beside the devotion of the man who had just
left him, his own scant kindness to her children seemed ridiculous.
He went to bed, but tossed uneasily until he fancied he heard
stealthy footsteps outside his door and in the passage. Even then
he thought of getting up, dressing, and going out to bid farewell
to the fugitives. But even while he was thinking of it he fell
asleep and did not wake until the sun was shining in at his
He sprang to his feet, threw on his dressing-gown, and peered into
the passage. Everything was silent. He stepped outside--the light
streamed into the hall from the open doors and windows of both
rooms--the floor was empty; not a trace of the former occupants
remained. He was turning back when his eye fell upon the battered
wooden doll set upright against his doorjamb, holding stiffly in
its jointed arms a bit of paper folded like a note. Opening it, he
found a few lines written in pencil.
God bless you for your kindness to us, and try to forgive me for
touching your papers. But I thought that you would detect it, know
WHY I did it, and then help us, as you did! Good-by!
Mr. Breeze laid down the paper with a slight accession of color, as
if its purport had been ironical. How little had he done compared
to the devotion of this delicate woman or the sacrifices of that
rough friend! How deserted looked this nest under the eaves, which
had so long borne its burden of guilt, innocence, shame, and
suffering! For many days afterwards he avoided it except at night,
and even then he often found himself lying awake to listen to the
lost voices of the children.
But one evening, a fortnight later, he came upon Roberts in the
hall. "Well," said Breeze, with abrupt directness, "did he get
Roberts started, uttered an oath which it is possible the Recording
Angel passed to his credit, and said, "Yes, HE got away all right!"
"Why, hasn't his wife joined him?"
"No. Never, in this world, I reckon; and if anywhere in the next,
I don't want to go there!" said Roberts furiously.
"Is he dead?"
"Dead? That kind don't die!"
"What do you mean?"
Roberts's lips writhed, and then, with a strong effort, he said
with deliberate distinctness, "I mean--that the hound went off with
another woman--that--was--in--that schooner, and left that fool
Shuckster adrift in the plunger."
"And the wife and children?"
"Shuckster sold his shanty at Petaluma to pay their passage to the
HOW REUBEN ALLEN "SAW LIFE" IN SAN FRANCISCO
The junior partner of the firm of Sparlow & Kane, "Druggists and
Apothecaries," of San Francisco, was gazing meditatively out of the
corner of the window of their little shop in Dupont Street. He
could see the dimly lit perspective of the narrow thoroughfare fade
off into the level sand wastes of Market Street on the one side,
and plunge into the half-excavated bulk of Telegraph Hill on the
other. He could see the glow and hear the rumble of Montgomery
Street--the great central avenue farther down the hill. Above the
housetops was spread the warm blanket of sea-fog under which the
city was regularly laid to sleep every summer night to the cool
lullaby of the Northwest Trades. It was already half-past eleven;
footsteps on the wooden pavement were getting rarer and more
remote; the last cart had rumbled by; the shutters were up along
the street; the glare of his own red and blue jars was the only
beacon left to guide the wayfarers. Ordinarily he would have been
going home at this hour, when his partner, who occupied the surgery
and a small bedroom at the rear of the shop, always returned to
relieve him. That night, however, a professional visit would
detain the "Doctor" until half-past twelve. There was still an
hour to wait. He felt drowsy; the mysterious incense of the shop,
that combined essence of drugs, spice, scented soap, and orris
root--which always reminded him of the Arabian Nights--was
affecting him. He yawned, and then, turning away, passed behind
the counter, took down a jar labeled "Glycyrr. Glabra," selected a
piece of Spanish licorice, and meditatively sucked it. Not
receiving from it that diversion and sustenance he apparently was
seeking, he also visited, in an equally familiar manner, a jar
marked "Jujubes," and returned ruminatingly to his previous position.
If I have not in this incident sufficiently established the
youthfulness of the junior partner, I may add briefly that he was
just nineteen, that he had early joined the emigration to
California, and after one or two previous light-hearted essays at
other occupations, for which he was singularly unfitted, he had
saved enough to embark on his present venture, still less suited to
his temperament. In those adventurous days trades and vocations
were not always filled by trained workmen; it was extremely
probable that the experienced chemist was already making his
success as a gold-miner, with a lawyer and a physician for his
partners, and Mr. Kane's inexperienced position was by no means a
novel one. A slight knowledge of Latin as a written language, an
American schoolboy's acquaintance with chemistry and natural
philosophy, were deemed sufficient by his partner, a regular
physician, for practical cooperation in the vending of drugs and
putting up of prescriptions. He knew the difference between acids
and alkalies and the peculiar results which attended their
incautious combination. But he was excessively deliberate,
painstaking, and cautious. The legend which adorned the desk at
the counter, "Physicians' prescriptions carefully prepared," was
more than usually true as regarded the adverb. There was no danger
of his poisoning anybody through haste or carelessness, but it was
possible that an urgent "case" might have succumbed to the disease
while he was putting up the remedy. Nor was his caution entirely
passive. In those days the "heroic" practice of medicine was in
keeping with the abnormal development of the country; there were
"record" doses of calomel and quinine, and he had once or twice
incurred the fury of local practitioners by sending back their
prescriptions with a modest query.
The far-off clatter of carriage wheels presently arrested his
attention; looking down the street, he could see the lights of a
hackney carriage advancing towards him. They had already flashed
upon the open crossing a block beyond before his vague curiosity
changed into an active instinctive presentiment that they were
coming to the shop. He withdrew to a more becoming and dignified
position behind the counter as the carriage drew up with a jerk
before the door.
The driver rolled from his box and opened the carriage door to a
woman whom he assisted, between some hysterical exclamations on her
part and some equally incoherent explanations of his own, into the
shop. Kane saw at a glance that both were under the influence of
liquor, and one, the woman, was disheveled and bleeding about the
head. Yet she was elegantly dressed and evidently en fete, with
one or two "tricolor" knots and ribbons mingled with her finery.
Her golden hair, matted and darkened with blood, had partly escaped
from her French bonnet and hung heavily over her shoulders. The
driver, who was supporting her roughly, and with a familiarity that
was part of the incongruous spectacle, was the first to speak.
"Madame le Blank! ye know! Got cut about the head down at the fete
at South Park! Tried to dance upon the table, and rolled over on
some champagne bottles. See? Wants plastering up!"
"Ah brute! Hog! Nozzing of ze kine! Why will you lie? I dance!
Ze cowards, fools, traitors zere upset ze table and I fall. I am
cut! Ah, my God, how I am cut!"
She stopped suddenly and lapsed heavily against the counter. At
which Kane hurried around to support her into the surgery with the
one fixed idea in his bewildered mind of getting her out of the
shop, and, suggestively, into the domain and under the
responsibility of his partner. The hackman, apparently relieved
and washing his hands of any further complicity in the matter,
nodded and smiled, and saying, "I reckon I'll wait outside,
pardner," retreated incontinently to his vehicle. To add to Kane's
half-ludicrous embarrassment the fair patient herself slightly
resisted his support, accused the hackman of "abandoning her," and
demanded if Kane knew "zee reason of zees affair," yet she
presently lapsed again into the large reclining-chair which he had
wheeled forward, with open mouth, half-shut eyes, and a strange
Pierrette mask of face, combined of the pallor of faintness and
chalk, and the rouge of paint and blood. At which Kane's
cautiousness again embarrassed him. A little brandy from the
bottle labeled "Vini Galli" seemed to be indicated, but his
inexperience could not determine if her relaxation was from
bloodlessness or the reacting depression of alcohol. In this
dilemma he chose a medium course, with aromatic spirits of ammonia,
and mixing a diluted quantity in a measuring-glass, poured it
between her white lips. A start, a struggle, a cough--a volley of
imprecatory French, and the knocking of the glass from his hand
followed--but she came to! He quickly sponged her head of the
half-coagulated blood, and removed a few fragments of glass from a
long laceration of the scalp. The shock of the cold water and the
appearance of the ensanguined basin frightened her into a momentary
passivity. But when Kane found it necessary to cut her hair in the
region of the wound in order to apply the adhesive plaster, she
again endeavored to rise and grasp the scissors.
"You'll bleed to death if you're not quiet," said the young man
with dogged gravity.
Something in his manner impressed her into silence again. He cut
whole locks away ruthlessly; he was determined to draw the edges of
the wound together with the strip of plaster and stop the bleeding--
if he cropped the whole head. His excessive caution for her
physical condition did not extend to her superficial adornment.
Her yellow tresses lay on the floor, her neck and shoulders were
saturated with water from the sponge which he continually applied,
until the heated strips of plaster had closed the wound almost
hermetically. She whimpered, tears ran down her cheeks; but so
long as it was not blood the young man was satisfied.
In the midst of it he heard the shop door open, and presently the
sound of rapping on the counter. Another customer!
Mr. Kane called out, "Wait a moment," and continued his ministrations.
After a pause the rapping recommenced. Kane was just securing the
last strip of plaster and preserved a preoccupied silence. Then the
door flew open abruptly and a figure appeared impatiently on the
threshold. It was that of a miner recently returned from the gold
diggings--so recently that he evidently had not had time to change
his clothes at his adjacent hotel, and stood there in his high
boots, duck trousers, and flannel shirt, over which his coat was
slung like a hussar's jacket from his shoulder. Kane would have
uttered an indignant protest at the intrusion, had not the intruder
himself as quickly recoiled with an astonishment and contrition that
was beyond the effect of any reproval. He literally gasped at the
spectacle before him. A handsomely dressed woman reclining in a
chair; lace and jewelry and ribbons depending from her saturated
shoulders; tresses of golden hair filling her lap and lying on the
floor; a pail of ruddy water and a sponge at her feet, and a pale
young man bending over her head with a spirit lamp and strips of
"'Scuse me, pard! I was just dropping in; don't you hurry! I kin
wait," he stammered, falling back, and then the door closed
abruptly behind him.
Kane gathered up the shorn locks, wiped the face and neck of his
patient with a clean towel and his own handkerchief, threw her
gorgeous opera cloak over her shoulders, and assisted her to rise.
She did so, weakly but obediently; she was evidently stunned and
cowed in some mysterious way by his material attitude, perhaps, or
her sudden realization of her position; at least the contrast
between her aggressive entrance into the shop and her subdued
preparation for her departure was so remarkable that it affected
even Kane's preoccupation.
"There," he said, slightly relaxing his severe demeanor with an
encouraging smile, "I think this will do; we've stopped the
bleeding. It will probably smart a little as the plaster sets
closer. I can send my partner, Dr. Sparlow, to you in the
She looked at him curiously and with a strange smile. "And zees
Doctor Sparrlow--eez he like you, M'sieu?"
"He is older, and very well known," said the young man seriously.
"I can safely recommend him."
"Ah," she repeated, with a pensive smile which made Kane think her
quite pretty. "Ah--he ez older--your Doctor Sparrlow--but YOU are
"And," said Kane vaguely, "he will tell you what to do."
"Ah," she repeated again softly, with the same smile, "he will tell
me what to do if I shall not know myself. Dat ez good."
Kane had already wrapped her shorn locks in a piece of spotless
white paper and tied it up with narrow white ribbon in the dainty
fashion dear to druggists' clerks. As he handed it to her she felt
in her pocket and produced a handful of gold.
"What shall I pay for zees, M'sieu?"
Kane reddened a little--solely because of his slow arithmetical
faculties. Adhesive plaster was cheap--he would like to have
charged proportionately for the exact amount he had used; but the
division was beyond him! And he lacked the trader's instinct.
"Twenty-five cents, I think," he hazarded briefly.
She started, but smiled again. "Twenty-five cents for all zees--ze
medicine, ze strips for ze head, ze hair cut"--she glanced at the
paper parcel he had given her--"it is only twenty-five cents?"
He selected from her outstretched palm, with some difficulty, the
exact amount, the smallest coin it held. She again looked at him
curiously--half confusedly--and moved slowly into the shop. The
miner, who was still there, retreated as before with a gaspingly
apologetic gesture--even flattening himself against the window to
give her sweeping silk flounces freer passage. As she passed into
the street with a "Merci, M'sieu, good a'night," and the hackman
started from the vehicle to receive her, the miner drew a long
breath, and bringing his fist down upon the counter, ejaculated,--
"B'gosh! She's a stunner!"
Kane, a good deal relieved at her departure and the success of his
ministration, smiled benignly.
The stranger again stared after the retreating carriage, looked
around the shop, and even into the deserted surgery, and approached
the counter confidentially. "Look yer, pardner. I kem straight
from St. Jo, Mizzorri, to Gold Hill--whar I've got a claim--and I
reckon this is the first time I ever struck San Francisker. I
ain't up to towny ways nohow, and I allow that mebbe I'm rather
green. So we'll let that pass! Now look yer!" he added, leaning
over the counter with still deeper and even mysterious confidence,
"I suppose this yer kind o' thing is the regular go here, eh?
nothin' new to YOU! in course no! But to me, pard, it's just
fetchin' me! Lifts me clear outer my boots every time! Why, when
I popped into that thar room, and saw that lady--all gold,
furbelows, and spangles--at twelve o'clock at night, sittin' in
that cheer and you a-cuttin' her h'r and swabbin' her head o'
blood, and kinder prospectin' for 'indications,' so to speak, and
doin' it so kam and indifferent like, I sez to myself, 'Rube,
Rube,' sez I, 'this yer's life! city life! San Francisker life! and
b'gosh, you've dropped into it! Now, pard, look yar! don't you
answer, ye know, ef it ain't square and above board for me to know;
I ain't askin' you to give the show away, ye know, in the matter of
high-toned ladies like that, but" (very mysteriously, and sinking
his voice to the lowest confidential pitch, as he put his hand to
his ear as if to catch the hushed reply), "what mout hev bin
Considerably amused at the man's simplicity, Kane replied good-
humoredly: "Danced among some champagne bottles on a table at a
party, fell and got cut by glass."
The stranger nodded his head slowly and approvingly as he repeated
with infinite deliberateness: "Danced on champagne bottles,
champagne! you said, pard? at a pahty! Yes!" (musingly and
approvingly). "I reckon that's about the gait they take. SHE'D do
"Is there anything I can do for you? sorry to have kept you
waiting," said Kane, glancing at the clock.
"O ME! Lord! ye needn't mind me. Why, I should wait for anythin'
o' the like o' that, and be just proud to do it! And ye see, I
sorter helped myself while you war busy."
"Helped yourself?" said Kane in astonishment.
"Yes, outer that bottle." He pointed to the ammonia bottle, which
still stood on the counter. "It seemed to be handy and popular."
"Man! you might have poisoned yourself."
The stranger paused a moment at the idea. "So I mout, I reckon,"
he said musingly, "that's so! pizined myself jest ez you was
lookin' arter that high-toned case, and kinder bothered you! It's
"I mean it required diluting; you ought to have taken it in water,"
"I reckon! It DID sorter h'ist me over to the door for a little
fresh air at first! seemed rayther scaldy to the lips. But wot of
it that GOT THAR," he put his hand gravely to his stomach, "did me
"What was the matter with you?" asked Kane.
"Well, ye see, pard" (confidentially again), "I reckon it's suthin'
along o' my heart. Times it gets to poundin' away like a quartz
stamp, and then it stops suddent like, and kinder leaves ME out
Kane looked at him more attentively. He was a strong, powerfully
built man with a complexion that betrayed nothing more serious than
the effects of mining cookery. It was evidently a common case of
"I don't say it would not have done you some good if properly
administered," he replied. "If you like I'll put up a diluted
quantity and directions?"
"That's me, every time, pardner!" said the stranger with an accent
of relief. "And look yer, don't you stop at that! Ye just put me
up some samples like of anythin' you think mout be likely to hit.
I'll go in for a fair show, and then meander in every now and then,
betwixt times, to let you know. Ye don't mind my drifting in here,
do ye? It's about ez likely a place ez I struck since I've left
the Sacramento boat, and my hotel, just round the corner. Ye just
sample me a bit o' everythin'; don't mind the expense. I'll take
YOUR word for it. The way you--a young fellow--jest stuck to your
work in thar, cool and kam as a woodpecker--not minding how high-
toned she was--nor the jewelery and spangles she had on--jest got