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  • 1894
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The lady shrugged her shoulders disdainfully. “That’s all right enough, I reckon. There’s a hundred thousand dollars in the syndicate. Maw put in twenty thousand, and Custer’s bound to make it go–particularly as there’s some talk of a compromise. But Malcolm’s a crank, and I reckon if it wasn’t for the compromise the syndicate wouldn’t have much show. Why, he didn’t even know that the McHulishes had no title.”

“Do you think he has been suffering under a delusion in regard to his relationship?”

“No; he was only a fool in the way he wanted to prove it. He actually got these boys to think it could be filibustered into his possession. Had a sort of idea of ‘a rising in the Highlands,’ you know, like that poem or picture–which is it? And those fool boys, and Custer among them, thought it would be great fun and a great spree. Luckily, maw had the gumption to get Watson to write over about it to one of his friends, a Mr.–Mr.–MacFen, a very prominent man.”

“Perhaps you mean Sir James MacFen,” suggested the consul. “He’s a knight. And what did HE say?” he added eagerly.

“Oh, he wrote a most sensible letter,” returned the lady, apparently mollified by the title of Watson’s adviser, “saying that there was little doubt, if any, that if the American McHulishes wanted the old estate they could get it by the expenditure of a little capital. He offered to make the trial; that was the compromise they’re talking about. But he didn’t say anything about there being no ‘Lord’ McHulish.”

“Perhaps he thought, as you were Americans, you didn’t care for THAT,” said the consul dryly.

“That’s no reason why we shouldn’t have it if it belonged to us, or we chose to pay for it,” said the lady pertly.

“Then your changed personal relations with Mr. McHulish is the reason why you hear so little of his progress or his expectations?”

“Yes; but he don’t know that they are changed, for we haven’t seen him since we’ve been here, although they say he’s here, and hiding somewhere about.”

“Why should he be hiding?”

The young girl lifted her pretty brows. “Maybe he thinks it’s mysterious. Didn’t I tell you he was a crank?” Yet she laughed so naively, and with such sublime unconsciousness of any reflection on herself, that the consul was obliged to smile too.

“You certainly do not seem to be breaking your heart as well as your engagement,” he said.

“Not much–but here comes maw. Look here,” she said, turning suddenly and coaxingly upon him, “if she asks you to come along with us up north, you’ll come, won’t you? Do! It will be such fun!”

“Up north?” repeated the consul interrogatively.

“Yes; to see the property. Here’s maw.”

A more languid but equally well-appointed woman had entered the room. When the ceremony of introduction was over, she turned to her daughter and said, “Run away, dear, while I talk business with– er–this gentleman,” and, as the girl withdrew laughingly, she half stifled a reminiscent yawn, and raised her heavy lids to the consul.

“You’ve had a talk with my Elsie?”

The consul confessed to having had that pleasure.

“She speaks her mind,” said Mrs. Kirkby wearily, “but she means well, and for all her flightiness her head’s level. And since her father died she runs me,” she continued with a slight laugh. After a pause, she added abstractedly, “I suppose she told you of her engagement to young McHulish?”

“Yes; but she said she had broken it.”

Mrs. Kirkby lifted her eyebrows with an expression of relief. “It was a piece of girl and boy foolishness, anyway,” she said. “Elsie and he were children together at MacCorkleville,–second cousins, in fact,–and I reckon he got her fancy excited over his nobility, and his being the chief of the McHulishes. Of course Custer will manage to get something for the shareholders out of it,–I never knew him to fail in a money speculation yet,–but I think that’s about all. I had an idea of going up with Elsie to take a look at the property, and I thought of asking you to join us. Did Elsie tell you? I know she’d like it–and so would I.”

For all her indolent, purposeless manner, there was enough latent sincerity and earnestness in her request to interest the consul. Besides, his own curiosity in regard to this singularly supported claim was excited, and here seemed to be an opportunity of satisfying it. He was not quite sure, either, that his previous antagonism to his fair countrywoman’s apparent selfishness and snobbery was entirely just. He had been absent from America a long time; perhaps it was he himself who had changed, and lost touch with his compatriots. And yet the demonstrative independence and recklessness of men like Custer were less objectionable to, and less inconsistent with, his American ideas than the snobbishness and almost servile adaptability of the women. Or was it possible that it was only a weakness of the sex, which no republican nativity or education could eliminate? Nevertheless he looked up smilingly.

“But the property is, I understand, scattered about in various places,” he said.

“Oh, but we mean to go only to Kelpie Island, where there is the ruin of an old castle. Elsie must see that.”

The consul thought it might be amusing. “By all means let us see that. I shall be delighted to go with you.”

His ready and unqualified assent appeared to relieve and dissipate the lady’s abstraction. She became more natural and confiding; spoke freely of Malcolm’s mania, which she seemed to accept as a hallucination or a conviction with equal cheerfulness, and, in brief, convinced the consul that her connection with the scheme was only the caprice of inexperienced and unaccustomed idleness. He left her, promising to return the next day and arrange for their early departure.

His way home lay through one of the public squares of St. Kentigern, at an hour of the afternoon when it was crossed by working men and women returning to their quarters from the docks and factories. Never in any light a picturesque or even cheery procession, there were days when its unwholesome, monotonous poverty and dull hopelessness of prospect impressed him more forcibly. He remembered how at first the spectacle of barefooted girls and women slipping through fog and mist across the greasy pavement had offended his fresh New World conception of a more tenderly nurtured sex, until his susceptibilities seemed to have grown as callous and hardened as the flesh he looked upon, and he had begun to regard them from the easy local standpoint of a distinct and differently equipped class.

It chanced, also, that this afternoon some of the male workers had added to their usual solidity a singular trance-like intoxication. It had often struck him before as a form of drunkenness peculiar to the St. Kentigern laborers. Men passed him singly and silently, as if following some vague alcoholic dream, or moving through some Scotch mist of whiskey and water. Others clung unsteadily but as silently together, with no trace of convivial fellowship or hilarity in their dull fixed features and mechanically moving limbs. There was something weird in this mirthless companionship, and the appalling loneliness of those fixed or abstracted eyes. Suddenly he was aware of two men who were reeling toward him under the influence of this drug-like intoxication, and he was startled by a likeness which one of them bore to some one he had seen; but where, and under what circumstances, he could not determine. The fatuous eye, the features of complacent vanity and self-satisfied reverie were there, either intensified by drink, or perhaps suggesting it through some other equally hopeless form of hallucination. He turned and followed the man, trying to identify him through his companion, who appeared to be a petty tradesman of a shrewder, more material type. But in vain, and as the pair turned into a side street the consul slowly retraced his steps. But he had not proceeded far before the recollection that had escaped him returned, and he knew that the likeness suggested by the face he had seen was that of Malcolm McHulish.

III.

A journey to Kelpie Island consisted of a series of consecutive episodes by rail, by coach, and by steamboat. The consul was already familiar with them, as indeed were most of the civilized world, for it seemed that all roads at certain seasons led out of and returned to St. Kentigern as a point in a vast circle wherein travelers were sure to meet one another again, coming or going, at certain depots and caravansaries with more or less superiority or envy. Tourists on the road to the historic crags of Wateffa came sharply upon other tourists returning from them, and glared suspiciously at them, as if to wrest the dread secret from their souls–a scrutiny which the others returned with half-humorous pity or superior calm.

The consul knew, also, that the service by boat and rail was admirable and skillful; for were not the righteous St. Kentigerners of the tribe of Tubal-cain, great artificers in steel and iron, and a mighty race of engineers before the Lord, who had carried their calling and accent beyond the seas? He knew, too, that the land of these delightful caravansaries overflowed with marmalade and honey, and that the manna of delicious scones and cakes fell even upon deserted waters of crag and heather. He knew that their way would lie through much scenery whose rude barrenness, and grim economy of vegetation, had been usually accepted by cockney tourists for sublimity and grandeur; but he knew, also, that its severity was mitigated by lowland glimpses of sylvan luxuriance and tangled delicacy utterly unlike the complacent snugness of an English pastoral landscape, with which it was often confounded and misunderstood, as being tame and civilized.

It rained the day they left St. Kentigern, and the next, and the day after that, spasmodically, as regarded local effort, sporadically, as seen through the filmed windows of railway carriages or from the shining decks of steamboats. There was always a shower being sown somewhere along the valley, or reluctantly tearing itself from a mountain-top, or being pulled into long threads from the leaden bosom of a lake; the coach swept in and out of them to the folding and unfolding of umbrellas and mackintoshes, accompanied by flying beams of sunlight that raced with the vehicle on long hillsides, and vanished at the turn of the road. There were hat-lifting scurries of wind down the mountain- side, small tumults in little lakes below, hysteric ebullitions on mild, melancholy inland seas, boisterous passages of nearly half an hour with landings on tempestuous miniature quays. All this seen through wonderful aqueous vapor, against a background of sky darkened at times to the depths of an India ink washed sketch, but more usually blurred and confused on the surface like the gray silhouette of a child’s slate-pencil drawing, half rubbed from the slate by soft palms. Occasionally a rare glinting of real sunshine on a distant fringe of dripping larches made some frowning crest appear to smile as through wet lashes.

Miss Elsie tucked her little feet under the mackintosh. “I know,” she said sadly, “I should get web-footed if I stayed here long, Why, it’s like coming down from Ararat just after the deluge cleared up.”

Mrs. Kirkby suggested that if the sun would only shine squarely and decently, like a Christian, for a few moments, they could see the prospect better.

The consul here pointed out that the admirers of Scotch scenery thought that this was its greatest charm. It was this misty effect which made it so superior to what they called the vulgar chromos and sun-pictures of less favored lands.

“You mean because it prevents folks from seeing how poor the view really is.”

The consul remarked that perhaps distance was lacking. As to the sun shining in a Christian way, this might depend upon the local idea of Christianity.

“Well, I don’t call the scenery giddy or frivolous, certainly. And I reckon I begin to understand the kind of sermons Malcolm’s folks brought over to MacCorkleville. I guess they didn’t know much of the heaven they only saw once a year. Why, even the highest hills– which they call mountains here–ain’t big enough to get above the fogs of their own creating.”

Feminine wit is not apt to be abstract. It struck the consul that in Miss Elsie’s sprightliness there was the usual ulterior and personal object, and he glanced around at his fellow-passengers. The object evidently was sitting at the end of the opposite seat, an amused but well-behaved listener. For the rest, he was still young and reserved, but in face, figure, and dress utterly unlike his companions,–an Englishman of a pronounced and distinct type, the man of society and clubs. While there was more or less hinting of local influence in the apparel of the others,–there was a kilt, and bare, unweather-beaten knees from Birmingham, and even the American Elsie wore a bewitching tam-o’-shanter,–the stranger carried easy distinction, from his tweed traveling-cap to his well- made shoes and gaiters, as an unmistakable Southerner. His deep and pleasantly level voice had been heard only once or twice, and then only in answering questions, and his quiet, composed eyes alone had responded to the young girl’s provocation.

They were passing a brown glen, in the cheerless depths of which a brown watercourse, a shade lighter, was running, and occasionally foaming like brown beer. Beyond it heaved an arid bulk of hillside, the scant vegetation of which, scattered like patches of hair, made it look like the decaying hide of some huge antediluvian ruminant. On the dreariest part of the dreary slope rose the ruins of a tower, and crumbling walls and battlements.

“Whatever possessed folks to build there?” said Miss Elsie. “If they were poor, it might be some excuse; but that those old swells, or chiefs, should put up a castle in such a God-forsaken place gets ME.”

“But don’t you know, they WERE poor, according to our modern ideas, and I fancy they built these things more for defense than show, and really more to gather in cattle–like one of your Texan ranches– after a raid. That is, I have heard so; I rather fancy that was the idea, wasn’t it?” It was the Englishman who had spoken, and was now looking around at the other passengers as if in easy deference to local opinion.

“What raid?” said Miss Elsie, animatedly. “Oh, yes; I see–one of their old border raids–moss-troopers. I used to like to read about them.”

“I fancy, don’t you know,” said the Englishman slowly, “that it wasn’t exactly THAT sort of thing, you know, for it’s a good way from the border; but it was one of their raids upon their neighbors, to lift their cattle–steal ’em, in fact. That’s the way those chaps had. But of course you’ve read all about that. You Americans, don’t you know, are all up in these historical matters.”

“Eh, but they were often reprisals,” said a Scotch passenger.

“I don’t suppose they took much trouble to inquire if the beasts belonged to an enemy,” said the Englishman.

But here Miss Elsie spoke of castles generally, and averred that the dearest wish of her life was to see Macbeth’s castle at Glamis, where Duncan was murdered. At which the Englishman, still deferentially, mistrusted the fact that the murder had been committed there, and thought that the castle to which Shakespeare probably referred, if he hadn’t invented the murder, too, was farther north, at Cawdor. “You know,” he added playfully, “over there in America you’ve discovered that Shakespeare himself was an invention.”

This led to some retaliating brilliancy from the young lady, and when the coach stopped at the next station their conversation had presumably become interesting enough to justify him in securing a seat nearer to her. The talk returning to ruins, Miss Elsie informed him that they were going to see some on Kelpie Island. The consul, from some instinctive impulse,–perhaps a recollection of Custer’s peculiar methods, gave her a sign of warning. But the Englishman only lifted his eyebrows in a kind of half-humorous concern.

“I don’t think you’d like it, you know. It’s a beastly place,– rocks and sea,–worse than this, and half the time you can’t see the mainland, only a mile away. Really, you know, they oughtn’t to have induced you to take tickets there–those excursion-ticket chaps. They’re jolly frauds. It’s no place for a stranger to go to.”

“But there are the ruins of an old castle, the old seat of”– began the astonished Miss Elsie; but she was again stopped by a significant glance from the consul.

“I believe there was something of the kind there once–something like your friends the cattle-stealers’ castle over on that hillside,” returned the Englishman; “but the stones were taken by the fishermen for their cabins, and the walls were quite pulled down.”

“How dared they do that?” said the young lady indignantly. “I call it not only sacrilege, but stealing.”

“It was defrauding the owner of the property; they might as well take his money,” said Mrs. Kirkby, in languid protest.

The smile which this outburst of proprietorial indignation brought to the face of the consul lingered with the Englishman’s reply.

“But it was only robbing the old robbers, don’t you know, and they put their spoils to better use than their old masters did; certainly to more practical use than the owners do now, for the ruins are good for nothing.”

“But the hallowed associations–the picturesqueness!” continued Mrs. Kirkby, with languid interest.

“The associations wouldn’t be anything except to the family, you know; and I should fancy they wouldn’t be either hallowed or pleasant. As for picturesqueness, the ruins are beastly ugly; weather-beaten instead of being mellowed by time, you know, and bare where they ought to be hidden by vines and moss. I can’t make out why anybody sent you there, for you Americans are rather particular about your sightseeing.”

“We heard of them through a friend,” said the consul, with assumed carelessness. “Perhaps it’s as good an excuse as any for a pleasant journey.”

“And very likely your friend mistook it for something else, or was himself imposed upon,” said the Englishman politely. “But you might not think it so, and, after all,” he added thoughtfully, “it’s years since I’ve seen it. I only meant that I could show you something better a few miles from my place in Gloucestershire, and not quite so far from a railway as this. If,” he added with a pleasant deliberation which was the real courtesy of his conventionally worded speech, “you ever happened at any time to be anywhere near Audrey Edge, and would look me up, I should be glad to show it to you and your friends.” An hour later, when he left them at a railway station where their paths diverged, Miss Elsie recovered a fluency that she had lately checked. “Well, I like that! He never told us his name, or offered a card. I wonder if they call that an invitation over here. Does he suppose anybody’s going to look up his old Audrey Edge–perhaps it’s named after his wife–to find out who HE is? He might have been civil enough to have left his name, if he–meant anything.”

“But I assure you he was perfectly sincere, and meant an invitation,” returned the consul smilingly. “Audrey Edge is evidently a well-known place, and he a man of some position. That is why he didn’t specify either.”

“Well, you won’t catch me going there,” said Miss Elsie.

“You would be quite right in either going or staying away,” said the consul simply.

Miss Elsie tossed her head slightly. Nevertheless, before they left the station, she informed him that she had been told that the station-master had addressed the stranger as “my lord,” and that another passenger had said he was “Lord Duncaster.”

“And that proves”–

“That I’m right,” said the young lady decisively, “and that his invitation was a mere form.”

It was after sundown when they reached the picturesque and well- appointed hotel that lifted itself above the little fishing-village which fronted Kelpie Island. The hotel was in as strong contrast to the narrow, curving street of dull, comfortless-looking stone cottages below it, as were the smart tourists who had just landed from the steamer to the hard-visaged, roughly clad villagers who watched them with a certain mingling of critical independence and superior self-righteousness. As the new arrivals walked down the main street, half beach, half thoroughfare, their baggage following them in low trolleys drawn by porters at their heels, like a decorous funeral, the joyless faces of the lookers-on added to the resemblance. Beyond them, in the prolonged northern twilight, the waters of the bay took on a peculiar pewtery brightness, but with the usual mourning-edged border of Scotch seacoast scenery. Low banks of cloud lay on the chill sea; the outlines of Kelpie Island were hidden.

But the interior of the hotel, bright with the latest fastidiousness in modern decoration and art-furniture, and gay with pictured canvases and color, seemed to mock the sullen landscape, and the sterile crags amid which the building was set. An attempt to make a pleasance in this barren waste had resulted only in empty vases, bleak statuary, and iron settees, as cold and slippery to the touch as the sides of their steamer.

“It’ll be a fine morning to-morra, and ther’ll be a boat going away to Kelpie for a peekneek in the ruins,” said the porter, as the consul and his fair companions looked doubtfully from the windows of the cheerful hall.

A picnic in the sacred ruins of Kelpie! The consul saw the ladies stiffening with indignation at this trespass upon their possible rights and probable privileges, and glanced at them warningly.

“Do you mean to say that it is common property, and ANYBODY can go there?” demanded Miss Elsie scornfully.

“No; it’s only the hotel that owns the boat and gives the tickets– a half-crown the passage.”

“And do the owners, the McHulishes, permit this?”

The porter looked at them with a puzzled, half-pitying politeness. He was a handsome, tall, broad-shouldered young fellow, with a certain naive and gentle courtesy of manner that relieved his strong accent, “Oh, ay,” he said, with a reassuring smile; “ye’ll no be troubled by THEM. I’ll just gang away noo, and see if I can secure the teekets.”

An elderly guest, who was examining a time-table on the wall, turned to them as the porter disappeared.

“Ye’ll be strangers noo, and not knowing that Tonalt the porter is a McHulish hissel’?” he said deliberately.

“A what?” said the astonished Miss Elsie.

“A McHulish. Ay, one of the family. The McHulishes of Kelpie were his own forebears. Eh, but he’s a fine lad, and doin’ well for the hotel.”

Miss Elsie extinguished a sudden smile with her handkerchief as her mother anxiously inquired, “And are the family as poor as that?”

“But I am not saying he’s POOR, ma’am, no,” replied the stranger, with native caution. “What wi’ tips and gratooities and percentages on the teekets, it’s a bit of money he’ll be having in the bank noo.”

The prophecy of Donald McHulish as to the weather came true. The next morning was bright and sunny, and the boat to Kelpie Island– a large yawl–duly received its complement of passengers and provision hampers. The ladies had apparently become more tolerant of their fellow pleasure-seekers, and it appeared that Miss Elsie had even overcome her hilarity at the discovery of what “might have been” a relative in the person of the porter Donald. “I had a long talk with him before breakfast this morning,” she said gayly, “and I know all about him. It appears that there are hundreds of him– all McHulishes–all along the coast and elsewhere–only none of them ever lived ON the island, and don’t want to. But he looks more like a ‘laird’ and a chief than Malcolm, and if it comes to choosing a head of the family, remember, maw, I shall vote solid for him.”

“How can you go on so, Elsie?” said Mrs. Kirkby, with languid protest. “Only I trust you didn’t say anything to him of the syndicate. And, thank Heaven! the property isn’t here.”

“No; the waiter tells me all the lovely things we had for breakfast came from miles away. And they don’t seem to have ever raised anything on the island, from its looks. Think of having to row three miles for the morning’s milk!”

There was certainly very little appearance of vegetation on the sterile crags that soon began to lift themselves above the steely waves ahead. A few scraggy trees and bushes, which twisted and writhed like vines around the square tower and crumbling walls of an irregular but angular building, looked in their brown shadows like part of the debris.

“It’s just like a burnt-down bone-boiling factory,” said Miss Elsie critically; “and I shouldn’t wonder if that really was old McHulish’s business. They couldn’t have it on the mainland for its being a nuisance.”

Nevertheless, she was one of the first to leap ashore when the yawl’s bow grated in a pebbly cove, and carried her pretty but incongruous little slippers through the seaweed, wet sand, and slimy cobbles with a heroism that redeemed her vanity. A scrambling ascent of a few moments brought them to a wall with a gap in it, which gave easy ingress to the interior of the ruins. This was merely a little curving hollow from which the outlines of the plan had long since faded. It was kept green by the brown walls, which, like the crags of the mainland valleys, sheltered it from the incessant strife of the Atlantic gales. A few pale flowers that might have grown in a damp cellar shivered against the stones. Scraps of newspapers, soda-water and beer bottles, highly decorated old provision tins, and spent cartridge cases,–the remains of chilly picnics and damp shooting luncheons,–had at first sight lent color to the foreground by mere contrast, but the corrosion of time and weather had blackened rather than mellowed the walls in a way which forcibly reminded the consul of Miss Elsie’s simile of the “burnt-down factory.” The view from the square tower–a mere roost for unclean sea-fowl, from the sides of which rags of peeling moss and vine hung like tattered clothing– was equally depressing. The few fishermen’s huts along the shore were built of stones taken from the ruin, and roofed in with sodden beams and timbers in the last stages of deliquescence. The thick smoke of smouldering peat-fires came from the low chimneys, and drifted across the ruins with the odors of drying fish.

“I’ve just seen a sort of ground-plan of the castle,” said Miss Elsie cheerfully. “It never had a room in it as big as our bedroom in the hotel, and there weren’t windows enough to go round. A slit in the wall, about two inches wide by two feet long, was considered dazzling extravagance to Malcolm’s ancestors. I don’t wonder some of ’em broke out and swam over to America. That reminds me. Who do you suppose is here–came over from the hotel in a boat of his own, just to see maw!”

“Not Malcolm, surely.”

“Not much,” replied Miss Elsie, setting her small lips together. “It’s Mr. Custer. He’s talking business with her now down on the beach. They’ll be here when lunch is ready.”

The consul remembered the romantic plan which the enthusiastic Custer had imparted to him in the foggy consulate at St. Kentigern, and then thought of the matter of fact tourists, the few stolid fishermen, and the prosaic ruins around them, and smiled. He looked up, and saw that Miss Elsie was watching him.

“You know Mr. Custer, don’t you?”

“We are old Californian friends.”

“I thought so; but I think he looked a little upset when he heard you were here, too.”

He certainly was a little awkward, as if struggling with some half- humorous embarrassment, as he came forward a few moments later with Mrs. Kirkby. But the stimulation of the keen sea air triumphed over the infelicities of the situation and surroundings, and the little party were presently enjoying their well-selected luncheon with the wholesome appetite of travel and change. The chill damp made limp the napkins and table-cloth, and invaded the victuals; the wind, which was rising, whistled round the walls, and made miniature cyclones of the torn paper and dried twigs around them: but they ate, drank, and were merry. At the end of the repast the two gentlemen rose to light their cigars in the lee of the wall.

“I suppose you know all about Malcolm?” said Custer, after an awkward pause.

“My dear fellow,” said the consul, somewhat impatiently, “I know nothing about him, and you ought to know that by this time.”

“I thought YOUR FRIEND, Sir James, might have told you,” continued Custer, with significant emphasis.

“I have not seen Sir James for two months.”

“Well, Malcolm’s a crank–always was one, I reckon, and is reg’larly off his head now. Yes, sir; Scotch whiskey and your friend Sir James finished him. After that dinner at MacFen’s he was done for–went wild. Danced a sword-dance, or a strathspey, or some other blamed thing, on the table, and yelled louder than the pipes. So they all did. Jack, I’ve painted the town red once myself; I thought I knew what a first-class jamboree was: but they were prayer-meetings to that show. Everybody was blind drunk–but they all got over it except HIM. THEY were a different lot of men the next day, as cool and cautious as you please, but HE was shut up for a week, and came out crazy.”

“But what’s that to do with his claim?”

“Well, there ain’t much use ‘whooping up the boys’ when only the whooper gets wild.”

“Still, that does not affect any right he may have in the property.”

“But it affects the syndicate,” said Custer gloomily; “and when we found that he was whooping up some shopkeepers and factory hands who claimed to belong to the clan,–and you can’t heave a stone at a dog around here without hitting a McHulish,–we concluded we hadn’t much use for him ornamentally. So we shipped him home last steamer.”

“And the property?”

“Oh, that’s all right,” said Custer, still gloomily. “We’ve effected an amicable compromise, as Sir James calls it. That means we’ve taken a lot of land somewhere north, that you can shoot over– that is, you needn’t be afraid of hitting a house, or a tree, or a man anywhere; and we’ve got a strip more of the same sort on the seashore somewhere off here, occupied only by some gay galoots called crofters, and you can raise a lawsuit and an imprecation on every acre. Then there’s this soul-subduing, sequestered spot, and what’s left of the old bone-boiling establishment, and the rights of fishing and peat-burning, and otherwise creating a nuisance off the mainland. It cost the syndicate only a hundred thousand dollars, half cash and half in Texan and Kentucky grass lands. But we’ve carried the thing through.”

“I congratulate you,” said the consul.

“Thanks.” Custer puffed at his cigar for a few moments. “That Sir James MacFen is a fine man.”

“He is.”

“A large, broad, all-round man. Knows everything and everybody, don’t he?”

“I think so.”

“Big man in the church, I should say? No slouch at a party canvass, or ward politics, eh? As a board director, or president, just takes the cake, don’t he?”

“I believe so.”

“Nothing mean about Jimmy as an advocate or an arbitrator, either, is there? Rings the bell every time, don’t he? Financiers take a back seat when he’s around? Owns half of Scotland by this time, I reckon.”

The consul believed that Sir James had the reputation of being exceedingly sagacious in financial and mercantile matters, and that he was a man of some wealth.

“Naturally. I wonder what he’d take to come over to America, and give the boys points,” continued Custer, in meditative admiration. “There were two or three men on Scott’s River, and one Chinaman, that we used to think smart, but they were doddering ijuts to HIM. And as for me–I say, Jack, you didn’t see any hayseed in my hair that day I walked inter your consulate, did you?”

The consul smilingly admitted that he had not noticed these signs of rustic innocence in his friend.

“Nor any flies? Well, for all that, when I get home I’m going to resign. No more foreign investments for ME. When anybody calls at the consulate and asks for H. J. Custer, say you don’t know me. And you don’t. And I say, Jack, try to smooth things over for me with HER.”

“With Miss Elsie?”

Custer cast a glance of profound pity upon the consul. “No with Mrs. Kirkby, of course. See?”

The consul thought he did see, and that he had at last found a clue to Custer’s extraordinary speculation. But, like most theorists who argue from a single fact, a few months later he might have doubted his deduction.

He was staying at a large country-house many miles distant from the scene of his late experiences. Already they had faded from his memory with the departure of his compatriots from St. Kentigern. He was smoking by the fire in the billiard-room late one night when a fellow-guest approached him.

“Saw you didn’t remember me at dinner.”

The voice was hesitating, pleasant, and not quite unfamiliar. The consul looked up, and identified the figure before him as one of the new arrivals that day, whom, in the informal and easy courtesy of the house, he had met with no further introduction than a vague smile. He remembered, too, that the stranger had glanced at him once or twice at dinner, with shy but engaging reserve.

“You must see such a lot of people, and the way things are arranged and settled here everybody expects to look and act like everybody else, don’t you know, so you can’t tell one chap from another. Deuced annoying, eh? That’s where you Americans are different, and that’s why those countrywomen of yours were so charming, don’t you know, so original. We were all together on the top of a coach in Scotland, don’t you remember? Had such a jolly time in the beastly rain. You didn’t catch my name. It’s Duncaster.”

The consul at once recalled his former fellow-traveler. The two men shook hands. The Englishman took a pipe from his smoking- jacket, and drew a chair beside the consul.

“Yes,” he continued, comfortably filling his pipe, “the daughter, Miss Kirkby, was awfully good fun; so fresh, so perfectly natural and innocent, don’t you know, and yet so extraordinarily sharp and clever. She had some awfully good chaff over that Scotch scenery before those Scotch tourists, do you remember? And it was all so beastly true, too. Perhaps she’s with you here?”

There was so much unexpected and unaffected interest in the young Englishman’s eyes that the consul was quite serious in his regrets that the ladies had gone back to Paris.

“I’d like to have taken them over to Audrey Edge from here. It’s no distance by train. I did ask them in Scotland, but I suppose they had something better to do. But you might tell them I’ve got some sisters there, and that it is an old place and not half bad, don’t you know, when you write to them. You might give me their address.”

The consul did so, and added a few pleasant words regarding their position,–barring the syndicate,–which he had gathered from Custer. Lord Duncaster’s look of interest, far from abating, became gently confidential.

“I suppose you must see a good deal of your countrymen in your business, and I suppose, just like Englishmen, they differ, by Jove! Some of them, don’t you know, are rather pushing and anxious for position, and all that sort of thing; and some of ’em, like your friends, are quite independent and natural.”

He stopped, and puffed slowly at his pipe. Presently he took it from his mouth, with a little laugh. “I’ve a mind to tell you a rather queer experience of mine. It’s nothing against your people generally, you know, nor do I fancy it’s even an American type; so you won’t mind my speaking of it. I’ve got some property in Scotland,–rather poor stuff you’d call it,–but, by Jove! some Americans have been laying claim to it under some obscure plea of relationship. There might have been something in it, although not all they claim, but my business man, a clever chap up in your place,–perhaps you may have heard of him, Sir James MacFen,–wrote to me that what they really wanted were some ancestral lands with the right to use the family name and privileges. The oddest part of the affair was that the claimant was an impossible sort of lunatic, and the whole thing was run by a syndicate of shrewd Western men. As I don’t care for the property, which has only been dropping a lot of money every year for upkeep and litigation, Sir James, who is an awfully far-sighted chap at managing, thought he could effect a compromise, and get rid of the property at a fair valuation. And, by Jove! he did. But what your countrymen can get out of it,–for the shooting isn’t half as good as what they can get in their own country,–or what use the privileges are to them, I can’t fancy.”

“I think I know the story,” said the consul, eying his fellow-guest attentively; “but if I remember rightly, the young man claimed to be the rightful and only surviving heir.”

The Englishman rose, and, bending over the hearth, slowly knocked the ashes from his pipe. “That’s quite impossible, don’t you know. For,” he added, as he stood up in front of the fire in face, figure, and careless repose more decidedly English than ever, “you see my title of Duncaster only came to me through an uncle, but I am the direct and sole heir of the old family, and the Scotch property. I don’t perhaps look like a Scot,–we’ve been settled in England some time,–but,” he continued with an invincible English drawling deliberation, “I–am–really–you–know–what they call The McHulish.”

AN EPISODE OF WEST WOODLANDS.

I.

The rain was dripping monotonously from the scant eaves of the little church of the Sidon Brethren at West Woodlands. Hewn out of the very heart of a thicket of buckeye spruce and alder, unsunned and unblown upon by any wind, it was so green and unseasoned in its solitude that it seemed a part of the arboreal growth, and on damp Sundays to have taken root again and sprouted. There were moss and shining spots on the underside of the unplaned rafters, little green pools of infusoria stood on the ledge of the windows whose panes were at times suddenly clouded by mysterious unknown breaths from without or within. It was oppressed with an extravagance of leaves at all seasons, whether in summer, when green and limp they crowded the porch, doorways, and shutters, or when penetrating knot-holes and interstices of shingle and clapboard, on some creeping vine, they unexpectedly burst and bourgeoned on the walls like banners; or later, when they rotted in brown heaps in corners, outlined the edges of the floor with a thin yellow border, or invaded the ranks of the high-backed benches which served as pews.

There had been a continuous rustling at the porch and the shaking out of waterproofs and closing of umbrellas until the half-filled church was already redolent of damp dyes and the sulphur of India rubber. The eyes of the congregation were turned to the door with something more than the usual curiosity and expectation. For the new revivalist preacher from Horse Shoe Bay was coming that morning. Already voices of authority were heard approaching, and keeping up their conversation to the very door of the sacred edifice in marked contrast with the awed and bashful whisperings in the porch of the ordinary congregation. The worshipers recognized the voices of Deacons Shadwell and Bradley; in the reverential hush of the building they seemed charged with undue importance.

“It was set back in the road for quiet in the Lord’s work,” said Bradley.

“Yes, but it oughtn’t be hidden! Let your light so shine before men, you know, Brother Bradley,” returned a deep voice, unrecognized and unfamiliar–presumably that of the newcomer.

“It wouldn’t take much to move it–on skids and rollers–nearer to the road,” suggested Shadwell tentatively.

“No, but if you left it stranded there in the wind and sun, green and sappy as it is now, ye’d have every seam and crack startin’ till the ribs shone through, and no amount of calkin’ would make it watertight agin. No; my idea is–clear out the brush and shadder around it! Let the light shine in upon it! Make the waste places glad around it, but keep it THERE! And that’s my idea o’ gen’ral missionary work; that’s how the gospel orter be rooted.”

Here the bell, which from the plain open four-posted belfry above had been clanging with a metallic sharpness that had an odd impatient worldliness about it, suddenly ceased.

“That bell,” said Bradley’s voice, with the same suggestion of conveying important truths to the listening congregation within, “was took from the wreck of the Tamalpais. Brother Horley bought it at auction at Horse Shoe Bay and presented it. You know the Tamalpais ran ashore on Skinner’s Reef, jest off here.”

“Yes, with plenty of sea room, not half a gale o’ wind blowing, and her real course fifty miles to westward! The whole watch must have drunk or sunk in slothful idleness,” returned the deep voice again. A momentary pause followed, and then the two deacons entered the church with the stranger.

He appeared to be a powerfully-built man, with a square, beardless chin; a face that carried one or two scars of smallpox and a deeper one of a less peaceful suggestion, set in a complexion weather- beaten to the color of Spanish leather. Two small, moist gray eyes, that glistened with every emotion, seemed to contradict the hard expression of the other features. He was dressed in cheap black, like the two deacons, with the exception of a loose, black alpaca coat and the usual black silk neckerchief tied in a large bow under a turndown collar,–the general sign and symbol of a minister of his sect. He walked directly to the raised platform at the end of the chapel, where stood a table on which was a pitcher of water, a glass and hymnbook, and a tall upright desk holding a Bible. Glancing over these details, he suddenly paused, carefully lifted some hitherto undetected object from the desk beside the Bible, and, stooping gently, placed it upon the floor. As it hopped away the congregation saw that it was a small green frog. The intrusion was by no means an unusual one, but some odd contrast between this powerful man and the little animal affected them profoundly. No one–even the youngest–smiled; every one–even the youngest–became suddenly attentive. Turning over the leaves of the hymnbook, he then gave out the first two lines of a hymn. The choir accordion in the front side bench awoke like an infant into wailing life, and Cissy Appleby, soprano, took up a little more musically the lugubrious chant. At the close of the verse the preacher joined in, after a sailor fashion, with a breezy bass that seemed to fill the little building with the trouble of the sea. Then followed prayer from Deacon Shadwell, broken by “Amens” from the preacher, with a nautical suggestion of “Ay, ay,” about them, and he began his sermon.

It was, as those who knew his methods might have expected, a suggestion of the conversation they had already overheard. He likened the little chapel, choked with umbrage and rotting in its dampness, to the gospel seed sown in crowded places, famishing in the midst of plenty, and sterile from the absorptions of the more active life around it. He pointed out again the true work of the pioneer missionary; the careful pruning and elimination of those forces that grew up with the Christian’s life, which many people foolishly believed were a part of it. “The WORLD must live and the WORD must live,” said they, and there were easy-going brethren who thought they could live together. But he warned them that the World was always closing upon–“shaddering”–and strangling the Word, unless kept down, and that “fair seemin’ settlement,” or city, which appeared to be “bustin’ and bloomin'” with life and progress, was really “hustlin’ and jostlin'” the Word of God, even in the midst of these “fancy spires and steeples” it had erected to its glory. It was the work of the missionary pioneer to keep down or root out this carnal, worldly growth as much in the settlement as in the wilderness. Some were for getting over the difficulty by dragging the mere wasted “letter of the Word,” or the rotten and withered husks of it, into the highways and byways, where the “blazin'” scorn of the World would finish it. A low, penitential groan from Deacon Shadwell followed this accusing illustration. But the preacher would tell them that the only way was to boldly attack this rankly growing World around them; to clear out fresh paths for the Truth, and let the sunlight of Heaven stream among them.

There was little doubt that the congregation was moved. Whatever they might have thought of the application, the fact itself was patent. The rheumatic Beaseleys felt the truth of it in their aching bones; it came home to the fever and ague stricken Filgees in their damp seats against the sappy wall; it echoed plainly in the chronic cough of Sister Mary Strutt and Widow Doddridge; and Cissy Appleby, with her round brown eyes fixed upon the speaker, remembering how the starch had been taken out of her Sunday frocks, how her long ringlets had become uncurled, her frills limp, and even her ribbons lustreless, felt that indeed a prophet had arisen in Israel!

One or two, however, were disappointed that he had as yet given no indication of that powerful exhortatory emotion for which he was famed, and which had been said to excite certain corresponding corybantic symptoms among his sensitive female worshipers. When the service was over, and the congregation crowded around him, Sister Mary Strutt, on the outer fringe of the assembly, confided to Sister Evans that she had “hearn tell how that when he was over at Soquel he prayed that pow’ful that all the wimmen got fits and tremblin’ spells, and ole Mrs. Jackson had to be hauled off his legs that she was kneelin’ and claspin’ while wrestling with the Sperit.”

“I reckon we seemed kinder strange to him this morning, and he wanted to jest feel his way to our hearts first,” exclaimed Brother Jonas Steers politely. “He’ll be more at home at evenin’ service. It’s queer that some of the best exhortin’ work is done arter early candlelight. I reckon he’s goin’ to stop over with Deacon Bradley to dinner.”

But it appeared that the new preacher, now formally introduced as Brother Seabright, was intending to walk over to Hemlock Mills to dinner. He only asked to be directed the nearest way; he would not trouble Brother Shadwell or Deacon Bradley to come with him.

“But here’s Cissy Appleby lives within a mile o’ thar, and you could go along with her. She’d jest admire to show you the way,” interrupted Brother Shadwell. “Wouldn’t you, Cissy?”

Thus appealed to, the young chorister–a tall girl of sixteen or seventeen–timidly raised her eyes to Brother Seabright as he was about to repeat his former protestation, and he stopped.

“Ef the young lady IS goin’ that way, it’s only fair to accept her kindness in a Christian sperit,” he said gently.

Cissy turned with a mingling of apology and bashfulness towards a young fellow who seemed to be acting as her escort, but who was hesitating in an equal bashfulness, when Seabright added: “And perhaps our young friend will come too?”

But the young friend drew back with a confused laugh, and Brother Seabright and Cissy passed out from the porch together. For a few moments they mingled with the stream and conversation of the departing congregation, but presently Cissy timidly indicated a diverging bypath, and they both turned into it.

It was much warmer in the open than it had been in the chapel and thicket, and Cissy, by way of relieving a certain awkward tension of silence, took off the waterproof cloak and slung it on her arm. This disclosed her five long brown cable-like curls that hung down her shoulders, reaching below her waist in some forgotten fashion of girlhood. They were Cissy’s peculiar adornment, remarkable for their length, thickness, and the extraordinary youthfulness imparted to a figure otherwise precociously matured. In some wavering doubt of her actual years and privileges, Brother Seabright offered to carry her cloak for her, but she declined it with a rustic and youthful pertinacity that seemed to settle the question. In fact, Cissy was as much embarrassed as she was flattered by the company of this distinguished stranger. However, it would be known to all West Woodland that he had walked home with her, while nobody but herself would know that they had scarcely exchanged a word. She noticed how he lounged on with a heavy, rolling gait, sometimes a little before or behind her as the path narrowed. At such times when they accidentally came in contact in passing, she felt a half uneasy, physical consciousness of him, which she referred to his size, the scars on his face, or some latent hardness of expression, but was relieved to see that he had not observed it. Yet this was the man that made grown women cry; she thought of old Mrs. Jackson fervently grasping the plodding ankles before her, and a hysteric desire to laugh, with the fear that he might see it on her face, overcame her. Then she wondered if he was going to walk all the way home without speaking, yet she knew she would be more embarrassed if he began to talk to her.

Suddenly he stopped, and she bumped up against him.

“Oh, excuse me!” she stammered hurriedly.

“Eh?” He evidently had not noticed the collision. “Did you speak?”

“No!–that is–it wasn’t anything,” returned the girl, coloring.

But he had quite forgotten her, and was looking intently before him. They had come to a break in the fringe of woodland, and upon a sudden view of the ocean. At this point the low line of coast- range which sheltered the valley of West Woodlands was abruptly cloven by a gorge that crumbled and fell away seaward to the shore of Horse Shoe Bay. On its northern trend stretched the settlement of Horse Shoe to the promontory of Whale Mouth Point, with its outlying reef of rocks curved inwards like the vast submerged jaw of some marine monster, through whose blunt, tooth-like projections the ship-long swell of the Pacific streamed and fell. On the southern shore the light yellow sands of Punta de las Concepcion glittered like sunshine all the way to the olive-gardens and white domes of the Mission. The two shores seemed to typify the two different climates and civilizations separated by the bay.

The heavy, woodland atmosphere was quickened by the salt breath of the sea. The stranger inhaled it meditatively.

“That’s the reef where the Tamalpais struck,” he said, “and more’n fifty miles out of her course–yes, more’n fifty miles from where she should have bin! It don’t look nat’ral. No–it–don’t–look– nat’ral!”

As he seemed to be speaking to himself, the young girl, who had been gazing with far greater interest at the foreign-looking southern shore, felt confused and did not reply. Then, as if recalling her presence, Brother Seabright turned to her and said:–

“Yes, young lady; and when you hear the old bell of the Tamalpais, and think of how it came here, you may rejoice in the goodness of the Lord that made even those who strayed from the straight course and the true reckoning the means of testifying onto Him.”

But the young are quicker to detect attitudes and affectation than we are apt to imagine; and Cissy could distinguish a certain other straying in this afterthought or moral of the preacher called up by her presence, and knew that it was not the real interest which the view had evoked. She had heard that he had been a sailor, and, with the tact of her sex, answered with what she thought would entertain him:–

“I was a little girl when it happened, and I heard that some sailors got ashore down there, and climbed up this gully from the rocks below. And they camped that night–for there were no houses at West Woodlands then–just in the woods where our chapel now stands. It was funny, wasn’t it?–I mean,” she corrected herself bashfully, “it was strange they chanced to come just there?”

But she had evidently hit the point of interest.

“What became of them?” he said quickly. “They never came to Horse Shoe Settlement, where the others landed from the wreck. I never heard of that boat’s crew or of ANY landing HERE.”

“No. They kept on over the range south to the Mission. I reckon they didn’t know there was a way down on this side to Horse Shoe,” returned Cissy.

Brother Seabright moved on and continued his slow, plodding march. But he kept a little nearer Cissy, and she was conscious that he occasionally looked at her. Presently he said:–

“You have a heavenly gift, Miss Appleby.”

Cissy flushed, and her hand involuntarily went to one of her long, distinguishing curls. It might be THAT. The preacher continued:–

“Yes; a voice like yours is a heavenly gift. And you have properly devoted it to His service. Have you been singing long?”

“About two years. But I’ve got to study a heap yet.”

“The little birds don’t think it necessary to study to praise Him,” said the preacher sententiously.

It occurred to Cissy that this was very unfair argument. She said quickly:–

“But the little birds don’t have to follow words in the hymn-books. You don’t give out lines to larks and bobolinks,” and blushed.

The preacher smiled. It was a very engaging smile, Cissy thought, that lightened his hard mouth. It enabled her to take heart of grace, and presently to chatter like the very birds she had disparaged. Oh yes; she knew she had to learn a great deal more. She had studied “some” already. She was taking lessons over at Point Concepcion, where her aunt had friends, and she went three times a week. The gentleman who taught her was not a Catholic, and, of course, he knew she was a Protestant. She would have preferred to live there, but her mother and father were both dead, and had left her with her aunt. She liked it better because it was sunnier and brighter there. She loved the sun and warmth. She had listened to what he had said about the dampness and gloom of the chapel. It was true. The dampness was that dreadful sometimes it just ruined her clothes, and even made her hoarse. Did he think they would really take his advice and clear out the woods round the chapel?

“Would you like it?” he asked pleasantly.

“Yes.”

“And you think you wouldn’t pine so much for the sunshine and warmth of the Mission?

“I’m not pining,” said Cissy with a toss of her curls, “for anything or anybody; but I think the woods ought to be cleared out. It’s just as it was when the runaways hid there.”

“When the RUNAWAYS HID THERE!” said Brother Seabright quickly. “What runaways?”

“Why, the boat’s crew,” said Cissy.

“Why do you call them runaways?”

“I don’t know. Didn’t YOU?” said Cissy simply. “Didn’t you say they never came back to Horse Shoe Bay. Perhaps I had it from aunty. But I know it’s damp and creepy; and when I was littler I used to be frightened to be alone there practicing.”

“Why?” said the preacher quickly.

“Oh, I don’t know,” hurried on Cissy, with a vague impression that she had said too much. “Only my fancy, I guess.”

“Well,” said Brother Seabright after a pause; “we’ll see what can be done to make a clearing there. Birds sing best in the sunshine, and YOU ought to have some say about it.”

Cissy’s dimples and blushes came together this time. “That’s our house,” she said suddenly, with a slight accent of relief, pointing to a weather-beaten farmhouse on the edge of the gorge. “I turn off here, but you keep straight on for the Mills; they’re back in the woods a piece. But,” she stammered with a sudden sense of shame of forgotten hospitality, “won’t you come in and see aunty?”

“No, thank you, not now.” He stopped, turning his gaze from the house to her. “How old is your house? Was it there at the time of the wreck?”

“Yes,” said Cissy.

“It’s odd that the crew did not come there for help, eh?”

“Maybe they overlooked it in the darkness and the storm,” said Cissy simply. “Good-by, sir.”

The preacher held her hand for an instant in his powerful, but gently graduated grasp. “Good-by until evening service.”

“Yes, sir,” said Cissy.

The young girl tripped on towards her house a little agitated and conscious, and yet a little proud as she saw the faces of her aunt, her uncle, her two cousins, and even her discarded escort, Jo Adams, at the windows, watching her.

“So,” said her aunt, as she entered breathlessly, “ye walked home with the preacher! It was a speshal providence and manifestation for ye, Cissy. I hope ye was mannerly and humble–and profited by the words of grace.”

“I don’t know,” said Cissy, putting aside her hat and cloak listlessly. “He didn’t talk much of anything–but the old wreck of the Tamalpais.”

“What?” said her aunt quickly.

“The wreck of the Tamalpais, and the boat’s crew that came up the gorge,” repeated the young girl.

“And what did HE know about the boat’s crew?” said her aunt hurriedly, fixing her black eyes on Cissy.

“Nothing except what I told him.”

“What YOU told him!” echoed her aunt, with an ominous color filling the sallow hollows of her cheek.

“Yes! He has been a sailor, you know–and I thought it would interest him; and it did! He thought it strange.”

“Cecilia Jane Appleby,” said her aunt shrilly, “do you mean to say that you threw away your chances of salvation and saving grace just to tell gossiping tales that you knew was lies, and evil report, and false witnesses!”

“I only talked of what I’d heard, aunt Vashti,” said Cecilia indignantly. “And he afterwards talked of–of–my voice, and said I had a heavenly gift,” she added, with a slight quiver of her lip.

Aunt Vashti regarded the girl sharply.

“And you may thank the Lord for that heavenly gift,” she said, in a slightly lowered voice; “for ef ye hadn’t to use it tonight, I’d shut ye up in your room, to make it pay for yer foolish gaddin’ TONGUE! And I reckon I’ll escort ye to chapel tonight myself, miss, and get shut o’ some of this foolishness.”

II.

The broad plaza of the Mission de la Concepcion had been baking in the day-long sunlight. Shining drifts from the outlying sand dunes, blown across the ill-paved roadway, radiated the heat in the faces of the few loungers like the pricking of liliputian arrows, and invaded even the cactus hedges. The hot air visibly quivered over the dark red tiles of the tienda roof as if they were undergoing a second burning. The black shadow of a chimney on the whitewashed adobe wall was like a door or cavernous opening in the wall itself; the tops of the olive and pear trees seen above it were russet and sere already in the fierce light. Even the moist breath of the sea beyond had quite evaporated before it crossed the plaza, and now rustled the leaves in the Mission garden with a dry, crepitant sound.

Nevertheless, it seemed to Cissy Appleby, as she crossed the plaza, a very welcome change from West Woodlands. Although the late winter rains had ceased a month ago,–a few days after the revivalist preacher had left,–the woods around the chapel were still sodden and heavy, and the threatened improvement in its site had not taken place. Neither had the preacher himself alluded to it again; his evening sermon–the only other one he preached there– was unexciting, and he had, in fact, left West Woodlands without any display of that extraordinary exhortatory faculty for which he was famous. Yet Cissy, in spite of her enjoyment of the dry, hot Mission, remembered him, and also recalled, albeit poutingly, his blunt suggesting that she was “pining for it.” Nevertheless, she would like to have sung for him HERE–supposing it was possible to conceive of a Sidon Brotherhood Chapel at the Mission. It was a great pity, she thought, that the Sidon Brotherhood and the Franciscan Brotherhood were not more brotherly TOWARDS EACH OTHER. Cissy belonged to the former by hereditary right, locality, and circumstance, but it is to be feared that her theology was imperfect.

She entered a lane between the Mission wall and a lighter iron fenced inclosure, once a part of the garden, but now the appurtenance of a private dwelling that was reconstructed over the heavy adobe shell of some forgotten structure of the old ecclesiastical founders. It was pierced by many windows and openings, and that sunlight and publicity which the former padres had jealously excluded was now wooed from long balconies and verandas by the new proprietor, a well to do American. Elisha Braggs, whose name was generously and euphoniously translated by his native neighbors into “Don Eliseo,” although a heretic, had given largess to the church in the way of restoring its earthquake- shaken tower, and in presenting a new organ to its dilapidated choir. He had further endeared himself to the conservative Spanish population by introducing no obtrusive improvements; by distributing his means through the old channels; by apparently inciting no further alien immigration, but contenting himself to live alone among them, adopting their habits, customs, and language. A harmless musical taste, and a disposition to instruct the young boy choristers, was equally balanced by great skill in horsemanship and the personal management of a ranche of wild cattle on the inland plains.

Consciously pretty, and prettily conscious in her white-starched, rose-sprigged muslin, her pink parasol, beribboned gypsy hat, and the long mane-like curls that swung over her shoulders, Cissy entered the house and was shown to the large low drawing-room on the ground-floor. She once more inhaled its hot potpourri fragrance, in which the spice of the Castilian rose-leaves of the garden was dominant. A few boys, whom she recognized as the choristers of the Mission and her fellow-pupils, were already awaiting her with some degree of anxiety and impatience. This fact, and a certain quick animation that sprang to the blue eyes of the master of the house as the rose-sprigged frock and long curls appeared at the doorway, showed that Cissy was clearly the favorite pupil.

Elisha Braggs was a man of middle age, with a figure somewhat rounded by the adipose curves of a comfortable life, and an air of fastidiousness which was, however, occasionally at variance with what seemed to be his original condition. He greeted Cissy with a certain nervous overconsciousness of his duties as host and teacher, and then plunged abruptly into the lesson. It lasted an hour, Cissy tactfully dividing his somewhat exclusive instruction with the others, and even interpreting it to their slower comprehension. When it was over, the choristers shyly departed, according to their usual custom, leaving Cissy and Don Eliseo–and occasionally one of the padres to more informal practicing and performance. Neither the ingenuousness of Cissy nor the worldly caution of aunt Vashti had ever questioned the propriety of these prolonged and secluded seances; and the young girl herself, although by no means unaccustomed to the bashful attentions of the youth of West Woodlands, had never dreamed of these later musical interviews as being anything but an ordinary recreation of her art. The feeling of gratitude and kindness she had for Don Eliseo, her aunt’s friend, had never left her conscious or embarrassed when she was alone with him. But to-day, possibly from his own nervousness and preoccupation, she was aware of some vague uneasiness, and at an early opportunity rose to go. But Don Eliseo gently laid his hand on hers and said:–

“Don’t go yet; I want to talk to you.” His touch suddenly reminded her that once or twice before he had done the same thing, and she had been disagreeably impressed by it. But she lifted her brown eyes to his with an unconsciousness that was more crushing than a withdrawal of her hand, and waited for him to go on.

“It is such a long way for you to come, and you have so little time to stay when you are here, that I am thinking of asking your aunt to let you live here at the Mission, as a pupil, in the house of the Senora Hernandez, until your lessons are finished. Padre Jose will attend to the rest of your education. Would you like it?”

Poor Cissy’s eyes leaped up in unaffected and sparkling affirmation before her tongue replied. To bask in this beloved sunshine for days together; to have this quaint Spanish life before her eyes, and those soft Spanish accents in her ears; to forget herself in wandering in the old-time Mission garden beyond; to have daily access to Mr. Braggs’s piano and the organ of the church–this was indeed the realization of her fondest dreams! Yet she hesitated. Somewhere in her inherited Puritan nature was a vague conviction that it was wrong, and it seemed even to find an echo in the warning of the preacher: this was what she was “pining for.”

“I don’t know,” she stammered. “I must ask auntie; I shouldn’t like to leave her; and there’s the chapel.”

“Isn’t that revivalist preacher enough to run it for a while?” said her companion, half-sneeringly.

The remark was not a tactful one.

“Mr. Seabright hasn’t been here for a month,” she answered somewhat quickly. “But he’s coming next Sunday, and I’m glad of it. He’s a very good man. And there’s nothing he don’t notice. He saw how silly it was to stick the chapel into the very heart of the woods, and he told them so.”

“And I suppose he’ll run up a brand-new meeting-house out on the road,” said Braggs, smiling.

“No, he’s going to open up the woods, and let the sun and light in, and clear out the underbrush.”

“And what’s that for?”

There was such an utter and abrupt change in the speaker’s voice and manner–which until then had been lazily fastidious and confident–that Cissy was startled. And the change being rude and dictatorial, she was startled into opposition. She had wanted to say that the improvement had been suggested by HER, but she took a more aggressive attitude.

“Brother Seabright says it’s a question of religion and morals. It’s a scandal and a wrong, and a disgrace to the Word, that the chapel should have been put there.”

Don Eliseo’s face turned so white and waxy that Cissy would have noticed it had she not femininely looked away while taking this attitude.

“I suppose that’s a part of his sensation style, and very effective,” he said, resuming his former voice and manner. “I must try to hear him some day. But, now, in regard to your coming here, of course I shall consult your aunt, although I imagine she will have no objection. I only wanted to know how YOU felt about it.” He again laid his hand on hers.

“I should like to come very much,” said Cissy timidly; “and it’s very kind of you, I’m sure; but you’ll see what auntie says, won’t you?” She withdrew her hand after momentarily grasping his, as if his own act had been only a parting salutation, and departed.

Aunt Vashti received Cissy’s account of her interview with a grim satisfaction. She did not know what ideas young gals had nowadays, but in HER time she’d been fit to jump outer her skin at such an offer from such a good man as Elisha Braggs. And he was a rich man, too. And ef he was goin’ to give her an edication free, it wasn’t goin’ to stop there. For her part, she didn’t like to put ideas in young girls’ heads,–goodness knows they’d enough foolishness already; but if Cissy made a Christian use of her gifts, and ‘tended to her edication and privileges, and made herself a fit helpmeet for any man, she would say that there were few men in these parts that was as “comf’ble ketch” as Lish Braggs, or would make as good a husband and provider.

The blood suddenly left Cissy’s cheeks and then returned with uncomfortable heat. Her aunt’s words had suddenly revealed to her the meaning of the uneasiness she had felt in Braggs’s house that morning–the old repulsion that had come at his touch. She had never thought of him as a suitor or a beau before, yet it now seemed perfectly plain to her that this was the ulterior meaning of his generosity. And yet she received that intelligence with the same mixed emotions with which she had received his offer to educate her. She did not conceal from herself the pride and satisfaction she felt in this presumptive selection of her as his wife; the worldly advantages that it promised; nor that it was a destiny far beyond her deserts. Yet she was conscious of exactly the same sense of wrong-doing in her preferences–something that seemed vaguely akin to that “conviction of sin” of which she had heard so much–as when she received his offer of education. It was this mixture of fear and satisfaction that caused her alternate paling and flushing, yet this time it was the fear that came first. Perhaps she was becoming unduly sensitive. The secretiveness of her sex came to her aid here, and she awkwardly changed the subject. Aunt Vashti, complacently believing that her words had fallen on fruitful soil, discreetly said no more.

It was a hot morning when Cissy walked alone to chapel early next Sunday. There was a dry irritation in the air which even the northwest trades, blowing through the seaward gorge, could not temper, and for the first time in her life she looked forward to the leafy seclusion of the buried chapel with a feeling of longing. She had avoided her youthful escort, for she wished to practice alone for an hour before the service with the new harmonium that had taken the place of the old accordion and its unskillful performer. Perhaps, too, there was a timid desire to be at her best on the return of Brother Seabright, and to show him, with a new performance, that the “heavenly gift” had not been neglected. She opened the chapel with the key she always carried, “swished” away an intrusive squirrel, left the door and window open for a moment, until the beating of frightened wings against the rafters had ceased, and, after carefully examining the floor for spiders, mice, and other creeping things, brushed away a few fallen leaves and twigs from the top of the harmonium. Then, with her long curls tossed over her shoulders and hanging limply down the back of her new maple-leaf yellow frock,–which was also a timid recognition of Brother Seabright’s return,–and her brown eyes turned to the rafters, this rustic St. Cecilia of the Coast Range began to sing. The shell of the little building dilated with the melody; the sashes of the windows pulsated, the two ejected linnets joined in timidly from their coign of vantage in the belfry outside, and the limp vines above the porch swayed like her curls. Once she thought she heard stealthy footsteps without; once she was almost certain she felt the brushing of somebody outside against the thin walls of the chapel, and once she stopped to glance quickly at the window with a strange instinct that some one was looking at her. But she quickly reflected that Brother Seabright would come there only when the deacons did, and with them. Why she should think that it was Brother Seabright, or why Brother Seabright should come thus and at such a time, she could not have explained.

He did not, in fact, make his appearance until later, and after the congregation had quite filled the chapel; he did not, moreover, appear to notice her as she sat there, and when he gave out the hymn he seemed to have quietly overlooked the new harmonium. She sang her best, however, and more than one of the audience thought that “little Sister Appleby” had greatly improved. Indeed, it would not have seemed strange to some–remembering Brother Seabright’s discursive oratory–if he had made some allusion to it. But he did not. His heavy eyes moved slowly over the congregation, and he began.

As usual he did not take a text. But he would talk to them that morning about “The Conviction of Sin” and the sense of wrong-doing that was innate in the sinner. This included all form of temptation, for what was temptation but the inborn consciousness of something to struggle against, and that was sin! At this apparently concise exposition of her own feelings in regard to Don Eliseo’s offer, Cissy felt herself blushing to the roots of her curls. Could it be possible that Brother Seabright had heard of her temptation to leave West Woodlands, and that this warning was intended for her? He did not even look in her direction. Yet his next sentence seemed to be an answer to her own mental query.

“Folks might ask,” he continued, “if even the young and inexperienced should feel this–or was there a state of innocent guilt without consciousness?” He would answer that question by telling them what had happened to him that morning. He had come to the chapel, not by the road, but through the tangled woods behind them (Cissy started)–through the thick brush and undergrowth that was choking the life out of this little chapel–the wilderness that he had believed was never before trodden by human feet, and was known only to roaming beasts and vermin. But that was where he was wrong.

In the stillness and listening silence, a sudden cough from some one in one of the back benches produced that instantaneous diversion of attention common to humanity on such occasions. Cissy’s curls swung round with the others. But she was surprised to see that Mr. Braggs was seated in one of the benches near the door, and from the fact of his holding a handkerchief to his mouth, and being gazed at by his neighbors, it was evident that it was he who had coughed. Perhaps he had come to West Woodlands to talk to her aunt! With the preacher before her, and her probable suitor behind her, she felt herself again blushing.

Brother Seabright continued. Yes, he was WRONG, for there before him, in the depths of the forest, were two children. They were looking at a bush of “pizon berries,”–the deadly nightshade, as it was fitly called,–and one was warning the other of its dangerous qualities.

“But how do you know it’s the ‘pizon berry’?” asked the other.

“Because it’s larger, and nicer, and bigger, and easier to get than the real good ones,” returned the other.

And it was so. Thus was the truth revealed from the mouths of babes and sucklings; even they were conscious of temptation and sin! But here there was another interruption from the back benches, which proved, however, to be only the suppressed giggle of a boy–evidently the youthful hero of the illustration, surprised into nervous hilarity.

The preacher then passed to the “Conviction of Sin” in its more familiar phases. Many brothers confounded this with DISCOVERY AND PUBLICITY. It was not their own sin “finding them out,” but others discovering it. Until that happened, they fancied themselves safe, stilling their consciences, confounding the blinded eye of the world with the all-seeing eye of the Lord. But were they safe even then? Did not sooner or later the sea deliver up its dead, the earth what was buried in it, the wild woods what its depths had hidden? Was not the foolish secret, the guilty secret, the forgotten sin, sure to be disclosed? Then if they could not fly from the testimony of His works, if they could not evade even their fellow-man, why did they not first turn to Him? Why, from the penitent child at his mother’s knee to the murderer on the scaffold, did they only at THE LAST confess unto Him?

His voice and manner had suddenly changed. From the rough note of accusation and challenge it had passed into the equally rough, but broken and sympathetic, accents of appeal. Why did they hesitate longer to confess their sin–not to man–but unto Him? Why did they delay? Now–that evening! That very moment! This was the appointed time! He entreated them in the name of religious faith, in the name of a human brotherly love. His delivery was now no longer deliberate, but hurried and panting; his speech now no longer chosen, but made up of reiterations and repetitions, ejaculations, and even incoherent epithets. His gestures and long intonations which began to take the place of even that interrupted speech affected them more than his reasoning! Short sighs escaped them; they swayed to and fro with the rhythm of his voice and movements. They had begun to comprehend this exacerbation of emotion–this paroxysmal rhapsody. This was the dithyrambic exaltation they had ardently waited for. They responded quickly. First with groans, equally inarticulate murmurs of assent, shouts of “Glory,” and the reckless invocation of sacred names. Then a wave of hysteria seemed to move the whole mass, and broke into tears and sobs among the women. In her own excited consciousness it seemed to Cissy that some actual struggle between good and evil– like unto the casting out of devils–was shaking the little building. She cast a hurried glance behind her and saw Mr. Braggs sitting erect, white and scornful. She knew that she too was shrinking from the speaker,–not from any sense of conviction, but because he was irritating and disturbing her innate sense of fitness and harmony,–and she was pained that Mr. Braggs should see him thus. Meantime the weird, invisible struggle continued, heightened and, it seemed to her, incited by the partisan groans and exultant actions of those around her, until suddenly a wild despairing cry arose above the conflict. A vague fear seized her– the voice was familiar! She turned in time to see the figure of aunt Vashti rise in her seat with a hysterical outburst, and fall convulsively forward upon her knees! She would have rushed to her side, but the frenzied woman was instantly caught by Deacon Shadwell and surrounded by a group of her own sex and became hidden. And when Cissy recovered herself she was astonished to find Brother Seabright–with every trace of his past emotion vanished from his hard-set face–calmly taking up his coherent discourse in his ordinary level tones. The furious struggle of the moment before was over; the chapel and its congregation had fallen back into an exhausted and apathetic silence! Then the preacher gave out the hymn–the words were singularly jubilant among that usually mournful collection in the book before her–and Cissy began it with a tremulous voice. But it gained strength, clearness, and volume as she went on, and she felt thrilled throughout with a new human sympathy she had never known before. The preacher’s bass supported her now for the first time not unmusically–and the service was over.

Relieved, she turned quickly to join her aunt, but a hand was laid gently upon her shoulder. It was Brother Seabright, who had just stepped from the platform. The congregation, knowing her to be the niece of the hysteric woman, passed out without disturbing them.

“You have, indeed, improved your gift, Sister Cecilia,” he said gravely. “You must have practiced much.”

“Yes–that is, no!–only a little,” stammered Cissy.

“But, excuse me, I must look after auntie,” she added, drawing timidly away.

“Your aunt is better, and has gone on with Sister Shadwell. She is not in need of your help, and really would do better without you just now. I shall see her myself presently.”

“But YOU made her sick already,” said Cissy, with a sudden, half- nervous audacity. “You even frightened ME.”

“Frightened you?” repeated Seabright, looking at her quickly.

“Yes,” said Cissy, meeting his gaze with brown, truthful eyes. “Yes, when you–when you–made those faces. I like to hear you talk, but”–she stopped.

Brother Seabright’s rare smile again lightened his face. But it seemed sadder than when she had first seen it.

“Then you have been practicing again at the Mission?” he said quietly; “and you still prefer it?”

“Yes,” said Cissy. She wanted to appear as loyal to the Mission in Brother Seabright’s presence as she was faithful to West Woodlands in Mr. Braggs’s. She had no idea that this was dangerously near to coquetry. So she said a little archly, “I don’t see why YOU don’t like the Mission. You’re a missionary yourself. The old padres came here to spread the Word. So do you.”

“But not in that way,” he said curtly. “I’ve seen enough of them when I was knocking round the world a seafaring man and a sinner. I knew them–receivers of the ill-gotten gains of adventurers, fools, and scoundrels. I knew them–enriched by the spoils of persecution and oppression; gathering under their walls outlaws and fugitives from justice, and flinging an indulgence here and an absolution there, as they were paid for it. Don’t talk to me of THEM–I know them.”

They were passing out of the chapel together, and he made an impatient gesture as if dismissing the subject. Accustomed though she was to the sweeping criticism of her Catholic friends by her West Woodlands associates, she was nevertheless hurt by his brusqueness. She dropped a little behind, and they separated at the porch. Notwithstanding her anxiety to see her aunt, she felt she could not now go to Deacon Shadwell’s without seeming to follow him–and after he had assured her that her help was not required! She turned aside and made her way slowly towards her home.

There she found that her aunt had not returned, gathering from her uncle that she was recovering from a fit of “high strikes” (hysterics), and would be better alone. Whether he underrated her complaint, or had a consciousness of his masculine helplessness in such disorders, he evidently made light of it. And when Cissy, afterwards, a little ashamed that she had allowed her momentary pique against Brother Seabright to stand in the way of her duty, determined to go to her aunt, instead of returning to the chapel that evening, he did not oppose it. She learned also that Mr. Braggs had called in the morning, but, finding that her aunt Vashti was at chapel, he had followed her there, intending to return with her. But he had not been seen since the service, and had evidently returned to the Mission.

But when she reached Deacon Shadwell’s house she was received by Mrs. Shadwell only. Her aunt, said that lady, was physically better, but Brother Seabright had left “partkler word” that she was to see nobody. It was an extraordinary case of “findin’ the Lord,” the like of which had never been known before in West Woodlands, and she (Cissy) would yet be proud of one of her “fammerly being speshally selected for grace.” But the “workin’s o’ salvation was not to be finicked away on worldly things or even the affections of the flesh;” and if Cissy really loved her aunt, “she wouldn’t interfere with her while she was, so to speak, still on the mourners’ bench, wrastlin’ with the Sperret in their back sittin’- room.” But she might wait until Brother Seabright’s return from evening chapel after service.

Cissy waited. Nine o’clock came, but Brother Seabright did not return. Then a small but inconsequent dignity took possession of her, and she slightly tossed her long curls from her shoulders. She was not going to wait for any man’s permission to see her own aunt. If auntie did not want to see her, that was enough. She could go home alone. She didn’t want any one to go with her.

Lifted and sustained by these lofty considerations, with an erect head and slightly ruffled mane, well enwrapped in a becoming white merino “cloud,” the young girl stepped out on her homeward journey. She had certainly enough to occupy her mind and, perhaps, justify her independence. To have a suitor for her hand in the person of the superior and wealthy Mr. Braggs,–for that was what his visit that morning to West Woodlands meant,–and to be personally complimented on her improvement by the famous Brother Seabright, all within twelve hours, was something to be proud of, even although it was mitigated by her aunt’s illness, her suitor’s abrupt departure, and Brother Seabright’s momentary coldness and impatience. Oddly enough, this last and apparently trivial circumstance occupied her thoughts more than the others. She found herself looking out for him in the windings of the moonlit road, and when, at last, she reached the turning towards the little wood and chapel, her small feet unconsciously lingered until she felt herself blushing under her fleecy “cloud.” She looked down the lane. From the point where she was standing the lights of the chapel should have been plainly visible; but now all was dark. It was nearly ten o’clock, and he must have gone home by another road. Then a spirit of adventure seized her. She had the key of the chapel in her pocket. She remembered she had left a small black Spanish fan–a former gift of Mr. Braggs lying on the harmonium. She would go and bring it away, and satisfy herself that Brother Seabright was not there still. It was but a step, and in the clear moonlight.

The lane wound before her like a silver stream, except where it was interrupted and bridged over by jagged black shadows. The chapel itself was black, the clustering trees around it were black also; the porch seemed to cover an inky well of shadow; the windows were rayless and dead, and in the chancel one still left open showed a yawning vault of obscurity within. Nevertheless, she opened the door softly, glided into the dark depths, and made her way to the harmonium. But here the sound of footsteps without startled her; she glanced hurriedly through the open window, and saw the figure of Elisha Braggs suddenly revealed in the moonlight as he crossed the path behind the chapel. He was closely followed by two peons, whom she recognized as his servants at the Mission, and they each carried a pickaxe. From their manner it was evident that they had no suspicion of her presence in the chapel. But they had stopped and were listening. Her heart beat quickly; with a sudden instinct she ran and bolted the door. But it was evidently another intruder they were watching, for she presently saw Brother Seabright quietly cross the lane and approach the chapel. The three men had disappeared; but there was a sudden shout, the sound of scuffling, the deep voice of Brother Seabright saying, “Back, there, will you! Hands off!” and a pause. She could see nothing; she listened in every pulse. Then the voice of Brother Seabright arose again quite clearly, slowly, and as deliberately as if it had risen from the platform in the chapel.

“Lish Barker! I thought as much! Lish Barker, first mate of the Tamalpais, who was said to have gone down with a boat’s crew and the ship’s treasure after she struck. I THOUGHT I knew that face today.”

“Yes,” said the voice of him whom she had known as Elisha Braggs,– “yes, and I knew YOUR face, Jim Seabright, ex-whaler, slaver, pirate, and bo’s’n of the Highflyer, marooned in the South Pacific, where you found the Lord–ha! ha!–and became the psalm-singing, converted American sailor preacher!”

“I am not ashamed before men of my past, which every one knows,” returned Seabright slowly. “But what of YOURS, Elisha Barker– YOURS that has made you sham death itself to hide it from them? What of YOURS–spent in the sloth of your ill-gotten gains! Turn, sinner, turn! Turn, Elisha Braggs, while there is yet time!”

“Belay there, Brother Seabright; we’re not INSIDE your gospel-shop just now! Keep your palaver for those that need it. Let me pass, before I have to teach you that you haven’t to deal with a gang of hysterical old women to-night.”

“But not until you know that one of those women,–Vashti White,– by God’s grace converted of her sins, has confessed her secret and yours, Elisha Barker! Yes! She has told me how her sister’s husband–the father of the young girl you are trying to lure away– helped you off that night with your booty, took his miserable reward and lived and died in exile with the rest of your wretched crew,–afraid to return to his home and country–whilst you– shameless and impenitent–lived in slothful ease at the Mission!”

“Liar! Let me pass!”

“Not until I know your purpose here to-night.”

“Then take the consequences! Here, Pedro! Ramon! Seize him. Tie him head and heels together, and toss him in the bush!”

The sound of scuffling recommenced. The struggle seemed fierce and long, with no breath wasted in useless outcry. Then there was a bright flash, a muffled report, and the stinging and fire of gunpowder at the window.

Transfixed with fear, Cissy cast a despairing glance around her. Ah, the bell-rope! In another instant she had grasped it frantically in her hands.

All the fear, indignation, horror, sympathy, and wild appeal for help that had arisen helplessly in her throat and yet remained unuttered, now seemed to thrill through her fingers and the tightened rope, and broke into frantic voice in the clanging metal above her. The whole chapel, the whole woodland, the clear, moonlit sky above was filled with its alarming accents. It shrieked, implored, protested, summoned, and threatened, in one ceaseless outcry, seeming to roll over and over–as, indeed, it did–in leaps and bounds that shook the belfry. Never before, even in the blows of the striking surges, had the bell of the Tamalpais clamored like that! Once she heard above the turmoil the shaking of the door against the bolt that still held firmly; once she thought she heard Seabright’s voice calling to her; once she thought she smelled the strong smoke of burning grass. But she kept on, until the window was suddenly darkened by a figure, and Brother Seabright, leaping in, caught her in his arms as she was reeling fainting, but still clinging to the rope. But his strong presence and some powerful magnetism in his touch restored her.

“You have heard all!” he said.

“Yes.”

“Then for your aunt’s sake, for your dead father’s sake, FORGET all! That wretched man has fled with his wounded hirelings–let his sin go with him. But the village is alarmed–the brethren may be here any moment! Neither question nor deny what I shall tell them. Fear nothing. God will forgive the silence that leaves the vengeance to His hands alone!” Voices and footsteps were heard approaching the chapel. Brother Seabright significantly pressed her hand and strode towards the door. Deacon Shadwell was first to enter.

“You here–Brother Seabright! What has happened?”

“God be praised!” said Brother Seabright cheerfully, “nothing of consequence! The danger is over! Yet, but for the courage and presence of mind of Sister Appleby a serious evil might have been done.” He paused, and with another voice turned half- interrogatively towards her. “Some children, or a passing tramp, had carelessly thrown matches in the underbrush, and they were ignited beside the chapel. Sister Appleby, chancing to return here for”–

“For my fan,” said Cissy with a timid truthfulness of accent.

“Found herself unable to cope with it, and it occurred to her to give the alarm you heard. I happened to be passing and was first to respond. Happily the flames had made but little headway, and were quickly beaten down. It is all over now. But let us hope that the speedy clearing out of the underbrush and the opening of the woods around the chapel will prevent any recurrence of the alarm of to-night.”

. . . . . .

That the lesson thus reiterated by Brother Seabright was effective, the following extract, from the columns of the “Whale Point Gazette,” may not only be offered as evidence, but may even give the cautious reader further light on the episode itself:–

STRANGE DISCOVERY AT WEST WOODLANDS.–THE TAMALPAIS MYSTERY AGAIN.

The improvements in the clearing around the Sidon Chapel at West Woodlands, undertaken by the Rev. James Seabright, have disclosed another link in the mystery which surrounded the loss of the Tamalpais some years ago at Whale Mouth Point. It will be remembered that the boat containing Adams & Co.’s treasure, the Tamalpais’ first officer, and a crew of four men was lost on the rocks shortly after leaving the ill-fated vessel. None of the bodies were ever recovered, and the treasure itself completely baffled the search of divers and salvers. A lidless box bearing the mark of Adams & Co., of the kind in which their treasure was usually shipped, was yesterday found in the woods behind the chapel, half buried in brush, bark, and windfalls. There were no other indications, except the traces of a camp-fire at some remote period, probably long before the building of the chapel. But how and when the box was transported to the upland, and by whose agency, still remains a matter of conjecture. Our reporter who visited the Rev. Mr. Seabright, who has lately accepted the regular ministry of the chapel, was offered every facility for information, but it was evident that the early settlers who were cognizant of the fact–if there were any–are either dead or have left the vicinity.

THE HOME-COMING OF JIM WILKES.

I.

For many minutes there had been no sound but the monotonous drumming of the rain on the roof of the coach, the swishing of wheels through the gravelly mud, and the momentary clatter of hoofs upon some rocky outcrop in the road. Conversation had ceased; the light-hearted young editor in the front seat, more than suspected of dangerous levity, had relapsed into silence since the heavy man in the middle seat had taken to regarding the ceiling with ostentatious resignation, and the thin female beside him had averted her respectable bonnet. An occasional lurch of the coach brought down a fringe of raindrops from its eaves that filmed the windows and shut out the sodden prospect already darkening into night. There had been a momentary relief in their hurried dash through Summit Springs, and the spectacle of certain newly arrived County Delegates crowding the veranda of its one hotel; but that was now three miles behind. The young editor’s sole resource was to occasionally steal a glance at the face of the one passenger who seemed to be in sympathy with him, but who was too far away for easy conversation. It was the half-amused, half-perplexed face of a young man who had been for some time regarding him from a remote corner of the coach with an odd mingling of admiring yet cogitating interest, which, however, had never extended to any further encouragement than a faint sad smile. Even this at last faded out in the growing darkness; the powerful coach lamps on either side that flashed on the wayside objects gave no light to the interior. Everybody was slowly falling asleep. Suddenly everybody woke up to find that the coach was apparently standing still! When it had stopped no one knew! The young editor lowered his window. The coach lamp on that side was missing, but nothing was to be seen. In the distance there appeared to be a faint splashing.

“Well,” called out an impatient voice from the box above; “what do you make it?” It was the authoritative accents of Yuba Bill, the driver, and everybody listened eagerly for the reply.

It came faintly from the distance and the splashing. “Almost four feet here, and deepening as you go.”

“Dead water?”

“No–back water from the Fork.”

There was a general movement towards the doors and windows. The splashing came nearer. Then a light flashed on the trees, the windows, and–two feet of yellow water peacefully flowing beneath them! The thin female gave a slight scream.

“There’s no danger,” said the Expressman, now wading towards them with the coach lamp in his hand. “But we’ll have to pull round out of it and go back to the Springs. There’s no getting past this break to-night.”

“Why didn’t you let us know this before,” said the heavy man indignantly from the window.

“Jim,” said the driver with that slow deliberation which instantly enforced complete attention.

“Yes, Bill.”

“Have you got a spare copy of that reg’lar bulletin that the Stage Kempany issoos every ten minutes to each passenger to tell ’em where we are, how far it is to the next place, and wots the state o’ the weather gin’rally?”

“No!” said the Expressman grimly, as he climbed to the box, “there’s not one left. Why?”

“Cos the Emperor of Chiny’s inside wantin’ one! Hoop! Keep your seats down there! G’lang!” the whip cracked, there was a desperate splashing, a backward and forward jolting of the coach, the glistening wet flanks and tossing heads of the leaders seen for a moment opposite the windows, a sickening swirl of the whole body of the vehicle as if parting from its axles, a long straight dragging pull, and–presently the welcome sound of hoofs once more beating the firmer ground.

“Hi! Hold up–driver!”

It was the editor’s quiet friend who was leaning from the window.

“Isn’t Wilkes’s ranch just off here?”

“Yes, half a mile along the ridge, I reckon,” returned the driver shortly.

“Well, if you’re not going on to-night, I’d get off and stop there.”

“I reckon your head’s level, stranger,” said Bill approvingly; “for they’re about chock full at the Springs’ House.”

To descend, the passenger was obliged to pass out by the middle seat and before the young editor. As he did so he cast a shy look on him and, leaning over, said hesitatingly, in a lower voice: “I don’t think you will be able to get in at the Springs Hotel. If– if–you care to come with me to–to–the ranch, I can take care of you.”

The young editor–a man of action–paused for an instant only. Then seizing his bag, he said promptly: “Thank you,” and followed his newly-found friend to the ground. The whip cracked, the coach rolled away.

“You know Wilkes?” he said.

“Ye-ee-s. He’s my father.”

“Ah,” said the editor cheerfully, “then you’re going home?”

“Yes.”

It was quite light in the open, and the stranger, after a moment’s survey of the prospect,–a survey that, however, seemed to be characterized by his previous hesitation,–said: “This way,” crossed the road, and began to follow a quite plain but long disused wagon track along the slope. His manner was still so embarrassed that the young editor, after gayly repeating his thanks for his companion’s thoughtful courtesy, followed him in silence. At the end of ten minutes they had reached some cultivated fields and orchards; the stranger brightened, although still with a preoccupied air, quickened his pace, and then suddenly stopped. When the editor reached his side he was gazing with apparently still greater perplexity upon the level, half obliterated, and blackened foundations of what had been a large farmhouse.

“Why, it’s been burnt down!” he said thoughtfully.

The editor stared at him! Burnt down it certainly had been, but by no means recently. Grasses were already springing up from the charred beams in the cellar, vines were trailing over the fallen chimneys, excavations, already old, had been made among the ruins. “When were you here last?” the editor asked abruptly.

“Five years ago,” said the stranger abstractedly.

“Five years!–and you knew nothing of THIS?”