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The Story of a Mine by Bret Harte

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Senate, and left Unfinished Business to take care of itself.

Left to itself for seven hours, Unfinished Business gnashed its
false teeth and tore its wig in impotent fury in corridor and hall.
For seven hours the gifted Gashwiler had continued the manufacture
of oil and honey, whose sweetness, however, was slowly palling upon
the congressional lip; for seven hours Roscommon and friends beat
with impatient feet the lobby, and shook fists, more or less
discolored, at the distinguished Senator. For seven hours the one
or two editors were obliged to sit and calmly compliment the great
speech which that night flashed over the wires of a continent with
the old electric thrill. And, worse than all, they were obliged to
record with it the closing of the ---- Congress, with more than the
usual amount of Unfinished Business.

A little group of friends surrounded the great Senator with hymns
of praise and congratulations. Old adversaries saluted him
courteously as they passed by with the respect of strong men. A
little woman with a shawl drawn over her shoulders, and held with
one small brown hand, approached him timidly:

"I speak not the English well," she said gently, "but I have read
much. I have read in the plays of your Shakspeare. I would like
to say to you the words of Rosalind to Orlando when he did fight:
'Sir you have wrestled well, and have overthrown more than your
enemies.'" And with these words she was gone.

Yet not so quickly but that pretty Mrs. Hopkinson, coming,--as
Victrix always comes to Victor, to thank the great Senator, albeit
the faces of her escorts were shrouded in gloom,--saw the shawled
figure disappear.

"There," she said, pinching Wiles mischievously, "there! that's the
woman you were afraid of. Look at her. Look at that dress. Ah,
Heavens! look at that shawl. Didn't I tell you she had no style?"

"Who is she?" said Wiles sullenly.

"Carmen de Haro, of course," said the lady vivaciously. "What are
you hurrying away so for? You're absolutely pulling me along."

Mr. Wiles had just caught sight of the travel-worn face of Royal
Thatcher among the crowd that thronged the stair-case. Thatcher
appeared pale and distrait: Mr. Harlowe, his counsel, at his side,
rallied him.

"No one would think you had just got a new lease of your property,
and escaped a great swindle. What's the matter with you? Miss De
Haro passed us just now. It was she who spoke to the Senator. Why
did you not recognize her?"

"I was thinking," said Thatcher gloomily.

"Well, you take things coolly! And certainly you are not very
demonstrative towards the woman who saved you to-day. For, as sure
as you live, it was she who drew that speech out of the Senator."

Thatcher did not reply, but moved away. He HAD noticed Carmen de
Haro, and was about to greet her with mingled pleasure and
embarrassment. But he had heard her compliment to the Senator, and
this strong, preoccupied, automatic man, who only ten days before
had no thought beyond his property, was now thinking more of that
compliment to another than of his success; and was beginning to
hate the Senator who had saved him, the lawyer who stood beside
him, and even the little figure that had tripped down the steps
unconscious of him.



It was somewhat inconsistent with Royal Thatcher's embarrassment
and sensitiveness that he should, on leaving the Capitol, order a
carriage and drive directly to the lodgings of Miss De Haro. That
on finding she was not at home, he should become again sulky and
suspicious, and even be ashamed of the honest impulse that led him
there, was, I suppose, manlike and natural. He felt that he had
done all the courtesy required; he had promptly answered her
dispatch with his presence. If she chose to be absent at such a
moment, HE had at least done HIS duty. In short, there was
scarcely any absurdity of the imagination which this once practical
man did not permit himself to indulge in, yet always with a certain
consciousness that he was allowing his feelings to run away with
him,--a fact that did not tend to make him better humored, and
rather inclined him to place the responsibility of the elopement on
somebody else. If Miss De Haro had been home, &c. &c., and not
going into ecstasies over speeches, &c. &c., and had attended to
her business, i. e., being exactly what he had supposed her to be,--
all this would not have happened.

I am aware that this will not heighten the reader's respect for my
hero. But I fancy that the imperceptible progress of a sincere
passion in the matured strong man is apt to be marked with even
more than the usual haste and absurdity of callous youth.

The fever that runs riot in the veins of the robust is apt to pass
your ailing weakling by. Possibly there may be some immunity in
inoculation. It is Lothario who is always self-possessed and does
and says the right thing, while poor honest Coelebs becomes
ridiculous with genuine emotion.

He rejoined his lawyer in no very gracious mood. The chambers
occupied by Mr. Harlowe were in the basement of a private dwelling
once occupied and made historic by an Honorable Somebody, who,
however, was remembered only by the landlord and the last tenant.
There were various shelves in the walls divided into compartments,
sarcastically known as "pigeon holes," in which the dove of peace
had never rested, but which still perpetuated, in their legends,
the feuds and animosities of suitors now but common dust together.
There was a portrait, apparently of a cherub, which on nearer
inspection turned out to be a famous English Lord Chancellor in his
flowing wig.

There were books with dreary, unenlivening titles,--egotistic
always, as recording Smith's opinions on this, and Jones's
commentaries on that. There was a hand bill tacked on the wall,
which at first offered hilarious suggestions of a circus or a
steamboat excursion, but which turned out only to be a sheriff's
sale. There were several oddly-shaped packages in newspaper
wrappings, mysterious and awful in dark corners, that might have
contained forgotten law papers or the previous week's washing of
the eminent counsel. There were one or two newspapers, which at
first offered entertaining prospects to the waiting client, but
always proved to be a law record or a Supreme Court decision.
There was the bust of a late distinguished jurist, which apparently
had never been dusted since he himself became dust, and had already
grown a perceptibly dusty moustache on his severely-judicial upper
lip. It was a cheerless place in the sunshine of day; at night,
when it ought, by every suggestion of its dusty past, to have been
left to the vengeful ghosts, the greater part of whose hopes and
passions were recorded and gathered there; when in the dark the
dead hands of forgotten men were stretched from their dusty graves
to fumble once more for their old title deeds; at night, when it
was lit up by flaring gaslight, the hollow mockery of this
dissipation was so apparent that people in the streets, looking
through the illuminated windows, felt as if the privacy of a family
vault had been intruded upon by body-snatchers.

Royal Thatcher glanced around the room, took in all its dreary
suggestions in a half-weary, half-indifferent sort of way, and
dropped into the lawyer's own revolving chair as that gentleman
entered from the adjacent room.

"Well, you got back soon, I see," said Harlowe briskly.

"Yes," said his client, without looking up, and with this notable
distinction between himself and all other previous clients, that he
seemed absolutely less interested than the lawyer. "Yes, I'm here;
and, upon my soul, I don't exactly know why."

"You told me of certain papers you had discovered," said the lawyer

"Oh, yes," returned Thatcher with a slight yawn. "I've got here
some papers somewhere;"--he began to feel in his coat pocket
languidly;--"but, by the way, this is a rather dreary and God-
forsaken sort of place! Let's go up to Welker's, and you can look
at them over a bottle of champagne."

"After I've looked at them, I've something to show you, myself,"
said Harlowe; "and as for the champagne, we'll have that in the
other room, by and by. At present I want to have my head clear,
and yours too,--if you'll oblige me by becoming sufficiently
interested in your own affairs to talk to me about them."

Thatcher was gazing abstractedly at the fire. He started. "I dare
say," he began, "I'm not very interesting; yet it's possible that
my affairs have taken up a little too much of my time. However,--"
he stopped, took from his pocket an envelope, and threw it on the
desk,--"there are some papers. I don't know what value they may
be; that is for you to determine. I don't know that I've any legal
right to their possession,--that is for you to say, too. They came
to me in a queer way. On the overland journey here I lost my bag,
containing my few traps and some letters and papers 'of no value,'
as the advertisements say, 'to any but the owner.' Well, the bag
was lost, but the stage driver declares that it was stolen by a
fellow-passenger,--a man by the name of Giles, or Stiles, or Piles--"

"Wiles," said Harlowe earnestly.

"Yes," continued Thatcher, suppressing a yawn; "yes, I guess you're
right,--Wiles. Well, the stage driver, finally believing this,
goes to work and quietly and unostentatiously steals--I say, have
you got a cigar?"

"I'll get you one."

Harlowe disappeared in the adjoining room. Thatcher dragged
Harlowe's heavy, revolving desk chair, which never before had been
removed from its sacred position, to the fire, and began to poke
the coals abstractedly.

Harlowe reappeared with cigars and matches. Thatcher lit one
mechanically, and said, between the pulls:

"Do you--ever--talk--to yourself?"


"I thought I heard your voice just now in the other room. Anyhow,
this is an awful spooky place. If I stayed here alone half an
hour, I'd fancy that the Lord Chancellor up there would step down
in his robes, out of his frame, to keep me company."

"Nonsense! When I'm busy, I often sit here and write until after
midnight. It's so quiet!"

"D--mnably so!"

"Well, to go back to the papers. Somebody stole your bag, or you
lost it. YOU stole--"

"The driver stole," suggested Thatcher, so languidly that it could
hardly be called an interruption.

"Well, we'll say the driver stole, and passed over to you as his
accomplice, confederate, or receiver, certain papers belonging--"

"See here, Harlowe, I don't feel like joking in a ghostly law
office after midnight. Here are your facts. Yuba Bill, the
driver, stole a bag from this passenger, Wiles, or Smiles, and
handed it to me to insure the return of my own. I found in it some
papers concerning my case. There they are. Do with them what you

Thatcher turned his eyes again abstractedly to the fire.

Harlowe took out the first paper:

"A-w, this seems to be a telegram. Yes, eh? 'Come to Washington
at once.--Carmen de Haro.'"

Thatcher started, blushed like a girl, and hurriedly reached for
the paper.

"Nonsense. That's a mistake. A dispatch I mislaid in the

"I see," said the lawyer dryly.

"I thought I had torn it up," continued Thatcher, after an awkward
pause. I regret to say that here that usually truthful man
elaborated a fiction. He had consulted it a dozen times a day on
the journey, and it was quite worn in its enfoldings. Harlowe's
quick eye had noticed this, but he speedily became interested and
absorbed in the other papers. Thatcher lapsed into contemplation
of the fire.

"Well," said Harlowe, finally turning to his client, "here's enough
to unseat Gashwiler, or close his mouth. As to the rest, it's good
reading--but I needn't tell you--no LEGAL evidence. But it's proof
enough to stop them from ever trying it again,--when the existence
of this record is made known. Bribery is a hard thing to fix on a
man; the only witness is naturally particeps criminis;--but it
would not be easy for them to explain away this rascal's record.
One or two things I don't understand: What's this opposite the Hon.
X's name, 'Took the medicine nicely, and feels better?' and here,
just in the margin, after Y's, 'Must be labored with?'"

"I suppose our California slang borrows largely from the medical
and spiritual profession," returned Thatcher. "But isn't it odd
that a man should keep a conscientious record of his own villainy?"

Harlowe, a little abashed at his want of knowledge of American
metaphor, now felt himself at home. "Well, no. It's not unusual.
In one of those books yonder there is the record of a case where a
man, who had committed a series of nameless atrocities, extending
over a period of years, absolutely kept a memorandum of them in his
pocket diary. It was produced in Court. Why, my dear fellow, one
half our business arises from the fact that men and women are in
the habit of keeping letters and documents that they might--I don't
say, you know, that they OUGHT, that's a question of sentiment or
ethics--but that they MIGHT destroy."

Thatcher half-mechanically took the telegram of poor Carmen and
threw it in the fire. Harlowe noticed the act and smiled.

"I'll venture to say, however, that there's nothing in the bag that
YOU lost that need give you a moment's uneasiness. It's only your
rascal or fool who carries with him that which makes him his own

"I had a friend," continued Harlowe, "a clever fellow enough, but
who was so foolish as to seriously complicate himself with a woman.
He was himself the soul of honor, and at the beginning of their
correspondence he proposed that they should each return the other's
letters with their answer. They did so for years, but it cost him
ten thousand dollars and no end of trouble after all."

"Why?" asked Thatcher simply.

"Because he was such an egotistical ass as TO KEEP THE LETTER
PROPOSING IT, which she had duly returned, among his papers as a
sentimental record. Of course somebody eventually found it."

"Good night," said Thatcher, rising abruptly. "If I stayed here
much longer I should begin to disbelieve my own mother."

"I have known of such hereditary traits," returned Harlowe with a
laugh. "But come, you must not go without the champagne." He led
the way to the adjacent room, which proved to be only the ante-
chamber of another, on the threshold of which Thatcher stopped with
genuine surprise. It was an elegantly furnished library.

"Sybarite! Why was I never here before?"

"Because you came as a client; to-night you are my guest. All who
enter here leave their business, with their hats, in the hall.
Look; there isn't a law book on those shelves; that table never was
defaced by a title deed or parchment. You look puzzled? Well, it
was a whim of mine to put my residence and my work-shop under the
same roof, yet so distinct that they would never interfere with
each other. You know the house above is let out to lodgers. I
occupy the first floor with my mother and sister, and this is my
parlor. I do my work in that severe room that fronts the street:
here is where I play. A man must have something else in life than
mere business. I find it less harmful and expensive to have my
pleasure here."

Thatcher had sunk moodily in the embracing arms of an easy chair.
He was thinking deeply; he was fond of books too, and, like all men
who have fared hard and led wandering lives, he knew the value of
cultivated repose. Like all men who have been obliged to sleep
under blankets and in the open air, he appreciated the luxuries of
linen sheets and a frescoed roof. It is, by the way, only your
sick city clerk or your dyspeptic clergyman who fancy that they
have found in the bad bread, fried steaks, and frowzy flannels of
mountain picknicking the true art of living. And it is a somewhat
notable fact that your true mountaineer or your gentleman who has
been obliged to honestly "rough it," does not, as a general thing,
write books about its advantages, or implore their fellow mortals
to come and share their solitude and their discomforts.

Thoroughly appreciating the taste and comfort of Harlowe's library,
yet half-envious of its owner, and half-suspicious that his own
earnest life for the past few years might have been different,
Thatcher suddenly started from his seat and walked towards a parlor
easel, whereon stood a picture. It was Carmen de Haro's first
sketch of the furnace and the mine.

"I see you are taken with that picture," said Harlowe, pausing with
the champagne bottle in his hand. "You show your good taste. It's
been much admired. Observe how splendidly that firelight plays
over the sleeping face of that figure, yet brings out by very
contrast its almost death-like repose. Those rocks are powerfully
handled; what a suggestion of mystery in those shadows! You know
the painter?"

Thatcher murmured, "Miss De Haro," with a new and rather odd self-
consciousness in speaking her name.

"Yes. And you know the story of the picture of course?"

Thatcher thought he didn't. Well, no; in fact, he did not remember.

"Why, this recumbent figure was an old Spanish lover of hers, whom
she believed to have been murdered there. It's a ghastly fancy,
isn't it?"

Two things annoyed Thatcher: first the epithet "lover," as applied
to Concho by another man; second, that the picture belonged to him:
and what the d---l did she mean by--

"Yes," he broke out finally, "but how did YOU get it?"

"Oh, I bought it of her. I've been a sort of patron of her ever
since I found out how she stood towards us. As she was quite alone
here in Washington, my mother and sister have taken her up, and
have been doing the social thing."

"How long since?" asked Thatcher.

"Oh, not long. The day she telegraphed you, she came here to know
what she could do for us, and when I said nothing could be done
except to keep Congress off, why, she went and DID IT. For SHE,
and she alone, got that speech out of the Senator. But," he added,
a little mischievously, "you seem to know very little about her?"

"No!--I--that is--I've been very busy lately," returned Thatcher,
staring at the picture. "Does she come here often?"

"Yes, lately, quite often; she was here this evening with mother;
was here, I think, when you came."

Thatcher looked intently at Harlowe. But that gentleman's face
betrayed no confusion. Thatcher refilled his glass a little
awkwardly, tossed off the liquor at a draught, and rose to his

"Come, old fellow, you're not going now. I shan't permit it," said
Harlowe, laying his hand kindly on his client's shoulder. "You're
out of sorts! Stay here with me to-night. Our accommodations are
not large, but are elastic. I can bestow you comfortably until
morning. Wait here a moment while I give the necessary orders."

Thatcher was not sorry to be left alone. In the last half hour he
had become convinced that his love for Carmen de Haro had been in
some way most dreadfully abused. While HE was hard at work in
California, she was being introduced in Washington society by
parties with eligible brothers who bought her paintings. It is a
relief to the truly jealous mind to indulge in plurals. Thatcher
liked to think that she was already beset by hundreds of brothers.

He still kept staring at the picture. By and by it faded away in
part, and a very vivid recollection of the misty, midnight, moonlit
walk he had once taken with her came back, and refilled the canvas
with its magic. He saw the ruined furnace; the dark, overhanging
masses of rock, the trembling intricacies of foliage, and, above
all, the flash of dark eyes under a mantilla at his shoulder. What
a fool he had been! Had he not really been as senseless and stupid
as this very Concho, lying here like a log? And she had loved that
man. What a fool she must have thought him that evening! What a
snob she must think him now!

He was startled by a slight rustling in the passage, that ceased
almost as he turned. Thatcher looked towards the door of the outer
office, as if half expecting that the Lord Chancellor, like the
commander in Don Juan, might have accepted his thoughtless
invitation. He listened again; everything was still. He was
conscious of feeling ill at ease and a trifle nervous. What a long
time Harlowe took to make his preparations. He would look out in
the hall. To do this it was necessary to turn up the gas. He did
so, and in his confusion turned it out!

Where were the matches? He remembered that there was a bronze
something on the table that, in the irony of modern decorative
taste, might hold ashes or matches, or anything of an unpicturesque
character. He knocked something over, evidently the ink,--
something else,--this time a champagne glass. Becoming reckless,
and now groping at random in the ruins, he overturned the bronze
Mercury on the center table, and then sat down hopelessly in his
chair. And then a pair of velvet fingers slid into his, with the
matches, and this audible, musical statement:

"It is a match you are seeking? Here is of them."

Thatcher flushed, embarrassed, nervous,--feeling the ridiculousness
of saying, "Thank you" to a dark somebody,--struck the match,
beheld by its brief, uncertain glimmer Carmen de Haro beside him,
burned his fingers, coughed, dropped the match, and was cast again
into outer darkness.

"Let me try!"

Carmen struck a match, jumped briskly on the chair, lit the gas,
jumped lightly down again, and said: "You do like to sit in the
dark,--eh? So am I--sometimes--alone."

"Miss De Haro," said Thatcher, with sudden, honest earnestness,
advancing with outstretched hands, "believe me I am sincerely
delighted, overjoyed, again to meet--"

She had, however, quickly retreated as he approached, ensconcing
herself behind the high back of a large antique chair, on the
cushion of which she knelt. I regret to add also that she slapped
his outstretched fingers a little sharply with her inevitable black
fan as he still advanced.

"We are not in California. It is Washington. It is after midnight.
I am a poor girl, and I have to lose--what you call--'a character.'
You shall sit over there,"--she pointed to the sofa,-- "and I shall
sit here;" she rested her boyish head on the top of the chair; "and
we shall talk, for I have to speak to you, Don Royal."

Thatcher took the seat indicated, contritely, humbly, submissively.
Carmen's little heart was touched. But she still went on over the
back of the chair.

"Don Royal," she said, emphasizing each word at him with her fan,
"before I saw you,--ever knew of you,--I was a child. Yes, I was
but a child! I was a bold, bad child;--and I was what you call a--

"A what?" asked Thatcher, hesitating between a smile and a sigh.

"A forgaire!" continued Carmen demurely. "I did of myself write
the names of ozzer peoples;" when Carmen was excited she lost the
control of the English tongue; "I did write just to please myself;--
it was my onkle that did make of it money;--you understand, eh?
Shall you not speak? Must I again hit you?"

"Go on," said Thatcher laughing.

"I did find out, when I came to you at the mine, that I had forged
against you the name of Micheltorena. I to the lawyer went, and
found that it was so--of a verity--so! so! all the time. Look at
me not now, Don Royal;--it is a 'forgaire' you stare at."


"Hoosh! Shall I have to hit you again? I did overlook all the
papers. I found the application: it was written by me. There."

She tossed over the back of her chair an envelope to Thatcher. He
opened it.

"I see," he said gently, "you repossessed yourself of it!"

"What is that--'r-r-r-e--possess'?"

"Why!"--Thatcher hesitated--"you got possession of this paper,--
this innocent forgery,--again."

"Oh! You think me a thief as well as a 'forgaire.' Go away! Get
up. Get out."

"My dear girl--"

"Look at the paper! Will you? Oh, you silly!"

Thatcher looked at the paper. In paper, handwriting, age, and
stamp it was identical with the formal, clerical application of
Garcia for the grant. The indorsement of Micheltorena was
THATCHER. And his own signature was imitated to the life.

"I had but one letter of yours wiz your name," said Carmen
apologetically; "and it was the best poor me could do."

"Why, you blessed little goose and angel," said Thatcher, with the
bold, mixed metaphor of amatory genius, "don't you see--"

"Ah, you don't like it,--it is not good?"

"My darling!"

"Hoosh! There is also an 'old cat' up stairs. And now I have here
a character. WILL you sit down? Is it of a necessity that up and
down you should walk and awaken the whole house? There!"--she had
given him a vicious dab with her fan as he passed. He sat down.

"And you have not seen me nor written to me for a year?"


"Sit down, you bold, bad boy. Don't you see it is of business that
you and I talk down here; and it is of business that ozzer people
up stairs are thinking. Eh?"

"D--n business! See here, Carmen, my darling, tell me"--I regret
to say he had by this time got hold of the back of Carmen's chair--
"tell me, my own little girl,--about--about that Senator. You
remember what you said to him?"

"Oh, the old man? Oh, THAT was business. And you say of business,


"Don Royal!"

. . . . . .

Although Miss Carmen had recourse to her fan frequently during this
interview, the air must have been chilly, for a moment later, on
his way down stairs, poor Harlowe, a sufferer from bronchitis, was
attacked with a violent fit of coughing, which troubled him all the
way down.

"Well," he said, as he entered the room, "I see you have found Mr.
Thatcher, and shown those papers. I trust you have, for you've
certainly had time enough. I am sent by mother to dismiss you all
to bed."

Carmen still in the arm chair, covered with her mantilla, did not

"I suppose you are by this time lawyer enough to know," continued
Harlowe, "that Miss De Haro's papers, though ingenious, are not
legally available, unless--"

"I chose to make her a witness. Harlowe! you're a good fellow! I
don't mind saying to you that these are papers I prefer that my
WIFE should not use. We'll leave it for the present--Unfinished

They did. But one evening our hero brought Mrs. Royal Thatcher a
paper containing a touching and beautiful tribute to the dead

"There, Carmen, love, read that. Don't you feel a little ashamed
of your--your--your lobbying--"

"No," said Carmen promptly. "It was business,--and if all lobbying
business was as honest,--well?--"

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