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Title: The justice of Gideon

Author: Eleanor Gates

Illustrator: Harvey Dunn

Release date: April 2, 2024 [eBook #73316]

Language: English

Original publication: New York: The Macaulay Company, 1910

Credits: D A Alexander, David E. Brown, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)



Alicia, I couldn’t think nothin’ that was agin—you

Alicia, I couldn’t think nothin’ that was agin—you

title page


Author of “The Plow-Woman,” “The Biography
of a Prairie Girl,” etc.

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Copyright, 1910, By

Frank and Grace


The Justice of Gideon 9
Doc 42
The Boomerang 77
Buenas Noches 108
Little Watcher 122
Missy and I 133
The Genevieve Epidemic 153
Agatha’s Escort 185
A Yellow Man and a White 218
Yee Wing, Powder-Man 239
The Search for the Spring 259
The Silver Bell of Los Morales 283
The Revenge of Manuelita 319




THE place of Justice in the little town of Manzanita was a low, square, cloth-and-papered room, bare save for the Judge’s unpainted pine desk and armchair; the two other chairs, wooden-seated and worn, that stood just in front of the desk, and were reserved at trials for the constable and his prisoner; the four long benches directly behind these; and the squat, round-barreled stove which, though it was midsummer in the little Northern California town, still held its place in the centre of the room, its four legs spraddled out as if it were determined to defy removal from its shallow sawdust box. There was but one spot of brightness in the whole dingy place. Back of the Judge’s desk, draped against the fly-specked wall in careful folds, gleamed the red, white and blue of the Flag.

The colours brought the Judge into sharp relief. The courtroom being deserted, his coat was off, and hung near by him on a nail under his black, slouch hat; and he was seated on the small of his back, his long legs crossed and stretched out into the unrailed prisoner’s dock, his elbows planted upon the arms of his chair, and his hands pressed against his temples, so that they shielded his eyes. About him were his books, calf-bound and heavy. They stood in front of him, to his right hand and to his left,[10] in columns of six; in other columns they weighted the strip of matting under his feet, and flanked his chair at either side. One was open before him. It was set upon the middle button of his vest, and had for a rear support the front edge of the desk. He was deep in the study of it. Across its pages at intervals rolled a white cloud from his pipe-rolled like the smoke of his own silent battle for the Truth—and went floating upward to be dissolved and lost amid the dust-heavy cobwebs of the ceiling.

He lifted his eyes, presently; someone was approaching the front door. The rickety sidewalk leading up to the courtroom from the general merchandise store down the street acted as an unofficial herald to him; for one section of it, as unfixed as a raft, banged to the tread of all oncomers, and a couple of loose boards still closer at hand creaked and flapped when they were stepped upon. The footfall now nearing was light. The Judge laid down his pipe, rose hastily, straightening out six feet of stalwart length, and reached for his coat.

The next moment the round, ruffled top of a white parasol curtained the small square of glass in the door. Then the parasol folded, a slim hand turned the knob and a girl stood on the threshold—a bareheaded, brown-haired girl in a white muslin dress.

“Oh, Alicia,” said the Judge, giving a last settling jerk to his coat. A wave of colour swept up from the sunburned lower half of his face and reddened his forehead.

“I’d like to speak to you a minute, Gid,” said the[11] girl timidly. “I’m sorry if I’m breaking in on your work.”

“You ain’t a-breakin’ in on my work,” he protested. “Not a bit of it.”

She closed the door behind her and crossed the floor quickly. She was slender, and the wide girdle of black satin that she wore emphasised her slenderness.

The Judge, smiling bashfully, bowed across his desk with mock ceremony. “Take the prisoner’s chair,” he said.

She sat down, but with no answering smile. Her manner was somewhat nervous and her grey eyes were full of concern.

He took his seat behind the desk and leaned toward her. His eyes were grey like her own, and set in a young face so grave, and so lined by thought and care—as well as by long-continued exposure to wind and sun—that, at first glance, he seemed much older than he was. “I don’t have my little talk with Mrs. Luce an’ Jim till ’leven o’clock,” he explained. “An’ so I’m—I’m glad you dropped in.”

Her cheeks grew pink all at once. “I see you been getting some new books.” She nodded toward the column on his right hand.

“Yas; four or five of these come this last week.”

“They cost, too, don’t they? And if you run for district attorney, that’ll take money.”

He was still leaning forward. And now his look suddenly became all eagerness. “Alicia, I got a secret! An’ I been just a-waitin’ t’ tell it to you. I been promised the nomination.”

“You have! Oh, Gid, I’m so glad!”

[12]“Thank y’, Alicia. That’s the reason I been studyin’ harder’n ever lately. I’m savin’ up my money, too. I got five hunderd a’ready. These days I almost hate to put out a cent on books.”

“You’ve done enough for others,” she said earnestly. “It’s time you spent your money on yourself.”

“When I’m district attorney I’m a-goin’ to buy a piece of property up at the county seat an’ have a home of my own.” He paused, watching her wistfully. “An’ if things turn out as I look to see ’em,” he went on in a low voice, “I’m a-goin’ to marry. I’ll be thirty my next birthday. If I wait any longer I s’pose folks’ll begin t’ call me a’ ole bach.”

The colour in her cheeks deepened. “I think you ought to marry,” she agreed. But she looked down, and picked at the ruffles of her parasol.

“I’ve thought about it a good deal. So far, though—wal, you know how it’s been” (this very gently). “There was that boy.”

“Oh, Gid!” Now she lifted her face. Her eyes were swimming; her lips were trembling. “Gid,—it’s about Homer that I’ve come.”

He sat back, and was silent for a long moment, watching her keenly. “I see,” he said finally, his own face very grave. He spoke aloud and yet as if to himself. “Yas—I think I understand—how it is.” He drew a long breath.

“The town is talking about him, Gid,—talking awfully mean.”

Instantly he straightened in his chair and looked across at her, amazed and troubled. “About Homer? W’y, what’s bein’ said?”

[13]“It started after Mr. Carpenter’s last trip up from San Francisco. And——”

“Carpenter, the fruit-buyer?”

“Yes. He handed over all the Manzanita shipping and paying to Homer, you know.”

“Homer’s Business College trainin’ come in handy that time,” said the Judge proudly.

“I hope he’ll never forget that he’s got you to thank for his education,” she went on. “You’ve been more than a brother to him—ever since he was in his baby-buggy and you were a little fellow. Mother says so. Just because his father was dead.”

“His maw has allus been sickly,” reminded the Judge. “An’ I ain’t missed the little I paid out for him. He’s a fine boy, that’s what he is. There ain’t a finer or a handsomer or a stylisher boy in town. An’ he’s smart. Didn’t them Business College fellers hand him a medal for fancy penmanship? So there’s a few people in this town that’s jealous of him. Wal, who cares?”

She rose and stepped forward to the desk. “Gid,” she said, “I hate to tell you. But I must. Oh, I knew you’d be the last person to hear anything!”

“What can man, woman or child find to say agin Homer Scott?” he asked huskily.

“Since Mr. Carpenter went Homer’s acted different. He hasn’t been over to our house lately, or to see his other friends. He goes to the Occidental Hotel of evenings—with Jim Luce and his crowd.”

“And——?” He was leaning forward once more.

“And folks say that—that he’s gambling.”

“Gamblin’.” He repeated it under his breath.

[14]“After all you’ve done for him, he ought to think of what’ll please you—not what’ll hurt.”

He propped his head between his hands and stared at the desk. But presently he looked up at her again, confident and smiling. “Alicia,” he said, “if there was a law in Manzanita agin gossip, half the town would bust it so often they’d have to move, bag an’ baggage, an’ live in yonder.” He gave a sidewise nod of the head. The rear door of the courtroom was standing partly ajar. Through it could be seen several small barred openings—the windows of the neighbouring jail.

“Now you know, an’ I know, that Homer Scott don’t gamble,” he said.

“Of course, there always is a lot of talk going around,” she admitted. “But this worried me, Gid, because——” She hesitated.

“Because w’y?”

She faced him once more. “I wouldn’t say this to anybody else. But—Mr. Carpenter left some money with Homer to pay for peaches. He left eight hundred dollars. I’ve been afraid—you know what I mean, Gid. And—and it would be so hard for Homer to pay Carpenter back.”

The Judge stood up impatiently. “If a man takes a glass of lemonade at the Occidental, all the old hens in town think he’s a-goin’ to have the d. t’s. If he plays a game of casino he’s gone to the bad.”

The colour left Alicia’s face. “I—I suppose you’ll think I’m a gossip,” she said, and turned away.

“No,” he answered gently. He came around to her. “Alicia, I couldn’t think nothin’ that was agin—you. Do you believe me?” Then, seeing that[15] fresh tears were welling to her eyes, “Don’t cry. Homer ain’t guilty. I can tell you that. An’ what’s more, I’ll look out for him, little woman. You depend on it.”

There was silence between them again. He watched her, his grey eyes full of anxiety—even pain. She was brushing at her wet lashes, and looking out through the front door.

“I—I must go now,” she said presently.

“Must y’? Wal, will you come again soon?” He followed her to the door.

“You come and see us, Gid. Good-bye.”

“Good-bye.” He closed the door behind her, and as far as he could see her watched her go. She crossed the street, picking her way through the brick-red dust, ankle deep, to the railroad track that halved the town. The bobbing parasol now hid, now disclosed, her small, dark head and the girlish bow of wide ribbon at the nape of her neck. She passed the town hall opposite, entered a street that ran at right angles to the track, and disappeared from his sight beneath some low-branched pepper-trees.

He did not leave the door at once, but looked out to where he had last seen her. After a while, with a deep sigh, he returned slowly to his desk, stumbled over a pile of books at his armchair, and sat down. “She’s like a posy,” he half-whispered, “—like a posy, an’ him gamblin’!”

A wrangle of voices sounded from without. Then the sidewalk began to bang and creak to a double tread. The Judge took out his watch. It was eleven. He assumed a judicial attitude. The next[16] moment a man and a woman paused at the front door, the one scolding into the face of the other, gave the door a thump, each with an angry fist, and entered.

“Gid’ll settle things fair,” cried the woman. “A lawyer would just run up a bill.”

“Wall, what’m I here for?” stormed the man. “I ain’t feared to let Gid settle it.”

“Just the same, you didn’t come till I went after you.”

“Howdy, Mrs. Luce,” said the Judge quietly. “Howdy, Jim. Set down.”

“What I hate,” explained the woman, addressing the Judge, “is coming up Main Street with a man I’ve divorced.” She spoke so forcibly that her pendent earrings—large, pinkish pearls of glass—swung backward and forward against her thin, wrinkled neck. “The whole town’ll be talking. And I’m suffering enough as it is. My sister, she said to me when I got engaged, ‘You marry him, and you’re hunting trouble,’ but I——”

The Judge held up a hand to enjoin silence. “Jim,” he said, “I’ll hear your side of this fuss first. Mrs. Luce, accordin’ to the laws of all civylised countries, you, bein’ as you’re a woman, you git the last word.” He gave her a kindly smile.

Luce was short and thick-set, with a face as round and red as the full moon seen through a dust-cloud. He shrugged his heavy shoulders in disgust. “And my sister says to me when I married, ‘Jim, you can be anything you want to be if you just git the right kind of a wife.’ Now see what I am, Judge,—nothin’.”

[17]“Some behind in your alimony, ain’t you, Jim?” inquired the Judge.

“Three months. But I’ll have the cash as soon as I ship my pear crop. She says she can’t wait. What’s the matter with her?”

“My self-playing piano’s the matter with me,” retorted Mrs. Luce. “I only paid forty down on it last spring. There’s one hundred and fifteen due in ten days from now—or lose the piano. Jim can get me the money if he wants to, Judge. He’s just sold his peaches.”

“I ain’t been paid for ’em,” declared Luce.

“That’s another,” said Mrs. Luce. “He got his peach money all right, and spent it.”

“I didn’t!”

“You did!”


Once more the Judge’s hand came up. “Jim,” he began, “far’s I’m concerned, I’m pretty helpless in this case. All over this country the law is plain as day on this point: The feller that’s sentenced to pay alimony, and don’t pay, gits sold out or sent to the cooler.”

“I’m goin’ to Canada to live,” declared Luce hotly. “Here she’s got plenty, an’ still the United States law allows her to hector me. W’y, she owns a string of gold nuggets as long as your arm—her paw gave ’em to her. Them nuggets is worth a lot. She don’t have to come to me.”

“My father dug that string up with his own hands,” said Mrs. Luce. “It was the last thing he ever gave me. And”—with exasperating finality—“it won’t be sold.”

[18]“Wal, borrow on it,” suggested Luce wrathfully. “Judge, I can’t put my pears on to the cars when they’re greener’n cucumbers. Ask Homer if there’s a man in this hull Valley that’s shippin’ pears.”

Mrs. Luce smiled. “Jim’d lie and Homer’d swear to it,” she observed with a knowing nod and a wink.

The Judge gave her a look of grave reproval. “Nobody’s ever caught Homer Scott swearin’ to a lie,” he contradicted coldly.

The round face of Luce brightened, and he hastened to take advantage of the Judge’s evident displeasure. “That’s the kind of wild talk she’s allus gittin’ off,” he declared. “She don’t have nothin’ to do but talk. Here I am, a hard-workin’ man, an’ have to support her. She don’t even come down to the ranch an’ help pack fruit.”

Mrs. Luce gave a sniff. “I don’t associate with the prune-jammer crowd,” she said. “Whenever I want a little spending money I wash dishes at the Occidental.”

“The law,” informed the Judge, in his most official tone, but with a twinkle in the grey eyes, “—the law don’t name just what kind of work a divorced lady has to do.”

Luce rose, kicking his chair out of the way, and pointed a stubby finger at a column of calf-bound books. “None of them laws,” he said, “read to me as if they was made for men. No; they was made to please the women—I guess I know! Wal, let her have ’em on me if she wants to. I’ll go to jail. I don’t care.”

“She’d be makin’ the biggest mistake in the world[19] if she put you in jail,” said the Judge earnestly. “No man can raise money when he’s killin’ time. An’ you’d bother me a lot if you was in yonder. The prisoners allus interfere with my studyin’. Seems like they have to be amused when they been in a few days, an’ it all comes on me. The constable thinks he’s did his duty when he gits ’em locked up. So off he goes, lookin’ after his saloon, or his cattle, or to set salmon-lines.” Then he turned to Mrs. Luce with an admonishing shake of the finger. “After this,” he counseled, “fix it so’s the pear crop an’ the piano-man come t’gether.”

At that, feeling herself twice rebuked, Mrs. Luce arose with some spirit. “What’s that got to do with Jim’s scaring up my back alimony?” she inquired defiantly. Then, stiff with resentment, she walked out.

When she was gone the Judge slid down in his chair until he was again seated upon the small of his back, and from across the top of his desk he fixed solemn eyes upon Luce. “Jim,” he said, “you cut out that little bunch at the Occidental. Them fellers have forgot more about poker than you ever learnt.”

The other’s face took on a deeper hue. He squirmed under the searching glance. “They don’t git nothin’ away from me,” he declared.

“An’ cards,” went on the Judge evenly, “is a blamed poor excuse when a man’s bein’ sued.”

“Oh, you’re dead right there, Gid.”

“Glad you see it. You don’t want t’ be responsible if any man drops his money—especially if it’s a young man.”

[20]When he was alone once more the Judge got up to pace the courtroom, his hands clasped behind him, his chin on his breast. As he walked his lips moved in silent debate, and he shook his head emphatically from time to time. Presently, a distant gong clanged, announcing the noon hour. He went to the rear door and stood on its threshold, looking away to the north. Near at hand, bordering the town, were orchards heavy with their fruitage. Beyond these showed brown foothills, round and oak-dotted; still farther, a higher range, all misty blue. Its summit was Shasta, rising against a serene sky, and wearing, despite the heat, an ermine stole over her dark shoulders.

He watched the mountain, his hands at his temples to shield his eyes, until a procession of low fruit-wagons passed through the back street on its way to the near-by orchards. Then he clapped on his hat resolutely, went out of the front door, slamming it behind him, and strode away across the creaking, teetering sidewalk toward the long shipping-shed down the street.

As he entered the building there were no wagons at the side door, but six hatless, perspiring men in blue overalls were carrying boxes out of the shed and into the refrigerator car on the siding, and the air was sweet and heavy with the perfume of peaches. At the gangboard leading into the car stood a young man, busily checking off the boxes as they passed him. His coat was off, showing a freshly-laundered shirt with a dainty figure, and a spotless vest of white duck. His trousers were as carefully pressed as his vest, and he wore an imitation Panama hat with a bright silk band, and tan[21] half-shoes upon each of which flashed a brass buckle.

“Hello, Gid!” he called out gaily as he caught sight of the Judge.

The Judge’s face broke into a slow, pleased smile. “Hello, Homer,” he returned. “Say! give the boys a breathin’ spell, won’t y’? I want to see you a minute.”

The perspiring half-dozen promptly collapsed upon empty boxes, blowing in discomfort and wiping at their faces with sleeve or handkerchief. The Judge nodded to them and followed Homer to one end of the shed, where rough boards, nailed upright, formed a small office-room.

“Well?” said Homer inquiringly, when the door shut them in. His eyes were blue and frank, and now they regarded the Judge with eager confidence.

The elder man put a hand on the shoulder of the younger. “Boy,” he began, “we been such pardners, you an’ me, that I know you’ll take what I’m a-goin’ to say just the way I mean it.”

The confident look quickly faded. Homer fell back a step. “What’s doing?” he asked. “A kick of some kind?”

“No-o-o,” answered the Judge; “advice.”

The other gave a short laugh. “That’s worse.”

“I been Justice of the Peace for so long, Homer, that the advice business has come to be a habit.”

“Fire ahead.” The blue eyes were resentful.

“It don’t amount to much, what I’m a-goin’ to say,” proceeded the Judge, “because I know blamed well that you ain’t doin’ what they say you’re doin’.”

“‘They’ is usually a liar.”

[22]“But sometimes, ‘Where there’s smoke there’s fire’—as the sayin’ goes. In this case there’s just enough smoke to worry me.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry if I was you. What’s your gossip?”

The hand that was resting on the younger man’s shoulder dropped to the Judge’s side. “Folks say you’re gamblin’.”

There was scarcely a noticeable paling of Homer’s face, but a sneer curved his mouth. “Gambling!” he repeated. “I’ll bet you got that yarn from a woman.”

“Yas,” admitted the Judge.

“If you’re going to believe every little bit of tittle-tattle that the women tell you, you won’t have much time for your books.”

“Homer,” said the Judge sternly, “you’re pretty close to bein’ sassy to the best friend you’ve got in the hull world, barrin’ your maw.”

“You’re finding fault with me. And I hate to be picked at. I’m not a kid any more, to be followed and watched and whistled into the house at sundown. I’m a man.”

“Wal, act like a man then.”

“I will if you’ll let me alone. Gambling! Wouldn’t it make you sick! As if a nickel ante hurts anybody! I’ll let this town know that I earn my money and I’ve got a right to do what I please with it.”

“Long as you don’t hurt your maw.”

“She’ll be ready to jump on me, I suppose, when I go home to-night.”

“Or as long as you don’t hurt—Alicia.”

[23]“Alicia? Huh!”—sullenly—“she don’t care anything about me.”

“That’s where you’re mistaken, boy. She likes you, Homer, an’ you like her—don’t you?” He lowered his head, searching the face of the other.

“Yes, of course. But she’s just like the rest of the women in this town. They’re all backwoods, that’s what they are—backwoods. If they’d ever been outside of Manzanita, and seen something, they wouldn’t be so confounded narrow. They don’t want to have any fun themselves and they don’t want anybody else to have any. I never saw such a place!”

The Judge sighed and turned to the door. “Mebbe it’d a-been better if I hadn’t opened my mouth,” he said. “But—it seemed serious, kinda. So long, Homer.” He went out, his hands in the outer pockets of his coat, his head down.

That night, no light burned until a late hour on the unpainted desk in the place of Justice. After supper, young Judge Gideon Carr strolled down to the Occidental and sprinkled the ashes of his pipe upon the only stretch of cement sidewalk in town. And ten o’clock found him still there, tipped back against the wall beside the high swinging doors that screened the barroom from passers-by in the street.

Shortly after ten, two figures approached the hotel from the direction of the shipping-shed. One was short and thick-set; the other wore a hat banded with bright silk. The street was illy lighted, and they did not see the figure by the door until the thick-set man, who was leading, was within arm’s length of it. Then the Judge moved, looking up[24] into the faces of the two. Luce gave him a swift glance and entered the barroom. But Homer halted suddenly, called a nervous good-night after his companion, turned away sharply, and hurried into the darkness toward home.

The next evening found the Judge again tipped back in a chair beside the barroom entrance. But the third evening he came to his station at a late hour and, before sitting down, parted the swinging doors to stand between them a moment, leisurely surveying the brightly-lighted room.

Each night afterward he returned—always at a different hour. Midnight of the day the first refrigerator cars intended for the pear shipment were shunted upon the siding at the shipping-shed he again came face to face with Jim Luce at the Occidental. The rancher had been drinking, and walked unsteadily, so the Judge stepped out of his way. But Luce recognised him, and turned upon him with a curse.

“You been spyin’ on me,” charged Luce thickly. “Just as if I ain’t got a right to spend my money like I want to! I say, you been spyin’ on me, an’ you can’t deny it.” He wavered from side to side before the tall figure of the Judge. “But you cut it out. You hear me? You cut it out.”

“What do I want to spy on you for?” inquired the Judge mildly. “You’re full, Jim.”

“You’re mixin’ up in my business,” shrilled the other. “But I’ll pay that alimony when I git good an’ ready.”

The swinging doors were opening now and men were coming out.

[25]“Don’t stir up no fracas,” advised the Judge. “I’m Justice of the Peace, mind y’—Peace. An’ I’m goin’ to see that it’s kept.”

The next moment the little crowd was treated to an exciting outcome of the meeting. Luce staggered forward and struck. The Judge, avoiding the blow, seized the rancher by the upturned collar of his coat, shook him vigorously and led him away up the street, half a dozen of the curious falling in behind. The general merchandise store was passed, and the rickety sidewalk; then the Judge unlocked a door beyond the entrance of the courtroom.

“Jim,” he said, “you been itchin’ for the lockup. And here you are!”

He pulled his prisoner after him into a dark room. Someone struck a match, and the room was seen to contain a narrow bed, and a table upon which were writing materials. The Judge tumbled Luce upon the bed without ceremony. Then the crowd backed out, and the key was turned in the lock once more.

“It’s all over, boys,” said the Judge from the sidewalk. “Good-night.”

He walked away in one direction, and his late audience, moving slowly back toward the Occidental, divided itself on the question as to whether or not a Justice of the Peace had a right to make an arrest.

Dawn found Jim Luce asleep upon his prison-cot. But by six o’clock he was well on his way toward his ranch; while by breakfast-time a check in full for back alimony was dispatched to Mrs. Luce through the medium of a small, barefooted boy who lived behind the jail.

At the middle of that same morning the Judge sat[26] at his desk, combing his hair with his fingers. His face was unwontedly pale, his eyes were heavy from lack of sleep. But a calf-bound book was open before him, and he was bent over it almost doggedly.

He straightened wearily as a woman entered—Mrs. Luce, her face tear-marked, her mouth bent in a disconsolate half-moon. “W’y, what’s the matter?” he asked with concern. “Ain’t Jim’s check good?”

She did not answer, but hurried forward to the desk. “I want a warrant,” she cried. “I think it’s a shame and a disgrace that the constable won’t arrest him without a warrant.”

“The constable must foller the law,” explained the Judge. “Set down, Mrs. Luce. Who’s your warrant for?”

Her hands were clenched as if she had something hateful in their grasp. “It’s for that nice, stylish dude you’re always bragging up,” she said sarcastically. “He’s a thief, that’s what he is—a common, two-faced thief!”

“Dude?” repeated the Judge, puzzled.

“Mr. Homer Scott.”

The Judge stared her in the face. “Hush!” he commanded sternly. “You don’t know what you’re a-sayin’.”

“Oh, I don’t!” She laughed bitterly. “Well, you’ll change your mind.”

“You’re a-talkin’ strong talk, Mrs. Luce. What d’ you claim he’s stole?”

“My nuggets.”

“How did he come to have your nuggets? Set down.”

[27]“I gave ’em to him for security. I borrowed a hundred and fifteen dollars of his peach money that day I was in here with Jim. At first I wanted him to give me the money and then dock Jim that much on his pears. But he wouldn’t do that. He made me a straight loan and asked for security. I took him my nuggets.”

“He didn’t ask for ’em?”

“No; it was my idea. The string was easy for him to keep in his safe.”

“You didn’t take no receipt for it, I suppose?”

“That’s where I made a big mistake. This morning, the second I got my check, I wrote my name across it, went down to the shipping-shed and handed it to Homer. He took it, remarked that I was ahead of time, and went on with his writing. I noticed his hand shook something terrible.”

“Cigareets,” said the Judge sadly. “He learnt that in the city.”

“A guilty conscience, more likely. I says to him, ‘Well, Homer, are the nuggets handy? I’ll take ’em if they are.’ He looked up almost like he didn’t understand. ‘The nuggets?’ he says. ‘What nuggets?’ ‘Why, the nuggets I handed you as security.’ ‘You didn’t give me any nuggets,’ he says. ‘Yes, I did.’ ‘Why, you didn’t either!’ He was nice and friendly all the time, Judge, but said I was mistaken. Well, I’m not mistaken.” Her voice rose excitedly. “He’s been gambling with Jim; he’s short of money; Carpenter, the fruit-man, is back in town, and Homer’s scared.”

The face of the Judge grew pallid, and fear came into the grey eyes. He drew in a quick breath.[28] “Mrs. Luce, you’re yellin’. Do you want the hull town t’hear? Let’s settle this without a crowd. You say Carpenter’s here?”

“Came in on the five-eight.” She looked across at the Judge defiantly.

“Mrs. Luce”—his voice was husky with pleading—“I think the boy’s playin’ a joke on you.”

“Well, he didn’t act joky. And I want his safe opened.”

“If he was tryin’ to do you such a trick he wouldn’t leave the nuggets in the safe.”

At that she burst into tears. “You’re against me!” she cried; “just like the other day. You’ve got your favourites, and you don’t show justice—not a bit of justice! When anybody does something wrong, you’re always ready to protect ’em and make excuses, and keep ’em from being punished, instead of getting the law on ’em. I tell you what this town needs; it needs a new Judge!”

Now the blood mounted to his face. “That’s pretty rough on me,” he said. “Wal, Mrs. Luce, I’ll be outen here just as soon as I can manage it. Y’know”—with almost a twinkle in his eyes—“I’m aimin’ to be District Attorney of Shasta County, Sooperior Judge, Rep’esentative from this district, Gov’nor of Californy, Senator to Washington, an’ President of the United States.”

“You’ll be back driving stage if you treat other people like you’re treating me.”

“Whenever a man makes a first mistake I like to encourage him,” he explained. “I allus do what I can—an’ keep inside the law. Now, please, Mrs. Luce, let me git this misunderstandin’ cleared up.[29] ‘Gid’ll settle things fair,’ you said the other day. So you go home, an’ don’t say a word to nobody. If any of the women folks ask you w’y you been cryin’, tell ’em you been cuttin’ up onions.” He tried to smile.

“No, sir!” She rose angrily. “I won’t go home, and I won’t lie to shield Homer Scott. I’ll go up and down Main Street, and tell everybody what he’s done, and how you’re acting about it. I’ll have my revenge, anyhow. I’ll break off his match with Alicia Clay.”

Now the Judge rose, pressing down on the arms of his chair to lift himself, and a queer trembling—almost a spasm—crossed his face. “Alicia!” he said under his breath. “They’re engaged, then! An’ it’ll hurt her!”

“She’d better be hurt a little now than have her heart broken later on. It’s a mistake to let a sweet girl like that marry a crooked man.”

“Oh, Mrs. Luce, he ain’t a crooked man! Here—I want to be square t’ you, too. If you git him arrested without cause, you can be sued. Let’s talk this over some more.” He took her arm gently.

She sat down, wiping at her cheeks.

“First of all,” he began, as he resumed his own seat, “did anybody see you give Homer the nuggets?”


“Did you tell anybody before you took ’em down that he was goin’ to hold ’em as security?”

“I didn’t want anybody to find out I was borrowing.”

[30]“And you two was alone, I s’pose, when he took ’em and give you the money?”


“Then it’s just your word against his?”

“You see? You don’t believe me!”

“I’m askin’ you a question.”

“Well, I suppose it is my word against his.”

“You told the constable about it?”

“Yes; and he pretty near laughed in my face. Never mind. I’ll take this case to the county seat.”

“The law reads the same at the county seat as it does here, Mrs. Luce. Say I give you a warrant. Bert serves it. Homer lands in jail. He says he never seen the nuggets. You say he has ’em, but you can’t locate ’em. What could a jury do about it? So—take a night t’ think it over.”

She shook her head decidedly. “No.”

“An’ don’t forgit it’ll hurt his maw, too,” urged the Judge. “She ain’t strong this summer—malaria, I reckon.”

“I don’t intend to give him a chance to skip on that down train.”

Once more the Judge rose and began to pace the floor, his hands clasped behind him, his chin on his breast. One minute passed, and Mrs. Luce sat quietly. But when another went by she settled her hat preparatory to leaving and tucked some stray wisps of hair into place.

At that the Judge returned to his desk. There was no fear in the grey eyes now, and his manner was resolute, even cheerful. “All right,” he said almost briskly. “I’m a-goin’ to do what you ask. A-course, I’d like to have the case rest easy for a[31] few hours, so’s I could find out one or two things on the q. t. But”—putting several articles to rights on his desk—“that ain’t possible. I’ll have to ask you to write me out a statement.”

“Got to have one, Judge?”

“Shore. Allus got to have a statement of ev’ry case. Would you mind goin’ into the jail office to write it? There’s some private business to attend to in here. It’s cool in the jail office, an’ you’ll have the hull place to yourself. But be awful certain about one thing, Mrs. Luce.”

“What’s that?” She looked a little startled.

He led the way out of the rear door of the courtroom and around to the back entrance of the jail. “Don’t leave out nothin’,” he counseled. “Take plenty of time to git the statement ready. I won’t break in on you more’n I can help.”

“I’ve got some things on the line at home that ought to come in before noon. They’ll fade.”

“Your nuggets is more important, though. Don’t you want everything settled before that down train? Here—write at this table. I come in here when I don’t want nobody to find me. Here’s pen an’ ink an’ paper.”

“I’ll use a pencil if you don’t mind.”

“No; statements allus got to be writ in ink. An’ make as nice a copy as you can.”

He left her, closing the door softly behind him. Outside, he drew a key from his pocket, noiselessly fitted it into the lock and turned it. Then he re-entered the courtroom on a run, lifted one edge of the flag, disclosing a telephone, rang the bell twice, listened, rang it again, asked for his number in a[32] low voice, and when the reply came began to speak with decision: “Homer, this is Gid. Run up for a minute. Yas, it’s important. I must see you. Can’t tell you over the ’phone. But don’t you wait—come. All right.” Then he hung up, rang for a second number—the constable’s—gave some quick directions and, having drawn the flag into place over the telephone, sat down.

He waited, bowed over in his chair, with his elbows upon the arms of it, and his head supported by his hands. But when the rickety sidewalk gave warning of an oncomer he straightened, and smiled in welcome as Homer entered the door. “Wal, here you are,” he said by way of salutation.

Homer flung himself into a chair before the Judge’s desk, fanning himself with his hat. His thin face was tense, like the face of a man under a strain.

“Boy, this is what I want to say: Don’t josh Mrs. Luce.”

Homer crimsoned. His hat fell to his knee. “Mrs. Luce is crazy!” he burst forth.

“She’s been tellin’ me how you hung on to her nuggets. Give ’em back to her, boy. She’s got a bad tongue.”

“Her nuggets! What does she mean? She needs her brain examined.”

“You ain’t got ’em, Homer?”

“Of course I haven’t got ’em. I don’t believe she ever had any. Did you ever see ’em?”


“What on earth could I do with a string of nuggets?” His chest heaved angrily.

[33]“Good collateral,” said the Judge, “case a man needed money.”

“I don’t need money.” He said it sullenly, and shifted in his chair.

“Come to me when you do, boy.”

There was a long silence. The elder man sat, his grave look fixed on the younger, who crossed and uncrossed his feet and wiped at his forehead and neck with a folded silk handkerchief.

“How’s your work comin’?” inquired the Judge presently. He took up a pen and began to write.

“Oh, pretty good.”

“I reckon Mister Fruit-Buyer is satisfied, hey? He couldn’t find a better man than you for the place, anyhow.”

“Oh, he’s satisfied, I guess. But I don’t think I—I care to hang on to the job.”

“No?” The Judge thrust a sheet of paper into a pocket. “How long’s Carpenter stayin’ over this time?”

“Till the down train.”

“That so? Wal!” He paused a moment, examining the end of his pen. “Say, you don’t wear your Business College medal no more.”

“I carry it in my pocket.”

“I see. Got it now? I like to take a peep at it ev’ry once in a while.”

The younger man reached into a vest pocket and drew forth a small silver piece, shield-shaped and engraved. He handed it across the desk.

“It’s mighty pretty,” said the Judge, holding it up. He rose, still looking at it. “Must ’a’ cost somethin’, too. Excuse me a minute.” He went to[34] the front door, looked out, opened it, disappeared for a moment and then entered again.

His hands were deep in his trousers’ pockets now, and as he talked he walked to and fro. “Homer,” he said, “you’re right about not hangin’ on to that fruit job. I think you oughta begin to plan on goin’ into business for your own self. You’ll want t’ settle down soon an’ have a little home. I’d like to help you out on it, ’cause I’ve got your good at heart, boy. You could build right on that lot of your maw’s. It’s a big lot. An’ then about a good, payin’ business for you—I’ve got two or three ideas I’d like to propose. (Y’see, I’m in a gassy mood t’day.) Now, the first idea is like this——”

Five minutes passed; then five more, and still the Judge talked on. Homer listened without raising his eyes.

At last the rattle of a board in the rickety sidewalk made the Judge pause. Once more he went to the door and stepped outside.

When he came back into the courtroom he walked unsteadily, like one suddenly seized with a sickness. He sat down, not at his desk, but in the chair next to the younger man; then he reached out a trembling hand. “Homer,” he said huskily, “forgive me for coming back to that nugget business. It’s made me feel turrible, somehow. Boy, you know I’m your friend, don’t you? Now, let’s have the hull truth about Mrs. Luce. Homer”—he lifted a hand and pointed to the flag—“look at that an’ tell me: Have you got them nuggets?” His voice broke with its pleading.

Homer jerked away his hand and sprang to his[35] feet. “Do you want me to lie and say I stole her nuggets?” he demanded. “All right, I’ll lie! I’ll——”

The Judge also rose. And now his voice was calm and cold. “I don’t like lies,” he said. “And I think this matter has been drug out far enough.” He reached into an outer coat pocket for the medal and handed it to the other. Then he reached into the pocket a second time and drew forth—a string of nuggets.

Homer’s face whitened to ghastliness, his jaw fell. He retreated, knocking over his chair and backing into the Judge’s desk. There he hung, panting.

“Oh, boy!” said the Judge.

The other strove to speak; but his voice would not come, and the hands that clutched at the desk were shaking.

“I sent your medal to Carpenter,” explained the Judge. “An’ he sent the string.”

“Then he’ll grab me. It’s embezzlement. I can’t pay him back. I’ll go to jail!”

“Sh! I sent a check, too.”

“For how much? Oh, Gid!” The trembling hands were lifted to cover his face.

“I don’t know how much, so I just left the check blank an’ sent word you’d forgot the exact amount you owed. I—I reckon my bank’ll stand for a’ overdraft.”

Now the white face was slowly uncovered again and the staring eyes were fixed upon the Judge. “Carpenter came—I didn’t expect him—I told him I was short—I asked him to take the nuggets to the Mint—it was the only thing——”

[36]“Never once thought of old Gid?” The Judge wiped at his eyes with the back of a hand.

“Oh, you’re too good to me!” Now Homer broke down and fell to sobbing.

“Don’t do that.” The elder laid a kind hand on the shoulder of the younger. “No; it’s a-goin’ to be all right, boy. Only I won’t spoil you no more, you bet your life. I’ll come down turrible hard on you if ever you do this kind of business again. You just quit your gamblin’, Homer. If you don’t I’ll never let you marry Alicia.”

“She wouldn’t marry me, Gid.”

A knocking sounded from without, at the rear.

“What’s that?” Homer caught the Judge’s sleeve in a frightened grasp.

“It’s Mrs. Luce. I kept her in there, writin’, till I could git them nuggets back. Now, you skip. Go home. Here’s your hat. Stay there till I come. Now, don’t forgit.” He hurried the other to the front door, opened it and shoved him on to the sidewalk. Then, with long strides, he gained the rear yard.

“By Jingo!” he called out. “Is that door stickin’, Mrs. Luce? You’re a shore enough prisoner! Wal, that’s a good one! Never mind. Come along. Where’s that statement?”

Mrs. Luce handed him several sheets of foolscap. “I don’t think I’ve left anything out,” she said. “Can you read my awful writing?”

When they were in the courtroom, in their former places, the Judge laid the written sheets upon his desk, leaned back, looked at her a moment silently, and then began to smile across at her.

[37]“Say!” he said. “You shore can’t take a josh.”

“What d’ you mean?”

“What I said to you when you first come in. How many people did you say you’d tole?”

“The constable and you.”

“That’s good. ’Cause if you’d tole anybody else I’d have to ask you to go an’ untell ’em.”

Sudden hope came into her eyes. “Judge! You ain’t——”

“Yas,” said the Judge. He dropped a big hand into his coat pocket once more. It came out, the nuggets dangling from it.

In an instant she was beside him and had seized the string. “Glory!” she exclaimed.

“Now, I’m goin’ to ask a favour of you,” said the Judge. “It’s this: Just forgit about the nuggets an’ Homer. Will you? The hull thing makes you look silly an’ wouldn’t help the boy.”

“All right,” she promised. “My, but I’m happy!” She ran the nuggets through her fingers, fondling and counting them.

The Judge watched her for a moment. Then his face suddenly brightened; he smiled in his slow way. “I wouldn’t wonder if Homer thought you tattled to Alicia about him playin’ cards with Jim at the Occidental.”

“Yes, I did,” she admitted a little shamefacedly.

“Wal, he’s got even with you.”

She moved away. “I’m glad he was only joking,” she said. Then from the door: “I wonder when he and Alicia’ll marry. My, but they’ll make a fine-looking couple, her so dark and him so light! Of course, I don’t exactly favour these marriages[38] where the groom and bride have been acquainted with each other for so long. They get to know each other too good. Give a woman something to find out, I say, so that she can live with her husband two or three years, anyhow. Now, I met Jim one week and was married the next, and it was four years before we was what you might call fighting.”

“Oh, wait,” said the Judge. “There’s one thing more. In a case like this, where a statement has been writ out, it’s the rule, in law, for the statoress——”

“The statoress?”

“You’re the statoress in this case. Y’see, you writ the statement. It’s the rule for her to make a second statement, appended to the end of the first, sayin’ that the first ain’t so.”

“All right, Judge.”

“I’ll just write the second statement, an’ you can sign it.” He scribbled a few lines hastily.

“Wish you’d wrote the first statement,” she said enviously, when she had come back and was standing at the desk once more. “Can’t you go fast!”

“That’s because mine’s a fountain-pen,” he explained. “Here, sign right on this line.”

“An’ say!” he added as she started away a second time, “lemme repeat what I advised once before—don’t never give security, especially collateral security, without you git a receipt, Mrs. Luce. The next feller, mebbe, won’t be jokin’.”

“I won’t, Judge,” she promised.

When she was across the railroad track on her homeward way he went back to his armchair, sat[39] down, laid his arms upon his desk and his head upon his arms.

Noon came and passed unnoticed. The down train snorted by, and he did not look up. Then the long afternoon went slowly. He stayed where he was, scarcely moving. Afternoon merged into twilight. Darkness crept into the courtroom.

The banging of the unfixed section of the rickety sidewalk roused the Judge at last. And as the loose boards nearer at hand flapped and creaked under a light tread he sat up and got stiffly to his feet.

The knob of the front door turned and a slender figure in white appeared in the doorway. Then, “Gid!” called an anxious voice—a girl’s voice. “Gid! Are you there?”

“Yas,” answered the Judge. “I’m here. Is it—Alicia?”

“Gid!” she cried tremulously; “poor, poor Gid!”

He walked toward her slowly. “What you pore Giddin’ me for?” he asked.

“Mrs. Luce told me—about what Homer’s done.”

The Judge came short. “She did? Can’t that woman keep nothin’ to herself? W’y”—pleadingly and reaching out a hand—“let me explain before you—w’y, that boy, Alicia, he only——”

“Oh, it wasn’t a joke!” she interrupted. “Mrs. Luce thinks it was. But I know. Oh, you dear old Gid, you’re trying to shield him. And he doesn’t deserve it.”

“Now, Alicia, he didn’t——”

[40]“He did—and right at a time when it could hurt your chance to be district attorney.”

“District attorney?” repeated the Judge and laughed—a little sadly, but bravely. “Aw, wal! I can wait t’ be district attorney.”

“You see! It’s so! It’s so! He’s taken your money to get himself out of his trouble! The coward!”

“Alicia! You’re turnin’ on the boy! Please don’t let a little thing like this come between you an’ Homer.”

“Between me and Homer!” she exclaimed in surprise. “What makes you say that, Gid?”

“W’y, you come here that day an’ tole me about him gamblin’, an’ cried.”

She laid a white hand on his sleeve. “I knew this whole thing was coming, Gid, and you’d be the one to suffer.”

“Me?” he questioned.

“Homer Scott! I never did like him, and I’ve hated to see you wasting yourself on him. What does he care about you, or your ambitions, or your dreams?”

He was silent for a moment—so silent that he seemed to be holding his breath. Then he spoke gently: “There’s only one dream I got that counts. An’—an’ I don’t dare t’ hope it might come true.”

Her face was lifted to his almost appealingly; his eyes eagerly searched hers in the dimness. Presently he reached down and took the hand that was hanging at her side and lifted it, pressing it against his breast.

She smiled up at him. And, little by little, her[41] other hand began to creep its way to his shoulder. There it rested, and she whispered to him softly: “Gid! Dear Gid!”

A smothered cry of great happiness answered her. The next moment he dropped her hand and his arms went out, sweeping her slender figure to him.



IT was a long-distance call and the voice was a man’s, impatient, peremptory and curiously unsteady: “Hello! Hello! Hello! I say! Is this Doctor Hunter?”

“Yas, this is me,” answered the doctor, making an arc of his stalwart length as he leaned down to the receiver on his table; “this is Hunter.”

“This is the Blue Top Mine—the Blue Top. Do you understand? We want you up here.”

“The Blue Top!” repeated the doctor. And of a sudden his boyish face grew eager. “All right. What kind of a case is it?”

“Never mind—come. Get a good horse.”

“But look a-here,” expostulated the doctor. “Is it surgical? I’d like to know just what to bring.”

“Come prepared for anything. Can you hear me? This is Eastman.”

“Oh—Mr. Eastman.” The doctor fell back a little, then, still holding the receiver to his ear with one hand, hastily smoothed at his hair with the other—as if to make himself more presentable for his conversation with the distant speaker. “I’ll start in fifteen minutes,” he promised.

“Good-bye.” The line closed.

The doctor was in his shirt-sleeves. He reached one long arm out for the coat hanging on the back of his office chair, the other for his wide, soft hat.[43] Then he caught up a canvas case that held both medicines and instruments, and hurried out.

Half a block up the street was a low, flower-covered cottage that stood among wide-spreading fig trees. There was a strip of clover lawn before the little house. He halted when he reached it, and took off his hat. “Oh, Miss Letty!” he called.

The fig trees formed a dense screen against the noon heat. Under one was a girl, bareheaded and barearmed, with a half-filled basket of the purple fruit at her feet. As the doctor spoke she turned and came toward him swiftly across the clover. She was tall, nearly as tall as he, and the great knot of crisp and dusky hair on her small head added to her slender height. Her eyes were like her hair—dark and shining. They made vivid contrast with the clear paleness of her cheek and throat.

“You’re going out of town,” she said, with a glance at the canvas case.

“What do you think!” he answered, his face flushing with pleasure. “They want me at Blue Top!”

She stopped. “The regular mine doctor left last week. They’ll have to have somebody in his place. Maybe——” Her eyes questioned his.

“It was Eastman ’phoned me.” He said it proudly.

“The owner of the mine!”

“‘We want you up here’ is what he said. And ‘Come prepared for anything.’ But a-course——” It was his turn to break off. His grey eyes were anxious.

[44]“They want you to stay!” she declared excitedly. “Won’t that be splendid! Now you’ll be able to buy all the books you’ve been wanting. You know, they give a good salary at Blue Top, and—and house rent free.” A wave of colour swept her face then, tinting it a delicate rose.

He had come nearer her. “It’d mean more’n books to me,” he said in a low voice.

“You’re the best doctor in the country; that’s why they’ve sent for you. But what’ll this town do without you?” She smiled up at him, forgetting her embarrassment. “Every baby in the place’ll miss ‘Doc’.”

Like a man who is summoning his courage he set his teeth together for a moment and took a deep breath. Then: “The part of the town that I like best I want to take with me,” he said, his tone significant.

There was a moment’s silence. She retreated a step, her face rosier than before. He kept his eyes fixed earnestly on her lowered lashes, waiting for them to rise.

“I’ve—I’ve wanted to ask you before, Letty—lots of times. But I couldn’t as long as I knowed I’d have to take you to a boardin’-house; I’ve waited till I thought I could see a home in sight. If this comes true——” He reached out a big, sunburned hand and touched her slender one where it hung at her side.

She raised her eyes and they were misty with hope. “Do your level best at the mine!” she half-whispered.

“Letty—you care!” He let her hand fall, for[45] his own was trembling. “Oh, you bet I’ll do my best. This is my chance. I’m bankin’ on it.”

“Take my horse for the trip. Bobby wasn’t out of the barn yesterday, and I’m pickling figs to-day. Please do.”

“All right, I’ll be glad to.”

A few minutes later, when he rode out of the corral, canvas case tight-strapped to his back, he was mounted on a spirited little mustang whose bright eyes watched through a bushy forelock. The gate was left in a rushing gallop. And from down the street, where the doctor turned into the Blue Top road, he waved a hand back to Letty. Then he cantered on.

It was fifteen miles to the mine, all up grade and rough going. But Bobby kept a quick pace; and his rider, fixing his look hopefully ahead, gave no thought to the road. Two things ran constantly in the doctor’s mind: “We want you up here” and “Come prepared for anything.” The more he thought of the statements the more he felt certain about the success of his trip. They surely meant him to remain at the mine. That was why he had been asked to bring as much of his equipment as possible.


It was Bobby who obeyed the command. Out of the thick brush that lined the grade had stepped three men, blocking his way. The trio carried rifles across their arms.

“Who are you?” demanded one of the three. He was a smooth-shaven, thick-set, middle-aged man with hard, milky-blue eyes and soft, fat cheeks that[46] pouched heavily, drawing his under lids down to show a scarlet lining.


“Oh!—I see. Good work.” The thick-set man fell back a step and gave a sidewise jerk of the head. It was permission to ride on. Then he led his companions across the road and into the chaparral.

A moment later the doctor forgot the occurrence. The road divided, and he turned into the less used one of the two. Rounding a sharp turn in it he came in sight of a tiny, shingled bungalow built upon a spot that had been made level by digging into the side of the mountain. This was the residence of the regular physician at the mine. It was vacant now, and through the uncurtained window he could see the pretty living room, with its low, raftered ceiling and its great fireplace of stone.

“Oh, if this only comes true!” he said aloud. Already he pictured Letty’s face at the window.

At the side porch of the superintendent’s house he dismounted quickly, dropped the bridle reins to the ground and sprang up the steps, unbuckling his case as he went.

A Chinese in spotless white answered his ring and, without a question, went pattering away to a closed door at the end of a long hall, where he paused and knocked softly.

A man opened the door. He was perhaps thirty-five, with the bearing that marks the city-bred. But his dress was dishevelled, his haggard face showed a one-day’s growth of beard, and his eyes were[47] hollow, as if from sickness, and bloodshot. “Is this Doctor Hunter?” he questioned, whispering.

“Yas, sir.”

“My name is Eastman.” He motioned the doctor to enter.

In the darkened room there was discernible only the outlines of a bed, upon which someone was tossing. The patient was moaning, too, and hoarsely repeating a name: “Laurie! Laurie! Laurie! Laurie!” The tone was insistent and full of anguished appeal.

The doctor went to the bedside. The face on the pillow was that of a young woman—a woman of perhaps twenty-five. It was a face that reminded him of Letty’s. There was the same delicate outline of cheek and chin, the same full, sweet mouth and girlish throat. But the dark head was moving from side to side with each repeating of the name, and the dark eyes were staring wildly. As he leaned down she turned them full upon him.

“Laurie! Laurie! Laurie!” she entreated.

“Nervous shock,” said the doctor. He lifted a white wrist. It was rigid and the pulse hard. The hand was knotted, too, and shook with its very tenseness. “What put her into this shape?”

Eastman did not reply at once. He began to walk the room. Presently he halted behind the doctor. “Mrs. Eastman is—is worried,” he explained.

“Wal, I should judge so,” remarked the doctor coldly. He laid an open hand upon the sick woman’s forehead to quiet the constant wagging. “How long’s she been like this?”

[48]“Twenty-four hours. Give her something to make her sleep. She’ll go crazy.”

“In a case like this you got to remove the cause.” The doctor spoke severely. The whole thing looked bad to him.

Eastman made no answer, but left the room, for the Chinese had summoned him noiselessly from the door.

Left alone, the doctor prepared an opiate and administered one draught of it, after which he took a chair beside the bed and again lifted a tense wrist. Presently Mrs. Eastman ceased to murmur her heart-broken plaint. Her clenched fingers relaxed their hold on the counterpane. Then the strained lids of the sufferer fluttered down.

When she was breathing deep and regularly, with a peaceful smile on the sweet mouth and her hands folded on her breast, he leaned back. And, looking at her, his thoughts returned to Letty and to the tiny bird’s-nest of a house perched below in a niche of the mountain. He could see a strong young figure going to and fro through the cozy rooms; himself beside a wood fire, with his books about him. Spring came a trifle later here on the tilted crown of Blue Top, fall arrived a little early, which meant many evenings cool enough for a cheery blaze. And if the mine was off the line of the railroad, that did not——

Eastman entered hurriedly, leaving the door open behind him.

The doctor rose, the look of day-dreaming still in his eyes. “She’s quiet,” he said in a low voice. “What else can I attend to up here?”

[49]“This is all.” As Eastman answered his own look was averted. “Our new physician’s due to-day—Doctor Fowler, of San Francisco.”

“I—I see.” A surge of red deepened the tan on the doctor’s face. “I s’pose you won’t need me no more.”

“How much do I owe you?” There was dismissal in Eastman’s tone.

The other closed the canvas case and picked up his hat. Then he leaned over the sleeper for a moment. When he started slowly toward the door the spring was gone from his step. He seemed not to have heard the question.

“Will ten be satisfactory?” Eastman had run a hand into a pocket. Now he held a goldpiece.

The doctor turned. A troubled light was in the grey eyes. “Five’d be a fair charge for Blue Top,” he said. As the smaller coin was proffered him he took it, bowed and went out.

Someone followed him—he did not look back to see who. But as he reached the front door his eyes fell upon a photograph that lay on a table beside the hatrack. It was the photograph of a child—a handsome, fair-haired little boy in gingham rompers, standing on a garden path amid chrysanthemums that reached above his tumbled curls. “Is that your baby?” asked the doctor, and, with the inquiry, turned to the one behind.

It was not Eastman, but the Chinese servant who had followed him out. As he opened the door he made no reply.

Bobby was waiting dutifully at the steps; and when he was headed down the mountain he went[50] single-footing away eagerly, his bit-chains rattling with his swaying gait. But the doctor rode with his chin on his breast and his soft hat pulled to his brows. And when a bend in the road brought the shingled bungalow near, instead of looking at it he turned his face toward the long, level valley. In the distance, on the tree-strewn river-bottom, was a cluster of white specks—the town he had left in the early afternoon. He had come from it hopefully: he was returning unsuccessful. But his jaw was set resolutely.

It was past sundown when he reined at the gate leading to Bobby’s corral. Letty had seen him ride up. Now she came hurrying across the garden toward him. “Is it good news?” she called.

He was down and standing beside his horse. “I counted my chickens ahead of time,” he answered, and smiled ruefully. “They’re gittin’ a city doc for Blue Top.”

As he slipped off saddle and bridle she stood in silence, her eyes on the ground. But when he came over and paused beside her she looked up at him bravely, for all the tears on her lashes. “Never mind about Blue Top,” she said. “Think what a fine doctor you are now. And you’re so young. If you go on with your studying——”

“I’ll tell you what’s the matter with me,” he said very earnestly. “I cure, don’t I? But I don’t dress good enough. I don’t know how to talk. And I ain’t one of them stylish, top-buggy physicians.” He looked up the street to his own gate. A man had pulled up before it—a queer-looking individual mounted on a raw-boned mule and wearing a long,[51] tan linen duster and a black slouch hat. “The fact is,” he went on, “I’m not Doctor Hunter. That’s it. I’m just ‘Doc.’”

The man on the mule was advancing toward them. Letty hastened to inquire about Blue Top. “You didn’t tell me who was sick at the mine,” she reminded.

“Mrs. Eastman. But—she wasn’t sick.”

“She wasn’t sick?” Letty raised a puzzled face.

“Just unhappy. Eastman didn’t say what about. But her poor heart’s a-breakin’.”

The man on the mule pulled up for a second time, near by. “Are you Doc Hunter?” he demanded. The voice sounded muffled.

“I’m the Doc.”

“A friend of mine is sick—out of town here a little ways.”

“Take Bobby again,” Letty urged in an undertone. “You know how tough he is. He won’t mind, if the trip is short.”

“But he ain’t had his feed,” said the doctor.

“I’ll tie some oats to the saddle.”

As she hurried off the doctor went up to the man on the mule. “What kind of a case is it?” he inquired, and noticed that the stranger had a handkerchief tied under his jaws and over his ears.

“That’s what I expect you to tell me.” There was a note of sneering in the retort.

“I mean, is it surgical?” explained the other.

“Well, suppose you come fixed so’s you’ll be ready for any kind of a case.”

The doctor stared. It was Eastman’s reply—with a different wording. And the coincidence[52] seemed a strange one. Then: “You’d better let me do somethin’ for that toothache,” he said kindly.

“Oh, it don’t amount to anything,” was the short answer.

The doctor had not unbuckled his case. Now he crossed the corral to Bobby and picked up bridle and saddle.

The stranger led the way out of town, hurrying his mule forward with voice, switch and heels, and taking the main traveled road that led south beside the railroad track. Night was already settling, and to the left the scattered shafts of a cemetery gleamed white through the gathering dusk. Beyond the cemetery, where a dim road branched eastward across the rails toward the river, the guide drew up and dismounted and busied himself for a moment with the bridle of his mule. The doctor also reined and waited.

Presently his companion came walking back, leaving the mule tied to the railroad fence. “Doc,” he began, putting one hand on Bobby’s bridle and the other on the doctor’s knee, “don’t misunderstand what I’m going to say to you.”

“Yas? What’s that?” Of a sudden the doctor felt dislike and suspicion.

“Where I’m going,” continued the man deliberately, “you’ll have to travel blindfolded.”

The doctor did not speak for a moment. Again he was staring at the other, not so startled as he was amazed at this, the second queer call in a single day! Before he had finished puzzling over the half-crazed woman at Blue Top and the trio of armed[53] men who had halted him, here was another mystery. Was the county gone mad?

“You’ve barked up the wrong tree, Mister,” he said finally, looking into the small eyes that were glinting up at him. “I’ve got just five dollars with me. Let me show y’.” He reached into a pocket. “That ain’t worth cuttin’ my throat for.”

A boisterous laugh greeted this. Then: “Cut your throat! Why, I’m not after money. I want a doctor. And I’m going to have a doctor.” Still holding to Bobby’s rein the stranger reached down and patted his right thigh. “I’ve never heard of taking a doctor to a sick man at the end of a gun,” he added, “but if you hold back that’s the way I’ll take you. Get down.”

The doctor dismounted.

“Turn around,” was the next order.

As the doctor obeyed a large, soft handkerchief was laid across his eyes and bound tight.

He climbed back into his saddle then, and found his stirrups. But as he picked up his rein once more he felt his hands gripped in a firm hold and brought forward to the pommel.

“I’ll tie your wrists now,” said his companion.

The doctor straightened and jerked his arms to his sides. “You don’t need to,” he declared. “I’ll let my eyes alone.”

“Put out your hands!” came the stern command.

There was nothing to do but comply.

When they moved on again the doctor sat with every faculty on the alert, determined to discover which way they were travelling. But first they circled two or three times, then took a zigzag course.[54] And after so much forethought on his guide’s part the doctor was completely turned around. So that, starting forward finally along a comparatively straight course, he did not know in what direction they were headed. Soon he forgot to note any veering to right or left. A feeling of intense nausea came over him, caused by the sway of his horse and his inability to see.

The going was smooth enough for the first half-hour. Afterward it became rough, when they ceased to canter, even over short distances. At the end of the first long hour they wound down a steep and evidently narrow path. This brought them to rushing water, which they crossed when the mule and Bobby had drunk. Then a long climb began—to level ground again. At last a sharp turn was made to the left. Once more they descended. Then came a halt.

“Get down,” said the guide.

“I will when you let loose my hands,” returned the doctor crossly. “This is a dickens of a way to treat a white man!”

When he was down and his eyes were unbound he saw that they were in the bottom of a deep cañon, for on either side of him, against the lighter background of the sky, was the black, pine-topped line of a ridge. There was a small clearing in the cañon, circled by a wall of underbrush, and at the centre of the clearing a squat shanty, beyond which showed a patch of light from a window on its farther side.

Bridles were taken off and girths loosened. Then the doctor folded down the top of the feed-sack so[55] that Bobby could eat, and left the little horse devouring his oats.

Now the two men made toward the shanty and silently entered a small, low room lighted by a single kerosene lamp. The walls of the room were of rough pine boards, smoke-stained; the ceiling was of blackened cheesecloth that sagged low overhead. There was a rough board table beside the door, and two benches, as unplaned as the table, for seats. A small stove stood in one corner, rusted by the rain that had trickled down upon it from the pipe-opening in the roof; against a wall stood a bed of boards—a bed only wide enough for one person. Upon it, under a grey blanket, lay a figure.

The doctor picked up the lamp, crossed to the bedside, and let the light shine down upon his patient—a man not more than twenty-eight years of age. The fevered face was ugly, almost apelike; the forehead bulged, the cheek-bones were high, the nose so flat that the nostrils were two wide, black holes; and the mouth was full and coarse. The doctor recoiled as he looked, and turned to the man standing at his shoulder.

He saw a face that he liked still less—eyes small and deep-set, and overhung with heavy, coarse brows; a nose lean and high and twisted so far out of line that it made a left obtuse angle from forehead to mouth; and long, thin lips that opened over small, uneven, discoloured teeth. But the most striking feature of the face was a scar. It lay across the left cheek from the corner of the eye to the point of the heavy chin. It was a straight scar—as straight as if made by a keen knife drawn along[56] the edge of a ruler. And it was old, and a dead white that contrasted sharply with the liquor-reddened skin of the cheek.

“I’ll hold the lamp,” said the man with the scar.

The doctor unbuckled his case, threw off his coat and rolled up his sleeves. He did not ask what was the matter, but laid back the bedclothes and began his look for a wound. And he found it—a gunshot wound in the right side, at the waist-line, and mortally deep.

“My! This oughta been ’tended to hours ago,” he said severely. “When did it happen?”

“Yesterday. He’s been unconscious ever since.”

“Git me some hot water.”

Then, for an hour, not a word was spoken. The doctor worked with all his energy, forgetting where he was, forgetting hunger and weariness. The table had been moved close to the bed and the lamp placed upon it. So the man with the scar had nothing to do. He walked the floor, his head down and held a little sidewise, as if he were listening; and as he walked his eyes continually shifted from side to side.

“I’m done,” announced the doctor at last. “This medicine you can give him every three hours—one teaspoonful. It’s for the fever.”

The man with the scar came over to stand at the foot of the bed. “Leave something that’ll make him sleep,” he said.

“All right.” The doctor had thought of asking for coffee. But now he was eager to get away. There was that in the manner of his guide which[57] he did not like—an anxiety that seemed apart from concern for the sick man.

Soon they were started on the return trip, the doctor blindfolded as before and tied by the wrists to his pommel. As they went he marked as well as he could ascents and descents, abrupt turns, level stretches and rough. Bobby travelled slowly, being tired with all the long miles he had covered since noon; and once or twice he stumbled, jerking at his headline.

The man with the scar cursed him. “Why don’t you ride a mule?” he called back. “A mule’s sure-footed, and he’s got more sense in a minute than a horse’s got in a week.”

“Ain’t nothin’ the matter with this horse’s smartness,” retorted the doctor. “Bobby knows as much as a man.”

“Oh, does he?” said the other with a mirthless laugh. “Well, you’d better look out or I’ll blindfold him, too.”

When the animals were once more brought to a standstill the man with the scar did not dismount, but rode close enough to untie the thongs at the doctor’s pommel and to jerk away the handkerchief.

They were beside the railroad track where the dim road branched east. The man with the scar addressed the doctor sharply. “Doc,” he said, “if you know what’s good for you you’ll just forget all about to-night.” Then: “So long.” But he stayed where he was in the road.

“So long,” returned the doctor. He headed north. When beyond the cemetery he looked round, the mule and its scar-faced rider were gone.

[58]A milk wagon was rumbling through the town as the doctor dismounted at the wide gate which led to Bobby’s stable, and a boy on a bicycle was wheeling from house to house along the street, throwing San Francisco papers of the previous afternoon into each yard. The morning of another day had come.

There was a light still burning, however, in the kitchen of the little flower-covered cottage. And soon Letty came hurrying out. “Have you had any rest?” she asked. “I’ve got some hot coffee ready for you.”

He gave a tender smile. “You’ll make a fine doctor’s wife!” he declared.

“Not if I worry, though. And I have worried—all night.” She tried to smile back at him, but her lips trembled. “Because I didn’t like the looks of the man that came here after you. Where was the case?”

“I’m afraid you’ll worry worse when I tell you,” he answered. “I don’t know where I’ve been.”

“You don’t know!”

Briefly, over a cup of steaming coffee in the kitchen, he related the happenings of the night just gone. Letty listened, wide-eyed and pale. “How do you figger it out?” he asked her as he concluded his story. “The Blue Top call was funny, but this was worse.”

The next moment she rose to her feet and let her cup and saucer fall with a clatter. “That’s who they are!” she cried. “Why didn’t I think of it before! The whole thing’s out at the mine.” Then she ran from the kitchen into the dining-room and came running back again, a newspaper in one hand.[59] “Read it!” she bade in the wildest excitement. “Oh, read it!”

He took the paper from her. It was the local publication of the day before, and the article she indicated occupied the upper half of the front page. “Laurence Eastman Kidnapped,” read a line that reached from one side of the sheet to the other. Under this, in smaller type, was a subhead: “Outlaws Demand Five Thousand Dollars of Millionaire Father. Threaten to Kill Child if Theft is Made Public.”

The doctor read no further. “That’s what was the matter with Mrs. Eastman,” he said in a low voice. “The boy’s out in that cañon!”

Astounded, each gazed into the face of the other for a moment. “You didn’t hear him?” ventured Letty. “Maybe he was hid in the brush.”

“The shanty was pretty good-sized—lookin’ at it from the outside,” returned the doctor. “Inside, the room was awful small. If that man comes after me again——”

“Don’t go out alone with him,” she pleaded. “Let somebody trail you.”

He shook his head. “He’d find it out and shoot. No, I’ve got to take the chance. Oh, Letty, if I could only bring that little woman her kid!”

Letty’s dark eyes were misty. “You couldn’t telephone her, could you?” she asked.

He shook his head. “So far, everything’s guesswork. I dassent raise her hopes on that. It’s awful when a person’s hopes’re raised—and then go smash. I’ve got to find out where I was. There’s a scheme I heard of once——”

[60]“Is it scattering beans?”

“No.” He laughed and reached across the kitchen table to cover a slim hand with one of his. “No”—more soberly—“it’s something different—it’s about Bobby. You’d have to let me take care of him for a few days and treat him real bad. I won’t tell you what I’d do to him, then it won’t fret you.”

“Take Bobby,” she urged. “But oh, don’t have any trouble out there with that man!” And she grew white and clung to his hand as she had never done before.

He stayed only long enough to reassure her, and went when the sun shone against the kitchen window. He had been twenty-four hours without sleep.

It was an anxious day for Letty. The doctor spent it in work after he had had his rest, and at six o’clock opened his medicine-case to put into it one or two things that had been lacking the previous night. When sundown came and the long, grateful twilight, he paid a visit to Bobby. Then he lighted the lamp in his office and sat down to wait. Dark brought the looked-for summons. The front gate squeaked on its hinges. Heavy steps sounded along the narrow boardwalk leading up to the porch. Next, following a short pause, came a knock.

The doctor opened the door. The man with the scar was in waiting. He kept out of range of the light that fell through the door, but the doctor could see that the face of his visitor was again half hidden by a handkerchief and that the slouch hat was worn low to shadow it.

“My friend’s suffering awful,” he said by way of[61] greeting. “All over the place, Doc. I felt almost like putting him out of his misery.”

At once the doctor went for Bobby. An eager whinny hailed the opening of the stable door. But when the little horse was led out of his stall he hung back and all but refused to leave it. “You’ll have some supper out yonder,” promised his rider, and tied a generous feed of oats to the thongs of the big stock saddle.

A slender figure came swiftly across the corral. It was Letty, and she lifted her face to the doctor’s in mute anxiety. He whispered encouragement and bent to kiss her, then rode out to join his waiting guide.

The second trip to the cañon was, in every way, like the first except that it was made more quickly. When the clearing was reached and the doctor’s eyes were unbound he saw that there was no patch of light beyond the low shanty. “Didn’t dare leave a lamp,” explained the man with the scar as he cautiously opened the door. After he had peered in; listening, he entered quietly and struck a match.

The sick man was on the floor, stretched prone. His eyes were wide, but unseeing. His breathing was laboured.

They lifted him gently and laid him on the bed. Then the doctor, coat off, once more began his ministering, while the man with the scar seated himself on a bench by the door and smoked. The doctor paid the other no attention, but apparently gave his whole thought to his patient. Nevertheless, as he worked he kept on the alert for sounds, and, when[62] his back was turned toward his guard, examined the wall against which stood the head of the bed.

He noticed that which made him certain that the shanty had a second, if a very small, room. Two of the upright foot-wide boards of the wall had been sawed across at a height of six feet from the floor. A few moments later he purposely dropped the cork of a bottle. As he stooped to feel about for it he gave a quick look at the lower ends of the sawed boards. Unlike the others in the wall, they cleared the floor by half an inch. It was probable that they formed a narrow, blind door; that the wall itself was a partition. He determined to be certain about it. “Fetch me some right cold water,” he said to the man with the scar.

For a moment the other remained seated and made no answer. Then, “All right,” he said reluctantly and, picking up a square kerosene can that had been fitted with a handle, went out.

The doctor waited, his eyes on his patient, his ears strained for the sound of vanishing footsteps. He heard none. The other was doubtless just outside, watching. The doctor walked to the table, took a square of prepared plaster from his case and, having turned the light down a little, laid the plaster upon the top of the globe.

The light went out. He stepped swiftly to the head of the bed and put a hand against the blind door. It swung inward a foot or more, then back into place again.

“Here!” The threatening voice was at the outside door, which opened and closed with a bang. “What’re you trying to do?”

[63]The doctor took one long stride in the direction of the speaker. “Got a match?” he inquired innocently. “That blamed lamp went out.”

The other muttered and struck a match. When its light flashed the doctor was standing beside the table, the square of plaster in one hand.

“You ’tend to business!” warned the man with the scar. His thin lips were parted in a snarl.

“Now, look-a-here,” returned the doctor; “I’ve stood all the abuse I’m goin’ to. There ain’t another physician in this county that would a-came out here a second time with his eyes blinded and his hands tied—not if you had ten friends dyin’. And I expect you to show me decent treatment.” He leaned forward across the table and looked the other man squarely in the face.

“Last night you wanted hot water. To-night you want cold.”

“Wal, excuse me, but I’m the best judge of what the sick gent needs. If I ain’t, why the dickens do you come after me?”

For the space of a minute they stood in silence, face to face. Then, as if partly convinced, the man with the scar once more took up his oil can. When his quick, shuffling steps had died away the doctor tried another plan. He stooped over the sick man until his lips were close to the crack that ran down the full length of the blind door, and began to speak the name that the grief-crazed mother at the mine had spoken: “Laurie! Laurie! Laurie!”

He listened. There was no sound within or without. He spoke again, louder: “Laurie!”

First, a movement beyond the partition—a soft,[64] rustling, creeping movement. Then, close to the wall, a little, weak, long-drawn sob!

The doctor straightened, his heart pounding so furiously that it hurt him, his face hot with the joy of his discovery. Smiling, he glanced down.

He looked into a pair of startled eyes that were staring up at him. “Who are you?” came the husky demand, and the sick man suddenly lifted himself to an elbow, almost as if he were about to leap from the bed.

The doctor could only stare back. The man was conscious. Had he heard him? What was to be done?

Before he could frame any course of action the man with the scar entered.

“Your friend’s lots better,” announced the doctor, turning toward the door. “Come and see.”

“That so?” The other crossed to the foot of the bed.

“Nick,” began the sick man, speaking with great effort, “don’t you trust anybody. You get out of here. Do you understand? Never mind me. I’m going to die. Look at my nails.” He put out a trembling hand.

“Don’t you worry,” answered the man with the scar. “The Doc came in blindfolded.”

“You’re taking chances,” persisted the younger man. “Go—just—leave me—water, and—a gun.” He sank back.

“You got to keep more quiet,” said the doctor. “Here.” He lifted a cup to the dry lips.

When he left the bedside the man with the scar followed and leaned close. “Bill’s going to die,” he said in a low voice. “Look at his nails.”

[65]Instead, the doctor looked at the speaker. There was a sinister light in those little, alert eyes; a cruel twist to the thin mouth. And the whole expression of the scarred face bespoke a sudden determination—a fiendish determination. Bill was past saving. Soon the cabin would be left behind. And the doctor—why let him go back to the town?

“He’s going to die,” repeated the man with the scar. “And you know it.”

“My friend,” answered the doctor, “I’ll tell you the truth. He ain’t got more’n one chance in a hunderd—and that’s a pretty slim one. If he ain’t better to-morrow I’ve got to operate.” He sat down.

The man with the scar sat down in front of him. The table was between them. He leaned his arms on it. “Don’t take me for a fool,” he advised.

The doctor folded his arms. “Now, look a-here,” he retorted, smiling; “don’t take me for a fool. I know what’s the matter with you.”

At that the man with the scar rose so suddenly that his bench tipped backward.

“Yas,” the doctor went on. “I know why you brung me here blindfolded and what you’re hidin’.”

The right hand of the man with the scar stole to his hip.

The doctor ignored the action. He went on speaking with clear directness: “You two fellers’ve located a gold mine. And you’ve got the crazy idea that I’m a-goin’ to bring out a bunch of locators. Wal, git over it. I’m not a prospector: I’m a doc.”

The hand on the weapon rested quiet. The man with the scar drew a gasping breath. Then long[66] and keenly he studied the face of the doctor. After a time he dropped his arm, picked up his bench and reseated himself.

Some little time passed. The doctor smoked and nursed a knee. Once he got up to take the pulse of his patient and again to mark the temperature. But his every movement was leisurely, and he showed no wish to leave. The man with the scar sat, leaning on the table, apparently lost in thought.

All at once he rose. “Well, come on,” he said.

Again the doctor examined the sick man. “This’ll be a bad day for your friend,” he explained. “I’m leavin’ something to chase the pain.”

When they were ready to mount the other addressed him harshly. “Doc,” he said, “if you and me run into anybody on our way back it’ll be you that gets my first shot.”

“That’s a bargain,” answered the doctor good-naturedly.

But, riding out of the cañon, he felt far from confident. The previous night his guide had led briskly. Now the mule was lagging. The doctor found himself moving his body forward in his saddle to urge Bobby on. They had gone only a small part of the way homeward when the mule came to a stop. Bobby halted, too, and the doctor waited like a man who expects a blow in the dark. He listened. The other did not dismount. There was no audible movement ahead. But he felt that sinister face turned upon him.

“Say, that friend of your’n has got a wonderful constitution,” he remarked.

There was a short interval of silence. It seemed[67] many minutes to the doctor. Then, “Get up!” said the voice ahead.

Letty was waiting for him when he turned in at the corral gate, though it was long past midnight. He had been under a severe strain, but she had been under a greater. He saw that when he lifted the lantern she brought him and looked into her face.

“Good news,” he told her, speaking low. “The baby’s there.”

Five minutes later he was back in his office once more and had Blue Top on the telephone. “Come,” was his message. “I’ve got a clue, Mr. Eastman. But don’t bring nobody with you.”

It seemed to him that he had only just lain down to rest when he was up again, admitting Eastman, who had come as quick as a horse could carry him. The father was more dishevelled than ever; and on his haggard, unshaven face stood out the sweat of effort and anxiety. Three days of agony had aged him.

“Oh, my boy!” were his first words.

“I know where he is, but I don’t know how to git there,” said the doctor. Briefly he explained.

Eastman, half distracted, paced the floor as he listened. “Oh, tell me what to do,” he cried when the doctor had finished. “My wife—it’s killing her.”

“The medicine I left’ll keep the sick feller up till this evenin’.”

“I’ll follow you to-night, then. Oh, I must! I must! The boy’ll need me. They dragged him over all those miles. Think of it! And wore out his poor little legs.”

[68]“We’ve got to go about this thing mighty careful,” warned the doctor. “You trail me and somebody’ll be shot. Mebbe it’ll be me, mebbe it’ll be your baby.”

The father halted before the younger man. “But how can you help him,” he demanded, “with your hands tied?”

“Wal, I’ve thought of a scheme. The man that come after me searched me for a pistol both nights. But he’s never looked into the oat-bag. So, I’ll put a gun in that bag, and when I stand up from feedin’ Bobby I’ll have the drop on him.”

“He may get you first. Then what? Oh, I’ll never see my boy again!”

“Wal, if you can think of a better way, go ahead.”

But at the end of an hour Eastman agreed with the doctor that there was no better plan. “All right,” he said, “—all right—I’ll trust to you. Now I must telephone my wife that there’s hope.”

When the doctor awoke early that afternoon it was to learn that Mrs. Eastman had arrived and was at the hotel. Eastman himself called the doctor up to announce her coming and the latter asked the parents to remain secluded during the remainder of the day.

There was reason to believe that the kidnappers might have a confederate on watch in the town.

But Eastman had no thought beyond the finding of his child. “Suppose that sick man died to-day,” he said. “Won’t the other man leave and take Laurie with him? Doctor, I think I ought to start fifty men out on a search.”

The doctor opposed the suggestion. “Take my[69] advice,” he urged kindly. “Tell Mrs. Eastman to be brave.”

Eastman only groaned and hung up. But later on he telephoned again and again, always with some fresh idea that was filling the heart of the waiting mother with forebodings.

Letty telephoned, too. “Don’t go alone to-night,” she begged. “It’s too dangerous.”

“I got to, Letty,” he declared. “If Eastman starts men out, which way’ll they go? It might take ’em a week to find that shanty.”

Night settled early, for long before twilight the sky became heavily overcast and a wind rose, sweeping the dust up in clouds as it drove through the town, and auguring a rainstorm. The doctor placed a light in his office, then took his station at a window in an unlighted front room.

The minutes dragged. Eight o’clock struck, and nine.

“Mebbe that sick feller did die,” he said to Letty over the telephone. “But——”

He hung up the receiver abruptly. There was a sound of galloping in the street. It ceased at the gate, when heavy steps came hurrying to his porch. It was the man with the scar.

“Doc,” he began, panting with his hard ride, “you said you’d operate——”

“Ready in a jiffy,” answered the doctor, and turned away to pick up hat and case.

The next instant there was a choking cry from the porch, then loud curses and the sound of fierce scuffling. The doctor whirled.

The man with the scar was flat on his back at[70] the threshold, his wrists manacled, his shins ironed; over him stood a smooth-shaven, thick-set, middle-aged man armed with a revolver—the man who had halted the doctor on the Blue Top road; and Eastman was there.

“He stole my boy!” the father called out furiously. “I’m going to kill him!” He flung himself forward.

The man with the revolver pushed him back. And, “No! No!” expostulated the doctor. “Eastman! You’re makin’ a mistake!”

The prisoner gave a loud, hard laugh. “You bet your life he’s making a mistake!” he declared.

“We got you just the same,” said the man with the revolver triumphantly.

“Put him on a horse,” ordered Eastman, maddened more than ever by the taunting laugh. “He’ll take me to my boy or I’ll kill him.”

The captured man ignored the father. His look was on the doctor, and it was full of hate. “Ah, h—l!” he exclaimed disgustedly. “I could kick myself! Last night I had my finger on the trigger. But like a fool——”

Eastman was sobbing in baffled rage. “My baby!” he cried. “Four days with this brute! Think of it!”

“No more monkey business.” The man with the revolver was speaking, and he gave his prisoner a rough poke in the side with his boot. “You’re in the hands of the Sheriff, and you’re going to take us out to that cañon. We start right off.”

“No, we don’t,” was the answer. “You’ve trapped me, the three of you. Send me up if you can. My word’s as good as this doctor’s, and I[71] don’t have to take you anywhere to hunt for evidence against me.”

“Get up,” commanded the sheriff. He unbuckled the irons from his prisoner’s legs.

The man with the scar rose. “Nobody’ll ever find that cabin or what’s in it,” he said doggedly. “And when Bill dies——”

“Oh, my God!” It was the father.

The doctor was leaning in the doorway. “What’d you do this for, Mr. Eastman?” he asked.

The tears were streaming down Eastman’s face. “We thought the Sheriff ought to come,” he faltered. “The boy’s mother is frantic. And this seemed the surest way.” The doctor shook his head. “I’m afraid we’ve lost our best chance,” he said.

“See here, Doc,” broke in the sheriff. “I made the capture. And I want you to understand when we find the boy I’m entitled to the reward.”

The other turned astonished eyes upon him. “Reward?” he repeated.

“You mean to say you didn’t know there’s five thousand offered?”

“So that’s why you done this,” said the doctor, and shrugged his shoulders. “You know, I’ve heerd tell of fellers that put their foot in it. You’ve got your’n in plumb to the knee.”

“I’ll come out all right,” retorted the sheriff boastfully. “I’ll send for dogs. There’s three in Sacramento. I can have ’em here in eighteen hours.”

“If I don’t git to Bill,” said the doctor, “he’ll be dead before that.” He looked at the man with the scar.

“Eighteen hours!” repeated Eastman miserably.

[72]Now the sheriff advanced upon his prisoner. “You’re going to take me to that cabin,” he said threateningly. “You don’t think so now, but I can make you change your mind. Come along.” He seized his prisoner by a shackled arm and jerked him toward the gate.

Eastman started after the two, pleading incoherently. But half-way to the gate he stopped. A girl blocked the walk. It was Letty.

“Depend on the doctor,” she said. “He took his life in his hands to find the boy. He was going to risk it again to bring him to you. And he didn’t even know there was a reward.”

Eastman turned and went stumbling back.

“But he doesn’t know the way,” he protested. “He said he didn’t.”

In answer, the doctor took his arm and led him down the street to the wide gate opening into Bobby’s corral. “I’ll have a horse here for you in a minute,” he said. “I’ll ride this one. You see, there’s another scheme. But it really don’t depend on me—it depends on this little bronc.”

When Bobby was saddled and bridled Letty put her cheek against his soft nose. “Do your best,” she whispered; and to his rider: “Don’t fail.”

The doctor took both her hands in his. “I’m a-goin’ to make it,” he declared. “Stay with the boy’s maw, little gal, till we come.”

Bobby was eager to be off, pawing as the doctor mounted and backing in a circle when his rider held him in to wait for Eastman. The reins loosened, the little horse sprang forward at a brisk canter, leading the way out of town.

[73]It was at the forks of the road that the first halt was made. Here the doctor, having first tied the bridle reins to his pommel assumed the exact position in the saddle that he had twice been compelled to take, and laid his hands on his saddle-horn.

“Now, Bobby,” he said, touching the mustang gently with his heels, “here we are. Go on.”

Bobby moved forward, but hesitatingly, and, when he had gone a few steps, stopped, looking about him.

Again the doctor urged him kindly. “Want your supper, Bobby? Come, now.”

The little horse made forward at a brisk walk then, travelling straight south along the road that followed the track. Presently, however, he turned sharply to the right and entered the brush.

“Do you think he’s going right?” called out Eastman anxiously.

“Wal,” answered the doctor, “he acts like he means business. You see, for two days I ain’t give him a bite to eat except when he was out yonder in that cañon.”

Bobby was taking a westward course that was almost at right angles to the road he had just come down. He wound through scrubby liveoaks and bristling chaparral, evidently along no path. Behind him the other horse had to be urged constantly, for the undergrowth was heavy and hung across the way. But soon the brush parted to leave a straight, open track, so narrow, however, that it seemed only a path. The doctor got down and lit a match. They were on a trail that showed recent use. Upon it, stamped plainly in the dust, were the round, eastward-pointing hoofprints of a mule.

[74]“Are we right?” asked Eastman.

“So far.”

Now both horses were pushed to a canter—until the path grew rough and steep. The doctor recognised this descent and listened for the sound of the rushing stream he had crossed both times under the guidance of the man with the scar. When the stream was washing the hoofs of their horses the doctor reached out to lay a hand on Eastman’s shoulder.

“My friend, we’re half-way!”

Eastman would have pressed ahead then, but the doctor would not permit it.

“Leave it to Bobby,” was his counsel. “Mr. Nick didn’t blindfold Bobby.”

The path ascended the long slope of a hogback. Pine needles covered the slope, and though the doctor dismounted a half-dozen times no path could be seen. But each time, as he stepped into the saddle again, the little horse went forward eagerly.

The hogback ended abruptly. Bobby turned to the left. The trip had seemed so short that now, as the doctor looked into the darkness below him, he could scarcely credit his senses.

“Eastman,” he said. “See below there!”

It was a spot of light.

From then on it was a wild ride. The horses did not leave the steep path; but they stumbled, slid or scrambled for a footing down the whole of the black descent. The doctor kept his eyes on the light. Eastman, divided between joy and fear, shouted out frenziedly toward the nearing shanty.

At the edge of the clearing both men flung themselves out of their saddles, then ran. Eastman led.[75] And as he entered the low door he still hoarsely called: “Laurie! Laurie! Laurie!”

A faint cry answered. It came from beyond the bed, on which lay a quiet form. The doctor reached to shove at the boards forming the blind door. They gave, disclosing a small inner room.

The next moment a little figure in soiled rompers came out of the darkness of the room, toddling unsteadily on bare legs, for the baby stockings were down over worn sandals. Fair hair hung uncombed about a face that was pitifully thin and streaked by tears and dust. The doctor lifted the boy up and swung him out, and the father spread his arms to receive him and caught the child to his breast.

The doctor laid back the rumpled covers of the bed then. “Bill,” he said kindly, and began to unbuckle the strap of his case.

“So that’s the other one.” It was Eastman, on his knees, the child clasped tight.

The doctor laid back the bedcovers very gently. “It was the other one,” he answered.

Midnight, and the lost boy was in his mother’s arms, with Eastman hovering beside the two, and the doctor across from him, sitting on his heels, with a baby hand in his big, gentle grasp.

“Doctor, we’ll never be able to make it up to you,” said the father. “I don’t feel that the reward is half enough. But I want you to accept it with our lifelong gratitude.” They were in Mrs. Eastman’s sitting-room at the hotel. Her husband crossed to a desk.

The doctor stood up, colouring bashfully. “Aw, I can’t take money for findin’ the little feller,” he[76] protested; and when Eastman came back, holding out a slip of paper to him, he shook his head decidedly. “No, sir, I just can’t,” he declared. Letty entered then, carrying a tray hidden under a napkin. He hastened across the room to take it from her.

“We’ll see about this later on,” answered Eastman. “You must accept it. And there’s another thing I want to offer. You know, Doctor Fowler’s been up from San Francisco to look over the Blue Top position. But he won’t suit. Do you think he’s been worrying about the finding of my boy? Not a bit of it. He’s been worrying for fear the bungalow wouldn’t be big enough to please his wife. There’s one thing I didn’t realise the other day, Doc. What we need is a physician that doesn’t put on so much style—the kind of a man that can meet any emergency, you understand—take a horse over a trail if it’s necessary.”

“Yas?” returned the doctor. The tray was still in his hands. And now it began to tremble so that there was a faint clink of glass. He stood looking down at it.

“In fact,” went on Eastman, “we need a doctor like you at the mine.”

The doctor raised his eyes to the girl standing at Mrs. Eastman’s side. And he saw that there was a look of great happiness on her face, like the happiness on the face of the young mother.

“Blue Top!” he said. Then: “Letty, do you think the little shingled house is too small?”



WHEN darkness settled a figure began to follow Patton—a tall, ungainly, heavy-shouldered figure. It shadowed him down the single street of the desert town to the depot, where he bought two tickets and checked two beribboned trunks; it lurked at his heels when he went back along the dirt sidewalk to Conley’s restaurant, the largest of the score of unpainted pine shacks that made up Searles. The restaurant faced the single track of the railroad line, and as Patton ate his supper, the figure stood on the ties, quiet and watchful. When Patton left the restaurant for the barber-shop farther along the street, it moved parallel with him, and took up its station outside a front window of the place.

Patton entered the shop hurriedly and dropped into the only chair. He was a man of, perhaps, forty, with black hair that was brushed away slickly from a narrow forehead, and black eyes set deep and near together. His nose was long and sharply pointed. His mouth was too full for his lean jaws, which gave his cheeks the appearance of being constantly sucked in. But he was far from ill-looking. And when he got out of the barber’s chair presently, fresh-shaven, there was a healthy glow to his dark skin under its trace of powder.

He arranged a spotless collar and a fresh tie,[78] settled his soft hat on his carefully combed hair, adjusted his coat before a mirror, and went out. The figure moved with him, going toward the depot once more. A building beyond the station was brightly lighted. Patton made toward it, walking fast and whistling. The figure walked faster than he—until it was almost at his heels.


Patton halted. “Hello,” he returned cheerily. “Who is it?”

The figure halted. “It’s Jeff Blandy,” was the answer.

“Oh.” The tone showed displeasure. Patton backed away a step. “Well, what can I do for you?”

Blandy did not reply at once. Then, “You can’t do nothin’ for me,” he said. “I just want to say a word or two about—Polly Baker.”

“Yes?” inquired Patton impatiently. “Well, hurry up. The ceremony’s at nine-thirty. The west-bound goes through at eleven.”

Again there was a short silence. When Blandy went on, his voice was lowered. “She ain’t got no paw nor maw, nor no brother. That’s why I’m a-speakin’ to you.”

“I’ll look after her,” said Patton coldly.

“I’d like to feel right shore of that. You see, she and me has been good friends for a long while. And I want to ask you, Patton, to play fair with her, and——”

“Say! look here!” broke in the other man. “You’re putting your lip into something that’s none of your business.”

[79]“Do y’ think so?” retorted Blandy with sudden spirit. “Wal, out here in the West, a man’s likely to find hull crowds that’ll make it their business if he can’t see his way to treatin’ a woman white.”

“What do you mean?” demanded Patton.

“Just this: I happen to know about that Galindo business at Paicines. There’s one place you didn’t act on the square. Wal, the Galindo girl’s a greaser, and her men folks oughta took better care of her. We won’t say nothin’ more about it, Patton. But don’t forgit this: A feller owes his wife somethin’ more’n just the weddin’ ceremony.”

“Oh, I see,” sneered Patton. “You’re trying to kick up a rumpus. You wanted Polly yourself.”

Blandy gave a short laugh. “Me?” he said. “Me? Why, you’re crazy! All I’ve got to keep a wife on is my prospectin’ outfit and a’ old mangy mule. Me! Huh! No girl’d look at me—no fine, pretty girl that’s had lots of chances. I ain’t nothin’ but a slob.”

To that, Patton made no comment.

“No, you’re the kind of a man that a girl likes,” Blandy went on. “And you git a couple of hunderd from the East every month. You can take her away from this hole and make her nice and comfortable in Los Angeles, and give her a hired girl to wait on her, and decent clothes. Wal, that’s fine. But a’ easy time and good clothes don’t amount to a hill of beans with a woman if she ain’t happy. So—play fair with her, Patton. In the long run, it pays to do what’s right. You know that. Nine times outen ten, when a man picks up a club to take a’ underhanded shy at another person, Mister Stick[80] comes whizzin’ right back and gives him a crack in the head like one of them——”

“That’ll do, Blandy,” interrupted Patton. His voice was hoarse with anger. “I haven’t any more time for your damned gossip.” He turned abruptly and strode away.

Blandy stayed where he was, his heavy shoulders stooped, his arms hanging loosely at his sides, his weight shifted to one foot. He saw a door of the near-by house open wide to admit Patton; heard a chorus of gay voices greet the other man, and following a short wait, heard the tones of an organ, playing a march. He waited until the organ ceased; then, head lowered, and hat pulled down to his brows, he walked away slowly, going to the depot.

He halted in the shadow of the station and stayed there until the head-light of the west-bound train shone in the distance like a fallen star. The star grew. And through the night air came the thin shriek of the nearing engine. It was then that a laughing, chattering group left the brightly-lighted house and came hurrying toward the depot. Blandy turned from the approaching light.

The centre of the group was the bride, a slender girl in a white dress. As she stepped upon the platform, under the station lamps, Blandy leaned forward a little to catch a glimpse of her face. Her childish eyes, long-lashed and the blue of lapis lazuli, were bright with happiness, her cheeks an excited pink.

She saw the tall figure standing half in and half out of the shadow, and ran to him. “Jeff,” she[81] began reprovingly, “you didn’t come to the wedding!”

He took her outstretched hand. “No,” he agreed; “no, I—I didn’t, but——” He paused awkwardly.

“I missed you, Jeff,” she declared. “Why, I wanted you there more than anybody else. And I wanted to wait till someone could go for you. But nobody’d seen you, and they didn’t know where you were—What was the matter, Jeff?”

“I—I had business to attend to,” he explained.

“Business! And you my best, best friend——”

The train was close. Voices began to summon her back to the wedding-party.

Blandy leaned down to her. “Dear little Polly,” he said huskily, “your old side-pardner wishes you all the luck that’s in the world.”

Then she was gone again. She smiled back at him from the steps of the car, and answered the chorus of farewells that was shouted up to her. The engine-bell clanged, the train moved. Patton sprang to the girl’s side amid a shower of rice. There was more shouting, which was answered from the car platform, and the west-bound pulled out, the green lights on the rear of the last coach glowing like the eyes of a serpent.

Blandy lifted a hand to his breast, then to his throat, then to his eyes. The group of wedding guests gone, and the depot platform dark, he crossed the railroad track, walking a little uncertainly. Out in the blackness, among the sage-brush, something was moving about—an animal. He went up to it, untied a rope, spoke a word of command, and[82] started off northward—away from the town into the desert.

Jeff Blandy, staggering across the last mile of his journey, directed his way over the railroad track to Conley’s restaurant. The dust of many days and nights was upon him, powdering hair and clothes to the colour of his grey hat. The weariness of trudging over yielding and uneven ground was in his long legs and in the stoop of his shoulders. And the leathern sallow of his face wore a fresh gloss of vivid red that was like the reflection of a torch-flame. Yet in his eyes—as brown and big and appealingly honest as the eyes of a great, friendly dog—was a gleam that neither the sand-laden winds nor the scorching sun had dulled. And there was a smile lurking among the long bristles at the corners of his wide mouth.

Entering the restaurant, he found it unchanged, though a year had passed since he had left Searles. There were the two oilcloth-covered tables that reached from end to end of the room, and the counter, with its cash-register. But no one was on hand to take his order. Stiffly, he let himself down upon a chair at one end of the first table. Then, leaning back and dropping his hat to the floor at his side, he picked up a knife and rang a sharp summons on the rim of an empty glass.

The door into the kitchen swung open to admit a young man in shirt-sleeves and soiled apron,—a short, thick-set young man with the curly flaxen hair, full blue eyes and apple-red cheeks of a boy doll. He was carrying a pitcher of water.

[83]Blandy drained his glass before he gave the other a nod. Then, “Gimme some ham and eggs and fried potatoes,” he began. “A steak, if you got it, too. And coffee. And some pie. And fruit——”

“Oranges is the only fruit,” interrupted the waiter.

“Orange’ll do. And could the cook mix me some flap-jacks?”

“I guess.”

“Then that’ll be all.”

The young man in shirt-sleeves went out, kicking the swinging door open before him and shouting his order. Left alone, Blandy helped himself to a second glass of water, after which he stretched his legs far under the table, folded his arms upon his breast, and took a deep breath. Then, as he waited, the smile at the corners of his mouth began slowly to spread, until his burned cheeks were wrinkled with it, and his moistened lips were parted to show a double line of strong white teeth. Thus he sat, all a-grin, dreaming.

Beyond the swinging doors, dishes were clattering, and there was a sound of sputtering and frying. The voice of the waiter rose and fell, too, amid the din of crockery and cooking; and mingled with his voice, now and then, was the voice of a woman. Presently, the tempting smell of ham was wafted out into the dining-room. It was then that Blandy drew in his feet and sat erect, turning his eyes kitchen-ward.

Soon the waiter appeared. Pyramided upon his towel-draped left arm were numerous plates and platters, topped by a huge cup of inky coffee that[84] steamed as it washed gently from side to side with every sway of the arm. As the order was placed upon the table, together with some cutlery, which the waiter scattered with his right hand, Blandy picked up a knife and fork, pulled a platter into place before him, and began to eat, ravenously. Someone—a man—entered the front door and took a seat behind the cash-register. Blandy did not look up. One by one the platters and plates were emptied. At last, refreshed and satisfied, Blandy picked up an orange and began to peel it leisurely.

It was now that for the first time he chanced to look across at the man behind the counter. That glance brought him to his feet, the half-peeled orange in his hand. “Harvey Patton!” he exclaimed in amazement.

“How are you?” answered Patton, indifferently. The tip of his nose moved up and down a little as he spoke.

Blandy strode toward the counter. “What under the shinin’ sun are you doin’ back in Searles?” he demanded.

“Keeping restaurant.”

The other was silent for a moment, his astonished eyes still fixed upon Patton. Then, “Where’s—Polly?” he asked.

Patton jerked his head sidewise toward the kitchen. “She’s doing the cooking,” he explained, smiling.

Blandy’s staring eyes narrowed. He turned abruptly, crossed the room to the swinging door and struck it out of the way before him.

Just within the kitchen, he halted. It was a small room, reeking with smells, and suffocatingly hot.[85] On the side farthest from Blandy was a sink. And bending over the sink, with her back to him, was a girl. As he looked at her, the red on his face slowly deepened, as if he were holding his breath. After a while, his glance travelled to the stove, upon which some pots were steaming; to the long kitchen table piled high with unwashed dishes; to the heaping oil can of scraps at the foot of the table; to the floor, spattered and unswept. When at last his look went back to the girl, the hairy skin at either side of his mouth was twitching with the effort of self-control.


She turned. The perspiration was streaming from forehead and temples, so that her face and throat glistened, as her arms were glistening with the water that was streaming from elbows to finger-ends. Her face was more scarlet than his own. Out of that scarlet looked her eyes, which were shadowed by wide, dark circles.

“Why—why, Jeff!”

He shook his head, slowly and sadly. “And so you married to come to this,” he said in a low voice.

There was a bench beside the sink. She sank to it, as if too weary to keep her feet. As she sat there, leaning on a hand, he saw her, not as she was before him, tired and blowzy and wet with sweat, but as he had seen her last. He took a step toward her. “How does it come that you and Patton’re keepin’ a’ eatin’-house?” he asked.

“We—we got short of money,” she answered falteringly. “Harvey wouldn’t work in Los Angeles where he’s acquainted. He’s so proud. So we came[86] back here. And—and this was all we could see to do.”

We,” repeated Blandy.

“Well,” she answered. “Well——”

“How about that two hunderd he used to git every month from the East?” He watched her keenly.

“Never comes any more,” she declared.

“That’s too bad. Makin’ any money with the rest’rant?”

“I—I don’t know. Mr. Conley didn’t when he had it. But then he had to pay his cook.”

“Huh!” commented Blandy, between his teeth, and fell silent again. “This work’s too hard for you,” he said finally, when he could trust himself to speak. “You’ll drop in your tracks. Why, I could pick you up in my two hands like a rag and wring you.”

Her lips trembled. But she kept her face raised to his. “Oh, I don’t mind a little work,” she declared.

The flaxen-haired waiter entered the kitchen by the rear door. Blandy turned and went out through the other one. There was a gleam in the dog-like eyes once more, but it was not a gleam that was good to see.

Patton was still seated behind the cash-register. He smiled at Blandy again, and gave another sidewise jerk of his smooth head toward the kitchen. “It’s a pretty complete plant, isn’t it?” he questioned boastfully.

Blandy made no reply, only reached a big,[87] freckled hand into a pocket, brought forth two silver dollars, and tossed them ringing upon the counter. Then he picked up his hat and went out.

But just in front of the entrance, he halted. Before him, across the wide, dusty street and the shining rails of the track, lay the level desert. It was mid-afternoon. And the grey wastes were swept by waves of heat that sank and rose unceasingly, now almost as plain to the eye as flames would have been, now shadowy. Blandy measured every blistering mile, from the rough, unroofed porch on which he stood to the distant horizon, where a mountain range traced an uneven line upon the misty blue of the sky. And as he stood, his arms hanging loose at his sides, his shoulders lowered, his head sunk between them, he was the very figure of indecision.

Finally, he straightened, turned about, opened the restaurant door and re-entered. Patton was smoking, a long cigar in one corner of his mouth, and tilted upward; one knee crossed upon the other.

Blandy walked to the counter. “Patton,” he began, “this ain’t no kind of a business for you. You won’t make your salt here in Searles. Now, I’ve got a proposition to make you—you and Polly. But it mustn’t go no further.” He gave a quick glance about him.

“I’m not dying to stay in Searles,” observed Patton, blowing smoke.

“Wal,”—Blandy dropped his voice—“you go into pardnership with me, Patton, and you don’t have to stay.”

The other took out his cigar and eyed Blandy[88] half-suspiciously. “You’ve changed some,” he commented. “You didn’t used to care much about me. But—what’s your proposition?”

The gleam of triumph came back into Blandy’s eyes. “I’ve made a strike,” he said.

“A mine?”

Now, Blandy straightened, shoulders back, head up, face all a-grin once more. “That’s what,” he declared proudly.

Patton slipped down from his stool. “Where?” he asked excitedly.

Blandy lifted a long arm to point out through the front window toward the north. “Four days from here,” he answered.

“When’ll we go?” questioned the other. He reached across to lay a hand on Blandy’s sleeve. “We’ve got to locate, you know. That’s the law. We mustn’t miss a trick, old man.”

“Oh, I located, all right,” declared Blandy. He drew back a step.

“But you didn’t locate for me,” went on Patton. “So I’ve got to go out, haven’t I? And there’s another reason, too. You’re the only person that knows just where the lead is. Well, suppose anything were to happen to you—a railroad accident, or a bad sickness. Where would I be? That’s the way all the lost mines’ve come about, Blandy.”

“We’ll talk it over to-night. Then Polly can hear about it, too. There’s enough for the three of us out there,—and some over. So she can have a claim separate.”

“Oh, I’ll look after her,” said Patton carelessly.

“No.” There was determination in Blandy’s[89] tone. “I’m lettin’ you in on this with the understandin’ that she has her holdin’. She can lease it, or she can work it, just whichever she likes. You know, it’s kinda stylish for a lady to have her own bank-book.”

“All right,” agreed Patton impatiently.

It was close upon four then. Patton was for calling his wife in and breaking the news at once. “And we’ll close up and cut out supper,” he declared, “and have a little celebration.”

But Blandy flatly objected. “Don’t shut down just a’ hour or two before a meal,” he advised. “Put a sign on the front door to-night. Say on it that the rest’rant is closed ’cause your wife is plumb wored out. We can’t afford to give ourselves away, Patton. There’s plenty of men in Searles that can smell a strike forty mile. Look out or some of ’em ’ll be follerin’ us.”

“You’re right,” declared Patton.

Thus it came about that Polly cooked supper in ignorance of the sudden good fortune that was to make such further toiling unnecessary. Blandy went out into the hot kitchen a second time. But he had little to say, and devoted his efforts to the washing and drying of the dishes, which he received in pyramids from the swinging left arm of the flaxen-haired waiter; and when, shortly after seven o’clock, the last guest was gone, and the last dish clean, Blandy swept and mopped the kitchen floor.

At eight, by the light of a single candle, there was a conference of three at one of the oilcloth-covered tables in the front room. The waiter had taken himself off in the direction of the main saloon down[90] the street, out of which were floating the strains of a violin and the voices of singing women. Nevertheless, Blandy told his story in a half-whisper, and without pointing.

“The ledge is in a spur of the range back of Salt Basin,” he confided. “And clost to—what do you think?”

“What?” questioned Patton.

“The bowl in the rock!”

Patton turned to his wife. “That’s the spring I told you about,” he explained. “I went out there four years ago with a prospector. You wouldn’t believe, Polly, that water could be found in a place like that—a regular ash-pile, you might say. But there it is. The bowl is hollowed out as pretty as can be. And the water comes in drop by drop—just at night, though. It leaks in through a split that’s so fine you couldn’t get a knife-blade into it. But what comes in doesn’t run out, because the bowl’s good-sized, and if the buzzards don’t drink the water up, the sun does.”

Polly made no comment. She sat very still, watching Blandy steadily. Her face was as pale as it had been scarlet at mid-afternoon.

“The lead ain’t more’n a stone’s throw from the bowl,” went on Blandy; “—to the right up the slope. Say! think of the feller’s that’ve missed it!—’cause they was so all-fired glad to find water that they forgot all about gold. But I found it. I was comin’ down the slope, headin’ for a drink, when my darned feet got all tangled up and I took a double-ender. Wal, sir, when I sit up to feel if any bones was broke, here was the blossom rock, lookin’ me[91] straight in the eye!—yeller chunks, Patton, as big as pine-nuts!”

Patton’s black eyes were glistening. “How high’ll that rock run?” he asked.

Turrible high—even where it don’t show colour. There was a fortune right in sight—without thinkin’ of what’s laying behind. There’s all we’ll ever want out there—a chance to do a few things for our friends, and our relations—them that we like; and grand houses, and outomobiles, and fine clothes, and horses, and folks to wait on us, and travellin’, and edication, and—and what’ll make Polly a queen!”

“Did you put up a written notice?”


“Have you got some specimens?”

“About a mile from here—buried.”

“A few samples aren’t enough,” asserted Patton. “Anybody can get hold of a dozen pieces of rich rock. Why, there are men who make a good living by selling ore that’s used to draw suckers on.”

“A-course, that’s so,” agreed Blandy.

“What we ought to have is about four barley-sackfuls. There’s nothing like making a great, big hit at the very start.”

“Yas, I know,” said Blandy. “But when one of them millionaire fellers is considerin’ a lease, he sends out a’ expert.”

“If you have a hundred pounds of quartz and an assay, there won’t be any need of an expert,” argued Patton. “We’ll lease without a bit of trouble. Of course, we might make more by taking some rich man in as a partner, and working the mine on shares——”

[92]“Why, there’s half a million apiece in it for us without doin’ that.”

“Half a million,” repeated Patton. “Huh! I mean to ask one million flat for my share.”

Blandy laughed. “Oh, leave a little for the gent that’s a-going to put up the cash,” he advised.

Patton went on arguing. “As a matter of fact,” he declared, “it wouldn’t take us any time at all to land three hundred pounds of ore at the track if we used an auto.”

“No.” Blandy was decisive. “No, I don’t trust none of them flyshuffers.”

“But I’ll drive.”

“Take a machine and leave tracks, eh?” demanded Blandy. “Not on your life! Burros is what we need. A burro can travel on a washout and never turn a stone.”

“All right, burros then,” assented Patton eagerly. “Let’s start to-morrow night.”

“Oh, what’s your sweat?” asked Blandy.

“Just this: The quicker we leave, the quicker we get out of Searles.”

“But—but maybe Jeff’s tired,” suggested Polly timidly.

Patton gave her a warning glance. “I know he’s tired,” he answered. “But we won’t have to rush. We can take it easy, and only travel at night. If we wait around here, people’re sure to begin trying to find out where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. The whole town knows you’ve been on a long prospecting trip—I heard it when I came. So (just as you said yourself a while ago) first thing you know, we’ll have a regular gang on our trail.”

[93]Blandy nodded, more than half-convinced.

“And when we’ve got our ore,” went on Patton, “I’ll go to Los Angeles with you. I’m the man that can advise you when it comes to a lease.”

In the end Blandy agreed to an immediate trip to the mine.

But next morning it was he who set to work preparing for the journey. Patton made off down the street almost immediately after breakfast, and disappeared into one of the half-dozen drinking-places of the town. When he did not return at noontime, Blandy consulted Polly.

“Don’t you think I’d better go find him?” he asked. “You see he might take a glass or two and git to blabbin’.”

Patton was found at Rourke’s. Outside the resort, Blandy turned upon him. “Say! You’re up to your old game, ain’t you, Patton?” he demanded curtly.

Patton tried to laugh the matter off. “Oh, you don’t understand,” he declared confidentially. He started homeward beside the other man.

The leather of Blandy’s face was pale. Out of the paleness burned his wrathful eyes. “Don’t try to soft-soap me,” he went on. “I know now where that remittance of your’n goes. But you got to cut it out! I ain’t a-helpin’ you to a fortune so’s you can hurt Polly by slatherin’ money on some other woman.”

Patton gave a loud laugh. “Don’t think I’m a fool,” he answered. As they entered the front room of the restaurant, he gave Blandy a look of hate.[94] “You aren’t giving me a claim because you like me. You’re doing it on Polly’s account.”

“That’s right,” declared Blandy. “What in thunderation is there about you that’d make any man hand you over half a million?”

“So! You admit it! Oh, I’m on to your game! This is some more of your tattle. You want to make trouble between me and my wife!”

Blandy took a long step forward. “That’s a lie,” he said. “It’s just what I don’t aim to do. You and me had a talk on this question the night you got married. Have you forgot that? Wal, when you cash in on the claim, I’m a-goin’ to see that you cut that friend——”

The swinging door opened, and Polly came in from the kitchen. “Harv!” she faltered. “Jeff!” Then, she fell silent, watching them with troubled eyes.

Blandy’s face broke into a reassuring grin. “Say! we’re excited over nothin’,” he declared. “Don’t you worry, Polly. Patton, I hired the only two burros in town this mornin’, and bought some grub and feed.”

There were no further words between the two men, only a coldness that was barely noticeable. After the midday meal, Patton even helped with the packing. Polly, entering their bedroom hastily, found him standing on a bench looking at the labels of some bottles on the medicine-shelf.

“Be careful what you take,” she cautioned. “That bottle of mercury tablets is up there, and it’s the same size as the one that’s got stuff in it for rattlesnake bites.”

[95]“It’s the rattlesnake medicine that I’m hunting,” answered Patton tartly.

Polly went back into the kitchen, where Blandy was busy packing the raisins, crackers and canned beef. She looked frightened. “Oh, I’m so sorry you and Harvey quarrelled,” she half-whispered. “Please, please don’t have any more trouble with him.”

From the standpoint of beauty there was little to recommend Jeff Blandy save his eyes. Now, as he smiled down at her, his eyes made up for all the deficiencies of his rugged face. “We was hungry,” he declared. “That was all.”

“Jeff,” she said, “I never knew how good you were. Oh, if girls only realised that the men that keep dressed up aren’t always the best men.”

“And on the other hand,” he observed, “I’ve saw some pretty bad men in bum clothes.”

Late that night, the burros were packed, one with provisions and feed, and enough heavy sacking for a small sun shelter; the other with the large, flat-sided water canteens. When the start was made, Polly told the two men a whispered good-bye from the front porch. And as the burros were headed northward, Blandy leading one and Patton the other, she watched the little pack-train leave the town. The light of the stars, reflected on the grey of the sage and the yellow-grey of the desert floor, made the departure plain for a long distance, though only as so many moving black specks. She waited until the specks dropped from sight into a far-off swale.

Then she ran through the dining-room to her bedroom, struck a match, dragged a bench under the[96] medicine-shelf, climbed upon it and let her light shine in turn upon each of the bottles standing in a row.

The match went out. With a murmured exclamation she got down, searched for her hat in the dark room, found it and put it on, caught up a yellow sun umbrella, and locked both entrances to the house. A moment later, she was hurrying across the street, over the track and into the desert.

She soon came up to the men and the burros, travelling silently forward. But at first she kept a little way behind, like a scared child, for she shrank from letting Patton know that she was there. Presently, however, summoning courage, she went forward to his side. “H-Harvey,” she stammered. Her face was white in the dimness.

He came short; Blandy, too. Both stared at her in wonderment.

“What do you want?” Patton demanded, resentment in his tone. “It’s too late for you to be gadding around alone.”

“Harv, I’m going with you. Walking isn’t hard work—not any harder than the work in the kitchen was. Jeff, you don’t care if I come along, do you?”

“You bet I don’t,” Blandy answered heartily. “You’ll be fine comp’ny.”

“Nonsense!” scolded Patton.

“Wal, she’s the third pardner,” reminded Blandy. “When you come to think of it, she’s got a right to look over her claim. If she gits tired, she can ride a donk. But a-course”—his tone became more serious—“there’s one thing agin your goin’: We three is the only people that know where that strike is; if anything was to happen to the bunch of us, there’d[97] be a lost mine for shore.” He clucked to his burro and walked on.

His words produced a curious effect upon Patton, who stayed where he was, silently looking after Blandy until the latter was well beyond earshot.

“Harvey!” Polly’s voice was tremulous with appeal, “I don’t want to be left behind alone.”

Patton gave her a quick, sidewise glance. “All right,” he said brusquely. “You can come.”

To show that she was equal to the journey, Polly kept in the lead all the remainder of that night, flitting light-footed, like the spirit of some good guiding angel.

Shortly after dawn, Blandy called a halt and prepared for a rest of several hours. He fixed the square of sacking to the ground by two of its corners. The other two corners he fastened to mesquite stakes. The result was an improvised tent which faced the north. This shelter was for Patton and Polly. When it was ready, Blandy took the yellow umbrella, raised it, went aside to where were the canteens, and lay down.

By noon, it was impossible to sleep because of the heat, which was so intense that the grey, incrusted ground burned the hand that touched it. The travellers did not set forth at once. Seated under their shelters, they looked out upon a round lake that glimmered in a near-by hollow of the desert—a lake encircled with a beach of amethyst.

With that sheet of water glistening before him, Patton drank often and deep. And when, at four, he rose with the others to continue on, he slung one of the large canteens over a shoulder. The glimmering[98] lake moved as the pack-train moved, occupying one hollow, then dissolving to appear in another, and still another. Patton lifted his canteen to his lips every half mile.

Blandy noted it. “Say! You’ll have to learn to be careful about your drinkin’ if you go out much on the desert,” he warned. “More’n one tenderfoot has gone luny for water and took to follerin’ them spook lakes. Chaw on a raisin for a change.”

No halt was made for supper. The three ate as they travelled. The sun declined. The last shining sheet of water disappeared. Twilight came, and with twilight, the stars, which burned large and white in the cloudless expanse of the heavens. Through the starlight, through the late moonlight, and through the dawn of a second day, they trudged on.

It was shortly after sunrise that a giant yucca came into sight ahead. It was branched on either side; and from a distance looked like some huge figure that had been caught in action and suddenly trans-fixed.

“Hello!” cried Blandy. “My friend John Jenkins! We’re half-way.”

“Half-way?” repeated Patton. “Why, that spur doesn’t look twenty miles off.”

“It just happens that you’re a-rubberin’ in the wrong direction,” said Blandy. “The spur we’re a-goin’ to ain’t over that way: It’s off where them little, puffy clouds is. Say, you’d better never try to navigate this desert alone.”

Arrived at the yucca, Polly was glad enough to[99] pause, and before the two men had finished erecting the shelter of sacking, she had crawled under it.

“Tuckered, ain’t you?” questioned Blandy kindly. “Wal, we been makin’ fine time, that’s why. We’ll be drinkin’ outen that bowl in the rock at sun-up day after to-morrow.”

He made a cache of feed and provisions, and buried two of the large canteens; then stretched himself with his head in the shade of the yellow umbrella, and was soon snoring.

Patton did not lie down, but sat, brooding, a canteen in his hand. And, presently, after making certain that Polly’s breathing was deep and regular, he rose cautiously. Some distance away were the burros, standing with lowered heads and long ears flopped to either side. Patton stole in their direction. And when he reached the animals, set to packing one. He was soon done. With a last glance toward shelter and umbrella, he set off northward at a good gait.

The atmosphere was unusually clear. It was this that had made the mountains seem such a short distance away. Patton had carefully marked the position of the right spur. He tramped forward determinedly, though by noon the ground under his feet fairly scorched his shoes. The afternoon dragged its length in moments that seemed, each more unendurably hot than the last, and with lakes glimmering from near-by hollows, he drank at every rod. Sunset came at last, bringing a welcome coolness. Now half of his journey alone was done. He stopped to feed the burro and satisfy his own hunger, after which he hurried on.

[100]The sun was standing high over the mountains the next day when, fagged, but triumphant, Patton began the ascent of the gentle, beach-like slope that stretched between him and the base of the spur he sought. The range that rose ahead of him showed not even a growth of stunted sage upon its ruffled side. For here the massive barrier was like a burned-out kiln, brick-red, cinder-black and ashen-grey. He skirted it for an hour or more, the donkey at a trot. Suddenly, ahead of him, a great, black bird rose from the ground with a harsh cry and an awkward flapping of its wings. Patton ran forward.

There was the bowl, as round as if it had been fashioned by deft hands, and nearly full of water. Patton had swallowed the last mouthful of his canteen supply early that morning. Now, he sank to his knees, bent his head and almost buried his face in the pool.

His thirst satisfied, he climbed the slope beyond. Ten minutes of hot toiling, and he came upon Blandy’s location-notice, scrawled on a soiled scrap of paper, and tacked to a crooked mesquite stake. He tore up the notice, and jerked the stake loose. Then, white, for all the effort of climbing, he stooped and pressed both palms against the outcropping of quartz at his feet, his fingers into its crevices. It was as if he were clutching prey.

“It’s all here!—all here!” he said aloud, huskily.

Back at the bowl once more, he filled a canteen and hung it to the pack-saddle, took another long drink himself, and let the donkey have all that remained. Then, reaching into an inside pocket of his shirt, he brought out something that was wrapped[101] in a piece of newspaper. He unwound the paper, disclosing a small bottle, which he uncorked. And having measured the size of the bowl with his eye, he dropped three round, white tablets into it. This done, he dampened a handkerchief from the canteen and laid it, folded, upon his hair. For the long miles in the sun had told on him, and there was a feeling of heat and pressure at the top of his skull.

A few minutes later, he set off once more, due west, completely avoiding the Searles route to the southward.

When Polly awoke, the sun was already down, and twilight was settling. Fearing that she had delayed the departure, she sprang to her feet. But Blandy was still snoring. And close at hand was a saddleless burro, head lowered and fast asleep.

She began to call: “Harvey! Oh, Harv!”

The snoring ceased. The yellow umbrella toppled. Blandy’s tall figure rose. “Gosh! but ain’t I snoozed!” he exclaimed.

She called again: “Harvey! Where are you? Jeff! One of the burros is gone!”

“Oh, I guess he’s there, all right,” answered Blandy. “You know, a donk’s the same colour as the ground.”

“But he isn’t there,” persisted Polly. “Or Harvey, either.” And as Blandy hastened by, she joined him.

When they halted, each scanned the desert. Then, “You’re right,” Blandy admitted gravely. “That blamed burro must a-strayed. I never did like the little cuss. He had a bad look in one eye.”

[102]She raised an anxious face to his. “The donkey isn’t to blame,” she declared. “Harvey’s left us.”

“No! Why? Sore about your comin’?”

“He told me to come.”

Blandy strode over to the packs. And a first glimpse told him that Polly was right. Feed and provisions were missing, and all but one of the uncached canteens.

“Jeff!” Polly had followed him, and she spoke in a frightened whisper. “Don’t drink any of this water till you’ve given the donkey some.”

Blandy stared down at her. “Why not?” he asked, perplexed.

“Don’t—don’t ask me, Jeff.”

His face went grim with understanding. “I guess I understand,” he said.

The canteen that Patton had left behind him was thoroughly shaken and the donkey was given a generous drink. Then Blandy left the camp to gather mesquite roots. When he returned, a half-hour later, the little animal was resting, head swagged low. But while Blandy was watching him, the shaggy head came up and the donkey brayed—loud and long, after which he fell to yawning, ears flopped to either side lazily. Plainly the water had done him no harm.

Blandy set to work to build a fire. “You see,” he said, “Patton might change his mind about leavin’ us.”

By now, twilight had merged into night. On every side stretched the desert, as level, dark and melancholy as a sea. The mountain range to the northward, with its charred front one great inky[103] shadow, was a dead island, rising out of a black waste of water. Blandy lighted the beacon, and it flamed up like the signal of someone shipwrecked.

They kept the fire burning steadily. They listened for far-off cries. But they heard no cries, only constant movements in the blackness about the camp. Heretofore, the desert had withheld nearly all evidence of animate things. Now, sitting and waiting, they caught the soft pad, pad of dog-like feet, the flutter of small wings.

At dawn, Blandy set off on a hunt for tracks. He first circled the camp. The only outgoing trail he found ended near by in the dry bed of a stream. He followed the stream-bed toward Searles. When he had gone several miles, he retraced his steps and passed the camp on his way toward the mountains.

It was late afternoon when he returned, tired out. But he came into sight waving his hat cheerily. “It’s all right,” he announced. “He went toward the mine.”

While they were preparing to break camp and follow Patton, Polly saw that Blandy was digging up one of the two canteens he had cached.

“On the way home, Jeff, can we make it from here to Searles on one?” she asked.


“And from the mine to here, Jeff?”

“We’ll ketch a canteenful where it drips into that bowl in the rock.”

When they started forward, they were compelled to go slowly, not only because of Blandy’s weariness, but because Polly was foot-sore, though at first she strove to conceal the fact by keeping in the rear.[104] At the end of five or six miles, however, she found herself unable to go farther.

“Oh, I thought I’d be all right after so much rest,” she declared, out of patience with her own weakness.

Blandy was all gentle consideration. “I don’t wonder your feet hurt you,” he answered. “You ain’t used to so much walkin’. Now, just you wait.”

Off came pack-saddle, load and all. Then the saddle-blanket was replaced, with the shelter sacking on top of it, folded to make a comfortable seat. And soon Polly was mounted on the donkey. Behind her, balanced carefully, were two large canteens, a flour sack of provisions, and feed for the burro. She held the yellow umbrella over her head.

They travelled until darkness made it impossible to follow Patton’s tracks, when camp was made again.

“But if Harvey went straight to the mine,” argued Polly, “What’s the use of trailing him? Why not just go ahead?”

“For the reason that yesterday Patton had the mine located thirty mile left of where it is. S’pose he was to git the same idear again?”

Once more Blandy hunted mesquite roots. And far into the night his signal-fire lit the swells and hollows of the desert.

At break of day they took up their journey once more, with Polly riding again, and drowsing now and then as the donkey picked his way along.

It was the middle of the morning when a low cry from Blandy suddenly startled her into wakefulness.[105] He had come short, halting the donkey, and was examining the ground.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Here’s a man’s tracks and a burro’s, crossin’ this trail at right angles, and goin’ west. They’re fresher’n the ones we been follerin’.”



“What’ll we do, Jeff?”

“Strike out after him. He’s makin’ for that wrong spur!”

They turned aside, and started off in the new direction.

During the remainder of the morning, they were headed almost due west. But at noon Patton’s footprints led him toward the north-west, then toward the north—directly away from Searles.

Shortly after noon, they made an alarming discovery. It was Patton’s donkey, stretched lifeless on the baked ground. Away from the carcass a grey wolf-form raced, and was lost in the grey of sand and sage.

“Short of water,” said Blandy, and shook his head.

Polly covered her eyes. “Oh, poor little thing!” she whispered. “Jeff, give mine a good drink.”

He came to stand beside her. “Polly,” he said, “I can’t. And if we’re goin’ to keep follerin’ this trail and locate Patton, this little animal”—he laid a hand on the donkey’s neck—“has got to go.”

“Are we short of water?”

“There’s a good deal left. But I ain’t give the donkey a swaller since yesterday noon. We got to be savin’. It’s likely that Patton’ll need water bad.”

[106]Soon the tracks they were following turned due east.

“He run outen water,” Blandy explained gravely. “He’s headed back to the bowl.”

But when they, too, turned about to start back, their burro abruptly stopped, and refused to be coaxed or urged forward.

“Yas, git down,” said Blandy as Polly prepared to dismount. “And go on for about a quarter of a mile. I’ll bring the things.”

She obeyed, fairly running to escape the sound of the dreaded pistol-shot. When he came trudging up to her, carrying a canteen and the provisions sack, she was seated in a heap, her face hid in her hands.

“There! There!” he said consolingly. “We had to leave him.”

They hurried forward as fast as they were able, Blandy compelling Polly to take a swallow of water every little while, but drinking none himself. Before long Patton’s trail was giving them much concern. It veered to the right for a few rods, then it veered to the left, winding crazily.

“’Fraid he was just a little off his head,” said Blandy. “Nothin’ to worry about, though. We’ll find him.”

But their concern steadily increased as they travelled. For by late afternoon, with the bowl still at some distance, they found no more footprints to follow—only two winding marks. Patton was dragging himself forward on his knees!

They came upon his hat next. An hour later, the sun glittered on something a short way in advance.[107] It was a canteen. Its woolen covering had been torn from it in ragged bits that strewed the ground. And about the round opening were the marks of teeth.

“Hurry!” breathed Blandy.

After that, neither one spoke, but stumbled on, Blandy half-supporting Polly, both watching eagerly for a moving speck in the narrowing stretch between them and the base of the spur ahead.

At sundown, they neared the bowl. Blandy began to call: “Patton! Oh, Patton! Are you there?”

A few steps farther, he came short, putting out an arm to stop Polly.

For Patton was there, stretched flat upon his back, his arms thrown wide to either side. And beside him, with its black wings outspread, lay a great bird, claws up and feathers ruffled.



SCARLET fuchsias on a swaying branch freckled the ’dobe wall behind Loretta’s perch. The parrot, her claws wide apart, her brilliant rudder tilting to balance her grey body, industriously snapped at the blossoms. One secured at last, she turned slowly about and, with infinite care, let it drop upon the open pages of Padre Alonzo’s book.

The padre brushed the flower away and glanced up. “Buenos días, señor!” clacked Loretta; “buenos días! buenos días! buenos días!

“Good-day to thyself,” retorted the padre. He spoke in Spanish, shaking a stout finger. “And tear not the flowers again. They be the last of the kind till after the New Year. So take warning, I say, lest thou find thyself thrust without the garden.”

Loretta recognised displeasure in his voice. She mumbled an inquiring “Ga-a-wk! ga-a-wk!” and shifted thoughtfully from foot to foot. But, presently, the padre having resumed his reading, she turned once more to catch at the swaying branch.

When a second fuchsia came fluttering down to his hand, Padre Alonzo uncrossed his sandals and rose. “Oh! oh! oh!” he cried, wagging his close-cropped head so vigorously that the very beads of his rosary tinkled together. “Thou art the naughtiest bird in all of California! What if Padre Anzar[109] finds thee despoiling his plant? He will put thee again where thou must fight to keep thy feathers—in the kitchen with the cats!”

At the mention of cats a startling change came over the parrot. Her plumage ruffled, her eyes began to roll, she straightened on the perch, uttering hoarse cries of fear and defiance.

“Then be good,” he counselled, “be good. Or off thou’lt likely go. Me-e-ow! me-e-ow!”

And now Loretta moved nearer, anxious for friendly terms. “Dame la mano,” she suggested; “a-a-aw, dame la mano. A-a-aw! a-a-aw!” She balanced tremblingly on one leg, curling the other under her.

Padre Alonzo put the stout finger into the proffered claw. “So, so,” he said. “And I shall not tattle. But tell me: What wouldst make thee forget to use thy sharp pruning shears? An apple? or seeds? or one of Gabrielda’s sweet bis—”

Loretta perked her head to one side. “To-o-ny, To-o-ny, To-o-ny,” she droned coaxingly.

The padre thrust his thumbs under the white cord of his girdle and broke into a guffaw. “Thou jade!” he teased. “Wilt have Tony, eh? Well, I go to find him.” He gathered in his brown cassock, preparatory to stepping over the cacti here bordering the garden path. “But look you, if he comes scrape not the gilt from the wires of his pretty cage.”

Another threatening shake of the finger, and the padre crossed the low, spiked hedge and waddled away through the sun.

When he came into sight a moment later round the dun wall of the mission, he carried a canary at[110] his shoulder. “E-oo, e-oo,” he cooed, pattering forward. “Loretta wished thy company. Sst! sst! She is bad after thee, Tony! But be wary, little one, be wary.”

The advice was wholly ignored. For, spying the parrot, Tony was instantly transformed from a silent, dumpy ball of yellow to a slim, dapper songster with a swelling throat.

Loretta greeted him with uproarious laughter, and a jargon of Spanish, patois, but triumphant. She paced the horizontal piece that gave her perch the form of a cross. She pur-r-red and gu-r-red. She swung by her curved beak and one leathery foot, shrilling her “Buenos días, señor!” Then, as the padre hung the cage to a nail in the trellis built against the wall, she changed her performance to the clamorous repeating of a mass.

Padre Alonzo was shocked. “Sst! sst!” he chided; “thou wicked big-ears!”

The noon angelus was ringing. He caught up book and gown. But before going he pulled at Loretta’s gaudy tail not unkindly, and chuckled as she edged toward Tony with many a naïve and fetching cock of her grey head.

High at the garden’s centre, nailed to a massive tree of wood, stood out the Sacrifice. From behind, fir and pine thrust their long green boughs, as if eager to screen that torn and unclad shape. From below, jasmine and geranium, carnation and rose, sent upward an unfailing incense.

That way, in the heat of mid-afternoon, came Padre Anzar. Thin-lipped, he was, and hollow-eyed.[111] In one hand he held a trowel, in the other a knife. Down the front of his brown cassock, mingling at knee height with red brick stains from the chapel floor, were touches of fresh earth. Anzar the priest was for the moment Anzar the gardener.

He walked slowly, here stooping to right a stalk or jerk a weed, there stretching to pick a fading orange leaf from where it marred the glaucous sheen of its fellows. Fronting the figure, he paused long enough to whisper a prayer and make the holy sign. Then he rambled on, busy with trowel and blade.

But presently he came to a full and startled halt. He was beside the trellis up which climbed his treasured fuchsia. The cross-like perch of the parrot was beyond the bordering cacti, and unoccupied. Near by, upon its nail, hung the canary cage, with Tony going upstairs and down untiringly, eyeing his visitor with no uneasiness, greeting him, on the contrary, with saucy chirps. While underneath, spotting the ground in some profusion, and cast as it were at the feet of the garden’s singer, were scores of scarlet blossoms!

The padre’s look travelled from the scattered flowers to the vacant perch, from the perch to the naked branches swaying against the trellis, from the branches to the wide, warm top of the ’dobe wall. And there was Loretta, patrolling in unconcealed apprehension.

The instant he caught sight of her he knew her guilt. He pursed his thin lips. Then, letting fall trowel and knife, he straddled the hedge.

“I’ll wring thy neck for thee!” he vowed.

A sandal in the trellis, a light spring, and his head[112] came even with her. She backed away, raising her wings a little, and gawking in protest. He took a fresh grip on the wall, reached out and caught her like a chicken—by both legs.

Wild screeches rang through the garden, screeches that put the sparrows to flight and set the canary cheeping in fear. These were punctuated next by raucous appeals for “Tony” or gurgley parrot language.

The padre was down now, and standing on the path again. But he was not fulfilling his threat. Instead, he was viewing his captive angrily, yet in considerable indecision.

Loretta, on the other hand, was at no loss for a course of action. Between cries for the canary, demands for a handshake, and reiterated “Good-days,” she was vigorously trying her beak upon the padre’s fist.

But now a new factor upon the scene. Round the mission wall, waddling fast and propelling himself by his swinging arms, appeared Padre Alonzo. “Is’t the cats?” he asked as he came on; “oh, la! la! is’t the cats?”

Padre Anzar half-turned, scowling. For answer, he only pointed to the severed fuchsias.

The other looked, covering any regret with simulated astonishment. “These were dropping of themselves yesterday,” he began between breaths. “They—they fell fast in the night—er?” He came beside the other now, partly to support the suspended Loretta in his hands. “I saw them—truly.”

“Bah!” And Padre Anzar gave Loretta such a shake that she tumbled, squawking and sputtering,[113] from the other’s hands and again hung, heels above head, like a chicken caught for the block.

“She did but what the wind hadst done,” faltered Padre Alonzo. “Sst! sst!” (This to the parrot.) “Such language from a lady!”

“Ah-ha!” grunted Padre Anzar. “I told thee not to buy a bird that was raised in a garrison town.”

To-o-ny! To-o-ny!” pleaded the parrot. “A-aw, To-ony!

“Yes,” he went on solemnly, addressing her, “and thou art of the devil, and hast as many tricks. Twice I forgave thee—once for shouting ‘Fire’ on St. John’s Day as the censer passed; again, for pulling the feathers out of Señor Esteban’s choice hen. But thou wilt not escape now. Now, thou’lt go to the kitchen and be shut in with Gabrielda’s black mouser. There thou shalt shed some quills.”

With this dire threat, he departed along the path, Loretta still hanging head down at his knee.

Scarcely a moment later a commotion sounded from the distance, a commotion muffled by ’dobe wall. First came the voice of old Gabrielda, then the clatter of an overturning pan, next the terror-stricken shrieks of Loretta. Presently, Padre Anzar appeared, his jaw set, his eyes shining with the look of duty done.

“She will be nicely scared this time,” he told Padre Alonzo. “She will match her busy beak with Tomasso’s claws, and she will remember hereafter to let my blossoms alone.”

“Perhaps,” began Padre Alonzo, deprecatingly, “perhaps ’twere as well to take her out of temptation’s way, to——”

[114]Padre Anzar raised his shoulders, strode over to knife and trowel and caught them up. “Move her as thou wilt,” he said grumpily, “and the farther the better. Tony is proper for us, pretty and songful. But that parrot,”—he shook his tools as if they were Loretta—“how altogether useless and ugly and noisy and blasphemous and good-for-naught!”

With this he departed into the shrubbery.

Sounds were still coming from the kitchen—Gabrielda’s cracked voice, Loretta’s cries, the sullen yowling of a cat. Nodding sadly, Padre Alonzo waddled to the perch, vacant and formed like a cross. This he lifted and bore to a place along the wall opposite the great crucifix, where climbed no flowers. Then, smiling gently, as if with some tender thought, he waddled back to the trellis, took the cage from its nail, and, returning to the perch, hung Tony close beside.

Late that night, on coming out of the chapel, Padre Alonzo discovered a little black something blocking his way along the moonlit path. As he paused, leaning forward to peer, the black something sidled nearer him, and saluted.

Buenos noches!” it said, its voice monotonous and human with grief and weariness; “buenas noches! buenas noches!

The padre bent lower and lifted the parrot to the level of his face. “Aye, good-night truly, as thou sayest,” he repeated proudly. “Thou hast some wicked words of a garrison town, but thou knowest the difference between sun and moon.”

[115]Aw, Lora,” murmured the parrot; “aw, Lo-ra! Lo-ra!

“Yes, Tomasso has used thee badly.” Padre Alonzo patted her head. “I shall put thee on thy perch,” he went on; “though I trust good Anzar will not know it. But the moon is up, and my heart is tender. Alas! one does many things when the moon is up. And the next day—one does penance.”

He thrust the parrot into a fold of his cassock, made along to where was the perch, and placed her upon it. Then he stood back, folding his arms.

“To-morrow is Christmas Day, Loretta,” he said. “And what wilt thou give to Tony? What can the cactus give the golden poppy? Thou hast only love, eh? Well, that is much, though it grows from naught, as a China lily blooms from a bowl of rocks.”

He turned, and found himself before the Tree. Fir and pine massed their branches behind it, making a background of plushy green. Against that background, showing full, hung the torn and unclad shape. The moon glinted upon it, haloing the head of the Crucified.

The padre sank, bowing, and touched himself in the sign.

Aw, To-o-ny! To-o-ny!” came a sleepy croak at his back. The parrot was settling herself for the night.

Padre Alonzo rose and turned, reaching up to stroke her. “Good-night, Loretta,” he said fondly. “There were none too lowly for His gift of love. It was spared to thee, a yawping fowl, a talker after the manner of the lazy Mexicans that bred thee.”

He turned back upon the path, sighing and raising[116] his eyes once more. “But for high or low,” he said, musing aloud, “the fruit of that love is sacrifice.”

Out of the chapel came the sounds of the noon service—the level intoning of prayer, the rumble and swell of the padres’ voices. From her place before the great crucifix Loretta mocked it, only ceasing now and then to answer Tony’s warbles with little whistles of delight or to run her open bill up and down the bit of vertical pole dividing her perch. Yesterday’s bout in the kitchen, yesterday’s hunger and fear, the lonely night ramble along the path, the lack of her preening friend—all these were forgotten in to-day’s safety, sunlight, plenty, and companionship. And so she gurried and purred, a-a-awed and ga-a-awked, shrilled her “Buenos días!” across the garden, laughed uproariously, or droned the familiar mass.

In reach of her pacing, in touch of her very tail, was the gilded cage, with Tony darting upstairs and down, yet sparing time now and then for a sip or a seed or a saucy chirp.

But of a sudden the happy cries of both birds were changed to notes of alarm. The canary, its round eyes starting like two polished shots, fluttered high and low, beating its yellow wings against the wires; while Loretta squared her rudder, spread her pinions and squatted belligerently. For on the ground, advancing that way by soft steps, and with the gloating look of the hunter fixed upon the cage, came Tomasso, the cat.

Quickly the parrot rallied from her panic. As if she knew that her arch-enemy was not seeking her now, but the precious bit of fluff at her side, she began[117] a series of terror-inspiring performances learned in the profane garrison town of her hatching; she gave tongue to dire words that had long since gone out of her repertory. Ruffled to twice her size, she strutted along her perch, shrieking angry orders to mount, flinging out “Vuelta! vuelta! vuelta!” in husky trooper tones, and whistling the bugle calls.

It failed to scare Tomasso. Within the cage, as it gently danced from its spring, was a tempting morsel, one that lured all the more through its effort to escape. The cat crept steadily forward, velvet foot following velvet foot, across the shifting dapple before the great crucifix, across the packed gravel of the garden path, to the near shade of a gold of Ophir. There, under the roses, he paused, amber eyes glowing, whetted claws slipping in and out expectantly, muscles rolling and flexing with the measurement of the leap.

Then, with the cunning of the wild mother, Loretta adopted new tactics, seeking to divert him. She wobbled upon her perch, giving vent to bursts of hysterical laughter; she got between him and the cage and railed at him.

His unblinking eyes did not leave his quarry, his muscles kept their quiver of preparation. At the end of his sleek body, his long tail swept, to and fro, like a furry pendulum marking off the dread time.

By now other inmates of the garden were alarmed. A blue jay scolded from the terra-cotta roof of the chapel. From the cross-piece of the tree a line of sparrows gave over their squabbling to look down.

Loretta’s excitement grew wilder. Out of her beak poured phrases not of mass or military, not of[118] good-days or -nights. For under the gold of Ophir the furry pendulum was standing out straight and the moving muscles down Tomasso’s length were tight and still. Her instinct knew the signs, and again and again she quavered out the “Fuego!” that had disgraced St. John’s Day.

No one heard. From the chapel still sounded the intoning of prayer, broken by the rumble and swell of the padres’ voices.

A moment, and she acted. With a “Ga-a-wk!” of defiance, she aimed her flight for the ground, took it in all but a somersault, and landed herself directly before the astonished Tomasso. Then once again she spread her wings and squared her rudder, making ready for a clash.

Tomasso’s eyes fell to her, he relaxed, body and tail, spitting resentfully.

Quickly emboldened, she came a hand’s breadth nearer him, snapping at the black tip of his nose.

He retreated to his haunches, but directed a swift cuff her way.

To this she responded with hoarse laughter and yells of “To-ony!” as if she summoned the canary to witness the encouraging progress of the fight. Then she stalked forward once more.

Tomasso wrinkled his face. Their positions were unpleasantly reversed. In Gabrielda’s domain it was she who backed off or sought the safe places, and he who sallied out from his cosy nook by the range to scare her into noisy protests. While here she was bristling to him. His paw poised itself in mid-air.

Loretta grew reckless. Fanning her wings, in[119] one lightning stroke she bit him between his flattened ears.

The pain of it enraged Tomasso. With a jump, he met her.

Then ensued such a scene as the kitchen knew. There was mewing and spitting and yowling; there was gawking and squalling and a rending cry for “Tony!” All the while, close to the gold of Ophir, the cat and the parrot went dizzily around and around, a whirligig of grey, scarlet and black—that tossed off fur and feathers.

It was over in a moment, when Tomasso fled, over path and grass, and into a dusky recess between the trunks of fir and pine. There he lay down, sulking and grumbling and licking his paws. But Loretta stayed where she was a little, holding her head sidewise in the attitude of a listener.

Lora,” she murmured presently, her voice inquiring, “Lora, Lora.

Then, slowly and clumsily, she made her way to the base of the perch, and with beak and talons climbed it.

It was past the noon angelus when Padre Alonzo came waddling along the path, and he found the garden still—still, and filled with the sun-drawn incense of trees and flowers.

“Sst sst! Tony will be too warm, I fear,” he was saying aloud as he neared the cage. “The little one shall go to a cooler spot.” And with this conclusion, he halted beside the perch of the parrot and lifted the chirping canary down to his knee.

“Buenos días,” he said to Loretta, pausing a[120] moment: “a good-day, truly, but over-hot, so that my cassock makes of me a living olla, for I am beaded with water drops from top to toe.”

The parrot shifted a little, and again set her head sidewise, as if she were puzzled and listening. Next, she edged toward him, and uncertainly, putting a foot down, clasping and unclasping the pole, trying it cautiously. Against the vertical piece that made her perch like a cross she teetered awkwardly and stopped.

“Loretta,” said the padre, in some concern, “hast anything in thy craw? Well, gulp down a stone and grind thy grist. What one swallowest that must one digest.”

The gravel crunched behind him. He glanced back, to see Padre Anzar advancing, brown cowl shading hollow eyes.

Padre Alonzo coloured guiltily. “Tony must go to the shade,” he said. “The sun is hot to the cooking-point.”

Padre Anzar paused a moment, glowering up at Loretta. “Then may it singe the plumage of that vixen,” he answered. “She desecrates our garden.” Another frown, and he passed on.

Padre Alonzo watched him out of sight before he again addressed the parrot. “I fear thou must mend thy ways, Loretta,” he said. “Here it is Christmas Day, and yet Anzar has no good words for thee. But see,”—he held up a plump hand, displaying one of Gabrielda’s sweet biscuits—“riotous as thou art, I have remembered. And now tell me, what has thou given Tony?”

As though in mute answer, the parrot suddenly[121] lowered her head toward him, and he saw that over the grey of her feathered face was a splash of scarlet, as if a vivid fuchsia petal had fallen there.

“Loretta!” he cried anxiously; “Loretta! thine eyes!”

She lifted her head until her beak pointed past the giant crucifix and straight into the glaring sun.

“Buenos días,” he prompted tenderly, alarmed now at her unusual silence and the indifference shown his offering; “Loretta, buenos días.”

But she was settling herself upon her cross-like perch as if for the night. “A-aw, To-o-ny! To-o-ny!” she returned with a little sleepy croak; “buenas noches! buenas noches!



PICKED from among the litter by the slack of his neck, the coyote whelp opened round eyes of greyish amber and blinked into the face of the Old Woman. The Navajo looked back at him, noting with satisfaction that he did not wriggle. Then she put him carefully to one side and leaned over the other cubs, whimpering and crawling about in their shallow burrow like so many helpless puppies. These she caught up, one by one, and gave each a swift flick against a stone.

But with the baby she had chosen, she was most tender, holding him tucked in a fold of her bright-striped blanket as she descended the steep trail from the butte. When they came out upon the level below, she made at once toward the goats, which were pasturing at some distance, and from the flock drove a young female, fat, and black as the coal streak that furnished her cooking fires. Still carrying the coyote, she led the goat by a riata to the corral at the foot of the mesa precipice, tied her to a cedar post, and promptly put the whelp up to the udder for his first meal of goat’s milk.

He was a wee ball of downy, mouse-coloured fur then, with soft ears, a head shaped like a peach, and a mere wisp of tail. At night, he slept near the Old Woman in the dirt-covered hogan, his bed a square of red flannel on the bottom of a great, olla-like basket which he could neither tip over nor crawl[123] out of. In the daytime, riding in the crook of the aged squaw’s arm, he accompanied her to the desert, where she went to herd, or he lay beneath a brush sun shelter while she worked in the cornfield.

But soon, well suckled by the she-goat, he began to grow amazingly. First he found his legs, and was able to go wabbling after his foster mother as she lonesomely circled the corral. Next, the wabble became a stout little trot. And now the Old Woman found no need of holding him up for his dinner. The goat, when heavy with milk, stood without being tied, and even uh-uh-uhed to him invitingly if he was slow to come; while he had so lengthened and heightened that he was able to drink without aid. He gave over the olla-like basket, therefore, and the corral became his home. Here he showed an increasing love for the she-goat by yelping mournfully if she started off down the enclosure, and by barking in noisy delight at her return. The squaw still saw him often, and stroked him much so that he might not become hand shy.

Changed in looks he was by now. The black-tipped nose was longer and more pointed; the greyish amber eyes were paler and narrowed in their slits; the head was flat; the ears were upright; the hair was not downy, but coarse to wiriness, blackish and brindled along the back and mane, striped burro-wise across the shoulders, elsewhere of a dusty, sunburned, tawny grey.

With his change in looks there came a change in appetite. He began to crave other food than milk, when the Old Woman gave him to eat of wafer bread and let him lap from a gourd shell filled from[124] her wicker water bottle. Later, the she-goat having gone dry, and there being no second foster mother for him, she fed him with other things—the bean of the mesquite and the sweetish fruit of the prickly pear. One day, he tasted blood. The squaw brought him in a linnet, all plump and juicy beneath its feathery coat. He lay down, holding the tiny thing between his forefeet, and tore at it greedily, with little throaty growls. When he was finished, she tried to pull away the bits of plumage caught in his paws. And for the first time he showed his teeth.

Then the Boy came. Having got the man scent before he reached the hogan, the young prairie wolf was not frightened at the stranger whose blanket was as bright with stripes as the Old Woman’s, and who was otherwise very like her in appearance—except that a gay banda kept back the hair from his forehead. On the other hand, the Boy was startled as, on entering the low hut, he saw two eyes burning out at him from a dim corner.

“What is it?” he asked the Old Woman, speaking in the Navajo tongue.

“It is Little Watcher,” she answered. “For so I have named him. The kids were all stolen away by night. When I prayed to Those Above, I was bidden to do what my father had done—fight poison with poison.”

With the Boy’s coming, the coyote had much meat. For every day the Boy took bow and arrows and climbed to the mesa top. Here grew juniper, piñon, and cedar, and here rabbits were to be found, and reptiles, ground squirrel, buzzard, and hawk.[125] Returning, the hunter threw the whole of his quarry to Little Watcher, who was easy to please but hard to satisfy. The coyote dragged the game out of reach and then fell upon it as if he feared interruption, mumbling his delight.

Meanwhile the Old Woman was not neglecting to train him. When the sunrise sheen was on the desert, and the squaw, singing the early morning song, drove the flock to its scant feeding, she took Little Watcher along. And as the goats slowly travelled, browsing, she taught him to follow and round them.

By the end of twelve moons, what with no long runs and plentiful food, Little Watcher was larger than the wild of his own kind and as big as his kinsman, the grey wolf. Now a wren was not a mouthful for him: a snap, a swallow, and it was gone, and the amber eyes were pleading for more. Yet for all his gorging and his hankering after flesh, he was no less a friend to his foster mother, the she-goat, than before, and having skirted the flock, liked to sprawl near by her, and perhaps tease a lizard by way of entertainment.

There came a night when for the first time his strength, his training, and his affection for her were put to the test. Enemies came.

Only the stars were shining, and the corral lay in the heavy shadow of the precipice. But Little Watcher needed no light to tell him that danger threatened. He lifted his muzzle to the rough path from the mesa, perked his ears, and snuffed noiselessly. Then, as noiselessly, he rose.

Presently, along the foot of the precipice, came several forms like his own. He was down the wind[126] from them, and they skulked forward with no halts, their feet softly padding the sand. Soon the foremost was beside the enclosure and reared upon his hind legs.

Once more Little Watcher rose—his body rigid, his head stretched out, his brush on a stiff line with his back, and from crest to tail his hair stood up belligerently. Then, with a shrill yelp of defiance he leaped forward and caught the other by the throat.

His fangs were sharp, his hold was a vise. One rending pull, and the strange coyote pitched end for end between his fellows. They smelled the warm blood—and leaped upon him with a wrangle of exultant cries.

Out of her hogan rushed the Old Woman waving a pine torch above her head and shrieking to scare the intruders. They ran to a safe distance, from where they stopped to look round. The Old Woman did not follow them nor trouble to wake the Boy. When she had gone among the goats to see that none was hurt or missing, she dragged the dead coyote some rods away, and returned to give Little Watcher a caress.

But there was no rest for Little Watcher. Still bristled, he stayed inside the corral, now skirting the goats on fleet foot, now pausing beside his black foster mother, but always licking his chops and mumbling crossly.

It was then the season that follows the first rains. A haze of green lay on the desert—a haze touched here by the yellow of sunflower and marigold masses, there by the purple of the larkspur’s slender wand, again by a fleck of gleaming alkali.

[127]But all too soon that haze was gone again, melting away with the hot kiss of the sun. Greasewood and mesquite showed the only verdure now, and the flock found the picking poor.

So, one dawn, a burro was loaded with blankets, the cooking pottery, and some water bottles filled at the precious spring. Then the squaw said farewell to the Boy, who stayed to tend orchard and corn strips, and drove her bearded company out of the cedar corral. Soon she was well on her way, and the grey and the red sandstone ribbons of the mesa precipice were blending and fading behind her.

Finally, when more than a score of camps had been pitched and broken, the goats were stopped near the cottonwood-lined bed of a dry stream. Here the burro was unloaded, the Old Woman made a sun shelter of boughs on the bare gravel of the arroyo, and dug for, and found, water.

Grazing was good, and the goats fattened. So did Little Watcher, who fared well on the daily spoil of the squaw’s snares. Here, too, almost in the shadow of the wooded Tunicha Mountains, was peace—for a period.

Each night the goats were driven in to the line of cottonwoods, where, bunched together, they lay down. On one side of them was the shelter of boughs, where the Old Woman slept, rousing occasionally to put a length of mesquite root upon her torch fire; on the opposite side, close to his picketed foster mother, dozed Little Watcher, flat upon his belly, his hind legs stretched out straight with his tail, his muzzle on his forepaws. But, like the squaw, he waked now and again, and listened—head high, ears[128] upright and moving, amber eyes glowing in the dark. And he often heard what the other did not—the far-off staccato yip! yip! yip! of the prairie wolf on a scent.

Then, for a second time during his term of guarding, enemies appeared—boldly, in broad daylight, when the Old Woman was away looking to her traps. It was now the season when the coyote runs in pairs. And but two appeared, out of a patch of cactus to the mountain side of the goats. From the cacti, they came darting down upon the nearest of the flock—Little Watcher’s black foster mother.

But before they could reach her, a streak of tawny grey shot between. And as the she-goat scrambled up, bleating in terror, to join the herd, Little Watcher, all bristled from crest to tail, met the male of the coyote pair and buried his teeth in his flank.

They fought furiously, rolling over and over, sending the sand into the air, tearing up the greasewood, mingling their cries of pain and rage. From the edge of the cactus patch, the female watched them, rather indifferently, however, and with frequent hungry glances in the direction of the goats.

The gaunt stranger was no match for the guardian of the flock. Very soon the battle was over. Then Little Watcher looked up, and at the female. There she was at the summit of the gentle rise, apparently waiting, and turning her head prettily this way and that. Little Watcher loped toward her. She let him come close, then wheeled and sped away through the cacti. He followed.

He was back before nightfall, and lay down at the feet of the aged Navajo, his eyes furtive, as if he were[129] conscious of neglected duty, his tongue lolling with a long, hard run. Alternately scolding and caressing him, the Old Woman gave him a few laps from her gourd shell, and presently he sought out his foster mother and rested beside her until the goats sought the cottonwoods.

But thereafter he often left his charges to go bounding away toward the mountains, and not even the proffering of food could tempt him to stay. Sometimes of a night he would rise and sneak off. Sometimes of a morning he would trot to the top of a near-by rise, stop, look round upon the goats, give a troubled whine—and disappear.

Then, one day, as suddenly as these excursions had begun, they came to an end. He was returning to the flock after a long jaunt, when, not far to his right, there appeared a moving figure, wound in a blanket and topped with white. It was not unlike a yucca, crowned by a cream-coloured bloom. Now, in a new posture, it was not unlike a stumpy saguaro with one outspread branch. The curiosity of his kind impelled him to halt. As he did so, placing his forefeet on a rock, the better to see, he caught the familiar scent of the Boy, and saw that the latter was holding out toward him a long, strange something upon which the light glinted. The next moment there was a puff of smoke—a report—and Little Watcher fell to the sand.

He lay flat upon his side for a short space, his tail limp and thin, his eyes closed. Then, striving to rise, he found himself able only to control his forelegs, for his hinder ones would not obey his will, and at the small of his back was a spot that stung.[130] This he could reach, and he alternately snapped round at it with a doleful cry or licked it tenderly.

It was early morning then, and he did not mind the heat. But later, as the sun mounted and burned the sand, he pulled himself along to some spiny buck brush, and spent the rest of the day in its meagre shade. He knew the flock was not far, for their rank odour was borne to him on the wind. And so, the sun gone, leaving only great strokes of orange upon the sky and a fire-edged hill where its last light rested, he took his way toward home, dragging his hind quarters.

Twilight was yet on the desert as he came in sight of the goats. There they went, trailing across the purple levels to the long, black, wavering line of cottonwoods, behind them, two herders. Faster he pulled himself along, giving a quick little bark, now and then, that ended in a howl. But he was not able to cross the summit of the ridge from which he looked. And so he dropped down upon a red-black stretch of glassy lava. For hours thirst had cruelly assailed him. As often in times past he had drunk from rain-filled pockets in the sandstone, he now licked feverishly at the still blistering rock.

There night found him. Between his lappings, he lay flat, being too hurt and weary to hold himself up. His muzzle was toward the flock and he could see the place of its lying down. For there burned the evening fire, a dot of light on a vast sheet of blackness. He shivered, giving puppy-like barks, as when, a whelp, he tagged his foster mother, the she-goat; he lifted his muzzle to the stars and mourned.

[131]Behind him, other cries answered—faintly, against the wind. He perked his ears, listening.

Yip! yip! yip! yip! yip!—the running cry of prairie wolves on a scent!

He looked down upon the level, where sparks were flying up from the Old Woman’s fire. Once more, rallying all his strength, he tried to make headway toward the goats. Once more, he could not cross the ridge. He whined helplessly.

Nearer and nearer sounded the coyote cries behind, dulling a little as the pack descended into a draw, redoubling in strength when they came out upon higher ground.

And now they were so near that Little Watcher could hear their short pantings as they loped forward. And now he could see them coming his way through the dark. With a growl, he sat up, ears laid back, hair on end.

Yip! yip! yip! yip! yip!

Up from behind the pine-covered Tunichas rose the moon—full, white, spreading a day-like radiance upon the great slopes and levels of the desert.

From the brush shelter among the cottonwoods, the Old Woman and the Boy lifted their eyes to look, and saw, silhouetted against it, at the summit of the lava stretch, a lone coyote, seemingly seated upon its haunches.

The squaw got to her feet, wristlets and chains tinkling, and leaned to peer among the goats. The Boy sprang up, too, his gaze toward the ridge top.

“Little Watcher!” he called anxiously; “Little Watcher!”

Then into the moonlight on the distant summit[132] they saw other wolf forms race; and as these centred to where the lone coyote sat, saw him struggle forward to meet them. And through the desert night, there came a shrill yelp of defiance—then a wrangle of exultant cries.



IT all happened after Missy and I arrived from San Francisco. I was taken to Hart’s (which, as you must know, is one of the most perfectly appointed boarding-places for horses in New York) and given a roomy box-stall toward the front of the stable. Across from me was another box, just as large and loose. In it was a stylish black gelding with docked tail and hogged mane. That was Thunderbolt.

I was very car-stiff. For though I came by express on the same train with Missy, it had taken six days. My first day at Hart’s, as she was in my stall, petting me and giving me nice bites of carrot (it was a Wednesday, Wednesday being my day for carrots), a man came down the row of stalls with Martin, the head-groom. As he turned to open Thunderbolt’s box, he looked at me—or Missy—(his look was admiring, anyway) and raised his hat. That was Thunderbolt’s master.

Missy bowed back, sweetly, but gravely, and went on feeding me.

I did not know he was Thunderbolt’s master then. But later, before Peter, one of the under-grooms, took me out for an airing (I was not fit, Missy said, to be ridden—but I noticed Peter rode me when he got me out of sight of the stable), I nickered over to Thunderbolt to ask him who his visitor was.

[134]“That is my master,” said he, putting his head over the side of his box. “And he is one of the best masters I have ever had.”

I gave a good horse laugh at that. “One of the best,” I said. For I had never belonged to anyone but Missy, and I think that a first-class animal doesn’t keep changing quarters.

Thunderbolt put back his ears. “That is what I said,” he went on, “and I’m not going to turn a hair over it, either. A change of monogram can happen to anybody.”

“Of course,” said I, taking particular pains to show mine. It was on my best dress-blanket, which Peter was putting on, and which was made to order for me in Missy’s father’s woolen mills. “But how did it happen that you—eh——”

Thunderbolt’s eyes showed a rim of white—a bad-temper sign that no thoroughbred (and no part thoroughbred) allows himself to make. “‘You’re as silly as a filly,’” he quoted. “A horse may just be off his oats a little—that was my case—or home-sick.”

I can understand that.”

“Any crow-bait could. But now that I’m here——”

“Lucky nag!” said I.

“Bet your bridle!” returned Thunderbolt. “My master comes in with his pockets fairly sticking out with good things. Have you noticed?”

“No, but I will,” I promised.

And I did. The very next morning, here came Thunderbolt’s master again. I put my nose out[135] when I saw him. He stopped and smoothed my neck. And, meanwhile, I found a pocket jammed with grass.

As Thunderbolt saw the grass disappear, he laid back his ears. “The Dealers take you!” he grumbled.

“Don’t get ugly,” I said. “I’ll divide my tidbits with you. To-day I’ll get an apple.”

“How do you know?” he snorted. He was careful to appear on his best behaviour, however, for his master was looking at his hoofs.

“Monday, sweet biscuit,” I began; “Tuesday, sugar; Wednesday, carrots; Thursday, an apple; Friday, cracked corn; Saturday, stale bread and molasses; Sunday, marshmallows.”

“What are marshmallows?” asked Thunderbolt. “Do they grow in a meadow?”

“They don’t,” I answered. “They come in Missy’s handkerchief. As near as I can make out, they are sweet chunks of bran mash.”

We stopped talking then, for Missy came, dressed for a canter. She didn’t see Thunderbolt’s master at first, for he was still stooping over. And after I had a bite of apple, she held out a piece to Thunderbolt.

“You pretty fellow!” she said.

At that, up popped Thunderbolt’s master. And they bowed, and said good-morning, and he pointed out Thunderbolt’s good points—deep chest and bold eye, and Missy followed with mine—tapering ears, broad forehead set with a star, and long, arched neck. So it was quite a bit before I was ready to[136] go out. Thunderbolt’s master put Missy up and drove his trap beside us so that they could chat all the way to the Park.

Did you notice?” asked Thunderbolt when we were both in again and John and Peter were grooming us.

“Did I notice what?” I asked, licking my salt.

“You haven’t good horse sense,” declared Thunderbolt. “A flea-bitten screw with cockled hocks would see more. Didn’t you notice how nice my master was to your Missy?”

I fairly pawed with delight. “Of course I noticed it,” I answered. And until the next apple-day I was careful to do my part. I nosed Thunderbolt’s master when he came in, I picked up my feet in my best style when I went out beside his trap, and I pranced. And when Missy wanted to turn me into the bridle-path, I passaged and champed.

Thunderbolt’s master and Missy spent an hour in our boxes every day. They fed us dainties and talked to each other, and he was especially kind to me, patting me a lot and praising me. And I saw—well, I can see farther than my muzzle—and I was as happy as a Grand Prix winner.

And then one day—something seemed wrong with Missy. She arrived earlier than usual, and had nothing for me. When she entered my stall, she threw her arms around my neck. “Oh, Hector! Hector!” she whispered, so sadly. And I saw she had a letter crumpled up in one hand.

When Peter took off my sheet, she stepped back and looked me over. “You dear darling!” she said, just as if she were going to cry. “Peter, isn’t he[137] beautiful? I’ve had him ever since he was a colt.” And she laid her pretty cheek against me.

“Oi never seen a foiner, miss,” said Peter. “Up-headed, an’ wid a mouth that ud drive on a t’read.”

Thunderbolt’s master came in then, and when he’d said good-morning he sent Peter away for something and stepped over into my box. Missy turned away from him, and he couldn’t help but see that she wasn’t acting as usual. But I don’t believe he understood it any better than I did. For he looked puzzled, and then he raised his hat again.

“Do you know,” he said, “it’s just occurred to me that I’ve been very remiss. I’ve never even introduced myself properly to you. And I haven’t the pleasure of your name, either.”

“If people are fond of horses——” began Missy. She fell to patting my nose.

“My name is England,” went on Thunderbolt’s master, “Edward England.”

Instantly, I felt Missy’s fingers tighten, and I saw her face grow white. “England!” she said under her breath; “Edward England!”

She was standing on my off side now, and Thunderbolt’s master could not see her. “I presume it’s a name you’re not unfamiliar with,” he went on again. “But don’t mistake me for dad. He’s been manipulating wool lately, and the press keeps pretty close track of him.” And he laughed.

“Yes—I—I have heard,” answered Missy, slowly, and as Peter led me toward the runway, she followed—without another word. She walked unevenly, as a horse goes when he’s got the blind staggers.

[138]I was sorry she hadn’t told him who we were. For I must say that, on the Coast, no family stands better than the Sanborns. But Missy was changed—something had happened to her.

The very next day, something happened to me. Peter came down the stalls with a strange groom behind him and stopped at my box. For the swish of a tail, I didn’t think anything of that, for we often have new grooms. But when Peter put on my halter, and then my hood and dress-blanket, and the man took my leading-strap, I knew I was to be taken away somewhere.

I felt so startled and excited that I am sure I misbehaved. But the groom talked kindly to me, and Peter slapped me on the flank, and so I tried to go quietly. I think the other horses knew I was leaving—that strange groom gave them the hint. They looked around at me, and one whinnied to ask me what was the matter. They were all stall boarders, and of course I didn’t know them. And I was too unhappy to answer, anyway. For Thunderbolt was out in the trap, and, if I was going, I could not tell him good-bye.

“What if I’m sold?” I kept saying to myself as I went down the runway and out to the street. “What if I’m sold?” I shivered, for all my covering. “Oh, Missy, you wouldn’t do that!”

Then another terrible thought: Is Missy going to get an auto? But that couldn’t be—Missy hates autos.

Soon enough, I found out what had happened. The strange groom led me toward the Hudson, then north again—I am never mistaken in directions—and,[139] finally, into a good-sized stable that stood midway of a block. Here, I was led upstairs—and into a standing-stall.

It made me cross, and I tried my hind shoes on the mats in short order (a blooded horse is expected to be nervous and impatient at times). But the place was clean and comfortable, and the double line of horses were, I must say, a very decent lot—not show horses, but good of their kind. All were fresh littered and well blanketed, and seemed contented enough. “This is where I’m going to live, I guess,” I thought to myself. Pretty soon I was sure of it. For here came Missy in her riding clothes.

“It’s all very nice,” I heard her tell the strange groom. “And I want you to give him every attention.” She opened one hand. There was a green piece of paper in it, and he bobbed his head as he took it. Then she opened her other hand—and there was some cracked corn. So it was on a Friday that I came to my new quarters.

It was three days later before I saw Thunderbolt and his master. We all met in the Park.

“They tell me Hector’s left Hart’s,” said Mr. England to Missy. “Now, Miss Sanborn,—you see I’ve found out who you are—it really wasn’t fair of you to go without letting me know about it. We’re both wool people, you must remember.” He spoke jokingly; but he looked a little worried.

Missy straightened in her stirrups (she rides cross-saddle) and tightened my reins. I felt them tremble. “I’ve moved,” she said, “and so, of course, Hector had to come nearer me.”

“I see—of course. Where are you now?”

[140]“At Hawley’s, uptown—a nice stable.”

“Oh, yes.” (Mr. England looked hard at the dog’s head on the butt of his whip.)

There was an awkward silence. Then, “Good-afternoon,” said Missy, and went on.

It didn’t take me long to realise one thing about my new home. It was not so good as the old; in the main comforts it was, but not in little ones. We got two groomings instead of three; the litter was not deep, as at Hart’s; we were not watered so often; there was no more briny hay, and no flaxseed jelly. Several times, too, I saw delivery horses coming up a runway from the basement, and being put to heavy wagons. The horses on my floor, when they went out, were wickedly checked to make them hold up their heads.

Their treatment of me was always the perfection of good stable manners, and among the whole lot there was only one that especially irritated me. He was a bay with black points, one of those under-sized, jack-rabbity little nuisances called a Shetland.

“My! what airs!” he exclaimed one day as he was passing me in his governess’s cart. “I presume you’re much too fine to take hay-tea with the rest of us.”

“Don’t class yourself with the others,” I answered. “You remind me of nothing so much as a flea drawing a wash-basket.”

After that brush, he let me alone. And I tried to be contented at Hawley’s. I must say that Missy was kinder than ever to me. On apple days I got several, and on Saturdays a double quantity of stale bread and molasses. So why kick?

[141]But very soon my dainties began to dwindle, and often Missy gave me none at all, so that I lost track of the days. And I noticed, when we went out for our regular gallop, that Missy never hummed to herself as we went along, or stopped to let me crop a little green, or nodded pleasantly to the mounted police we passed. She rode slowly, with her head down, or set me going at a run.

Then, when I had been at the new stable not more than two weeks, a strange groom came down the stalls to me for a second time. Again my hood and dress-blanket were put on, and I was led down and out. The groom was a hang-dog looking fellow. Still, I went with a prancing step. For I knew what it meant. I was going back to Martin and my box-stall!

But I wasn’t. We turned north again, going up a cobbled street that rang with clanging cars. Overhead, the Elevated roared and banged till my ears ached. And everywhere, on sidewalks and in the street, herds of noisy children shrieked and raced. My heart began to fail me. Under my blanket, I broke out in a cold sweat.

Too soon I knew the worst. Down a crowded street we turned, going eastward until I could see, ahead, a blur of green that was the Park. Then I was led into a low, ill-smelling, steaming building, around the door of which slouched a half-dozen rough-looking men, all smoking—smoking, mind you, in a stable! They looked me over as the groom brought me to a stand. And their eyes actually rolled at sight of me. It was plain they were not used to seeing my kind there.

[142]They were not. Down a runway I went, and into a cellar, where there were fifty or so horses, all looking around and moving restlessly, as if they wanted feed or water. And here I was led into a narrow stall with little bedding—and that bad—and a sour feed-box. Oh, what an awful night I spent! My dress-blanket had been taken off, and my sheet not put on. So the mosquitoes tormented me every minute. But I was not the worst off. Near me were horses that had plucked manes and banged tails, and no sheets. They couldn’t defend themselves, and rubbed from side to side in their stalls in a very panic of pain. That terrible banging, hour after hour, and the foul state of my stall kept me from lying down. The groom had given me no water when he brought me in. And until morning I suffered terribly.

I plucked up courage when I was groomed and watered, though I must say I could not eat all of my oats. Somehow or other, my appetite was gone. But Missy came, and we went out together. Not as I would have liked, for my coat was not so shining as usual, and some of my mane hung over the wrong side. And, worse than all, some straws were sticking in my tail!

Missy noticed nothing, not even the howls of the children in the street. In the Park she did not rein me to drink at the stone troughs along the bridle-path, or to crop. But there was one thing that, more than anything else, took the spirit out of me. Going south beside the East Drive, I saw ahead of us—Thunderbolt coming! Instantly, I neighed.[143] Missy looked up, and then, as quick as she could, whirled me and started back, circling the reservoir the other way. So I did not have a chance to see my friend, or Mr. England. I went into the stable with my head hanging.

Things went along that way for a week. Meanwhile, I was not so well as usual. I caught a cold, for the stalls were hot and the air in the street chilled me to the bones. And I coughed, and my throat got so sore that I quidded my feed and splashed the water instead of drinking. I think Missy saw how it was. For one day, as we were going along, I felt a drop of water fall upon my withers—then another, and another. The sun was shining, there were no clouds. I turned my head a little. It was Missy—in tears!

I was so unhappy that I snapped at the next horse that went by.

But that morning ended happily, at least for me. Rounding a bend, we came close to a drive. And there was Thunderbolt and his master. I was so excited that I interfered.

They seemed as pleased as I at the meeting. But—Missy did not. Missy was nervous—she telegraphed that down the reins.

“Miss Sanborn,” said Mr. England, half as if he were going to scold, “you’ve been neglecting to ride lately.”

“Oh, no,” declared Missy; “I ride. But possibly not so long as usual. You see, I’m—I’m very busy.”

“Doubling your painting lessons?”


“Ah,” said Mr. England, watching her narrowly, I thought. That was all he said. Then Missy bowed, and we galloped away.

I had had no chance to gossip with Thunderbolt, for we were not permitted to stand close or to touch noses. But I did notice that he looked me over carefully—and then his upper lip curled like the jockeys on my saddle.

But I forgot his treatment. For soon I had worse luck than ever, and much poorer care. For the third time, a strange groom came for me. I knew better than to expect a return to a good stable. And I was right. We went two blocks toward the Hudson, and through a wide gate leading into a lot—a lot filled with wagons and little shacks of the kind that Chinamen live in on the Coast. It took me a minute to realise what was going to happen. “It can’t be!” I said to myself. “Oh, Missy wouldn’t!” But it happened. I was led into a dark stall in one of those shanties!

There was a rough-coated lot in that yard, not society for a horse like me. Some were scrawny and spindle-shanked, with dull eyes and staring jackets. Some were stout and blocky—beer-jerking stock, but not nearly as well kept as brewery horses. Some showed pedigree. But these were poor, old, broken-down, mutilated things, badly used on pedler’s wagons. The three in my shanty bolted their food as if they never expected to get any more. It was all bloating stuff—chaff and straw—and about as palatable as hoof-dressing. As for grooming, none of us got any. It was just a jerk or two of the[145] curry-comb, and it was over. And this among a long-haired lot that looked as if they had never known a blanket!

I could see, when Missy came, that she didn’t like the place. And on one of her visits I found out just how she felt. It made me decide to put my best foot foremost, to act spirited even if I didn’t feel like it, and to stop biting my crib. She came to my head, a sugar lump in one hand. And as I took the dainty, she held me about the withers with her pretty arms. “Oh, Hector! Hector!” she whispered. “You’re all that’s left. I can’t do without you—I can’t! I can’t!”

Dear Missy!

We didn’t see Thunderbolt or his master for weeks after that. Missy avoided them. I knew it, and it added to my unhappiness. For I had seen how Mr. England liked me—and Missy, too. And I missed the nice things I always found in his pockets. And though I went out poorly groomed, I wouldn’t have minded Thunderbolt’s snorting. I’ve got better blood in me than he has any day. I know that by his cobby build.

Those were days when I often felt teardrops on my withers. And I couldn’t help but see that Missy was faring no better than I. Then I began to look and look and look for Mr. England. “Missy’s not getting all she needs to eat any more than I am,” I said to myself. And I was determined that if ever Mr. England gave me an apple or a sweet cake again, she was to have it.

Well, one day as we were posting along close to the West Drive, who should I spy but Mr. England[146] and Thunderbolt with the trap—Martin on the rumble. I whinnied, and Missy gave me a smart rap for it that made me fairly dance. But neither Martin nor Mr. England saw me. As for Thunderbolt, if he did, he gave no sign, but stepped out with his high knee-action, making a good pace uptown.

It may have been acting like a skate. Certainly, I had never treated Missy that way before. But I decided to do it on the instant, and I took the blow she gave me as an excuse. For, with the bits held so that the curb-port couldn’t hurt me too much, I started to run with all my might, being careful not to stumble and make Missy come a cropper. Out upon the driveway I raced, and straight for Thunderbolt!

The clatter of my hoofs made both Mr. England and Martin glance back. They saw Missy coming after, pulling me in with might and main, and fairly standing in her stirrups. Mr. England gave Martin the reins and sprang to the ground. The trap was turned squarely across the drive. And I came bouncing into it, Mr. England catching at my bridle.

Missy dismounted, breathing hard.

“Thank you, thank you,” she said. “What possessed you, Hector? Oh, there’s something the matter with the darling!”

At that Thunderbolt turned his head. “Overfeeding,” he snickered. The hide-bound spavin!

“I think,” Mr. England was saying, “that you’d better not ride to the stable. Martin will drive you home, and I’ll take charge of this chap. He’s still excited.”

[147](I was only out of temper with Thunderbolt.)

But poor Missy! She lowered the nigh stirrup quick as a wink. “No, no, it really isn’t necessary,” she said; “Really it isn’t. I wouldn’t for the world let Hector think he’d scared me. It would spoil him. I must ride him right away, and conquer him.” And she mounted.

Martin had turned the trap by now, for other vehicles were passing. But Mr. England did not get up.

“You’re right, of course,” he answered. “If he thinks he beat you out, he’ll only bully you every chance he gets after this. But still I must insist on taking you to the stable. We’ll go slowly, and you put his nose close behind the rumble and keep it there.”

I felt the reins tremble dreadfully. It wasn’t fear, either. Then Missy bent over, speaking low.

“Mr. England,” she said earnestly, “not Martin. Won’t you send him home with Thunderbolt? Please.

Mr. England saw that she was troubled about something and he gave her her head. “Martin,” he called to the groom, “you take the trap in. And attend to that thong on the whiffletree—it doesn’t hold the trace.”

Thunderbolt went trotting off. Mr. England turned back to Missy. “Hector seems a little quieter now,” he said.

Then I saw that Missy wasn’t going to let Mr. England come with her any more than she had Martin. “There isn’t any reason for your coming,” she said. “Hector’s like a lamb.”

[148]For a second, I thought he hesitated. But I settled that. With a little squeal and a shake of my head, I reared—just a trifle.

Quick as a fly, Mr. England had my reins. “He isn’t over his tantrum yet, you see,” he said quietly, but very decidedly. “I can’t think of letting you take him in alone.”

Well, Missy protested. But he was firm. And we started for the entrance, with him at my bridle.

As soon as I saw he was really coming, I hung my head and went along like a case of chest-founder. When we reached the street, he took to the sidewalk, watching me every instant though, and watching poor Missy. She was hanging her head, too.

At a corner, Mr. England turned north, expecting us to follow. For that was the way to Hawley’s. Missy reined me up and called to him, and he came back.

I could see her face was dreadfully pale. But she was just as straight in her saddle as she could be. “Not that way, Mr. England,” she said.

He didn’t show the least surprise. (He is a thoroughbred, too.) “You lead,” he said; “I’ll follow.”

And so we went on—to the wagon-yard, Mr. England looking at the sidewalk, Missy looking straight ahead.

The gate was open. I went in, not stopping till I reached the door of my shanty. There, Missy got down. She was standing beside me as Mr. England came around the corner, and leaning a little upon me, one gloved hand reached up to the saddle.

[149]Mr. England strode close up to her, and they stood for a moment, her face raised bravely to his, his eyes searching her.

“Oh, little woman!” he said, and his voice shook; “oh, little woman!”

She took her under lip in her teeth. “There’s—there’s no reason for me to conceal anything,” she said. “Matters were a little tight at home, and I had to be economical.”

He was looking at her as if he was bewildered. “Matters tight—at home——” he repeated. Then, of a sudden, he seemed to know what it all meant, and his face got as white as Missy’s. “Your father—then, your father——?” he began, almost chokingly.

Missy looked straight back at him, and there was no more leaning against me. “Yes. And now you know why I didn’t want you to come here. It wasn’t because I was ashamed of this. It was because I knew you’d find out. And then you might think—might think that I felt there was something personal about it. You see, I realise there wasn’t. Father made contracts to deliver. Afterward, wool went up——”

Mr. England groaned. “To think it reached you! That you had to suffer.”

“But I haven’t suffered. Work was offered me here,—work in an art line. I have felt no hardship from it. In fact, there is happiness in earning a living. I am learning so much. The only disappointment I’ve had was about Hector. He’s not been quite as comfortable——” She stopped and caressed my shoulder tenderly.

[150]Something got into my wind-pipe then, and I had to mouth my bits to keep from coughing.

“And where do you live?” asked Mr. England. “Not where you did. I went there—more than once.”

“Well,—no-o—. But in a very nice place. I take my meals across from the store.”

“The store?”

“Yes. I am painting Christmas things—cards and so on. It’s pleasant work. And my room looks out on the side of a church. And there’s a stained-glass window there, and ivy all over the church wall.”

Mr. England began again, low and deep and earnestly. “Once in a lifetime,” he said, “a man meets a girl like you—sweet and sensible and good, that can take a blow like this without a word, find her feet again, and begin her fight bravely, doing without things that are second nature to her, and going without comforts for a friend, even when that friend is only a horse!”

“But I couldn’t do without Hector,” Missy declared. “I love him too much.”

(I rubbed my nose against her sleeve.)

“Sometimes I’ve had a terrible thought,” she said, half in a whisper. “It was that I might be forced to part with him. And—and I’ve wondered—oh, you’ll forgive me, I hope—if I have to, you’ll take him, Mr. England? He’s a perfect lady’s saddler.”

“You mean,—I may need a lady’s saddler?”

“Well, you—you might.”

“I shall—if I have my way about it.”

Dear Missy turned to me again, and put her arms[151] about my neck. “I’m not brave about this,” she whispered, and hid her face in my mane.

All of a sudden he pulled her hands free and turned her toward him. “You love him,” he said. “I wonder if there’s room in your heart for anyone else, dear little woman?”

And just at that moment that ragamuffin of a stable-boy popped into sight. Of course, I was led away.

I don’t know how I ever lived through the next few days. No Missy, no dainties, nothing but a short airing each morning to take me out of that terrible shanty. Ah, I knew what had happened to me this time. I was out of the Sanborn family. I was somebody else’s lady’s saddler!

Then, one morning, when the boy led me out through the gate, he started off south along the Boulevard. I had on my dress-blanket and hood. Behind me came another boy, carrying my saddle and bridle and the rest of my clothes. This was going somewhere.

“They can’t find any place in New York worse than that shanty,” I said to myself. And for the first time since leaving California, I completely lost heart. I put my head down and just stumbled long.

And then—I suddenly found that we had passed the Circle, turned east, and were in front of Hart’s! We mounted the runway. And there it was—the roomy box-stall across from Thunderbolt’s, deep with sweet bedding, and matted in Peter’s best style. And there was Missy, looking so pink and pretty! And there was Mr. England, smiling so hard he couldn’t talk!

[152]“Dear Hector!” cried Missy. “Oh, Martin, be very good to him while we’re away!”

“Yes, mum,” said Martin.

“And to Thunderbolt, too,” said Missy.

Martin bobbed, and tugged at his cap.

Then Missy reached up and pulled my head down close to her. “Darling Hector!” she whispered. “We’re home to stay!” And she kissed the star in my forehead.



“I ’M homely,” said Sue, smiling and pulling the grey pony down to a walk; “I’m the homeliest girl to be found at the Brampton Country Club. Why, even plain young married women ask me to their houses on protracted visits.”

As he reined his own horse, Philip Rawson turned upon her a look of reproof. “Ridiculous!” he exclaimed. “The first time a fellow meets you, maybe he only does remember your hair or your eyes. You’ve got awfully attractive eyes, Sue. But the second time he sees how nice you are. And the third time he’s sure to look forward to meeting you again. But by the fourth or fifth time! Well, by gad! by the fourth or fifth time there’s no half-way about it—he thinks you’re a dandy!”

Sue laughed teasingly. “You’ve grown up with those ideas,” she declared. “Do you remember that once—you were twelve, Phil,—you gave Len Hammond the nosebleed because he called me ‘cotton-top’?”

“Your hair is stunning,” said Phil defensively. “And no girl could look better than you do on a horse.”

“But imagine riding a horse to a dance,” said Sue.

“Who wants to go to dances?” demanded Phil.[154] “The idea of wasting hours getting togged for a confounded silly affair and then more hours attending it—when there’s all outdoors to enjoy!”

“Don’t scold,” said Sue. “It’s been ages since I’ve ‘wasted hours’ at a dance. And yesterday I wore out two horses.”

Phil suddenly brightened. “Let’s go to Wheaton Hill some afternoon,” he suggested. “And up to Hadbury another day. I want to see the polo-field. Brampton’s going to play Hadbury soon. And there’s a new litter of collies at the St. Ives kennels. We’ll canter over and see ’em.”

“How I’ve missed you these two years!” said Sue. “I’ve ridden a lot, of course. But my tennis has suffered. And not a single fish have I caught. The other men—even Bob and Courtney and Len, too—all wait on me when I ride with them or fish. I hate that: I hate being treated like a drawing-room ornament. Now, you, Phil,——”

“Can be pretty nearly as rude and selfish as a brother,” broke in Phil.

“You’re more like a—a chum,” said Sue. “And so I’m awfully glad to get you back, not a bit spoiled, and not—married.”

Phil stared. “Married!” he repeated. “Me?

“Hillcrest needs a mistress, Phil.”

“Suppose I were to pull a long face and say: ‘Sue, Arbor Lodge needs a master’?” He drew off his cap and stuffed it into the front of his shirt, shook his head vigorously, so that the morning wind could catch at his hair, and rolled his sleeves up to his elbow, showing two stout arms as brown as the pony under him.

[155]“I’m so homely,” said Sue, “that I’m marriage-proof.”

“Sue,”—very earnestly—“I didn’t see a single girl on the other side that I could fall in love with. I guess it’ll have to be an American that takes my mother’s place.”

Sue waved her whip. “Down with foreign alliances!”

“Oh, there wasn’t anything patriotic about it,” said Phil. “I just didn’t see the girl.”

“You’re calloused,” asserted Sue. “You’ve played polo so long that you’ve got a basswood ball for a heart. Here you are, twenty-six, handsome——”

“Loyalty, thy name is Sue Townsend!”

“And wholesome and good and awfully popular; and rich, too, with such a place, such woods and streams!”

“And such a blarney of a little friend,” added Phil.

“It’s not blarney,” Sue declared. “No; I leave all that for Larry. Phil, where did you pick him up?”

Phil gave a quick glance round at the red-cheeked, red-haired groom riding at the prescribed distance behind. “He was born in Dublin,” said he, grinning, “and I got him in Hongkong. He hasn’t been twenty feet away from me since. The fellows call him my ‘shadow.’”

“But, of course, you’re sure to meet your fate some day,” went on Sue. “And your kind, when they do fall in love, get fearfully hard hit.”


[156]Sue nodded wisely. “I don’t believe you’ll even survive what’s in store for you this very week,” she declared.

“No? What is it?”

“She’s coming to The Lilacs to-day to stay a month—Mrs. Vander Laan knew her mother. Last year she visited me. She’s tall and slender, and has the most beautiful eyes, and hair, and nose, and mouth, and complexion——”

“Hold! Hold!” cried Phil, in mock alarm.

“She’s perfect, in fact. Let’s take this dapply road.”

“Haven’t time—the fellows expect me at practice. Go on about the goddess.”

“She is a goddess. And everybody worships at her shrine. You’ve heard of faces that haunt?”

“Creditors?” suggested Phil.

“I met her first at Miss Pendleton’s. She ruled the school, she was so beautiful. No man’s ever seen her without capitulating.”

“Number one,” announced Phil, pointing at his chest. “What’s her name?”


“I never cared for it.” He looked at his watch. “If I get to the field in time I’ll have to turn now. Want to come along?”

“I’m afraid I can’t.” Sue wheeled the grey. “Grandmamma hasn’t been well lately. I shall stay with her to-day. Let’s race home.”

Galloping level, the grey and the brown made back along the shaded road, with the wind tugging harder than ever at Phil’s hair, and blowing out wisps[157] against Sue’s pink cheeks. At the wide, stone gate of Arbor Lodge they drew rein.

“See you to-morrow?” he asked.

“Telephone me,” said Sue. “Meanwhile, you may meet Genevieve. And I warn you——”

“Rubbish!” said Phil.

The polo enthusiasts of the Brampton Country Club were in despair; in particular, three members of the team reserved for the Hadbury game were pulling their hair wildly. But the fourth member was apparently indifferent to the awfulness of the situation—a situation of which he was himself the cause. And the reason for his indifference was not far to seek. The majority of the club knew it quite as well as if he had put up blue-and-white enameled signs beside the advertisements of automobile tires on every fence in that part of the country, and on the signs one line: The Brampton’s Captain is—— But wait.

In their anxiety, the trio who were to go against Hadbury called in solemn conclave upon Sue Townsend. Not that Sue was in any way implicated—Sue had never been concerned in an affair of this particular sort. The three players wished to state the case to her and ask her immediate aid.

“We shan’t keep you a minute,” began Leonard Hammond, when Sue greeted her visitors in the library at Arbor Lodge, “I see you’re going out. But”—his tone was mournful—“it’s something horribly serious.” (Mr. Hammond had constituted himself the first spokesman because, playing Number One in the team, he realised his Captain’s value.)

[158]Sue was very smart in a linen habit, and she gave the three glum faces an encouraging and hospitable smile. “Oh, it won’t matter in the least if you keep me a few minutes,” she declared, shaking hands warmly. “Do sit down.” She indicated the library couch. “You see, I’m only going for a ride, and Phil hasn’t come yet.” She took a plump chair which was in front of the couch and leaned back to recover breath after her tripping rush down the stairs.

“Phil!” repeated the three in chorus, and dropped rather precipitately upon the couch. Then: “We are just in time!”—this from Mr. Hammond.

Sue leaned forward suddenly. Her eyes were dark-blue and heavy-lashed, and now they looked her solicitude. “Is something—wrong with Phil?” she asked.

Mr. Courtney Graves, Second Forward of the team, almost stared at her. “Wrong?” he repeated. “Haven’t you heard?”

“No.” She looked from one to another, the colour going from her cheeks. “Bob! What is it?”

Mr. Robert St. Ives, Half-back, began: “It’s a mess, Sue, hanged if it isn’t!—a confounded mess. Phil was to play against the Hadbury team, you know, and reserved us for the game.”

“Yes.” With one hand Sue smoothed a round gold locket that hung between the lapels of her coat.

“Now,” continued Mr. St. Ives, biting each word short to give it full significance, “—now, all at once, he’s dropped off in his practice, says he doesn’t want to go to Hadbury, wants me to be captain—rot! And he spends his time in his car, while his ponies[159] hammer their legs to pieces in their boxes. We got that much from Larry.”

She leaned back once more, relieved and smiling. “Why has Phil changed?” she inquired in mild surprise.

“Because he wants to stay at Brampton,” answered Mr. St. Ives forcibly, “and motor when he can, or hang out on the club veranda when she won’t motor. That’s why.”

“She?” said Sue, under her breath. “Who?”

Mr. Courtney Graves stood up and pointed, first to the fireplace, then to a writing-desk, last of all to a panel between two bookcases. Above the fireplace, on the carved mantel, was the full-length portrait of a beautiful girl—a dark, imperious, queenly girl in ball dress. On the writing-desk, in delicate frames of hand-wrought silver, were two other photographs of the same girl. One of these showed her in a trailing carriage-coat, with furs; the other was a lake scene, and she was seated in a drifting boat, with a ruffled parasol shading her lovely face. In the panel between the bookcase was a fourth picture of the selfsame subject—an etching done with great skill and effectiveness. The dark girl, gowned in clinging white, was shown against a massed background. A flowered hat rested upon her poised head; one hand was outstretched to feed a fawn.

“He has it!” announced Mr. Graves portentously; “he’s another added to the epidemic. Sue, Phil Rawson’s in love with Genevieve Unger.” Whereupon he sank between his companions.

Sue did not speak, but sat regarding them from the depths of her chair.

[160]“It’s a particularly bad case,” said Mr. Hammond, “and we fear the worst.”

“The worst?” questioned Sue in a low voice.

“You know Miss Unger. Is she going to let Hillcrest slip through her fingers? Hang these visiting girls, anyhow! They always create trouble.”

Sue put up a gloved hand quickly. “Please don’t criticise Genevieve to me, Len,” she said. “She’s my friend.”

“Just the same, you know what she’ll do,” persisted Mr. Hammond. “She’ll keep Phil dangling as long as she can—perhaps one month, perhaps two—then she’ll haughtily accept him. Meanwhile, what’ll he be good for? Polo? And the Hadbury game comes off in just ten days. We’ll lose it without him.” He nursed a knee disconsolately.

“We thought,” began Mr. Graves, taking up the matter where Mr. Hammond had left off, “that you might be able to shorten the period of agony—the dangling period, I mean. If Miss Unger imagined there was the least danger that she’d lose him, why, she’d grab him.”

“Yes, she would,” declared Mr. St. Ives. “Her visit at The Lilacs is up pretty soon. Where’ll she go next?”

“Here,” said Sue quietly, “—if anyone is speaking unkindly of her.”

“That’s lucky for her,” went on Mr. Graves. “Your hospitality isn’t to be sneezed at by a girl who likes to spend all of her income on her duds.”

Sue rose. “Really,” she said, “I can’t listen any longer. Genevieve is the handsomest girl in the State of New York. She’s a darling to boot. And[161] you gentlemen”—this with studied candor—“would have less to say if each and every one of you had not been given your—your——”

“Mitten?” suggested Mr. St. Ives politely.

“—Last year,” concluded Sue. “I’m sorry I’ve listened to a single unkind thing about her. I insist that you talk of something else while you remain.”

“We’d better go, then,” said Mr. Hammond, his face eloquent of woe. “We came to talk about just that, you see. There isn’t a dashier player, or a stronger hitter, or a better shot at goal in Westchester County. Of course, there’s Tommy Watts. He could sub. But none of us want Tommy, he’s so wild with that whippy stick of his. Oh, why—why——”

“I haven’t seen Phil for nearly two weeks,” said Sue. “Grandmamma has been quite ill.”

“How is Mrs. Townsend?” inquired Mr. St. Ives. “Pardon our forgetting to ask. We’re so confounded worried——”

“Phil’s happiness must come before polo,” went on Sue very decidedly. “Surely you didn’t think that I would conspire against him.”

“Oh, nothing of the sort!” cried Mr. Graves. “Our hope wasn’t that you would butt in—that is, interfere unpleasantly—and break things up. On the contrary, we wanted you to—er—well, to sort of stampede Genevieve so that she’d say ‘Yes’ at once, or maybe elope. Oh, if Phil only had an old cat of a mother who would oppose the match!”

Sue looked down at her boots. Then, after a moment’s thought: “If you like Phil, and think so[162] badly of Genevieve,” she argued, “why should you wish to see them marry? I refuse to be the cat.”

“The Hadbury game!” cried Mr. Hammond. “Sue, we want to win that game!”

“Well,” she said, “if Phil really loves Genevieve, and if Genevieve loves Phil, I’ll try my best to—to—but I make you no promise. I shall think only of their happiness, of course.”

The three filed to the door. There they turned. “Point out to Genevieve,” suggested Mr. St. Ives, “that Hillcrest is an ideal place for entertaining.”

“And mention,” added Mr. Graves, “that Phil’s income is in the first flight—oh, don’t omit that.”

“But, above all things, cut down the dangling,”—this from Mr. Hammond. They shook hands with her impressively and filed out into the hall.

Sue returned to the plump chair and sat down. Directly before her was the writing-desk with its pair of silver-bordered photographs. She studied the pictures earnestly for a while. And when she turned from them it was to go to a mirror and look at her own reflection—long and keenly and with honest eyes. There were her horseback freckles, dotting her nose as the stars dot the sky, and her square, little, undimpled chin, and her sunburned cheeks, roughened by all the winds of spring. “Ah,” she said at last, “she is so beautiful. I love her for her beauty, too. I don’t blame anybody for loving her.” Then she left the mirror and went back to the chair before the couch.

Many another person had contrasted the two. And not a few of the Country Club members openly asserted—and with wrath—that Genevieve Unger’s[163] desire for Sue Townsend’s society lay in the fact that Sue, with her wisp of a figure and her irregular little face, served as a contrast to the other girl’s stateliness and radiant beauty. But there were other striking contrasts between the girls, apart from the one of looks. As one club wag put it, a mere comparison of their footwear accounts for the year presented the essential difference between them. During the season, Sue wore out two pairs of riding-boots, tan; one pair of riding-boots, black; one pair of boots for climbing; three pairs of stout shoes for morning wear; six pairs of sandals suitable for use in the surf; ten pairs of tennis shoes, and two pairs of slippers; while Genevieve’s list for the same length of time included six pairs of boudoir slippers; six pairs of carriage shoes—to match as many gowns; one pair of high-heeled shoes unsuitable for street wear; and twenty-two pairs of slippers in velvet, satin and kid.

But to Sue, ready for her ride forty minutes ahead of the appointed time, only one contrast appeared. And when Mr. Rawson was announced she sprang from her chair, bade the servant tell him that she would be down in one moment, and fled up the stairs to her dressing-room, where she dabbed a bit of powder upon the offending nose, fluffed out her hair at either temple, and donned a white chiffon veil.

But Phil barely glanced at her as she came out to her horse. His eyes, blue like her own, had a far-away expression in them, and he answered her greeting absent-mindedly. When he had put her up and mounted his own pony he rode away beside her at a[164] walk, his look fixed ahead of him eagerly but unseeing; his lips parted in a faint smile. Behind them, at the prescribed distance, followed the red-cheeked, red-haired groom.

Sue said nothing, letting her companion have all his thoughts for himself. Every now and then she gave him a quick, inquiring glance.

When he broke silence at last he spoke musingly—almost as if to himself. “What a day to be at the dentist’s,” he said. “I hope he won’t hurt her.”

“Dentist’s?” inquired Sue. “Who’s gone?”

“Why—Miss Unger.” He coloured self-consciously.

“Oh, has she?” went on Sue, surprised. “Are you sure? I thought this was the date for that lawn fête at the Fanshaws’—Greenwich, you know—for the benefit of something or other. Genevieve telephoned me she’d promised to go and sell fudge.”

“But she went to town instead,”—this with finality.

At this point, Sue thought of Messrs. Hammond, Graves and St. Ives, and of the oncoming contest at Hadbury. “Did you play this morning?” she asked. “I suppose the team is getting splendidly drilled.”

“I suppose so,” he answered vaguely. He was looking far ahead once more.

“I think I’ll ask Genevieve to drive to Hadbury with me the day of the game,” resumed Sue.

He turned toward her, then, undisguised pleasure brightening his face: “How you always think of doing nice things for others!” he said. “Go, Sue. It’ll be a corking match.”

[165]“I wouldn’t miss it for anything. And, of course, I’d take Genevieve. One can’t help doing nice things for her. Isn’t she beautiful, Phil!” She said it earnestly.

“So beautiful that most of the girls aren’t especially kind to her,” Phil answered. “Just this morning Elizabeth Carlton had to throw out something—a nasty hint, you understand. It was about Valentine, that English chap who’s been at the club so much lately.”

“I really don’t know him,” returned Sue. “But I’ve heard——”

“Yes, and I’ll wager it’s all true,” went on Phil hotly. “He isn’t the sort of a man you’d like to see her marry.”

“Phil, you’ve fallen a victim, too,” said Sue gently.

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Well, I told you you would.”

After that the conversation was still of Genevieve, until the gates of Arbor Lodge were passed again—of Genevieve, the queenly; Genevieve, the faultless; and (with a little embarrassment on Phil’s part) of Genevieve, the trampler of hearts.

“You’ll be at practice to-morrow morning, won’t you?” asked Sue, from the terrace steps. “Let me know when you can ride again. I hate going out alone.”

Phil headed his horse toward home. “Oh, yes, I’ll play in the morning,” he answered; “but I’ll take a car out in the afternoon, probably. Good-bye, Sue.” And with Larry following hard on his tracks he galloped away.

[166]Sue drove over to The Lilacs immediately after breakfast, the day of the Hadbury game—to find Genevieve still in a soft dressing-gown of cobwebby lace and pink ribbons, lazily sipping her chocolate. She held up a satin cheek to be kissed.

“I’m on time, you see,” laughed Sue. “But don’t hurry. I’ve got the Lenox wagon and the bay ponies, and we’ll go a-zipping. How did the lawn fête turn out?”

Genevieve did not look up, but broke her toast with tapering fingers. “I didn’t go,” she said carelessly, after a moment of silence.

“Oh!” Sue’s tone was one of relief. “So you went to town, after all—Phil said you had. We hoped the dentist didn’t hurt you.”

A shade of annoyance crossed the face of the other girl. Then, “He didn’t, thank you,” she said shortly, and got up to make ready for the drive.

The two arrived at Hadbury in plenty of time. It was a perfect morning—the sun warm, the air soft and still, the sky cloudless—and the scene at the polo-field was a gay one. On one side of the rectangle rose the “ladies’ stand,” a grassy slope occupied by little groups of people who had come on foot; on the other side, at a discreet distance, was a line of vehicles. Sue guided her scampering ponies midway of the line, between two other teams. Phil came over to them for a moment. Others gathered, too, until there was a man for every spoke of the nigh front wheel, and dark-eyed Genevieve held a little court.

There were no callers at the off wheel, and Sue had all her attention for the lines. So she protested[167] to Phil against his having sent the red-haired, red-cheeked Shadow to stand at her horses’ heads. “I don’t need him,” she said, “and it makes the ponies cross to be held.”

“Larry came of his own accord,” whispered Phil. “He’s an obliging lad, and he likes you.”

At that, Sue brightened and observed the red-haired lad pleasantly. But Larry did not see her kindly glance. Standing straight, with heel to heel and a hand at either bit, his gaze was fixed in open, undisguised wonderment upon the beautiful Miss Unger.

Soon the match began—and went superbly. To quote Mr. Hammond, it was “the greatest ever since the Persians played polo, by Jove!” Upon the vivid green of the field went the teams, playing a hard-galloping, hard-hitting game, in which Phil particularly distinguished himself. He rode the brown pony, and his sleeves were rolled up, his head was bare, despite the heavy sticks that described circles about him, his hair flew in the wind like a young Indian’s. Now his orders rang out sharp and clear—“Take the ball!” or “Back-hander there!” or “Ride the man and leave the ball!” And his mount sped up and down; his square-headed stick did skilful work.

“It’s an education to watch him,” declared Sue enthusiastically, as a rousing bravo from a group of onlooking men went up, for Phil had just dashed in, changed places with Number Three and made a brilliant stroke.

Genevieve did not answer. She was talking to a tall man with a face the approximate shade of[168] Larry’s. “May I present Mr. Valentine?” she asked presently, with some affectation, “—late of the English Army, you know.”

Sue bowed.

“Churmed,” observed Mr. Valentine, in what was to Sue an entirely new British mode of pronunciation.

At the end of the first period Phil came over to the wagon a second time and chatted with Genevieve, who was looking particularly handsome in a mauve linen and a tailored hat—so handsome that Sue, dressed in less striking colours, seemed white and tired in comparison. Again a group was gathered at Genevieve’s side of the wagon, but Sue, more quiet than was her wont, had no smiles for them. She looked away between the paper goal-posts that, painted in wide cream-and-blue bands, loomed up near by like giant sticks of candy.

“This afternoon he’ll motor”—it was Mr. St. Ives who was talking; he was standing beside Phil. “To-morrow afternoon he’ll motor. The next afternoon he’ll go out in his car.” Then he made a wry face and reached over the back of the seat to seize Sue’s fingers and squeeze them gratefully under a pretext of shaking hands.

“Will you go this afternoon, Miss Unger?” asked Phil. “My ten minutes are nearly up, aren’t they, Sue?”

“Sue’s only got her locket,” said Miss Unger with a lazy smile.

“Well, what’s the time by your locket, Sue?” demanded Mr. St. Ives, and reached for it.

Sue slipped the locket inside her shirtwaist.

“Say yes, Miss Unger,” urged Phil.

[169]“I’m fearfully sorry—I really can’t go this afternoon.” Genevieve gave a quick glance past Phil to the man behind him—Valentine. “I have an engagement.”

At that, Phil fell back, his face suddenly grave, lifted a hand in a gay salute and strode away.

But throughout the remainder of the game he played harder than ever, and with such coolness, resource and accuracy that there was frequent hand-clapping from the line of vehicles, and even Hadbury parasols were waved from the ladies’ stand; while to one side, where the extra ponies waited, groom leaned to groom, commenting excitedly. But when the match was done, with the Brampton team victors, he disappeared, and Sue did not see him again. She got away as soon as she could manage it, and turned the bays homeward at top speed.

“Don’t you think Mr. Valentine handsome?” asked Genevieve, as they rolled along. “Soldierly, I think.”

“Bob doesn’t believe the man has ever been in the army,” said Sue. “And he says Mr. Valentine owes everyone in Brampton.”

Genevieve opened her eyes. “Why, Sue!” she exclaimed. “I’ve never heard you repeat things against anyone before. Mr. Valentine has plenty of money. And shopkeepers always gossip to curry favor with servants.”

“And Bob says he gambles,” persisted Sue. “I like you too well to see him claim any of your attention.”

“Don’t all men gamble?” demanded Genevieve.

“Not professionally—that’s common.”

Genevieve put up her pretty chin. “It’s hardly[170] any commoner than gossip,” she answered. “However, I’ve noticed that if a man is distinguished he gets a lot of criticism. But”—with a shrug—“one never minds the criticism of kids.”

Sue said nothing.

She left Genevieve at The Lilacs and went home. But she had only arrived when she was summoned to the telephone. As she took the receiver she could hear sobbing. Then, “Sue!” wailed a voice—Genevieve’s; “l-look in the wagon, Sue. I—I lost my p-purse this morning.” She began to sob again.

Sue gave a prompt order. “Dear Genevieve,” she answered back, “don’t worry. The purse is sure to turn up.” A few minutes later she was in the carriage-house, dressed for riding. And when she learned that no purse had been found, telephoned Genevieve again before mounting the grey to ride to The Lilacs.

Genevieve was gone to Hadbury when Sue arrived, Phil having urged that an advertisement be placed at once in the Star, together with the offer of a suitable reward.

“Then Phil came, after all,” said Sue. She was walking to and fro in the old-fashioned drawing-room.

“I called him,” answered Mrs. Vander Laan, who was a little old lady with an enthusiastic liking for young people. “When he got here he telephoned to have the field searched; then started. The reward is to be one hundred dollars.”

“That much?” asked the girl. “The purse must have contained a good deal.”

[171]“Exactly seven hundred,” said Mrs. Vander Laan; “all of her month’s allowance. Wasn’t she foolish to be carrying so much about with her! But the sweet child was so pretty as she wept.”

“Seven hundred!” exclaimed Sue. “Has she any idea where she lost it?”

“She thinks it was when she was just starting for home. She remembers having the purse when she was still at the polo-field. She says you drove so rapidly——”

“I did,” admitted Sue, conscience-stricken. “Oh, I sha’n’t let her lose it, Mrs. Vander Laan. It was my fault. Why didn’t she deposit it in a bank that day she went into town?”

Mrs. Vander Laan was embroidering. Now she suddenly stopped and looked up at Sue. “But she hasn’t been to town,” she declared.

“Not to the dentist’s?” asked Sue, “—the day of the Fanshaw garden fête?”

“No, dear. She went driving with Mr. Valentine.”

“Oh.” Sue began to walk the floor again.

She was still walking when Genevieve and Phil came in. “Genevieve, I’m so sorry,” she cried, giving her hand to the other girl. “Tell me something to do.”

Genevieve met her sympathy ungraciously. “Oh, don’t bother,” she said with a little irritation. “I’d rather not have such a fuss made about it.” Then, to Mrs. Vander Laan: “May we have tea, mütterchen? Sue, take Mr. Rawson home with you and jolly him up with some tennis.”

But Phil did not look like a candidate for “jollying[172] up.” He turned to Sue. “To think that Miss Unger carried the money all around New York that afternoon in a hand-bag that anybody might have grabbed,” he said, “and then lost it at the polo match.”

Mrs. Vander Laan had stopped to look up again. Sue was close by, suddenly pink with embarrassment for Genevieve, who was rattling the cups and saucers at the tea-table.

“All around New York?” repeated Mrs. Vander Laan. “Why do you say that, Mr. Rawson? Genevieve hasn’t been to New York.”

Genevieve whirled toward them now, anger flaming in her cheeks. “Oh, please, please let the matter of the money drop!” she exclaimed. “If I’d staked it at bridge and lost it you’d have all thought it a good joke.”

“Indeed not,” replied the little old lady, suddenly sitting up. “I think gambling——”

But what she thought was left unsaid. For at that moment the drawing-room door was opened by a maid and Mr. Aubrey Valentine was announced.

Phil went home in the wake of Sue’s pony. Once she glanced round at him as she galloped. His lips were set, his feet were braced, his cap was pulled far down. He circled his machine into the driveway leading up to Arbor Lodge with preciseness.

They were out in the wicker chairs at the tennis-court before he spoke. Then he faced her squarely and blurted out one sentence: “Sue, she lied to me.”

“Now, Phil,” began Sue, “didn’t you ask her something you had no right to ask? You met her[173] two weeks ago—just two weeks. Since then you’ve claimed her time pretty steadily, haven’t you? She didn’t want to go out with you that day; she wanted to do something else.”

“She lied to me,” repeated Phil.

“She may have fibbed. Most women do that. You cornered her, probably.”

“It wasn’t necessary to lie.”

“She thought it was.”

“Where did she go?” His eyes narrowed.

Sue shook her head smiling. “Have you any right to know, Phil? Now, think?”

“No. But you remember Elizabeth Carlton’s nasty hint? I spoke of it. Is it possible——” He turned away impatiently.

“Listen, Phil,” she begged. “I’ll ask Genevieve about it, and then tell you what she says. She’ll explain it all satisfactorily, I’m sure. The dear girl is so worried to-day, Phil, she’s likely to say almost anything. Seven hundred is a lot to lose.”

“Oh, never mind asking her,” said Phil. “I suppose you’re right.” He chose a racquet and played until early twilight. Then, bareheaded and smiling once more, he went chugging away down the drive.

Larry met him as he turned in at the gate of his own estate. The man was not in his wonted livery, but was outward bound along the drive, dressed in a Sixth Avenue copy of Phil’s newest Fifth Avenue lounge suit—a copy that had exaggerated scallops cut out of cuffs and pocket-flaps. “I’ve got news, sir,” he announced, holding up a hand.

“News?—about what, Larry? Jump in.” The[174] car came to a stop under the arc-light at the gate.

“Jim come home from Hadbury at six, sir,” began Larry, his red face blowzier than usual and his eyes wide with excitement; “and he says to me, ‘Larry, the Princess’ (that’s what we call Miss Unger, sir)—‘the Princess lost seven hunderd-dollar bills at the Hadbury polo-grounds to-day.’ I kicked my heels clean into the air, sir, I was that happy——”

“Why, Larry!”

“I found ’em, sir.” Now his face was fairly purple with joy.

“You found them!” repeated his master. “Well, that is luck!”

“Here, sir.” Larry produced a slender purse of brown seal from the inside pocket of his coat. “You was gone before I could tell you.”

“Are you sure it’s Miss Unger’s?” asked Phil.

“I haven’t looked into it, sir.”

Seated, heads together, they opened the purse. “Two, four, six, seven,” counted Phil, lifting the crisp bills when he had flattened them out. “Sure enough! Well, Larry, you light the lamps, and we’ll make The Lilacs two-forty. I’ll wait at the side gate; and don’t you say anything about my being there. I couldn’t go in. Just ask for Miss Unger and hand her the purse.”

“Me, sir?” asked Larry. “Me take it to the Princess?”

“Yes. We won’t let her stay worried a second longer than we can help. Here—put the purse into your pocket again. Miss Unger has offered a reward, Larry, but I’ll give you the hundred myself.[175] I’d rather. Are we ready? Good!” The car went forward at a bound.

“Bless you, sir, I don’t want no reward,” the man answered. “Why, it’s reward enough just to have her talk to me, sir, for ten minutes, maybe, and thank me, and—and smile. Many’s the time I’ve looked at her, sir, like I’d look at a beautiful star, and I’ve said to myself, ‘I’d like to have a missis like her.’”

“Oh, you would.” The car came to a stop at Mrs. Vander Laan’s side gate.

“Yes, sir—you’ll excuse me, sir,” added Larry quickly. The gravity and thoughtfulness in the other’s tone seemed very like reproof. Then the groom sprang down from his seat and was off toward the house at a run.

He was breathless when he reached the servants’ entrance. But while he waited he recovered his breath instead of imparting his good news to the maid who welcomed him. Also (that same maid remarked upon it afterward), he twirled his hat constantly, refused to sit down, and kept wetting his lips as if he were nervous. Then—he was in the old-fashioned, dimly-lighted drawing-room, his hat revolving steadily and his tongue cloven to the roof of his mouth.

She came presently, sweeping through a door at the farther end of the long, high room. She was in pink—a cloudy pink that set off her loveliness marvelously. And as she advanced toward him Larry forgot to do anything but look.

“You wish to see me?” she asked.

“Y-Yes, Miss. You lost a purse this mornin’.”


[176]“I found it, Miss.”

She gave a cry of delight. “You found it! Oh, I’m so glad!”

Larry hung his hat between his knees, despite the fact that these were trembling. Then he held out a coat-lapel with one hand and reached into an inner pocket with the other. “Here, Miss,” he said proudly, and laid the purse upon the table beside which she stood; after that he recovered his hat.

She caught the purse up with another little cry—an inarticulate cry. Then she turned and walked swiftly to the yellow-shaded candelabrum on a second table at the farther end of the long room. Here she opened the purse, leaning down with her back toward him.

It was fully a minute before she straightened and turned and came toward him once more, slowly, the bills in her hand. As she paused near him, something—a change in her carriage or her look—made him retreat a step.

“Where did you find it?” she asked brusquely.

“Not ten feet from where the wagon stood, Miss. It must ’a’ fell in turnin’.”

She was silent a moment. Then, “So you knew where the wagon stood,” she commented. There was no attempt to hide the meaning in her voice.

“I—I seen where you was,” stammered Larry, shifting from one foot to the other.

“Indeed! You were present at the game, then?”

“Yes, Miss. After the ladies and gents went I goes across to that side—ridin’. There she laid, big as life.”

[177]“I see.” She walked to and fro a few steps. After a little she paused in her walk and spoke again: “You know of the reward, I suppose?”

“Oh, yes, Miss, but——”

She interrupted him. Her eyes were angry, her slender figure was rigid, as if with some sudden resolution. “Why did you wait until now?” she demanded. “It’s after seven o’clock. You knew it was mine.”

“When Jim told me about the advertisement I did, Miss, and I says to myself, ‘Wasn’t you a crazy not to guess whose it was?’ I says. But, you see, I was on the other side of the field most of the time.”

Most of the time,” she repeated, a little sneeringly. “Were you near the wagon at all?”

Her reference was plain. He rubbed at his chin with the back of a shaking hand. “Well, I—I held Miss Townsend’s team a bit,” he admitted huskily.

“Oh, you did!” There was a triumphant ring in her voice. “Then I think you have impudence to dare to come to me. If you didn’t take the purse——”


“—You picked it up knowing it belonged to me. And you held it until I offered a reward, instead of coming straight here to give it back. What is the difference between that and theft?”

He made no reply, only stood, his back against the door, and stared at her.

“I shall not pay you the reward,” she went on. “I found out something about you when you first came in. I counted the money there at that table”—she[178] pointed to the other end of the room—“and there weren’t seven bills in the purse. Look!” she held six out to him.

His jaw set. He stood upon both feet, bringing heel to heel, his arms at his side.

She flung up one hand. “Don’t deny it!” she cried. “I gave you a chance a moment ago to say that you’d helped yourself to the reward. You kept still. One hundred wasn’t enough. You wanted two—for hanging about and pilfering.” She stopped, panting with excitement. Presently she continued, crumpling the bills in her fingers: “You thought because I’m a woman that I wouldn’t count the money. You thought you could take advantage. I ought to put you under arrest.”

To that he said nothing.

“But I won’t—I don’t want the notoriety. I’ve got the purse back and all the money I expected. But who are you? You sha’n’t leave this room till you tell me that.”

“As long as you think the way you do, it don’t matter who I am.”

“Ah! So you daren’t tell your name! But I know your face—now that I’ve looked at you well. And I’d know you again anywhere. You’re employed about here. You’re a groom.”

“Yes, I’m a groom,” he answered; “I’m Mr. Philip Rawson’s man.”

Now there was a long silence. He rested his weight on one foot again, and folded his arms, with his hat under one of them. He was pale, and met her look with resentful calm. She stood, swaying a little and swallowing.

[179]“So you work for Mr. Rawson?” she said finally, her voice uneven. “He’s a friend, and I don’t intend that any friend of mine shall keep a man like you in his employ. I shall see him about you. That is all. You may go.”

The young master of Hillcrest was out of his machine and pacing the walk impatiently when Larry came into sight, and he advanced a few steps to meet the man, scarcely able to restrain his eagerness. “Well, Larry,” he began, “was the Princess made happy?”

Larry did not reply at once. But as he paused in the light of the automobile lamps his face looked a deathly white, and his red hair seemed to be standing out straight and stiff, like bristles.


“She ain’t no princess!” said the man. “And I don’t think her beautiful no more. If you could a-seen her, sir,—why, she crumpled up, her face did, like the money in her fingers. She was afraid I’d want that hunderd, you see. So I hadn’t been in the room two minutes before she’d slipped a bill and then called me a thief.”

“For Heaven’s sake, man!”

“A thief!—as if I’d chance bein’ let out by you, sir, for the sake of a hunderd dollars! I knowed that minute how I’d been mistaken in her—terrible. She ain’t no thoroughbred, sir. There’s Miss Townsend—fifteen hands and ev’ry inch a lady—would she a-done me like that? This is bold talk, and you’ll feel like kickin’ me from here to Brampton. But I’m thinkin’ too much of you to pick words—I’m thinkin’ so much of you I’d hate to see you[180] marry her. And, now, I’ve got you down on me, sir. She’ll tell you I lied for spite because I didn’t get the money. It ain’t spite—nothin’ like it, sir. But you won’t believe me against her—I know that. And it means I’ll have to leave Hillcrest. Well, I’ll go, sir,—I’ll go. I couldn’t work for her, anyhow, you see, sir. So—good—good-bye, sir.”

It was a week later before Sue heard the story of Larry and the seven one-hundred-dollar bills. Then Phil told it to her—one afternoon when he came to join her in a horseback ride. After he had told it (they were in the library at Arbor Lodge), he leaned back in his chair, his crop across his knees, and studied her face.

Sue looked troubled. “Oh, I think there must be some dreadful mistake about the whole thing,” she said. “I don’t mean that Larry isn’t honest—I think he is. He’s got a nice face, and I simply couldn’t lose faith in a red-headed person.”

Phil smiled. “And you simply couldn’t say anything against anybody,” said he; “I know that. But this involves theft, Sue.”

Sue looked more troubled than ever. “We’ll all steal if we’re sufficiently tempted,” she declared. “Isn’t that so? You or I wouldn’t steal money. That’s because we don’t need it.”

“Larry was entitled to the reward; but he didn’t have the slightest idea of accepting one cent. What he did expect was—Gad! what a backhander!”

“But, Phil,” she said, “you mustn’t let the word of a groom make any difference between you and Genevieve.”

[181]“I won’t.”

“Genevieve wouldn’t be so tricky, Phil.”

Phil said nothing.

“She must have thought Larry guilty if she was so severe with him,” persisted Sue. “She’s so just. And generosity itself.”

Phil looked at his boots.

“My servants adore her.”

Phil examined the end of his crop.

“Give her a chance to explain, Phil, at the Carltons’ to-night.”

“I’m not going. Are you?”

“No. I’ve planned an early canter for to-morrow.”

He leaned forward. “Am I included?” he asked.

She regarded him critically, and reflected that he looked pale. “Would you like to go—this afternoon and to-morrow, too?”

“I’d like to go,” he declared. “There’s Wheaton Hill, too; we haven’t been there yet. And those collies of Bob’s—if we don’t watch out they’ll be grown dogs before we see ’em.”

She hesitated a little. Then, “I wouldn’t care to have Genevieve think,” she began, “that I’d stayed away from the Carltons’, and that you stayed away, too, and that we——”

“May I come?” he persisted, and rose.

Again she looked at him critically. His manner was not cheerless—yet what pain might not be hidden by bravado? “Yes, come,” she said.

Looking down at her, he saw that her eyes were full of pity and sympathy and tender appeal—yes, and tears. He came to stand in front of her. “Do[182] you know,” he said, “I think Genevieve is an epidemic. We’ve all had it, by Jove, just as if it were contagious. But, luckily, it’s not incurable.”

“Let’s not criticise her, Phil.”

He smiled and shook his head. “You’ve got the disease worse than anybody,” he declared. He swept one arm about the room, pointing—to the picture of Genevieve on the mantle; to the two pictures of Genevieve on the writing-desk; to the panel between the two bookcases, where Genevieve was feeding the fawn. “One, two, three, four,” he counted. Then he looked at the round gold locket hanging between the lapels of her coat. “And I’ll bet a pony that there’s a picture of Genevieve in that locket,” he added.

She blushed, hastily hid the locket in the palm of a hand, and stood up. “The brown pony?” she said.

“Books, gloves, cigars, ties,” enumerated Phil, “I don’t care what you bet. Come!”

“I like that brown pony. But—I shan’t bet.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m betting about something that I know about, and you’re betting about something that you don’t know about. It would be taking advantage of you.”

“Is it that, or is it that you don’t want to admit that you’ve got the Genevieve epidemic?”

Two spots of scarlet brightened her cheeks. “I’ll wager a box of gloves with you against the pony that Genevieve’s picture isn’t in this locket; but on one condition: Grandmamma must look at the locket and tell you Yes or No.”

[183]He shook his head. “I won’t agree to that. I’ve got to look at it myself.”

Sue also shook her head. “The bet is off,” she said. “Sorry.”

“Oh, come on!” he entreated. “I’ll never throw it up to you—honest.”

Sue moved away to the hearth. “No,” she said decidedly.

He followed her, laughing, and pried open her fingers. She seized the chain and pulled back. He held on to the locket and stood his ground. The next moment the chain broke and slipped through Sue’s fingers, and the locket was in his hand.

Sue sprang forward and tried to regain it. “Oh, Phil, don’t look!” she pleaded. “Please, Phil, please. You——”

But he had fled to the other end of the room, pressed the locket-spring, looked, caught his breath, stared at her in amazement, backed a step——

She covered her face with her trembling fingers. “Oh, Phil!” she whispered tearfully; “Oh, Phil!”

He ran to her then and caught her to him. “Sue!” he cried tenderly. “My girl! How could you keep it there—when I’ve been such a fool! But this whole thing has taught me what your dear comradeship means to me, and just how much I love you.” And he drew her trembling hands away while he kissed her.

She clung to him, crying, and hid her face; then smiled up at him through swimming eyes, and drew his face down to hers.

“Where did you get it, Sue?” he asked.

“You remember the party your mother gave for[184] your sixteenth birthday?” she whispered. “Well, that night this was in her dressing-room. And—and—you know I said either one of us would do if we were tempted just right—Phil, I—I stole it!”

Opening his eyes in mock displeasure, Phil held her at arm’s length for a moment. Then very solemnly, he led her to a window. “You stole it?” he said; “you—fifteen hands and every inch a lady? Well, let me warn you never, never to let that man know!” And he pointed down to the edge of the terrace where, waiting, with one hand at the bit of a grey pony, and the other at the bit of a brown, stood a red-haired, red-cheeked groom.



A FLUFF of brown hair through which ran unexpected glints of yellow; unforgettable violet-blue eyes, curtained by black lashes that were long and upcurling; a straight nose of a much-approved size, with delicately thin nostrils; a small, very red, and somewhat pouty mouth; a determined chin; rounded cheeks just brushed by scarlet and punctuated by a pair of busy and bewitching dimples; a slender throat; a svelte, girlish figure in a smart, linen trotteur; the very newest—and tiniest—thing in sensibly stout tan walking-boots; and, lastly, to top the rest, an irresistible millinery confection in tones of buff and crocus, with feathers to dance against the fluff of hair below—all this was Agatha Kerr, beautiful, adorable, spoiled Agatha Kerr.

At the moment, she was seated in a high-backed chair in the inner law-office of Avery & Avery. Her face was flushed with annoyance, and she was poking viciously at her boots with the point of her parasol. “A woman of twenty-two,” she burst forth presently, with a resentful toss of her head, “a college graduate, should certainly be able to go out of the house by herself.”

Close beside her sat her aunt, a lady whose chin was quite as unyielding as her own. At this point,[186] Auntie rolled her eyes at Mr. Avery and sniffed audibly.

“And conduct her chosen life’s work,” resumed Agatha, striking a higher key, “without being constantly harassed!”

“You are to be protected,” contradicted her aunt, crisply serene. “Mr. Avery, this child is studying—er, what do you call it, Agatha?”

“Sociology,” again attacking her boots.

Mr. Avery looked incredulous. A young woman whose thoughts turned to philosophy should be a homely and angular female with large feet, a thinned coiffure, no waist-line, and a general appearance of having dressed overhastily. But here——

“It is a study that takes her into places,” continued the elder woman, “where a young lady should not be seen alone.”

“Methods of study have changed,” said Mr. Avery. “I discover that in discussions with my nephew.”

“Geoffrey?” questioned Auntie. “Isn’t he up at Columbia?”

“No, he has graduated and is here with me, reading law.”

“Auntie,” began Agatha pityingly, “doesn’t realise that a young woman meets with far more courteous treatment on the East side than she does elsewhere in town.”

“I regret to admit,” said Auntie with polite heat, “that to me her sociology, so far, has seemed nothing but—but——”

“Say it! Say it!” cried Agatha.

“Well, then, madcap gadding.”

[187]Agatha rippled out a laugh. “Auntie doesn’t understand. I am working on a thesis for my master’s degree—‘The Influence of Alien Immigration upon the Metropolitan Body Politic.’”

Mr. Avery nodded. “My dear Miss Connaughton” (Auntie was Miss Connaughton), “what have I to do with Miss Agatha’s thesis?”

“A suitable person,” answered Miss Connaughton, “a gentleman, of course—for no woman, however quick on her feet, could ever keep up with Agatha—must be found who will act as her escort.”

“Ah!” said Mr. Avery, smiling. “A gentleman in waiting for the princess!”

Agatha’s lip curled. “Oh, no,” returned she ironically; “an attendant for the lunatic.”

This Miss Connaughton ignored. “I came to you, Mr. Avery,” she said, “hoping you could recommend someone.”

Mr. Avery pursed his lips thoughtfully.

“I want an educated mind for this particular duty,” added Miss Connaughton, with meaning.

Agatha rippled another laugh. “Auntie wants a nice, little tattletale to listen and report—a sort of afternoon-tea Pinkerton.”

“I still insist,” declared Miss Connaughton.

Agatha’s wrath blazed up anew. “Very well,” she said decisively. “If I must have someone tagging at my heels night and day, night and day” (jab, jab), “the only escort I shall accept will be deaf and dumb.”

Miss Connaughton threw up her hands. So did Mr. Avery: he clapped one over his mouth.

[188]Deaf and dumb!” gasped Miss Connaughton weakly.

“Yes,” said Agatha triumphantly. “On that condition, I’ll agree.”

Mr. Avery, now unable wholly to contain himself, indulged in a broad grin. “The idea isn’t half bad,” he said.

“Thank you,” from Agatha.

Miss Connaughton returned to the contest. “But the newspapers would surely get it!” she wailed, suddenly aware of the dramatics of the situation.

Agatha put out one small, gloved hand toward her kinswoman. “My aunt,” said she, “lives in daily horror of having the proud name of Connaughton dragged into the vulgar press. Well, I can just see the headlines: ‘Miss Connaughton’s Ward Has Softening of the Brain!’ Oh, it will be the limit!”

Agatha!” groaned Miss Connaughton.

Mr. Avery interrupted hastily. “The suggestion as to a deaf-and-dumb attendant,” he began, coughing professionally, “is I think, an excellent one. Such a person would fulfil your requirements, madam.” This to Miss Connaughton, who had sunk back, chin on breast, in what was almost a state of collapse. Then, to Agatha, “May I ask if there are other specifications?”

“Well, yes,” drawled she teasingly, a roguish twinkle in those violet-blue eyes, “he must be good-looking” (Miss Connaughton’s brow clouded) “and smart in appearance. Why,” with an experienced air, “there isn’t any part of New York so quick to note the difference between real and sham people as[189] the East Side, and the children have a most embarrassing way of throwing valuless etceteras.”

Mr. Avery picked up a pencil. “Deaf and dumb, good-looking, young, smartly dressed,” he enumerated. “Anything else?”

“Let—me—see,” pondered Agatha. After a moment, “I think I shan’t bother to stipulate the colour of his eyes and hair.”

“Huh!” observed Auntie.

“I shall have no difficulty in finding a person very soon who will fit these requirements,” said Mr. Avery briskly.

Agatha rose, gave him a dainty curtsy, and approached the door. It was just at this point that she got a bad start. Miss Connaughton was beside Mr. Avery’s desk imparting something in confidence. Agatha, twirling her parasol and proudly ignoring her aunt’s whispering, dropped into a chair and was making a leisurely survey of the room, when——

She had not particularly noticed, before this, the long, high reference table that occupied one whole side of the office and was piled with books. Under it now, against the claw-feet of a revolving chair, she spied something—a pair of neat, brown half-shoes! Above these were a few squares inches of hosiery—plaid hosiery. There was a man behind that table!

It was the plaid that caught Agatha’s eye: it was so absolutely out of the ordinary, and, in fact, noisy—broad blue and green stripes at right angles across a drab ground. It betokened importation. “And from France,” concluded Agatha shrewdly;[190] for on the drab ground, between the stripes, were cunningly worked French knots.

There was another member of the firm of Avery & Avery—Mr. Avery, Jr. Perhaps this was he—eavesdropping. But, no; he was a gentleman with a grown son. The plaid-hosiery person was a young clerk with loud taste, and he was really not worth a second thought. “Come, Auntie, please,” said Agatha, with all the dignity she could command. Then she swept out.

It was quite wonderful how promptly Mr. Avery, Sr., disposed of the matter of the escort. The very next day Agatha was informed that the attorney wished to speak with her over the telephone, and no sooner had she popped the receiver to her pink ear than a man’s voice hailed her with a brisk “Good-morning” that bespoke success. And how nice and deep his voice was over the wire! Why, not at all like his usual, every-day voice!

“Good-morning,” returned Agatha. “I hope you’ve found someone. I wanted to attend a meeting of the Cigarette Makers to-day. But” (a little sulkily) “the moment I mentioned it Auntie developed a case of ocular neuralgia.”

There came back a hearty laugh, then, “Oh, say, Miss Agatha, I can settle that neuralgia.”

“You mean you’ve found him?” asked Agatha; “so soon?”

“He’s a fellow that I know very intimately—better than anybody else. Known him for twenty-five years.”

“Oh, how old is he?”

“Just twenty-five. I’ve known him since he was a baby.”

[191]“Is he deaf and dumb?”

“He won’t listen, and he won’t gossip,” declared Mr. Avery.

“Graduate of an institution?”


“But,” objected Agatha, “uniforms are so conspicuous.”

“He doesn’t wear one,” answered Mr. Avery.

“Does he talk on his fingers?” asked Agatha.

“Yes; but if he bothers you (because he’s an absent-minded fellow anyhow), why, you just tell him to muffle his hands in his pockets.”

Agatha sent one of her gay ripples over the wire. “But I can’t read finger-talk,” she protested.

“I’ve presented him with a pad and pencil. If he wants to scribble too much just give him the pocket-sign. Oh, don’t say you won’t take him,” pleaded Mr. Avery.

Agatha covered the transmitter with one hand for a moment. How—er—feelingly he said everything this morning! He didn’t at all sound like himself.

“When he comes,” continued Mr. Avery, “don’t forget to smile at him. The kinder you are the happier it’ll make him.”

“I won’t. The poor fellow!”

“Ah, Miss Agatha, he is a ‘poor fellow.’ So keep him with you just as much as you can. Have him show up before breakfast, and work him all day. He’s an accommodating duck. He wants to come right up.”

“Very well,” said Agatha. “Good-bye.”

Half an hour later Miss Connaughton and her niece met the escort in the library. For the elder lady it was a moment rich with satisfaction. By[192] now she had forgotten any concessions in Agatha’s favour, and felt that she had brought that wilful young person to terms. As for the tall, good-looking, well-dressed young man who awaited their entrance, he was plainly discomfited. For he was red.

“It is gratifying,” said Miss Connaughton, addressing him, “to know that my niece is to have your companionship and protection on her scholastic pilgrimages.”

Agatha bowed prettily. Then she remembered Mr. Avery’s advice. She smiled up at the young man. He took her hand and bent over it, looking down at her intently—perhaps rather too intently—and retaining her fingers a second too long.

“Auntie,” reminded Agatha, “he didn’t hear a single word you said.”

The next moment the escort drew forth a long, pink-covered pad to which was hung a lead-pencil patriotically wound with the Stars and Stripes. Upon the first clean, white page of the pad he wrote these words, “I understood something of your cordial greeting, madam, because I read the lips.”

Agatha stared at the sentence over Miss Connaughton’s shoulder. Then a swift flush of annoyance dyed that particular rounding of her cheeks where her dimples were. He could read the lips! She felt herself tricked. And it was on the tip of her tongue to say, “Auntie, is this your work?” or something equally severe, when she had an inspiration. Up came the dainty square of her handkerchief, to swing as a guard by a thumb and a forefinger.

“His reading the lips,” she said with airy indifference,[193] “doesn’t matter in the least. I have only to do this.” Which announcement was calculated to take the starch out of any fell designs of Auntie’s—if she had them.

“But, Agatha,” cried Miss Connaughton, seized by a terrifying thought, “if the man is deaf, how is he going to protect you from the surface cars?”

A succession of spasms crossed the face of the escort; his lips moved spasmodically. Then he began to write. When he had finished, he offered Miss Connaughton the pad. Upon it was: “Madam, I guessed rather than read your concern. Let me assure you that when cars approach me I feel the jar.”

Auntie sank back, somewhat eased in her mind, but Agatha read the words with staring eyes. Then up came the handkerchief again.

“Why,” she exclaimed, “he’s a regular professor of lip-reading!”

“Perhaps it’s just as well that he can read the lips,” said Miss Connaughton. “An exigency might arise, dear.” She leaned forward and touched the young man’s arm. “What—is—your—name?” she asked, articulating with exaggerated precision.

“If he understands, he’s as bad as a man that can hear,” put in Agatha, from behind her handkerchief. “And I won’t have him.”

But the escort was looking from aunt to niece in a puzzled fashion. Finally he shook his head.

“Your—name,” repeated Miss Connaughton.

Now sudden comprehension illumined his whole face. With an eager nod he seized the pencil and wrote, “In Yonkers.”

[194]“You see?” said Miss Connaughton. “He doesn’t always understand.” She graciously wrote the question.

Again his face lit up, and he looked a smiling apology. Then he hastily scribbled, “John McVicar.”

“Agatha,” said Miss Connaughton, “he’s a little too—er—actory-looking, according to my idea. But, being deaf and dumb, he will never presume——”

“Put up your handkerchief,” warned Agatha, colouring.

Just then the young man produced his own handkerchief, and began to cough violently into it. (It was a smart affair with a blue-dotted border.)

“Don’t cut me off in the middle that way,” said Miss Connaughton petulantly. “There is danger, Agatha, in bringing a strange young man into such close association with you. Have I ever seen any young man spend two hours in your company without——”

“Boo!” said Agatha, her dimples playing again.

“But,” said Miss Connaughton, “I shall engage him.” So thoroughly satisfied was she with the whole outcome of the matter that she even omitted to call up Mr. Avery to thank him.

A few minutes afterward Agatha and the escort were proceeding down Fifth Avenue. It was a walk Agatha always took when opportunity afforded. She liked the shops; she liked the moving lines of vehicles; she liked the swarming humans.

Just before the two reached Twenty-third Street, the escort drew to one side for a moment, and wrote[195] something on the pad. It was: “As I do not hear, I must put you to the annoyance of taking my arm when we cross the streets.”

“But,” Agatha scribbled back, “I thought you could hear rumbles.”

“Not wagon rumbles.”

Agatha took his arm—and kept it. She found the going noticeably pleasanter. He walked with his chin in, his shoulders back, his look straight ahead. Every now and then she glanced up at him, sidewise, from under the dancing plumes of the crocus confection. After which she always shook her head sadly. “What a pity he is d— and d—,” she said to herself. She could not bear, somehow, to say the whole words.

They were threading their way slowly along Avenue A when the escort was saluted by a friend—quite a presentable young man, who gave Mr. McVicar a resounding slap upon the shoulder. (Agatha had been separated from her escort by struggling pedestrians.) “Hello, Cub!” sang out the presentable young man.

Mr. McVicar turned with a start, glared for a second, went white and red by incredibly swift turns, and then—strode on.

“I say, Cub!” persisted the other. “Cub! Where you steering?”

The escort now halted abruptly, excused himself to Agatha by a bow, led the young man away a few steps, produced the pad and pencil, and inscribed a line. Whatever the statement was, the young man met it with relish and composure. He had, by now, caught sight of Agatha. So he removed[196] his hat and swept the air with it. Then, grinning, he pulled off a glove and made a few, swift finger-signs.

He must have signalled something rude, for as Mr. McVicar wheeled abruptly and joined Agatha, his expression was furious. And presently, having torn away a leaf of the pad, he wrote: “Morrison is a rank idiot. Known me a long time, but always forgets my infirmity.”

Infirmity! Agatha, as she tripped along, saw buildings and people suddenly reel and blur—through a mist of tears. His society had been thrust upon her: she had rebelled at it. Yet hers was a tender little heart, and that tender little heart ached to think how frankly he referred to what would have been worse than death to most men. Ah! that was the kind of bravery she liked! (They had come to a crossing where the pavement was torn up. She took his arm again.)

She resolved not to make his first day a difficult one, so she hailed a cross-town car that would carry them near to Macdougal Alley. She had promised to see a certain painting in one of the studios there. When they had seen it Agatha was thirsty. They sought a drug-store and had, each, a glass of sticky lemon-soda. Next, Agatha was tired. They made toward the nearest square and sat down.

It was one of those late summer days that suggest the nearing autumn: the sun was not too warm, the breeze was not too cool, and there was a delicious leafy smell in the air. Agatha leaned back, and dilated her nostrils to drink it all in.

Mr. McVicar, however, drove his pencil busily.[197] “That picture you selected,” he wrote “—you thought the subject good?”

Agatha looked at him in grave astonishment. “I thought the picture dreadful,” she answered, “but the artist needs money. It’s the third I’ve bought.”

He gave a hearty laugh. (She was relieved to find it clear and pleasantly modulated.) “I thought you were a sociological student. Do you favour indiscriminate charity, Miss Agatha?”

“I am opposed to it, theoretically, but we cannot judge the failures and condemn them and deny them help unless we first know what has been their milieu.”

“What a generous, womanly thought!” he commented. Presently he added, apropos of nothing, “You would be all forgiveness.” His expression became more grave than her own.

Agatha might have thought him too personal, even impertinent, but there was that level gaze, all honest admiration. Auntie herself could not have taken umbrage. Nobody could have. His eyes were grey—a very dark, expressive grey. She met them steadily for a moment. Then her own fell, and those long, up-curling, black lashes swept a cheek which had grown suddenly rosy.

He was writing again. “I can understand almost every word you say when your face is near.”

“Really?” she asked him.

He had leaned toward her. “Really,” he answered on the pad.

So Agatha moved close. “I—am—so—glad,” she said, articulating carefully. Her eyes grew[198] moist with earnestness. He lived in a world of silence. Oh! the tragedy of it!

He looked his gratitude. It was strange how perfectly he seemed to know what she had said; for he had not watched her lips: he had watched her dimples.

It was so slow and difficult putting things down that soon he devised ways of conversing more readily. He formed swift letters in the air with one forefinger, or scratched them in the dirt with her parasol.

Five o’clock found them still in the square. Agatha was surprised when she discovered how late it was. She signalled a passing taxicab, and they were whirled home together.

“Aren’t we going somewhere to-night?” he asked as they neared the end of their ride.

She looked rueful. “I’m—afraid—I—can’t,” she said. Her face was lifted. His head was lowered attentively, so that his hat-brim touch the fluff of her hair. “I’ve—promised—to—see—a—play—with—Auntie. But—after—this—I—shan’t—make—engagements—that—will—conflict—with—my work.”

When they entered the library Miss Connaughton had fresh tea brought. “I trust,” said she, “that nothing unpleasant happened to-day.”

Agatha pondered, the tip of her teaspoon against the tip of her chin. “No,” she said. “Only, we met a friend of Mr. McVicar’s. But he was not d— and d—.”

“D— and d—!” Miss Connaughton was horrified. “Hush, Agatha! It sounds profane.”

[199]But Agatha was smiling into her cup. There was a “to-morrow’s visitor” floating in it—a tall visitor. She lifted it to the back of one hand and struck it smartly with the back of the other. It transferred itself. She gave Mr. McVicar a swift glance.

He was holding his cup aloft. Across its rim his grey eyes were watching her.

She held up the “visitor” triumphantly.

He nodded.

The following day the “tall visitor” came again, and he and Agatha took their second walk down the avenue. Agatha had on a blue linen. It enhanced her colour charmingly. Mr. McVicar carried her parasol, a new one with a brass tip. She was in the best of humour, and stood on her toes now and then while she said something. He was in the best of humour, too. But of a sudden his face became very sober, even anxious. He began to take longer steps.

Agatha remarked his nervousness. She looked round. There were three young men close at hand who seemed to be observing Mr. McVicar. They were well-groomed young men. “Collegy,” was Agatha’s verdict.

Just then a young man approached them, going the other way. He took off his hat politely with one hand; with the fingers of the other he signed the escort an elaborate good-day.

Mr. McVicar gave him a cold stare.

Scarcely half a block farther on, a second young man lifted his hat with a bow and—wiggled his fingers!

[200]Mr. McVicar glared.

When a third young man passed them, with a well-bred smile, a bared head, and a mute greeting, Mr. McVicar’s face became almost distorted. Agatha heard him gurgle.

Not a minute later, a fourth young man advanced toward them, one hand rising to his hat as he came on. Mr. McVicar, guiding Agatha, abruptly stepped aside into a shop and made a quick purchase. When they had gained the street again by a side exit, he wrote: “I have a headache. Do you mind if I wear these?” “These” were coloured glasses.

“Not—in—the—least,” she declared.

The morning was given over to tenement-house inspection, and Agatha was a fairy-figure amid the sordid gloom of it all. Mr. McVicar kept beside her (the inspector led), helping her up long, dark stairways, and down into pit-like cellars, and through dank halls full of poor, little gaping children. When noon came they sought a near-by café.

It was while they were here that an extraordinary thing happened. They had gotten comfortably placed, both on the same side of a table—so that he could understand what she was saying (his glasses were off now)—when there entered, in single file, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven well-dressed young men. They seated themselves opposite Agatha and the escort. And, presently, after each had given the menu a casual glance, all began to talk at once—on their fingers!

Agatha opened her eyes. “Everyone of them d— and d—!” she said to herself. “Is this a d— and[201] d— café?” Her eyes roved from waiter to waiter.

But the seven young men were evidently from Mr. McVicar’s institution, for they caught sight of him a moment later, bowed to him in great surprise, and began to make him finger-signs.

He bowed in return, but he regarded them darkly and made no return signs.

Agatha reflected that there were more d— and d— people in the world than she had ever imagined. Presently she noticed that Mr. McVicar was not eating. “Don’t you like the goulash?” she wrote.

“I have a headache,” he answered.

“You must go home, then.”

“But the Amalgamated Shirt-Makers?”

At this juncture the seven young men opposite got up and filed slowly out, each working a right hand in what seemed to be a friendly adieu.

When Mr. McVicar rose his lips were pressed together as if he were striving to master himself. He refrained from looking at Agatha and fiddled with his hat.

She saw how ill he was. Her expression grew troubled and wistful. “A hansom,” she said to the head waiter. But she did not send Mr. McVicar home. She let him drive to her aunt’s with her.

On the way, for some reason or other, Mr. McVicar grew much brighter. “Where do we go to-morrow?” he asked.

Agatha stole a glance toward him. “To-morrow,” she said, “I—shall—devote—to—automorphic—deductions—and—to—the—correlation—of—all—the—new—concrete—examples—I—have—noted.”

[202]“Then you’ll need me,” he declared.

“Will—you—be—well—enough?” asked Agatha.

“Why, I’m well now.”


The following morning they did not go down the avenue, but turned into Central Park at the Sherman statue instead, and out of it again at the West Seventy-second Street entrance. Then they headed toward the Hudson.

It was a day even more perfect than the last. The wide topaz river sparkled in the sun. The shaded walks wound invitingly between leaf-strewn stretches of green. There were children at play along the smooth crescents of the drive, and sparrows darted to and fro, chirping.

Thus far Agatha had walked, head down and brows puckered—evidently concerned with “automorphic deductions.” (They had gone, in all, some twenty blocks, which was a sufficient distance for any number of deductions.) But now she roused from her thoughts and looked up at Mr. McVicar. His chin was on his breast, his eyes were lowered, and his manner was undisguisedly dejected.

She touched his arm. Then she stopped and stood on tiptoe. “Aren’t—you—well—to-day—either?” she inquired, her red mouth very close, so that he would be sure to understand.

He looked down at her for a long moment. Then he wrote, “I never felt better or happier in all my life.” When he took the pad again his hand covered hers for a second. Of a sudden her manner became distinctly reserved.

[203]Presently they reached a shaded bench. He dusted a seat for her, and they sat down, when he wrote: “But I know my happiness can’t last. I meant to tell you last night. You see, I have an uncle—a lawyer—who thinks I’m wasting my time. I must quit.”

Agatha coloured painfully. Mr. Avery had driven a close bargain with him! She hastened to write in return, “You shall get what your uncle thinks is fair.”

“There’s another reason, little woman. You saw my friends yesterday. They’re inquisitive. I’m afraid they’ll annoy you. So this is my last day.” He gazed across at the New Jersey shore.

She moved nearer, touching his arm ever so lightly. “Is—that—the—real—reason?” she asked.

He watched her red mouth frame each word, and his face lowered, as if irresistibly drawn toward hers. Then his head sank to a hand. He studied the path. Soon, “No,” he wrote, “it isn’t. The real reason involves a great happiness that I daren’t hope for.”

Agatha leaned even closer. “There—is—a—possibility—of—your—speech—returning?” she guessed. She held her breath at the very thought of it.

He nodded. “Yes, it’s very likely that my speech will come back.”

Agatha turned away, and glad tears swam beneath the black lashes. He would speak again! He would be like other people! Oh, how good! Presently, she blinked the tears away. “You—haven’t always—been—this—way?” she said.

“Not always.”


[204]“Quite recently.”

Her face was sweet with pity. “Were—you—struck—dumb?” she asked.

He observed her steadily for a moment. “I was terribly hard hit,” he wrote.


“It even affected my heart.”


“It depends on just one person.”

She gave him a smile full of cheer. “Doctors—do—wonderful—things—these—days. Is—this—one—homeopathic?”

“No, magnetic—awfully.” His grey eyes searched hers again. “Would you advise me to hope?”

“Oh—yes! Just—hope—has—wrought marvels.” Her face shone with earnestness.

“Bless you. But you don’t know that this is all the result of my own wickedness.”


He clenched his two hands. “Yes, I have been punished,” he wrote. “If you ever have to pass judgment upon me, remember that.”


He thought a moment. “Not when you consider the temptation.”


He hesitated so long that she believed he had not understood her. So she wrote the question, “What was the temptation?”

“A girl.”

Agatha shrank back in sudden, inexplicable indignation. Then she rose abruptly. She had meant[205] to tell him that if he were to regain both speech and hearing it would make no difference in their arrangements. But now——

He rose, also, and dropped the pad into a pocket. Then he handed her the parasol. His attitude was one of resignation.

Walking homeward, Agatha looked straight ahead, and two bright, red spots burned in a circle about her dimples. At the bottom of the Connaughton flight, she gave him a dignified good-morning. He held out a card to her. Then he raised his hat.

All that afternoon Agatha wandered about the library. She felt a surprising indifference toward her thesis. Every little while she drew forth Mr. McVicar’s card. It contained, in addition to his name, a line written in pencil, “Telephone, River 0630.” Why had he written that? She had no further need of him!

But as tea-time neared she remembered a place that she felt absolutely called upon to visit in connection with her work: a narrow down-town street, with its hosts of children all a-dance on the gas-lighted pavement. Could she visit the crowded block alone? And was Mr. McVicar’s time up for that day before, say, ten or eleven o’clock? Certainly not. And if she paid for his time was she not entitled to his company She asked central for River o-six-three-o.

A maid’s voice answered the telephone. “Tell Mr. McVicar,” said Agatha, “that Miss Kerr will want him this evening at eight.”

“Very well, miss.”

[206]Agatha, smiling and rosy faced, made her way tunefully up the staircase.

“What! Going out at night?” demanded Miss Connaughton, from the drawing-room.

“Of course,” said Agatha; “what have I an escort for? Oh, tra-la-la, tra-la-la,” and, singing, she disappeared.

Agatha had promised to telephone Miss Connaughton, so she rang up directly they stepped from the cars at the down-town station. “I can’t possibly get home till eleven, Auntie dear,” she announced. “It took us forty minutes to come just this far.”

“Oh, Agatha!” came back the reply. “Come home—awful news—Mr. Avery——”

“I can’t hear you,” cried Agatha. “The elevated is making such a noise. Rattle your ’phone.”

“Insolent trick,” went on Miss Connaughton. The remainder was a jumble.

Agatha told Mr. McVicar about it. “I—can’t—go—home,” she said. “This—evening—is—dreadfully—important. Don’t—you—think—so?”

“YES,” he wrote—all in capitals. Offering her his arm, he hurried her away.

It was not an ideal evening for Jones Street. There were clouds overhead in massive motion before a hot wind. The gas-jets leaped and hissed down the narrow streets, which looked particularly dark and forbidding. Perhaps the children would not dance on the pavement that night. Agatha did not care.

Mr. McVicar obviously did not feel as cheerful as she. It was as if all the heart had gone out of[207] him. And he kept looking back. It made Agatha nervous. She took to glancing behind also. What was he expecting?

They approached the lone figure of a man—a forlorn figure that slouched into the entrance of a building just ahead. Mr. McVicar crossed the street. They passed other figures. He looked each over keenly. She shivered a little. Oh, she was glad he was so big!

They hurried forward. Each thoroughfare seemed to grow narrower and gloomier than the last. They turned innumerable corners, Agatha clinging to his arm with increasing timidity. All at once, on turning another corner into a street that looked very much like one they had already traversed, they came face to face with two swarthy-skinned persons, a man and a woman. The pair were evidently gipsies, for the woman wore a red handkerchief upon her head, while big, gold earrings swung against the neck of the man. The latter carried a monkey. He did not get out of the way. Instead, leering, he held out a hand.

“Give me da mon for da monk!” he cried.

“Hurry!” Agatha entreated. Oh, for Auntie’s brougham now!

Instead of hastening, Mr. McVicar faced the man and gave him a resounding cuff upon the ear. Agatha, the sociologist, became that moment just a normal, terror-stricken girl. She screamed. With her cry mingled the raucous protests of the man and the hoarse commands of the woman, for Mr. McVicar now had the former by the shoulders and was shaking him fiercely.

[208]The hubbub brought aid. Around the nearest corner came a well-dressed young man, piloting a policeman on the run. A moment, and around another corner came another well-dressed young man with another policeman.

Next, “Cut for it!” Agatha heard a voice exclaim—a deep voice. But, strangely enough, the gipsies did not attempt to get away. They stood and grinned at the little crowd that had gathered.

Mr. McVicar sprang to Agatha’s side. He was panting and—could it be true?—gurgling what sounded like words!

Agatha smiled at him through the dim light. He had protected her. Her hand crept into his. Then she gave a fresh cry of fear. His fingers were wet—with blood.

“Oh, he’s wounded!” she called.

“Did he bite you?” demanded one of the policemen—the one who had the man-gipsy by the coat. “Well, here—bite him back! The dog!”

“I did not bite him,” protested the man-gipsy. “It was the monkey.”

“Where is that monkey?” shouted the woman-gipsy. “Say, you fellows, hunt him up. If we lose him we’re out twenty plunks.”

Three or four of the onlookers scattered in different directions, searching.

“Shut up, you she-devil!” ordered the second officer.

“How can we thank you?” said Agatha.

“No thanks, miss,” said officer number one. “Just come along, please, for to testify.”

At that Mr. McVicar took one of the little fingers[209] that were resting between his and deliberately pinched it! Agatha understood. To go with the officers meant a police station; a police station meant publicity, sniffy servants, hysterical aunt.

Agatha was, at times, a girl of resources. She knew they must get away, and she was quick to devise how. “I must help find that poor, little monkey,” she said. “You go on. We’ll follow.”

But the officer shook his head. “If you was to miss the station,” said he, “we’d have a poor case. Forget the monkey, miss.”

Agatha grew desperate. She resolved on flight, so she seized her skirts in her two hands, turned like a flash, and with her escort fleeing beside her, and almost carrying her along, she raced away.

The officers were in a predicament. They yelled, they whistled, they beat on the pavement. Then one handed over his prisoner to the other and gave chase. After them, in loose order, came the onlookers.

Up one street went Agatha and her escort, turned a corner, rushed down another, turned another corner. Luck was against them. A third officer met them squarely as they came. His arms were out, made longer by his leather-bound stick. Gasping, they fell into them.

The next moment the pursuing officer had them in his grasp. “Thank you, Sheehan,” said he. “Face about, you!” This to Mr. McVicar. They began the return march, everyone panting. Counting the onlookers, they made quite a procession.

The other officer met them half-way, a gipsy in[210] either hand. “Say, Flynn,” said he, “they’s something crooked about that young couple.”

“Crooked!” burst forth Agatha, with sudden rage. “I ran because I don’t want to be dragged into a police station. Please let go of my sleeve.” She could hear the onlookers whispering among themselves. Oh, it was too mortifying!

She clung to the representative of the law, and began to sob. Her tears had instant effect upon the little crowd. “Oh, let the young lady go, officer,” said one voice. “Yes,” chorused others. “But pinch the tall gentleman,” added the man-gipsy.

The inexorable officers moved forward. Presently they all trooped into a police station, and the principals came short in an uneven line before a battered desk.

A blowzy Celtic visage was lifted to regard them. Beneath that visage was a wide, open book. It seemed the very Book of Judgment to poor Agatha. She glanced at Mr. McVicar. He was watching her sorrowfully, his face startlingly pale, his whole attitude woeful.

“Hello!” said he of the wide book. For Mr. McVicar, his look was casual; for Agatha, it was more prolonged, yet not unkind—though the buff-and-crocus confection was tipped rakishly to one side; for the gipsy twain, however, it was condemnatory.

The gipsies smiled up at him. “Hello, Lieutenant!” returned they audaciously.

At this there was some small commotion and a general giggling in the rear of the room. Agatha peered swiftly round, and beheld five young men[211] who were ranged against the rear wall. They were well dressed. They were grinning. They all wore coloured glasses.

Officer Flynn was talking. “I was comin’ along my beat,” said he, whereat there began an astonishingly truthful account of the late mêlée. It was interrupted by wild yowlings from a room evidently near at hand.

“Ah!” said the man-gipsy; “the monkey!”

“Th’ dhrunks in Noomber 3,” explained the lieutenant.

Officer Flynn continued, “And we was ready to run the gipsies in when the young gent up and skedaddled.”

“So did I,” protested Agatha, but the lieutenant scowled only at Mr. McVicar. “I made him,” added Agatha stoutly, after which she resolved into tears again.

“Now, now,” comforted the lieutenant. “Till me, how come y’ t’ be down in this ind of th’ town, anyhow?”

“I am concerned,” sobbed Agatha, “with the phenomena of social evolution.”

“Ah!” said the lieutenant; “sittlements.”

“So—so,” she struggled on, “to-night I started for Jones Street——”

Jones Street!” said the lieutenant. Again his scowl was fixed upon the escort. “Young man, phwat was y’ doin’ in Greene?”

All eyes were upon Mr. McVicar—the lieutenant’s with suspicion, the gipsies’ with bold delight, the policemen’s curiously, Agatha’s in appeal. Mr. McVicar was now all tints—even those uncertain, elusive[212] ones that are so much affected in nouveau art. His lips moved spasmodically, uttering inaudible words.

“SPEAK!” thundered the lieutenant impatiently.

“Yes, speak.” This from the grinning gipsies, sotto voce.

Agatha stepped forward. “Officer,” she said, “he’s deaf and dumb, but he reads the lips.”

“And writes with his toes,” announced the man-gipsy.

Agatha cast him a withering glance. Then she lifted her face to the escort. “Why—were—we—in Greene—Street?”

He was now startlingly scarlet. After a little indecision he took out his pad and wrote, “I was trying to shake the gipsies.” He showed the page to Agatha.

“Of course,” said she. Then, to the lieutenant, “He was trying to shake the gipsies.”

“He succeeded,” cried the man-gipsy. “He shook loose my four-dollar earrings and a twenty-dollar monkey.”

This statement was hailed with mirth from the rear. The maudlin occupants of Number 3 joined in noisily. Even the policemen smiled.

The next moment one of the latter gave a shout of triumph. “Lieutenant,” he announced excitedly, “this dago is wearin’ a wig!” He pointed at the black mop of hair that hung down over the temples of the man-gipsy.

The man-gipsy drew himself up haughtily. “I am not a dago,” said he, with dignity. Then, to the lieutenant, “Your eminence, he insults me.”

[213]Agatha’s eyes were keen. “The other one, too,” she whispered.

Officer Flynn seized the wide, scarlet kerchief on the gipsy woman’s head and gave it a jerk. It came away—with it a full and ropy coiffure.

“Stung!” cried the woman.

Now, shorn of its late protection, her head was masculine in appearance, the short, brown hair showing itself to be well cut and carefully kept. When Officer Flynn had plucked off the man-gipsy’s wig there was disclosed another head no less modishly barbered.

The lieutenant was a man of long experience.

“College,” said he.

The woman-gipsy bowed. “You are inspired.”

From behind them came sounds of suffering—the five gentlemen in the rear were bent to the floor. Seeing them, the gipsies fell to chortling shrilly.

The lieutenant was turning the leaves of the book. “Inspired nothin’,” said he. “Whin Oi see a youngster makin’ a jackass of himself——”

And it was then that something dawned upon Agatha: these were all friends of Mr. McVicar’s, and this was what he had meant when he spoke of their “annoying” her. But she was a college girl, and knew just how much fun could be gotten out of a lark—even a silly, sophomoric lark. She glanced over at Mr. McVicar and dimpled.

“An’, mebbe,” went on the lieutenant, almost agreeably, “this is a’ inittyaytion?”

“Something on that order,” said the woman-gipsy.

“It was all in the interest of science,” added the[214] man-gipsy. “We were endeavouring to make the dumb speak.” Here he began to make finger-signs at Agatha’s escort.

Agatha, shocked by the cruelty of the jest, fairly whirled round upon the offender. Her reproof, however, remained unspoken; for there, between the gipsies and the door, advancing on quick foot, was an open-faced, shrewd-eyed young man. This person halted at the lieutenant’s elbow, and took the company in with swift comprehension. At the same time he drew a pencil from a breast pocket and a yellow pad from a sagging pocket lower down.

Agatha had only a second in which to wonder if he, too, were d— and d— when, “Aloysius,” said he to the lieutenant, “what’s doing?” He pointed at the wigs.

It was then that Agatha realised that she was in the presence of the danger that she (and Auntie) so much feared. The shrewd-eyed young man was a reporter! She turned helplessly to Mr. McVicar.

“But he sha’n’t have my picture,” she muttered.

Mr. McVicar looked down at her quickly—almost as if he had heard. Then his grey eyes went back to the lieutenant and the newspaper man. His hands were twitching.

The lieutenant glanced up. “Aw,” he said disgustedly, “it’s only a fool thrick.” Then, to the waiting line, “Ye kin all go.”

At this the reporter became excited. “But it ought to make a story. Have you got their names?” He sprang to the side of the woman-gipsy.

It was now that Mr. McVicar did an extraordinary[215] thing. Without a moment’s hesitation he stepped between the reporter and the woman-gipsy and gave the latter a shove that sent her spinning backward. Then he turned to the desk.

“It is a trick,” he declared, “a mean, contemptible trick, and I am mostly to blame for it. But it has gone far enough.”

Agatha gave a cry of amazement. It was the deep voice she had heard when the officers were approaching. And it was his! This was not gurgling: this was speech! She sank upon a bench, her face hidden in the crook of one trembling arm, and began to sob wildly.

“Lieutenant,” went on the deep voice, “I ask you to save this young lady from notoriety.”

The lieutenant promptly leaned far over and addressed the woman-gipsy. “Ye git,” said he harshly, “an’ yer gang wid ye. An’ if Oi hear of y’ givin’ anny names——”

The woman-gipsy held up a defensive hand. “Now that the dumb hath spoken,” said she, “far be it from me to bring grief——”

“Hike!” interrupted the lieutenant.

The gipsies stole out, after them the five well-dressed young men. Next the officers saluted the desk and passed Agatha with pitying glances. Only the reporter remained.

“Say,” said the lieutenant to him, “Oi’ve give y’ manny a scoop, ain’t Oi?”

“Yes,” said the reporter, “you have.”

“Wull, thin. An’ d’ye know yere missin’ th’ story of yer loife this siccond?”

“For heaven’s sake! What is it?”

[216]The lieutenant leaned toward him, dropping his voice dramatically. “Hist!” he exclaimed. “They’s a man dead in Brooklyn!” He gave a prodigious wink.

“Oh, I see. All right,” said the reporter. He waved a hand and went out.

Then Mr. McVicar began to speak again—to Agatha, and so quaveringly that the lieutenant knew the tears were close there, too. The lieutenant turned his back and fell to studying a map.

“I’ve been a coward and a cad,” said that quavering voice, “and you’ll never forgive me. But, honestly, I did it all because I—I wanted to be with you. So I pretended I was—was—uncle that morning that I telephoned. Every day I thought the truth would come out. And lots of times I came near skipping town. The fellows wouldn’t let me alone a minute—from the time I had to tell one of ’em (you remember) that I was deaf and dumb. The fiends! Oh, don’t cry so! I’d—I’d die if it’d do any good.”

Agatha raised her tear-wet face. “I’m not c-r-crying because I’m angry,” she sobbed, putting out her two hands to him. “I’m c-c-crying because you’re not d— and d—.”

His strong arms caught her up then and held her close, and for all the silent, pent-up hours he had spent with her there now gushed forth a thousand whispered words of rapturous endearment. And he kissed her poor, trembling lips, her chin, her black-lashed eyelids—even the fluff of her hair.

“Dearest,” he whispered, “I loved you the second I spied you from behind that reference table.”

[217]Agatha suddenly stopped her sobbing. Then she leaned away from him—and looked down. The plaid she saw above his half-shoes was red and brown at right angles upon a French-knotted ground of blue. It was not exactly the plaid that had been displayed that other day, but it was a full cousin to it.

The sun broke through the clouds then, for as she looked up once more a smile lit all that scarlet rounding of her cheeks where her dimples were. “Then, d-dear,” she began, both gloved hands creeping up to rest on his shoulders, “wh-what is your tr-truly name?”



FONG WU sat on the porch of his little square-fronted house, chanting into the twilight. Across his padded blouse of purple lay his sam-yen banjo. And as, from time to time, his hymn to the Three Pure Ones was prolonged in high, fine quavers, like the uneven, squeaky notes of a woman’s voice, he ran his left hand up the slender neck of the instrument, rested a long nail of his right on its taut, snake’s-skin head, and lightly touched the strings; then, in quick, thin tones, they followed the song to Sang-Ching.

The warm shadows of a California summer night were settling down over the wooded hills and rocky gulches about Fong Wu’s, and there was little but his music to break the silence. Long since, the chickens had sleepily sought perches in the hen yard, with its high wall of rooty stumps and shakes, and on the branches of the Digger pine that towered beside it. Up the dry creek bed, a mile away, twinkled the lights of Whiskeytown; but no sounds from the homes of the white people came down to the lonely Chinese. If his clear treble was interrupted, it was by the cracking of a dry branch as a cotton-tail sped past on its way to a stagnant pool, or it was by a dark-emboldened coyote, howling, dog-like, at the moon which, white as the snow that eternally[219] coifs the Sierras, was just rising above their distant cobalt line.

One year before, Fong Wu, heavily laden with his effects, had slipped out of the stage from Redding and found his way to a forsaken, ramshackle building below Whiskeytown. His coming had proved of no small interest. When the news finally got about that “a monkey” was living in “Sam Kennedy’s old place,” it was thought, for a while, that laundrying, thereafter, would be cheaply done. This hope, however, was soon dispelled. For, shortly after his arrival, as Fong Wu asked at the grocery store for mail, he met Radigan’s inquiry of “You do my washee, John?” with a grave shake of the head. Similar questions from others were met, later, in a similar way. Soon it became generally known that the “monkey at Sam Kennedy’s” did not do washing; so he was troubled no further.

Yet if Fong Wu did not work for the people of Whiskeytown, he was not, therefore, idle. Many a sunrise found him wandering through the chaparral thickets back of his house, digging here and there in the red soil for roots and herbs. These he took home, washed, tasted, and, perhaps, dried. His mornings were mainly spent in cooking for his abundantly supplied table, tending his fowls and house, and in making spotless and ironing smooth various undergarments—generous of sleeve and leg.

But of an afternoon, all petty duties were laid aside, and he sorted carefully into place upon his shelves numerous little bunches and boxes of dried herbs and numerous tiny phials of pungent liquid that had come to him by post; he filled wide sheets[220] of foolscap with vertical lines of queer characters and consigned them to big, plainly addressed, well-stamped envelopes; he scanned closely the last newspapers from San Francisco, and read from volumes in divers tongues; and he pored over the treasured Taoist book, “The Road to Virtue.”

Sunday was his one break in the week’s routine. Then, the coolies who panned or cradled for gold in the tailings of near-by abandoned mines, gathered at Fong Wu’s. On such occasions, there was endless, lively chatter, a steady exchange of barbering—one man scraping another clean, to be, in turn, made hairless in a broad band about the poll and on cheek and chin—and much consuming of tasty chicken, dried fish, pork, rice, and melon seeds. To supplement all this, Fong Wu recounted the news: the arrival of a consul in San Francisco, the raid on a slave- or gambling-den, the progress of a tong war under the very noses of the baffled police, and the growth of Coast feeling against the continued, quiet immigration of Chinese. But of the social or political affairs of the Flowery Kingdom—of his own land beyond the sea, Fong Wu was consistently silent.

Added to his Sunday responsibilities as host and purveyor of news, Fong Wu had others. An ailing countryman, whether seized with malaria or suffering from an injury, found ready and efficient attention. The bark of dogwood, properly cooked, gave a liquid that killed the ague; and oil from a diminutive bottle, or a red powder whetted upon the skin with a silver piece, brought out the soreness of a bruise.

[221]Thus, keeping his house, herb-hunting, writing, studying, entertaining, doctoring, Fong Wu lived on at Whiskeytown.

Each evening, daintily manipulating ivory chopsticks, he ate his supper of rice out of a dragon-bordered bowl. Then, when he had poured tea from a pot, all gold-encrusted—a cluster of blossoms nodding in a vase at his shoulder, the while—he went out upon the porch of the square-fronted house.

And there, as now, a scarlet-buttoned cap on his head, his black eyes soft with dreaming, his richly wrought sandals tapping the floor in time, his long queue—a smooth, shining serpent—in thick coils about his tawny neck, Fong Wu thrummed gently upon the three-stringed banjo, and, in peace, chanted into the twilight.

Flying hoofs scattered the gravel on the strip of road before Fong Wu’s. He looked through the gloom and saw a horse flash past, carrying a skirted rider toward Whiskeytown. His song died out. He let his banjo slip down until its round head rested between his feet. Then, he turned his face up the gulch.

Despite the dusk, he knew the traveller: Mrs. Anthony Barrett, who, with her husband, had recently come to live in a house near Stillwater. Every evening, when the heat was over, she went by, bound for the day’s mail at the post-office. Every evening, in the cool, Fong Wu saw her go, and sometimes she gave him a friendly nod.

Her mount was a spirited, mouse-dun mustang, with crop-ears, a roached mane, and the back markings[222] of an Arab horse. She always rode at a run, sitting with easy erectness. A wide army hat rested snugly on her fair hair, and shaded a white forehead and level-looking eyes. But notwithstanding the sheltering brim, on her girlish face were set the glowing scarlet seals of wind and sun.

As he peered townward after her, Fong Wu heard the hurrying hoof beats grow gradually fainter and fainter—and cease. Presently the moon topped the pines on the foothills behind him, bathing the gulch in light. The road down which she would come sprang into view. He watched its farthest open point. In a few moments the hoof beats began again. Soon the glint of a light waist showed through the trees. Next, horse and rider rounded a curve at hand. Fong Wu leaned far forward.

And then, just as the mustang gained the strip of road before the square-fronted house, it gave a sudden, unlooked-for, outward leap, reared with a wild snort, and, whirling, dashed past the porch—riderless.

With an exclamation, Fong Wu flung his banjo aside and ran to the road. There under a manzanita bush, huddled and still, lay a figure. He caught it up, bore it to the porch, and put it gently down.

A brief examination, made with the deftness practice gives, showed him that no bones were broken. Squatting beside the unconscious woman, he next played slowly with his long-nailed fingers upon her pulse. Its beat reassured him. He lighted a lamp and held it above her. The scarlet of her cheeks was returning.

The sight of her, who was so strong and active,[223] stretched weak and fainting, compelled Fong Wu into spoken comment. “The petal of a plum blossom,” he said compassionately, in his own tongue.

She stirred a little. He moved back. As, reviving, she opened her eyes, they fell upon him. But he was half-turned away, his face as blank and lifeless as a mask.

She gave a startled cry and sat up. “Me hurtee?” she asked him, adopting pidgin-English. “Me fallee off?”

Fong Wu rose. “You were thrown,” he answered gravely.

She coloured in confusion. “Pardon me,” she said, “for speaking to you as if you were a coolie.” Then, as she got feebly to her feet—“I believe my right arm is broken.”

“I have some knowledge of healing,” he declared; “let me look at it.” Before she could answer, he had ripped the sleeve away. “It is only a sprain,” he said. “Wait.” He went inside for an amber liquid and bandages. When he had laved the injured muscles, he bound them round.

“How did it happen?” she asked, as he worked. He was so courteous and professional that her alarm was gone.

“Your horse was frightened by a rattlesnake in the road. I heard it whir.”

She shuddered. “I ought to be thankful that I didn’t come my cropper on it,” she said, laughing nervously.

He went inside again, this time to prepare a cupful of herbs. When he offered her the draught, she screwed up her face over its nauseating fumes.

[224]“If that acts as strongly as it tastes,” she said, after she had drunk it, “I’ll be well soon.”

“It is to keep away inflammation.”

“Oh! Can I go now?”

“Yes. But to-morrow return, and I will look at the arm.” He took the lamp away and replaced his red-buttoned cap with a black felt hat. Then he silently preceded her down the steps to the road. Only when the light of her home shone plainly ahead of them, did he leave her.

They had not spoken on the way. But as he bowed a good-night, she addressed him. “I thank you,” she said. “And may I ask your name?”

“Kwa”—he began, and stopped. Emotion for an instant softened his impassive countenance. He turned away. “Fong Wu,” he added, and was gone.

The following afternoon the crunch of cart wheels before the square-fronted house announced her coming. Fong Wu closed “The Book of Virtue,” and stepped out upon the porch.

A white man was seated beside her in the vehicle. As she sprang from it, light-footed and smiling, and mounted the steps, she indicated him politely to the Chinese.

“This is my husband,” she said. “I have told him how kind you were to me last night.”

Fong Wu nodded.

Barrett hastened to voice his gratitude. “I certainly am very much obliged to you,” he said. “My wife might have been bitten by the rattler, or she might have lain all night in pain if you hadn’t found her. And I want to say that your treatment[225] was splendid. Why, her arm hasn’t swollen or hurt her. I’ll be hanged if I can see—you’re such a good doctor—why you stay in this——”

Fong Wu interrupted him. “I will wet the bandage with medicine,” he said, and entered the house.

They watched him with some curiosity as he treated the sprain and studied the pulse. When he brought out her second cup of steaming herbs, Mrs. Barrett looked up at him brightly.

“You know we’re up here for Mr. Barrett’s health,” she said. “A year or so after we were married, he was hurt in a railway collision. Since then, though his wounds healed nicely, he has never been quite well. Dr. Lord, our family physician, prescribed plenty of rough work, and a quiet place, far from the excitement of a town or city. Now, all this morning, when I realised how wonderful it was that my arm wasn’t aching, I’ve been urging my husband—what do you suppose?—to come and be examined by you!”

Fong Wu, for the first time, looked fully at the white man, marking the sallow, clayey face, with its dry, lined skin, its lustreless eyes and drooping lids.

Barrett scowled at his wife. “Nonsense, dear,” he said crossly; “you know very well that Lord would never forgive me.”

“But Fong Wu might help you, Anthony,” she declared.

Fong Wu’s black eyes were still fixed searchingly upon the white man. Before their scrutiny, soul-deep, the other’s faltered and fell.

“You might help him, mightn’t you, Fong Wu?” Mrs. Barrett repeated.

[226]An expression, curious, keen, and full of meaning, was the answer. Then, “I might if he——” Fong Wu said, and paused.

Past Mrs. Barrett, whose back was toward her husband, the latter had shot a warning glance. “Come, come, Edith,” he cried irritably, “let’s get home.”

Mrs. Barrett emptied her cup bravely. “When shall we call again?” she asked.

“You need not come again,” Fong Wu replied. “Each day you have only to dampen the bandages from these.” He handed her a green-flowered box containing twelve tiny compartments; in each was a phial.

“And I sha’n’t have to take any more of this—this awful stuff?” she demanded gaily, giving back the cup.


“Ah! And now, I want to thank you again, with all my heart. Here”—she reached into the pocket of her walking-skirt—“here is something for your trouble.” Two double-eagles lay on her open palm.

Fong Wu frowned at them. “I take no money,” he said, a trifle gruffly. And as she got into the cart, he closed the door of his home behind him.

It was a week before Mrs. Barrett again took up her rides for the mail. When she did, Fong Wu did not fail to be on his porch as she passed. For each evening, as she cantered up the road, spurring the mustang to its best paces, she reined to speak to him. And he met her greeting with unaccustomed good humour.

[227]Then she went by one morning before sunrise, riding like the wind. A little later she repassed, whipping her horse at every gallop. Fong Wu, called to his door by the clatter, saw her face was white and drawn. At noon, going up to the post-office, he heard a bit of gossip that seemed to bear upon her unwonted trip. Radigan was rehearsing it excitedly to his wife, and the Chinese busied himself with his mail and listened—apparently unconcerned.

“I c’n tell you she ain’t afraid of anythin’, that Mrs. Barrett,” the post-master was saying; “neither th’ cayuse she rides or a critter on two legs. An’ that fancy little drug-clerk from ’Frisco got it straight from th’ shoulder.”

“S-s-sh!” admonished his wife, from the back of the office. “Isn’t there someone outside?”

“Naw, just th’ chink from Kennedy’s. Well, as I remarked, she did jus’ light into that dude. ‘It was criminal!’ she says, an’ her eyes snapped like a whip; ‘it was criminal! an’ if I find out for sure that you are guilty, I’ll put you where you’ll never do it again.’ Th’ young gent smirked at her an’ squirmed like a worm. ‘You’re wrong, Mrs. Barrett,’ he says, lookin’ like th’ meek puppy he is, ‘an’ you’ll have t’ look some place else for th’ person that done it.’ But she wouldn’t talk no longer—jus’ walked out, as mad as a hornet.”

“Well, well,” mused Mrs. Radigan. “I wonder what ’twas all about. ‘Criminal,’ she said, eh? That’s funny!” She walked to the front of the office and peeked through the wicket. But no one was loitering near except Fong Wu, and his face was the picture of dull indifference.

[228]That night, long after the hour for Mrs. Barrett’s regular trip, and long past the time for his supper-song, Fong Wu heard slow, shuffling steps approach the house. A moment afterward, the knob of his door rattled. He put out his light and slipped a knife into his loose sleeve.

After some mumbling and moving about on the porch, a man called out to him. He recognised the voice.

“Fong Wu! Fong Wu!” it begged. “Let me in. I want to see you; I want to ask you for help—for something I need. Let me in; let me in.”

Fong Wu, without answering, relit his lamp, and, with the air of one who is at the same time both relieved and a witness of the expected, flung the door wide.

Then into the room, writhing as if in fearful agony, his hands palsied, his face a-drip and, except for dark blotches about the mouth, green-hued, his eyes wild and sunken, fell, rather than tottered, Anthony Barrett.

“Fong Wu,” he pleaded, from the floor at the other’s feet, “you helped my wife, when she was sick, now help me. I’m dying! I’m dying! Give it to me, for God’s sake! give it to me.” He caught at the skirt of Fong Wu’s blouse.

The Chinese retreated a little, scowling. “What do you want?” he asked.

A paroxysm of pain seized Barrett. He half rose and stumbled forward. “You know,” he panted, “you know. And if I don’t have some, I’ll die. I can’t get it anywhere else. She’s found me out, and scared the drug-clerk. Oh, just a little,[229] old man, just a little!” He sank to the floor again.

“I can give you nothing,” said Fong Wu bluntly. “I do not keep—what you want.”

With a curse, Barrett was up again. “Oh, you don’t,” he screamed, leering frenziedly. “You yellow devil! You almond-eyed pigtail! But I know you do! And I must have it. Quick! quick!” He hung, clutching, on the edge of Fong Wu’s wide ironing-table, an ashen wreck. Fong Wu shook his head.

With a cry, Barrett came at him and seized his lean throat. “You damned highbinder!” he gasped. “You saddle-nosed monkey! You’ll get me what I want or I’ll give you away. Don’t I know why you’re up here in these woods, with your pretty clothes and your English talk. A-ha! You bet I do! You’re hiding, and you’re wanted;”—he dropped his voice to a whisper—“the tongs would pay head-money for you. If you don’t give it to me, I’ll put every fiend in ’Frisco on your trail.”

Fong Wu had caught Barrett’s wrists. Now he cast him to one side. “Tongs!” he said with a shrug, as if they were beneath his notice. And “Fiends!” he repeated contemptuously, a taunt in his voice.

The white man had fallen prone and was grovelling weakly. “Oh, I won’t tell on you,” he wailed imploringly. “I won’t, I won’t, Fong Wu; I swear it on my honour.”

Fong Wu grunted and reached to a handy shelf. “I will make a bargain with you,” he said craftily; “first, you are to drink what I wish.”

“Anything! anything!” Barrett cried.

[230]From a box of dry herbs, long untouched, the Chinese drew out a handful. There was no time for brewing. Outraged nature demanded instant relief. He dropped them into a bowl, covered them with water, and stirred swiftly. When the stems and leaves were broken up and well mixed, he strained a brown liquid from them and put it to the other’s lips.

“Drink,” he commanded, steadying the shaking head.

Barrett drank, unquestioning.

Instantly the potion worked. Calmed as if by a miracle, made drowsy to a point where speech was impossible, the white man, tortured but a moment before, tipped sleepily into Fong Wu’s arms. The Chinese waited until a full effect was secured, when he lifted his limp patient to the blanket-covered ironing-table. Then he went out for fuel, built a fire, and, humming softly—with no fear of waking the other—sat down to watch the steeping of more herbs.

What happened next at the square-fronted house was the unexpected. Again there was a sound of approaching footsteps, again someone gained the porch. But this time there was no pausing to ask for admission, there were no weak requests for aid. A swift hand felt for the knob and found it; a strong arm pushed at the unlocked door. And through it, bareheaded, with burning eyes and blanched cheeks, her heavy riding-whip dangling by a thong from her wrist, came the wife of Anthony Barrett.

Just across the sill she halted and swept the dim[231] room. A moment, and the burning eyes fell upon the freighted ironing-table. She gave a piercing cry.

Fong Wu neither spoke nor moved.

After the first outburst, she was quiet—the quiet that is deliberative, threatening. Then she slowly closed her fingers about the whip butt. Fixing her gaze in passionate anger upon him, she advanced a few steps.

So it was you,” she said, and her voice was hollow.

To that he made no sign, and even his colourless face told nothing.

She came forward a little farther, and sucked in a long, deep breath. “You dog of a Chinaman!” she said at last, and struck her riding-skirt.

Fong Wu answered silently. With an imperative gesture, he pointed out the figure on the ironing-table.

She sprang to her husband’s side and bent over him. Presently she began to murmur to herself. When, finally, she turned, there were tears on her lashes, she was trembling visibly, and she spoke in whispers.

“Was I wrong?” she demanded brokenly. “I must have been. He’s not had it; I can tell by his quick, easy breathing. And his ear has a faint colour. You are trying to help him! I know! I know!”

A gleaming white line showed between the yellow of Fong Wu’s lips. He picked up a rude stool and set it by the table. She sank weakly upon it, letting the whip fall.

[232]“Thank God! thank God!” she sobbed prayerfully, and buried her face in her arms.

Throughout the long hours that followed, Fong Wu, from the room’s shadowy rear, sat watching. He knew sleep did not come to her. For now and then he saw her shake from head to heel convulsively; as he had seen men in his own country quiver beneath the scourge of bamboos. Now and then, too, he heard her give a stifled moan, like the protest of a dumb creature. But in no other ways did she bare her suffering. Quietly, lest she wake her husband, she fought out the night.

Only once did Fong Wu look away from her. Then, in anger and disgust his eyes shifted to the figure on the table. “The petal of a plum blossom”—he muttered in Chinese—“the petal of a plum blossom beneath the hoofs of a pig!” And again his eyes dwelt upon the grief-bowed wife.

But when the dawn came stealing up from behind the purple Sierras, and Mrs. Barrett raised her wan face, he was studiously reviewing his rows of bottles, outwardly unaware of her presence.

“Fong Wu,” she said, in a low voice, “when will he wake?”

“When he is rested; at sunrise, maybe, or at noon.”

“And then?”

“He will be feeble. I shall give him more medicine, and he will sleep again.”

He rose and busied himself at the fire. Soon he approached her, bringing the gold-incrusted teapot and a small, handleless cup.

She drank thirstily, filling and emptying the cup[233] many times. When she was done, she made as if to go. “I shall see that everything is all right at home,” she told him. “After that, I shall come back.” She stooped and kissed her husband tenderly.

Fong Wu opened the door for her, and she passed out. In the road, unhitched, but waiting, stood the mustang. She mounted and rode away.

When she returned, not long afterward, she was a new woman. She had bathed her face and donned a fresh waist. Her eyes were alight, and the scarlet was again flaming in her cheeks. Almost cheerfully, and altogether hopefully, she resumed her post at the ironing-table.

It was late in the afternoon before Barrett woke. But he made no attempt to get up, and would not eat. Fong Wu administered another dose of herbs, and without heeding his patient’s expostulations. The latter, after seeking his wife’s hand, once more sank into sleep.

Just before sunset, Fong Wu, who scorned to rest, prepared supper. Gratefully Mrs. Barrett partook of some tender chicken and rice cakes. When darkness shut down, they took up their second long vigil.

But it was not the vigil of the previous night. She was able to think of other things than her husband’s condition and the doom that, of a sudden, had menaced her happiness. Her spirits having risen, she was correspondingly impatient of a protracted, oppressive stillness, and looked about for an interruption, and for diversion. Across from her, a Celestial patrician in his blouse of purple silk and his red-buttoned cap, sat Fong Wu. Consumed[234] with curiosity—now that she had time to observe him closely—she longed to lift the yellow, expressionless mask from his face—a face which might have patterned that of an Oriental sphinx. At midnight, when he approached the table to satisfy himself of Barrett’s progress, and to assure her of it, she essayed a conversation.

Glancing up at his laden shelves, she said, “I have been noticing your medicines, and how many kinds there seem to be.”

“For each ailment that is visited upon man, earth offers a cure,” he answered. “Life would be a mock could Death, unchallenged, take it.”

“True. Have you found in the earth, then, the cure for each ailment of man?”

“For most, yes. They seek yet, where I learned the art of healing, an antidote for the cobra’s bite. I know of no other they lack.”

“Where you were taught they must know more than we of this country know.”

Fong Wu gave his shoulders a characteristic shrug.

“But,” she continued, “you speak English so perfectly. Perhaps you were taught that in this country.”

“No—in England. But the other, I was not.”

“In England! Well!”

“I went there as a young man.”

“But these herbs, these medicines you have—they did not come from England, did they?”

He smiled. “Some came from the hills at our back.” Then, crossing to his shelves and reaching up, “This”—he touched a silk-covered package—“is[235] from Sumbawa in the Indian Sea; and this”—his finger was upon the cork of a phial—“is from Feng-shan, Formosa; and other roots are taken in winter from the lake of Ting-Ting-hu, which is then dry; and still others come from the far mountains of Chamur.”

“Do you know,” Mrs. Barrett said tentatively, “I have always heard that Chinese doctors give horrid things for medicine—sharks’ teeth, frogs’ feet, lizards’ tails, and—and all sorts of dreadful things.”

Fong Wu proffered no enlightenment.

“I am glad,” she went on, “that I have learned better.”

After a while she began again: “Doubtless there is other wonderful knowledge, besides that about doctoring, which Chinese gentlemen possess.”

Fong Wu gave her a swift glance. “The followers of Laou-Tsze know many things,” he replied, and moved into the shadows as if to close their talk.

Toward morning, when he again gave her some tea, she spoke of something that she had been turning over in her mind for hours.

“You would not take money for helping me when I was hurt,” she said, “and I presume you will refuse to take it for what you are doing now. But I should like you to know that Mr. Barrett and I will always, always be your friends. If”—she looked across at him, no more a part of his rude surroundings, than was she—“if ever there comes a time when we could be of use to you, you have only to tell us. Please remember that.”

“I will remember.”

[236]“I cannot help but feel,” she went on, and with a sincere desire to prove her gratitude, rather than to pry out any secret of his, “that you do not belong here—that you are in more trouble than I am. For what can a man of your rank have to do in a little town like this!”

He was not displeased with her. “The ancient sage,” he said slowly, “mounted himself upon a black ox and disappeared into the western wilderness of Thibet. Doubtless others, too, seek seclusion for much thinking.”

“But you are not the hermit kind,” she declared boldly. “You belong to those who stay and fight. Yet here you are, separated from your people and your people’s graves—alone and sorrowful.”

“As for my living people, they are best without me; as for my people dead, I neither worship their dust nor propitiate devils. The wise one said: ‘Why talk forever on of men who are long gone?’”

“Yet——” she persisted.

He left the stove and came near her. “You are a woman, but you know much. You are right. My heart is heavy for a thing I cannot do—for the shattered dreams of the men of Hukwang.” He beat his palms together noiselessly, and moved to and fro on soft sandals. “Those dreams were of a young China that was to take the place of the old—but that died unborn.”

She followed his words with growing interest. “I have heard of those dreams,” she answered; “they were called ‘reform.’”

“Yes. And now all the dreamers are gone. They had voyaged to glean at Harvard, Yale, Cornell,[237] and in the halls of Oxford. There were ‘five loyal and six learned,’ and they shed their blood at the Chen Chih Gate. One there was who died the death that is meted a slave at the court of the Son of Heaven. And one there was”—his face shrank up, as if swiftly aging; his eyes became dark, upturning slits; as one who fears pursuit he cast a look behind him—“and one there was who escaped beyond the blood-bathed walls of the Hidden City and gained the Sumatra Coast. Then, leaving Perak, in the Straits Settlements, he finally set foot upon a shore where men, without terror, may reach toward higher things.”

“And was he followed?” she whispered, comprehending.

“He fled quietly, quietly. For long are the claws of the she-panther that is crouched on the throne of the Mings.”

Both fell silent. The Chinese went back to the stove, where the fire was dying. The white woman, wide awake, and lost in the myriad of scenes his tale had conjured, sat by the table, for once almost forgetful of her charge.

The dragging hours of darkness past, Anthony Barrett found sane consciousness. He was pale, yet strengthened by his long sleep, and he was hungry. Relieved and overjoyed, Mrs. Barrett ministered to him. When he had eaten and drunk, she helped him from the table to the stool, and thence to his feet. Her arm about him, she led him to the door. Fong Wu had felt his pulse and it had ticked back the desired message, so he was going home.

“Each night you are to come,” Fong Wu said,[238] as he bade them good-bye. “And soon, very soon, you may go from here to the place from which you came.”

Mrs. Barrett turned at the door. A plea for pardon in misjudging him, thankfulness for his help, sympathy for his exile—all these shone from her eyes. But words failed her. She held out her hand.

He seemed not to see it; he kept his arms at his sides. A “dog of a Chinaman” had best not take a woman’s hand.

She went out, guiding her husband’s footsteps, and helped him climb upon the mustang from the height of the narrow porch. Then, taking the horse by the bridle, she moved away down the slope to the road.

Fong Wu did not follow, but closed the door gently and went back to the ironing-table. A handkerchief lay beside it—a dainty linen square that she had left. He picked it up and held it before him by two corners. From it there wafted a faint, sweet breath.

Fong Wu let it flutter to the floor. “The perfume of a plum petal,” he said softly, in English; “the perfume of a plum petal.”



YEE CHU, wife of Yee Wing, sank low before her husband, resting her clasped hands upon a knee. “Surely, Kwan-yin, the Merciful, has thought me deserving,” she said, “for she has set me down in a place where soft winds blow unceasingly.”

The Powder-man glanced out of the one window of their little home, past the pot of ragged chrysanthemums and the white-and-brown pug that held the sill. “I shall burn an offering to her,” he promised gravely.

“It is so sweetly warm,” she continued, rising and standing at his side; “though the new year is almost upon us. See, I have put off the band of velvet that I wear upon my head of a winter, and changed to these flower-bouquets. Esteemed, will it always be spring-time here?”

Yee Wing’s face lost its expression of studied indifference. He let his look rest upon her hair, blue-black, and held at each side by a cluster of mock jewels; let it travel down to the young face,—a clear, polished white except for deep-carmine touches on cheeks and eyelids and on the lower lip of the pouting mouth—to the brown eyes, whose charm was enhanced by a curious little wrinkle just above the darkened brows, a petulant little wrinkle that changed with each passing thought.

[240]“Assuredly,” he answered. “In California, it is always spring-time, Jasmine Blossom.”

Again she sank, bracelets clinking as her fingers met. “Just so it is for a good while each year on the hills of Hupeh, where dwell my illustrious pocket parents. From our hut, during the sunny days, we looked across the tea fields upon groves of bamboo, feather-topped, and rocking gently.”

She stumped to the open door, balancing herself with partly outstretched arms. “Am I free to go forth to-day as yesterday?” she inquired over a shoulder. “The green invites, and there be some beautiful plants yonder, red as the face of the god of war. I can fill the pottery jar.”

“Go,” he bade, “but not over far, lest you tire the two lilies of gold.”

She smiled back at him tenderly. “I spend my heart upon you,” she said in farewell, and went balancing away.

Yee Wing watched her difficult progress across the grassy level that divided the powder-house and his own habitation from Sather, the solitary little railway station of the near-by line. “She has brought tranquillity,” he murmured, “Where now are the five causes of disquietude?” And he, too, smiled tenderly.

The week that followed, which was only the second of the girl-wife’s residence in the new land, found the two supremely happy. They had no visitors other than the superintendent from the works at Pinole, and an expressman from Oakland, bearing an order for a keg of explosive. Yee Wing enjoyed abundant leisure, and he spent it with his bride.[241] They puttered together about the dove-cotes behind the square, black magazines; they shared the simple cares of their single room; in a comradeship as strange to their kind as was the civilisation in which they had come to live; they sallied forth like two children, gathering the fragrant peony, pursuing the first butterflies.

But one morning there arrived a man of their own race. Yee Wing was lolling upon a bench, playing with the white-and-brown pug. Yee Chu, in purple trousers and cherry-hued jacket, was sitting upon a stool, the gay, tinsel rosettes over each tiny ear bobbing merrily as she finished a careful toilet. The white paste had been put on face and throat and carefully smoothed. Now she was dyeing her long nails and rouging her palms. Of a sudden, a shadow fell across the doorway. The two looked up. Outside, staring in, was a Chinese, his round, black, highbinder hat, silk blouse and dark-blue broadcloth breeches proclaiming him above the coolie class.

“Stay within,” cautioned the Powder-man, in a low voice. He went out hastily, and closed the door after him.

There passed between Yee Wing and his caller none of the elaborate greetings that mark the meeting of two equals. The strange Chinese gave the other a proud nod of the kind that is fit for a foreign devil, and, with no evasiveness and something of the bluntness that characterises the despised white, at once stated his errand.

“I come from the most worthy Bazar-man, to whom you stand in debt to the measure of twenty-five[242] dollars,” he began. “I have to remind you that to-morrow is New Year’s day. And for you the sun does not rise unless the sum be paid.”

Yee Wing drew a startled breath. True, to-morrow would be New Year’s Day! How had it come so near without his knowing? It found him without what was due. His very “face”—that precious thing, appearance—was threatened!

“I am from the South of the Heavenly Empire,” he made haste to answer, catching, as it were, at a saving device. “I am a son of Tang, therefore. Now, with us, there is a custom——”

Without explaining further, he took hold of a wooden button upon his cotton blouse and pulled it loose. Then, with profound courtesy, he tendered it to the Collector of Monies.

The latter received it with a courtesy that was feigned, withdrawing a covert glance from the partly screened window. “A son of Tang,” he repeated. “There be rich men in the South. Now, perhaps your honoured father—” He paused inquiringly.

Yee Wing understood. In the land of the Son of Heaven, a father is held strictly responsible for the obligations of a son. But—the province of Kwangtung was far.

“My poor but excellent father was only a dealer in salt,” he said gravely. “His mound is upon a desolate stretch beside the Yang-tse.” To save any questions concerning other male members of the family,—who also might be held accountable—he added, “I alone survive to feed and clothe his spirit continuously.”

A baleful light shone in the slant, searching eyes,[243] but the words of the Collector of Monies were gracious enough. “Filial piety,” he observed, “has first place among the virtues.” Then, with pompous deprecation, “My humble parent is but a kouang-fou in the Customs Service of Shanghai.”

Yee Wing lowered his own look in becoming deference. The son of a civil officer carries power.

The stranger now gave a second nod and moved away,—not, however, without again peering through the window; and soon, seated on the dummy of an electric car, he was spinning out of sight in the direction of Fruitvale.

Yee Wing watched him go, then hastily entered the house. Fireworks, for the frightening away of evil spirits, might not be exploded near the powder. So he sought for a tiny gong and beat it roundly.

“I like not that man’s countenance,” he told Yee Chu. “Did you note how he spied upon the place? He is of the sort that would steal food like a dog.”

Saying which, the Powder-man beat his gong more loudly than before, and burned at the entrance to his home handful upon handful of propitiatory paper.

Tau Lot, Bazar-man, sat behind a little counter of polished ebony. His were the calm, unmoved—and fat—face and the quick, shifting eye of the born speculator; his, the smooth, long-nailed hands that do no labor, and that were now toying with one of the Nine Classics. On his head rested a tasseled cap. His jacket was of Shang-tung silk, dyed purple. His breeches were of dark crape, tied[244] down upon socks spotlessly white. The shoes that rested upon the middle rung of his stool were of velvet and embroidered.

The Dupont street shop was small, but it held a bewildering mass of merchandise. Silk rolls, matting, bronzes, porcelain, brass, carved furniture, lacquered ware, Chinese fans made in Japan, imported purses worked within a stone’s throw of the store, devil masks, dolls and gowns—gowns of brocade; gowns of plain silk, quilted in finest lines and herring-bone rays and bordered with figured-ribbon bands; gowns of embroidered satin,—mulberry-red wrought with sprigs and circles of flowers, green, with gold thread tracings, black, with silver cranes winging across. Yet though the store was small, and choked to the lantern-hung ceiling, the clerks were many. Some were ranged behind the row of shining glass cases, others lounged in a group near the rear room entrance. There were honourable younger brothers here, and honourable cousins, but not one of a different blood. For Tau Lot thought well of the ancient proverb: When the fire is lighted, all the family should be kept warm.

Outside the bazar was the tall, upright beckoning-board with its heavy gold characters on a vermilion ground. A Chinese now halted beside it, and glanced casually up and down the street. Then he came through the door, examining a box of sandalwood just within the entrance, leaning over some silk handkerchiefs at the counter-end. Presently he advanced to the ebony counter.

“Your trifling servant salutes you, Illustrious,” he said.

[245]The Bazar-man scowled. Two hours had he given up to business—two hours of the three spent so daily. Soon he would return to the dreams and sleep of the enslaving pipe. And what babble had Chow Loo to say?

“Welcome,” he returned. “Too long you have deprived me of your instructive speech.”

“My speech is but a breath in my neighbour’s face. Will the Most Noble not lighten the hour with his voice?”

A party of women tourists came crowding in at that moment, picking at everything not under cover, pulling at the hanging gowns on the wall, stretching to see what was behind the cases. Tau Lot looked them over,—there were five—mentally tagging them with price-marks. The old woman was not worth her keep, the next younger little more, the two thin ones perhaps four hundred——.

“But the round one,” said Chow Loo, keen to see what the Bazar-man was thinking.

“Eight hundred, truly,” and the tasselled cap was gravely wagged.

“So I think, though her feet be as big as the feet of a Tartar woman.” They surveyed the attractive young lady with the judgment of merchants both.

“It nears the time for my going,” said Tau Lot, his Oriental dislike of coming to the point in business overweighed by the dread of wasting time that belonged to the pipe. “So what of the collect to-day?”

Chow Loo ran a hand into the pocket of his blue broadcloth breeches. “From Berkeley, where I led[246] my contemptible way, eighteen dollars,—so much owed the washer of clothes. From Oakland, six, and the vender of vegetables sends his lowly greeting. But the Powder-man at Sather was as naked of coin as a robber. See—here is only a button from his coat!”

“The debt is owed since the Ninth Moon.”

“So I said—Yes, the round one would be worth fully eight hundred.” The attractive young lady had come closer, anxious for a near view of the Bazar-man. A clerk accompanied her, advancing at the farther side of the counter as she advanced, but taking no trouble to display his wares.

“So I said,” repeated the Collector of Monies. Then, with a meaning glance at the Bazar-man, for an honourable younger brother was at the latter’s elbow. “But though he is so miserably poor, he grows a rose,—one more beautiful than a man of his rank should have. In your crowded garden is there room for another such?”

Instantly, Tau Lot’s slant eyes narrowed in their slits, his ponderous body lost its attitude of indolence. He stepped down from his stool with alacrity. “You will have a taste of steamed rice,” he said, “—rice savoured with salt fish—and a cup of hot samschu at my despicable board.” And he led the way to the rear room.

The Collector of Monies followed, and the two seated themselves at a table, where a servant brought food and rice-wine. And here, nose to nose, they chattered low, gesticulated, haggled.

“How far is it to Sather?” asked the Bazar-man.

“Near to thirty li. One can reach there in an[247] hour.” The Collector of Monies proudly displayed a large, nickel-plated watch.

“But still—the price is too high.”

“O Magnificent One! for a little-foot woman? Her dowry was at the lowest fifty taels. Doubtless, that was what beggared him. She is truly a picked beauty, a very pearl.”

“It is settled then. The half will be paid when the rose is plucked, the second half when the filthy foreign police accept a commission and promise no interference.”

At sundown, a few days later, the superintendent at Pinole heard the bell of his telephone summoning him. The receiver at his ear, he caught the petulant “Well, wait a minnit, can’t y’?” of the operator and, punctuating it, a weak gasping, as if some one in agony were at the distant transmitter.

“What is it?” demanded the superintendent. “This is Bingham.”

The gasping ceased. A choking voice answered him: “Yee Wing, Mista Bingham. Say, my hab got sick bludder—oh, velly sick. Must go San Flancisco heap quick. S’pose you likee, my can tell olo Chinaman flom Flootvale. He come all light.”

“Yes, old Wah Lee, you mean.” The superintendent knew it would be useless to try to learn the real cause of Yee Wing’s sudden going or to attempt to stop him.

“Olo Wah Lee,” returned the Powder-man, eagerly. “Say, Mista Bingham, I come back plitty soon. Jessie now, I wanchee know, I no lose my job?”

[248]“No, Wing, your job’s safe. You attend to that sick brother and get back as soon as you can.”

“All light. Good-bye,” and the receiver was hung up.

In the morning, when the superintendent reached Sather, he found Wah Lee on guard. The old Chinese substitute was stretched upon an army cot by the dove-cotes, the white-and-brown pug beside him. Yee Wing’s little home was locked. Bingham shaded his eyes and looked in—upon the kitchen, dining and sleeping room in one. Cups and bowls littered the table. Clothing was tossed here and there upon the benches and floor. Each drawer of a high case against the farthest wall had been jerked out and not replaced.

“Something’s up,” muttered the superintendent. “Well, I knew there’d be trouble when that pretty little wife came. Wah Lee, what’s the matter with Yee Wing?”

“No sabe,” declared the old man, and to every suggestion returned the same reply.

That day, and the six that followed, found Yee Wing in San Francisco, where he walked Chinatown continuously,—watching, watching, watching. And as he travelled, he kept his right hand tucked in his wide left sleeve, his left hand tucked in the right one.

His way led him always through squalid alleys; narrow, dark alleys, where there were no shops, and no coolies going by with heavy baskets swinging from their carrying-poles; but where, from tiny, barred windows, the faces of young Chinese girls looked out—ivory-yellow faces, wondering, wistful.

[249]Before them, passing and repassing, his own face upturned, went Yee Wing.

The slave women gazed down at him with little interest, their dull eyes, their sullen mouths, bespeaking the spirit that is broken but still resentful. He could not call to them, could not question, for among them was surely a spy. He could only pass and repass. Then, to another dark alley, with the same barred windows, the same wistful faces. Enter one of these places, he dared not, if he hoped to live to save her. The Sam Sings guarding the slave trade—those quick-working knife-men who are as quick to get away from the “foreign devils,” police—had her under guard. He must find out where they were keeping her—then match their cunning with his own.

When the little money he had was exhausted, he visited a relative—visited him secretly, toward dawn of a morning thick with fog. For anyone who helped him, if it were known, would suffer swift and certain punishment. Here he replenished his pocket. Then, off again. He ate seldom and sparingly, he slept only in snatches, hidden away under steps or in a big, empty dry-goods box down in the wholesale section.

The end of that week saw him rattling through Burlingame and Palo Alto on his way to San José. There, in the “Garden City,” three days were spent in walking and watching. Then, on to Sacramento, where, half-starved, he stumbled out of the great, roofed station, and made toward the Chinese quarter. Finally, he proceeded north to Portland.

One cold night, a fortnight after Yee Chu’s disappearance,[250] he reached San Francisco once more. It had rained in the north, and his cloth sandals were pulpy, his wadded, cotton coat was soaked. His head was unshaven, too, his queue unkempt from long neglect. He was sallow and green-hued.

But there was no surrender in the blood-shot eyes. He began again to haunt the streets of Chinatown. And, late one night, in Waverly Place, under a blowing street-lamp, he met one of the two he sought; he came face to face with the Collector of Monies.

Yee Wing’s right hand was tucked in his left sleeve, his left hand in the right one. The Collector of Monies had reached to a hind pocket of the blue broadcloth trousers. But across the grimy court, in the light of a second lamp, a uniformed figure was idling and swinging a heavy club to and fro on a thong. His eye was upon them.

They stopped short, each alert. The face of the Collector of Monies was placid, though he marked the bulging sleeves of the Powder-man. Yee Wing was, outwardly, calm too. But his thin upper lip, upon which grew a few straggling hairs, twitched uncontrollably.

“Where is she hidden?” he demanded.

The other snorted. “She is worth little,” he said by way of answer. “She weeps too much.”

The bulge within the sleeves moved. Yee Wing would have slain then,—but what help could he give her from a cell of the city prison? He kept himself in control.

“The Supreme Lord of Heaven,” he said, “pities even the mothers of thieves and harlots. He will pity her, though she be defiled. But you—you—vile[251] scurf of lepers—shall die by a thousand cuts.”

The uniformed figure stepped toward them. At this, the Collector of Monies took his leave, backing away from Yee Wing with such ceremony that his face was still presented when a corner was passed.

Blind with rage and grief, the Powder-man all unconsciously made his way to Commercial street. There, in front of a poultry store, he dropped down to a seat on the curb’s edge. She was in San Francisco! And he was so contemptibly weak that the slave society—the despised hoey—did not even take the pains to deny it to him; even mocked him with her weeping! His Jasmine Blossom!

His ear was caught by the sound of a petulant squealing. Across the street was a Chinese, writhing against the iron door of a well-lighted building. For all the distance, Yee Wing could see that his face was ghastly. With a twist of the body, the Powder-man struggled up. Here, to his hand, was a key with which he could unlock the way!

He hurried over and, as the squirming, loose-jointed figure lurched violently to one side, righted it firmly. Then, supporting the stranger, directed their course from that thoroughfare to another.

Presently, the pair entered a shop. It was one of the manufacturing variety, being filled with sewing-machines before which—though the night was far advanced—sat their busy operators, at work upon loose, lacey garments of silk and muslin. Yee Wing and his charge passed through this outer room and into a small, darkened one behind.

After a short stay, they came forth again, the[252] Powder-man leading. An incredible change had come over the strange Chinese. His eyes were wide and lustrous, he stepped alertly. The two, going single file, after the manner of the Oriental, left the shop and walked rapidly to a near-by square. There, in the shadow of the shaft of the Golden Ship, they sat down, side by side.

“This is my desire,” began Yee Wing, “—you shall find for me a certain woman.” And here, with the indifference, apparently, of a dealer in flesh, he described Yee Chu. “You cannot mistake her,” he declared. “When your work is finished, leave word for me with the garment-maker that the wooden candle-stick is mended. Meanwhile, he will serve your needs.”

Three days, and the message of the mended candle-stick was left. That night, in the shadow of the monument, the opium fiend disclosed to Yee Wing the prison place of his wife.

The Powder-man took his hands from his wide sleeves. Then, on swift foot, he made off to the great, stone yamen of the police.

“Plenty piecee bad man hab got my wife,” he told the head man.

“Chinks?” asked the “foreign devil.”


“Then w’y doan yez jerk out their pigtails?” the other demanded,—but not unkindly, for the thin face and the strained eyes made him conscious of something like pity.

Yee Wing told his story, in the best pidgin-English he could command.

That same night, a gong-wagon came rattling its[253] way into Chinatown. The Sam Sings who lounged at corners here and there watched its progress with unconcern. The wagon was an hourly visitor, since here, hutched with the careless Oriental, and out of the sight of the clean, was the city’s scum—criminal and unfortunate together.

But all of a sudden there was the sound of sandalled feet on the run, for the out-post men were scattering to cover. The patrol had turned into a certain squalid alley, had stopped before a certain door, above which—black Chinese characters on a scarlet ground—was pasted the legend:



And out of the patrol, axe and pistol in hand, had tumbled a half-dozen stalwart officers,—after them, Yee Wing.

There were shrill, warning cries from the street. Shriller cries—the cries of panic-stricken women—answered from the tiny, barred windows above the entrance door. Then, interspersed with lusty Celtic commands, sounded the ring of the axe.

One, two, three minutes—and the bluecoats burst their way through the bolted doors and into the main room of the den. Under them, over them, on either hand, they caught the noise of hurried flight, a frightened rat-like scurrying. Before them was a[254] room dim-lit and heavy with the odour of opium and incense. Dirty cushions were thrown about. Stools and tables were overturned. To one side lay a three-stringed banjo. The occupants had fled.

Not all. Past the cluster of white men sprang Yee Wing, across the dark room, to a little huddled heap on the floor beyond. It was she, still wearing the loose, purple trousers and the cherry-hued jacket. Upon the jacket, circling a bony handle thrust upright, was a growing stain—deeper than cherry hue.

The officers rushed on, doubly eager to track, now that there had been a murder. One stayed a moment and would have drawn the weapon from Yee Chu’s breast, but Yee Wing would not let him. With it would go out the last spark of life.

Alone together, the Powder-man did not sink beside his wife. His face did not show either grief or anger. He only looked at her, his hands hanging loosely at his sides.

Her eyes opened, she saw him, and smiled faintly. “Esteemed,” she whispered, “Esteemed, it is the time of the tea-harvest!”

He knew that she was thinking of the hills of Hupeh. “Ah, Jasmine Blossom,” he answered, “graceful as a leaf and as sweetly scented.”

She smiled again. “Possessor of All the Virtues,”—her voice was so low he could scarcely hear—“but I am heavily sick. Forgive me that I cannot live to be the mother of your first-born.” And, with that, her eyelids drooped.

They came back into the room then, empty-handed.[255] Quietly, sadly, they gathered about the two.

Yee Wing looked around the circle. He spoke no word, but there was a terrible light in his blood-shot eyes. Then, he turned about and went down the stairway. Again, his right hand was in his wide left sleeve, his left hand in the right one.

The Collector of Monies, making leisurely toward his favourite barber-shop, was conscious of a figure—almost a shadow, so uncertain was it—that appeared and disappeared behind him. He stopped every few feet to look over his shoulder. But, through the ever moving procession of the pavement, he could see no one that seemed to be following.

At the barber-shop, he took a stool lazily. First, a square napkin dipped in hot water freshened face and palms; next, a few hairs were pulled from his jowl, and the ear-spoon was wielded. Then he composed himself for a head-shave. The razoring begun, he watched a group of gaudily dressed children, shouting and gamboling before the door, and as he watched he fingered a long-stemmed pipe, caressing its ivory mouthpiece with his lips.

Of a sudden, through the group of children, to the great brass bowl at the shop entrance, came a figure. Its dress was ragged and dirty, its queue unkempt. Its right hand was thrust in a wide left sleeve, the left hand in the right one.

As Chow Loo looked, the right hand was drawn from the sleeve and extended toward him. Between two blood-shot eyes was the black bore of a revolver.

Careless of the razor, he sprang up, the keen[256] blade taking him in the scalp. But even as he leaped came the bullet—straight to the mark.

A hue and cry arose, there was a great running, and gathering, a medley of questions, a medley of answers, the jostling and the commands of uniformed “foreign devils.” Chow Loo tottered forward, and dropped beside the great brass bowl. And there, gazing fixedly up at a lantern that was swinging gently to and fro above the door, the life of the Collector of Monies went out of him.

When Yee Wing arrived at Sather, he found Wah Lee lying in a strip of shade behind the dove-cotes. The old man got up at once, relinquished a key, folded a few belongings into a handkerchief and departed down the road to Fruitvale.

The Powder-man looked dumbly about him, at the little home, the black-walled magazine, the grassy level surrounding. Upon the green, the dark-red peonies were nodding; across it fared the butterflies.

For a long time, he stood. Then, slowly, he went apart and sat down in a place where he could command every approach. Here, hour by hour, he stayed—waiting. Twilight came on. He arose, approached the door of his little home, unlocked it, and entered. A silken garment lay close to the sill. He took it up, smoothing it with a gentle hand. At last, he laid it down. His eye rested upon a photograph that lay among the cups and bowls on the table. He lifted it tenderly, carried it to the chest of drawers and set it upon end. Before it, in a bronze cup of ashes, he put a lighted incense stick.

[257]He leaned against the drawer chest, his forehead upon a hand. “Mother of the unborn that were to worship my bones!” he faltered.

By now, the twilight had deepened into night. Down the highway leading to Fruitvale, he heard the barking of a dog. He stole to the window and sat down, a revolver upon his knee.

The dog quieted. A quarter of an hour passed. Then, from the other side, toward Haywards, a second barking. He stepped outside, keeping close to the house. Behind it, among the dove-cotes, he halted, peering to every side.

A space of time went by. Then, across the level from the railway, three shadows!

Yee Wing sank down and crept noiselessly to the door of the magazine, opened it, and stood just within the black entrance.

The three shadows were nearer now, but motionless.

Yee Wing called out: “Come, honourable brothers, come. Why wait you yonder?”

The shadows moved, but there was no answer. They separated. One came forward under cover of the house; one turned to the right; one to the left.

“Come, brothers, come,” called Yee Wing, again. His voice was light and mocking. “The spoil is large. You shall take all my possessions with you—this time.”

The three stopped short. Then, as one, they turned, fleeing.

Too late! Yee Wing stepped back into the magazine—a match sputtered up——

The night was split by a great burst of thunder.[258] It went resounding across the salt flats to Alameda, across the bay to the City beside the Gate, it was beaten back by the brown Piedmont hills. And with it, as the earth quaked to the sound, the souls of three Sam Sings, and of Yee Wing, Powder-man, went forth to join the souls of their ancestors.




Austin Knowles, sitting alone over his coffee and paper, put down his cup and leaned back, an expression of pleased surprise lighting his grave face. “Oh,—ask Mr. Heaton to come in here,” he said.

A moment, and the servant ushered in a young man whose manner, frank and boyishly eager at the threshold, at once became, on catching sight of the other, more subdued, even somewhat solicitous.

The elder looked up. “Well,” was his kindly greeting, “you’re abroad early. Take a chair. Everything all right at the building, I hope.”

“Yes, sir,—not a vacancy since McGinn & McGinn, the attorneys, leased. That was two months ago.” There was a touch of pride in Heaton’s answer.

“You’re the best superintendent I’ve ever had, Ned. I’m more than satisfied with you. And as long as your good judgment about tenants seems to have simplified your work at the building, you may feel you can branch out a little. You know Sparling is leaving me the first of the month.”

“The Montgomery street property!” Heaton’s face crimsoned with pleasure. “Oh, thank you,—I’d like to try that.”

“Well, we’ll see.” The elder man went back to[260] his coffee, the habitual look of gravity again settling upon his face.

Heaton was a full minute collecting himself. “What I came for this morning,” he began at last, “was a personal matter.”


“I stayed up Arroyo way over Sunday. Mrs. George Thorburn spoke of you, and asked me to bring you a letter and—and back it up.” He took an envelope from a pocket, rose and handed it across the table. “Really, I hope you’ll go.” His voice was deep with earnestness. He honoured Austin Knowles,—and pitied him; for he knew how rare had been the other’s devotion to the wife now seven years dead, how sincere was his mourning for her, and how lonely was his life in that big stone house on the avenue.

“I’m going up again for the rest of my vacation,” Heaton continued. “And I’ll look for you.” He held out his hand.

The elder man took it. “Perhaps,” he said absent-mindedly. And Heaton passed out.

It was a crested letter, perfumed, and written in a large, modishly angular hand.

Mrs. Thorburn’s invitation was cordial, even pressing. She wrote that the hills were simply lovely now, and that she just knew her dear Mr. Knowles was awfully fagged. So she wanted above all things that he should have a fortnight’s vacation at High Court. “Dorothy will be home,” she went on to say, “and some charming people are visiting me. You will find your stay restful, I am sure, for you shall do as you choose—except at dinner-time—and[261] read or ride or ramble the days away. Dear Mr. Knowles, do come.”

“Restful”—his thoughts dwelt upon that word. He leaned back, covering his eyes. These seven years he had given himself no time for anything save work—hard, persistent work that had kept him from despair. But it had worn him down. His face had thinned, his hair grown grey at the temples, his shoulders rounded, his step become less elastic. Rest—he needed it. And “to read or ride or ramble” held a promise of pleasure and recuperation.

He lifted his head presently and touched a bell. It was answered by the man-servant, young and soft of foot, who approached, as Heaton had, with an air at once respectful and anxiously inquiring.

“Did you ring, sir?”

“Yes, Thomas. I’m going out of town for a couple of weeks. Pack what I’ll need—right off.” A moment ago, he had wavered over deciding. Now, of a sudden, and almost unaccountably, as though roused by a sense of coming freedom, Austin was all eagerness to get away from the lonely house, the wearing office, the noisy town.

“Will you want me to go with you, sir?”

“No,—no, I think not. You may have two weeks for yourself. Send this wire.” He scribbled a few words hastily, then rose.

“Mr. Knowles,—please.” Thomas, having received the telegram, was halted irresolutely at the door. “If I may ask, sir, if—if you’d object——”

“What, Thomas?” Austin turned, smiling encouragement.

[262]“I’d—I’d—like to get married, sir, while you’re gone. I’d be settled and ready for my duties when you came back. It’s a young lady I’ve known a good while, sir, and we could rent that little cottage just back of here—the one with the nasturtiums over the porch. Maybe you recall it, sir.”

The smile warmed into kindness. “Marry? Why, of course,” Austin said heartily. “And, I congratulate you.”

Thomas bowed, fumbling for the knob. “Thank you, sir,” he said.

A next morning’s train carried Austin Knowles out of the city and toward the line of brown-grey California foothills midway of which was the Thorburn country-place. He watched the towns, fields, gulches and roadways slip swiftly by. The towns grew smaller and farther apart as the metropolis receded, the roadways roughened, the fields contracted, the gulches deepened, and the line of foothills took on a browner tinge. He raised a window, and a breeze swept him, tugging at his hair and bringing to his nostrils the scent of curing grass. He took a deep breath. He had not had a good smell of the country in, yes, in over seven years. The last time, he and Barbara——

The old pain gripped him, stinging his eyes and paining his throat. His hand slipped into a vest pocket and drew forth a small, round, closed locket, on one side of which, chased delicately, was a lily, upheld between two leaves; on the opposite, an A and a B, intertwined. He opened it, held it close in a palm, and looked tenderly upon the pictured face.


The trainman’s cry brought him to his feet. He put the locket away, took up a hand-satchel and hurried out and down. A trap was waiting, in charge of a man in a smart covert livery. He handed satchel and checks to a second man, who came forward from the little depot, climbed to a seat in the trap and was whirled away.

When the trap pulled up, only Mrs. Thorburn greeted him. “The others are at the tennis-court,” she explained, “Dorothy and Hal, Miss Scott—you remember her—the Lamberts, babies and all——”

“Good!” exclaimed Austin.

“And Ned Heaton.” Mrs. Thorburn rather snapped this out.

“Oh, yes,—Ned,” said Austin, wondering at her asperity.

“Hal’s fond of him,” she added in a tone which informed her hearer that she was not.

He met the house-party at luncheon. Miss Scott sat next him and was more pert than usual, owing to the roguish attentions of young Hal, who held the end of the table opposite his mother. Across from Austin, seated between the Lamberts (an ostentatiously happy married couple), was Dorothy.

“How these children grow up!” thought Austin, remembering the romping girl he had seen last in short frocks—the girl, curiously enough, that he had somehow expected to meet again. But here she was a grown woman, slender, pretty, undeniably attractive. He noticed with a feeling of regret that she strove to ape her mother’s haughtiness, but succeeded[264] in being merely petulant. Her eyes were pronouncedly eloquent. Were they not too eloquent to be honest?

But these were Austin’s first impressions. Little by little, as the meal progressed, he altered them considerably. Miss Scott’s pertness became intensified, and Dorothy’s reserve was thrown into pleasant contrast. The Lamberts proved to be extremely entertaining, and, with Hal, kept the table alive with good-natured fun. Even Mrs. Thorburn unbent to a degree that was almost kittenish. Presently, Austin responded to the infectious merriment—and found himself laughing.

Luncheon was long over, tea-time was nearly at hand, and Austin, with the young ladies looking gleefully on, was busily trying to worst Hal at billiards. Suddenly he remembered that Ned Heaton had not appeared either at luncheon or afterward.

“Oh, he’s staying at the Hamilton ranch, just back of Arroyo,” Hal explained. “Rides over every morning to help Dorothy lick us at tennis.” This with a sly smile at Miss Scott.

That smile broke up the game. Miss Scott claimed Hal’s undivided attention, demanding instruction in the handling of a cue; and Dorothy and Austin were driven forth to the lawn.

New guests were added at dinner, and this brought Miss Dorothy next him. He spoke of a ride. She agreed to it enthusiastically; and for an hour and a quarter held forth on horseback-riding and the growing popularity of stride-saddles. When dinner ended, and the company strolled out upon the lawn for coffee, she went with him.

[265]It was not until Austin reached his room for the night that he remembered that twelve hours had passed during which all business cares had been forgotten! Yes, and even— He reached for the locket, only to find that he had not changed it from the vest of the suit he had worn throughout the day. The discovery brought a twinge of conscience. It was as if he had failed in loyalty to Her.

Dorothy and he had their ride in the morning, and came across Ned Heaton just outside of Arroyo (Dorothy had chosen that direction). The three cantered homeward together and breakfasted with the rest. Then Hal and Austin went back to their billiards, while Ned and Dorothy, with the Lamberts, sought the tennis-court.

It was the glimpse Austin got of the Lamberts as they went out that started a new train of thought for him. The husband walked close to the wife, smiling into her face and letting a round elbow rest in his hand. The sight drove Austin to the woods beyond the stables when the billiard-game came to an end. And, once in the woods, he walked aimlessly. Wise Mrs. Thorburn, with her happy couple and their pretty babies, had accomplished in twenty-four hours what seven years of grind could not do.

Out among the oaks on the hillside, he sat down in the shade. Before him lay a wooded slope that fell rapidly to the winding ribbon of the lane. Beyond the lane, over the inch-wide railroad track and the rugged little creek, rose other slopes, bare and smooth and round. Upon them, glistening red-and-white specks against the wonderful velvety brown, went cattle. And there was borne to him from across the valley the faint, sweet tinkle of a bell.

[266]“It’s like a Keith canvas,” he said, looking at the great, low-branched oaks with their horny trunks and tufts of mistletoe. He lay back, his head on his hat, his eyes shut. Here was rest indeed!

The gobble, gobble, gobble of an angry turkey-cock disturbed the quiet. He sat up, watching to the left, where, through a break in the woods, could be seen the long, regular rows of a hillside vineyard. Something was moving at its edge—a woman. He rose to his feet. Even at that distance he could see that she was young and dark, and dressed in something light and simple. She was swinging a hat by one hand; the other held a leafy branch; and with hat and branch, she shooed forward into the woods a small band of bronze-coloured turkeys.

The birds came straight toward him, and made a pretty sight as they advanced, little and big together, now scattering in an eager search through the grass, now rushing together over some loudly announced find. Behind them, directing their way, walked the turkey-girl.

She approached so slowly that Austin sat down again. Presently, he heard her singing, though he could not distinguish the words or the tune. Through the song, punctuating it, sounded the piercing crescendo of young turkeys, cheep, cheep, cheep. Then, song and words became audible; but not understandable, for the approaching herder was singing in Italian.

“The daughter of the farmer,” concluded Austin. Then, “Why, I declare!”

For she was close at hand now, a slender, pliant[267] figure that took the steep path lightly, and he marked, almost in bewilderment, the beauty of the girl: her small head set upon a graceful brown throat; her black hair, crisply curling at the temples; hazel eyes, heavy-lashed, that suggested the yellow pansies he had seen sunning themselves along the lane; a straight, delicate nose; and a sweet mouth, brilliantly touched with scarlet.

The mother-birds saw him now and divided to pass, uttering startled warnings. She, too, caught sight of him, and stopped short, covering her surprise by giving a tardy gobbler an energetic brush with her hat. Then she looked at him with unconcealed interest and curiosity.

He took off his hat, at which the turkeys gave way in renewed fear. “Good-morning,” he said, pleasantly.

“Good-morning,” she answered, speaking without a trace of foreign accent. Then, waving branch and hat, she passed on, replying to his smile timidly.

He mentioned her at lunch. “Ah!” said Hal; “a-a-ah!” as if he had found something especially delectable on his plate. “That’s Vincenza. And I’ll bet she’s the prettiest girl in California.”

Everyone at the table promptly agreed. Austin felt something like surprise over this singleness of opinion. Even Miss Scott and Dorothy came out with no protesting “buts.” And Mrs. Thorburn—where was the heated belittlement that might be expected of an adoring and excusably ambitious mother? Did she not realise that here was an eligible and very likeable young man, and, on the next ranch, an astonishing lovely girl?

[268]But the talk was of something else now, and Vincenza was forgotten.

That evening, as he was sitting beside Mrs. Thorburn in the music-room, listening to Dorothy’s facile rendering of a Grieg number, the elder woman turned to him suddenly and rested a hand on his arm.

“I think you’ve been happier than usual these two days,” she said. “Don’t you keep too close to your work and your home, Mr. Knowles?”

“Work, yes,” answered Austin. “But I can scarcely say that I have a home. It—it is empty.”

“You choose to have it so.” She was frankly reproving. “And yet you’re comparatively young, have means in abundance, and are the kind of man that sensible young women like.”

Austin was silent a moment. Then he said, “I’ve turned forty, and I’ve never thought of filling my wife’s place. Perhaps it’s not gallant to say it, but I’m afraid the place couldn’t be filled.”

“You’re wrong,” began Mrs. Thorburn, decisively. “There are many young women who could make you happy, cheer you, look after you—oh, every man needs looking after. And then, a son or a daughter would give you new interests in life.”

“That’s true. Somehow, I’ve hardly even thought of it before, and never spoken of it to anyone. But you are—are sympathy itself.”

“I lost my husband, and I know how it is with you. I didn’t marry again—I had my dear children.”

Austin nodded. Across the room, still seated before the piano, and coaxing something wonderfully[269] pathetic from the long keyboard was Dorothy, a dainty picture in her gown of flowing white.

Mrs. Thorburn saw the direction of his look. “Dorothy is never interested in very young men,” she said. “I like to see her evident pleasure in your company. I hope she’ll help to make your stay a very pleasant one. You know, after all, there’s no virtue in continued mourning, in nursing one’s grief.” Then, quickly, seeing Austin breathe deep, “Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean we should forget soon, or forget at all. Only, we’re put on this earth for happiness—happiness that doesn’t conflict with the happiness of others.”

“Yes,” said Austin; “yes, I’m sure that’s so.” When she got up to move over to the Lamberts, chatting together in a corner, he stayed where he was. For a second time he was thinking along new lines. This time, however, his thoughts were decidedly definite.

“I wonder,” he said to himself, “I wonder how it would have been if I had died and Barbara lived.” The thought of another man in his place came up. “Well, I’d have wished it.” And, presently, when he went up to bed, his mind was so engrossed that, for the first time since She had gone, he forgot to take his nightly look at the picture in the round locket.

The next morning he and Dorothy rode again. It proved a less entertaining ride than the other. For she was unusually silent, even distrait, and, Austin thought, rather sad. They went beyond Arroyo, as before, and passed the ranch where Ned Heaton was staying. But they did not see him,[270] and as the sun had grown unpleasantly warm by that time, they headed their horses back.

The wistfulness of Dorothy’s eyes, and the little droop at the corners of her pretty mouth, touched Austin considerably. “We should have started earlier,” he said, and, “I’m afraid you’ve overdone. Sha’n’t we rest awhile at the creek?”

But she was hungry, she declared, and gave her horse a sharp cut with her quirt to put him into a gallop. Austin kept alongside, feeling somewhat contrite. When they reached the house, he helped her dismount with marked care, and anxiously followed her to the veranda. There she left him, and he did not see her again till dinner, which fact kept him waiting about all day, not a little worried.

After dinner, they walked together in the cool. Somehow, Austin came to help her occasionally, taking her by the arm, for the road was gravelled and her slippers were thin. Again she was quiet; again, her eyes were sad, and glistened with what seemed to him to be unshed tears. He was very gentle with her, and won a wan smile now and then, or a quick, grateful look.

When their walk was over, and Dorothy had said good-night, Mrs. Thorburn came to sit beside Austin, under the rose-covered pergola. Once more she laid her hand upon his arm, and again her speech was full of friendly interest and sympathy, leading, at last, to the subject of a change in Austin’s mode of life, and then—to marriage.

There could be no doubt as to her meaning. She admired and respected him. His loyalty to his dead wife was, to her, a sure sign that he would make a[271] loyal husband to a new one. And Dorothy felt so, too.

Later, he held a conference with himself—and felt just a trifle disappointed at the thought that Mrs. Thorburn was descending to match-making. “Perhaps I would be happier, though,” he said to himself, “and more contented. But—Dorothy is twenty.”

Was there not too wide a gap between their ages? He had always held that youth naturally turned to youth for happiness; he had always strongly disapproved of the marriage of May with December, pointing out that such a union never took place when December was poor. But—was forty December? On the other hand, he was not poor.

“But the Thorburns don’t need money,” he said decisively. “It wouldn’t be a purchase.” The idea was so abhorrent that he determinedly put it aside, and fell asleep thinking of possible changes in the decorations and furnishings of the big, stone house on the avenue.

The miniature had not been forgotten: he had purposely refrained from looking at it.

It was early morning when he awoke and looked out. The sun was just rising. High Court was yet asleep. The only moving thing about the grounds was a gardener, pushing before him a barrow filled with weeds and tools. Austin dressed hurriedly, and quietly made his way out upon the broad lawn. Then he pulled his soft hat over his eyes, settled his coat, and made off down the carriage road, walking briskly.

To reach the creek was easy. But once on its[272] edge, he looked up at the house and felt that the long pull back would be less difficult after a refreshing cup of coffee. The thought touched his pride—had he grown to be such an old fogy that he must have his usual breakfast stimulant before making a little extra physical effort! The town lay up the level track. He turned that way.

Breakfast over at the little Mexican restaurant, he started homeward, leaving the tracks, this time, and following a trail that led through a small field of alfalfa. When the woods were reached, he settled himself against a log in the sun, and looked down upon the town, toward which a pigmy freight train was crawling, and upon the fringed creek and the small, fenced alfalfa fields bordering the lane.

And then—gobble, gobble, gobble. He glanced along the trail. Some turkeys were coming into view, and beyond them, a wide, bobbing hat.

When Vincenza appeared, driving the laziest gobbler before her, Austin rose. “Out early with your turkeys, I see,” he began. “You’re Miss Vincenza. Mrs. Thorburn has spoken of you. I’m staying at High Court for a few days.”

She had been standing very still while he talked, modestly watching him. Now, she smiled frankly, and nodded. “Yes, I know Mrs. Thorburn,” she said. “All the time, ladies and gentlemen come from the city to visit her. Sometimes I see them—I go up to the house to take a turkey, maybe, and then I see them on the porch.”

She moved away, following the flock, and he walked with her. They went slowly, accommodating themselves to the vagaries of the leading hens, whose[273] slender chicks, forever cheeping shrilly, ran on and on in a little brown, eager brood.

“Isn’t the morning beautiful!” he said. “I live in the city, you know, and never see the sun come up.”

“I always see it,” she answered. “I drive the turkeys out early. They are in a coop at night, for the coyotes would like to eat them. When they get loose, oh, they walk and walk. They walk my feet off!” She shook her head in mock despair.

They paused now, the foremost turkeys having stopped to explore a manzanita thicket. Austin took a closer look at her than he had had before, his wonder growing over her delicate beauty. Never had he seen its equal. And yet she seemed unconscious of it, and had none of the smirking and simpering and obvious showing-off of her prettiness that marred most girls. Then, for some reason, there rose up before him a certain, doll-like face, pretty and petulant, but distinguished by eyes that were purposefully eloquent.

The hazel pair at hand were watching the valley. Austin looked and saw a horseman threading the lane by the creek. At that great distance, the horse looked to him scarcely more than a rabbit in size.

Vincenza’s face lighted as she looked. “Ah!” she exclaimed presently; “it is Guido!” And shaping her slim hands to form a mouth-trumpet, she sent down a long, clear halloo.

The horseman reined sharply and, taking off his hat, waved it about his head. Then he rode on, with a trail of dust rising like smoke behind him.

Between the galloping horseman and the hill, two[274] people on foot were moving slowly. Austin studied them a moment. One was a woman, in a white dress, the other a man—Heaton, surely, for there was no mistaking that broad sombrero. But who was the girl?

Vincenza now hurried forward, all anxiety for her flock. “Fantana,” she called, “oh, where are the babies?” Spying them out, all safe, she came back to give the ever-lagging gobbler a smart cuff. “Why, why do you not stay with the little ones and take care of them?” she demanded in a scold. “You bad Dewey!”

Austin was delighted. He gave over watching the couple in the valley and helped her circle the flock and keep them from spreading. Then, together, they freed a little turk that had tangled his over-long legs among some vines.

The next four days passed with amazing swiftness for Austin. His mornings were spent among the oaks upon the hill, where the turkeys never failed to make their appearance. He took a shotgun with him, Hal having suggested that the ranch could spare an occasional coyote or rabbit—or even a wildcat! But the afternoons were devoted to High Court, and billiards or bridge made the warm hours go quickly. In the evening there was a drive, perhaps, or a stroll.

As a rule, after dinner, Austin walked with Dorothy, the others rather pairing off or grouping so that this might be the case. One night, however, toward the end of his stay, Miss Scott fell to his lot. The first half-hour with her he contrived to spend agreeably. Once you knew her, he had come[275] to think, she was really a nice enough girl. Her pertness grew out of her natural sharpness rather than out of any intent to be caustic or malicious. But—did it?

They had arrived at a palm-bordered turn in the road that led to the valley. There they paused, looking back at the low, white house, the wide windows of which were all brilliantly alight.

“Isn’t it a delightful home?” said Austin. “So simple, yet it would be hard to find a detail that could be improved.”

“There is one, though,” retorted Miss Scott. “Only you can’t see—a mortgage.” The expression of her face, it was as if she had winked, carried full meaning.

It worked like a sudden poison. Now Austin understood Hal’s apparently enthusiastic liking for him; now he understood Mrs. Thorburn’s well-veiled wishes and friendly pats upon his arm; now he understood Dorothy, sulky at times, at others over-cordial, in fact, gushing, and always so eloquent of eye.

But could he give unquestioning belief to the mere insinuation of a sharp-tongued envious girl? What right had he, on such flimsy evidence, to jump to the conclusion that the Thorburns, mother and son, were cold-blooded bargainers; that Dorothy, in her sweeter moods, was acting a crafty lie?

As he walked silently homeward, he was forced to acknowledge to himself that he had not an inkling as to what were the girl’s true inclinations. Her artificial life, and her training under false standards, made it possible for her to mask her real self. If[276] there were no one to influence her, would she seek her happiness with him?

His meeting with Vincenza next morning was like a breath of scented air after a stifling room. She did not know of his wealth, she did not parade her beauty, she was not hunting a human bank. If it were a question of what were her feelings, how easily, how unerringly, it could be answered! For what she said came straight from her innocent heart, and could be accepted absolutely. She was truth itself.

While they sat together under a broad live-oak, with the turkeys settled down near by in the sun, he listened with keen pleasure to her naïve chatter and to the sturdy announcement that she was going to the city—soon, too, this with a blush, and that even now she was having a “tailor-suit” made for her journey.

“A tailor-suit!” thought Austin, almost laughing at the ridiculousness of it. She seemed so fitted to the simple print dress and the broad sun-hat she was wearing.

The following day he breakfasted before the others and hurried off eagerly, carrying the gun. He had never fired it yet, but it served as an excellent excuse for his long rambles. When he reached the oak grove on the hillside, he leaned the weapon against a tree. Then he stretched himself out, his soft hat under his head.

Vincenza—in the last twenty-four hours, how often the thought of her had come to him! What a contrast this girl of the fields was to Dorothy Thorbum! How winsome, how unaffected. She was a little woman to be prized as a jewel by a fortunate[277] man. How disinterested her companionship with him had been! She liked him solely for himself—with no knowledge, and, therefore, no thought, of the big stone house that would be a veritable palace of fairyland to a girl like her; with no thought of fine raiment, or of luxuries of any sort.

Something moved in the chaparral clump above him. He turned, and saw two small brown-feathered birds emerge.

“Quail!” he said under his breath. He reached for the gun, aimed quickly, and fired.

Instantly mingled cries went up: the frightened gobbling of grown turkeys, the pitiful cheeps of a young bird as it tumbled about in the grass, and, louder than these, the wailing plea of a girl—“Oh! oh! don’t shoot!”

Then, racing down upon him, came Vincenza, her hat gone, her dark hair flying, her face white with anxiety for her flock.

There he stood, red-handed, the gun in his grasp, the injured chick at his feet.

She saw the little crumpled victim now, and with a pitiful sob sank down and took it into her lap. “Ah! poor Maria!” she wept, smoothing a stained wing.

“Vincenza,” pleaded Austin, putting the gun aside and kneeling beside her, “I didn’t mean to do it. I thought it was a quail. Oh, I’m so sorry. Listen. I’ll make the loss up a thousand times. Come, please don’t cry.”

The chaparral crashed above him. He stood up—in time to meet the angry black eyes of a stalwart[278] young man, who came panting upon the scene, carrying Vincenza’s hat.

“What’s the matter?” demanded the newcomer. “My Vincenza, are you hurt? This fool has been shooting.” And lifting the girl up, he held her, as if in defence, against his breast. [Instantly Austin divined why the mistress of High Court had no need to belittle the turkey-girl!]

“No, no, Guido,” Vincenza sobbed protestingly, “he is not a fool.”

“He kills the turkeys,” went on Guido, glaring at Austin. “Say, Mister, what’s the matter with you?”

“I’ll make it right,” Austin answered in a low voice.

“The devil!” began Guido, almost shaking Vincenza in his wrath. “But she loves each little one.”

Vincenza interrupted him. A slim hand came up and settled determinedly upon his mouth. “Guido,” she entreated, “do not be so mad. I would have to sell them all before the wedding, would I not? And Maria was so young—she was not worth two-bits. Only”—plaintively—“she dies a little sooner.”

“Well, anyhow,” went on Guido, not a whit pacified, “I like to know why you hang around and hang around here all the time. Vincenza, she is mine, and I do not——”

Again, the girl interrupted. This time, she stepped back a little, holding her lover at arm’s length and smiling at him through her tears. “Oh, poor Guido,” she cried teasingly, with a swift look[279] toward Austin. “What you think? He is jealous! And of this kind old gentleman!”

Austin involuntarily straightened, and his head jerked back as if from a blow. The doubts that had troubled him were settled. Truth had spoken.

He took out a bulging leather purse, opened it, and let a dozen shining fives run into his hand. Then, his sensitive face pale, his look subdued, he held out the money to Guido.

The young Italian received it with something short of a bow, and proffered it to Vincenza. “Here,” he said soothingly.

Vincenza, black lashes still wet, gazed in wonderment upon the little pile of coins. “Oh!” she cried, “but Maria was not worth so much!”

Austin picked up the gun, buttoned his coat, and returned Guido’s bow. “It is partly a—a little wedding gift,” he said. “And I wish you both all the happiness that life can give. Good-day.” He lifted his hat and wheeled.

At that moment he saw, halted in a well-screened turn of the distant road by the creek, two figures. One was slender and dressed in white, and one was topped by a wide sombrero. And, as he looked, the white-clad figure was suddenly caught close to the other—so close that two heads were shielded by the same broad hat.

“Well,” said Austin, at luncheon, smiling upon his hostess, “I go back to town to-day.”

Mrs. Thorburn’s face, until now wreathed in smiles that were marvels of effusive amiability, dropped as suddenly as if a rough hand had been[280] drawn down across it; then it slowly reddened, and two eyes, startled, even apprehensive, exchanged a glance with Hal.

“Nonsense!” cried the son of the house, leaning toward Austin. “We can’t let you go—that’s all there is about it. Ned here is off in the morning, and—and we can’t afford to lose anyone else. Can we, mother?”

By now Mrs. Thorburn had recovered somewhat from her momentary surprise. Once more beaming amiably, she shook a finger at Austin in playful sternness. “I protest,” she said. “No, no, you can’t go. We all protest. Dorothy——”

“Yes, indeed,” chimed in the girl, but with illy feigned enthusiasm. “Why—why should you go?”

“I’ve got such a lot to do,” explained Austin. “You know Thomas—the man that’s been with me such a long time. He’s just been married, and I want to attend to a wedding-present for him.”

“The idea of your hurrying away to look after a servant’s comfort,” cooed Mrs. Thorburn, “when you need rest so badly yourself.”

“I think you’re right,” admitted Austin, airily. “I’m not as young as I was once.”

“Not so young!” repeated Mrs. Thorburn. “Oh, how ridiculous!” And, “Bosh!” added Hal. But Dorothy said nothing, only coloured, as if in guilt. Ned was watching her, his boyish face set, his eyes half closed. The Lamberts alone were concerned with their luncheon. Miss Scott was all attention. Her sharp chin was up, her sharper eyes travelling alertly.

“Yes, not so young,” continued Austin, jovially.[281] “In fact, I’m nothing less than an old gentleman.” He gave a hearty laugh.

Mrs. Thorburn shifted uneasily. His demeanour had in it an entirely strange note. The subdued, seemingly pliable Austin she understood. But what of this new one, changed all at once—more youthful, cheery and dominating?

“You know, these two weeks, I’ve had time to take stock of myself,” Austin continued. “I was in a groove. Well, travelling over these hills has taught me the value of change and recreation. I’m going back to town to settle things up so that I can get away to Europe for a long vacation. I’m afraid that means more work for you, Ned.”

The young man looked back at him soberly. “Yes, sir?”

“Sort of a manager. What do you say?”

For a moment there was perfect silence; next, a general movement; then—Dorothy’s fork fell from her hand and clattered upon a plate.

“Manager,” repeated Heaton.

The older man nodded, and smiled from one to another of the circle. When he came to Dorothy, he saw a face from which petulance and pretence were gone. Her eyes, as they met his, were as childishly honest as Vincenza’s own. And they were shining with tears.

“And while I’m away you could take care of my house, Ned, if—if you weren’t a single man.”

Again, a perfect silence, a silence almost electric. Hal and his mother exchanged a second swift glance. Miss Scott leaned forward. She looked at no one, and spoke with sly triumph.

[282]“Congratulations,” she said.

With Arroyo far behind, and High Court only a white dot upon the brown-grey hills, Austin turned from the car window, took out the round locket and opened it. In his face there was none of the old pain. Instead, he looked with a tender smile upon the pictured face of his wife.

“Barbara,” he said, “the spring of youth—it never could be found a second time. We drank from it together—we enjoyed it to the full. What a mistake—mourning instead of exulting in the memory of it—a memory that no one can take from me—of youth with you, dearest, of youth with you!”



STRANGE things are related of the old Indian pueblo of Los Morales on the Rio Grande. And a tale that is one of the strangest concerns these—a dark vaquero—a young painter of Indians, fair as the vaquero was dark—a blue-eyed girl with a spotted mustang—a little father of the chapel of San Felipe—a dove that was a peacock—a peacock that was a living example—a deer fed on flowers—and an empty belfry that sounded forth the ringing of a bell.

“Ah-ah,” said Father José, pausing in the midst of his salad-making to listen, “—more trouble!”

The young man at the easel looked up. “Gracious!” he exclaimed, and faced about to peer through the low, wide-ledged window of the kitchen. “It sounds serious.”

“But it is only Anastacio and Paloma,” said the father wearily. He trotted across the worn floor to fetch a deep white-and-gold dish from his cupboard. Returning, he held the dish up. “It was my mother’s,” he explained proudly, “—like all those upon the shelf. She had a full set of porcelain. And my salads are always most palatable in this dish.”

“Paloma,” repeated the painter, with a fleet glance at the dish. “That means a dove.”

[284]“Yes—and I christened her. But, ah! Señor John, when a Spanish girl is yet a baby, how is it possible to know what name she should be given? A dove!”

At this juncture the quarrel without waxed more loud and furious. A girl shrilled something taunting—over and over, in a high key—then, the rumble of a man’s deep growling answered—next, both voices sounded together—a very discord of wrath.

“I’d like to get Anastacio to sit for me,” said the painter. “I could call it ‘The Brigand.’ What do you suppose the trouble is this time?”

The father was intent upon his salad. In the bottom of the white-and-gold dish he laid a slice of buttered bread well rubbed with garlic—this for a foundation, as it were. Then upon the bread, leaf laid against leaf, so that the effect was that of a huge green rose, he placed the lettuce, all glistening with its dressing of oil and vinegar; and a-top the lettuce, thin circles of silvery onion.

“I do not ask,” he said presently, “because it is not necessary to ask. I hear it all at confession.”

Señor John smiled, and came back to his painting.

“If it is something wicked that Paloma has done,” resumed the father, “I know even before that. For she comes to bring me a custard.”

The next moment, the low blue door beside the window was struck so violently from without that it slammed open with a bang against the corner of Father José’s china-cupboard. Then over the threshold on swift foot came a girl, her angry face ivory-pale in contrast with her black eyes and wildly tossed black hair. “But I love the deer!” she burst[285] forth pantingly, as she paused before the father; “and I will not give him away. And if I cannot have him at the new house, then I shall not marry.”

The father had been standing with one hand upon his cupboard to steady it, for the bang of the door had set all his precious porcelain to rattling. Now, by a rolling of his eyes, a pursing of his lips, and a sidewise wagging of his head, he directed the girl’s look toward the easel.

She half whirled, and a sudden tinge of coral upon cheek and lip relieved the black and ivory. “O-o-oh!” she murmured, and fell back a step.

Señor John rose, bowing over his palette and brush.

“This gentleman,” explained Father José, “is Señor John Gordon. He is staying on the other side of the river, at the rancho of Señor Allen. And he comes here to paint pictures.”

Paloma regarded the stranger in silence for a moment. Then, “He—he will think I am a cross girl,” she began regretfully. “But it is Anastacio that gives me the temper. One day,”—advancing a little—“he is all kind looks, Señor, and he says what is nice. Next day, he is all bad looks, and the serape is over his ears—ugh! One can never tell how he will be. He is worse for changing than the sand of the river. Yes. And now he wishes back the ring! What do you think, padrecito?” She held out her left hand with a quick gesture. Upon the slender third finger of it, milk-white against the creamy smoothness of her skin, shone a single large pearl. “It cost him fifty dollars!”—this triumphantly.

[286]“Well! well!” said Señor John, coming forward to get a better look.

“You think that much?” said Paloma. “So it is. But I would not wear a turquoise or a garnet, such as are picked up by the Indians not so far away—and I would not wear beaten silver, as do the squaws. No—my pearl, you see, is set in gold, and it was bought in Albuquerque, at the store that has high, glass windows.”

“Indeed?” questioned the painter, even more impressed.

“But whatever it cost,” went on Paloma, “Anastacio shall not have it back. What is given, is given. It is not my fault that he cannot love my pretty Miguel. I said to him, ‘The good father has a peacock. And I——’”

Father José held up a hand to interrupt her. “My peacock serves as a lesson to my Indians,” he said. “He is a living example of all that is least to be desired. He is beautiful, but useless; he talks loudly, but does nothing; he struts, but goes nowhere; he eats much, yet—since he is old—his flesh is not even good for food. Vain and ostentatious bird!—his life is a warning.”

Paloma had scarcely heard him, having been waiting a chance to speak again. Now she continued promptly, mimicking her lover: “‘Miguel will take all your time,’ Anastacio complains. Well,”—argumentatively—“Miguel must be watched, else the dogs will chase him. Has not Anastacio said (more than once, señor,) that he himself is certain the dogs will do away with Miguel? So! And if I were not watching the little one, what then should I do?[287] Make mud dishes?—like the Indians? Hah! That for what Anastacio thinks! The pig!” Again she threw out her hand—with a loud snap of her fingers.

“Hush!” whispered the father. “He is there.” He pointed through the window.

“A-a-ah!” It was a purr. With a sudden step aside, and a sway of her shoulders, she looked past the young painter. “He is waiting for me!” she cried. “But I shall not go. No! I think that I even do not like him any more, and I may not marry him after all. He thinks himself so handsome! Puf!—with that moustache of his, like a bird’s-nest!” And she threw back her tumbled head, and shook her black hair and laughed aloud.

Close by, and built at right angles to the rear wall of Father José’s own house, rose the north wall of the chapel of San Felipe—a mud wall, up which some vines straggled. Against the vines, and half-screened by them, leaned a blanket-wrapped figure.

Now, Paloma neared the window, but without looking out, and sat down on the wide ledge, so that she was in full sight of the waiting man by the wall. Then, she turned to Señor John’s easel with a great show of interest. “You are making a picture of Los Morales!” she began. “Am I not quick at guessing? You see it could not be Albuquerque, for you have put flat roofs on the houses. And it is not old Albuquerque, because—oh, padrecito! here is your house, and the garden, and the church with the little tower! Paint a bell in the tower, señor, since we have none.” And she smiled up at Señor John saucily.

[288]“My daughter!” chided Father José, almost sternly, “do not jest of the bell!”

“So there was a bell—once,” said the young painter.

The father folded a damp napkin, covered his salad, and set the white-and-gold dish away carefully on a shelf. Then he came over and stood beside the easel, one slender hand clasping the other, and both held against the jet cross that swung on his breast. He was short and lean, with straight, white hair; a pale, bulging, bald forehead; a high nose; thin cheeks—upon each a spot of scarlet; and dark eyes that were on occasions alive with almost childish fun, nearly extinguished by laughter and as full of glints as the big, shining, brown-black beads of his rosary, but which, at other times, were wide, serene, and luminous.

“It was when there were mulberry-trees here by the river,” he began, “—the trees that gave the pueblo its name. There are some who say that mulberry-trees were never here; or, if trees were indeed here, they were only of the cottonwood. But these doubters think also”—a gentle smile parted his lips—“that the silver bell of Los Morales is only a legend.”

“The silver bell,” repeated Señor John.

“Aye, silver,” answered the father sadly; “that is why it hangs no longer in the tower of San Felipe. Alas! my belfry is a pierced ear from which the jewel has been torn.” And his head bent to his hands. After a moment he raised his face, and raised his hands so that they pressed one palm against the other, at his chin. “It came to be lost[289] through greed,” he went on. “A wandering band of Indians crossed the Rio Grande at this ford and attacked the pueblo. That was many, many years ago. The band came to steal, for they were hungry—not having been wise, Paloma, and provided themselves against a day of need. They fought from the ground, for they had no horses, and the Pueblos fought from the flat roofs of their houses, sending sharp arrows down upon their enemies. These, before they were fully routed, withdrew from the town, and sought a brief refuge in the chapel, and here, in this house. They demanded money, but there was no money to give them, and so the brave priest said. They did not harm the man of God. But they climbed to the belfry. There was the bell. They knew there was silver in it, else they would not have troubled. There was much silver in it, señor, it having been made in Old Mexico, where the custom was to use silver. The bell was easy to take. It swung in no yoke, but from a roundish, wooden beam, by heavy thongs that were run through its iron loop. These thongs they cut, and then——” The scarlet spots on his thin cheeks blanched, his eyes became round pools of glowing black. “Señor, a storm broke—a storm the like of which Los Morales had never before seen. Rain like a second deluge, so that the Rio Grande deepened on its bed, and wind so strong that it caught up the water of the river and lashed the ground with it, and carried waves up to the edge of the town—aye, even to the foot of the dirt-cliffs beyond. The thieves in the chapel were frightened—not because they saw what a terrible thing it was they[290] had done, señor, only because they believed they might not get safely away with their lives. So they hurried down to the river, six men carrying the bell, and started to cross. As they entered the stream the silver tongue was swinging to and fro, to and fro, calling a farewell through the storm. And the Indians on the housetops called back to their beloved bell, answering it, and they wept aloud.”

Here, the father’s voice faltered, broke, and went silent. He shut his eyes, and his slender hands trembled. But presently, he again looked up at the two who were listening. “Then, as the bell was choked into dumbness by the rushing waters,” he said, “the six who bore it suddenly sank from sight. They had walked into a very pit of death!”

“How?” questioned the young painter.

“The quicksands, señor.”

“The quicksands!”

“You should know that for all its shallow depth, the Rio Grande is here most treacherous, and travellers keep to the ford. The sands shift, señor—the bed of the river rots.”

“And the silver bell—it was never heard of again?”

“Listen! and I will tell you. One black night, long before I came to Los Morales, a second band of thieving Indians crept up across the level ground beyond the river—across the ground where stands the hacienda in which you stay, Señor John. Before entering the ford the band halted to get ready their arrows, for they meant to take the town and drive out all the inhabitants. But see what happened! Scarcely had the enemy pushed their horses into the[291] water at the farther side when the priest who lived here then wakened of a sudden. It seemed to him that from overhead had sounded a warning—the single clear peal of a bell!

Paloma crossed herself. Her dark eyes were wet. “Ah! padrecito!” she said softly. “I would pray for the return of the silver bell were I not too wicked.”

“I pray,” said the father, “and my faith does not falter. Ah! señor! when the bell is restored to its tower, I shall waken the town with its mellow call to prayer! The Indians come but slowly to the chapel now. But think how musically sweet and inviting——”

He was interrupted by the slow, dull thub, thub, thub of a drum, which was beating from somewhere in the direction of the pueblo. He nodded gravely. “That is what calls my people, señor,” he said. “Little wonder that they lag.”

The drum had brought Paloma to her feet. “The noon service, and so much yet left undone!” she cried. She gave a backward nod to Señor John, caught up one of the father’s hands upon her wrist, dutifully kissed it, and went out the door through which she had come.

“That warning in the night,” said the young painter, “—it saved the town?”

“Yes.” The father went to the window and leaned his hands on the sill. “Little wonder that they lag,” he said again, as if to himself. Then, to Señor John: “See!—for I am an old man and my eyes are poor—is that Roberta Allen? She does not know fear of the ford.”

[292]The young man also looked out. A girl was slowly passing, mounted on a spotted mustang that was wet to his hocks. She was a slender girl, in laced boots, a riding-skirt, and a waist of some thin, white stuff that the wind fluttered. She peered in through the window—a sailor hat shielding her face from the glare on the adobe wall, and her blue eyes fixed themselves eagerly upon Señor John.

“Yes, father,” answered the young painter, and he smiled and bowed to the girl. Having watched after the spotted mustang for a moment, he turned to look the opposite way, where a bobbing black head showed above the untidy board fence that surrounded a near-by house. “Paloma is very beautiful,” he added presently.

The father was searching in the wide seat of his cane armchair. “Aye, señor,” he admitted. “But often a pink dulce has a black pulp.”

“What a contrast to Miss Allen!” the other went on. The spotted mustang was entering the winding street of the pueblo.

The father had found his book, and now paused a moment, his hand on the door-latch. “My peacock, señor,” he said, “does not mean to be vain. But he cares only for the bright feathers that hang upon his body, and he loves to strut. But, Roberta, she is wise and modest, I think.” And he went out.

When Father José had disappeared through the side entrance of the chapel, Señor John opened the front door of the kitchen and stepped down to the flat stone that lay just before it. The front door opened on the father’s garden—the only garden in the whole of Los Morales. Two feet of paved walk[293] divided the garden and led from the door to a weathered picket-gate. All the wide cracks of this walk were well weeded and neatly filled with trowel-marked adobe, and on either side of the walk stretched small squares of bright green lawn. Across these squares now, and across the stone walk, the father’s peacock was strutting, from the rose-bushes that stood against the pickets on one hand to the sweet-pea vines that screened the fence on the other. And, as he paraded, the sun glanced upon his crested head, brilliantly blue breast, and the green-and-gold semicircle of his tail plumage.

The young painter was still watching the bird when his ear caught a song not from the chapel. A girl’s voice was singing it—a clear voice, if a little loud:

The moon is a sun with a veil—
Lift my veil, and behold my eyes shining.

The voice neared, repeating the words but somewhat disconnectedly. Then, “Go on!” cried the voice impatiently, breaking off the song. “Must I carry you!”

The next moment Paloma came into view beyond the pickets at the corner of the kitchen. A scarlet shawl was thrown about her shoulders, and she was half-leading, half-shoving a young deer. The deer was a full-eyed creature, nimble and strong. And now it butted with its sharp horns, and now struck out swiftly with alternating front and hind feet.

“Open the gate,” called Paloma. “Miguel does not wish to come in. But how shall he get grass[294] except when Father José is in the chapel? Go on, you beast!”

The young painter hastened to the gate.

“Shove and lead and coax!” scolded Paloma, puffing. “Once I could do anything with him. But now he is getting too big. There! Now he’s in!”

“But, look!” cried Señor John. “He’s tearing the roses!”

“My life!” exclaimed the girl, hastening forward across the grass. “Stop it, Miguel! Stop it! Oh, you sinful one!”

But as fast as she drove him away, Miguel returned to the rose-bushes, circling the strutting peacock with little leaps. After him raced Paloma. And as she ran, she shrieked with laughter and threw bits of dirt at the deer.

“Oh, I am dying for breath!” she called. “He knows the roses are choice, you see! Is he not beautiful! Who could help but love him!”

The last was aimed at a figure approaching from the town. It was Anastacio, bound riverward, his serape so far across his face that only his gleaming eyes showed from under his wide and heavy sombrero. He strode past slowly, those eyes now upon Señor John, now upon Paloma and the running deer. Behind him, riding at a distance, came the girl on the spotted mustang.

Paloma redoubled her laughter and her merry cries and Señor John joined his laughter to hers and leaned his arms on the pickets of the gate. She called upon him to testify that Miguel was a very goat. She pursued the little animal more fleetly, lashing out at him so smartly with a broken rose-spray[295] that the peacock retired to the wide stone-step, and let fall the glory of his train. Around and around she tore, her cheeks scarlet as her shoulder-shawl, her black eyes dancing, her hair whipping out behind, her teeth gleaming like a score of pearls as white as that one in her ring.

All at once, spent with her running and shouting, and almost choking with her mirth, she turned to the gate to find that Señor John was no longer there, but was now standing between the garden and the river, talking to the girl on the spotted mustang; while Anastacio had disappeared entirely—under the high bank that stood back from the strip of gently sloping beach. Paloma’s face fell, her eyes stared, her head came up resentfully. Then she walked over to Miguel, seized him by a narrow strap about his neck, gave him a cuff to quiet him, and jerked him, struggling, out of the yard.

It happened the very next morning. Señor John was in the garden, sketching the peacock, and humming the song of the sun and the moon and the veil as he sketched, and Father José was close by, busy with the roses, a violet-bordered square of black silk tied over his ears, and his hands full of dislodged pickets and lengths of string. Suddenly they heard the screams of a girl—screams sharp with grief—then, wild broken cries—“Padre! Oh! oh! Mamita! Dios! It is blood!”

“Señor John!” called the father. “Something unlucky has befallen Miguel. Come!”

They hurried into the kitchen by one door and[296] out of it by another and along the path that led back of the chapel. A middle-aged lady was standing beside the path—a bareheaded, fat lady, whose face, though gentle and somewhat dirty, suggested the round face of Paloma; with her was Paloma—her head upon her mother’s breast, and her form shaking with tempestuous sobs. At their feet, on the smooth-packed ground, was a little round dark pool.

“It is as I feared,” said the father, when he stopped and looked down. “Here are some yellow-grey hairs, and here, cloven hoof-marks.”

Paloma, seeing out of one eye that Señor John was present, now began to wail more vigorously than before. “O my Miguel!” she exclaimed. “You were so pretty and so good! O padrecito, he but pruned the roses!”

Her mother wept, too, but silently, and strove to sooth Paloma by patting her on the shoulder. Her own tears she dried against the scarlet shawl, after she had smiled a sad greeting through them.

“Do not cry,” said Father José, wiping surreptitiously at his cheeks with a flowing corner of the silk square.

“Because Miguel isn’t dead,” declared Señor John. “The dogs have only wounded him probably, and he’s run away to hide.”

The words of comfort had an effect opposite to that desired. Paloma’s sorrow mounted. She threw herself upon her knees, clinging now to her mother’s dress, and now catching at the black skirt of the father, and “Oh! oh! oh!” she sobbed.

“I’m going to start right out and hunt him,”[297] said the young painter. “If he’s dead, I’ll find his body.”

The father shook his head doubtfully. “Maybe,” he said. “But you forget, señor, the deer is good to eat.”

“At this time of the year?” asked the other, significantly.

At that the two men exchanged glances of meaning. Then, “Let us hunt until we know,” advised Father José, in a low tone. “And, meanwhile, let us say nothing.” He laid a finger on his lips.

Paloma had listened—between sobs—to what was being said. Now, she sprang up excitedly. “Know?” she cried. “I know this moment. He did it! None needs to tell me different. Every day he has come. ‘Marry me or give back the ring,’ he has said. And I have said, ‘No,’ to both. And he has done this to revenge himself. The rattlesnake!” The next moment she straightened resentfully, and stared past Señor John and the father. Then, “Rattlesnake!” she cried again, and stamped a foot.

The others turned about, and beheld Anastacio sauntering down the path that led from the pueblo to the chapel. He returned their look defiantly—almost triumphantly—and took off his sombrero in a wide, mocking sweep.

There was that in the gesture which made the father resolve on a rebuke. “Anastacio!” he called peremptorily, and hurried toward the vaquero, his eyes severe, his thin face flushed even up his bald forehead to the roots of his white hair. “Anastacio,”[298] he said, as he neared the path, “the cock that crows the loudest catches the eye of the cook.”

The vaquero’s eyes widened in innocent wonderment. “What is it that I have done?” he questioned, in an aggrieved voice.

“Miguel is gone. It was a coward’s trick, I say, even though he nibbled my roses.”

“Miguel gone! Since when, father? Alas! Too bad! But if a man is in Albuquerque all the night——” he pulled at his moustache.

“Where do you visit in Albuquerque? You busy yourself with gambling, I have no doubt, or with drinking—surely some sin. Where?”

“At Riley’s, father, on the street which has a car. There till midnight. Then, at Georgio’s, for the stupid Riley shuts his door when it is twelve.”

“So? I trust you do not think to throw ashes in my eyes. For I get the truth always, do I not?” Then, suddenly pointing, “I see that you crossed the river on foot.”

Anastacio regarded his boots. They showed a recent wetting, and one end of his serape—from which a small, bright square had been torn—hung as heavy as if it had been trailed in a stream.

“Do you walk to Albuquerque?” inquired Father José, eyeing him narrowly.

The vaquero tried to smile, but it was only a drawing back of his lips from over his white teeth. “Sometimes I walk,” he answered evasively.

“Then the Rio Grande is plainly like a sea for you,” declared the father. “For you are the tint of an unripe lemon.” With that, he walked away.

Instead of searching for the lost Miguel, Señor[299] John rode to Albuquerque that afternoon, that being Father José’s wish. When he returned at sunset, it was with the expected news. Anastacio had not been seen in the town the evening previous. And neither could venison be purchased at a certain little Spanish shop, though the young painter had first winked across a piece of silver and then asked for a cut of the deer brought from Los Morales.

But the day following the hunt began. As many as three Indians reluctantly consented to help, and led by Señor John and the girl on the spotted mustang, made off to the marshes north of the town. Late rains had deepened the ooze of the marshes, and even the road which crossed them was a channel for running water. The two on horseback floundered from one muddy pool to another, while the Pueblos, wound in bright blankets, stationed themselves on a dry eminence and solemnly rotated.

Paloma watched the searchers from the roof of her home, and when they returned, gave herself over to tears of rage and desolation. Fortunately, Anastacio came to talk with her at suppertime, and to declare his guiltlessness solemnly. So her unhappiness found a vent. She berated him. She cried that never, never would she marry him. And in the end, when she had said all her say, she stuffed her fingers into her pretty ears and bade him begone.

After that, seven days passed without incident.

The morning of the ninth day following Miguel’s disappearance, Señor John chanced to be painting by the river. At Los Morales the Rio Grande is wide, and the colour of the crumbling dirt banks between which it runs; the colour, too, of the high,[300] crumbling dirt-cliffs that stand back of the pueblo on the west, and the colour of the low, square, flat-roofed adobe houses of the Indian village. Two high, white crosses marked its ford—one being set on the farther shore and one on the near. At the base of the latter the young painter had his easel, and over him, made fast to the cross so as to shade him from the sun, was a huge umbrella, yellower than the river.

As he worked he glanced, now at the shallow stream, and now at his canvas—this as painters do. Suddenly, something close to the bank caught his eye—a greyish something, almost submerged, around which the water purled and played with little whispers. He sprang up in haste, overturning easel and stool, and ran down the narrow, sloping beach which here stretched between river and bank.

There was no need to doubt what he saw. For there, thrust up through the moving water, almost in reach of his hand, was the point of a sharp horn.

His first thought was that Paloma might see it; his next, that Father José must be summoned.

The father came at once, adjusting his spectacles upon his high nose as he hurried along. And when he saw what was lying near the shore, with the water urging it inch by inch downstream, he fell back with a shocked and sorrowful face, murmuring his pity. “The gentle creature!” he said. “I trust I was never over-bitter against him. Though he had green to feed upon, yet he would rather crop at my flowers. Señor, how human!”

“But what is that, Father José?” Señor John pointed to a bit of bright-coloured cloth that was[301] now spread out upon the surface of the water from the tip of the horn. By wading a step and poking at the cloth with the end of his brush-handle, he dislodged it, whereupon it gave a sudden whirl, floated for a few feet, then rode into shore on an eddy.

“Ah, señor!” cried Father José, as he caught it up—and anger succeeded pity on his face. “He thought to throw the little beast where he would be sucked down. But the sands have shifted! And here is telltale proof! Come with me, señor. It requires discussion.” And he led the way hastily to Paloma’s.

What befell at the council needs no particular recounting. Paloma’s mother said little and that in Spanish. Paloma wept and threatened, and vowed that now she truly would not marry Anastacio, though he lived to be as old as the father himself and as rich as the richest man in Albuquerque. As for Señor John, he said little, but listened respectfully to Father José, who spoke chiefly of the law.

After the drum had beaten, and midday prayers had been said in the chapel, Father José took a cup of coffee to fortify him, then donned cloak and hat and climbed up to the little railway station at the top of the crumbling dirt-cliffs. There he asked on the telephone for the office of the sheriff of the county, and when the sheriff spoke at the other end of the wire, Father José asked him to hasten to Los Morales to arrest one Anastacio Galvez, for killing a deer out of season.

When the sheriff came, Anastacio, swaggering cheerfully, again sought Paloma. “Ninita,” he began,[302] “I come for a farewell word. I am sorry now that Miguel is dead, since it makes you so unhappy. But do not forget that love urged me to do away with him.”

“Then murder again!” retorted Paloma, enraged; “—my mother, the dear father, the guinea-pigs which Mamita has just given me—all! So you will have my heart alone—perhaps.” And she laughed harshly.

There was a suspicion of merriment in his eyes, but he pulled a long face. “I am going to prison for the sake of my love,” he protested. “I must go to prison, for I have not a cent with which to pay the fine.”

Now Paloma almost shrieked in her triumph. “Good!” she cried. “And perish in prison. I am pleased! I am pleased! And because you have been in prison I shall never marry you. The killing of Miguel was very much. But a prison is much more. I could never marry a man who had been in prison. My pride would not let me.”

“Then all is over between us?” questioned Anastacio, meekly.

“All! All! I tell you I would not marry you now if you were covered thick with gold and silver and jewels from your head to your ugly feet—no, not even if you had thousands of pearls as big as this one.” And she flashed the ring before his dark eyes.

“In that case,” he went on, “I think it but honest that you should give back this pearl.” And he watched her keenly.

“The pearl!” she cried. She was walking to and fro, her head high “The pearl will pay me[303] for the loss of Miguel. Yesterday I said, ‘I shall give Anastacio back the ring, for I hate the sight of it. And, besides, the pearl is doubtless only glass, after all, and I can easily get a better.’ But now—I shall keep it.” (This with an imperious glance of her eyes.)

“Miguel was not worth so much,” argued Anastacio. “He was little and thin. And the pearl——” His eyes rested upon it, where it flashed on the hand at her side.

“You shall not have the pearl,” she declared, “not if you die asking for it. You killed my pretty Miguel—and it was not even on a feast-day. So now, this is how you pay.” As she crossed the floor with slow grace, she smiled mockingly.

Again his look rested longingly on the round whiteness of his gift. “Ah, Paloma,” he said tenderly, “you but increase my passion as you storm. Little dove, your sweet mouth is the colour of pepper-tree berries. Your eyes——”

“Have done with my mouth and my eyes!” ordered Paloma, pausing against the window. But she spoke perhaps a shade less angrily than before. “They are not for you. Go hunt among the Indian girls for a wife. One of these you can lead about on a rope, as you do your cows. But, ah, I pity the one you would choose! A squaw is too good for you—much too good.”

“I must speak of your beauty,” insisted Anastacio. “It fills my eyes like the light of the sun. When I shall see it no more the night will fall for me. O my Paloma!” And he took one step toward her.

She waved him back with her two hands. “Keep[304] your compliments!” she said haughtily. “I do not want them. And take yourself off. I never wish to see you again.”

But Anastacio, undaunted, approached another step or two. “Do not be cruel, Paloma,” he begged. “Say farewell kindly to me, sweet dove. And before I go let me—yes, be merciful—let me kiss your little hand.”

“No! No! I say!” She leaned farther away, and struck at him as he came—though not hard.

With a tender cry of “Ah! my beautiful one!” he caught her two flying hands in his. Then, holding all her fingers firmly, he bent his dark head down to her left hand swiftly. The next moment, he retreated, almost with a leap, swung the door open, closed it behind him, ran swiftly to where the sheriff was waiting for him on the path by the chapel, threw himself on to a horse, and led the way at a gallop to the river.

Paloma pursued him, and so fleetly that her hand all but touched the tapadero of his stirrup as he rode into the river. Those who saw her then, standing at the edge of the stream, splashed upon face and dress with the yellow water sent into the air by his horse’s hoofs, were appalled as they looked at her. She was livid with anger and screamed wild things that no one understood—execrations and threats. Then she fell down at the ford in a very spasm of wrath.

It was Señor John who lifted her up and gave her into the comforting arms of her mother. “What did he do?” he questioned. “He’s a bad, heartless wretch, that’s what he is.”

[305]“Señor! My adored pearl!” wailed Paloma, finding her voice. “Oh, he has taken my precious pearl!” She held out her left hand tremblingly.

“The pearl?” echoed Father José, joining the others.

“See what he did!” wept Paloma. “He made as if to kiss my fingers—and bit the pearl from my ring!”

At sunset Anastacio was back at Los Morales again, where he bade fair to become a hero before long, since the Indians could not but honour a man who was able so promptly to throw off the clutches of the jailer. Anastacio related his adventures to those Pueblos who were lounging before the single store of the town, and who, as they listened, surrounded him in an eager, many-hued circle. It was easy, he explained, to guard against being kept in custody if one but used a little forethought. As for his own case, it had presented no difficulties. He had paid his fine with the pearl.

When the boast reached the ears of Paloma, what could have maddened her more? At once she sat herself down to think. Revenge was what she most desired. Revenge was what she must have—but how? Not till she had paced the floor many times, and torn all the fringe from the bottom of the scarlet shawl, did she think out the best way.

The girl who rode the spotted mustang came past the chapel the very next morning. Paloma ran to halt her, holding up a flower culled from Father José’s garden by way of an inducement to stop.[306] And when Paloma had made sure that no one was watching them, or listening, she divulged an earnest wish. It was that Señorita Roberta would give her the loan of a ring.

A pair of blue eyes laughed down at her knowingly. “Punish him well!” whispered Señorita Roberta, and slipped a band from a finger. “Here—take this one with a green stone. It will make him terribly jealous!” Then she rode to where Señor John was painting beneath the empty belfry in the shadow of the chapel wall.

Putting on the borrowed ring Paloma hastened to dress herself with great care. After which, strolling carelessly, she made through the sunlight to the store.

The man who kept the store was young, but with the pallid skin and sad, hollow eyes that denote a mortal illness. He could move about but slowly in the little room, and take down and display and put away only with much effort.

As he waited upon her, Paloma walked to and fro with a gay step, all the while talking: “Show me the calico with the yellow flower, señor. Yes—a yard, please. Did you hear that Señor Gordon is to paint me? Well, he is—and with the padre’s peacock. I am to wear a certain white dress that I shall not use for the purpose it was once intended. No; I shall buy another white dress—very soon, I think—a much richer dress. And, look, señor, is this ring not beautiful? The stone came from beyond the Pacific Ocean.”

Behind the stove, as she sauntered about, boasting, sat a figure wrapped to the ears in a torn serape.[307] But the figure did not move, or appear to see, or even so much as cough.

“Yes,” babbled Paloma, “first I’m to be put in a picture. Then—who knows?—I may go on a long trip. Oh, farther than Albuquerque, señor. Yes, one spool of white thread, very fine. I may even go as far as Chicago.” She tossed her pretty head with meaning. “A girl cannot always live in Los Morales,” she added. “It is but a poor place.” Thereupon, she gathered up her packages, put down some coins upon the counter, gave the sick young man a saucy smile, and went out.

Perhaps it was ten—perhaps fifteen—minutes later when Anastacio rose from his seat by the stove. A change had come over him—a change that was not good to see. His thin face was as ghastly white as the face of the man behind the counter. Out of it gleamed his black eyes, which were so wide open that each was rimmed with white. And his lips were purple under his long moustache and parted to show the line of his set, white teeth. Now his hat was not hiding his forehead, but back upon his shining hair; nor was the torn serape about his shoulders—it was wound around his left arm. He went down through the village, out upon the path which led to the chapel, along this to where Señor John was still painting under the belfry, and so on to the ford, where he disappeared from sight under the high bank that stood a little way back from the river.

The day had begun warm and still, and the noon had been hot, without a breath of air to stir the drooping flowers in Father José’s garden or wave[308] the bright fan of the strutting peacock. But at the middle of the afternoon black clouds suddenly lowered upon river and town, dropping from off the high dirt-cliffs to the west, and bringing twilight with them. A gusty wind marshalled the clouds along, bent the reeds in the marsh, drove through the winding streets of the pueblo and caught at the blankets of the Indians who were scurrying to cover, and brushed all the surface of the river into a white lather. Then came great drops of rain.

Señor John fled into Father José’s kitchen. “Do you think I’d better start home now?” he inquired, “or wait a while?”

“Wait,” advised the father. “There will be tamales for supper, and a loaf of bread heated with butter. After a day like this one, señor, the storm soon passes.”

But as night came on swiftly the wind grew to a gale and the rain began to drive, beating upon the panes of the wide-ledged window like whips of grass.

Señor John ate his supper in silence, getting up nervously every now and then to open the front door a trifle in order to look out, or he shaded his eyes from the lamplight as he peered through the window. The father touched little food, and following supper took his seat in the cane chair before the open grate of his stove—his head lowered and his eyes closed.

Before long the young painter could not contain his impatience further. “I think I’d better start,” he said. “It doesn’t act like quitting for sometime.”

Father José rose. “Why go home to-night?” he[309] asked. “You will not be able to see the cross on the other side, señor. You are welcome here.”

“Oh, I must get over somehow. They would worry about me.”

The father looked grave. “The storm still increases,” he said.

The rain was coming in sheets against the window now, but at short intervals, so that it was as if a white wraith were returning noisily again and again to peer through the blurred glass. The blue blinds outside the father’s bedchamber were banging forward and back with a rattle of loose laths. Upon the level roof overhead sounded the unbroken roar of the tempest.

“A cloudburst and a hurricane,” went on the father. He also opened the front door a little to look out. “I have never seen its like before, señor. They will surely not expect you to brave this.”

The young painter’s face had grown suddenly anxious. “But she might try to come—looking for me,” he said.

“Señorita Roberta? No. She knows how dangerously the river rises in a storm and how the sands shift.”

Señor John was pulling his soft hat down to his ears. “You said yourself, though, father, that she doesn’t know what it means to be afraid of the Rio Grande. I must go. My horse is all right. He’ll take me over.”

“Do not risk it,” advised Father José. “Listen!” And he held up a finger.

There was now a deep voice in the tumult outside—a voice that boomed in heavy undertones.

[310]“It is the river, señor. Oh, I shall worry too.”

“I’ll yell when I get across.”

“I could not hear. But I have an old pistol which I took from a quarrelsome Indian.” The father disappeared into his bedroom and returned carrying a long-barrelled revolver of an old make. “Fire this when you reach the other side.”

“Good-night, Father.”

“Good-night, my son.”

They shook hands and Señor John went out through the door leading into the garden.

A little moon-faced clock on a shelf under the white-and-gold porcelain marked the time as close upon eight. The father returned to his armchair. But now he kept his eyes open and his lips pressed tight, and his head a little to one side. Thus, he waited.

At half-past eight he got up and went to the front door. Rain was still falling heavily, but the wind seemed to have abated a degree. He listened. The river was speaking with a medley of curious voices: There was the rise and fall of pleasant argumentation; wagon-wheels ground over gravel; a child whimpered; oars pounded and squeaked in their rowlocks; steam sang; a dog snarled. Presently he made out the wide Rio Grande as pools of glistening black that moved upon a dead blackness.

With the glimpse of that sweeping, inky flood, fear came over him. He called: “Señor John! Come back! Señor! Señor!

There was no answer. But as he watched—shivering a little—a tiny speck of light suddenly showed in the distance, where stood the Allen hacienda.

[311]“Good!” he exclaimed. “He must be there.” And after watching and listening for another while, he closed the door and went back to his chair.

The wind was plainly lessening, so that now the bedroom blinds banged only occasionally—and the rain was falling more gently. He leaned back, propped his head on a hand, and dozed.

Suddenly, he found himself sitting bolt upright, clutching either arm of the chair, holding his breath. What was that? What had awakened him? He seemed to hear them yet—the dying tones of a bell!

His eyes sought the clock. Four! And the storm was over, for he could hear the ticking. He rose. He lit the lantern. He tied the purple-bordered square of silk over his white hair. Then he hastened down the garden-walk, out of the gate, and toward the river, calling with all his strength.

A voice answered him faintly, as if from the opposite shore. He shouted again. It was a girl’s voice—the second answer made that certain. Then he heard the snort of a horse, splashing, and a murmur of encouraging words.

As he awaited her approach, he made circles with his lantern upon the river, and whispered in an agony of self-reproach: “He is lost. And I let him go! He is lost or she would not be seeking him!”

There were few clouds in the sky, and in the east was a pale lightening, as if of the dawn. By holding the lantern behind him, he made out horse and rider as they neared.

“Where is Señor John?” he called to the girl.

Oh!”—it was a piercing cry. “Isn’t he with you?”

[312]The spotted mustang was pushing through water that foamed about his shoulders. Close to the bank, she reined him and bent over in her saddle as if overcome.

“No! no!” Father José implored. She lifted her head then—he swung his lantern forward—and saw the awful stiffness of her white face, the wild terror of her eyes. All at once he understood what he had not guessed before. “Oh, poor little woman!” he said compassionately.

“When did he start home?”


“Oh, he went down!” Now, she half-turned the mustang, and rode against the current. All the while, she looked about her, first on one hand then on the other, and uttered little, piteous, despairing calls.

“Be careful!” warned the father. “You are above the ford.”

She reined. “Where is the cross? He must have started in at the cross. John! John!”

Father José hunted about. “I cannot find it,” he answered. “Perhaps it has been swept away.” Then, hurrying forward, “No; here it is—but how far up. This is not the ford!”

“Father! Someone has changed the cross!” Suddenly, the mustang halted as if in fear. She strove to urge him on, striking at his flanks with a quirt.

“Come a little farther,” called Father José.

“My horse is sinking!”

That moment, with a shudder, then a quick backward plunge that struck up a shower of spray, the[313] mustang threw himself toward the bank and floundered out.

The girl was panting and crouching on her saddle again. “The crossing’s bad!” she wept. “He rode right into it. Oh, Father José!”

The father did not answer. He had waded out a few steps. And now as he stood in the water, the current was catching at the bottom of his gown and whirling it. To and fro he swept the lantern.

All at once the girl sat up and faced riverward. “What’s that?” she asked. “Didn’t you hear it? And, look! There—down there, away out!”

The light had grown. She pointed below them to the middle of the flood. It had divided at one point and was running on either side of a sand-bar which showed above the surface of the water. At the near edge of the bar lay something black—something that moved a little.

Almost before the father knew where she pointed, the spotted mustang was fighting the current once more, now making his way through water that only washed above the stirrups, now falling suddenly into deep channels that he swam. All the while she encouraged him, or shouted ahead, or back to Father José.

The father had put down his lantern. Now he ran to the cross, pried it out of the sand and started along the bank with it, stopped at a point a little above where he judged she could come out, for the cross was heavy and the current could help him to carry it.

Now, she had stopped in midstream and was heading the spotted mustang about. Next, she had[314] leaned down and reached a hand to the exhausted man lying in water to his shoulders. Then, very slowly, the spotted mustang, alternately swimming and walking as before, she began the return.

She came on without a word, for all her breath and strength were needed for her task. Her left arm was crooked around the horn of her saddle, her right was outstretched, still holding its heavy weight. When she had made half the distance Father José advanced into the water to meet her, pulling the floating cross along at his side.

Together they brought Señor John to shore, he clinging to a stirrup at the last, and she to his sleeve, for her hold had not borne the long strain. He was clinging to the cross as well, Father José having pressed the base of the upright under the water and under his arm. As they laid him upon the ground, and the father wiped at his face, he looked up at them with a wan smile.

“Roberta,” he whispered hoarsely, “I—was getting—tired.”

“I nearly died with fear,” she answered. “John, where’s your horse?”

“Went down.”

“Rest for a little,” bade the father.

They all rested, breathing hard—Señor John lying and they seated beside him. But presently he struggled up to a sitting posture, bracing himself on one dripping arm.

“Roberta,” he said, his voice firmer even with so short a respite, “I’m cold.”

They helped him to stand, and half-carried him to the top of a low ledge of sand near by. Then, while[315] the father supported him for a moment, she led the spotted mustang to the ground below the ledge, and Señor John was enabled easily to mount.

“First, to the store,” said Father José, “for dry clothing. Then, hot coffee.”

Señor John was too weak to sit up in the saddle, and leaned forward—his back bowed, his chin on his breast, his hands clasped around the saddle-horn. “You won’t have to hold me on,” he said, when they reached up from either side. “No; I’m all right. Just worn out, that’s all, keeping myself from being sucked under.” He turned a haggard face to Father José. “Think!” he added, “—if it hadn’t been for that rock!”

“A rock, señor?” demanded the father. “There are no rocks here in the Rio Grande.”

Señor John lifted a feeble hand to point. “You can see it,” he protested; “a big one, too, sticking out of the sand.”

Father José looked out to where the channel divided on either side of the bar. There was a strange light in his eyes, and his cheeks were pale as he faced the dawn. “Something is there,” he said, speaking low, as if to himself.

The spotted mustang started now, slowly, with the girl walking alongside to guide him. The father did not follow. He went down to the water’s edge instead, and stood watching out toward the bar in midstream. And so they left him.

As for Señor John, he was soon wearing a suit from off the shelves at the store and was reviving after a smoking draught of the brew which Paloma’s mother brought. Then a seat behind the stove was[316] fixed up for him and here he was showered with attention, no less by the young storekeeper—haggard as himself—than by a cluster of inquisitive, but kindly, Indians.

To one side loitered Paloma, quietly observant. But when Señor John, despite his little audience, reached up to kiss the girl who had braved the water and the sands to find him, Paloma approached the two and drew from her finger the ring with the green stone.

“I return what I borrowed,” she said. Her face was a sullen black and ivory, and when she walked away it was with an air somewhat forlorn—like that of a girl who has neither ring nor lover. But when she reached the door a tinge of colour rushed into cheek and lip. Outside, two dark eyes were fixed upon her from under a wide hat, for Anastacio was hovering near, wrapped in his serape—hovering as if he wished to look on, yet was anxious to escape notice. All at once, Paloma’s pretty head came high again and she tripped proudly out.

It was at this juncture that shouting was heard from the direction of the river. Instantly the crowd about Señor John dwindled and started in loose order down the winding pueblo street. Paloma’s mother went too, joining Paloma. And the storekeeper followed, bareheaded. Then—the shouting had grown—Señor John got up and trailed after the others, leaning on a willing shoulder.

The sun was up now and shining warmly. As they came out of the village upon the path which led past the chapel, it glistened on the wet grey roofs of the town and on the wide, yellow river.

[317]All of Los Morales was in front of them, crying out excitedly, running, cheering wildly. And now, as the noisy throng parted, here came a procession, moving up the gentle slope that led from the Rio Grande to the chapel of San Felipe. Father José led it, his thin face uplifted and transformed, his dark eyes wide, serene and luminous, his slender hands clasping the jet cross on his breast. Behind him trooped the Pueblos, reaching out brown hands to touch something that was in their midst. Their black eyes sparkled, their white teeth showed with smiling. At the center of the throng walked six bright-blanketed Indians abreast, a long, stout pole in their hands. And swung on the pole through its iron loop, with its clapper wagging as the six walked, and sounding a mellow, clear-throated, joyous greeting to all the town, came the lost silver bell of Los Morales.

The very morning that the lilac bush in a corner of the father’s garden showed a first cockade of purple bloom among its heart-shaped leaves, the silver bell rang for a wedding—for Paloma married Anastacio, and wore the white dress, and a ring with a pearl to guard her new gold band. And the gift of the groom to his bride was a fawn, which was to have a garden all its own. And the gift of the bride’s mother was a freshly-built house of adobe, flat-roofed, with doors that were bluer than any doors in the city of Albuquerque, and with a trellis as blue as the doors. While, curiously enough, the gift of the bride to the father was a yellow custard.

Señor John and the girl who rode the spotted[318] mustang crossed the river to attend the wedding. (Señor John came, because—in Los Morales—it is well to let sleeping dogs lie.) And when the ceremony was finished, the two visited a while with Father José.

“Well,” said the father to them cheerfully, “I have married the Spanish peacock off. She will strut a little, no doubt, and delight in her own beauty; perhaps accomplish nothing in her new life—after the manner of peacocks. But when it comes to that, could not one say almost as much against my roses? Yes.” As he talked he busied himself with a salad. In the bottom of the white-and-gold dish he first laid a slice of buttered bread; then, upon the bread, leaf against leaf, so that the effect was that of a huge green rose, he placed the lettuce, all glistening with its dressing of oil and vinegar; next, a-top the lettuce——

But here Señor John left the wide-ledged window and came forward, smiling, to whisper something slyly into his ear. At that the father left his salad and seized a hand of each of them. “Señor and Señora Gordon!” he cried. “Well, a double blessing! Ah!—how like ever seeks out like!”

And so surprised was the good father at their news that for the first time in all the years that he had possessed the white-and-gold porcelain, he forgot to add—as a top to the big, green rose—the thin circles of silvery onion.



MANUELITA shooed the chickens one way, pursing out lips as scarlet as the ripe cacao; with a round, copper-tinted arm she wielded a length of bamboo to prod the pigs the other. An exit made, she pulled the door shut behind her to keep out the naked babies cluttered before it among pigs and chickens, and took a proud, leisurely look up and down the double row of paja-thatched huts.

It was Sunday afternoon, and fairly cool, for the almost vertical Venezuelan sun was screened by the drab clouds of a gathering storm. So the womankind of the San Jacinto hacienda were before their low houses, some with men beside them, others alone but gossiping volubly to whomever chanced near. Manuelita bent her pretty head to survey the slipper-like alpargatas Ricardo had just bought her, and the new skirt, bright-figured, and of a length that left the leg bare from dimpled knee to foot. Then, smoothing her little jacket, and putting her wide straw hat at its jauntiest angle, she set off slowly down the narrow, dirty street.

At some distance from it was Antonia Toro, slouching, hands on hips, in her own door. When she saw Manuelita advancing, she straightened, and let her bony hands fall, clinched, against her petticoat. Small eyes half closed in hate, frowzy head thrust forward, she began to call out, addressing[320] a neighbour, but aiming her words at her successful rival.

“Bah!” she cried, with a laugh. “Look how our parrot’s new feathers stick out!”

Manuelita heard, and walked more slowly. Her brown eyes sparkled delightedly, her round chin went up, her red mouth parted in a smile over even, white teeth.

“Bah!” snorted Antonia again, and put out her tongue. “Let her strut now. But—ha! ha!—Ricardo is a man that likes change. Who knows?”

There was a threat in the hoarse voice. It stung Manuelita. She paused.

“When did a man choose a rotten instead of a ripe banana?” she inquired sweetly, and raised her plump shoulders.

At that, a laugh ran from hut to hut. Antonia’s wrath grew.

“How long does the ripe stay ripe?” she cried. “Ricardo will go. Ha! ha!”

Manuelita was proceeding gracefully. Now she stopped once more, turning her full, girlish throat to look round.

“Yes,” she answered, “when Rio Tuy flows back to the mountains.”

Ricardo came by Antonia’s a little later, just as the last scattered drops of a heavy downpour were falling. He was mud to the waist, muddy of face, and dripping. One hand was busy with a cigarette; from a finger of the other, by their heel straps, hung his alpargatas. He had been out since noon, walking across the ditches of the hacienda.

Again Antonia was slouching in her door.

[321]“Loan me your fire, Ricardo?” she asked.

He glanced up the street uneasily, then halted and lit the long cigar she was preparing.

“Ah, but you are tired,” she went on, with a great show of concern, “and wet to the skin. Come, will you enter? Juan is gone, and for good—á Dios gracias! I never liked him. He was stingy and ugly and old. Come——”

“Where is he gone?” asked Ricardo, making no move toward accepting her invitation.

“Where?” she repeated, between puffs. “To join the Revolutionists at Rio Chico. He is anxious to fight, he said. He fight!”

Ricardo’s pale face widened in a grin.

“Maybe you taught him,” he suggested slyly. She understood. “Ah, now, Ricardo, you are wrong. Yes, you are wrong. Once I was quick-tempered, perhaps. But I am not brava now. No, no. I have learned better. And Juan was happy with me.”

Ricardo was sober again. Suddenly, nostrils swelling, he threw up his head.

“Sometimes I think of going to join La Gente, too,” he said.

“Do not be a fool,” Antonia returned. “Within the hour I start for Carenero. But”—her voice was lowered engagingly—“I will stay here if you wish it.”

But Ricardo, having tossed aside his cigarette, was pulling nervously at a curly lock and edging away.

Adiós,” he said, with more troubled glances toward home. “A pleasant journey. Adiós.

[322]Adiós,” echoed the other regretfully.

All this while, from her one window, Manuelita had been watching. She had seen Ricardo stop before Antonia’s, seen him light her tabaco, and their talking back and forth. And as he started for his hut once more, she scolded to herself in a passionate undertone, she stamped the floor with an angry foot. He had made of her an object for further taunting. He had made her the laughingstock of the San Jacinto.

Madre de Dios!” she exclaimed over and over, her lips white with rage and mortification. “But I shall punish him for this!”

Ricardo had scarce entered, her name on his tongue, when the full volume of her ire burst upon him with tropical rigor and suddenness.

“So you have been to see that crooked face,” she cried furiously. “You sneak, you! you that are full of lies!”

Not altogether surprised, he strove to meet her attack by replying, to stem it through endearments. She would not hear. She would have none of his caresses. And he could do nothing but seat himself on a bull’s-hide chair, rest his chin somewhat sheepishly on his breast, and listen.

“Oh, I will not stay with you another day,” she vowed, breath and wits taxed at last for epithets. “I, a girl that all have desired, that could have a better house, yes, one covered with pink stucco, and finer clothes, and shoes, and even a ring or two, and no work, and all the cigarettes I want—here I am with you, who are coiled like a culebra, ready to sting, to kill. You coward!”

[323]“I have always treated you well,” retorted Ricardo sulkily, “and I am not a coward. I shall show you. I shall go to fight with the Revolutionists.”

“Go, go, go,” she answered. “I shall not mourn. You cannot shame me before them all. Go, and take her with you!”

She flung herself upon the bed, without a look at him, without a thought for their supperless baby, curled up on a gunny sack by the door. There, worn out with the violence of her quarrelling, she sobbed herself to sleep.

Late in the night she awoke suddenly and sat up. She was cold; she felt alone; she was startled, too, as if something direful had happened. Forgetting her wrongs in her fear, she reached out her arms and called softly. The cubierta was not spread over her. Only the under blanket was left upon the rushes of the bed. And Ricardo was not by her side! She sprang out upon the floor, feeling this way and that.

“Ricardo! Where are you?” she demanded. “Answer. You will have me wakening Niñito next.”

She touched the reed partition, the table, the chairs. Then she lit the lámpara and held it above her, looking into every corner of the living room and the kitchen. He was not in the hut!

On the instant she was like one gone mad.

Madre de Dios!” she gasped. “They are together!”

She set the lamp on the table, snatched up a flat, spear-shaped lanza, and raced off down the street. Arrived at Antonia’s, she entered swiftly.

[324]By the light of the single window, that, here, faced the moon, she saw that the room was deserted.

In her own home, once more, she examined the mud walls closely. Ah!—the new machete was gone from its nail! And, farther along, the carved gourd flask that held aguardiente! They had left the hacienda!

She blew out the light and took her stand by the door. Her eyes blazed with hatred and anger. She gave out little inarticulate cries. She shook the keen-pointed lanza at the hut down the street.

For a long time, thus. Then she grew quieter, and leaned back wearily against the wall. Then she slipped down to a sitting posture on the ground, and her head drooped forward to her knees.

The day broke, the pigs came up, grunting and rooting. A chicken flew to her shoulder and pecked at a bright flower in her waist. She looked up, and the memory of her quarrel and her loss came back. She groaned and covered her face.

From across the street her mother saw her and scented trouble. She came waddling over, her shrivelled face all anxiety.

“What is it, Manuelita?” she asked. “Is the niño dead?” Then, spying the baby, “Or, perhaps, a pig?”

Manuelita shook her head.

The old woman peered about her, searching for the cause of the trouble.

“What, then, what?” she inquired.

“Ricardo is gone!”

The other stared.

[325]“Gone!” she repeated in a tone of disgust; “gone! Do you say that you are deserted? Nineteen, only, and deserted. Pst! You are a fool! I kept your father beside me until I was more than twenty-five!”

“Oh, mamma!” It was a plaintive, heart-broken cry.

“But there is no use to snivel over it. What will you do? Do not make a fuss outside here, for all the men to see. Be up, and act gay. Now, there is Felipe, the younger one. He gets four reales a day in the cacao court. He is worth something, I can tell you. And there is Juan. As you know, Antonia Toro——”

Now, Manuelita looked up, and her whole body trembled with fury.

“Antonia!” she repeated hoarsely. “He has gone with her!”

“So?” The old woman looked incredulous. Then she hitched a shoulder. “Ah, well, no matter. You have chickens and pigs, and you are but nineteen. You have only one baby, too, and he is not much trouble. Soon he will be old enough to look out for himself. Why”—in a burst of generosity—“I will take him off your hands myself for a while. Get up.”

In her eagerness, she put out a claw of a hand to pull at her daughter’s sleeve.

“Ah! mamma! mamma!” Manuelita’s voice was deeper now, almost a groan. “You forget, mamma,—Felipe is not Ricardo.”

“Bah! Ricardo! He is gone. Look you—look you, there is Felipe now!”

[326]“No—no,” Manuelita protested, raising a tear-stained face.

Felipe was indeed coming up the street. He looked angry too, and was rubbing his kinky hair at every step.

“Where is Ricardo?” he demanded as soon as he was within hearing. “Where is he, I say? Why should I work if he does not?”

And now such a mingling of voices—Felipe repeating questions to which he received no answer; the old woman boldly stating Manuelita’s new domestic status; the girl crying out against her mother’s hasty planning.

But after a time, when matters became clear to Felipe, he fell silent to ponder, and the old woman quieted to await his reply. As for Manuelita, she was sobbing a determination. “I shall follow, I shall follow,” she declared. “And when I find them, I shall kill!”

“Felipe can go along,” suggested her mother, “and help you.”

Manuelita glanced at Felipe, and recoiled.

“Where have they gone?” he asked her. “Do you know?”

“He took our cubierta, the new machete, and a flask. Yesterday he threatened to join the Revolutionists.”

“He will go either to Tacarigua or to Rio Chico, in that case,” Felipe declared. He began to look dubious. Laying an index finger in the palm of a hand, he did some calculating. It would take not less than so many days, perhaps. At four reales each day—he counted on his fingers. “Out so much[327] for just a woman!” he concluded. “I will not do it.”

But Manuelita did not hear. She was on her feet and getting ready to leave. The baby, awake and hungry, seemed to know her purpose. He began a lusty howling.

“Take, mamma.” She pushed him toward her mother.

The old woman caught the squalling child between her knees, hastily lit a tabaco, put it between her toothless gums to make it burn, and gave it to him. He grew still at once, seized the long cigar in both little hands, and fell to smoking industriously.

“Foolish! foolish!” she scolded. “And you will have your trouble for naught. Can you hold a man who does not want you? No woman can do that. You had better stay.”

Manuelita ignored the advice. She was putting the last touches to her preparations. In a bright cotton handkerchief she tied a comb, several baked plantains, some round thick arepas made of mashed corn, and her cigarettes; she swung her straw hat over one arm and dropped the lanza into a sheath of inlaid leather at her belt. Then, without a glance at mother, child, or neighbour, she went rapidly up the street and entered the cacao under low-hanging branches.

But soon she paused to consider a moment. What if she were travelling the wrong way! Suppose they had gone in an easterly direction, toward Rio Chico. Yet, no, for Juan was there. Besides, since the hacienda of San Jacinto, a portion of the northern half of the plain of Barlovento, curves in to meet[328] the Rio Tuy, the couple would have had to cross the swollen stream at the very start. They would go north, to Tacarigua. She was sure of that. And, taking off her alpargatas, she walked in a great semicircle, looking for fresh footprints.

Across ditch after ditch she went, through black water and blacker ooze. Sometimes her steps were sure, more often she sank to the knees, or fell, her hands flattening against a ditch side.

She found fresh footprints in countless numbers, and leading toward every point of the compass. Some had been made by naked feet, some by alpargatas. Some were long and wide, some were short and more narrow. She was bewildered by them.

“Ah! Madre de Dios!” she faltered.

Presently, pointing northward, she found two sets, the one plainly a man’s, the other smaller. They were new, too, for the ooze still stood in them. Instantly her attention fixed upon these. She floundered after them, rod upon rod, as certain that she was upon the right trail as if she could see Ricardo and the woman ahead of her. Here the footprints were close together—she ground her teeth. Here they were farther apart. And here someone had stumbled, for there was the mark of a naked palm on the soft earth. She laughed, and stroked the handle of the lanza.

When the tracks left the hacienda of San Jacinto they entered that of its northern neighbour—Guevara. Here they made a detour to avoid the cacao court and huts of the plantation’s workers. Then on again, through mud and mire, keeping always[329] straight toward Tacarigua. Farther still, when this hacienda was crossed, they entered the rough path leading northward through the forest, and were lost.

At midday Manuelita stopped at a deep-shadowed spot on the road to eat a meal of baked plantain and arepa. The monkeys jabbered down at her. Now and then she heard strange movements close by in the jungle. But she felt no fear. A few moments for food, a pull at a water-filled gourd flask, a few crumbs to a lizard, blinking—head downward—from a tree trunk at her elbow, and she trotted on.

It was the hour before sunset when, through a tangle, she peered out from the forest’s edge. Before her was a shallow stream, muddy though it was flowing over a bed of pebbles. Beyond, a cluster of red, tiled roofs, was Tacarigua. Tacarigua! And they were there!

She opened her bundle for the comb; bathed quickly face, arms, and from foot to knee, and carefully rubbed away the caked dirt marring the bright figures of her skirt. Then, with the sun looking back from the ragged range of La Silla de Caracas, and a breeze beginning to stir the leaves that fringed the water, she slipped on her alpargatas, took the path again, and entered the village.

General Blanco Alcantara, in command of the Revolutionary force at Tacarigua, sat upon his horse before the green-walled Jefatura Civil. He looked quite imposing. A broad hat, wound in the blue of his cause, was set rakishly upon his black[330] hair. A wide sash of webbed stuff in the same blue ran over his right shoulder and was wrinkled into the loop of his sabre scabbard, from which, knotted, it fell, ends free, to a silver spur.

Near him, lounging upon the steps of the building, were several officers, smoking, talking, and evidently waiting. To one side, also occupied with their tabacos and gossip, were as many asistentes, waiting, too, and looking as important as the discarded apparel of their superiors would permit.

When Manuelita approached the general, he was looking down his straight nose at the cigarette he was rolling in his fingers. But at the sound of her voice close to his stirrup, he turned his deep-set black eyes upon her.

“Señor general,” she began, quaveringly.

He saw eyes as dark as his own, a pale face scarce younger. And his short upper lip, under its wiry moustache, lifted a little, in what was meant to be a smile.

“At your order, señorita,” he replied.

And now he saw the girl’s eyes widen and flash, saw the red of anger run into lip and cheek.

“Señor general,” she continued huskily, “there is a man—one Ricardo Villegas—who last night left the hacienda San Jacinto to come to Tacarigua and join La Revolución. Leaving, he took with him our cubierta, a new machete, and—a woman.”

The general laughed.

“That man of yours was equipped for fighting,” he said.

She was clasping and unclasping her hands with nervous intensity.

[331]“He had best be so,” she answered, “when next he meets me.”

“You will not meet him here.”

“No? no?”—quickly. Suspicion darkened her face. She drew back. The general was lying, doubtless, to save a much-needed soldier from his deserts.

“No,” went on Alcantara, lighting his cigarette, “you will not find him here. I have one hundred men, but each has been with me since before the beginning of the wet season. No one has joined me of late.”

She turned about, half murmuring to herself, and made as if to go.

“He went the other way, perhaps,” suggested the general; “to Rio Chico, where is another force of Los Salvadores.”

She came round upon him, arms raised, set teeth showing between lips that were pale again.

“I go to Rio Chico,” she said.

“And he will be gone—wait, wait! General Pablo Montilla leaves Rio Chico to-night with his column.”

“I shall follow.”

“I join him with my men at dawn.”

He saw the light of a terrible hope illuminate her countenance. She came to his stirrup again.

“Señor general,” she pleaded, “let me go with your soldiers. I am young and strong—I can cook—I can carry a load——”

Alcantara puckered his lips teasingly, looking down at her. He marked the plump, well rounded figure, the clear, copper-coloured skin with its scarlet[332] touches on mouth and cheek, the long braid, the full, girlish throat.

“You go,” he said.

Child as she was, she knew the men of Venezuela, and she saw and understood his look.

“I go for revenge, Señor general,” she declared meaningly. “If you are so good as to allow me to follow you, I—I will be safe? Else I walk far in the rear—alone.”

“As you like,” answered Alcantara. “There will be two other women along—Maria, who goes with one of my coroneles, and La Negrita, the woman of the black general, Pedro Tovar. You may march with them.”

“And when will you start?” she asked eagerly. “When?”

“We thirst for the blood of Ricardo Villegas,” laughed Alcantara. “Well——”

A squad was approaching, led by a determined-looking officer. Two of his men carried large-calibre German Mausers, the third had a Mauser and a canvas money bag, and the fourth a Mauser and a rope.

Comisario,” said the general, as the latter shuffled near and saluted, “what raciones have you collected?”

An expression of defeat spread upon the commissary’s countenance. He shook his head dejectedly, and, reaching round, seized and brought forward the money bag.

“These unreasonable, these unpatriotic people!” he began with heat. “Actually they decline to give up their miserable savings. Observe!”

[333]Alcantara peeked into the bag. “Oh, not so bad,” he said. “But perhaps a better display of the rope——”

The other nodded. “I promise you they will be loyal.” Then, his face more determined than before, the commissary departed. Behind came the squad, the Mausers, the bag, and the noose.

The general addressed Manuelita. “We shall start at sunset,” he said. “But you? You have walked all day, you say.”

“It does not matter. I will walk all night, gladly, gladly!”

He bent to arrange the knot of his sash. When he turned back again she was gone.

At sunset the soldiers of Alcantara left the huts where they had been quartered and gathered in the Plaza. Ragged and dirty they were, and unshaven. Some of them were part Indian, with straight black hair and copper-coloured skins. Others were negroes or half-castes, with flat noses and kinky heads. But all were without uniforms. Their drill trousers were of different colours, and held up by lengths of string or rope. Their tight-fitting, collarless shirts, made of a cheap woven material, were as vari-coloured. Even their little jackets, that buttoned up to the neck and were brought in at the waist under a cartridge belt, were not of the same shade or kind. Here and there among them, stripped of its red trimmings, showed the khaki uniform of the government—spoil of a battlefield. All wore alpargatas; and those fortunate enough possessed straw hats of generous circumference or brown, furry pelo de guamas, which displayed, on a narrow divisa sewed around the[334] crown, the corps and division of the fighter beneath. Over the left shoulder of some of the men, and passed under the belt, was a rolled, double-wool poncho, the blue side out, if it so happened, but quite as often, in unconscious treason, the other, which was dyed the red of the enemy.

Despite the commissary’s promise of loyalty, when the soldiers came together there were no cheers from the townspeople, who, gathering to see the departure, chattered in undertones among themselves, and eyed the motley force in illy concealed dislike.

And now, obeying the call of a battered bugle, the start was made. First down the street came General Blanco Alcantara, in fine style; then the black general, Tovar, astride a lanky horse; after these, a bevy of mounted officers—three coroneles, two commandantes, and two capitanes; the privates—on foot and in no formation; the asistentes, loaded down with the personal effects of their superiors; and several burros and mules carrying pack saddles heavy with ammunition; next, each with a bundle balanced on her head, a hat hung to her arm, a gourd and a smoky pail swinging and clinking together at her side, and a long tabaco in her mouth, two women; last of all, a padre, in cassock and shovel hat, riding a gaited mule.

The third woman to accompany the expedition was on the edge of the town, where the road to Higuerote opens into the forest. She was watching as she rested, eating an arepa and the remaining plantain. As Alcantara rode into sight, she stood up, her eyes shining, her lips parted, her head erect.[335] The command by, she walked forward sturdily and fell in behind.

Night was falling then, but she was soon spied by those in the rear. Presently, these had told others, and the soldiers stretched their necks to look back to where she trudged. There was some whispering among those nearest her, and presently the padre reined a little to speak.

“You were not with us when we left the town,” he said. “How come you to be here?”

“I wish to go to Higuerote,” she answered, but would explain no further.

Seeing her questioned, one of the asistentes, a kindly old man, fell back to offer her a cigarette. She took it gratefully.

“And do you ignore the Church?” demanded the padre reprovingly.

The asistente handed over a cigarette, and soon the three were journeying forward together.

The night breeze swept over them as they went, making the way cool, and bringing with it the fragrance of growing things. But their travelling was difficult. The road was only a cart’s width, hard and stony, rising and falling, too, on broken ground. There was no moon over the first third of the journey, and every little while a jaguar, scenting their passing, howled out at them from the dark, vine-hung forest lining the march.

Bit by bit Manuelita told her companions the story of Ricardo’s flight. As the padre listened, his round, florid face grew solemn, and he poked out his under lip dubiously. The asistente, on the other[336] hand, swore often and pityingly, so that the good priest was kept busy crossing himself.

“And have you come all the way from the hacienda San Jacinto to-day?” asked the soldier.

“Since morning,” Manuelita answered.

“In that case,” interposed the padre, settling himself in the saddle, “to make your walking more easy, you may hold to the tail of my mule on the up grades.”

Not long after, they were forced to cover their faces and cease talking. For before the night was half gone, the moon topped the trees, showing its great, burnished shield upon the starlit sky. And with the rising of the moon the forest thinned, the way became more level, but sandy, the walking extremely heavy, and legions of hungry mosquitoes came swarming upon them. The padre’s mule, tormented by the pests, made the middle of the track dangerous for Manuelita. She fell back, and walked in silence beside the old orderly. Once she uncovered to ask him how far they had got.

“Half-way,” he answered, when she murmured a thanksgiving.

Later she again spoke: “And how long before Higuerote is near?”

“Three hours,” he replied.

Her hands stole to her belt.

“Only one day and one night,” she said, “and yet I am almost upon them!”

But she was miserably tired by now, and many times would have stumbled to her knees had not the asistente supported her. He gave her frequent draughts from his aguardiente flask, and little lumps[337] of damp brown sugar out of a canvas bag at his thigh. The padre, riding just in advance, looked back often to speak encouragement, and as often called the asistente forward to levy upon him for a cigarette.

Bravely Manuelita persevered. Toward morning her brain seemed to wander, for she talked meaningless things to the old man lagging beside her. But a moment’s rest, a swallow of drink, a whispered reminder, and she struggled forward.

Santa María!” was her petition, “only give me strength!”

The yellow moon had gone and the dawn was near when, having arrived at three great sand hummocks thrown up close to the road, General Alcantara drew rein. Noiselessly the soldiers laid down their ponchos, partook of cold coffee and a little food, and stretched themselves for a brief rest. The horses of the officers and the ammunition animals were led to one side, where they might crop the grass growing about in clumps. Alcantara and Pedro Tovar walked apart, conversing. The padre guided his mule to one side and, out of his saddle, was soon drowsing as comfortably as the mosquitoes would permit; while Manuelita sought the women, who were smoking, and squatted on the sand beside them, her face to the east, her lips moving with soundless words.

Swiftly the day came. A moment of little light, another that was brighter, and the stars dimmed. Then the unkempt force got to their feet and moved on—cartridge belts filled and machetes slipped under them. Above, floating on white-tipped wings, followed[338] a score of the bald black samuro, their curved beaks lowered in horrid watchfulness.

When the sun rose, the company made a second halt, behind a line of scrub growth. From here General Alcantara, dismounting, went forward alone on hands and knees. He stopped while yet in the shelter of the dense underbrush and stood up. To his left lay a town—tile-roofed, low houses, three rows of them, two rows having their back yards to the sea. Beyond these was a gently shelving beach strewn with the unpainted, dugout canoes of fishermen. Still farther, dotted here and there with a dingy sail, was the blue of the Caribbean, its outermost edge moving up and down upon the paler blue of the sky. To his right, some two hundred yards away, was the curving line of a railroad, then beach and boats, then sea again. And in the very foreground, seated on the sand, under a sagging telegraph wire, was a man in khaki, fast asleep, with his gun, muzzle end down, in a land-crab hole.

Alcantara now lowered himself again to creep on, and a moment later the sentry awoke and found himself a prisoner.

Presently, from the south, there sounded a faint rumble. And soon, far down the rusty rails, appeared a train. Alcantara gave a signal to those who had come up from behind, and at once the Revolutionists in khaki gathered the officers’ mounts and, taking the captured sentry with them, went back along the road to the shelter of the sand hummocks. The padre turned his gaited mule and single-footed after them, concern written large on his round, florid face. The rest of the company displayed[339] their agitation. The soldiers craned and gestured, or examined their arms. La Negrita and the other woman chattered under their breath. The two capitanes ran to and fro between Alcantara and the black general, taking and bringing messages. The men with the pack animals proceeded slowly toward the road gap in the shielding shrub. Only one of them all was giving the hour a solemn beginning. This was Manuelita, kneeling, bareheaded, in the sand, her hands clasped, her eyes closed, her face upturned.

Santa María!” she whispered, for once more she was praying.

When the train was less than half a mile away Alcantara drew a small blue flag from his breast. It was of flimsy muslin, and showed at its centre a cross of yellow, blue, and red. The general, having unfolded it, held it in his right hand, so low that it could not be seen from the town. Instantly similar colours were waved from the engine cab. Again Alcantara signalled those behind, and the black general led them forward. At their front was borne a large flag of the cause, fastened to a bamboo pole.

When the train had crawled abreast of the Tacarigua force, its antique, ramshackle coaches came to a stop. Out of them tumbled some sixty soldiers, the heavy-set Pablo Montilla commanding. Alcantara saluted silently and made off with two-thirds of his own men straight along the track toward a railroad bridge in the town. As quietly, Tovar took the remaining third, joined Montilla, and started toward a second bridge, which crossed the Rio Curiepe at the main street. The train backed. The ammunition-mules[340] and -burros were held close to the track, where stayed Maria and the other woman. But Manuelita, marking which way the men of Rio Chico had gone, ran after, and fell in behind them.

That advance was made in two lines, the soldiers trotting single file. Those on the track were heard from first. A shot rang out—then another. Then the battered bugle sounded a few clear notes, which the Mausers obeyed with a spatter of shots.

Now Tovar turned to his men with a cry: “Adelante, muchachos!

The soldiers broke into a run, firing willy-nilly, and bunching together at the bridge end.

Viva Montilla!” they shouted. “Viva Tovar!

Then came answering cries from across the bridge, where khaki uniforms were swarming in a hasty rally, where shots were plentiful now, and a drum was keeping up a steady thump! thump!

Behind the cluster of men on that bridge was Manuelita. She had no thought of danger for herself, though the bullets were flying about her. She did not even watch the khaki figures hurrying to oppose, or those others spreading out between the bridges, lining the Curiepe to prevent a crossing. Her gaze was upon the men of Rio Chico. Her dust-rimmed eyes searched for one figure.

But now Tovar was leading Los Salvadores across the stone-flagged bridge. Officered by red-sashed men in blue, the front ranks of the government received them with bayonets. Those in the background sent upon them a hail of lead.


The piercing cry that broke from Manuelita was[341] heard above the clashing of steel, the singing of bullets, the curses and vivas, the shrieks of agony. There he was, there—in the very front of the fight, laying about him with his machete. Her whole body trembled, her heart fluttered, her breath came in gasps, she choked.

Madre de Dios!” She clutched the spear-shaped knife. “Let me but get at him first!”

But now she was rudely driven back. The government was gaining—it was machete to bayonet, and the latter’s deal was the more deadly. Los Salvadores retreated, one against another, clubbing their Mausers, filling the air with their yells. Maria’s coronel raced up, bringing a futile order. For Pedro Tovar was out of earshot, in the front of them all, still facing the enemy, but backing from the fierce onslaught of the men in yellow.

But where was Ricardo? Manuelita could not see. Forgetful of personal safety, she sprang upon the nearer iron rail of the bridge. And from there, looking beyond the line of hand-to-hand combat, beyond the van of the government, she saw him—lying flat upon the flags, arms stretched out, face downward. At his curly head was a growing pool.

Like a flash, she was down and standing on the bridge. She flattened herself against the hand rail to keep from being knocked off her feet. Men of the Revolution struggled by her, bravely contesting each step of the way. And now Pedro Tovar was beside her—losing his ground. And now the khaki of the government was on every side.

Viva el Gobierno! Viva Domingo Morales!

Los Salvadores were losing!

[342]She saw more khaki-clad men running up from the tumbled-down church in the Plaza—running straight toward the bridge, toward Ricardo, helpless, but moving feebly now, turning his head from side to side as if in pain. They would cut at him as they passed!

Another cry, and she made her way back along the hand rail to where Tovar was swinging his black arms. Then on, beyond him, to where showed the top of the Revolution’s colours. A moment, and she had seized the bamboo pole, had unfurled the blue flag with its tricoloured cross. Then, facing about, with cries again, she pushed her way toward the black general.

Viva la Revolución!” she cried.

Spent with their night march and with fighting, disheartened by retreat, the motley forces of Montilla and Tovar now beheld a girl at their front, waving aloft the flag of their cause. They hesitated; then, spurred by the sight, stood fast.

And now, with cheers from Alcantara’s men to announce a victory at the railroad bridge, there came the change of balance in that fight at the other. A moment and the government was retreating, not foot by foot, but quickly, up the gentle slope.

Viva la Revolución!” was the whole shout now. And with a fearful grin on his black face, Pedro Tovar cried on the men, cursed them into fiercer fighting, struck them with the flat of his sabre.

And now the wavering blue flag was at the middle of the bridge, was on the farther slope, was almost to the man lying face downward on the approach—then, beside him.

[343]Another hand caught the bamboo pole there, saving the riddled colours from fluttering to the ground. Still the government fell backward, still the Revolution pressed on. The bridge was cleared, except where wounded or dead lay stretched upon the stone; the clash of weapons grew less and less. The retreat of the government was a rout.

But back at the bridge, unmindful of victory, exhausted, yet not realising that, sat Manuelita, a soldier’s head pillowed against her breast, a wet cheek rested against a paler one.

Santa María!” she sobbed, “he is alive—alive! Madre de Dios, I thank thee!”



Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

Archaic or variant spelling has been retained.

New original cover art included with this eBook is granted to the public domain.