A Waif of the Plains
Part 2 out of 3
Unfortunately, Clarence, in the conviction of being hopelessly
misunderstood, and that dogged acquiescence to fate which was one
of his characteristics, was too proud to correct the impression by
any of the hypocracies of childhood. He had also a cloudy instinct
of loyalty to Jim in his disgrace, without, however, experiencing
either the sympathy of an equal or the zeal of a partisan, but
rather--if it could be said of a boy of his years--with the
patronage and protection of a superior. So he accepted without
demur the intimation that when the train reached California he
would be forwarded from Stockton with an outfit and a letter of
explanation to Sacramento, it being understood that in the event of
not finding his relative he would return to the Peytons in one of
the southern valleys, where they elected to purchase a tract of
With this outlook, and the prospect of change, independence, and
all the rich possibilities that to the imagination of youth are
included in them, Clarence had found the days dragging. The halt
at Salt Lake, the transit of the dreary Alkali desert, even the
wild passage of the Sierras, were but a blurred picture in his
memory. The sight of eternal snows and the rolling of endless
ranks of pines, the first glimpse of a hillside of wild oats, the
spectacle of a rushing yellow river that to his fancy seemed tinged
with gold, were momentary excitements, quickly forgotten. But
when, one morning, halting at the outskirts of a struggling
settlement, he found the entire party eagerly gathered around a
passing stranger, who had taken from his saddle-bags a small
buckskin pouch to show them a double handful of shining scales of
metal, Clarence felt the first feverish and overmastering thrill of
the gold-seekers. Breathlessly he followed the breathless
questions and careless replies. The gold had been dug out of a
placer only thirty miles away. It might be worth, say, a hundred
and fifty dollars; it was only HIS share of a week's work with two
partners. It was not much; "the country was getting played out
with fresh arrivals and greenhorns." All this falling carelessly
from the unshaven lips of a dusty, roughly dressed man, with a
long-handled shovel and pickaxe strapped on his back, and a frying-
pan depending from his saddle. But no panoplied or armed knight
ever seemed so heroic or independent a figure to Clarence. What
could be finer than the noble scorn conveyed in his critical survey
of the train, with its comfortable covered wagons and appliances of
civilization? "Ye'll hev to get rid of them ther fixin's if yer
goin' in for placer diggin'!" What a corroboration of Clarence's
real thoughts! What a picture of independence was this! The
picturesque scout, the all-powerful Judge Peyton, the daring young
officer, all crumbled on their clayey pedestals before this hero in
a red flannel shirt and high-topped boots. To stroll around in the
open air all day, and pick up those shining bits of metal, without
study, without method or routine--this was really life; to some day
come upon that large nugget "you couldn't lift," that was worth as
much as the train and horses--such a one as the stranger said was
found the other day at Sawyer's Bar--this was worth giving up
everything for. That rough man, with his smile of careless
superiority, was the living link between Clarence and the Thousand
and One Nights; in him were Aladdin and Sindbad incarnate.
Two days later they reached Stockton. Here Clarence, whose single
suit of clothes had been reinforced by patching, odds and ends from
Peyton's stores, and an extraordinary costume of army cloth, got up
by the regimental tailor at Fort Ridge, was taken to be refitted at
a general furnishing "emporium." But alas! in the selection of the
clothing for that adult locality scant provision seemed to have
been made for a boy of Clarence's years, and he was with difficulty
fitted from an old condemned Government stores with "a boy's"
seaman suit and a brass-buttoned pea-jacket. To this outfit Mr.
Peyton added a small sum of money for his expenses, and a letter of
explanation to his cousin. The stage-coach was to start at noon.
It only remained for Clarence to take leave of the party. The
final parting with Susy had been discounted on the two previous
days with some tears, small frights and clingings, and the
expressed determination on the child's part "to go with him;" but
in the excitement of the arrival at Stockton it was still further
mitigated, and under the influence of a little present from
Clarence--his first disbursement of his small capital--had at last
taken the form and promise of merely temporary separation.
Nevertheless, when the boy's scanty pack was deposited under the
stage-coach seat, and he had been left alone, he ran rapidly back
to the train for one moment more with Susy. Panting and a little
frightened, he reached Mrs. Peyton's car.
"Goodness! You're not gone yet," said Mrs. Peyton sharply. "Do
you want to lose the stage?"
An instant before, in his loneliness, he might have answered,
"Yes." But under the cruel sting of Mrs. Peyton's evident
annoyance at his reappearance he felt his legs suddenly tremble,
and his voice left him. He did not dare to look at Susy. But her
voice rose comfortably from the depths of the wagon where she was
"The stage will be gone away, Kla'uns."
She too! Shame at his foolish weakness sent the yearning blood
that had settled round his heart flying back into his face.
"I was looking for--for--for Jim, ma'am," he said at last, boldly.
He saw a look of disgust pass over Mrs. Peyton's face, and felt a
malicious satisfaction as he turned and ran back to the stage. But
here, to his surprise, he actually found Jim, whom he really hadn't
thought of, darkly watching the last strapping of luggage. With a
manner calculated to convey the impression to the other passengers
that he was parting from a brother criminal, probably on his way to
a state prison, Jim shook hands gloomily with Clarence, and eyed
the other passengers furtively between his mated locks.
"Ef ye hear o' anythin' happenin', ye'll know what's up," he said,
in a low, hoarse, but perfectly audible whisper. "Me and them's
bound to part company afore long. Tell the fellows at Deadman's
Gulch to look out for me at any time."
Although Clarence was not going to Deadman's Gulch, knew nothing of
it, and had a faint suspicion that Jim was equally ignorant, yet as
one or two of the passengers glanced anxiously at the demure, gray-
eyed boy who seemed booked for such a baleful destination, he
really felt the half-delighted, half-frightened consciousness that
he was starting in life under fascinating immoral pretenses. But
the forward spring of the fine-spirited horses, the quickened
motion, the glittering sunlight, and the thought that he really was
leaving behind him all the shackles of dependence and custom, and
plunging into a life of freedom, drove all else from his mind. He
turned at last from this hopeful, blissful future, and began to
examine his fellow passengers with boyish curiosity. Wedged in
between two silent men on the front seat, one of whom seemed a
farmer, and the other, by his black attire, a professional man,
Clarence was finally attracted by a black-mantled, dark-haired,
bonnetless woman on the back seat, whose attention seemed to be
monopolized by the jocular gallantries of her companions and the
two men before her in the middle seat. From her position he could
see little more than her dark eyes, which occasionally seemed to
meet his frank curiosity in an amused sort of way, but he was
chiefly struck by the pretty foreign sound of her musical voice,
which was unlike anything he had ever heard before, and--alas for
the inconstancy of youth--much finer than Mrs. Peyton's. Presently
his farmer companion, casting a patronizing glance on Clarence's
pea-jacket and brass buttons, said cheerily--
"Jest off a voyage, sonny?"
"No, sir," stammered Clarence; "I came across the plains."
"Then I reckon that's the rig-out for the crew of a prairie
schooner, eh?" There was a laugh at this which perplexed Clarence.
Observing it, the humorist kindly condescended to explain that
"prairie schooner" was the current slang for an emigrant wagon.
"I couldn't," explained Clarence, naively looking at the dark eyes
on the back seat, "get any clothes at Stockton but these; I suppose
the folks didn't think there'd ever be boys in California."
The simplicity of this speech evidently impressed the others, for
the two men in the middle seats turned at a whisper from the lady
and regarded him curiously. Clarence blushed slightly and became
silent. Presently the vehicle began to slacken its speed. They
were ascending a hill; on either bank grew huge cottonwoods, from
which occasionally depended a beautiful scarlet vine.
"Ah! eet ees pretty," said the lady, nodding her black-veiled head
towards it. "Eet is good in ze hair."
One of the men made an awkward attempt to clutch a spray from the
window. A brilliant inspiration flashed upon Clarence. When the
stage began the ascent of the next hill, following the example of
an outside passenger, he jumped down to walk. At the top of the
hill he rejoined the stage, flushed and panting, but carrying a
small branch of the vine in his scratched hands. Handing it to the
man on the middle seat, he said, with grave, boyish politeness--
"Please--for the lady."
A slight smile passed over the face of Clarence's neighbors. The
bonnetless woman nodded a pleasant acknowledgment, and coquettishly
wound the vine in her glossy hair. The dark man at his side, who
hadn't spoken yet, turned to Clarence dryly.
"If you're goin' to keep up this gait, sonny, I reckon ye won't
find much trouble gettin' a man's suit to fit you by the time you
Clarence didn't quite understand him, but noticed that a singular
gravity seemed to overtake the two jocular men on the middle seat,
and the lady looked out of the window. He came to the conclusion
that he had made a mistake about alluding to his clothes and his
size. He must try and behave more manly. That opportunity seemed
to be offered two hours later, when the stage stopped at a wayside
hotel or restaurant.
Two or three passengers had got down to refresh themselves at the
bar. His right and left hand neighbors were, however, engaged in a
drawling conversation on the comparative merits of San Francisco
sandhill and water lots; the jocular occupants of the middle seat
were still engrossed with the lady. Clarence slipped out of the
stage and entered the bar-room with some ostentation. The complete
ignoring of his person by the barkeeper and his customers, however,
somewhat disconcerted him. He hesitated a moment, and then
returned gravely to the stage door and opened it.
"Would you mind taking a drink with me, sir?" said Clarence
politely, addressing the farmer-looking passenger who had been most
civil to him. A dead silence followed. The two men on the middle
seat faced entirely around to gaze at him.
"The Commodore asks if you'll take a drink with him," explained one
of the men to Clarence's friend with the greatest seriousness.
"Eh? Oh, yes, certainly," returned that gentleman, changing his
astonished expression to one of the deepest gravity, "seeing it's
"And perhaps you and your friend will join, too?" said Clarence
timidly to the passenger who had explained; "and you too, sir?" he
added to the dark man.
"Really, gentlemen, I don't see how we can refuse," said the
latter, with the greatest formality, and appealing to the others.
"A compliment of this kind from our distinguished friend is not to
be taken lightly."
"I have observed, sir, that the Commodore's head is level,"
returned the other man with equal gravity.
Clarence could have wished they had not treated his first
hospitable effort quite so formally, but as they stepped from the
coach with unbending faces he led them, a little frightened, into
the bar-room. Here, unfortunately, as he was barely able to reach
over the counter, the barkeeper would have again overlooked him but
for a quick glance from the dark man, which seemed to change even
the barkeeper's perfunctory smiling face into supernatural gravity.
"The Commodore is standing treat," said the dark man, with unbroken
seriousness, indicating Clarence, and leaning back with an air of
respectful formality. "I will take straight whiskey. The
Commodore, on account of just changing climate, will, I believe,
for the present content himself with lemon soda."
Clarence had previously resolved to take whiskey, like the others,
but a little doubtful of the politeness of countermanding his
guest's order, and perhaps slightly embarrassed by the fact that
all the other customers seemed to have gathered round him and his
party with equally immovable faces, he said hurriedly:
"Lemon soda for me, please."
"The Commodore," said the barkeeper with impassive features, as he
bent forward and wiped the counter with professional deliberation,
"is right. No matter how much a man may be accustomed all his life
to liquor, when he is changing climate, gentlemen, he says 'Lemon
soda for me' all the time."
"Perhaps," said Clarence, brightening, "you will join too?"
"I shall be proud on this occasion, sir."
"I think," said the tall man, still as ceremoniously unbending as
before, "that there can be but one toast here, gentlemen. I give
you the health of the Commodore. May his shadow never be less."
The health was drunk solemnly. Clarence felt his cheeks tingle and
in his excitement drank his own health with the others. Yet he was
disappointed that there was not more joviality; he wondered if men
always drank together so stiffly. And it occurred to him that it
would be expensive. Nevertheless, he had his purse all ready
ostentatiously in his hand; in fact, the paying for it out of his
own money was not the least manly and independent pleasure he had
promised himself. "How much?" he asked, with an affectation of
The barkeeper cast his eye professionally over the barroom. "I
think you said treats for the crowd; call it twenty dollars to make
Clarence's heart sank. He had heard already of the exaggeration of
California prices. Twenty dollars! It was half his fortune.
Nevertheless, with an heroic effort, he controlled himself, and
with slightly nervous fingers counted out the money. It struck
him, however, as curious, not to say ungentlemanly, that the
bystanders craned their necks over his shoulder to look at the
contents of his purse, although some slight explanation was offered
by the tall man.
"The Commodore's purse, gentlemen, is really a singular one.
Permit me," he said, taking it from Clarence's hand with great
politeness. "It is one of the new pattern, you observe, quite
worthy of inspection." He handed it to a man behind him, who in
turn handed it to another, while a chorus of "suthin quite new,"
"the latest style," followed it in its passage round the room, and
indicated to Clarence its whereabouts. It was presently handed
back to the barkeeper, who had begged also to inspect it, and who,
with an air of scrupulous ceremony insisted upon placing it himself
in Clarence's side pocket, as if it were an important part of his
function. The driver here called "all aboard." The passengers
hurriedly reseated themselves, and the episode abruptly ended.
For, to Clarence's surprise, these attentive friends of a moment
ago at once became interested in the views of a new passenger
concerning the local politics of San Francisco, and he found
himself utterly forgotten. The bonnetless woman had changed her
position, and her head was no longer visible. The disillusion and
depression that overcame him suddenly were as complete as his
previous expectations and hopefulness had been extravagant. For
the first time his utter unimportance in the world and his
inadequacy to this new life around him came upon him crushingly.
The heat and jolting of the stage caused him to fall into a slight
slumber and when he awoke he found his two neighbors had just got
out at a wayside station. They had evidently not cared to waken
him to say "Good-by." From the conversation of the other
passengers he learned that the tall man was a well-known gambler,
and the one who looked like a farmer was a ship captain who had
become a wealthy merchant. Clarence thought he understood now why
the latter had asked him if he came off a voyage, and that the
nickname of "Commodore" given to him, Clarence, was some joke
intended for the captain's understanding. He missed them, for he
wanted to talk to them about his relative at Sacramento, whom he
was now so soon to see. At last, between sleeping and waking, the
end of his journey was unexpectedly reached. It was dark, but,
being "steamer night," the shops and business places were still
open, and Mr. Peyton had arranged that the stage-driver should
deliver Clarence at the address of his relative in "J Street,"--an
address which Clarence had luckily remembered. But the boy was
somewhat discomfited to find that it was a large office or banking-
house. He, however, descended from the stage, and with his small
pack in his hand entered the building as the stage drove off, and,
addressing one of the busy clerks, asked for "Mr. Jackson Brant."
There was no such person in the office. There never had been any
such person. The bank had always occupied that building. Was
there not some mistake in the number? No; the name, number, and
street had been deeply engrafted in the boy's recollection. Stop!
it might be the name of a customer who had given his address at the
bank. The clerk who made this suggestion disappeared promptly to
make inquiries in the counting-room. Clarence, with a rapidly
beating heart, awaited him. The clerk returned. There was no such
name on the books. Jackson Brant was utterly unknown to every one
in the establishment.
For an instant the counter against which the boy was leaning seemed
to yield with his weight; he was obliged to steady himself with
both hands to keep from falling. It was not his disappointment,
which was terrible; it was not a thought of his future, which
seemed hopeless; it was not his injured pride at appearing to have
willfully deceived Mr. Peyton, which was more dreadful than all
else; but it was the sudden, sickening sense that HE himself had
been deceived, tricked, and fooled! For it flashed upon him for
the first time that the vague sense of wrong which had always
haunted him was this--that this was the vile culmination of a plan
to GET RID OF HIM, and that he had been deliberately lost and led
astray by his relatives as helplessly and completely as a useless
cat or dog!
Perhaps there was something of this in his face, for the clerk,
staring at him, bade him sit down for a moment, and again vanished
into the mysterious interior. Clarence had no conception how long
he was absent, or indeed anything but his own breathless thoughts,
for he was conscious of wondering afterwards why the clerk was
leading him through a door in the counter into an inner room of
many desks, and again through a glass door into a smaller office,
where a preternaturally busy-looking man sat writing at a desk.
Without looking up, but pausing only to apply a blotting-pad to the
paper before him, the man said crisply--
"So you've been consigned to some one who don't seem to turn up,
and can't be found, eh? Never mind that," as Clarence laid
Peyton's letter before him. "Can't read it now. Well, I suppose
you want to be shipped back to Stockton?"
"No!" said the boy, recovering his voice with an effort.
"Eh, that's business, though. Know anybody here?"
"Not a living soul; that's why they sent me," said the boy, in
sudden reckless desperation. He was the more furious that he knew
the tears were standing in his eyes.
The idea seemed to strike the man amusingly. "Looks a little like
it, don't it?" he said, smiling grimly at the paper before him.
"Got any money?"
"About twenty dollars," said Clarence hesitatingly. The man opened
a drawer at his side, mechanically, for he did not raise his eyes,
and took out two ten-dollar gold pieces. "I'll go twenty better,"
he said, laying them down on the desk. "That'll give you a chance
to look around. Come back here, if you don't see your way clear."
He dipped his pen into the ink with a significant gesture as if
closing the interview.
Clarence pushed back the coin. "I'm not a beggar," he said
The man this time raised his head and surveyed the boy with two
keen eyes. "You're not, hey? Well, do I look like one?"
"No," stammered Clarence, as he glanced into the man's haughty
"Yet, if I were in your fix, I'd take that money and be glad to get
"If you'll let me pay you back again," said Clarence, a little
ashamed, and considerably frightened at his implied accusation of
the man before him.
"You can," said the man, bending over his desk again.
Clarence took up the money and awkwardly drew out his purse. But it
was the first time he had touched it since it was returned to him
in the bar-room, and it struck him that it was heavy and full--
indeed, so full that on opening it a few coins rolled out on to the
floor. The man looked up abruptly.
"I thought you said you had only twenty dollars?" he remarked
"Mr. Peyton gave me forty," returned Clarence, stupefied and
blushing. "I spent twenty dollars for drinks at the bar--and," he
stammered, "I--I--I don't know how the rest came here."
"You spent twenty dollars for DRINKS?" said the man, laying down
his pen, and leaning back in his chair to gaze at the boy.
"Yes--that is--I treated some gentlemen of the stage, sir, at
"Did you treat the whole stage company?"
"No, sir, only about four or five--and the bar-keeper. But
everything's so dear in California. I know that."
"Evidently. But it don't seem to make much difference with YOU,"
said the man, glancing at the purse.
"They wanted my purse to look at," said Clarence hurriedly, "and
that's how the thing happened. Somebody put HIS OWN MONEY back
into MY purse by accident."
"Of course," said the man grimly.
"Yes, that's the reason," said Clarence, a little relieved, but
somewhat embarrassed by the man's persistent eyes.
"Then, of course," said the other quietly, "you don't require my
twenty dollars now."
"But," returned Clarence hesitatingly, "this isn't MY money. I
must find out who it belongs to, and give it back again. Perhaps,"
he added timidly, "I might leave it here with you, and call for it
when I find the man, or send him here."
With the greatest gravity he here separated the surplus from what
was left of Peyton's gift and the twenty dollars he had just
received. The balance unaccounted for was forty dollars. He laid
it on the desk before the man, who, still looking at him, rose and
opened the door.
The clerk who had shown Clarence in appeared.
"Open an account with--" He stopped and turned interrogatively to
"Clarence Brant," said Clarence, coloring with excitement.
"With Clarence Brant. Take that deposit"--pointing to the money--
"and give him a receipt." He paused as the clerk retired with a
wondering gaze at the money, looked again at Clarence, said, "I
think YOU'LL do," and reentered the private office, closing the
door behind him.
I hope it will not be deemed inconceivable that Clarence, only a
few moments before crushed with bitter disappointment and the
hopeless revelation of his abandonment by his relatives, now felt
himself lifted up suddenly into an imaginary height of independence
and manhood. He was leaving the bank, in which he stood a minute
before a friendless boy, not as a successful beggar, for this
important man had disclaimed the idea, but absolutely as a
customer! a depositor! a business man like the grown-up clients who
were thronging the outer office, and before the eyes of the clerk
who had pitied him! And he, Clarence, had been spoken to by this
man, whose name he now recognized as the one that was on the door
of the building--a man of whom his fellow-passengers had spoken
with admiring envy--a banker famous in all California! Will it be
deemed incredible that this imaginative and hopeful boy, forgetting
all else, the object of his visit, and even the fact that he
considered this money was not his own, actually put his hat a
little on one side as he strolled out on his way to the streets and
Two hours later the banker had another visitor. It chanced to be
the farmer-looking man who had been Clarence's fellow-passenger.
Evidently a privileged person, he was at once ushered as "Captain
Stevens" into the presence of the banker. At the end of a familiar
business interview the captain asked carelessly--
"Any letters for me?"
The busy banker pointed with his pen to the letter "S" in a row of
alphabetically labeled pigeon-holes against the wall. The captain,
having selected his correspondence, paused with a letter in his
"Look here, Carden, there are letters here for some chap called
'John Silsbee.' They were here when I called, ten weeks ago."
"That's the name of that Pike County man who was killed by Injins
in the plains. The 'Frisco papers had all the particulars last
night; may be it's for that fellow. It hasn't got a postmark. Who
left it here?"
Mr. Carden summoned a clerk. It appeared that the letter had been
left by a certain Brant Fauquier, to be called for.
Captain Stevens smiled. "Brant's been too busy dealin' faro to
think of 'em agin, and since that shootin' affair at Angels' I hear
he's skipped to the southern coast somewhere. Cal Johnson, his old
chum, was in the up stage from Stockton this afternoon."
"Did you come by the up stage from Stockton this afternoon?" said
Carden, looking up.
"Yes, as far as Ten-mile Station--rode the rest of the way here."
"Did you notice a queer little old-fashioned kid--about so high--
like a runaway school-boy?"
"Did I? By G--d, sir, he treated me to drinks."
Carden jumped from his chair. "Then he wasn't lying!"
"No! We let him do it; but we made it good for the little chap
afterwards. Hello! What's up?"
But Mr. Carden was already in the outer office beside the clerk who
had admitted Clarence.
"You remember that boy Brant who was here?"
"Where did he go?"
"Don't know, sir."
"Go and find him somewhere and somehow. Go to all the hotels,
restaurants, and gin-mills near here, and hunt him up. Take some
one with you, if you can't do it alone. Bring him back here,
It was nearly midnight when the clerk fruitlessly returned. It was
the fierce high noon of "steamer nights"; light flashed brilliantly
from shops, counting-houses, drinking-saloons, and gambling-hells.
The streets were yet full of eager, hurrying feet--swift of
fortune, ambition, pleasure, or crime. But from among these deeper
harsher footfalls the echo of the homeless boy's light, innocent
tread seemed to have died out forever.
When Clarence was once more in the busy street before the bank, it
seemed clear to his boyish mind that, being now cast adrift upon
the world and responsible to no one, there was no reason why he
should not at once proceed to the nearest gold mines! The idea of
returning to Mr. Peyton and Susy, as a disowned and abandoned
outcast, was not to be thought of. He would purchase some kind of
an outfit, such as he had seen the miners carry, and start off as
soon as he had got his supper. But although one of his most
delightful anticipations had been the unfettered freedom of
ordering a meal at a restaurant, on entering the first one he found
himself the object of so much curiosity, partly from his size and
partly from his dress, which the unfortunate boy was beginning to
suspect was really preposterous, and he turned away with a
stammered excuse, and did not try another. Further on he found a
baker's shop, where he refreshed himself with some gingerbread and
lemon soda. At an adjacent grocery he purchased some herrings,
smoked beef, and biscuits, as future provisions for his "pack" or
kit. Then began his real quest for an outfit. In an hour he had
secured--ostensibly for some friend, to avoid curious inquiry--a
pan, a blanket, a shovel and pick, all of which he deposited at the
baker's, his unostentatious headquarters, with the exception of a
pair of disguising high boots that half hid his sailor trousers,
which he kept to put on at the last. Even to his inexperience the
cost of these articles seemed enormous; when his purchases were
complete, of his entire capital scarcely four dollars remained!
Yet in the fond illusions of boyhood these rude appointments seemed
possessed of far more value than the gold he had given in exchange
for them, and he had enjoyed a child's delight in testing the
transforming magic of money.
Meanwhile, the feverish contact of the crowded street had, strange
to say, increased his loneliness, while the ruder joviality of its
dissipations began to fill him with vague uneasiness. The passing
glimpse of dancing halls and gaudily whirled figures that seemed
only feminine in their apparel; the shouts and boisterous choruses
from concert rooms; the groups of drunken roisterers that
congregated around the doors of saloons or, hilariously charging
down the streets, elbowed him against the wall, or humorously
insisted on his company, discomposed and frightened him. He had
known rude companionship before, but it was serious, practical, and
under control. There was something in this vulgar degradation of
intellect and power--qualities that Clarence had always boyishly
worshiped--which sickened and disillusioned him. Later on a pistol
shot in a crowd beyond, the rush of eager men past him, the
disclosure of a limp and helpless figure against the wall, the
closing of the crowd again around it, although it stirred him with
a fearful curiosity, actually shocked him less hopelessly than
their brutish enjoyments and abandonment.
It was in one of these rushes that he had been crushed against a
swinging door, which, giving way to his pressure, disclosed to his
wondering eyes a long, glitteringly adorned, and brightly lit room,
densely filled with a silent, attentive throng in attitudes of
decorous abstraction and preoccupation, that even the shouts and
tumult at its very doors could not disturb. Men of all ranks and
conditions, plainly or elaborately clad, were grouped together
under this magic spell of silence and attention. The tables before
them were covered with cards and loose heaps of gold and silver. A
clicking, the rattling of an ivory ball, and the frequent, formal,
lazy reiteration of some unintelligible sentence was all that he
heard. But by a sudden instinct he UNDERSTOOD it all. It was a
Encouraged by the decorous stillness, and the fact that everybody
appeared too much engaged to notice him, the boy drew timidly
beside one of the tables. It was covered with a number of cards,
on which were placed certain sums of money. Looking down, Clarence
saw that he was standing before a card that as yet had nothing on
it. A single player at his side looked up, glanced at Clarence
curiously, and then placed half a dozen gold pieces on the vacant
card. Absorbed in the general aspect of the room and the players,
Clarence did not notice that his neighbor won twice, and even
THRICE, upon that card. Becoming aware, however, that the player
while gathering in his gains, was smilingly regarding him he moved
in some embarrassment to the other end of the table, where there
seemed another gap in the crowd. It so chanced that there was also
another vacant card. The previous neighbor of Clarence instantly
shoved a sum of money across the table on the vacant card and won!
At this the other players began to regard Clarence singularly, one
or two of the spectators smiled, and the boy, coloring, moved
awkwardly away. But his sleeve was caught by the successful
player, who, detaining him gently, put three gold pieces into his
"That's YOUR share, sonny," he whispered.
"Share--for what?" stammered the astounded Clarence.
"For bringing me 'the luck,'" said the man.
Clarence stared. "Am I--to--to play with it?" he said, glancing at
the coins and then at the table, in ignorance of the stranger's
"No, no!" said the man hurriedly, "don't do that. You'll lose it,
sonny, sure! Don't you see, YOU BRING THE LUCK TO OTHERS, not to
yourself. Keep it, old man, and run home!"
"I don't want it! I won't have it!" said Clarence with a swift
recollection of the manipulation of his purse that morning, and a
sudden distrust of all mankind.
"There!" He turned back to the table and laid the money on the
first vacant card he saw. In another moment, as it seemed to him,
it was raked away by the dealer. A sense of relief came over him.
"There!" said the man, with an awed voice and a strange, fatuous
look in his eye. "What did I tell you? You see, it's allus so!
Now," he added roughly, "get up and get out o' this, afore you lose
the boots and shirt off ye."
Clarence did not wait for a second command. With another glance
round the room, he began to make his way through the crowd towards
the front. But in that parting glance he caught a glimpse of a
woman presiding over a "wheel of fortune" in a corner, whose face
seemed familiar. He looked again, timidly. In spite of an
extraordinary head-dress or crown that she wore as the "Goddess of
Fortune," he recognized, twisted in its tinsel, a certain scarlet
vine which he had seen before; in spite of the hoarse formula which
she was continually repeating, he recognized the foreign accent.
It was the woman of the stage-coach! With a sudden dread that she
might recognize him, and likewise demand his services "for luck,"
he turned and fled.
Once more in the open air, there came upon him a vague loathing and
horror of the restless madness and feverish distraction of this
half-civilized city. It was the more powerful that it was vague,
and the outcome of some inward instinct. He found himself longing
for the pure air and sympathetic loneliness of the plains and
wilderness; he began to yearn for the companionship of his humble
associates--the teamster, the scout Gildersleeve, and even Jim
Hooker. But above all and before all was the wild desire to get
away from these maddening streets and their bewildering occupants.
He ran back to the baker's, gathered his purchases together, took
advantage of a friendly doorway to strap them on his boyish
shoulders, slipped into a side street, and struck out at once for
It had been his first intention to take stage to the nearest mining
district, but the diminution of his small capital forbade that
outlay, and he decided to walk there by the highroad, of whose
general direction he had informed himself. In half an hour the
lights of the flat, struggling city, and their reflection in the
shallow, turbid river before it, had sunk well behind him. The air
was cool and soft; a yellow moon swam in the slight haze that rose
above the tules; in the distance a few scattered cottonwoods and
sycamores marked like sentinels the road. When he had walked some
distance he sat down beneath one of them to make a frugal supper
from the dry rations in his pack, but in the absence of any spring
he was forced to quench his thirst with a glass of water in a
wayside tavern. Here he was good-humoredly offered something
stronger, which he declined, and replied to certain curious
interrogations by saying that he expected to overtake his friends
in a wagon further on. A new distrust of mankind had begun to make
the boy an adept in innocent falsehood, the more deceptive as his
careless, cheerful manner, the result of his relief at leaving the
city, and his perfect ease in the loving companionship of night and
nature, certainly gave no indication of his homelessness and
It was long past midnight, when, weary in body, but still hopeful
and happy in mind, he turned off the dusty road into a vast rolling
expanse of wild oats, with the same sense of security of rest as a
traveler to his inn. Here, completely screened from view by the
tall stalks of grain that rose thickly around him to the height of
a man's shoulder, he beat down a few of them for a bed, on which he
deposited his blanket. Placing his pack for a pillow, he curled
himself up in his blanket, and speedily fell asleep.
He awoke at sunrise, refreshed, invigorated, and hungry. But he
was forced to defer his first self-prepared breakfast until he had
reached water, and a less dangerous place than the wild-oat field
to build his first camp fire. This he found a mile further on,
near some dwarf willows on the bank of a half-dry stream. Of his
various efforts to prepare his first meal, the fire was the most
successful; the coffee was somewhat too substantially thick, and
the bacon and herring lacked definiteness of quality from having
been cooked in the same vessel. In this boyish picnic he missed
Susy, and recalled, perhaps a little bitterly, her coldness at
parting. But the novelty of his situation, the brilliant sunshine
and sense of freedom, and the road already awakening to dusty life
with passing teams, dismissed everything but the future from his
mind. Readjusting his pack, he stepped on cheerily. At noon he
was overtaken by a teamster, who in return for a match to light his
pipe gave him a lift of a dozen miles. It is to be feared that
Clarence's account of himself was equally fanciful with his
previous story, and that the teamster parted from him with a
genuine regret, and a hope that he would soon be overtaken by his
friends along the road. "And mind that you ain't such a fool agin
to let 'em make you tote their dod-blasted tools fur them!" he
added unsuspectingly, pointing to Clarence's mining outfit. Thus
saved the heaviest part of the day's journey, for the road was
continually rising from the plains during the last six miles,
Clarence was yet able to cover a considerable distance on foot
before he halted for supper. Here he was again fortunate. An
empty lumber team watering at the same spring, its driver offered
to take Clarence's purchases--for the boy had profited by his late
friend's suggestion to personally detach himself from his
equipment--to Buckeye Mills for a dollar, which would also include
a "shakedown passage" for himself on the floor of the wagon. "I
reckon you've been foolin' away in Sacramento the money yer parents
give yer for return stage fare, eh? Don't lie, sonny," he added
grimly, as the now artful Clarence smiled diplomatically, "I've
been thar myself!" Luckily, the excuse that he was "tired and
sleepy" prevented further dangerous questioning, and the boy was
soon really in deep slumber on the wagon floor.
He awoke betimes to find himself already in the mountains. Buckeye
Mills was a straggling settlement, and Clarence prudently stopped
any embarrassing inquiry from his friend by dropping off the wagon
with his equipment as they entered it, and hurriedly saying "Good-
by" from a crossroad through the woods. He had learned that the
nearest mining camp was five miles away, and its direction was
indicated by a long wooden "flume," or water-way, that alternately
appeared and disappeared on the flank of the mountain opposite.
The cooler and drier air, the grateful shadow of pine and bay, and
the spicy balsamic odors that everywhere greeted him, thrilled and
exhilarated him. The trail plunging sometimes into an undisturbed
forest, he started the birds before him like a flight of arrows
through its dim recesses; at times he hung breathlessly over the
blue depths of canyons where the same forests were repeated a
thousand feet below. Towards noon he struck into a rude road--
evidently the thoroughfare of the locality--and was surprised to
find that it, as well as the adjacent soil wherever disturbed, was
a deep Indian red. Everywhere, along its sides, powdering the
banks and boles of trees with its ruddy stain, in mounds and
hillocks of piled dirt on the road, or in liquid paint-like pools,
when a trickling stream had formed a gutter across it, there was
always the same deep sanguinary color. Once or twice it became
more vivid in contrast with the white teeth of quartz that peeped
through it from the hillside or crossed the road in crumbled
strata. One of those pieces Clarence picked up with a quickening
pulse. It was veined and streaked with shining mica and tiny
glittering cubes of mineral that LOOKED like gold!
The road now began to descend towards a winding stream, shrunken by
drought and ditching, that glared dazzingly in the sunlight from
its white bars of sand, or glistened in shining sheets and
channels. Along its banks, and even encroaching upon its bed, were
scattered a few mud cabins, strange-looking wooden troughs and
gutters, and here and there, glancing through the leaves, the white
canvas of tents. The stumps of felled trees and blackened spaces,
as of recent fires, marked the stream on either side. A sudden
sense of disappointment overcame Clarence. It looked vulgar,
common, and worse than all--FAMILIAR. It was like the unlovely
outskirts of a dozen other prosaic settlements he had seen in less
romantic localities. In that muddy red stream, pouring out of a
wooden gutter, in which three or four bearded, slouching, half-
naked figures were raking like chiffonniers, there was nothing to
suggest the royal metal. Yet he was so absorbed in gazing at the
scene, and had walked so rapidly during the past few minutes, that
he was startled, on turning a sharp corner of the road, to come
abruptly upon an outlying dwelling.
It was a nondescript building, half canvas and half boards. The
interior seen through the open door was fitted up with side
shelves, a counter carelessly piled with provisions, groceries,
clothing, and hardware--with no attempt at display or even ordinary
selection--and a table, on which stood a demijohn and three or four
dirty glasses. Two roughly dressed men, whose long, matted beards
and hair left only their eyes and lips visible in the tangled
hirsute wilderness below their slouched hats, were leaning against
the opposite sides of the doorway, smoking. Almost thrown against
them in the rapid momentum of his descent, Clarence halted
"Well, sonny, you needn't capsize the shanty," said the first man,
without taking his pipe from his lips.
"If yer looking fur yer ma, she and yer Aunt Jane hev jest gone
over to Parson Doolittle's to take tea," observed the second man
lazily. "She allowed that you'd wait."
"I'm--I'm--going to--to the mines," explained Clarence, with some
hesitation. "I suppose this is the way."
The two men took their pipes from their lips, looked at each other,
completely wiped every vestige of expression from their faces with
the back of their hands, turned their eyes into the interior of the
cabin, and said, "Will yer come yer, now WILL yer?" Thus adjured,
half a dozen men, also bearded and carrying pipes in their mouths,
straggled out of the shanty, and, filing in front of it, squatted
down, with their backs against the boards, and gazed comfortably at
the boy. Clarence began to feel uneasy.
"I'll give," said one, taking out his pipe and grimly eying
Clarence, "a hundred dollars for him as he stands."
"And seein' as he's got that bran-new rig-out o' tools," said
another, "I'll give a hundred and fifty--and the drinks. I've
been," he added apologetically, "wantin' sunthin' like this a long
"Well, gen'lemen," said the man who had first spoken to him,
"lookin' at him by and large; takin' in, so to speak, the gin'ral
gait of him in single harness; bearin' in mind the perfect
freshness of him, and the coolness and size of his cheek--the easy
downyness, previousness, and utter don't-care-a-damnativeness of
his coming yer, I think two hundred ain't too much for him, and
we'll call it a bargain."
Clarence's previous experience of this grim, smileless Californian
chaff was not calculated to restore his confidence. He drew away
from the cabin, and repeated doggedly, "I asked you if this was the
way to the mines."
"It ARE the mines, and these yere are the miners," said the first
speaker gravely. "Permit me to interdoose 'em. This yere's Shasta
Jim, this yere's Shotcard Billy, this is Nasty Bob, and this
Slumgullion Dick. This yere's the Dook o' Chatham Street, the
Livin' Skeleton, and me!"
"May we ask, fair young sir," said the Living Skeleton, who,
however, seemed in fairly robust condition, "whence came ye on the
wings of the morning, and whose Marble Halls ye hev left desolate?"
"I came across the plains, and got into Stockton two days ago on
Mr. Peyton's train," said Clarence, indignantly, seeing no reason
now to conceal anything. "I came to Sacramento to find my cousin,
who isn't living there any more. I don't see anything funny in
THAT! I came here to the mines to dig gold--because---because Mr.
Silsbee, the man who was to bring me here and might have found my
cousin for me, was killed by Indians."
"Hold up, sonny. Let me help ye," said the first speaker, rising
to his feet. "YOU didn't get killed by Injins because you got lost
out of a train with Silsbee's infant darter. Peyton picked you up
while you was takin' care of her, and two days arter you kem up to
the broken-down Silsbee wagons, with all the folks lyin' there
"Yes, sir," said Clarence, breathlessly with astonishment.
"And," continued the man, putting his hand gravely to his head as
if to assist his memory, "when you was all alone on the plains with
that little child you saw one of those redskins, as near to you as
I be, watchin' the train, and you didn't breathe or move while he
"Yes, sir," said Clarence eagerly.
"And you was shot at by Peyton, he thinkin' you was an Injun in the
mesquite grass? And you once shot a buffalo that had been pitched
with you down a gully--all by yourself?"
"Yes," said Clarence, crimson with wonder and pleasure. "You know
"Well, ye-e-es," said the man gravely, parting his mustache with
his fingers. "You see, YOU'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE."
"Before! Me?" repeated the astounded Clarence.
"Yes, before. Last night. You was taller then, and hadn't cut
your hair. You cursed a good deal more than you do now. You drank
a man's share of whiskey, and you borrowed fifty dollars to get to
Sacramento with. I reckon you haven't got it about you now, eh?"
Clarence's brain reeled in utter confusion and hopeless terror.
Was he going crazy, or had these cruel men learned his story from
his faithless friends, and this was a part of the plot? He
staggered forward, but the men had risen and quickly encircled him,
as if to prevent his escape. In vague and helpless desperation he
"What place is this?"
"Folks call it Deadman's Gulch."
Deadman's Gulch! A flash of intelligence lit up the boy's blind
confusion. Deadman's Gulch! Could it have been Jim Hooker who had
really run away, and had taken his name? He turned half-
imploringly to the first speaker.
"Wasn't he older than me, and bigger? Didn't he have a smooth,
round face and little eyes? Didn't he talk hoarse? Didn't he--"
He stopped hopelessly.
"Yes; oh, he wasn't a bit like you," said the man musingly. "Ye
see, that's the h-ll of it! You're altogether TOO MANY and TOO
VARIOUS fur this camp."
"I don't know who's been here before, or what they have said," said
Clarence desperately, yet even in that desperation retaining the
dogged loyalty to his old playmate, which was part of his nature.
"I don't know, and I don't care--there! I'm Clarence Brant of
Kentucky; I started in Silsbee's train from St. Jo, and I'm going
to the mines, and you can't stop me!"
The man who had first spoken started, looked keenly at Clarence,
and then turned to the others. The gentleman known as the living
skeleton had obtruded his huge bulk in front of the boy, and,
gazing at him, said reflectively, "Darned if it don't look like one
of Brant's pups--sure!"
"Air ye any relation to Kernel Hamilton Brant of Looeyville?" asked
the first speaker.
Again that old question! Poor Clarence hesitated, despairingly.
Was he to go through the same cross-examination he had undergone
with the Peytons? "Yes," he said doggedly, "I am--but he's dead,
and you know it."
"Dead--of course." "Sartin." "He's dead." "The Kernel's
planted," said the men in chorus.
"Well, yes," reflected the Living Skeleton ostentatiously, as one
who spoke from experience. "Ham Brant's about as bony now as they
"You bet! About the dustiest, deadest corpse you kin turn out,"
corroborated Slumgullion Dick, nodding his head gloomily to the
others; "in point o' fack, es a corpse, about the last one I should
keer to go huntin' fur."
"The Kernel's tech 'ud be cold and clammy," concluded the Duke of
Chatham Street, who had not yet spoken, "sure. But what did yer
mammy say about it? Is she gettin' married agin? Did SHE send ye
It seemed to Clarence that the Duke of Chatham Street here received
a kick from his companions; but the boy repeated doggedly--
"I came to Sacramento to find my cousin, Jackson Brant; but he
"Jackson Brant!" echoed the first speaker, glancing at the others.
"Did your mother say he was your cousin?"
"Yes," said Clarence wearily. "Good-by."
"Hullo, sonny, where are you going?"
"To dig gold," said the boy. "And you know you can't prevent me,
if it isn't on your claim. I know the law." He had heard Mr.
Peyton discuss it at Stockton, and he fancied that the men, who
were whispering among themselves, looked kinder than before, and as
if they were no longer "acting" to him. The first speaker laid his
hand on his shoulder, and said, "All right, come with me, and I'll
show you where to dig."
"Who are you?" said Clarence. "You called yourself only 'me.'"
"Well, you can call me Flynn--Tom Flynn."
"And you'll show me where I can dig--myself?"
"Do you know," said Clarence timidly, yet with a half-conscious
smile, "that I--I kinder bring luck?"
The man looked down upon him, and said gravely, but, as it struck
Clarence, with a new kind of gravity, "I believe you."
"Yes," said Clarence eagerly, as they walked along together, "I
brought luck to a man in Sacramento the other day." And he related
with great earnestness his experience in the gambling saloon. Not
content with that--the sealed fountains of his childish deep being
broken up by some mysterious sympathy--he spoke of his hospitable
exploit with the passengers at the wayside bar, of the finding of
his Fortunatus purse and his deposit at the bank. Whether that
characteristic old-fashioned reticence which had been such an
important factor for good or ill in his future had suddenly
deserted him, or whether some extraordinary prepossession in his
companion had affected him, he did not know; but by the time the
pair had reached the hillside Flynn was in possession of all the
boy's history. On one point only was his reserve unshaken.
Conscious although he was of Jim Hooker's duplicity, he affected to
treat it as a comrade's joke.
They halted at last in the middle of an apparently fertile
hillside. Clarence shifted his shovel from his shoulders, unslung
his pan, and looked at Flynn. "Dig anywhere here, where you like,"
said his companion carelessly, "and you'll be sure to find the
color. Fill your pan with the dirt, go to that sluice, and let the
water run in on the top of the pan--workin' it round so," he added,
illustrating a rotary motion with the vessel. "Keep doing that
until all the soil is washed out of it, and you have only the black
sand at the bottom. Then work that the same way until you see the
color. Don't be afraid of washing the gold out of the pan--you
couldn't do it if you tried. There, I'll leave you here, and you
wait till I come back." With another grave nod and something like
a smile in the only visible part of his bearded face--his eyes--he
strode rapidly away.
Clarence did not lose time. Selecting a spot where the grass was
less thick, he broke through the soil and turned up two or three
spadefuls of red soil. When he had filled the pan and raised it to
his shoulder, he was astounded at its weight. He did not know that
it was due to the red precipitate of iron that gave it its color.
Staggering along with his burden to the running sluice, which
looked like an open wooden gutter, at the foot of the hill, he
began to carefully carry out Flynn's direction. The first dip of
the pan in the running water carried off half the contents of the
pan in liquid paint-like ooze. For a moment he gave way to boyish
satisfaction in the sight and touch of this unctuous solution, and
dabbled his fingers in it. A few moments more of rinsing and he
came to the sediment of fine black sand that was beneath it.
Another plunge and swilling of water in the pan, and--could he
believe his eyes!--a few yellow tiny scales, scarcely larger than
pins' heads, glittered among the sand. He poured it off. But his
companion was right; the lighter sand shifted from side to side
with the water, but the glittering points remained adhering by
their own tiny specific gravity to the smooth surface of the
bottom. It was "the color"--gold!
Clarence's heart seemed to give a great leap within him. A vision
of wealth, of independence, of power, sprang before his dazzled
eyes, and--a hand lightly touched him on the shoulder.
He started. In his complete preoccupation and excitement, he had
not heard the clatter of horse-hoofs, and to his amazement Flynn
was already beside him, mounted, and leading a second horse.
"You kin ride?" he said shortly.
"Yes" stammered Clarence; "but--"
"BUT--we've only got two hours to reach Buckeye Mills in time to
catch the down stage. Drop all that, jump up, and come with me!"
"But I've just found gold," said the boy excitedly.
"And I've just found your--cousin. Come!"
He spurred his horse across Clarence's scattered implements, half
helped, half lifted, the boy into the saddle of the second horse,
and, with a cut of his riata over the animal's haunches, the next
moment they were both galloping furiously away.
Torn suddenly from his prospective future, but too much dominated
by the man beside him to protest, Clarence was silent until a rise
in the road, a few minutes later, partly abated their headlong
speed, and gave him chance to recover his breath and courage.
"Where is my cousin?" he asked.
"In the Southern county, two hundred miles from here."
"Are we going to him?"
They rode furiously forward again. It was nearly half an hour
before they came to a longer ascent. Clarence could see that Flynn
was from time to time examining him curiously under his slouched
hat. This somewhat embarrassed him, but in his singular confidence
in the man no distrust mingled with it.
"Ye never saw your--cousin?" he asked.
"No," said Clarence; "nor he me. I don't think he knew me much,
"How old mout ye be, Clarence?"
"Well, as you're suthin of a pup"--Clarence started, and recalled
Peyton's first criticism of him--"I reckon to tell ye suthin. Ye
ain't goin' to be skeert, or afeard, or lose yer sand, I kalkilate,
for skunkin' ain't in your breed. Well, wot ef I told ye that
thish yer--thish yer--COUSIN o' yours was the biggest devil onhung;
that he'd just killed a man, and had to lite out elsewhere, and
THET'S why he didn't show up in Sacramento--what if I told you
Clarence felt that this was somehow a little too much. He was
perfectly truthful, and lifting his frank eyes to Flynn, he said,
"I should think you were talking a good deal like Jim Hooker!"
His companion stared, and suddenly reined up his horse; then,
bursting into a shout of laughter, he galloped ahead, from time to
time shaking his head, slapping his legs, and making the dim woods
ring with his boisterous mirth. Then as suddenly becoming
thoughtful again, he rode on rapidly for half an hour, only
speaking to Clarence to urge him forward, and assisting his
progress by lashing the haunches of his horse. Luckily, the boy
was a good rider--a fact which Flynn seemed to thoroughly
appreciate--or he would have been unseated a dozen times.
At last the straggling sheds of Buckeye Mills came into softer
purple view on the opposite mountain. Then laying his hand on
Clarence's shoulder as he reined in at his side, Flynn broke the
"There, boy," he said, wiping the mirthful tears from his eyes. "I
was only foolin'--only tryin' yer grit! This yer cousin I'm taking
you to be as quiet and soft-spoken and as old-fashioned ez you be.
Why, he's that wrapped up in books and study that he lives alone in
a big adobe rancherie among a lot o' Spanish, and he don't keer to
see his own countrymen! Why, he's even changed his name, and
calles himself Don Juan Robinson! But he's very rich; he owns
three leagues of land and heaps of cattle and horses, and,"
glancing approvingly at Clarence's seat in the saddle, "I reckon
you'll hev plenty of fun thar."
"But," hesitated Clarence, to whom this proposal seemed only a
repetition of Peyton's charitable offer, "I think I'd better stay
here and dig gold--WITH YOU."
"And I think you'd better not," said the man, with a gravity that
was very like a settled determination.
"But my cousin never came for me to Sacramento--nor sent, nor even
wrote," persisted Clarence indignantly.
"Not to YOU, boy; but he wrote to the man whom he reckoned would
bring you there--Jack Silsbee--and left it in the care of the bank.
And Silsbee, being dead, didn't come for the letter; and as you
didn't ask for it when you came, and didn't even mention Silsbee's
name, that same letter was sent back to your cousin through me,
because the bank thought we knew his whereabouts. It came to the
gulch by an express rider, whilst you were prospectin' on the
hillside. Rememberin' your story, I took the liberty of opening
it, and found out that your cousin had told Silsbee to bring you
straight to him. So I'm only doin' now what Silsbee would have
Any momentary doubt or suspicion that might have risen in
Clarence's mind vanished as he met his companion's steady and
masterful eye. Even his disappointment was forgotten in the charm
of this new-found friendship and protection. And as its outset had
been marked by an unusual burst of confidence on Clarence's part,
the boy, in his gratitude, now felt something of the timid shyness
of a deeper feeling, and once more became reticent.
They were in time to snatch a hasty meal at Buckeye Mills before
the stage arrived, and Clarence noticed that his friend, despite
his rough dress and lawless aspect, provoked a marked degree of
respect from those he met--in which, perhaps, a wholesome fear was
mingled. It is certain that the two best places in the stage were
given up to them without protest, and that a careless, almost
supercilious invitation to drink from Flynn was responded to with
singular alacrity by all, including even two fastidiously dressed
and previously reserved passengers. I am afraid that Clarence
enjoyed this proof of his friend's singular dominance with a boyish
pride, and, conscious of the curious eyes of the passengers,
directed occasionally to himself, was somewhat ostentatious in his
familiarity with this bearded autocrat.
At noon the next day they left the stage at a wayside road station,
and Flynn briefly informed Clarence that they must again take
horses. This at first seemed difficult in that out-of-the-way
settlement, where they alone had stopped, but a whisper from the
driver in the ear of the station-master produced a couple of fiery
mustangs, with the same accompaniment of cautious awe and mystery.
For the next two days they traveled on horseback, resting by night
at the lodgings of one or other of Flynn's friends in the outskirts
of a large town, where they arrived in the darkness, and left
before day. To any one more experienced than the simple-minded boy
it would have been evident that Flynn was purposely avoiding the
more traveled roads and conveyances; and when they changed horses
again the next day's ride was through an apparently unbroken
wilderness of scattered wood and rolling plain. Yet to Clarence,
with his pantheistic reliance and joyous sympathy with nature, the
change was filled with exhilarating pleasure. The vast seas of
tossing wild oats, the hillside still variegated with strange
flowers, the virgin freshness of untrodden woods and leafy aisles,
whose floors of moss or bark were undisturbed by human footprint,
were a keen delight and novelty. More than this, his quick eye,
trained perceptions, and frontier knowledge now stood him in good
stead. His intuitive sense of distance, instincts of woodcraft,
and his unerring detection of those signs, landmarks, and
guideposts of nature, undistinguishable to aught but birds and
beasts and some children, were now of the greatest service to his
less favored companion. In this part of their strange pilgrimage
it was the boy who took the lead. Flynn, who during the past two
days seemed to have fallen into a mood of watchful reserve, nodded
his approbation. "This sort of thing's yer best holt, boy," he
said. "Men and cities ain't your little game."
At the next stopping-place Clarence had a surprise. They had again
entered a town at nightfall, and lodged with another friend of
Flynn's in rooms which from vague sounds appeared to be over a
gambling saloon. Clarence woke late in the morning, and,
descending into the street to mount for the day's journey, was
startled to find that Flynn was not on the other horse, but that a
well-dressed and handsome stranger had taken his place. But a
laugh, and the familiar command, "Jump up, boy," made him look
again. It WAS Flynn, but completely shaven of beard and mustache,
closely clipped of hair, and in a fastidiously cut suit of black!
"Then you didn't know me?" said Flynn.
"Not till you spoke," replied Clarence.
"So much the better," said his friend sententiously, as he put
spurs to his horse. But as they cantered through the street,
Clarence, who had already become accustomed to the stranger's
hirsute adornment, felt a little more awe of him. The profile of
the mouth and chin now exposed to his sidelong glance was hard and
stern, and slightly saturnine. Although unable at the time to
identify it with anybody he had ever known, it seemed to the
imaginative boy to be vaguely connected with some sad experience.
But the eyes were thoughtful and kindly, and the boy later believed
that if he had been more familiar with the face he would have loved
it better. For it was the last and only day he was to see it, as,
late that afternoon, after a dusty ride along more traveled
highways, they reached their journey's end.
It was a low-walled house, with red-tiled roofs showing against the
dark green of venerable pear and fig trees, and a square court-yard
in the centre, where they had dismounted. A few words in Spanish
from Flynn to one of the lounging peons admitted them to a wooden
corridor, and thence to a long, low room, which to Clarence's eyes
seemed literally piled with books and engravings. Here Flynn
hurriedly bade him stay while he sought the host in another part of
the building. But Clarence did not miss him; indeed, it may be
feared, he forgot even the object of their journey in the new
sensations that suddenly thronged upon him, and the boyish vista of
the future that they seemed to open. He was dazed and intoxicated.
He had never seen so many books before; he had never conceived of
such lovely pictures. And yet in some vague way he thought he must
have dreamt of them at some time. He had mounted a chair, and was
gazing spellbound at an engraving of a sea-fight when he heard
His friend had quietly reentered the room, in company with an
oldish, half-foreign-looking man, evidently his relation. With no
helping recollection, with no means of comparison beyond a vague
idea that his cousin might look like himself, Clarence stood
hopelessly before him. He had already made up his mind that he
would have to go through the usual cross-questioning in regard to
his father and family; he had even forlornly thought of inventing
some innocent details to fill out his imperfect and unsatisfactory
recollection. But, glancing up, he was surprised to find that his
elderly cousin was as embarrassed as he was, Flynn, as usual,
"Of course ye don't remember each other, and thar ain't much that
either of you knows about family matters, I reckon," he said
grimly; "and as your cousin calls himself Don Juan Robinson," he
added to Clarence, "it's just as well that you let 'Jackson Brant'
slide. I know him better than you, but you'll get used to him, and
he to you, soon enough. At least, you'd better," he concluded,
with his singular gravity.
As he turned as if to leave the room with Clarence's embarrassed
relative--much to that gentleman's apparent relief--the boy looked
up at the latter and said timidly--
"May I look at those books?"
His cousin stopped, and glanced at him with the first expression of
interest he had shown.
"Ah, you read; you like books?"
"Yes," said Clarence. As his cousin remained still looking at him
thoughtfully, he added, "My hands are pretty clean, but I can wash
them first, if you like."
"You may look at them," said Don Juan smilingly; "and as they are
old books you can wash your hands afterwards." And, turning to
Flynn suddenly, with an air of relief, "I tell you what I'll do--
I'll teach him Spanish!"
They left the room together, and Clarence turned eagerly to the
shelves. They were old books, some indeed very old, queerly bound,
and worm-eaten. Some were in foreign languages, but others in
clear, bold English type, with quaint wood-cuts and illustrations.
One seemed to be a chronicle of battles and sieges, with pictured
representations of combatants spitted with arrows, cleanly lopped
off in limb, or toppled over distinctly by visible cannon-shot. He
was deep in its perusal when he heard the clatter of a horse's
hoofs in the court-yard and the voice of Flynn. He ran to the
window, and was astonished to see his friend already on horseback,
taking leave of his host.
For one instant Clarence felt one of those sudden revulsions of
feeling common to his age, but which he had always timidly hidden
under dogged demeanor. Flynn, his only friend! Flynn, his only
boyish confidant! Flynn, his latest hero, was going away and
forsaking him without a word of parting! It was true that he had
only agreed to take him to his guardian, but still Flynn need not
have left him without a word of hope or encouragement! With any
one else Clarence would probably have taken refuge in his usual
Indian stoicism, but the same feeling that had impelled him to
offer Flynn his boyish confidences on their first meeting now
overpowered him. He dropped his book, ran out into the corridor,
and made his way to the court-yard, just as Flynn galloped out from
But the boy uttered a despairing shout that reached the rider. He
drew rein, wheeled, halted, and sat facing Clarence impatiently.
To add to Clarence's embarrassment his cousin had lingered in the
corridor, attracted by the interruption, and a peon, lounging in
the archway, obsequiously approached Flynn's bridle-rein. But the
rider waved him off, and, turning sternly to Clarence, said:--
"What's the matter now?"
"Nothing," said Clarence, striving to keep back the hot tears that
rose in his eyes. "But you were going away without saying 'good-
by.' You've been very kind to me, and--and--I want to thank you!"
A deep flush crossed Flynn's face. Then glancing suspiciously
towards the corridor, he said hurriedly,--
"Did HE send you?"
"No, I came myself. I heard you going."
"All right. Good-by." He leaned forward as if about to take
Clarence's outstretched hand, checked himself suddenly with a grim
smile, and taking from his pocket a gold coin handed it to the boy.
Clarence took it, tossed it with a proud gesture to the waiting
peon, who caught it thankfully, drew back a step from Flynn, and
saying, with white cheeks, "I only wanted to say good-by," dropped
his hot eyes to the ground. But it did not seem to be his own
voice that had spoken, nor his own self that had prompted the act.
There was a quick interchange of glances between the departing
guest and his late host, in which Flynn's eyes flashed with an odd,
admiring fire, but when Clarence raised his head again he was gone.
And as the boy turned back with a broken heart towards the
corridor, his cousin laid his hand upon his shoulder.
"Muy hidalgamente, Clarence," he said pleasantly. "Yes, we shall
make something of you!"
Then followed to Clarence three uneventful years. During that
interval he learnt that Jackson Brant, or Don Juan Robinson--for
the tie of kinship was the least factor in their relations to each
other, and after the departure of Flynn was tacitly ignored by
both--was more Spanish than American. An early residence in Lower
California, marriage with a rich Mexican widow, whose dying
childless left him sole heir, and some strange restraining
idiosyncrasy of temperament had quite denationalized him. A
bookish recluse, somewhat superfastidious towards his own
countrymen, the more Clarence knew him the more singular appeared
his acquaintance with Flynn; but as he did not exhibit more
communicativeness on this point than upon their own kinship,
Clarence finally concluded that it was due to the dominant
character of his former friend, and thought no more about it. He
entered upon the new life at El Refugio with no disturbing past.
Quickly adapting himself to the lazy freedom of this hacienda
existence, he spent the mornings on horseback ranging the hills
among his cousin's cattle, and the afternoons and evenings busied
among his cousin's books with equally lawless and undisciplined
independence. The easy-going Don Juan, it is true, attempted to
make good his rash promise to teach the boy Spanish, and actually
set him a few tasks; but in a few weeks the quick-witted Clarence
acquired such a colloquial proficiency from his casual acquaintance
with vaqueros and small traders that he was glad to leave the
matter in his young kinsman's hands. Again, by one of those
illogical sequences which make a lifelong reputation depend upon a
single trivial act, Clarence's social status was settled forever at
El Refugio Rancho by his picturesque diversion of Flynn's parting
gift. The grateful peon to whom the boy had scornfully tossed the
coin repeated the act, gesture, and spirit of the scene to his
companion, and Don Juan's unknown and youthful relation was at once
recognized as hijo de la familia, and undeniably a hidalgo born and
bred. But in the more vivid imagination of feminine El Refugio the
incident reached its highest poetic form. "It is true, Mother of
God," said Chucha of the Mill; "it was Domingo who himself relates
it as it were the Creed. When the American escort had arrived with
the young gentleman, this escort, look you, being not of the same
quality, he is departing again without a word of permission. Comes
to him at this moment my little hidalgo. 'You have yourself
forgotten to take from me your demission,' he said. This escort,
thinking to make his peace with a mere muchacho, gives to him a
gold piece of twenty pesos. The little hidalgo has taken it SO,
and with the words, 'Ah! you would make of me your almoner to my
cousin's people,' has given it at the moment to Domingo, and with a
grace and fire admirable." But it is certain that Clarence's
singular simplicity and truthfulness, a faculty of being
picturesquely indolent in a way that suggested a dreamy abstraction
of mind rather than any vulgar tendency to bodily ease and comfort,
and possibly the fact that he was a good horseman, made him a
popular hero at El Refugio. At the end of three years Don Juan
found that this inexperienced and apparently idle boy of fourteen
knew more of the practical ruling of the rancho than he did
himself; also that this unlettered young rustic had devoured nearly
all the books in his library with boyish recklessness of digestion.
He found, too, that in spite of his singular independence of
action, Clarence was possessed of an invincible loyalty of
principle, and that, asking no sentimental affection, and indeed
yielding none, he was, without presuming on his relationship,
devoted to his cousin's interest. It seemed that from being a
glancing ray of sunshine in the house, evasive but never obtrusive,
he had become a daily necessity of comfort and security to his
Clarence was, however, astonished, when, one morning, Don Juan,
with the same embarrassed manner he had shown at their first
meeting, suddenly asked him, "what business he expected to follow."
It seemed the more singular, as the speaker, like most abstracted
men, had hitherto always studiously ignored the future, in their
daily intercourse. Yet this might have been either the habit of
security or the caution of doubt. Whatever it was, it was some
sudden disturbance of Don Juan's equanimity, as disconcerting to
himself as it was to Clarence. So conscious was the boy of this
that, without replying to his cousin's question, but striving in
vain to recall some delinquency of his own, he asked, with his
usual boyish directness--
"Has anything happened? Have I done anything wrong?"
"No, no," returned Don Juan hurriedly. "But, you see, it's time
that you should think of your future--or at least prepare for it.
I mean you ought to have some more regular education. You will
have to go to school. It's too bad," he added fretfully, with a
certain impatient forgetfulness of Clarence's presence, and as if
following his own thought. "Just as you are becoming of service to
me, and justifying your ridiculous position here--and all this d--d
nonsense that's gone before--I mean, of course, Clarence," he
interrupted himself, catching sight of the boy's whitening cheek
and darkening eye, "I mean, you know--this ridiculousness of my
keeping you from school at your age, and trying to teach you
myself--don't you see."
"You think it is--ridiculous," repeated Clarence, with dogged
"I mean I am ridiculous," said Don Juan hastily. "There! there!
let's say no more about it. To-morrow we'll ride over to San Jose
and see the Father Secretary at the Jesuits' College about your
entering at once. It's a good school, and you'll always be near
the rancho!" And so the interview ended.
I am afraid that Clarence's first idea was to run away. There are
few experiences more crushing to an ingenuous nature than the
sudden revelation of the aspect in which it is regarded by others.
The unfortunate Clarence, conscious only of his loyalty to his
cousin's interest and what he believed were the duties of his
position, awoke to find that position "ridiculous." In an
afternoon's gloomy ride through the lonely hills, and later in the
sleepless solitude of his room at night, he concluded that his
cousin was right. He would go to school; he would study hard--so
hard that in a little, a very little while, he could make a living
for himself. He awoke contented. It was the blessing of youth
that this resolve and execution seemed as one and the same thing.
The next day found him installed as a pupil and boarder in the
college. Don Juan's position and Spanish predilections naturally
made his relation acceptable to the faculty; but Clarence could not
help perceiving that Father Sobriente, the Principal, regarded him
at times with a thoughtful curiosity that made him suspect that his
cousin had especially bespoken that attention, and that he
occasionally questioned him on his antecedents in a way that made
him dread a renewal of the old questioning about his progenitor.
For the rest, he was a polished, cultivated man; yet, in the
characteristic, material criticism of youth, I am afraid that
Clarence chiefly identified him as a priest with large hands, whose
soft palms seemed to be cushioned with kindness, and whose equally
large feet, encased in extraordinary shapeless shoes of undyed
leather, seemed to tread down noiselessly--rather than to
ostentatiously crush--the obstacles that beset the path of the
young student. In the cloistered galleries of the court-yard
Clarence sometimes felt himself borne down by the protecting weight
of this paternal hand; in the midnight silence of the dormitory he
fancied he was often conscious of the soft browsing tread and
snuffly muffled breathing of his elephantine-footed mentor.
His relations with his school-fellows were at first far from
pleasant. Whether they suspected favoritism; whether they resented
that old and unsympathetic manner which sprang from his habits of
association with his elders; or whether they rested their
objections on the broader grounds of his being a stranger, I do not
know, but they presently passed from cruel sneers to physical
opposition. It was then found that this gentle and reserved youth
had retained certain objectionable, rude, direct, rustic qualities
of fist and foot, and that, violating all rules and disdaining the
pomp and circumstance of school-boy warfare, of which he knew
nothing, he simply thrashed a few of his equals out of hand, with
or without ceremony, as the occasion or the insult happened. In
this emergency one of the seniors was selected to teach this
youthful savage his proper position. A challenge was given, and
accepted by Clarence with a feverish alacrity that surprised
himself as much as his adversary. This was a youth of eighteen,
his superior in size and skill.
The first blow bathed Clarence's face in his own blood. But the
sanguinary chrism, to the alarm of the spectators, effected an
instantaneous and unhallowed change in the boy. Instantly closing
with his adversary, he sprang at his throat like an animal, and
locking his arm around his neck began to strangle him. Blind to
the blows that rained upon him, he eventually bore his staggering
enemy by sheer onset and surprise to the earth. Amidst the general
alarm, the strength of half a dozen hastily summoned teachers was
necessary to unlock his hold. Even then he struggled to renew the
conflict. But his adversary had disappeared, and from that day
forward Clarence was never again molested.
Seated before Father Sobriente in the infirmary, with swollen and
bandaged face, and eyes that still seemed to see everything in the
murky light of his own blood, Clarence felt the soft weight of the
father's hand upon his knee.
"My son," said the priest gently, "you are not of our religion, or
I should claim as a right to ask a question of your own heart at
this moment. But as to a good friend, Claro, a good friend," he
continued, patting the boy's knee, "you will tell me, old Father
Sobriente, frankly and truthfully, as is your habit, one little
thing. Were you not afraid?"
"No," said Clarence doggedly. "I'll lick him again to-morrow."
"Softly, my son! It was not of HIM I speak, but of something more
terrible and awful. Were you not afraid of--of--" he paused, and
suddenly darting his clear eyes into the very depths of Clarence's
soul, added--"of YOURSELF?"
The boy started, shuddered, and burst into tears.
"So, so," said the priest gently, "we have found our real enemy.
Good! Now, by the grace of God, my little warrior, we shall fight
HIM and conquer."
Whether Clarence profited by this lesson, or whether this brief
exhibition of his quality prevented any repetition of the cause,
the episode was soon forgotten. As his school-fellows had never
been his associates or confidants, it mattered little to him
whether they feared or respected him, or were hypocritically
obsequious, after the fashion of the weaker. His studies, at all
events, profited by this lack of distraction. Already his two
years of desultory and omnivorous reading had given him a facile
familiarity with many things, which left him utterly free of the
timidity, awkwardness, or non-interest of a beginner. His usually
reserved manner, which had been lack of expression rather than of
conviction, had deceived his tutors. The audacity of a mind that
had never been dominated by others, and owed no allegiance to
precedent, made his merely superficial progress something
At the end of the first year he was a phenomenal scholar, who
seemed capable of anything. Nevertheless, Father Sobriente had an
interview with Don Juan, and as a result Clarence was slightly kept
back in his studies, a little more freedom from the rules was
conceded to him, and he was even encouraged to take some diversion.
Of such was the privilege to visit the neighboring town of Santa
Clara unrestricted and unattended. He had always been liberally
furnished with pocket-money, for which, in his companionless state
and Spartan habits, he had a singular and unboyish contempt.
Nevertheless, he always appeared dressed with scrupulous neatness,
and was rather distinguished-looking in his older reserve and
Lounging one afternoon along the Alameda, a leafy avenue set out by
the early Mission Fathers between the village of San Jose and the
convent of Santa Clara, he saw a double file of young girls from
the convent approaching, on their usual promenade. A view of this
procession being the fondest ambition of the San Jose collegian,
and especially interdicted and circumvented by the good Fathers
attending the college excursions, Clarence felt for it the profound
indifference of a boy who, in the intermediate temperate zone of
fifteen years, thinks that he is no longer young and romantic! He
was passing them with a careless glance, when a pair of deep violet
eyes caught his own under the broad shade of a coquettishly
beribboned hat, even as it had once looked at him from the depths
of a calico sunbonnet. Susy! He started, and would have spoken;
but with a quick little gesture of caution and a meaning glance at
the two nuns who walked at the head and foot of the file, she
indicated him to follow. He did so at a respectful distance,
albeit wondering. A little further on Susy dropped her
handkerchief, and was obliged to dart out and run back to the end
of the file to recover it. But she gave another swift glance of
her blue eyes as she snatched it up and demurely ran back to her
place. The procession passed on, but when Clarence reached the
spot where she had paused he saw a three-cornered bit of paper
lying in the grass. He was too discreet to pick it up while the
girls were still in sight, but continued on, returning to it later.
It contained a few words in a schoolgirl's hand, hastily scrawled
in pencil: "Come to the south wall near the big pear-tree at six."
Delighted as Clarence felt, he was at the same time embarrassed.
He could not understand the necessity of this mysterious
rendezvous. He knew that if she was a scholar she was under
certain conventual restraints; but with the privileges of his
position and friendship with his teachers, he believed that Father
Sobriente would easily procure him an interview with this old play-
fellow, of whom he had often spoken, and who was, with himself, the
sole survivor of his tragical past. And trusted as he was by
Sobriente, there was something in this clandestine though innocent
rendezvous that went against his loyalty. Nevertheless, he kept
the appointment, and at the stated time was at the south wall of
the convent, over which the gnarled boughs of the distinguishing
pear-tree hung. Hard by in the wall was a grated wicket door that
Would she appear among the boughs or on the edge of the wall?
Either would be like the old Susy. But to his surprise he heard
the sound of the key turning in the lock. The grated door suddenly
swung on its hinges, and Susy slipped out. Grasping his hand, she
said, "Let's run, Clarence," and before he could reply she started
off with him at a rapid pace. Down the lane they flew--very much,
as it seemed to Clarence's fancy, as they had flown from the old
emigrant wagon on the prairie, four years before. He glanced at
the fluttering, fairy-like figure beside him. She had grown taller
and more graceful; she was dressed in exquisite taste, with a
minuteness of luxurious detail that bespoke the spoilt child; but
there was the same prodigal outburst of rippling, golden hair down
her back and shoulders, violet eyes, capricious little mouth, and
the same delicate hands and feet he had remembered. He would have
preferred a more deliberate survey, but with a shake of her head
and an hysteric little laugh she only said, "Run, Clarence, run,"
and again darted forward. Arriving at the cross-street, they
turned the corner, and halted breathlessly.
"But you're not running away from school, Susy, are you?" said
"Only a little bit. Just enough to get ahead of the other girls,"
she said, rearranging her brown curls and tilted hat. "You see,
Clarence," she condescended to explain, with a sudden assumption of
older superiority, "mother's here at the hotel all this week, and
I'm allowed to go home every night, like a day scholar. Only
there's three or four other girls that go out at the same time with
me, and one of the Sisters, and to-day I got ahead of 'em just to
"But" began Clarence.
"Oh, it's all right; the other girls knew it, and helped me. They
don't start out for half an hour yet, and they'll say I've just run
ahead, and when they and the Sister get to the hotel I'll be there
already--don't you see?"
"Yes," said Clarence dubiously.
"And we'll go to an ice-cream saloon now, shan't we? There's a
nice one near the hotel. I've got some money," she added quickly,
as Clarence looked embarrassed.
"So have I," said Clarence, with a faint accession of color.
"Let's go!" She had relinquished his hand to smooth out her frock,
and they were walking side by side at a more moderate pace. "But,"
he continued, clinging to his first idea with masculine
persistence, and anxious to assure his companion of his power, of
his position, "I'm in the college, and Father Sobriente, who knows
your lady superior, is a good friend of mine and gives me
privileges; and--and--when he knows that you and I used to play
together--why, he'll fix it that we may see each other whenever we
"Oh, you silly!" said Susy. "WHAT!--when you're--"
"When I'm WHAT?"
The young girl shot a violet blue ray from under her broad hat.
"Why--when we're grown up now?" Then with a certain precision,
"Why, they're VERY particular about young gentlemen! Why,
Clarence, if they suspected that you and I were--" Another violet
ray from under the hat completed this unfinished sentence.
Pleased and yet confused, Clarence looked straight ahead with
deepening color. "Why," continued Susy, "Mary Rogers, that was
walking with me, thought you were ever so old--and a distinguished
Spaniard! And I," she said abruptly--"haven't I grown? Tell me,
Clarence," with her old appealing impatience, "haven't I grown? Do
"Very much," said Clarence.
"And isn't this frock pretty--it's only my second best--but I've a
prettier one with lace all down in front; but isn't this one
pretty, Clarence, tell me?"
Clarence thought the frock and its fair owner perfection, and said
so. Whereat Susy, as if suddenly aware of the presence of passers-
by, assumed an air of severe propriety, dropped her hands by her
side, and with an affected conscientiousness walked on, a little
further from Clarence's side, until they reached the ice-cream
"Get a table near the back, Clarence," she said, in a confidential
whisper, "where they can't see us--and strawberry, you know, for
the lemon and vanilla here are just horrid!"
They took their seats in a kind of rustic arbor in the rear of the
shop, which gave them the appearance of two youthful but somewhat
over-dressed and over-conscious shepherds. There was an interval
of slight awkwardness, which Susy endeavored to displace. "There
has been," she remarked, with easy conversational lightness, "quite
an excitement about our French teacher being changed. The girls in
our class think it most disgraceful."
And this was all she could say after a separation of four years!
Clarence was desperate, but as yet idealess and voiceless. At
last, with an effort over his spoon, he gasped a floating
recollection: "Do you still like flapjacks, Susy?"
"Oh, yes," with a laugh, "but we don't have them now."
"And Mose" (a black pointer, who used to yelp when Susy sang),
"does he still sing with you?"
"Oh, HE'S been lost ever so long," said Susy composedly; "but I've
got a Newfoundland and a spaniel and a black pony;" and here, with
a rapid inventory of her other personal effects, she drifted into
some desultory details of the devotion of her adopted parents, whom
she now readily spoke of as "papa" and "mamma," with evidently no
disturbing recollection of the dead. From which it appeared that
the Peytons were very rich, and, in addition to their possessions
in the lower country, owned a rancho in Santa Clara and a house in
San Francisco. Like all children, her strongest impressions were
the most recent. In the vain hope to lead her back to this
material yesterday, he said--
"You remember Jim Hooker?"
"Oh, HE ran away, when you left. But just think of it! The other
day, when papa and I went into a big restaurant in San Francisco,
who should be there WAITING on the table--yes, Clarence, a real
waiter--but Jim Hooker! Papa spoke to him; but of course," with a
slight elevation of her pretty chin, "I couldn't, you know; fancy--
The story of how Jim Hooker had personated him stopped short upon
Clarence's lips. He could not bring himself now to add that
revelation to the contempt of his small companion, which, in spite
of its naivete, somewhat grated on his sensibilities.
"Clarence," she said, suddenly turning towards him mysteriously,
and indicating the shopman and his assistants, "I really believe
these people suspect us."
"Of what?" said the practical Clarence.
"Don't be silly! Don't you see how they are staring?"
Clarence was really unable to detect the least curiosity on the
part of the shopman, or that any one exhibited the slightest
concern in him or his companion. But he felt a return of the
embarrassed pleasure he was conscious of a moment before.
"Then you're living with your father?" said Susy, changing the
"You mean my COUSIN," said Clarence, smiling. "You know my father
died long before I ever knew you."
"Yes; that's what YOU used to say, Clarence, but papa says it isn't
so." But seeing the boy's wondering eyes fixed on her with a
troubled expression, she added quickly, "Oh, then, he IS your
"Well, I think I ought to know," said Clarence, with a smile, that
was, however, far from comfortable, and a quick return of his old
unpleasant recollections of the Peytons. "Why, I was brought to
him by one of his friends." And Clarence gave a rapid boyish
summary of his journey from Sacramento, and Flynn's discovery of
the letter addressed to Silsbee. But before he had concluded he
was conscious that Susy was by no means interested in these
details, nor in the least affected by the passing allusion to her
dead father and his relation to Clarence's misadventures. With her
rounded chin in her hand, she was slowly examining his face, with a
certain mischievous yet demure abstraction. "I tell you what,
Clarence," she said, when he had finished, "you ought to make your
cousin get you one of those sombreros, and a nice gold-braided
serape. They'd just suit you. And then--then you could ride up
and down the Alameda when we are going by."
"But I'm coming to see you at--at your house, and at the convent,"
he said eagerly. "Father Sobriente and my cousin will fix it all
But Susy shook her head, with superior wisdom. "No; they must
never know our secret!--neither papa nor mamma, especially mamma.
And they mustn't know that we've met again--AFTER THESE YEARS!" It
is impossible to describe the deep significance which Susy's blue
eyes gave to this expression. After a pause she went on--
"No! We must never meet again, Clarence, unless Mary Rogers helps.
She is my best, my ONLIEST friend, and older than I; having had
trouble herself, and being expressly forbidden to see him again.
You can speak to her about Suzette--that's my name now; I was
rechristened Suzette Alexandra Peyton by mamma. And now,
Clarence," dropping her voice and glancing shyly around the saloon,
"you may kiss me just once under my hat, for good-by." She
adroitly slanted her broad-brimmed hat towards the front of the
shop, and in its shadow advanced her fresh young cheek to Clarence.
Coloring and laughing, the boy pressed his lips to it twice. Then
Susy arose, with the faintest affectation of a sigh, shook out her
skirt, drew on her gloves with the greatest gravity, and saying,
"Don't follow me further than the door--they're coming now," walked
with supercilious dignity past the preoccupied proprietor and
waiters to the entrance. Here she said, with marked civility,
"Good-afternoon, Mr. Brant," and tripped away towards the hotel.
Clarence lingered for a moment to look after the lithe and elegant
little figure, with its shining undulations of hair that fell over
the back and shoulders of her white frock like a golden mantle, and
then turned away in the opposite direction.
He walked home in a state, as it seemed to him, of absurd
perplexity. There were many reasons why his encounter with Susy
should have been of unmixed pleasure. She had remembered him of
her own free will, and, in spite of the change in her fortune, had
made the first advances. Her doubts about her future interviews
had affected him but little; still less, I fear, did he think of
the other changes in her character and disposition, for he was of
that age when they added only a piquancy and fascination to her--as
of one who, in spite of her weakness of nature, was still devoted
to him! But he was painfully conscious that this meeting had
revived in him all the fears, vague uneasiness, and sense of wrong
that had haunted his first boyhood, and which he thought he had
buried at El Refugio four years ago. Susy's allusion to his father
and the reiteration of Peyton's skepticism awoke in his older
intellect the first feeling of suspicion that was compatible with
his open nature. Was this recurring reticence and mystery due to
any act of his father's? But, looking back upon it in after-years,
he concluded that the incident of that day was a premonition rather
than a recollection.
When he reached the college the Angelus had long since rung. In
the corridor he met one of the Fathers, who, instead of questioning
him, returned his salutation with a grave gentleness that struck
him. He had turned into Father Sobriente's quiet study with the
intention of reporting himself, when he was disturbed to find him
in consultation with three or four of the faculty, who seemed to be
thrown into some slight confusion by his entrance. Clarence was
about to retire hurriedly when Father Sobriente, breaking up the
council with a significant glance at the others, called him back.
Confused and embarrassed, with a dread of something impending, the
boy tried to avert it by a hurried account of his meeting with
Susy, and his hopes of Father Sobriente's counsel and assistance.
Taking upon himself the idea of suggesting Susy's escapade, he
confessed the fault. The old man gazed into his frank eyes with a
thoughtful, half-compassionate smile. "I was just thinking of
giving you a holiday with--with Don Juan Robinson." The unusual
substitution of this final title for the habitual "your cousin"
struck Clarence uneasily. "But we will speak of that later. Sit
down, my son; I am not busy. We shall talk a little. Father Pedro
says you are getting on fluently with your translations. That is
excellent, my son, excellent."
Clarence's face beamed with relief and pleasure. His vague fears
began to dissipate.
"And you translate even from dictation! Good! We have an hour to
spare, and you shall give to me a specimen of your skill. Eh?
Good! I will walk here and dictate to you in my poor English, and
you shall sit there and render it to me in your good Spanish. Eh?
So we shall amuse and instruct ourselves."
Clarence smiled. These sporadic moments of instruction and
admonition were not unusual to the good Father. He cheerfully
seated himself at the Padre's table before a blank sheet of paper,
with a pen in his hand. Father Sobriente paced the apartment, with
his usual heavy but noiseless tread. To his surprise, the good
priest, after an exhaustive pinch of snuff, blew his nose, and
began, in his most lugubrious style of pulpit exhortation:--
"It has been written that the sins of the father shall be visited
upon the children, and the unthinking and worldly have sought
refuge from this law by declaring it harsh and cruel. Miserable
and blind! For do we not see that the wicked man, who in the pride
of his power and vainglory is willing to risk punishment to
HIMSELF--and believes it to be courage--must pause before the awful
mandate that condemns an equal suffering to those he loves, which
he cannot withhold or suffer for? In the spectacle of these
innocents struggling against disgrace, perhaps disease, poverty, or
desertion, what avails his haughty, all-defying spirit? Let us
"Sir?" said the literal Clarence, pausing in his exercise.
"I mean," continued the priest, with a slight cough, "let the
thoughtful man picture a father: a desperate, self-willed man, who
scorned the laws of God and society--keeping only faith with a
miserable subterfuge he called 'honor,' and relying only on his own
courage and his knowledge of human weakness. Imagine him cruel and
bloody--a gambler by profession, an outlaw among men, an outcast
from the Church; voluntarily abandoning friends and family,--the
wife he should have cherished, the son he should have reared and
educated--for the gratification of his deadly passions. Yet
imagine that man suddenly confronted with the thought of that
heritage of shame and disgust which he had brought upon his
innocent offspring--to whom he cannot give even his own desperate
recklessness to sustain its vicarious suffering. What must be the
feelings of a parent--"
"Father Sobriente," said Clarence softly.
To the boy's surprise, scarcely had he spoken when the soft
protecting palm of the priest was already upon his shoulder, and
the snuffy but kindly upper lip, trembling with some strange
emotion, close beside his cheek.
"What is it, Clarence?" he said hurriedly. "Speak, my son, without
fear! You would ask--"
"I only wanted to know if 'padre' takes a masculine verb here,"
replied Clarence naively.
Father Sobriente blew his nose violently. "Truly--though used for
either gender, by the context masculine," he responded gravely.
"Ah," he added, leaning over Clarence, and scanning his work
hastily, "Good, very good! And now, possibly," he continued,
passing his hand like a damp sponge over his heated brow, "we shall
reverse our exercise. I shall deliver to you in Spanish what you
shall render back in English, eh? And--let us consider--we shall
make something more familiar and narrative, eh?"
To this Clarence, somewhat bored by these present solemn
abstractions, assented gladly, and took up his pen. Father
Sobriente, resuming his noiseless pacing, began:
"On the fertile plains of Guadalajara lived a certain caballero,
possessed of flocks and lands, and a wife and son. But, being also
possessed of a fiery and roving nature, he did not value them as he
did perilous adventure, feats of arms, and sanguinary encounters.
To this may be added riotous excesses, gambling and drunkenness,
which in time decreased his patrimony, even as his rebellious and
quarrelsome spirit had alienated his family and neighbors. His
wife, borne down by shame and sorrow, died while her son was still
an infant. In a fit of equal remorse and recklessness the
caballero married again within the year. But the new wife was of a
temper and bearing as bitter as her consort. Violent quarrels
ensued between them, ending in the husband abandoning his wife and
son, and leaving St. Louis--I should say Guadalajara--for ever.
Joining some adventurers in a foreign land, under an assumed name,
he pursued his reckless course, until, by one or two acts of
outlawry, he made his return to civilization impossible. The
deserted wife and step-mother of his child coldly accepted the
situation, forbidding his name to be spoken again in her presence,
announced that he was dead, and kept the knowledge of his existence
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