A Ward of the Golden Gate
Part 1 out of 3
A WARD OF THE GOLDEN GATE
by Bret Harte
In San Francisco the "rainy season" had been making itself a
reality to the wondering Eastern immigrant. There were short days
of drifting clouds and flying sunshine, and long succeeding nights
of incessant downpour, when the rain rattled on the thin shingles
or drummed on the resounding zinc of pioneer roofs. The shifting
sand-dunes on the outskirts were beaten motionless and sodden by
the onslaught of consecutive storms; the southeast trades brought
the saline breath of the outlying Pacific even to the busy haunts
of Commercial and Kearney streets; the low-lying Mission road was a
quagmire; along the City Front, despite of piles and pier and
wharf, the Pacific tides still asserted themselves in mud and ooze
as far as Sansome Street; the wooden sidewalks of Clay and
Montgomery streets were mere floating bridges or buoyant pontoons
superposed on elastic bogs; Battery Street was the Silurian beach
of that early period on which tin cans, packing-boxes, freight,
household furniture, and even the runaway crews of deserted ships
had been cast away. There were dangerous and unknown depths in
Montgomery Street and on the Plaza, and the wheels of a passing
carriage hopelessly mired had to be lifted by the volunteer hands
of a half dozen high-booted wayfarers, whose wearers were
sufficiently content to believe that a woman, a child, or an
invalid was behind its closed windows, without troubling themselves
or the occupant by looking through the glass.
It was a carriage that, thus released, eventually drew up before
the superior public edifice known as the City Hall. From it a
woman, closely veiled, alighted, and quickly entered the building.
A few passers-by turned to look at her, partly from the rarity of
the female figure at that period, and partly from the greater
rarity of its being well formed and even ladylike.
As she kept her way along the corridor and ascended an iron
staircase, she was passed by others more preoccupied in business at
the various public offices. One of these visitors, however,
stopped as if struck by some fancied resemblance in her appearance,
turned, and followed her. But when she halted before a door marked
"Mayor's Office," he paused also, and, with a look of half humorous
bewilderment and a slight glance around him as if seeking for some
one to whom to impart his arch fancy, he turned away. The woman
then entered a large anteroom with a certain quick feminine gesture
of relief, and, finding it empty of other callers, summoned the
porter, and asked him some question in a voice so suppressed by the
official severity of the apartment as to be hardly audible. The
attendant replied by entering another room marked "Mayor's
Secretary," and reappeared with a stripling of seventeen or
eighteen, whose singularly bright eyes were all that was youthful
in his composed features. After a slight scrutiny of the woman--
half boyish, half official--he desired her to be seated, with a
certain exaggerated gravity as if he was over-acting a grown-up
part, and, taking a card from her, reentered his office. Here,
however, he did NOT stand on his head or call out a confederate
youth from a closet, as the woman might have expected. To the left
was a green baize door, outlined with brass-studded rivets like a
cheerful coffin-lid, and bearing the mortuary inscription,
"Private." This he pushed open, and entered the Mayor's private
The municipal dignitary of San Francisco, although an erect,
soldier-like man of strong middle age, was seated with his official
chair tilted back against the wall and kept in position by his feet
on the rungs of another, which in turn acted as a support for a
second man, who was seated a few feet from him in an easy-chair.
Both were lazily smoking.
The Mayor took the card from his secretary, glanced at it, said
"Hullo!" and handed it to his companion, who read aloud "Kate
Howard," and gave a prolonged whistle.
"Where is she?" asked the Mayor.
"In the anteroom, sir."
"Any one else there?"
"Did you say I was engaged?"
"Yes, sir; but it appears she asked Sam who was with you, and when
he told her, she said, All right, she wanted to see Colonel
The men glanced interrogatively at each other, but Colonel
Pendleton, abruptly anticipating the Mayor's functions, said, "Have
her in," and settled himself back in his chair.
A moment later the door opened, and the stranger appeared. As she
closed the door behind her she removed her heavy veil, and
displayed the face of a very handsome woman of past thirty. It is
only necessary to add that it was a face known to the two men, and
all San Francisco.
"Well, Kate," said the Mayor, motioning to a chair, but without
rising or changing his attitude. "Here I am, and here is Colonel
Pendleton, and these are office hours. What can we do for you?"
If he had received her with magisterial formality, or even
politely, she would have been embarrassed, in spite of a certain
boldness of her dark eyes and an ever present consciousness of her
power. It is possible that his own ease and that of his companion
was part of their instinctive good nature and perception. She
accepted it as such, took the chair familiarly, and seated herself
sideways upon it, her right arm half encircling its back and
hanging over it; altogether an easy and not ungraceful pose.
"Thank you, Jack--I mean, Mr. Mayor--and you, too, Harry. I came
on business. I want you two men to act as guardians for my little
"Your what?" asked the two men simultaneously.
"My daughter," she repeated, with a short laugh, which, however,
ended with a note of defiance. "Of course you don't know. Well,"
she added half aggressively, and yet with the air of hurrying over
a compromising and inexplicable weakness, "the long and short of it
is I've got a little girl down at the Convent of Santa Clara, and
have had--there! I've been taking care of her--GOOD care, too,
boys--for some time. And now I want to put things square for her
for the future. See? I want to make over to her all my property--
it's nigh on to seventy-five thousand dollars, for Bob Snelling put
me up to getting those water lots a year ago--and, you see, I'll
have to have regular guardians, trustees, or whatever you call 'em,
to take care of the money for her."
"Who's her father?" asked the Mayor.
"What's that to do with it?" she said impetuously.
"Everything--because he's her natural guardian."
"Suppose he isn't known? Say dead, for instance."
"Dead will do," said the Mayor gravely. "Yes, dead will do,"
repeated Colonel Pendleton. After a pause, in which the two men
seemed to have buried this vague relative, the Mayor looked keenly
at the woman.
"Kate, have you and Bob Ridley had a quarrel?"
"Bob Ridley knows too much to quarrel with me," she said briefly.
"Then you are doing this for no motive other than that which you
"Certainly. That's motive enough--ain't it?"
"Yes." The Mayor took his feet off his companion's chair and sat
upright. Colonel Pendleton did the same, also removing his cigar
from his lips. "I suppose you'll think this thing over?" he added.
"No--I want it done NOW--right here--in this office."
"But you know it will be irrevocable."
"That's what I want it--something might happen afterwards."
"But you are leaving nothing for yourself, and if you are going to
devote everything to this daughter and lead a different life,
"Who said I was?"
The two men paused, and looked at her. "Look here, boys, you don't
understand. From the day that paper is signed, I've nothing to do
with the child. She passes out of my hands into yours, to be
schooled, educated, and made a rich girl out of--and never to know
who or what or where I am. She doesn't know now. I haven't given
her and myself away in that style--you bet! She thinks I'm only a
friend. She hasn't seen me more than once or twice, and not to
know me again. Why, I was down there the other day, and passed her
walking out with the Sisters and the other scholars, and she didn't
know me--though one of the Sisters did. But they're mum--THEY are,
and don't let on. Why, now I think of it, YOU were down there,
Jack, presiding in big style as Mr. Mayor at the exercises. You
must have noticed her. Little thing, about nine--lot of hair, the
same color as mine, and brown eyes. White and yellow sash. Had a
necklace on of real pearls I gave her. I BOUGHT THEM, you
understand, myself at Tucker's--gave two hundred and fifty dollars
for them--and a big bouquet of white rosebuds and lilacs I sent
"I remember her now on the platform," said the Mayor gravely. "So
that is your child?"
"You bet--no slouch either. But that's neither here nor there.
What I want now is you and Harry to look after her and her property
the same as if I didn't live. More than that, as if I had NEVER
LIVED. I've come to you two boys, because I reckon you're square
men and won't give me away. But I want to fix it even firmer than
that. I want you to take hold of this trust not as Jack
Hammersley, but as the MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO! And when you make
way for a new Mayor, HE takes up the trust by virtue of his office,
you see, so there's a trustee all along. I reckon there'll always
be a San Francisco and always a Mayor--at least till the child's of
age; and it gives her from the start a father, and a pretty big one
too. Of course the new man isn't to know the why and wherefore of
this. It's enough for him to take on that duty with his others,
without asking questions. And he's only got to invest that money
and pay it out as it's wanted, and consult Harry at times."
The two men looked at each other with approving intelligence. "But
have you thought of a successor for ME, in case somebody shoots me
on sight any time in the next ten years?" asked Pendleton, with a
gravity equal to her own.
"I reckon, as you're President of the El Dorado Bank, you'll make
that a part of every president's duty too. You'll get the
directors to agree to it, just as Jack here will get the Common
Council to make it the Mayor's business."
The two men had risen to their feet, and, after exchanging glances,
gazed at her silently. Presently the Mayor said:--
"It can be done, Kate, and we'll do it for you--eh, Harry?"
"Count me in," said Pendleton, nodding. "But you'll want a third
"What's that for?"
"The casting vote in case of any difficulty."
The woman's face fell. "I reckoned to keep it a secret with only
you two," she said half bitterly.
"No matter. We'll find some one to act, or you'll think of
somebody and let us know."
"But I wanted to finish this thing right here," she said
impatiently. She was silent for a moment, with her arched black
brows knitted. Then she said abruptly, "Who's that smart little
chap that let me in? He looks as if he might be trusted."
"That's Paul Hathaway, my secretary. He's sensible, but too young.
Stop! I don't know about that. There's no legal age necessary, and
he's got an awfully old head on him," said the Mayor thoughtfully.
"And I say his youth's in his favor," said Colonel Pendleton,
promptly. "He's been brought up in San Francisco, and he's got no
d--d old-fashioned Eastern notions to get rid of, and will drop
into this as a matter of business, without prying about or
wondering. I'LL serve with him."
"Call him in!" said the woman.
He came. Very luminous of eye, and composed of lip and brow. Yet
with the same suggestion of "making believe" very much, as if to
offset the possible munching of forbidden cakes and apples in his
own room, or the hidden presence of some still in his pocket.
The Mayor explained the case briefly, but with business-like
precision. "Your duty, Mr. Hathaway," he concluded, "at present
will be merely nominal and, above all, confidential. Colonel
Pendleton and myself will set the thing going." As the youth--who
had apparently taken in and "illuminated" the whole subject with a
single bright-eyed glance--bowed and was about to retire, as if to
relieve himself of his real feelings behind the door, the woman
stopped him with a gesture.
"Let's have this thing over now," she said to the Mayor. "You draw
up something that we can all sign at once." She fixed her eyes on
Paul, partly to satisfy her curiosity and justify her predilection
for him, and partly to detect him in any overt act of boyishness.
But the youth simply returned her glance with a cheerful, easy
prescience, as if her past lay clearly open before him. For some
minutes there was only the rapid scratching of the Mayor's pen over
the paper. Suddenly he stopped and looked up.
"What's her name?"
"She mustn't have mine, said the woman quickly. "That's a part of
my idea. I give that up with the rest. She must take a new name
that gives no hint of me. Think of one, can't you, you two men?
Something that would kind of show that she was the daughter of the
city, you know."
"You couldn't call her 'Santa Francisca,' eh?" said Colonel
"Not much," said the woman, with a seriousness that defied any
"Nor Chrysopolinia?" said the Mayor, musingly.
"But that's only a FIRST name. She must have a family name," said
the woman impatiently.
"Can YOU think of something, Paul?" said the Mayor, appealing to
Hathaway. "You're a great reader, and later from your classics
than I am." The Mayor, albeit practical and Western, liked to be
ostentatiously forgetful of his old Alma Mater, Harvard, on
"How would YERBA BUENA do, sir?" responded the youth gravely.
"It's the old Spanish title of the first settlement here. It comes
from the name that Father Junipero Serra gave to the pretty little
vine that grows wild over the sandhills, and means 'good herb.' He
called it 'A balm for the wounded and sore.'"
"For the wounded and sore?" repeated the woman slowly.
"That's what they say," responded Hathaway.
"You ain't playing us, eh?" she said, with a half laugh that,
however, scarcely curved the open mouth with which she had been
regarding the young secretary.
"No," said the Mayor, hurriedly. "It's true. I've often heard it.
And a capital name it would be for her too. YERBA the first name.
BUENA the second. She could be called Miss Buena when she grows
"Yerba Buena it is," she said suddenly. Then, indicating the youth
with a slight toss of her handsome head, "His head's level--you can
There was a silence again, and the scratching of the Mayor's pen
continued. Colonel Pendleton buttoned up his coat, pulled his long
moustache into shape, slightly arranged his collar, and walked to
the window without looking at the woman. Presently the Mayor arose
from his seat, and, with a certain formal courtesy that had been
wanting in his previous manner, handed her his pen and arranged his
chair for her at the desk. She took the pen, and rapidly appended
her signature to the paper. The others followed; and, obedient to
a sign from him, the porter was summoned from the outer office to
witness the signatures. When this was over, the Mayor turned to
his secretary. "That's all just now, Paul."
Accepting this implied dismissal with undisturbed gravity, the
newly made youthful guardian bowed and retired. When the green
baize door had closed upon him, the Mayor turned abruptly to the
woman with the paper in his hand.
"Look here, Kate; there is still time for you to reconsider your
action, and tear up this solitary record of it. If you choose to
do so, say so, and I promise you that this interview, and all you
have told us, shall never pass beyond these walls. No one will be
the wiser for it, and we will give you full credit for having
attempted something that was too much for you to perform."
She had half risen from her chair when he began, but fell back
again in her former position and looked impatiently from him to his
companion, who was also regarding her earnestly.
"What are you talking about?" she said sharply.
"YOU, Kate," said the Mayor. "You have given everything you
possess to this child. What provision have you made for yourself?"
"Do I look played out?" she said, facing them.
She certainly did not look like anything but a strong, handsome,
resolute woman, but the men did not reply.
"That is not all, Kate," continued the Mayor, folding his arms and
looking down upon her. "Have you thought what this means? It is
the complete renunciation not only of any claim but any interest in
your child. That is what you have just signed, and what it will be
our duty now to keep you to. From this moment we stand between you
and her, as we stand between her and the world. Are you ready to
see her grow up away from you, losing even the little recollection
she has had of your kindness--passing you in the street without
knowing you, perhaps even having you pointed out to her as a person
she should avoid? Are you prepared to shut your eyes and ears
henceforth to all that you may hear of her new life, when she is
happy, rich, respectable, a courted heiress--perhaps the wife of
some great man? Are you ready to accept that she will never know--
that no one will ever know--that you had any share in making her
so, and that if you should ever breathe it abroad we shall hold it
our duty to deny it, and brand the man who takes it up for you as a
liar and the slanderer of an honest girl?"
"That's what I came here for," she said curtly, then, regarding
them curiously, and running her ringed hand up and down the railed
back of her chair, she added, with a half laugh, "What are you
playin' me for, boys?"
"But," said Colonel Pendleton, without heeding her, "are you ready
to know that in sickness or affliction you will be powerless to
help her; that a stranger will take your place at her bedside, that
as she has lived without knowing you she will die without that
knowledge, or that if through any weakness of yours it came to her
then, it would embitter her last thoughts of earth and, dying, she
would curse you?"
The smile upon her half-open mouth still fluttered around it, and
her curved fingers still ran up and down the rails of the chair-
back as if they were the cords of some mute instrument, to which
she was trying to give voice. Her rings once or twice grated upon
them as if she had at times gripped them closely. But she rose
quickly when he paused, said "Yes," sharply, and put the chair back
against the wall.
"Then I will send you copies of this tomorrow, and take an
assignment of the property."
"I've got the check here for it now," she said, drawing it from her
pocket and laying it upon the desk. "There, I reckon that's
The Mayor took up his hat, Colonel Pendleton did the same; both men
preceded her to the door, and held it open with grave politeness
for her to pass.
"Where are you boys going?" she asked, glancing from the one to the
"To see you to your carriage, Mrs. Howard," said the Mayor, in a
voice that had become somewhat deeper.
"Through the whole building? Past all the people in the hall and
on the stairs? Why, I passed Dan Stewart as I came in."
"If you will allow us?" he said, turning half appealing to Colonel
Pendleton, who, without speaking, made a low bow of assent.
A slight flush rose to her face--the first and only change in the
even healthy color she had shown during the interview.
"I reckon I won't trouble you, boys, if it's all the same to you,"
she said, with her half-strident laugh. "YOU mightn't mind being
seen--but I would-- Good-by."
She held out a hand to each of the men, who remained for an instant
silently holding them. Then she passed out of the door, slipping
on her close black veil as she did so with a half-funereal
suggestion, and they saw her tall, handsome figure fade into the
shadows of the long corridor.
"Paul," said the Mayor, reentering the office and turning to his
secretary, "do you know who that woman is?"
"She's one in a million! And now forget that you have ever seen
The principal parlor of the New Golden Gate Hotel in San Francisco,
fairly reported by the local press as being "truly palatial" in its
appointments, and unrivaled in its upholstery, was, nevertheless,
on August 5, 1860, of that startling newness that checked any
familiarity, and evidently had produced some embarrassment on the
limbs of four visitors who had just been ushered into its glories.
After hesitating before one or two gorgeous fawn-colored brocaded
easy-chairs of appalling and spotless virginity, one of them seated
himself despairingly on a tete-a-tete sofa in marked and painful
isolation, while another sat uncomfortably upright on a sofa. The
two others remained standing, vaguely gazing at the ceiling, and
exchanging ostentatiously admiring but hollow remarks about the
furniture in unnecessary whispers. Yet they were apparently men of
a certain habit of importance and small authority, with more or
less critical attitude in their speech.
To them presently entered a young man of about five-and-twenty,
with remarkably bright and singularly sympathetic eyes. Having
swept the group in a smiling glance, he singled out the lonely
occupier of the tete-a-tete, and moved pleasantly towards him. The
man rose instantly with an eager gratified look.
"Well, Paul, I didn't allow you'd remember me. It's a matter of
four years since we met at Marysville. And now you're bein' a
great man you've"--
No one could have known from the young man's smiling face that he
really had not recognized his visitor at first, and that his
greeting was only an exhibition of one of those happy instincts for
which he was remarkable. But, following the clew suggested by his
visitor, he was able to say promptly and gayly:--
"I don't know why I should forget Tony Shear or the Marysville
boys," turning with a half-confiding smile to the other visitors,
who, after the human fashion, were beginning to be resentfully
impatient of this special attention.
"Well, no,--for I've allus said that you took your first start from
Marysville. But I've brought a few friends of our party that I
reckoned to introduce to you. Cap'n Stidger, Chairman of our
Central Committee, Mr. Henry J. Hoskins, of the firm of Hoskins and
Bloomer, and Joe Slate, of the 'Union Press,' one of our most
promising journalists. Gentlemen," he continued, suddenly and
without warning lifting his voice to an oratorical plane in
startling contrast to his previous unaffected utterance, "I needn't
say that this is the honorable Paul Hathaway, the youngest state
senator in the Legislature. You know his record!" Then,
recovering the ordinary accents of humanity, he added, "We read of
your departure last night from Sacramento, and I thought we'd come
early, afore the crowd."
"Proud to know you, sir," said Captain Stidger, suddenly lifting
the conversation to the platform again. "I have followed your
career, sir. I've read your speech, Mr. Hathaway, and, as I was
telling our mutual friend, Mr. Shear, as we came along, I don't
know any man that could state the real party issues as squarely.
Your castigating exposition of so-called Jeffersonian principles,
and your relentless indictment of the resolutions of '98, were--
were"--coughed the captain, dropping into conversation again--"were
the biggest thing out. You have only to signify the day, sir, that
you will address us, and I can promise you the largest audience in
"I'm instructed by the proprietor of the 'Union Press,'" said Mr.
Slate, feeling for his notebook and pencil, "to offer you its
columns for any explanations you may desire to make in the form of
a personal letter or an editorial in reply to the 'Advertiser's'
strictures on your speech, or to take any information you may have
for the benefit of our readers and the party."
"If you are ever down my way, Mr. Hathaway," said Mr. Hoskins,
placing a large business card in Hathaway's hand, "and will drop in
as a friend, I can show you about the largest business in the way
of canned provisions and domestic groceries in the State, and give
you a look around Battery Street generally. Or if you'll name your
day, I've got a pair of 2.35 Blue Grass horses that'll spin you out
to the Cliff House to dinner and back. I've had Governor Fiske,
and Senator Doolan, and that big English capitalist who was here
last year, and they--well, sir,--they were PLEASED! Or if you'd
like to see the town--if this is your first visit--I'm a hand to
Nothing could exceed Mr. Hathaway's sympathetic acceptance of their
courtesies, nor was there the least affectation in it. Thoroughly
enjoying his fellowmen, even in their foibles, they found him
irresistibly attractive. "I lived here seven years ago," he said,
smiling, to the last speaker.
"When the water came up to Montgomery Street," interposed Mr.
Shear, in a hoarse but admiring aside.
"When Mr. Hammersley was mayor," continued Hathaway.
"Had an official position--private secretary--afore he was twenty,"
explained Shear, in perfectly audible confidence.
"Since then the city has made great strides, leaping full-grown,
sir, in a single night," said Captain Stidger, hastily ascending
the rostrum again with a mixed metaphor, to the apparent concern of
a party of handsomely dressed young ladies who had recently entered
the parlor. "Stretching from South Park to Black Point, and
running back to the Mission Dolores and the Presidio, we are
building up a metropolis, sir, worthy to be placed beside the
Golden Gate that opens to the broad Pacific and the shores of far
Cathay! When the Pacific Railroad is built we shall be the natural
terminus of the Pathway of Nations!"
Mr. Hathaway's face betrayed no consciousness that he had heard
something like this eight years before, and that much of it had
come true, as he again sympathetically responded. Neither was his
attention attracted by a singular similarity which the attitude of
the group of ladies on the other side of the parlor bore to that of
his own party. They were clustered around one of their own number--
a striking-looking girl--who was apparently receiving their
mingled flatteries and caresses with a youthful yet critical
sympathy, which, singularly enough, was not unlike his own. It was
evident also that an odd sort of rivalry seemed to spring up
between the two parties, and that, in proportion as Hathaway's
admirers became more marked and ostentatious in their attentions,
the supporters of the young girl were equally effusive and
enthusiastic in their devotion. As usual in such cases, the real
contest was between the partisans themselves; each successive
demonstration on either side was provocative or retaliatory, and
when they were apparently rendering homage to their idols they were
really distracted by and listening to each other. At last,
Hathaway's party being reinforced by fresh visitors, a tall
brunette of the opposition remarked in a professedly confidential
but perfectly audible tone:--
"Well, my dear, as I don't suppose you want to take part in a
political caucus, perhaps we'd better return to the Ladies'
Boudoir, unless there's a committee sitting there too."
"I know how valuable your time must be, as you are all business
men," said Hathaway, turning to his party, in an equally audible
tone; "but before you go, gentlemen, you must let me offer you a
little refreshment in a private room," and he moved naturally
towards the door. The rival fair, who had already risen at their
commander's suggestion, here paused awkwardly over an embarrassing
victory. Should they go or stay? The object of their devotion,
however, turned curiously towards Hathaway. For an instant their
eyes met. The young girl turned carelessly to her companions and
said, "No; stay here--it's the public parlor;" and her followers,
evidently accustomed to her authority, sat down again.
"A galaxy of young ladies from the Convent of Santa Clara, Mr.
Hathaway," explained Captain Stidger, naively oblivious of any
discourtesy on their part, as he followed Hathaway's glance and
took his arm as they moved away. "Not the least of our treasures,
sir. Most of them daughters of pioneers--and all Californian bred
and educated. Connoisseurs have awarded them the palm, and declare
that for Grace, Intelligence, and Woman's Highest Charms the East
cannot furnish their equal!" Having delivered this Parthian
compliment in an oratorical passage through the doorway, the
captain descended, outside, into familiar speech. "But I suppose
you will find that out for yourself if you stay here long. San
Francisco might furnish a fitting bride to California's youngest
"I am afraid that my stay here must be brief, and limited to
business," said Hathaway, who had merely noticed that the principal
girl was handsome and original-looking. "In fact, I am here partly
to see an old acquaintance--Colonel Pendleton."
The three men looked at each other curiously. "Oh! Harry
Pendleton," said Mr. Hoskins, incredulously "You don't know HIM?"
"An old pioneer--of course," interposed Shear, explanatorily and
apologetically. "Why, in Paul's time the colonel was a big man
"I understand the colonel has been unfortunate," said Hathaway,
gravely; "but in MY time he was President of the El Dorado Bank."
"And the bank hasn't got through its settlement yet," said Hoskins
"I hope YOU ain't expecting to get anything out of it?"
"No," said Hathaway, smiling; "I was a boy at that time, and lived
up to my salary. I know nothing of his bank difficulties, but it
always struck me that Colonel Pendleton was himself an honorable
"It ain't that," said Captain Stidger energetically, "but the
trouble with Harry Pendleton is that he hasn't grown with the
State, and never adjusted himself to it. And he won't. He thinks
the Millennium was between the fall of '49 and the spring of '50,
and after that everything dropped. He belongs to the old days,
when a man's simple WORD was good for any amount if you knew him;
and they say that the old bank hadn't a scrap of paper for half
that was owing to it. That was all very well, sir, in '49 and '50,
and--Luck; but it won't do for '59 and '60, and--Business! And the
old man can't see it."
"But he is ready to fight for it now, as in the old time," said Mr.
Slate, "and that's another trouble with his chronology. He's done
more to keep up dueling than any other man in the State, and don't
know the whole spirit of progress and civilization is against it."
It was impossible to tell from Paul Hathaway's face whether his
sympathy with Colonel Pendleton's foibles or his assent to the
criticisms of his visitors was the truer. Both were no doubt
equally sincere. But the party was presently engaged in the
absorption of refreshment, which, being of a purely, spirituous and
exhilarating quality, tended to increase their good humor with the
host till they parted. Even then a gratuitous advertisement of his
virtues and their own intentions in calling upon him was
oratorically voiced from available platforms and landings, in the
halls and stairways, until it was pretty well known throughout the
Golden Gate Hotel that the Hon. Mr. Paul Hathaway had arrived from
Sacramento and had received a "spontaneous ovation."
Meantime the object of it had dropped into an easy-chair by the
window of his room, and was endeavoring to recall a less profitable
memory. The process of human forgetfulness is not a difficult one
between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, and Paul Hathaway had
not only fulfilled the Mayor's request by forgetting the
particulars of a certain transfer that he had witnessed in the
Mayor's office, but in the year succeeding that request, being
about to try his fortunes in the mountains, he had formally
constituted Colonel Pendleton to act as his proxy in the
administration of Mrs. Howard's singular Trust, in which, however,
he had never participated except yearly to sign his name. He was,
consequently, somewhat astonished to have received a letter a few
days before from Colonel Pendleton, asking him to call and see him
He vaguely remembered that it was eight years ago, and eight years
had worked considerable change in the original trustees, greatest
of all in his superior officer, the Mayor, who had died the year
following, leaving his trusteeship to his successor in office, whom
Paul Hathaway had never seen. The Bank of El Dorado, despite Mrs.
Howard's sanguine belief, had long been in bankruptcy, and,
although Colonel Pendleton still survived it, it was certain that
no other president would succeed to his office as trustee, and that
the function would lapse with him. Paul himself, a soldier of
fortune, although habitually lucky, had only lately succeeded to a
profession--if his political functions could be so described. Even
with his luck, energy, and ambition, while everything was possible,
nothing was secure. It seemed, therefore, as if the soulless
official must eventually assume the duties of the two sympathizing
friends who had originated them, and had stood in loco parentis to
the constructive orphan. The mother, Mrs. Howard, had disappeared
a year after the Trust had been made--it was charitably presumed in
order to prevent any complications that might arise from her
presence in the country. With these facts before him, Paul
Hathaway was more concerned in wondering what Pendleton could want
with him than, I fear, any direct sympathy with the situation. On
the contrary, it appeared to him more favorable for keeping the
secret of Mrs. Howard's relationship, which would now die with
Colonel Pendleton and himself; and there was no danger of any
emotional betrayal of it in the cold official administration of a
man who had received the Trust through the formal hands of
successive predecessors. He had forgotten the time limited for the
guardianship, but the girl must soon be of age and off their hands.
If there had ever been any romantic or chivalrous impression left
upon his memory by the scene in the mayor's office, I fear he had
put it away with various other foolish illusions of his youth, to
which he now believed he was superior.
Nevertheless, he would see the colonel, and at once, and settle the
question. He looked at the address, "St. Charles Hotel." He
remembered an old hostelry of that name, near the Plaza. Could it
be possible that it had survived the alterations and improvements
of the city? It was an easy walk through remembered streets, yet
with changed shops and houses and faces. When he reached the
Plaza, scarce recognizable in its later frontages of brick and
stone, he found the old wooden building still intact, with its
villa-like galleries and verandas incongruously and ostentatiously
overlooked by two new and aspiring erections on either side. For
an instant he tried to recall the glamour of old days. He
remembered when his boyish eyes regarded it as the crowning work of
opulence and distinction; he remembered a ball given there on some
public occasion, which was to him the acme of social brilliancy and
display. How tawdry and trivial it looked beside those later and
more solid structures! How inconsistent were those long latticed
verandas and balconies, pathetic record of that first illusion of
the pioneers that their climate was a tropical one! A restaurant
and billiard-saloon had aggrandized all of the lower story; but
there was still the fanlight, over which the remembered title of
"St. Charles," in gilded letters, was now reinforced by the too
demonstrative legend, "Apartments and Board, by the Day or Week."
Was it possible that this narrow, creaking staircase had once
seemed to him the broad steps of Fame and Fortune? On the first
landing, a preoccupied Irish servant-girl, with a mop, directed him
to a door at the end of the passage, at which he knocked. The door
was opened by a grizzled negro servant, who was still holding a
piece of oily chamois-leather in his hand; and the contents of a
dueling-case, scattered upon a table in the centre of the room,
showed what had been his occupation. Admitting Hathaway with great
courtesy, he said:--
"Marse Harry bin havin' his ole trubble, sah, and bin engaged just
dis momen' on his toylet; ef yo'll accommodate yo'self on de sofa,
I inform him yo' is heah."
As the negro passed into the next room, Paul cast a hasty glance
around the apartment. The furniture, originally rich and elegant,
was now worn threadbare and lustreless. A book-case, containing,
among other volumes, a few law books--there being a vague
tradition, as Paul remembered, that Colonel Pendleton had once been
connected with the law--a few French chairs of tarnished gilt, a
rifle in the corner, a presentation sword in a mahogany case, a few
classical prints on the walls, and one or two iron deed-boxes
marked "El Dorado Bank," were the principal objects. A mild flavor
of dry decay and methylated spirits pervaded the apartment. Yet it
was scrupulously clean and well kept, and a few clothes neatly
brushed and folded on a chair bore witness to the servant's care.
As Paul, however, glanced behind the sofa, he was concerned to see
a coat, which had evidently been thrust hurriedly in a corner, with
the sleeve lining inside out, and a needle and thread still
sticking in the seam. It struck him instantly that this had been
the negro's occupation, and that the pistol-cleaning was a polite
"Yo' 'll have to skuse Marse Harry seein' yo in bed, but his laig's
pow'ful bad to-day, and he can't stand," said the servant
reentering the room. "Skuse me, sah," he added in a dignified
confidential whisper, half closing the door with his hand, "but if
yo' wouldn't mind avoidin' 'xcitin' or controversical topics in yo'
conversation, it would be de better fo' him."
Paul smilingly assented, and the black retainer, with even more
than the usual solemn ceremonious exaggeration of his race, ushered
him into the bedroom. It was furnished in the same faded glory as
the sitting-room, with the exception of a low, iron camp-bedstead,
in which the tall, soldierly figure of Colonel Pendleton, clad in
threadbare silk dressing-gown, was stretched. He had changed in
eight years: his hair had become gray, and was thinned over the
sunken temples, but his iron-gray moustache was still particularly
long and well pointed. His face bore marks of illness and care;
there were deep lines down the angle of the nostril that spoke of
alternate savage outbreak and repression, and gave his smile a
sardonic rigidity. His dark eyes, that shone with the exaltation
of fever, fixed Paul's on entering, and with the tyranny of an
invalid never left them.
With the sound of that voice Paul felt the years slip away, and he
was again a boy, looking up admiringly to the strong man, who now
lay helpless before him. He had entered the room with a faint
sense of sympathizing superiority and a consciousness of having had
experience in controlling men. But all this fled before Colonel
Pendleton's authoritative voice; even its broken tones carried the
old dominant spirit of the man, and Paul found himself admiring a
quality in his old acquaintance that he missed in his newer
"I haven't seen you for eight years, Hathaway. Come here and let
me look at you."
Paul approached the bedside with boyish obedience. Pendleton took
his hand and gazed at him critically.
"I should have recognized you, sir, for all your moustache and your
inches. The last time I saw you was in Jack Hammersley's office.
Well, Jack's dead, and here I am, little better, I reckon. You
remember Hammersley's house?"
"Yes," said Paul, albeit wondering at the question.
"Something like this, Swiss villa style. I remember when Jack put
it up. Well, the last time I was out, I passed there. And what do
you think they've done to it?"
Paul could not imagine.
"Well, sir," said the colonel gravely, "they've changed it into a
church missionary shop and young men's Christian reading-room! But
that's 'progress' and 'improvement'!" He paused, and, slowly
withdrawing his hand from Paul's, added with grim apology, "You're
young, and belong to the new school, perhaps. Well, sir, I've read
your speech; I don't belong to your party--mine died ten years ago--
but I congratulate you. George! Confound it where's that boy
The negro indicated by this youthful title, although he must have
been ten years older than his master, after a hurried shuffling in
the sitting-room eventually appeared at the door.
"George, champagne and materials for cocktails for the gentleman.
The BEST, you understand. No new-fangled notions from that new
Paul, who thought he observed a troubled blinking in George's
eyelid, and referred it to a fear of possible excitement for his
patient, here begged his host not to trouble himself--that he
seldom took anything in the morning.
"Possibly not, sir; possibly not," returned the colonel, hastily.
"I know the new ideas are prohibitive, and some other blank thing,
but you're safe here from your constituents, and by gad, sir, I
shan't force you to take it! It's MY custom, Hathaway--an old one--
played out, perhaps, like all the others, but a custom
nevertheless, and I'm only surprised that George, who knows it,
should have forgotten it."
"Fack is, Marse Harry," said George, with feverish apology, "it bin
gone 'scaped my mind dis mo'nin' in de prerogation ob business, but
I'm goin' now, shuah!" and he disappeared.
"A good boy, sir, but beginning to be contaminated. Brought him
here from Nashville over ten years ago. Eight years ago they
proved to him that he was no longer a slave, and made him d--d
unhappy until I promised him it should make no difference to him
and he could stay. I had to send for his wife and child--of
course, a dead loss of eighteen hundred dollars when they set foot
in the State--but I'm blanked if he isn't just as miserable with
them here, for he has to take two hours in the morning and three in
the afternoon every day to be with 'em. I tried to get him to take
his family to the mines and make his fortune, like those fellows
they call bankers and operators and stockbrokers nowadays; or to go
to Oregon where they'll make him some kind of a mayor or sheriff--
but he won't. He collects my rents on some little property I have
left, and pays my bills, sir, and, if this blank civilization would
only leave him alone, he'd be a good enough boy."
Paul couldn't help thinking that the rents George collected were
somewhat inconsistent with those he was evidently mending when he
arrived, but at that moment the jingle of glasses was heard in the
sitting-room, and the old negro reappeared at the door. Drawing
himself up with ceremonious courtesy, he addressed Paul. "Wo'd yo'
mind, sah, taking a glance at de wine for yo' choice?" Paul rose,
and followed him into the sitting-room, when George carefully
closed the door. To his surprise Hathaway beheld a tray with two
glasses of whiskey and bitters, but no wine. "Skuse me, sah," said
the old man with dignified apology, "but de Kernel won't have any
but de best champagne for hono'ble gemmen like yo'self, and I'se
despaired to say it can't be got in de house or de subburbs. De
best champagne dat we gives visitors is de Widder Glencoe. Wo'd
yo' mind, sah, for de sake o' not 'xcitin' de Kernel wid triflin'
culinary matter, to say dat yo' don' take but de one brand?"
"Certainly," said Paul, smiling. "I really don't care for anything
so early;" then, returning to the bedroom, he said carelessly,
"You'll excuse me taking the liberty, colonel, of sending away the
champagne and contenting myself with whiskey. Even the best brand--
the Widow Cliquot"--with a glance at the gratified George--"I find
rather trying so early in the morning."
"As you please, Hathaway," said the colonel, somewhat stiffly. "I
dare say there's a new fashion in drinks now, and a gentleman's
stomach is a thing of the past. Then, I suppose, we can spare the
boy, as this is his time for going home. Put that tin box with the
Trust papers on the bed, George, and Mr. Hathaway will excuse your
waiting." As the old servant made an exaggerated obeisance to
each, Paul remarked, as the door closed upon him, "George certainly
keeps his style, colonel, in the face of the progress you deplore."
"He was always a 'dandy nigger,'" returned Pendleton, his face
slightly relaxing as he glanced after his grizzled henchman, "but
his exaggeration of courtesy is a blank sight more natural and
manly than the exaggeration of discourtesy which your superior
civilized 'helps' think is self-respect. The excuse of servitude
of any kind is its spontaneity and affection. When you know a man
hates you and serves you from interest, you know he's a cur and
you're a tyrant. It's your blank progress that's made menial
service degrading by teaching men to avoid it. Why, sir, when I
first arrived here, Jack Hammersley and myself took turns as cook
to the party. I didn't consider myself any the worse master for
it. But enough of this." He paused, and, raising himself on his
elbow, gazed for some seconds half cautiously, half doubtfully,
upon his companion. "I've got something to tell you, Hathaway," he
said, slowly. "You've had an easy time with this Trust; your share
of the work hasn't worried you, kept you awake nights, or
interfered with your career. I understand perfectly," he
continued, in reply to Hathaway's deprecating gesture. "I accepted
to act as your proxy, and I HAVE. I'm not complaining. But it is
time that you should know what I've done, and what you may still
have to do. Here is the record. On the day after that interview
in the Mayor's office, the El Dorado Bank, of which I was, and
still am, president, received seventy-five thousand dollars in
trust from Mrs. Howard. Two years afterwards, on that same day,
the bank had, by lucky speculations, increased that sum to the
credit of the trust one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, or
double the original capital. In the following year the bank
In an instant the whole situation and his relations to it flashed
upon Paul with a terrible, but almost grotesque, completeness.
Here he was, at the outset of his career, responsible for the
wasted fortune of the daughter of a social outcast, and saddled
with her support! He now knew why Colonel Pendleton had wished to
see him; for one shameful moment he believed he also knew why he
had been content to take his proxy! The questionable character of
the whole transaction, his own carelessness, which sprang from that
very confidence and trust that Pendleton had lately extolled--what
WOULD, what COULD not be made of it! He already heard himself
abused by his opponents--perhaps, more terrible still, faintly
excused by his friends. All this was visible in his pale face and
flashing eyes as he turned them on the helpless invalid.
Colonel Pendleton received his look with the same critical, half-
curious scrutiny that had accompanied his speech. At last his face
changed slightly, a faint look of disappointment crossed his eyes,
and a sardonic smile deepened the lines of his mouth.
"There, sir," he said hurriedly, as if dismissing an unpleasant
revelation; "don't alarm yourself! Take a drink of that whiskey.
You look pale. Well; turn your eyes on those walls. You don't see
any of that money laid out here--do you? Look at me. I don't look
like a man enriched with other people's money--do I? Well, let
that content you. Every dollar of that Trust fund, Hathaway, with
all the interests and profits that have accrued to it, is SAFE!
Every cent of it is locked up in government bonds with Rothschild's
agent. There are the receipts, dated a week before the bank
suspended. But enough of THAT--THAT isn't what I asked you to come
and see me for."
The blood had rushed back to Paul's cheeks uncomfortably. He saw
now, as impulsively as he had previously suspected his co-trustee,
that the man had probably ruined himself to save the Trust. He
stammered that he had not questioned the management of the fund nor
asked to withdraw his proxy.
"No matter, sir," said the colonel, impatiently; "you had the
right, and I suppose," he added with half-concealed scorn, "it was
your duty. But let that pass. The money is safe enough; but, Mr.
Hathaway,--and this is the point I want to discuss with you,--it
begins to look as if the SECRET was safe no longer!" He had raised
himself with some pain and difficulty to draw nearer to Paul, and
had again fixed his eyes eagerly upon him. But Paul's responsive
glance was so vague that he added quickly, "You understand, sir; I
believe that there are hounds--I say hounds!--who would be able to
blurt out at any moment that that girl at Santa Clara is Kate
At any other moment Paul might have questioned the gravity of any
such contingency, but the terrible earnestness of the speaker, his
dominant tone, and a certain respect which had lately sprung up in
his breast for him, checked him, and he only asked with as much
concern as he could master for the moment:--
"What makes you think so?"
"That's what I want to tell you, Hathaway, and how I, and I alone,
am responsible for it. When the bank was in difficulty and I made
up my mind to guard the Trust with my own personal and private
capital, I knew that there might be some comment on my action. It
was a delicate matter to show any preference or exclusion at such a
moment, and I took two or three of my brother directors whom I
thought I could trust into my confidence. I told them the whole
story, and how the Trust was sacred. I made a mistake, sir,"
continued Pendleton sardonically, "a grave mistake. I did not take
into account that even in three years civilization and religion had
gained ground here. There was a hound there--a blank Judas in the
Trust. Well; he didn't see it. I think he talked Scripture and
morality. He said something about the wages of sin being infamous,
and only worthy of confiscation. He talked about the sins of the
father being visited upon the children, and justly. I stopped him.
Well! Do you know what's the matter with my ankle? Look!" He
stopped and, with some difficulty and invincible gravity, throwing
aside his dressing-gown, turned down his stocking, and exposed to
Paul's gaze the healed cicatrix of an old bullet-wound. "Troubled
me damnably near a year. Where I hit HIM--hasn't troubled him at
"I think," continued the colonel, falling back upon the pillow with
an air of relief, "that he told others--of his own kidney, sir,--
though it was a secret among gentlemen. But they have preferred to
be silent now--than AFTERWARDS. They know that I'm ready. But I
can't keep this up long; some time, you know, they're bound to
improve in practice and hit higher up! As far as I'm concerned,"
he added, with a grim glance around the faded walls and threadbare
furniture, "it don't mind; but mine isn't the mouth to be stopped."
He paused, and then abruptly, yet with a sudden and pathetic
dropping of his dominant note, said: "Hathaway, you're young, and
Hammersley liked you--what's to be done? I thought of passing over
my tools to you. You can shoot, and I hear you HAVE. But the h--l
of it is that if you dropped a man or two people would ask WHY, and
want to know what it was about; while, when I do, nobody here
thinks it anything but MY WAY! I don't mean that it would hurt you
with the crowd to wipe out one or two of these hounds during the
canvass, but the trouble is that they belong to YOUR PARTY, and,"
he added grimly, "that wouldn't help your career."
"But," said Paul, ignoring the sarcasm, are you not magnifying the
effect of a disclosure? The girl is an heiress, excellently
brought up. Who will bother about the antecedents of the mother,
who has disappeared, whom she never knew, and who is legally dead
"In my day, sir, no one who knew the circumstances," returned the
colonel, quickly. "But we are living in a blessed era of Christian
retribution and civilized propriety, and I believe there are a lot
of men and women about who have no other way of showing their own
virtue than by showing up another's vice. We're in a reaction of
reform. It's the old drunkards who are always more clamorous for
total abstinence than the moderately temperate. I tell you,
Hathaway, there couldn't be an unluckier moment for our secret
"But she will be of age soon."
"In two months."
"And sure to marry."
"Marry!" repeated Pendleton, with grim irony. "Would YOU marry
"That's another question," said the young man, promptly, "and one
of individual taste; but it does not affect my general belief that
she could easily find a husband as good and better."
"Suppose she found one BEFORE the secret is out. Ought he be
"And that would imply telling HER?"
"Yes," said Paul, but not so promptly. "And you consider THAT
fulfilling the promise of the Trust--the pledges exchanged with
that woman?" continued Pendleton, with glittering eyes and a return
to his own dominant tone.
"My dear colonel," said Paul, somewhat less positively, but still
smiling, "you have made a romantic, almost impossible compact with
Mrs. Howard that, you yourself are now obliged to admit,
circumstances may prevent your carrying out substantially. You
forget, also, that you have just told me that you have already
broken your pledge--under circumstances, it is true, that do you
honor--and that now your desperate attempts to retrieve it have
failed. Now, I really see nothing wrong in your telling to a
presumptive well-wisher of the girl what you have told to her
There was a dead silence. The prostrate man uttered a slight
groan, as if in pain, and drew up his leg to change his position.
After a pause, he said, in a restrained voice, "I differ from you,
Mr. Hathaway; but enough of this for the present. I have something
else to say. It will be necessary for one of us to go at once to
Santa Clara and see Miss Yerba Buena."
"Good heavens!" said Paul, quickly. "Do you call her THAT?"
"Certainly, sir. You gave her the name. Have you forgotten?"
"I only suggested it," returned Paul, hopelessly; "but no matter--
"I cannot go there, as you see," continued Pendleton, with a weary
gesture towards his crippled ankle; "and I should particularly like
you to see her before we make the joint disposition of her affairs
with the Mayor, two months hence. I have some papers you can show
her, and I have already written a letter introducing you to the
Lady Superior at the convent, and to her. You have never seen
"No," said Paul. "But of course you have?"
"Not for three years."
Paul's eyes evidently expressed some wonder, for a moment after the
colonel added, "I believe, Hathaway, I am looked upon as a queer
survival of a rather lawless and improper past. At least, I have
thought it better not socially to compromise her by my presence.
The Mayor goes there--at the examinations and exercises, I believe,
sir; they make a sort of reception for him--with a--a--banquet--
lemonade and speeches."
"I had intended to leave for Sacramento to-morrow night," said
Paul, glancing curiously at the helpless man; "but I will go there
if you wish."
"Thank you. It will be better."
There were a few words of further explanation of the papers, and
Pendleton placed the packet in his visitor's hands. Paul rose.
Somehow, it appeared to him that the room looked more faded and
forgotten than when he entered it, and the figure of the man before
him more lonely, helpless, and abandoned. With one of his
sympathetic impulses he said:--
"I don't like to leave you here alone. Are you sure you can help
yourself without George? Can I do anything before I go?"
"I am quite accustomed to it," said Pendleton, quietly. "It
happens once or twice a year, and when I go out--well--I miss more
than I do here."
He took Paul's proffered hand mechanically, with a slight return of
the critical, doubting look he had cast upon him when he entered.
his voice, too, had quite recovered its old dominance, as he said,
with half-patronizing conventionality, "You'll have to find your
way out alone. Let me know how you have sped at Santa Clara, will
The staircase and passage seemed to have grown shabbier and meaner
as Paul, slowly and hesitatingly, descended to the street. At the
foot of the stairs he paused irresolutely, and loitered with a
vague idea of turning back on some pretense, only that he might
relieve himself of the sense of desertion. He had already
determined upon making that inquiry into the colonel's personal and
pecuniary affairs which he had not dared to offer personally, and
had a half-formed plan of testing his own power and popularity in a
certain line of relief that at once satisfied his sympathies and
ambitions. Nevertheless, after reaching the street, he lingered a
moment, when an odd idea of temporizing with his inclinations
struck him. At the farther end of the hotel--one of the parasites
living on its decayed fortunes--was a small barber's shop. By
having his hair trimmed and his clothes brushed he could linger a
little longer beneath the same roof with the helpless solitary, and
perhaps come to some conclusion. He entered the clean but scantily
furnished shop, and threw himself into one of the nearest chairs,
hardly noting that there were no other customers, and that a single
assistant, stropping a razor behind a glass door, was the only
occupant. But there was a familiar note of exaggerated politeness
about the voice of this man as he opened the door and came towards
the back of the chair with the formula:--
"Mo'nin', sah! Shall we hab de pleshure of shavin' or hah-cuttin'
dis mo'nin'?" Paul raised his eyes quickly to the mirror before
him. It reflected the black face and grizzled hair of George.
More relieved at finding the old servant still near his master than
caring to comprehend the reason, Hathaway said pleasantly, "Well,
George, is this the way you look after your family?"
The old man started; for an instant his full red lips seemed to
become dry and ashen, the whites of his eyes were suffused and
staring, as he met Paul's smiling face in the glass. But almost as
quickly he recovered himself, and, with a polite but deprecating
bow, said,--"For God sake, sah! I admit de sarkumstances is agin
me, but de simple fack is dat I'm temper'ly occupyin' de place of
an ole frien', sah, who is called round de cornah."
"And I'm devilish glad of any fact, George, that gives me a chance
of having my hair cut by Colonel Pendleton's right-hand man. So
The gratified smile which now suddenly overspread the whole of the
old man's face, and seemed to quickly stiffen the rugged and
wrinkled fingers that had at first trembled in drawing a pair of
shears from a ragged pocket, appeared to satisfy Paul's curiosity
for the present. But after a few moments' silent snipping, during
which he could detect in the mirror some traces of agitation still
twitching the negro's face, he said with an air of conviction:--
"Look here, George--why don't you regularly use your leisure
moments in this trade? You'd make your fortune by your taste and
skill at it."
For the next half minute the old man's frame shook with silent
childlike laughter behind Paul's chair. "Well, Marse Hathaway,
yo's an ole frien' o' my massa, and a gemman yo'self, sah, and a
senetah, and I do'an mind tellin' yo'--dat's jess what I bin gone
done! It makes a little ready money for de ole woman and de
chilleren. But de Kernel don' no'. Ah, sah! de Kernel kill me or
hisself if he so much as 'spicioned me. De Kernel is high-toned,
sah!--bein' a gemman yo'self, yo' understand. He wouldn't heah ob
his niggah worken' for two massas--for all he's willen' to lemme go
and help myse'f. But, Lord bless yo', sah, dat ain't in de
category! De Kernel couldn't get along widout me."
"You collect his rents, don't you?" said Paul, quietly.
"Well, no, sah; not so much as fom'ly, sah! Yo' see, de Kernel's
prop'ty lies in de ole parts ob de town, where de po' white folks
lib, and dey ain't reg'lar. De Kernel dat sof' in his heart, he
dare n' press 'em; some of 'em is ole fo'ty-niners, like hisself,
sah; and some is Spanish, sah, and dey is sof' too, and ain't no
more gumption dan chilleren, and tink it's ole time come ag'in, and
dey's in de ole places like afo' de Mexican wah! and dey don' bin
payin' noffin'. But we gets along, sah,--we gets along,--not in de
prima facie style, sah! mebbe not in de modden way dut de Kernel
don't like; but we keeps ourse'f, sah, and has wine fo' our
friends. When yo' come again, sah, yo' 'll find de Widder Glencoe
on de sideboard."
"Has the colonel many friends here?"
"Mos' de ole ones bin done gone, sah, and de Kernel don' cotton to
de new. He don' mix much in sassiety till de bank settlements bin
gone done. Skuse me, sah!--but you don' happen to know when dat
is? It would be a pow'ful heap off de Kernel's mind if it was
done. Bein' a high and mighty man in committees up dah in
Sacramento, sah, I didn't know but what yo' might know as it might
come befo' yo'."
"I'll see about it," said Paul, with an odd, abstracted smile.
"Shampoo dis mornen', sah?"
"Nothing more in this line," said Paul, rising from his chair, "but
something more, perhaps, in the line of your other duties. You're
a good barber for the public, George, and I don't take back what I
said about your future; but JUST NOW I think the colonel wants all
your service. He's not at all well. Take this," he said, putting
a twenty-dollar gold piece in the astonished servant's hand, "and
for the next three or four days drop the shop, and under some
pretext or another arrange to be with him. That money will cover
what you lose here, and as soon as the colonel's all right again
you can come back to work. But are you not afraid of being
recognized by some one?"
"No, sah, dat's just it. On'y strangers dat don't know no better
"But suppose your master should drop in? It's quite convenient to
"Marse Harry in a barber-shop!" said the old man with a silent
laugh. "Skuse me, sah," he added, with an apologetic mixture of
respect and dignity, "but fo' twenty years no man hez touched de
Kernel's chin but myself. When Marse Harry hez to go to a barber's
shop, it won't make no matter who's dar."
"Let's hope he will not," said Paul gayly; then, anxious to evade
the gratitude which, since his munificence, he had seen beaming in
the old negro's eye and evidently trying to find polysyllabic and
elevated expression on his lips, he said hurriedly, "I shall expect
to find you with the colonel when I call again in a day or two,"
and smilingly departed.
At the end of two hours George's barber-employer returned to
relieve his assistant, and, on receiving from him an account and a
certain percentage of the afternoon's fees (minus the gift from
Paul), was informed by George that he should pretermit his
attendance for a few days. "Udder private and personal affairs,"
explained the old negro, who made no social distinction in his
vocabulary, "peroccupyin' dis niggah's time." The head barber,
unwilling to lose a really good assistant, endeavored to dissuade
him by the offer of increased emolument, but George was firm.
As he entered the sitting-room the colonel detected his step, and
called him in.
"Another time, George, never allow a guest of mine to send away
wine. If he don't care for it, put it on the sideboard."
"Yes, sah; but as yo' didn't like it yo'self, Marse Harry, and de
wine was de most 'xpensive quality ob Glencoe"--
"D--n the expense!" He paused, and gazed searchingly at his old
"George," he said suddenly, yet in a gentle voice, "don't lie to
me, or"--in a still kinder voice--"I'll flog the black skin off
you! Listen to me. HAVE you got any money left?"
"'Deed, sah, dere IS," said the negro earnestly. "I'll jist fetch
it wid de accounts."
"Hold on! I've been thinking, lying here, that if the Widow Molloy
can't pay because she sold out, and that tobacconist is ruined, and
we've had to pay the water tax for old Bill Soames, the rent last
week don't amount to much, while there's the month's bill for the
restaurant and that blank druggist's account for lotions and
medicines to come out of it. It strikes me we're pretty near
touching bottom. I've everything I want here, but, by God, sir, if
I find YOU skimping yourself or lying to me or borrowing money"--
"Yes, Marse Harry, but the Widder Molloy done gone and paid up dis
afernoon. I'll bring de books and money to prove it;" and he
hurriedly reentered the sitting-room.
Then with trembling hands he emptied his pockets on the table,
including Paul's gift and the fees he had just received, and
opening a desk-drawer took from it a striped cotton handkerchief,
such as negro women wear on their heads, containing a small
quantity of silver tied up in a hard knot, and a boy's purse. This
he emptied on the table with his own money.
They were the only rents of Colonel Henry Pendleton! They were
contributed by "George Washington Thomson;" his wife, otherwise
known as "Aunt Dinah," washerwoman; and "Scipio Thomson," their
son, aged fourteen, bootblack. It did not amount to much. But in
that happy moisture that dimmed the old man's eyes, God knows it
looked large enough.
Although the rays of an unclouded sun were hot in the Santa Clara
roads and byways, and the dry, bleached dust had become an
impalpable powder, the perspiring and parched pedestrian who rashly
sought relief in the shade of the wayside oak was speedily chilled
to the bone by the northwest trade-winds that on those August
afternoons swept through the defiles of the Coast Range, and even
penetrated the pastoral valley of San Jose. The anomaly of straw
hats and overcoats with the occupants of buggies and station wagons
was thus accounted for, and even in the sheltered garden of "El
Rosario" two young girls in light summer dresses had thrown wraps
over their shoulders as they lounged down a broad rose-alley at
right angles with the deep, long veranda of the casa. Yet, in
spite of the chill, the old Spanish house and gardens presented a
luxurious, almost tropical, picture from the roadside. Banks,
beds, and bowers of roses lent their name and color to the grounds;
tree-like clusters of hanging fuchsias, mound-like masses of
variegated verbena, and tangled thickets of ceanothus and spreading
heliotrope were set in boundaries of venerable olive, fig, and pear
trees. The old house itself, a picturesque relief to the glaring
newness of the painted villas along the road, had been tastefully
modified to suit the needs and habits of a later civilization; the
galleries of the inner courtyard, or patio, had been transferred to
the outside walls in the form of deep verandas, while the old adobe
walls themselves were hidden beneath flowing Cape jessamine or
bestarred passion vines, and topped by roofs of cylindrical red
"Miss Yerba!" said a dry, masculine voice from the veranda.
The taller young girl started, and drew herself suddenly behind a
large Castilian rose-tree, dragging her companion with her, and
putting her finger imperatively upon a pretty but somewhat
passionate mouth. The other girl checked a laugh, and remained
watching her friend's wickedly leveled brows in amused surprise.
The call was repeated from the veranda. After a moment's pause
there was the sound of retreating footsteps, and all was quiet
"Why, for goodness' sake, didn't you answer, Yerba?" asked the
"Oh, I hate him!" responded Yerba. "He only wanted to bore me with
his stupid, formal, sham-parental talk. Because he's my official
guardian he thinks it necessary to assume this manner towards me
when we meet, and treats me as if I were something between his
stepdaughter and an almshouse orphan or a police board. It's
perfectly ridiculous, for it's only put on while he is in office,
and he knows it, and I know it, and I'm tired of making believe.
Why, my dear, they change every election; I've had seven of them,
all more or less of this kind, since I can remember."
"But I thought there were two others, dear, that were not
official," said her companion, coaxingly.
Yerba sighed. "No; there was another, who was president of a bank,
but that was also to be official if he died. I used to like him,
he seemed to be the only gentleman among them; but it appears that
he is dreadfully improper; shoots people now and then for nothing
at all, and burst up his bank--and, of course, he's impossible,
and, as there's no more bank, when he dies there'll be no more
"And there's the third, you know--a stranger, who never appears?"
suggested the younger girl.
"And who do you suppose HE turns out to be? Do you remember that
conceited little wretch--that 'Baby Senator,' I think they called
him--who was in the parlor of the Golden Gate the other morning
surrounded by his idiotic worshipers and toadies and ballot-box
stuffers? Well, if you please, THAT'S Mr. Paul Hathaway--the
Honorable Paul Hathaway, who washed his hands of me, my dear, at
"But really, Yerba, I thought that he looked and acted"--
"You thought of nothing at all, Milly," returned Yerba, with
authority. "I tell you he's a mass of conceit. What else can you
expect of a Man--toadied and fawned upon to that extent? It made
me sick! I could have just shaken them!"
As if to emphasize her statement, she grasped one of the long
willowy branches of the enormous rose-bush where she stood, and
shook it lightly. The action detached a few of the maturer
blossoms, and sent down a shower of faded pink petals on her dark
hair and yellow dress. "I can't bear conceit," she added.
"Oh, Yerba, just stand as you are! I do wish the girls could see
you. You make the LOVELIEST picture!"
She certainly did look very pretty as she stood there--a few leaves
lodged in her hair, clinging to her dress, and suggesting by
reflection the color that her delicate satin skin would have
resented in its own texture. But she turned impatiently away--
perhaps not before she had allowed this passing vision to impress
the mind of her devoted adherent--and said, "Come along, or that
dreadful man will be out on the veranda again."
"But, if you dislike him so, why did you accept the invitation to
meet him here at luncheon?" said the curious Milly.
"I didn't accept; the Mother Superior did for me, because he's the
Mayor of San Francisco visiting your uncle, and she's always
anxious to placate the powers that be. And I thought he might have
some information that I could get out of him. And it was better
than being in the convent all day. And I thought I could stand HIM
if you were here."
Milly gratefully accepted this doubtful proof of affection by
squeezing her companion's arm. "And you didn't get any
"Of course not! The idiot knows only the old tradition of his
office--that I was a mysterious Trust left in Mayor Hammersley's
hands. He actually informed me that 'Buena' meant 'Good'; that it
was likely the name of the captain of some whaler, that put into
San Francisco in the early days, whose child I was, and that, if I
chose to call myself 'Miss Good,' he would allow it, and get a bill
passed in the Legislature to legalize it. Think of it, my dear!
'Miss Good,' like one of Mrs. Barbauld's stories, or a moral
governess in the 'Primary Reader.'"
"'Miss Good,'" repeated Milly, innocently. "Yes, you might put an
e at the end--G-double-o-d-e. There are Goodes in Philadelphia.
And then you won't have to sacrifice that sweet pretty 'Yerba,'
that's so stylish and musical, for you'd still be 'Yerba Good.'
But," she added, as Yerba made an impatient gesture, "why do you
worry yourself about THAT? You wouldn't keep your own name long,
whatever it was. An heiress like you, dear,--lovely and
accomplished,--would have the best names as well as the best men in
America to choose from."
"Now please don't repeat that idiot's words. That's what HE says;
that's what they ALL say!" returned Yerba, pettishly. "One would
really think it was necessary for me to get married to become
anybody at all, or have any standing whatever. And, whatever you
do, don't go talking of me as if I were named after a vegetable.
'Yerba Buena' is the name of an island in the bay just off San
Francisco. I'm named after that."
"But I don't see the difference, dear. The island was named after
the vine that grows on it."
"YOU don't see the difference?" said Yerba, darkly. "Well, I do.
But what are you looking at?"
Her companion had caught her arm, and was gazing intently at the
"Yerba," she said quickly, "there's the Mayor, and uncle, and a
strange gentleman coming down the walk. They're looking for us.
And, as I live, Yerb! the strange gentleman is that young senator,
"Mr. Hathaway? Nonsense!"
"Look for yourself."
Yerba glanced at the three gentlemen, who, a hundred yards distant,
were slowly advancing in the direction of the ceanothus-hedge,
behind which the girls had instinctively strayed during their
"What are you going to do?" said Milly, eagerly. "They're coming
straight this way. Shall we stay here and let them pass, or make a
run for the house?"
"No," said Yerba, to Milly's great surprise. "That would look as
if we cared. Besides, I don't know that Mr. Hathaway has come to
see ME. We'll stroll out and meet them accidentally."
Milly was still more astonished. However, she said, "Wait a
moment, dear!" and, with the instinctive deftness of her sex, in
three small tugs and a gentle hitch, shook Yerba's gown into
perfect folds, passed her fingers across her forehead and over her
ears, securing, however, with a hairpin on their passage three of
the rose petals where they had fallen. Then, discharging their
faces of any previous expression, these two charming hypocrites
sallied out innocently into the walk. Nothing could be more
natural than their manner: if a criticism might be ventured upon,
it was that their elbows were slightly drawn inwards and before
them, leaving their hands gracefully advanced in the line of their
figures, an attitude accepted throughout the civilized world of
deportment as indicating fastidious refinement not unmingled with
The three gentlemen lifted their hats at this ravishing apparition,
and halted. The Mayor advanced with great politeness.
"I feared you didn't hear me call you, Miss Yerba, so we ventured
to seek you. As the two girls exchanged almost infantile glances
of surprise, he continued: "Mr. Paul Hathaway has done us the honor
of seeking you here, as he did not find you at the convent. You
may have forgotten that Mr. Hathaway is the third one of your
"And so inefficient and worthless that I fear he doesn't count,"
said Paul, "but," raising his eyes to Yerba's, "I fancy that I have
already had the pleasure of seeing you, and, I fear, the
mortification of having disturbed you and your friends in the
parlor of the Golden Gate Hotel yesterday."
The two girls looked at each other with the same childlike
surprise. Yerba broke the silence by suddenly turning to Milly.
"Certainly, you remember how greatly interested we were in the
conversation of a party of gentlemen who were there when we came
in. I am afraid our foolish prattle must have disturbed YOU. I
know that we were struck with the intelligent and eloquent devotion
of your friends."
"Oh, perfectly," chimed in the loyal but somewhat infelix Milly,
"and it was so kind and thoughtful of Mr. Hathaway to take them
away as he did."
"I felt the more embarrassed," continued Hathaway, smiling, but
still critically examining Yerba for an indication of something
characteristic, beyond this palpable conventionality, "as I
unfortunately must present my credentials from a gentleman as much
of a stranger as myself--Colonel Pendleton."
The trade-wind was evidently making itself felt even in this
pastoral retreat, for the two gentlemen appeared to shrink slightly
within themselves, and a chill seemed to have passed over the
group. The Mayor coughed. The avuncular Woods gazed abstractedly
at a large cactus. Even Paul, prepared by previous experience,
"Colonel Pendleton! Oh, do tell me all about him!" flashed out
Yerba, suddenly, with clasped hands and eager girlish breath.
Paul cast a quick grateful glance at the girl. Whether assumed or
not, her enthusiastic outburst was effective. The Mayor looked
uneasily at Woods, and turned to Paul.
"Ah, yes! You and he are original co-trustees. I believe
Pendleton is in reduced circumstances. Never quite got over that
"That is only a question of legislative investigation and relief,"
said Paul lightly, yet with purposely vague official mystery of
manner. Then, turning quickly to Yerba, as if replying to the only
real question at issue, he continued pointedly, "I am sorry to say
the colonel's health is so poor that it keeps him quite a recluse.
I have a letter from him and a message for you." His bright eyes
added plainly--"as soon as we can get rid of those people."
"Then you think that a bill"--began the Mayor, eagerly.
"I think, my dear sir," said Paul plaintively, "that I and my
friends have already tried the patience of these two young ladies
quite enough yesterday with politics and law-making. I have to
catch the six-o'clock train to San Francisco this evening, and have
already lost the time I hoped to spend with Miss Yerba by missing
her at the convent. Let me stroll on here, if you like, and if I
venture to monopolize the attention of this young lady for half an
hour, you, my dear Mr. Mayor, who have more frequent access to her,
I know, will not begrudge it to me."
He placed himself beside Yerba and Milly, and began an
entertaining, although, I fear, slightly exaggerated, account of
his reception by the Lady Superior, and her evident doubts of his
identity with the trustee mentioned in Pendleton's letter of
introduction. "I confess she frightened me," he continued, "when
she remarked that, according to my statement, I could have been
only eighteen years old when I became your guardian, and as much in
want of one as you were. I think that only her belief that Mr.
Woods and the Mayor would detect me as an impostor provoked her at
last to tell me your whereabouts."
"But why DID they ever make you a trustee, for goodness' sake?"
said Milly, naively. "Was there no one grown up at that time that
they could have called upon?"
"Those were the EARLY days of California," responded Paul, with
great gravity, although he was conscious that Yerba was regarding
him narrowly, "and I probably looked older and more intelligent
than I really was. For, candidly," with the consciousness of
Yerba's eyes still upon him, "I remember very little about it. I
dare say I was selected, as you kindly suggest, 'for goodness'
"After all," said the volatile Milly, who seemed inclined, as
chaperone, to direct the conversation, "there was something pretty
and romantic about it. You two poor young things taking care of
each other, for of course there were no women here in those days."
"Of course there WERE women here" interrupted Yerba, quickly, with
a half-meaning, half-interrogative glance at Paul that made him
instinctively uneasy. "You later comers"--to Milly--"always seem
to think that there was nothing here before you!" She paused, and
then added, with a naive mixture of reproach and coquetry that was
as charming as it was unexpected, "As to taking care of each other,
Mr. Hathaway very quickly got rid of me, I believe."
"But I left you in better hands, Miss Yerba; and let me thank you
now," he added in a lower tone, "for recognizing it as you did a
moment ago. I'm glad that you instinctively liked Colonel
Pendleton. Had you known him better, you would have seen how
truthful that instinct was. His chief fault in the eyes of our
worthy friends is that he reminds them of a great deal they can't
perpetuate and much they would like to forget." He checked himself
abruptly. "But here is your letter," he resumed, drawing Colonel
Pendleton's missive from his pocket, "perhaps you would like to
read it now, in case you have any message to return by me. Miss
Woods and I will excuse you."
They had reached the end of the rose-alley, where a summer-house
that was in itself a rose-bower partly disclosed itself. The other
gentlemen had lagged behind. "I will amuse MYSELF, and console
your other guardian, dear," said the vivacious Milly, with a rapid
exchange of glances with Yerba, "until this horrid business is
over. Besides," she added with cheerful vagueness, "after so long
a separation you must have a great deal to say to each other."
Paul smiled as she rustled away, and Yerba, entering the summer-
house, sat down and opened the letter. The young man remained
leaning against the rustic archway, occasionally glancing at her
and at the moving figures in the gardens. He was conscious of an
odd excitement which he could trace to no particular cause. It was
true that he had been annoyed at not finding the young girl at the
convent, and at having to justify himself to the Lady Superior for
what he conceived to be an act of gratuitous kindness; nor was he
blind to the fact that his persistence in following her was more an
act of aggression against the enemies of Pendleton than of concern
for Yerba. She was certainly pretty, he could not remember her
mother sufficiently to trace any likeness, and he had never admired
the mother's pronounced beauty. She had flashed out for an instant
into what seemed originality and feeling. But it had passed, and
she had asked no further questions in regard to the colonel.
She had hurriedly skimmed through the letter, which seemed to be
composed of certain figures and accounts. "I suppose it's all
right," she said; "at least you can say so if he asks you. It's
only an explanation why he has transferred my money from the bank
to Rothschild's agent years ago. I don't see why it should
interest me NOW."
Paul made no doubt that it was the same transfer that had
shipwrecked the colonel's fortune and alienated his friends, and
could not help replying somewhat pointedly, "But I think it should,
Miss Yerba. I don't know what the colonel explained to you--
doubtless, not the whole truth, for he is not a man to praise
himself; but, the fact is, the bank was in difficulties at the time
of that transfer, and, to make it, he sacrificed his personal
fortune, and, I think, awakened some of that ill-feeling you have
just noticed." He checked himself too late: he had again lost not
only his tact and self-control, but had nearly betrayed himself.
He was surprised that the girl's justifiable ignorance should have
irritated him. Yet she had evidently not noticed, or misunderstood
it, for she said, with a certain precision that was almost
"Yes, I suppose it would have been a terrible thing to him to have
been suspected of misappropriating a Trust confided to him by
parties who had already paid him the high compliment of confiding
to his care a secret and a fortune."
Paul glanced at her quickly with astonishment. Was this ignorance,
or suspicion? Her manner, however, suddenly changed, with the
charming capriciousness of youth and conscious beauty. "He speaks
of you in this letter," she said, letting her dark eyes rest on him
"That accounts for your lack of interest then," said Paul gayly,
relieved to turn a conversation fraught with so much danger.
"But he speaks very flatteringly," she went on. "He seems to be
another one of your admirers. I'm sure, Mr. Hathaway, after that
scene in the hotel parlor yesterday, YOU, at least, cannot complain
of having been misrepresented before ME. To tell you the truth, I
think I hated you a little for it."
"You were quite right," returned Paul. "I must have been
insufferable! And I admit that I was slightly piqued against YOU
for the idolatries showered upon you at the same moment by your
Usually, when two young people have reached the point of
confidingly exchanging their first impressions of each other, some
progress has been made in first acquaintance. But it did not
strike Paul in that way, and Yerba's next remark was discouraging.
"But I'm rather disappointed, for all that. Colonel Pendleton
tells me you know nothing of my family or of the secret."
Paul was this time quite prepared, and withstood the girl's
scrutiny calmly. "Do you think," he asked lightly, "that even HE
"Of course he does," she returned quickly. "Do you suppose he
would have taken all that trouble you have just talked about if he
didn't know it? And feared the consequences, perhaps?" she added,
with a slight return of her previous expressive manner.
Again Paul was puzzled and irritated, he knew not why. But he only
said pleasantly, "I differ from you there. I am afraid that such a
thing as fear never entered into Colonel Pendleton's calculations
on any subject. I think he would act the same towards the highest
and the lowest, the powerful or the most weak." As she glanced at
him quickly and mischievously, he added, "I am quite willing to
believe that his knowledge of you made his duty pleasanter."
He was again quite sincere, and his slight sympathy had that
irresistible quality of tone and look which made him so dangerous.
For he was struck with the pretty, soothed self-complacency that
had shone in her face since he had spoken of Pendleton's equal
disinterestedness. It seemed, too, as if what he had taken for
passion or petulance in her manner had been only a resistance to
some continual aggression of condition. With that remainder held
in check, a certain latent nobility was apparent, as of her true
self. In this moment of pleased abstraction she had drawn through
the lattice-work of one of the windows a spray of roses clinging to
the vine, and with her graceful head a little on one side, was
softly caressing her cheek with it. She certainly was very pretty.
From the crown of her dark little head to the narrow rosetted
slippers that had been idly tapping the ground, but now seemed to
press it more proudly, with arched insteps and small ankles, she
was pleasant to look upon.
"But you surely have something else to think about, Miss Yerba?"
said the young man, with conviction. "In a few months you will be
of age, and rid of those dreadfully stupid guardians; with your"--
The loosened rose-spray flew from her hand out of the window as she
made a gesture, half real, half assumed, of imploring supplication.
"Oh, please, Mr. Hathaway, for Heaven's sake don't YOU begin too!
You are going to say that, with my wealth, my accomplishments, my
beauty, my friends, what more can I want? What do I care about a
secret that can neither add to them nor take them away? Yes, you
were! It's the regular thing to say--everybody says it. Why, I
should have thought 'the youngest senator' could afford to have
been more original."
"I plead guilty to ALL the weaknesses of humanity," said Paul,
warmly, again beginning to believe that he had been most unjust to
"Well, I forgive you, because you have forgotten to say that, if I
don't like the name of Yerba Buena, I could SO easily change that
"But you DO like it," said Paul, touched with this first hearing of
her name in her own musical accents, "or would like it if you heard
yourself pronounce it." It suddenly recurred to him, with a
strange thrill of pleasure, that he himself had given it to her.
It was as if he had created some musical instrument to which she
had just given voice. In his enthusiasm he had thrown himself on
the bench beside her in an attitude that, I fear, was not as
dignified as became his elderly office.
"But you don't think that is my NAME," said the girl, quickly.
"I beg your pardon?" said Paul, hesitatingly.
"You don't think that anybody would have been so utterly idiotic as
to call me after a ground-vine--a vegetable?" she continued
"Eh?" stammered Paul.
"A name that could be so easily translated," she went on, half
scornfully, "and when translated, was no possible title for
anybody? Think of it--Miss Good Herb! It is too ridiculous for
Paul was not usually wanting in self-possession in an emergency, or
in skill to meet attack. But he was so convinced of the truth of
the girl's accusation, and now recalled so vividly his own
consternation on hearing the result of his youthful and romantic
sponsorship for the first time from Pendleton, that he was struck
"But what do you suppose it was intended for?" he said at last,
vaguely. "It was certainly 'Yerba Buena' in the Trust. At least,
I suppose so," he corrected himself hurriedly.
"It is only a supposition," she said quietly, "for you know it
cannot be proved. The Trust was never recorded, and the only copy
could not be found among Mr. Hammersley's papers. It is only part
of the name, of which the first is lost."
"Part of the name?" repeated Paul, uneasily.
"Part of it. It is a corruption of de la Yerba Buena,--of the
Yerba Buena,--and refers to the island of Yerba Buena in the bay,
and not to the plant. That island was part of the property of my
family--the Arguellos--you will find it so recorded in the Spanish
grants. My name is Arguello de la Yerba Buena."
It is impossible to describe the timid yet triumphant, the half-
appealing yet complacent, conviction of the girl's utterance. A
moment before, Paul would have believed it impossible for him to
have kept his gravity and his respect for his companion under this
egregious illusion. But he kept both. For a sudden conviction
that she suspected the truth, and had taken this audacious and
original plan of crushing it, overpowered all other sense. The
Arguellos, it flashed upon him, were an old Spanish family, former
owners of Yerba Buena Island, who had in the last years become
extinct. There had been a story that one of them had eloped with
an American ship captain's wife at Monterey. The legendary history
of early Spanish California was filled with more remarkable
incidents, corroborated with little difficulty from Spanish
authorities, who, it was alleged, lent themselves readily to any
fabrication or forgery. There was no racial pride: on the
contrary, they had shown an eager alacrity to ally themselves with
their conquerors. The friends of the Arguellos would be proud to
recognize and remember in the American heiress the descendant of
their countrymen. All this passed rapidly through his mind after
the first moment of surprise; all this must have been the
deliberate reasoning of this girl of seventeen, whose dark eyes
were bent upon him. Whether she was seeking corroboration or
complicity he could not tell.
"Have you found this out yourself?" he asked, after a pause.
"Yes. One of my friends at the convent was Josita Castro; she knew
all the history of the Arguellos. She is perfectly satisfied."
For an instant Paul wondered if it was a joint conception of the
two schoolgirls. But, on reflection, he was persuaded that Yerba
would commit herself to no accomplice--of her own sex. She might
have dominated the girl, and would make her a firm partisan, while
the girl would be convinced of it herself, and believe herself a
free agent. He had had such experience with men himself.
"But why have you not spoken of it before--and to Colonel
"He did not choose to tell ME," said Yerba, with feminine
dexterity. "I have preferred to keep it myself a secret till I am
"When Colonel Pendleton and some of the other trustees have no
right to say anything," thought Paul quickly. She had evidently
trusted him. Yet, fascinated as he had been by her audacity, he
did not know whether to be pleased, or the reverse. He would have
preferred to be placed on an equal footing with Josita Castro. She
anticipated his thoughts by saying, with half-raised eyelids:--
"What do YOU think of it?"
"It seems to be so natural and obvious an explanation of the
mystery that I only wonder it was not thought of before," said
Paul, with that perfect sincerity that made his sympathy so
"You see,"--still under her pretty eyelids, and the tender promise
of a smile parting her little mouth,--"I'm believing that you tell
the truth when you say you don't know anything about it."
It was a desperate moment with Paul, but his sympathetic instincts,
and possibly his luck, triumphed. His momentary hesitation easily
simulated the caution of a conscientious man; his knit eyebrows and
bright eyes, lowered in an effort of memory, did the rest. "I
remember it all so indistinctly," he said, with literal
truthfulness; "there was a veiled lady present, tall and dark, to
whom Mayor Hammersley and the colonel showed a singular, and, it
struck me, as an almost superstitious, respect. I remember now,
distinctly, I was impressed with the reverential way they both
accompanied her to the door at the end of the interview." He
raised his eyes slightly; the young girl's red lips were parted;
that illumination of the skin, which was her nearest approach to
color, had quite transfigured her face. He felt, suddenly, that
she believed it, yet he had no sense of remorse. He half believed
it himself; at least, he remembered the nobility of the mother's
self-renunciation and its effect upon the two men. Why should not
the daughter preserve this truthful picture of her mother's
momentary exaltation? Which was the most truthful--that, or the
degrading facts? "You speak of a secret," he added. "I can
remember little more than that the Mayor asked me to forget from
that moment the whole occurrence. I did not know at the time how
completely I should fulfill his request. You must remember, Miss
Yerba, as your Lady Superior has, that I was absurdly young at the
time. I don't know but that I may have thought, in my youthful
inexperience, that this sort of thing was of common occurrence.
And then, I had my own future to make--and youth is brutally
selfish. I was quite friendless and unknown when I left San
Francisco for the mines, at the time you entered the convent as
She smiled, and made a slight impulsive gesture, as if she would
have drawn nearer to him, but checked herself, still smiling, and
without embarrassment. It may have been a movement of youthful
camaraderie, and that occasional maternal rather than sisterly
instinct which sometimes influences a young girl's masculine
friendship, and elevates the favored friend to the plane of the
doll she has outgrown. As he turned towards her, however, she
rose, shook out her yellow dress, and said with pretty petulance:--
"Then you must go so soon--and this your first and last visit as my
"No one could regret that more than I," looking at her with
"Yes," she said, with a tantalizing coquetry that might have
suggested an underlying seriousness. "I think you HAVE lost a good
deal. Perhaps, so have I. We might have been good friends in all
these years. But that is past."
"Why? Surely, I hope, my shortcomings with Miss Yerba Buena will
not be remembered by Miss Arguello?" sail Paul, earnestly.
"Ah! SHE may be a very different person."
"I hope not," said the young man, warmly. "But HOW different?"
"Well, she may not put herself in the way of receiving such point-
blank compliments as that," said the young girl, demurely.
"Not from her guardian?"
"She will have no guardian then." She said this gravely, but
almost at the same moment turned and sat down again, throwing her
linked hands over her knee, and looked at him mischievously. "You
see what you have lost, sir."
"I see," said Paul, but with all the gravity that she had dropped.
"No; but you don't see all. I had no brother--no friend. You
might have been both. You might have made me what you liked. You
might have educated me far better than these teachers, or, at least
given me some pride in my studies. There were so many things I
wanted to know that they couldn't teach me; so many times I wanted
advice from some one that I could trust. Colonel Pendleton was
very good to me when he came; he always treated me like a princess
even when I wore short frocks. It was his manner that first made
me think he knew my family; but I never felt as if I could tell him
anything, and I don't think, with all his chivalrous respect, he
ever understood me. As to the others--the Mayors--well, you may
judge from Mr. Henderson. It is a wonder that I did not run away
or do something desperate. Now, are you not a LITTLE sorry?"
Her voice, which had as many capricious changes as her manner, had
been alternately coquettish, petulant, and serious, had now become
playful again. But, like the rest of her sex, she was evidently
more alert to her surroundings at such a moment than her companion,
for before he could make any reply, she said, without apparently
looking, "But there is a deputation coming for you, Mr. Hathaway.
You see, the case is hopeless. You never would be able to give to
one what is claimed by the many."
Paul glanced down the rose-alley, and saw that the deputation in
question was composed of the Mayor, Mr. Woods, a thin, delicate-
looking woman,--evidently Mrs. Woods,--and Milly. The latter
managed to reach the summer-house first, with apparently youthful
alacrity, but really to exchange, in a single glance, some
mysterious feminine signal with Yerba. Then she said with
"Before you two get bored with each other now, I must tell you
there's a chance of you having more time. Aunty has promised to
send off a note excusing you to the Reverend Mother, if she can
persuade Mr. Hathaway to stay over to-night. But here they are.
[To Yerba] Aunty is most anxious, and won't hear of his going."
Indeed, it seemed as if Mrs. Woods was, after a refined fashion,
most concerned that a distinguished visitor like Mr. Hathaway
should have to use her house as a mere accidental meeting-place
with his ward, without deigning to accept her hospitality. She was
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