Colonel Starbottle's Client
Part 3 out of 4
"Not a bit of it. He's got a letter from Sam for one of ye. Yere,
Charley--what's your name! Com yere. Yere's all yer three bosses
waiting for ye."
And the supposed expressman and late narrator of amusing stories
came forward and presented his credentials as the assistant teacher
of Pine Clearing.
Even the practical Mr. Sperry was taken aback. The young man
before him was squarely built, with broad shoulders, and a certain
air of muscular activity. But his face, although good-humored, was
remarkable for offering not the slightest indication of studious
preoccupation or mental training. A large mouth, light blue eyes,
a square jaw, the other features being indistinctive--were immobile
as a mask--except that, unlike a mask, they seemed to actually
reflect the vacuity of the mood within, instead of concealing it.
But as he saluted the trustees they each had the same feeling that
even this expression was imported and not instinctive. His face
was clean-shaven, and his hair cut so short as to suggest that a
wig of some kind was necessary to give it characteristic or even
ordinary human semblance. His manner, self-assured yet lacking
reality, and his dress of respectable cut and material, yet worn
as if it did not belong to him, completed a picture as unlike a
student or schoolmaster as could be possibly conceived.
Yet there was the letter in Mr. Peaseley's hands from Barstow,
introducing Mr. Charles Twing as the first assistant teacher in the
Pine Clearing Free Academy!
The three men looked hopelessly at each other. An air of fatigued
righteousness and a desire to be spiritually at rest from other
trials pervaded Mr. Peaseley. Whether or not the young man felt
the evident objection he had raised, he assumed a careless
position, with his back and elbows against the bar; but even the
attitude was clearly not his own.
"Are you personally known to Mr. Barstow?" asked Sperry, with a
slight business asperity.
"That is--you are quite well acquainted with him?"
"If you'd heard me gag his style a minute ago, so that everybody
here knew who it was, you'd say so."
Mr. Peaseley's eyes sought the ceiling, and rested on the hanging
lamp, as if nothing short of direct providential interference could
meet the occasion. Yet, as the eyes of his brother trustees were
bent on him expectantly, he nerved himself to say something.
"I suppose, Mr.--Mr. Twing, you have properly understood the great--
I may say, very grave, intellectual, and moral responsibilities of
the work you seek to undertake--and the necessity of supporting it
by EXAMPLE, by practice, by personal influence both in the school
and OUT OF IT. Sir, I presume, sir, you feel that you are fully
competent to undertake this?"
"I reckon HE does!"
"Sam Barstow, or he wouldn't have selected me. I presume" (with
the slightest possible and almost instinctive imitation of the
reverend gentleman's manner) "his head is considered level."
Mr. Peaseley withdrew his eyes from the ceiling. "I have," he said
to his companions, with a pained smile, "an important choir meeting
to attend this afternoon. I fear I must be excused." As he moved
towards the door, the others formally following him, until out of
the stranger's hearing, he added: "I wash my hands of this. After
so wanton and unseemly an exhibition of utter incompetency, and
even of understanding of the trust imposed upon him--upon US--MY
conscience forbids me to interfere further. But the real arbiter
in this matter will be--thank Heaven!--the mistress herself. You
have only to confront her at once with this man. HER decision will
be speedy and final. For even Mr. Barstow will not dare to force
so outrageous a character upon a delicate, refined woman, in a
familiar and confidential capacity."
"That's so," said Sperry eagerly; "she'll settle it. And, of
course," added the mill-owner, "that will leave us out of any
difficulty with Sam."
The two men returned to the hapless stranger, relieved, yet
constrained by the sacrifice to which they felt they were leading
him. It would be necessary, they said, to introduce him to his
principal, Mrs. Martin, at once. They might still find her at the
schoolhouse, distant but a few steps. They said little else, the
stranger keeping up an ostentatious whistling, and becoming more
and more incongruous, they thought, as they neared the pretty
schoolhouse. Here they DID find Mrs. Martin, who had, naturally,
lingered after the interview with Sperry.
She came forward to meet them, with the nervous shyness and
slightly fastidious hesitation that was her nature. They saw, or
fancied they saw, the same surprise and disappointment they had
themselves experienced pass over her sensitive face, as she looked
at him; they felt that their vulgar charge appeared still more
outrageous by contrast with this delicate woman and her pretty,
refined surroundings; but they saw that HE enjoyed it, and was
even--if such a word could be applied to so self-conscious a man--
more at ease in her presence!
"I reckon you and me will pull together very well, ma'am," he said
They looked to see her turn her back upon him; faint, or burst out
crying; but she did neither, and only gazed at him quietly.
"It's a mighty pretty place you've got here--and I like it, and if
WE can't run it, I don't know who can. Only just let me know WHAT
you want, ma'am, and you can count on me every time."
To their profound consternation Mrs. Martin smiled faintly.
"It rests with YOU only, Mrs. Martin," said Sperry quickly and
significantly. "It's YOUR say, you know; you're the only one to be
considered or consulted here."
"Only just say what you want me to do," continued Twing, apparently
ignoring the trustees; "pick out the style of job; give me a hint
or two how to work it, or what you'd think would be the proper gag
to fetch 'em, and I'm there, ma'am. It may be new at first, but
I'll get at the business of it quick enough."
Mrs. Martin smiled--this time quite perceptibly--with the least
little color in her cheeks and eyes. "Then you've had no experience
in teaching?" she said.
"You are not a graduate of any college?"
The two trustees looked at each other. Even Mr. Peaseley had not
conceived such a damning revelation.
"Well," said Mrs. Martin slowly, "perhaps Mr. Twing had better COME
EARLY TOMORROW MORNING AND BEGIN."
"Begin?" gasped Mr. Sperry in breathless astonishment.
"Certainly," said Mrs. Martin in timid explanation. "If he is new
to the work the sooner the better."
Mr. Sperry could only gaze blankly at his brother official. Had
they heard aright? Was this the recklessness of nervous excitement
in a woman of delicate health, or had the impostor cast some
glamour upon her? Or was she frightened of Sam Barstow and afraid
to reject his candidate? The last thought was an inspiration. He
drew her quickly aside. "One moment, Mrs. Martin! You said to me
an hour ago that you didn't intend to have asked Mr. Barstow to
send you an assistant. I hope that, merely because he HAS done so,
you don't feel obliged to accept this man against your better
"Oh no," said Mrs. Martin quietly.
The case seemed hopeless. And Sperry had the miserable conviction
that by having insisted upon Mrs. Martin's judgment being final
they had estopped their own right to object. But how could they
have foreseen her extraordinary taste? He, however, roused himself
for a last appeal.
"Mrs. Martin," he said in a lower voice, "I ought to tell you that
the Reverend Mr. Peaseley strongly doubts the competency of that
"Didn't Mr. Barstow make a selection at your request?" asked Mrs.
Martin, with a faint little nervous cough.
"Then his competency only concerns ME--and I don't see what Mr.
Peaseley has to say about it."
Could he believe his senses? There was a decided flush in the
woman's pale face, and the first note of independence and asperity
in her voice.
That night, in the privacy of his conjugal chamber, Mr. Sperry
relieved his mind to another of the enigmatical sex,--the stout
Southwestern partner of his joys and troubles. But the result was
equally unsatisfactory. "Well, Abner," said the lady, "I never
could see, for all your men's praises of Mrs. Martin, what that
feller can see in HER to like!"
Mrs. Martin was early at the schoolhouse the next morning, yet not
so early but that she discovered that the new assistant had been
there before her. This was shown in some rearrangement of the
school seats and benches. They were placed so as to form a
horseshoe before her desk, and at the further extremity of this
semicircle was a chair evidently for himself. She was a little
nettled at his premature action, although admitting the utility of
the change, but she was still more annoyed at his absence at such a
moment. It was nearly the school hour when he appeared, to her
surprise, marshaling a file of some of the smaller children whom he
had evidently picked up en route, and who were, to her greater
surprise, apparently on the best of terms with him. "Thought I'd
better rake 'em in, introduce myself to 'em, and get 'em to know me
before school begins. Excuse me," he went on hastily, "but I've a
lot more coming up, and I'd better make myself square with them
OUTSIDE." But Mrs. Martin had apparently developed a certain
degree of stiffness since their evening's interview.
"It seems to me quite as important, Mr. Twing," she said drily,
"that you should first learn some of your own duties, which I came
here early to teach you."
"Not at all," he said cheerfully. "Today I take my seat, as I've
arranged it, you see, over there with them, and watch 'em go
through the motions. One rehearsal's enough for ME. At the same
time, I can chip in if necessary." And before she could reply he
was out of the schoolhouse again, hailing the new-comers. This was
done with apparently such delight to the children and with some
evidently imported expression into his smooth mask-like face, that
Mrs. Martin had to content herself with watching him with equal
curiosity. She was turning away with a sudden sense of forgotten
dignity, when a shout of joyous, childish laughter attracted her
attention to the window. The new assistant, with half a dozen
small children on his square shoulders, walking with bent back and
every simulation of advanced senility, was evidently personating,
with the assistance of astonishingly distorted features, the ogre
of a Christmas pantomime. As his eye caught hers the expression
vanished, the mask-like face returned; he set the children down,
and moved away. And when school began, although he marshaled them
triumphantly to the very door,--with what contortion of face or
simulation of character she was unable to guess,--after he had
entered the schoolroom and taken his seat every vestige of his
previous facial aberration was gone, and only his usual stolidity
remained. In vain, as Mrs. Martin expected, the hundred delighted
little eyes before her dwelt at first eagerly and hopefully upon
his face, but, as she HAD NOT expected, recognizing from the
blankness of his demeanor that the previous performance was
intended for them exclusively, the same eager eyes were presently
dropped again upon their books in simple imitation, as if he were
one of themselves. Mrs. Martin breathed freely, and lessons began.
Yet she was nervously conscious, meanwhile, of a more ill-omened
occurrence. This was the non-arrival of several of her oldest
pupils, notably, the refractory and incorrigible Pike County
contingent to whom Sperry had alluded. For the past few days they
had hovered on the verge of active insubordination, and had
indulged in vague mutterings which she had resolutely determined
not to hear. It was, therefore, with some inward trepidations, not
entirely relieved by Twing's presence, that she saw the three
Mackinnons and the two Hardees slouch into the school a full hour
after the lessons had begun. They did not even excuse themselves,
but were proceeding with a surly and ostentatious defiance to their
seats, when Mrs. Martin was obliged to look up, and--as the eldest
Hardee filed before her--to demand an explanation. The culprit
addressed--a dull, heavy-looking youth of nineteen--hesitated with
an air of mingled doggedness and sheepishness, and then, without
replying, nudged his companion. It was evidently a preconcerted
signal of rebellion, for the boy nudged stopped, and, turning a
more intelligent, but equally dissatisfied, face upon the
schoolmistress, began determinedly:--
"Wot's our excuse for coming an hour late? Well, we ain't got
none. WE don't call it an hour late--WE don't. We call it the
right time. We call it the right time for OUR lessons, for we
don't allow to come here to sing hymns with babbies. We don't want
to know 'where, oh where, are the Hebrew children?' They ain't
nothin' to us Americans. And we don't want any more Daniels in the
Lions' Den played off on us. We have enough of 'em in Sunday-
school. We ain't hankerin' much for grammar and dictionary
hogwash, and we don't want no Boston parts o' speech rung in on us
the first thing in the mo'nin'. We ain't Boston--we're Pike
County--WE are. We reckon to do our sums, and our figgerin', and
our sale and barter, and our interest tables and weights and
measures when the time comes, and our geograffy when it's on, and
our readin' and writin' and the American Constitution in reg'lar
hours, and then we calkilate to git up and git afore the po'try and
the Boston airs and graces come round. That's our rights and what
our fathers pay school taxes for, and we want 'em."
He stopped, looking less towards the schoolmistress than to his
companions, for whom perhaps, after the schoolboy fashion, this
attitude was taken. Mrs. Martin sat, quite white and self-
contained, with her eyes fixed on the frayed rim of the rebel's
straw hat which he still kept on his head. Then she said quietly:--
"Take off your hat, sir."
The boy did not move.
"He can't," said a voice cheerfully.
It was the new assistant. The whole school faced rapidly towards
him. The rebel leader and his followers, who had not noticed him
before, stared at the interrupter, who did not, however, seem to
exhibit any of the authority of office, but rather the comment and
criticism of one of themselves. "Wot you mean?" asked the boy
"I mean you can't take off your hat because you've got some things
stowed away in it you don't want seen," said Twing, with an
"Wot things?" exclaimed the boy angrily. Then suddenly
recollecting himself, he added, "Go along! You can't fool me!
Think you'll make me take off my hat--don't you?"
"Well," said Twing, advancing to the side of the rebel, "look here
then!" With a dexterous movement and a slight struggle from the
boy, he lifted the hat. A half-dozen apples, a bird's nest, two
birds' eggs, and a fluttering half-fledged bird fell from it. A
wave of delight and astonishment ran along the benches, a blank
look of hopeless bewilderment settled upon the boy's face, and the
gravity of the situation disappeared forever in the irrepressible
burst of laughter, in which even his brother rebels joined. The
smallest child who had been half-frightened, half-fascinated by the
bold, bad, heroic attitude of the mutineer, was quick to see the
ridiculousness of that figure crowned with cheap schoolboy plunder.
The eloquent protest of his wrongs was lost in the ludicrous
appearance of the protester. Even Mrs. Martin felt that nothing
she could say at that moment could lift the rebellion into
seriousness again. But Twing was evidently not satisfied.
"Beg Mrs. Martin's pardon, and say you were foolin' with the boys,"
he said in a low voice.
The discomfited rebel hesitated.
"Say it, or I'll SHOW WHAT YOU'VE GOT IN YOUR POCKETS!" said Twing
in a terribly significant aside.
The boy mumbled an apology to Mrs. Martin, scrambled in a blank,
hopeless way to his seat, and the brief rebellion ignominiously
ended. But two things struck Mrs. Martin as peculiar. She
overheard the culprit say, with bated breath and evident sincerity,
to his comrades: "Hadn't nothing in my hat, anyway!" and one of the
infant class was heard to complain, in a deeply-injured way, that
the bird's nest was HIS, and had been "stoled" from his desk.
And there still remained the fact for which Twing's undoubted
fascination over the children had somewhat prepared her--that at
recess the malcontents--one and all--seemed to have forgiven the
man who had overcome them, and gathered round him with unmistakable
interest. All this, however, did not blind her to the serious
intent of the rebellion, or of Twing's unaccountable assumption of
her prerogative. While he was still romping with the children she
called him in.
"I must remind you," she said, with a slight nervous asperity,
"that this outrageous conduct of Tom Hardee was evidently
deliberated and prepared by the others, and cannot end in this
He looked at her with a face so exasperatingly expressionless that
she could have slapped it as if it had belonged to one of the older
scholars, and said,--"But it HAS ended. It's a dead frost."
"I don't know what you mean; and I must remind you also that in
this school we neither teach nor learn slang."
His immobile face changed for an instant to a look of such decided
admiration that she felt her color rise; but he wiped his
expression away with his hand as if it had been some artificial
make-up, and said awkwardly, but earnestly:--
"Excuse me--won't you? But, look here, Mrs. Martin, I found out
early this morning, when I was squaring myself with the other
children, that there was this row hangin' on--in fact, that there
was a sort of idea that Pike County wasn't having a fair show--
excuse me--in the running of the school, and that Peaseley and
Barstow were a little too much on in every scene. In fact, you
see, it was just what Tom said."
"This is insufferable," said Mrs. Martin, her eyes growing darker
as her cheeks grew red. "They shall go home to their parents, and
tell them from me"--
"That they're all mistaken--excuse me--but that's just what THEY'RE
GOIN' TO DO. I tell you, Mrs. Martin, their little game's busted--I
beg pardon--but it's all over. You'll have no more trouble with
"And you think that just because you found Tom had something in his
hat, and exposed him?" said Mrs. Martin scornfully.
"Tom HADN'T anything in his hat," said Twing, wiping his mouth
"Nothing?" repeated Mrs. Martin.
"But I SAW you take the things out."
"That was only a TRICK! He had nothing except what I had up my
sleeve, and forced on him. He knew it, and that frightened him,
and made him look like a fool, and so bursted up his conspiracy.
There's nothin' boys are more afraid of than ridicule, or the man
or boy that make 'em ridiculous."
"I won't ask you if you call this FAIR to the boy, Mr. Twing?" said
Mrs. Martin hotly; "but is this your idea of discipline?"
"I call it fair, because Tom knew it was some kind of a trick, and
wasn't deceived. I call it discipline if it made him do what was
right afterwards, and makes him afraid or unwilling to do anything
to offend me or you again. He likes me none the worse for giving
him a chance of being laughed out of a thing instead of being
DRIVEN out of it. And," he added, with awkward earnestness, "if
you'll just leave all this to ME, and only consider me here to take
this sort of work which ain't a lady's--off your hands, we'll just
strike our own line between the Peaseleys and Pike County--and run
this school in spite of both."
A little mollified, a good deal puzzled, and perhaps more influenced
by the man's manner than she had imagined, Mrs. Martin said nothing,
but let the day pass without dismissing the offenders. And on
returning home that evening she was considerably surprised to
receive her landlady's extravagant congratulations on the advent of
her new assistant. "And they do say, Mrs. Martin," continued that
lady enthusiastically, "that your just setting your foot down square
on that Peaseley and that Barstow, BOTH OF 'EM--and choosing your
own assistant yourself--a plain young fellow with no frills and
fancies, but one that you could set about making all the changes you
like, was just the biggest thing you ever did for Pine Clearing."
"And--they--consider him quite--competent?" said Mrs. Martin, with
timid color and hesitating audacity.
"Competent! You ask my Johnny."
Nevertheless, Mrs. Martin was somewhat formally early at the
schoolhouse the next morning. "Perhaps," she said, with an odd
mixture of dignity and timidity, "we'd better, before school
commences, go over the lessons for the day."
"I HAVE," he said quickly. "I told you ONE rehearsal was enough
"You mean you have looked over them?"
"Got 'em by heart. Letter perfect. Want to hear me? Listen."
She did. He had actually committed to memory, and without a lapse,
the entire text of rules, questions, answers, and examples of the
lessons for the day.
Before a month had passed, Mr. Twing's success was secure and
established. So were a few of the changes he had quietly
instituted. The devotional singing and Scripture reading which
had excited the discontent of the Pike County children and their
parents was not discontinued, but half an hour before recess was
given up to some secular choruses, patriotic or topical, in which
the little ones under Twing's really wonderful practical tuition
exhibited such quick and pleasing proficiency, that a certain negro
minstrel camp-meeting song attained sufficient popularity to be
lifted by general accord to promotion to the devotional exercises,
where it eventually ousted the objectionable "Hebrew children" on
the question of melody alone. Grammar was still taught at Pine
Clearing School in spite of the Hardees and Mackinnons, but Twing
had managed to import into the cognate exercises of recitation a
wonderful degree of enthusiasm and excellence. Dialectical Pike
County, that had refused to recognize the governing powers of the
nominative case, nevertheless came out strong in classical
elocution, and Tom Hardee, who had delivered his ungrammatical
protest on behalf of Pike County, was no less strong, if more
elegant, in his impeachment of Warren Hastings as Edmund Burke,
with the equal sanction of his parents. The trustees, Sperry and
Jackson, had marveled, but were glad enough to accept the popular
verdict--only Mr. Peaseley still retained an attitude of martyr-
like forbearance and fatigued toleration towards the new assistant
and his changes. As to Mrs. Martin, she seemed to accept the work
of Mr. Twing after his own definition of it--as of a masculine
quality ill-suited to a lady's tastes and inclinations; but it was
noticeable that while she had at first repelled any criticism of
him whatever, she had lately been given to explaining his position
to her friends, and had spoken of him with somewhat labored and
ostentatious patronage. Yet when they were alone together she
frankly found him very amusing, and his presumption and vulgarity
so clearly unintentional that it no longer offended her. They were
good friends without having any confidences beyond the duties of
the school; she had asked no further explanation of the fact that
he had been selected by Mr. Barstow without reference to any
special antecedent training. What his actual antecedents were she
had never cared to know, nor he apparently to reveal; that he had
been engaged in some other occupations of superior or inferior
quality would not have been remarkable in a community where the
principal lawyer had been a soldier, and the miller a doctor. The
fact that he admired her was plain enough to HER; that it pleased
her, but carried with it no ulterior thought or responsibility,
might have been equally clear to others. Perhaps it was so to HIM.
Howbeit, this easy mutual intercourse was one day interrupted by
what seemed a trifling incident. The piano, which Mr. Barstow had
promised, duly made its appearance in the schoolhouse, to the
delight of the scholars and the gentle satisfaction of Mrs. Martin,
who, in addition to the rudimentary musical instruction of the
younger girls, occasionally played upon it herself in a prim,
refined, and conscientious fashion. To this, when she was alone
after school hours, she sometimes added a faint, colorless voice of
limited range and gentlewomanly expression. It was on one of these
occasions that Twing, becoming an accidental auditor of this
chaste, sad piping, was not only permitted to remain to hear the
end of a love song of strictly guarded passion in the subjunctive
mood, but at the close was invited to try his hand--a quick, if not
a cultivated one--at the instrument. He did so. Like her, he
added his voice. Like hers, it was a love song. But there the
similitude ended. Negro in dialect, illiterate in construction,
idiotic in passion, and presumably addressed to the "Rose of
Alabama," in the very extravagance of its childish infatuation it
might have been a mockery of the schoolmistress's song but for one
tremendous fact! In unrestrained feeling, pathetic yearning, and
exquisite tenderness of expression, it was unmistakably and
appallingly personal and sincere. It was true the lips spoken of
were "lubly," the eyes alluded to were like "lightenin' bugs," but
from the voice and gestures of the singer Mrs. Martin confusedly
felt that they were intended for HERS, and even the refrain that
"she dressed so neat and looked so sweet" was glaringly allusive to
her own modish mourning. Alternately flushing and paling, with a
hysteric smile hovering round her small reserved mouth, the
unfortunate gentlewoman was fain to turn to the window to keep her
countenance until it was concluded. She did not ask him to repeat
it, nor did she again subject herself to this palpable serenade,
but a few days afterwards, as she was idly striking the keys in the
interval of a music lesson, one of her little pupils broke out,
"Why, Mrs. Martin, if yo ain't a pickin' out that pow'ful pretty
tune that Mr. Twing sings!"
Nevertheless, when Twing, a week or two later, suggested that he
might sing the same song as a solo at a certain performance to be
given by the school children in aid of a local charity, she
drily intimated that it was hardly of a character to suit the
entertainment. "But," she added, more gently, "you recite so well;
why not give a recitation?"
He looked at her with questioning and troubled eyes,--the one
expression he seemed to have lately acquired. "But that would be
IN PUBLIC! There'll be a lot of people there," he said doubtfully.
A little amused at this first apparent sign of a want of confidence
in himself, she said, with a reassuring smile, "So much the
better,--you do it really too well to have it thrown away entirely
"Do YOU wish it?" he said suddenly.
Somewhat confused, but more irritated by his abruptness, she
replied, "Why not?" But when the day came, and before a crowded
audience, in which there was a fair sprinkling of strangers, she
regretted her rash suggestion. For when the pupils had gone
through certain calisthenic exercises--admirably taught and
arranged by him--and "spoken their pieces," he arose, and, fixing
his eyes on her, began Othello's defense before the Duke and
Council. Here, as on the previous occasion, she felt herself
personally alluded to in his account of his wooing. Desdemona,
for some occult reason, vicariously appeared for her in the
unwarrantable picture of his passion, and to this was added the
absurd consciousness which she could not put aside that the
audience, following with enthusiasm his really strong declamation,
was also following his suggestion and adopting it. Yet she was
also conscious, and, as she thought, as inconsistently, of being
pleased and even proud of his success. At the conclusion the
applause was general, and a voice added with husky admiration and
"Brayvo, Johnny Walker!"
Twing's face became suddenly white as a Pierrot mask. There was a
dead silence, in which the voice continued, "Give us 'Sugar in the
A few hisses, and cries of "Hush!" "Put him out!" followed. Mrs.
Martin raised her eyes quickly to where her assistant had stood
bowing his thanks a moment before. He was gone!
More concerned than she cared to confess, vaguely fearful that she
was in some way connected with his abrupt withdrawal, and perhaps a
little remorseful that she had allowed her personal feelings to
interfere with her frank recognition of his triumph, she turned
back to the schoolroom, after the little performers and their
audience had departed, in the hope that he might return. It was
getting late, the nearly level rays of the sun were lying on the
empty benches at the lower end of the room, but the desk where she
sat with its lid raised was in deep shadow. Suddenly she heard his
voice in a rear hall, but it was accompanied by another's,--the
same voice which had interrupted the applause. Before she could
either withdraw, or make herself known, the two men had entered the
room, and were passing slowly through it. She understood at once
that Twing had slipped out into a janitor's room in the rear, where
he had evidently forced an interview and explanation from his
interrupter, and now had been waiting for the audience to disperse
before emerging by the front door. They had evidently overlooked
her in the shadow.
"But," said the stranger, as if following an aggrieved line of
apology, "if Barstow knew who you were, and what you'd done, and
still thought you good enough to rastle round here and square up
them Pike County fellers and them kids--what in thunder do you care
if the others DO find you out, as long as Barstow sticks to you?"
"I've told you why, Dick," returned Twing gloomily.
"Oh, the schoolma'am!"
"Yes, she's a saint, an angel. More than that--she's a lady, Dick,
to the tip of her fingers, who knows nothing of the world outside a
parson's study. She took me on trust--without a word--when the
trustees hung back and stared. She's never asked me about myself,
and now when she knows who and what I have been--she'll loathe me!"
"But look here, Jim," said the stranger anxiously. "I'll say it's
all a lie. I'll come here and apologize to you afore HER, and say
I took you for somebody else. I'll"--
"It's too late," said Twing moodily.
"And what'll you do?"
They had reached the door together. To Mrs. Martin's terror, as
the stranger passed out, Twing, instead of following him as she
expected, said "Good-night," and gloomily re-entered the schoolroom.
Here he paused a moment, and then throwing himself on one of the
benches, dropped his head upon a desk with his face buried in his
hands--like a very schoolboy.
What passed through Mrs. Martin's mind I know not. For a moment
she sat erect and rigid at her desk. Then she slipped quietly
down, and, softly as one of the last shadows cast by the dying sun,
glided across the floor to where he sat.
"Mrs. Martin," he said, starting to his feet.
"I have heard all," she said faintly. "I couldn't help it. I was
here when you came in. But I want to tell you that I am content to
know you only as you seem to be,--as I have always found you here,--
strong and loyal to a duty laid upon you by those who had a full
knowledge of all you had been."
"Did you? Do you know what I have been?"
Mrs. Martin looked frightened, trembled a moment, and, recovering
herself with an effort, said gently, "I know nothing of your past."
"Nothing?" he repeated, with a mirthless attempt at laughter, and a
quick breath. "Not that I've been a--a--mountebank, a variety
actor--a clown, you know, for the amusement of the lowest, at
twenty-five cents a ticket. That I'm 'Johnny Walker,' the song and
dance man--the all-round man--selected by Mr. Barstow to teach
these boors a lesson as to what they wanted!"
She looked at him a moment--timidly, yet thoughtfully. "Then you
are an actor--a person who simulates what he does not feel?"
"And all the time you have been here you have been acting the
schoolmaster--playing a part--for--for Mr. Barstow?"
The color came softly to her face again, and her voice was very
low. "And when you sang to me that day, and when you looked at me--
as you did--an hour or two ago--while you were entertaining--you
Mr. Twing's answer was not known, but it must have been a full and
complete one, for it was quite dark when he left the schoolroom--
NOT for the last time--with its mistress on his arm.
IN A PIONEER RESTAURANT.
There was probably no earthly reason why the "Poco Mas o Menos"
Club of San Francisco should have ever existed, or why its five
harmless, indistinctive members should not have met and dined
together as ordinary individuals. Still less was there any
justification for the gratuitous opinion which obtained, that it
was bold, bad, and brilliant. Looking back upon it over a quarter
of a century and half a globe, I confess I cannot recall a single
witticism, audacity, or humorous characteristic that belonged to
it. Yet there was no doubt that we were thought to be extremely
critical and satirical, and I am inclined to think we honestly
believed it. To take our seats on Wednesdays and Saturdays at a
specially reserved table at the restaurant we patronized, to be
conscious of being observed by the other guests, and of our waiter
confidentially imparting our fame to strangers behind the shaken-
out folds of a napkin, and of knowing that the faintest indication
of merriment from our table thrilled the other guests with
anticipatory smiles, was, I am firmly convinced, all that we ever
did to justify our reputations. Nor, strictly speaking, were we
remarkable as individuals; an assistant editor, a lawyer, a young
army quartermaster, a bank clerk and a mining secretary--we could
not separately challenge any special social or literary distinction.
Yet I am satisfied that the very name of our Club--a common Spanish
colloquialism, literally meaning "a little more or less," and
adopted in Californian slang to express an unknown quantity--was
supposed to be replete with deep and convulsing humor.
My impression is that our extravagant reputation, and, indeed, our
continued existence as a Club, was due solely to the proprietor of
the restaurant and two of his waiters, and that we were actually
"run" by them. When the suggestion of our meeting regularly there
was first broached to the proprietor--a German of slow but deep
emotions--he received it with a "So" of such impressive satisfaction
that it might have been the beginning of our vainglory. From that
moment he became at once our patron and our devoted slave. To
linger near our table once or twice during dinner with an air
of respectful vacuity,--as of one who knew himself too well to
be guilty of the presumption of attempting to understand our
brilliancy,--to wear a certain parental pride and unconsciousness in
our fame, and yet to never go further in seeming to comprehend it
than to obligingly translate the name of the Club as "a leedle more
and nod quide so much"--was to him sufficient happiness. That he
ever experienced any business profit from the custom of the Club, or
its advertisement, may be greatly doubted; on the contrary, that a
few plain customers, nettled at our self-satisfaction, might have
resented his favoritism seemed more probable. Equally vague,
disinterested, and loyal was the attachment of the two waiters,--one
an Italian, faintly reminiscent of better days and possibly superior
extraction; the other a rough but kindly Western man, who might have
taken this menial position from temporary stress of circumstances,
yet who continued in it from sheer dominance of habit and some
feebleness of will. They both vied with each other to please us.
It may have been they considered their attendance upon a reputed
intellectual company less degrading than ministering to the purely
animal and silent wants of the average customers. It may have been
that they were attracted by our general youthfulness. Indeed, I am
inclined to think that they themselves were much more distinctive
and interesting than any members of the Club, and it is to introduce
THEM that I venture to recall so much of its history.
A few months after our advent at the restaurant, one evening, Joe
Tallant, the mining secretary, one of our liveliest members, was
observed to be awkward and distrait during dinner, forgetting even
to offer the usual gratuity to the Italian waiter who handed him
his hat, although he stared at him with an imbecile smile. As we
chanced to leave the restaurant together, I was rallying him upon
his abstraction, when to my surprise he said gravely: "Look here,
one of two things has got to happen: either we must change our
restaurant or I'm going to resign."
"Well, to make matters clear, I'm obliged to tell you something
that in our business we usually keep a secret. About three weeks
ago I had a notice to transfer twenty feet of Gold Hill to a fellow
named 'Tournelli.' Well, Tournelli happened to call for it
himself, and who the devil do you suppose Tournelli was? Why our
Italian waiter. I was regularly startled, and so was he. But
business is business; so I passed him over the stock and said
nothing--nor did he--neither there nor here. Day before yesterday
he had thirty feet more transferred to him, and sold out."
"Well?" I said impatiently.
"Well," repeated Tallant indignantly. "Gold Hill's worth six
hundred dollars a foot. That's eighteen thousand dollars cash.
And a man who's good enough for that much money is too good to wait
upon me. Fancy a man who could pay my whole year's salary with
five feet of stock slinging hash to ME. Fancy YOU tipping him with
"But if HE don't mind it--and prefers to continue a waiter--why
should YOU care? And WE'RE not supposed to know."
"That's just it," groaned Tallant. "That's just where the sell
comes in. Think how he must chuckle over us! No, sir! There's
nothing aristocratic about me; but, by thunder, if I can't eat my
dinner, and feel I am as good as the man who waits on me, I'll
resign from the Club."
After endeavoring to point out to him the folly of such a
proceeding, I finally suggested that we should take the other
members of our Club into our confidence, and abide by their
decision; to which he agreed. But, to his chagrin, the others, far
from participating in his delicacy, seemed to enjoy Tournelli's
unexpected wealth with a vicarious satisfaction and increase of
dignity as if we were personally responsible for it. Although it
had been unanimously agreed that we should make no allusions,
jocose or serious, to him, nor betray any knowledge of it before
him, I am afraid our attitude at the next dinner was singularly
artificial. A nervous expectancy when he approached us, and a
certain restraint during his presence, a disposition to check any
discussion of shares or "strikes" in mining lest he should think it
personal, an avoidance of unnecessary or trifling "orders," and a
singular patience in awaiting their execution when given; a vague
hovering between sympathetic respect and the other extreme of
indifferent bluntness in our requests, tended, I think, to make
that meal far from exhilarating. Indeed, the unusual depression
affected the unfortunate cause of it, who added to our confusion by
increased solicitude of service and--as if fearful of some fault,
or having incurred our disfavor--by a deprecatory and exaggerated
humility that in our sensitive state seemed like the keenest irony.
At last, evidently interpreting our constraint before him into a
desire to be alone, he retired to the door of a distant pantry,
whence he surveyed us with dark and sorrowful Southern eyes.
Tallant, who in this general embarrassment had been imperfectly
served, and had eaten nothing, here felt his grievance reach its
climax, and in a sudden outbreak of recklessness he roared out,
"Hi, waiter--you, Tournelli. He may," he added, turning darkly to
us, "buy up enough stock to control the board and dismiss ME; but,
by thunder, if it costs me my place, I'm going to have some more
It was probably this sensitiveness that kept us from questioning
him, even indirectly, and perhaps led us into the wildest surmises.
He was acting secretly for a brotherhood or society of waiters; he
was a silent partner of his German employer; he was a disguised
Italian stockbroker, gaining "points" from the unguarded
conversation of "operating" customers; he was a political refugee
with capital; he was a fugitive Sicilian bandit, investing his ill-
gotten gains in California; he was a dissipated young nobleman,
following some amorous intrigue across the ocean, and acting as his
own Figaro or Leporello. I think a majority of us favored the
latter hypothesis, possibly because we were young, and his
appearance gave it color. His thin black mustaches and dark eyes,
we felt, were Tuscan and aristocratic; at least, they were like the
baritone who played those parts, and HE ought to know. Yet nothing
could be more exemplary and fastidious than his conduct towards the
few lady frequenters of the "Poodle Dog" restaurant, who, I regret
to say, were not puritanically reserved or conventual in manner.
But an unexpected circumstance presently changed and divided our
interest. It was alleged by Clay, the assistant editor, that
entering the restaurant one evening he saw the back and tails of a
coat that seemed familiar to him half-filling a doorway leading to
the restaurant kitchen. It was unmistakably the figure of one of
our Club members,--the young lawyer,--Jack Manners. But what was
he doing there? While the Editor was still gazing after him, he
suddenly disappeared, as if some one had warned him that he was
observed. As he did not reappear, when Tournelli entered from the
kitchen a few moments later, the Editor called him and asked for
his fellow-member. To his surprise the Italian answered, with
every appearance of truthfulness, that he had not seen Mr. Manners
at all! The Editor was staggered; but as he chanced, some hours
later, to meet Manners, he playfully rallied him on his mysterious
conference with the Italian. Manners replied briefly that he had
had no interview whatever with Tournelli, and changed the subject
quickly. The mystery--as we persisted in believing it--was
heightened when another member deposed that he had seen "Tom," the
Western waiter, coming from Manners's office. As Manners had
volunteered no information of this, we felt that we could not
without indelicacy ask him if Tom was a client, or a messenger from
Tournelli. The only result was that our Club dinner was even more
constrained than before. Not only was "Tom" now invested with a
dark importance, but it was evident that the harmony of the Club
was destroyed by these singular secret relations of two of its
members with their employes.
It chanced that one morning, arriving from a delayed journey, I
dropped into the restaurant. It was that slack hour between the
lingering breakfast and coming luncheon when the tables are partly
stripped and unknown doors, opened for ventilation, reveal the
distant kitchen, and a mingled flavor of cold coffee-grounds and
lukewarm soups hangs heavy on the air. To this cheerlessness was
added a gusty rain without, that filmed the panes of the windows
and doors, and veiled from the passer-by the usual tempting display
of snowy cloths and china.
As I seemed to be the only customer at that hour, I selected a
table by the window for distraction. Tom had taken my order; the
other waiters, including Tournelli, were absent, with the exception
of a solitary German, who, in the interlude of perfunctory trifling
with the casters, gazed at me with that abstracted irresponsibility
which one waiter assumes towards another's customer. Even the
proprietor had deserted his desk at the counter. It seemed to
be a favorable opportunity to get some information from Tom.
But he anticipated me. When he had dealt a certain number of
dishes around me, as if they were cards and he was telling my
fortune, he leaned over the table and said, with interrogating
"I reckon you call that Mr. Manners of yours a good lawyer?"
We were very loyal to each other in the Club, and I replied with
youthful enthusiasm that he was considered one of the most
promising at the bar. And, remembering Tournelli, I added
confidently that whoever engaged him to look after their property
interests had secured a treasure.
"But is he good in criminal cases--before a police court, for
instance?" continued Tom.
I believed--I don't know on what grounds--that Manners was good in
insurance and admiralty law, and that he looked upon criminal
practice as low; but I answered briskly--though a trifle startled--
that as a criminal lawyer he was perfect.
"He could advise a man, who had a row hanging on, how to steer
clear of being up for murder--eh?"
I trusted, with a desperate attempt at jocosity, that neither he
nor Tournelli had been doing anything to require Manners's services
in that way.
"It would be too late, THEN," said Tom, coolly, "and ANYBODY could
tell a man what he ought to have done, or how to make the best of
what he had done; but the smart thing in a lawyer would be to give
a chap points BEFOREHAND, and sorter tell him how far he could go,
and yet keep inside the law. How he might goad a fellow to draw on
him, and then plug him--eh?"
I looked up quickly. There was nothing in his ordinary, good-
humored, but not very strong face to suggest that he himself was
the subject of this hypothetical case. If he were speaking for
Tournelli, the Italian certainly was not to be congratulated on his
ambassador's prudence; and, above all, Manners was to be warned of
the interpretation which might be put upon his counsels, and
disseminated thus publicly. As I was thinking what to say, he
moved away, but suddenly returned again.
"What made you think Tournelli had been up to anything?" he asked
"Nothing," I answered; "I only thought you and he, being friends"--
"You mean we're both waiters in the same restaurant. Well, I don't
know him any better than I know that chap over there," pointing to
the other waiter. "He's a Greaser or an Italian, and, I reckon,
goes with his kind."
Why had we not thought of this before? Nothing would be more
natural than that the rich and imperious Tournelli should be
exclusive, and have no confidences with his enforced associates.
And it was evident that Tom had noticed it and was jealous.
"I suppose he's rather a swell, isn't he?" I suggested tentatively.
A faint smile passed over Tom's face. It was partly cynical and
partly suggestive of that amused toleration of our youthful
credulity which seemed to be a part of that discomposing patronage
that everybody extended to the Club. As he said nothing, I
"Because a man's a waiter, it doesn't follow that he's always been
one, or always will be."
"No," said Tom, abstractedly; "but it's about as good as anything
else to lie low and wait on." But here two customers entered, and
he turned to them, leaving me in doubt whether to accept this as a
verbal pleasantry or an admission. Only one thing seemed plain:
I had certainly gained no information, and only added a darker
mystery to his conference with Manners, which I determined I should
ask Manners to explain.
I finished my meal in solitude. The rain was still beating
drearily against the windows with an occasional accession of
impulse that seemed like human impatience. Vague figures under
dripping umbrellas, that hid their faces as if in premeditated
disguise, hurried from the main thoroughfare. A woman in a hooded
waterproof like a domino, a Mexican in a black serape, might have
been stage conspirators hastening to a rendezvous. The cavernous
chill and odor which I had before noted as coming from some
sarcophagus of larder or oven, where "funeral baked meats" might
have been kept in stock, began to oppress me. The hollow and
fictitious domesticity of this common board had never before seemed
so hopelessly displayed. And Tom, the waiter, his napkin twisted
in his hand and his face turned with a sudden dark abstraction
towards the window, appeared to be really "lying low," and waiting
for something outside his avocation.
The fact that Tom did not happen to be on duty at the next Club
dinner gave me an opportunity to repeat his mysterious remark to
Manners, and to jokingly warn that rising young lawyer against the
indiscretion of vague counsel. Manners, however, only shrugged his
shoulders. "I don't know what he meant," he said carelessly; "but
since he chooses to talk of his own affairs publicly, I don't mind
saying that they are neither very weighty nor very dangerous. It's
only the old story: the usual matrimonial infidelities that are
mixed up with the Californian emigration. He leaves the regular
wife behind,--fairly or unfairly, I can't say. She gets tired
waiting, after the usual style, and elopes with somebody else. The
Western Penelope isn't built for waiting. But she seems to have
converted some of his property into cash when she skipped from St.
Louis, and that's where his chief concern comes in. That's what he
wanted to see me for; that's why he inveigled me into that infernal
pantry of his one day to show me a plan of his property, as if that
was any good."
He paused disgustedly. We all felt, I think, that Tom was some
kind of an impostor, claiming the sympathies of the Club on false
pretenses. Nevertheless, the Quartermaster said, "Then you didn't
do anything for him--give him any advice, eh?"
"No; for the property's as much hers as his, and he hasn't got a
divorce; and, as it's doubtful whether he didn't desert her first,
he can't get one. He was surprised," he added, with a grim smile,
"when I told him that he was obliged to support her, and was even
liable for her debts. But people who are always talking of
invoking the law know nothing about it." We were surprised too,
although Manners was always convincing us, in some cheerful but
discomposing way, that we were all daily and hourly, in our
simplest acts, making ourself responsible for all sorts of
liabilities and actions, and even generally preparing ourselves for
arrest and imprisonment. The Quartermaster continued lazily:--
"Then you didn't give him any points about shooting?"
"No; he doesn't even know the man she went off with. It was
eighteen months ago, and I don't believe he'd even know her again
if he met her. But, if he isn't much of a client, we shall miss
him to-night as a waiter, for the place is getting full, and there
are not enough to serve."
The restaurant was, indeed, unusually crowded that evening; the
more so that, the private rooms above being early occupied, some
dinner parties and exclusive couples had been obliged to content
themselves with the public dining saloon. A small table nearest
us, usually left vacant to insure a certain seclusion to the Club,
was arranged, with a deprecatory apology from the proprietor, for
one of those couples, a man and woman. The man was a well-known
speculator,--cool, yet reckless and pleasure-loving; the woman,
good-looking, picturesquely attractive, self-conscious, and self-
possessed. Our propinquity was evidently neither novel nor
discomposing. As she settled her skirts in her place, her bright,
dark eyes swept our table with a frank, almost childish,
familiarity. The younger members of the Club quite unconsciously
pulled up their collars and settled their neckties; the elders as
unconsciously raised their voices slightly, and somewhat arranged
their sentences. Alas! the simplicity and unaffectedness of the
Club were again invaded.
Suddenly there was a crash, the breaking of glass, and an
exclamation. Tournelli, no doubt disorganized by the unusual
hurry, on his way to our table had dropped his tray, impartially
distributed a plate of asparagus over an adjoining table, and,
flushed and nervous, yet with an affectation of studied calmness,
was pouring the sauce into the young Quartermaster's plate, in
spite of his languid protests. At any other time we would have
laughed, but there was something in the exaggerated agitation of
the Italian that checked our mirth. Why should he be so upset by a
trifling accident? He could afford to pay for the breakage; he
would laugh at dismissal. Was it the sensitiveness of a refined
nature, or--he was young and good-looking--was he disconcerted by
the fact that our handsome neighbor had witnessed his awkwardness?
But she was not laughing, and, as far as I could see, was intently
regarding the bill of fare.
"Waiter!" called her companion, hailing Tournelli. "Here!" The
Italian, with a face now distinctly white, leaned over the table,
adjusting the glasses, but did not reply.
"Waiter!" repeated the stranger, sharply. Tournelli's face
twitched, then became set as a mask; but he did not move. The
stranger leaned forward and pulled his apron from behind.
Tournelli started with flashing eyes, and turned swiftly round.
But the Quartermaster's hand had closed on his wrist.
"That's my knife, Tournelli."
The knife dropped from the Italian's fingers.
"Better see WHAT he wants. It may not be THAT," said the young
officer, coolly but kindly.
Tournelli turned impatiently towards the stranger. We alone had
witnessed this incident, and were watching him breathlessly. Yet
what bade fair a moment ago to be a tragedy, seemed now to halt
grotesquely. For Tournelli, throwing open his linen jacket with a
melodramatic gesture, tapped his breast, and with flashing eyes and
suppressed accents said, "Sare; you wantah me? Look--I am herre!"
The speculator leaned back in his chair in good-humored astonishment.
The lady's black eyes, without looking at Tournelli, glanced
backward round the room, and slipped along our table, with
half-defiant unconcern; and then she uttered a short hysterical
"Ah! ze lady--madame--ze signora--eh--she wantah me?" continued
Tournelli, leaning on the table with compressed fingers, and
glaring at her. "Perhaps SHE wantah Tournelli--eh?"
"Well, you might bring some with the soup," blandly replied her
escort, who seemed to enjoy the Italian's excitement as a national
eccentricity; "but hurry up and set the table, will you?"
Then followed, on the authority of the Editor, who understood
Italian, a singular scene. Secure, apparently, in his belief that
his language was generally uncomprehended, Tournelli brought a
decanter, and, setting it on the table, said, "Traitress!" in an
intense whisper. This was followed by the cruets, which he put
down with the exclamation, "Perjured fiend!" Two glasses, placed
on either side of her, carried the word "Apostate!" to her ear; and
three knives and forks, rattling more than was necessary, and laid
crosswise before her plate, were accompanied with "Tremble,
wanton!" Then, as he pulled the tablecloth straight, and
ostentatiously concealed a wine-stain with a clean napkin, scarcely
whiter than his lips, he articulated under his breath: "Let him
beware! he goes not hence alive! I will slice his craven heart--
thus--and thou shalt see it." He turned quickly to a side table
and brought back a spoon. "And THIS is why I have not found you;"
another spoon, "For THIS you have disappeared;" a purely
perfunctory polishing of her fork, "For HIM, bah!" an equally
unnecessary wiping of her glass, "Blood of God!"--more wiping--"It
will end! Yes"--general wiping and a final flourish over the whole
table with a napkin--"I go, but at the door I shall await you both."
She had not spoken yet, nor even lifted her eyes. When she did so,
however, she raised them level with his, showed all her white
teeth--they were small and cruel-looking--and said smilingly in his
Tournelli halted, rigid.
"You're talking his lingo, eh?" said her escort good-humoredly.
"Well--tell him to bustle around and be a little livelier with the
dinner, won't you? This is only skirmishing."
"You hear," she continued to Tournelli in a perfectly even voice;
"or shall it be a policeman, and a charge of stealing?"
"Stealing!" gasped Tournelli. "YOU say stealing!"
"Yes--ten thousand dollars. You are well disguised here, my little
fellow; it is a good business--yours. Keep it while you can."
I think he would have sprung upon her there and then, but that the
Quartermaster, who was nearest him, and had been intently watching
his face, made a scarcely perceptible movement as if ready to
anticipate him. He caught the officer's eye; caught, I think, in
ours the revelation that he had been understood, drew back with a
sidelong, sinuous movement, and disappeared in the passage to the
I believe we all breathed more freely, although the situation was
still full enough of impending possibilities to prevent peaceful
enjoyment of our dinner. As the Editor finished his hurried
translation, it was suggested that we ought to warn the unsuspecting
escort of Tournelli's threats. But it was pointed out that this
would be betraying the woman, and that Jo Hays (her companion) was
fully able to take care of himself. "Besides," said the Editor,
aggrievedly, "you fellows only think of YOURSELVES, and you don't
understand the first principles of journalism. Do you suppose I'm
going to do anything to spoil a half-column of leaded brevier
copy--from an eye-witness, too? No; it's a square enough fight as
it stands. We must look out for the woman, and not let Tournelli
get an unfair drop on Hays. That is, if the whole thing isn't a
But the Italian did not return. Whether he had incontinently fled,
or was nursing his wrath in the kitchen, or already fulfilling his
threat of waiting on the pavement outside the restaurant, we could
not guess. Another waiter appeared with the dinners they had
ordered. A momentary thrill of excitement passed over us at the
possibility that Tournelli had poisoned their soup; but it
presently lapsed, as we saw the couple partaking of it comfortably,
and chatting with apparent unconcern. Was the scene we had just
witnessed only a piece of Southern exaggeration? Was the woman a
creature devoid of nerves or feeling of any kind; or was she simply
a consummate actress? Yet she was clearly not acting, for in the
intervals of conversation, and even while talking, her dark eyes
wandered carelessly around the room, with the easy self-confidence
of a pretty woman. We were beginning to talk of something else,
when the Editor said suddenly, in a suppressed voice:
"Hullo! What's the matter now?"
The woman had risen, and was hurriedly throwing her cloak over her
shoulders. But it was HER face that was now ashen and agitated,
and we could see that her hands were trembling. Her escort was
assisting her, but was evidently as astonished as ourselves.
"Perhaps," he suggested hopefully, "if you wait a minute it will
"No, no," she gasped, still hurriedly wrestling with her cloak.
"Don't you see I'm suffocating here--I want air. You can follow!"
She began to move off, her face turned fixedly in the direction of
the door. We instinctively looked there--perhaps for Tournelli.
There was no one. Nevertheless, the Editor and Quartermaster had
half-risen from their seats.
"Helloo!" said Manners suddenly. "There's Tom just come in. Call
Tom, evidently recalled from his brief furlough by the proprietor
on account of the press of custom, had just made his appearance
from the kitchen.
"Tom, where's Tournelli?" asked the Lawyer hurriedly, but following
the retreating woman with his eyes.
"Skipped, they say. Somebody insulted him," said Tom curtly.
"You didn't see him hanging round outside, eh? Swearing vengeance?"
asked the Editor.
"No," said Tom scornfully.
The woman had reached the door, and darted out of it as her escort
paused a moment at the counter to throw down a coin. Yet in that
moment she had hurried before him through the passage into the
street. I turned breathlessly to the window. For an instant her
face, white as a phantom's, appeared pressed rigidly against the
heavy plate-glass, her eyes staring with a horrible fascination
back into the room--I even imagined at us. Perhaps, as it was
evident that Tournelli was not with her, she fancied he was still
here; perhaps she had mistaken Tom for him! However, her escort
quickly rejoined her; their shadows passed the window together--
they were gone.
Then a pistol-shot broke the quiet of the street.
The Editor and Quartermaster rose and ran to the door. Manners
rose also, but lingered long enough to whisper to me, "Don't lose
sight of Tom," and followed them. But to my momentary surprise no
one else moved. I had forgotten, in the previous excitement, that
in those days a pistol-shot was not unusual enough to attract
attention. A few raised their heads at the sound of running feet
on the pavement, and the flitting of black shadows past the
windows. Tom had not stirred, but, napkin in hand, and eyes fixed
on vacancy, was standing, as I had seen him once before, in an
attitude of listless expectation.
In a few minutes Manners returned. I thought he glanced oddly at
Tom, who was still lingering in attendance, and I even fancied he
talked to us ostentatiously for his benefit. "Yes, it was a row of
Tournelli's. He was waiting at the corner; had rushed at Hays with
a knife, but had been met with a derringer-shot through his hat.
The lady, who, it seems, was only a chance steamer acquaintance of
Hays', thought the attack must have been meant for HER, as she had
recognized in the Italian a man who had stolen from her divorced
husband in the States, two years ago, and was a fugitive from
justice. At least that was the explanation given by Hays, for the
woman had fainted and been driven off to her hotel by the
Quartermaster, and Tournelli had escaped. But the Editor was on
his track. "You didn't notice that lady, Tom, did you?"
Tom came out of an abstracted study, and said: "No, she had her
back to me all the time."
Manners regarded him steadily for a moment without speaking, but in
a way that I could not help thinking was much more embarrassing to
the bystanders than to him. When we rose to leave, as he placed
his usual gratuity into Tom's hand, he said carelessly, "You might
drop into my office to-morrow if you have anything to tell ME."
"I haven't," said Tom quietly.
"Then I may have something to tell YOU."
Tom nodded, and turned away to his duties. The Mining Secretary
and myself could scarcely wait to reach the street before we turned
eagerly on Manners.
"Well; the woman you saw was Tom's runaway wife, and Tournelli the
man she ran away with."
"And Tom knew it?"
"And you mean to say that all this while Tom never suspected HIM,
and even did not recognize HER just now?"
Manners lifted his hat and passed his fingers through his hair
meditatively. "Ask me something easier, gentlemen."
A TREASURE OF THE GALLEON.
Her father's house was nearly a mile from the sea, but the breath
of it was always strong at the windows and doors in the early
morning, and when there were heavy "southwesters" blowing in the
winter, the wind brought the sharp sting of sand to her cheek, and
the rain an odd taste of salt to her lips. On this particular
December afternoon, however, as she stood in the doorway, it seemed
to be singularly calm; the southwest trades blew but faintly, and
scarcely broke the crests of the long Pacific swell that lazily
rose and fell on the beach, which only a slanting copse of scrub-
oak and willow hid from the cottage. Nevertheless, she knew this
league-long strip of shining sand much better, it is to be feared,
than the scanty flower-garden, arid and stunted by its contiguity.
It had been her playground when she first came there, a motherless
girl of twelve, and she had helped her father gather its scattered
driftwood--as the fortunes of the Millers were not above accepting
these occasional offerings of their lordly neighbor.
"I wouldn't go far to-day, Jenny," said her father, as the girl
stepped from the threshold. "I don't trust the weather at this
season; and besides you had better be looking over your wardrobe
for the Christmas Eve party at Sol. Catlin's."
"Why, father, you don't intend to go to that man's?" said the girl,
looking up with a troubled face.
"Lawyer Miller," as he was called by his few neighbors, looked
slightly embarrassed. "Why not?" he asked in a faintly irritated
"Why not? Why, father, you know how vulgar and conceited he is,--
how everybody here truckles to him!"
"Very likely; he's a very superior man of his kind,--a kind they
understand here, too,--a great trapper, hunter, and pioneer."
"But I don't believe in his trapping, hunting, and pioneering,"
said the girl, petulantly. "I believe it's all as hollow and
boisterous as himself. It's no more real, or what one thinks it
should be, than he is. And he dares to patronize you--you, father,
an educated man and a gentleman!"
"Say rather an unsuccessful lawyer who was fool enough to believe
that buying a ranch could make him a farmer," returned her father,
but half jestingly. "I only wish I was as good at my trade as he
"But you never liked him,--you always used to ignore him; you've
changed, father"-- She stopped suddenly, for her recollection of
her father's quiet superiority and easy independence when he first
came there was in such marked contrast to his late careless and
weak concession to the rude life around them, that she felt a pang
of vague degradation, which she feared her voice might betray.
"Very well! Do as you like," he replied, with affected carelessness;
"only I thought, as we cannot afford to go elsewhere this Christmas,
it might be well for us to take what we could find here."
"Take what we could find here!" It was so unlike him--he who had
always been so strong in preserving their little domestic
refinements in their rude surroundings, that their poverty had
never seemed mean, nor their seclusion ignoble. She turned away to
conceal her indignant color. She could share the household work
with a squaw and Chinaman, she could fetch wood and water. Catlin
had patronizingly seen her doing it, but to dance to his vulgar
She was not long in reaching the sands that now lay before her,
warm, sweet-scented from short beach grass, stretching to a dim
rocky promontory, and absolutely untrod by any foot but her own.
It was this virginity of seclusion that had been charming to her
girlhood; fenced in between the impenetrable hedge of scrub-oaks on
the one side, and the lifting green walls of breakers tipped with
chevaux de frise of white foam on the other, she had known a
perfect security for her sports and fancies that had captivated her
town-bred instincts and native fastidiousness. A few white-winged
sea-birds, as proud, reserved, and maiden-like as herself, had been
her only companions. And it was now the custodian of her secret,--
a secret as innocent and childlike as her previous youthful
fancies,--but still a secret known only to herself.
One day she had come upon the rotting ribs of a wreck on the beach.
Its distance from the tide line, its position, and its deep
imbedding of sand, showed that it was of ancient origin. An
omnivorous reader of all that pertained to the history of
California, Jenny had in fancy often sailed the seas in one of
those mysterious treasure-ships that had skirted the coast in
bygone days, and she at once settled in her mind that her discovery
was none other than a castaway Philippine galleon. Partly from her
reserve, and partly from a suddenly conceived plan, she determined
to keep its existence unknown to her father, as careful inquiry on
her part had found it was equally unknown to the neighbors. For
this shy, imaginative young girl of eighteen had convinced herself
that it might still contain a part of its old treasure. She would
dig for it herself, without telling anybody. If she failed, no one
would know it; if she were successful, she would surprise her
father and perhaps retrieve their fortune by less vulgar means than
their present toil. Thanks to the secluded locality and the fact
that she was known to spend her leisure moments in wandering there,
she could work without suspicion. Secretly conveying a shovel and
a few tools to the spot the next day, she set about her prodigious
task. As the upper works were gone, and the galleon not large, in
three weeks, working an hour or two each day, she had made a deep
excavation in the stern. She had found many curious things,--the
flotsam and jetsam of previous storms,--but as yet, it is perhaps
needless to say, not the treasure.
To-day she was filled with the vague hope of making her discovery
before Christmas Day. To have been able to take her father
something on that day--if only a few old coins--the fruit of her
own unsuspected labor and intuition--not the result of vulgar
barter or menial wage--would have been complete happiness. It was
perhaps a somewhat visionary expectation for an educated girl of
eighteen, but I am writing of a young Californian girl, who had
lived in the fierce glamour of treasure-hunting, and in whose
sensitive individuality some of its subtle poison had been
instilled. Howbeit, to-day she found nothing. She was sadly
hiding her pick and shovel, as was her custom, when she discovered
the fresh track of an alien foot in the sand. Robinson Crusoe was
not more astounded at the savage footprint than Jenny Miller at
this damning proof of the invasion of her sacred territory. The
footprints came from and returned to the copse of shrubs. Some one
might have seen her at work!
But a singular change in the weather, overlooked in her excitement,
here forced itself upon her. A light film over sea and sky, lifted
only by fitful gusts of wind, seemed to have suddenly thickened
until it became an opaque vault, narrowing in circumference as the
wind increased. The promontory behind her disappeared, as if
swallowed up, the distance before her seemed to contract; the ocean
at her side, the color of dull pewter, vanished in a sheet of
slanting rain, and by the time she reached the house, half running,
half carried along by the quartering force of the wind, a full gale
It blew all the evening, reaching a climax and fury at past
midnight that was remembered for many years along that coast. In
the midst of it they heard the booming of cannon, and then the
voices of neighbors in the road. "There was," said the voices, "a
big steamer ashore just afore the house." They dressed quickly and
Hugging the edge of the copse to breathe and evade the fury of the
wind, they struggled to the sands. At first, looking out to sea,
the girl saw nothing but foam. But, following the direction of a
neighbor's arm, for in that wild tumult man alone seemed speechless,
she saw directly before her, so close upon her that she could have
thrown a pebble on board, the high bows of a ship. Indeed, its very
nearness gave her the feeling that it was already saved, and its
occasional heavy roll to leeward, drunken, helpless, ludicrous, but
never awful, brought a hysteric laugh to her lips. But when a livid
blue light, lit in the swinging top, showed a number of black
objects clinging to bulwarks and rigging, and the sea, with languid,
heavy cruelty, pushing rather than beating them away, one by one,
she knew that Death was there.
The neighbors, her father with the others, had been running
hopelessly to and fro, or cowering in groups against the copse,
when suddenly they uttered a cry--their first--of joyful welcome.
And with that shout, the man she most despised and hated, Sol.
Catlin, mounted on a "calico" mustang, as outrageous and bizarre as
himself, dashed among them.
In another moment, what had been fear, bewilderment, and hesitation
was changed to courage, confidence, and action. The men pressed
eagerly around him, and as eagerly dispersed under his quick
command. Galloping at his heels was a team with the whale-boat,
brought from the river, miles away. He was here, there, and
everywhere; catching the line thrown by the rocket from the ship,
marshaling the men to haul it in, answering the hail from those on
board above the tempest, pervading everything and everybody with
the fury of the storm; loud, imperious, domineering, self-asserting,
all-sufficient, and successful! And when the boat was launched, the
last mighty impulse came from his shoulder. He rode at the helm
into the first hanging wall of foam, erect and triumphant! Dazzled,
bewildered, crying and laughing, she hated him more than ever.
The boat made three trips, bringing off, with the aid of the
hawser, all but the sailors she had seen perish before her own
eyes. The passengers,--they were few,--the captain and officers,
found refuge in her father's house, and were loud in their praises
of Sol. Catlin. But in that grateful chorus a single gloomy voice
arose, the voice of a wealthy and troubled passenger. "I will
give," he said, "five thousand dollars to the man who brings me a
box of securities I left in my stateroom." Every eye turned
instinctively to Sol.; he answered only those of Jenny's. "Say ten
thousand, and if the dod-blasted hulk holds together two hours
longer I'll do it, d--n me! You hear me! My name's Sol. Catlin,
and when I say a thing, by G-d, I do it." Jenny's disgust here
reached its climax. The hero of a night of undoubted energy and
courage had blotted it out in a single moment of native vanity and
He was gone; not only two hours, but daylight had come and they
were eagerly seeking him, when he returned among them, dripping
and--empty-handed. He had reached the ship, he said, with another;
found the box, and trusted himself alone with it to the sea. But
in the surf he had to abandon it to save himself. It had perhaps
drifted ashore, and might be found; for himself, he abandoned his
claim to the reward. Had he looked abashed or mortified, Jenny
felt that she might have relented, but the braggart was as all-
satisfied, as confident and boastful as ever. Nevertheless, as his
eye seemed to seek hers, she was constrained, in mere politeness,
to add her own to her father's condolences. "I suppose," she
hesitated, in passing him, "that this is a mere nothing to you
after all that you did last night that was really great and
"Were you never disappointed, Miss?" he said, with exasperating
A quick consciousness of her own thankless labor on the galleon,
and a terrible idea that he might have some suspicion of, and
perhaps the least suggestion that she might have been disappointed
in him, brought a faint color to her cheek. But she replied with
"I really couldn't say. But certainly," she added, with a new-
found pertness, "you don't look it."
"Nor do you, Miss," was his idiotic answer.
A few hours later, alarmed at what she had heard of the inroads of
the sea, which had risen higher than ever known to the oldest
settler, and perhaps mindful of yesterday's footprints, she sought
her old secluded haunt. The wreck was still there, but the sea had
reached it. The excavation between its gaunt ribs was filled with
drift and the seaweed carried there by the surges and entrapped in
its meshes. And there, too, caught as in a net, lay the wooden box
of securities Sol. Catlin had abandoned to the sea.
This is the story as it was told to me. The singularity of
coincidences has challenged some speculation. Jenny insisted at
the time upon sharing the full reward with Catlin, but local
critics have pointed out that from subsequent events this proved
nothing. For she had married him!
OUT OF A PIONEER'S TRUNK.
It was a slightly cynical, but fairly good-humored crowd that had
gathered before a warehouse on Long Wharf in San Francisco one
afternoon in the summer of '51. Although the occasion was an
auction, the bidders' chances more than usually hazardous, and the
season and locality famous for reckless speculation, there was
scarcely any excitement among the bystanders, and a lazy, half-
humorous curiosity seemed to have taken the place of any zeal for
It was an auction of unclaimed trunks and boxes--the personal
luggage of early emigrants--which had been left on storage in hulk
or warehouse at San Francisco, while the owner was seeking his
fortune in the mines. The difficulty and expense of transport,
often obliging the gold-seeker to make part of his journey on foot,
restricted him to the smallest impedimenta, and that of a kind not
often found in the luggage of ordinary civilization. As a
consequence, during the emigration of '49, he was apt on landing to
avail himself of the invitation usually displayed on some of the
doors of the rude hostelries on the shore: "Rest for the Weary and
Storage for Trunks." In a majority of cases he never returned to
claim his stored property. Enforced absence, protracted equally by
good or evil fortune, accumulated the high storage charges until
they usually far exceeded the actual value of the goods; sickness,
further emigration, or death also reduced the number of possible
claimants, and that more wonderful human frailty--absolute
forgetfulness of deposited possessions--combined together to leave
the bulk of the property in the custodian's hands. Under an
understood agreement they were always sold at public auction after
a given time. Although the contents of some of the trunks were
exposed, it was found more in keeping with the public sentiment to
sell the trunks LOCKED and UNOPENED. The element of curiosity was
kept up from time to time by the incautious disclosures of the
lucky or unlucky purchaser, and general bidding thus encouraged--
except when the speculator, with the true gambling instinct, gave
no indication in his face of what was drawn in this lottery.
Generally, however, some suggestion in the exterior of the trunk, a
label or initials; some conjectural knowledge of its former owner,
or the idea that he might be secretly present in the hope of
getting his property back for less than the accumulated dues, kept
up the bidding and interest.
A modest-looking, well-worn portmanteau had been just put up at a
small opening bid, when Harry Flint joined the crowd. The young
man had arrived a week before at San Francisco friendless and
penniless, and had been forced to part with his own effects to
procure necessary food and lodging while looking for an employment.
In the irony of fate that morning the proprietors of a dry-goods
store, struck with his good looks and manners, had offered him a
situation, if he could make himself more presentable to their fair
clients. Harry Flint was gazing half abstractedly, half hopelessly,
at the portmanteau without noticing the auctioneer's persuasive
challenge. In his abstraction he was not aware that the auctioneer's
assistant was also looking at him curiously, and that possibly his
dejected and half-clad appearance had excited the attention of one
of the cynical bystanders, who was exchanging a few words with the
assistant. He was, however, recalled to himself a moment later when
the portmanteau was knocked down at fifteen dollars, and considerably
startled when the assistant placed it at his feet with a grim smile.
"That's your property, Fowler, and I reckon you look as if you
wanted it back bad."
"But--there's some mistake," stammered Flint. "I didn't bid."
"No, but Tom Flynn did for you. You see, I spotted you from the
first, and told Flynn I reckoned you were one of those chaps who
came back from the mines dead broke. And he up and bought your
things for you--like a square man. That's Flynn's style, if he is
"But," persisted Flint, "this never was my property. My name isn't
Fowler, and I never left anything here."
The assistant looked at him with a grim, half-credulous, half-
scornful smile. "Have it your own way," he said, "but I oughter
tell ye, old man, that I'm the warehouse clerk, and I remember YOU.
I'm here for that purpose. But as that thar valise is bought and
paid for by somebody else and given to you, it's nothing more to
me. Take it or leave it."
The ridiculousness of quarreling over the mere form of his good
fortune here struck Flint, and, as his abrupt benefactor had as
abruptly disappeared, he hurried off with his prize. Reaching his
cheap lodging-house, he examined its contents. As he had surmised,
it contained a full suit of clothing of the better sort, and
suitable to his urban needs. There were a few articles of jewelry,
which he put religiously aside. There were some letters, which
seemed to be of a purely business character. There were a few
daguerreotypes of pretty faces, one of which was singularly
fascinating to him. But there was another, of a young man, which
startled him with its marvelous resemblance to HIMSELF! In a flash
of intelligence he understood it all now. It was the likeness of
the former owner of the trunk, for whom the assistant had actually
mistaken him! He glanced hurriedly at the envelopes of the
letters. They were addressed to Shelby Fowler, the name by which
the assistant had just called him. The mystery was plain now. And
for the present he could fairly accept his good luck, and trust to
later fortune to justify himself.
Transformed in his new garb, he left his lodgings to present
himself once more to his possible employer. His way led past one
of the large gambling saloons. It was yet too early to find the
dry-goods trader disengaged; perhaps the consciousness of more
decent, civilized garb emboldened him to mingle more freely with
strangers, and he entered the saloon. He was scarcely abreast of
one of the faro tables when a man suddenly leaped up with an oath
and discharged a revolver full in his face. The shot missed.
Before his unknown assailant could fire again the astonished Flint
had closed with him, and instinctively clutched the weapon. A
brief but violent struggle ensued. Flint felt his strength failing
him, when suddenly a look of astonishment came into the furious
eyes of his adversary, and the man's grasp mechanically relaxed.
The half-freed pistol, thrown upwards by this movement, was
accidentally discharged point blank into his temples, and he fell
dead. No one in the crowd had stirred or interfered.
"You've done for Australian Pete this time, Mr. Fowler," said a
voice at his elbow. He turned gaspingly and recognized his strange
benefactor, Flynn. "I call you all to witness, gentlemen,"
continued the gambler, turning dictatorially to the crowd, "that
this man was FIRST attacked and was UNARMED." He lifted Flint's
limp and empty hands and then pointed to the dead man, who was
still grasping the weapon. "Come!" He caught the half-paralyzed
arm of Flint and dragged him into the street.
"But," stammered the horrified Flint, as he was borne along, "what
does it all mean? What made that man attack me?"
"I reckon it was a case of shooting on sight, Mr. Fowler; but he
missed it by not waiting to see if you were armed. It wasn't the
square thing, and you're all right with the crowd now, whatever he
might have had agin' you."
"But," protested the unhappy Flint, "I never laid eyes on the man
before, and my name isn't Fowler."
Flynn halted, and dragged him in a door way. "Who the devil are
you?" he asked roughly.
Briefly, passionately, almost hysterically, Flint told him his
scant story. An odd expression came over the gambler's face.
"Look here," he said abruptly, "I have passed my word to the crowd
yonder that you are a dead-broke miner called Fowler. I allowed
that you might have had some row with that Sydney duck, Australian
Pete, in the mines. That satisfied them. If I go back now, and
say it's a lie, that your name ain't Fowler, and you never knew who
Pete was, they'll jest pass you over to the police to deal with
you, and wash their hands of it altogether. You may prove to the
police who you are, and how that d--- clerk mistook you, but it
will give you trouble. And who is there here who knows who you
"No one," said Flint, with sudden hopelessness.
"And you say you're an orphan, and ain't got any relations livin'
that you're beholden to?"
"Then, take my advice, and BE Fowler, and stick to it! Be Fowler
until Fowler turns up, and thanks you for it; for you've saved
Fowler's life, as Pete would never have funked and lost his grit
over Fowler as he did with you; and you've a right to his name."
He stopped, and the same odd, superstitious look came into his dark
"Don't you see what all that means? Well, I'll tell you. You're
in the biggest streak of luck a man ever had. You've got the cards
in your own hand! They spell "Fowler"! Play Fowler first, last,
and all the time. Good-night, and good luck, MR. FOWLER."
The next morning's journal contained an account of the justifiable
killing of the notorious desperado and ex-convict, Australian Pete,
by a courageous young miner by the name of Fowler. "An act of
firmness and daring," said the "Pioneer," "which will go far to
counteract the terrorism produced by those lawless ruffians."
In his new suit of clothes, and with this paper in his hand, Flint
sought the dry-goods proprietor--the latter was satisfied and
convinced. That morning Harry Flint began his career as salesman
and as "Shelby Fowler."
From that day Shelby Fowler's career was one of uninterrupted
prosperity. Within the year he became a partner. The same
miraculous fortune followed other ventures later. He was mill
owner, mine owner, bank director--a millionaire! He was popular,
the reputation of his brief achievement over the desperado kept
him secure from the attack of envy and rivalry. He never was
confronted by the real Fowler. There was no danger of exposure by
others--the one custodian of his secret, Tom Flynn, died in Nevada
the year following. He had quite forgotten his youthful past, and
even the more recent lucky portmanteau; remembered nothing,
perhaps, but the pretty face of the daguerreotype that had
fascinated him. There seemed to be no reason why he should not
live and die as Shelby Fowler.
His business a year later took him to Europe. He was entering a
train at one of the great railway stations of London, when the
porter, who had just deposited his portmanteau in a compartment,
reappeared at the window followed by a young lady in mourning.
"Beg pardon, sir, but I handed you the wrong portmanteau. That
belongs to this young lady. This is yours."
Flint glanced at the portmanteau on the seat before him. It
certainly was not his, although it bore the initials "S. F." He
was mechanically handing it back to the porter, when his eyes fell
on the young lady's face. For an instant he stood petrified. It
was the face of the daguerreotype. "I beg pardon," he stammered,
"but are these your initials?" She hesitated, perhaps it was the
abruptness of the question, but he saw she looked confused.
"No. A friend's."
She disappeared into another carriage, but from that moment Harry
Flint knew that he had no other aim in life but to follow this clue
and the beautiful girl who had dropped it. He bribed the guard at
the next station, and discovered that she was going to York. On
their arrival, he was ready on the platform to respectfully assist
her. A few words disclosed the fact that she was a fellow-
countrywoman, although residing in England, and at present on her
way to join some friends at Harrogate. Her name was West. At the
mention of his, he again fancied she looked disturbed.
They met again and again; the informality of his introduction was
overlooked by her friends, as his assumed name was already
respectably and responsibly known beyond California. He thought no
more of his future. He was in love. He even dared to think it
might be returned; but he felt he had no right to seek that
knowledge until he had told her his real name and how he came to
assume another's. He did so alone--scarcely a month after their
first meeting. To his alarm, she burst into a flood of tears, and
showed an agitation that seemed far beyond any apparent cause.
When she had partly recovered, she said, in a low, frightened
"You are bearing MY BROTHER'S name. But it was a name that the
unhappy boy had so shamefully disgraced in Australia that he
abandoned it, and, as he lay upon his death-bed, the last act of
his wasted life was to write an imploring letter begging me to
change mine too. For the infamous companion of his crime who had
first tempted, then betrayed him, had possession of all his papers
and letters, many of them from ME, and was threatening to bring
them to our Virginia home and expose him to our neighbors.
Maddened by desperation, the miserable boy twice attempted the life
of the scoundrel, and might have added that blood guiltiness to his
other sins had he lived. I DID change my name to my mother's
maiden one, left the country, and have lived here to escape the
revelations of that desperado, should he fulfill his threat."
In a flash of recollection Flint remembered the startled look that
had come into his assailant's eye after they had clinched. It was
the same man who had too late realized that his antagonist was not
Fowler. "Thank God! you are forever safe from any exposure from
that man," he said, gravely, "and the name of Fowler has never been
known in San Francisco save in all respect and honor. It is for
you to take back--fearlessly and alone!
She did--but not alone, for she shared it with her husband.
THE GHOSTS OF STUKELEY CASTLE.
There should have been snow on the ground to make the picture
seasonable and complete, but the Western Barbarian had lived long
enough in England to know that, except in the pages of a holiday
supplement, this was rarely the accompaniment of a Christmas
landscape, and he cheerfully accepted, on the 24th of December, the
background of a low, brooding sky, on which the delicate tracery of
leafless sprays and blacker chevaux de frise of pine was faintly
etched, as a consistent setting to the turrets and peacefully
stacked chimneys of Stukeley Castle. Yet, even in this disastrous
eclipse of color and distance, the harmonious outlines of the long,
gray, irregular pile seemed to him as wonderful as ever. It still
dominated the whole landscape, and, as he had often fancied,
carried this subjection even to the human beings who had created
it, lived in it, but which it seemed to have in some dull, senile
way dozed over and forgotten. He vividly recalled the previous
sunshine of an autumnal house party within its walls, where some
descendants of its old castellans, encountered in long galleries or
at the very door of their bedrooms, looked as alien to the house as
the Barbarian himself.
For the rest it may be found described in the local guide-books,
with a view of its "South Front," "West Front," and "Great
Quadrangle." It was alleged to be based on an encampment of the
Romans--that highly apocryphal race who seemed to have spent their
time in getting up picnics on tessellated pavements, where, after
hilariously emptying their pockets of their loose coin and throwing
round their dishes, they instantly built a road to escape by,
leaving no other record of their existence. Stow and Dugdale had
recorded the date when a Norman favorite obtained the royal license
to "embattle it;" it had done duty on Christmas cards with the
questionable snow already referred to laid on thickly in crystal;
it had been lovingly portrayed by a fair countrywoman--the
vivacious correspondent of the "East Machias Sentinel"--in a
combination of the most delightful feminine disregard of facts with
the highest feminine respect for titles. It was rich in a real and
spiritual estate of tapestries, paintings, armor, legends, and
ghosts. Everything the poet could wish for, and indeed some things
that decent prose might have possibly wished out of it, were there.
Yet, from the day that it had been forcibly seized by a Parliamentary
General, until more recently, when it had passed by the no less
desperate conveyance of marriage into the hands of a Friendly
Nobleman known to the Western Barbarian, it had been supposed to
suggest something or other more remarkable than itself. "Few
spectators," said the guide-book, "even the most unimpassioned, can
stand in the courtyard and gaze upon those historic walls without
feeling a thrill of awe," etc. The Western Barbarian had stood
there, gazed, and felt no thrill. "The privileged guest," said
the grave historian, "passing in review the lineaments of the
illustrious owners of Stukeley, as he slowly paces the sombre
gallery, must be conscious of emotions of no ordinary character,"
etc., etc. The Barbarian had been conscious of no such emotions.
And it was for this reason, and believing he MIGHT experience them
if left there in solitude, with no distracting or extraneous
humanity around him, it had been agreed between him and the Friendly
Nobleman, who had fine Barbarian instincts, that as he--the Friendly
Nobleman--and his family were to spend their holidays abroad, the
Barbarian should be allowed, on the eve and day of Christmas, to
stay at Stukeley alone. "But," added his host, "you'll find it
beastly lonely, and although I've told the housekeeper to look after
you--you'd better go over to dine at Audley Friars, where there's a
big party, and they know you, and it will be a deuced deal more
amusing. And--er--I say--you know--you're really NOT looking out
for ghosts, and that sort of thing, are you? You know you fellows
don't believe in them--over there." And the Barbarian, assuring
him that this was a part of his deficient emotions, it was settled
then and there that he should come. And that was why, on the 24th
of December, the Barbarian found himself gazing hopefully on the
landscape with his portmanteau at his feet, as he drove up the
The ravens did NOT croak ominously from the battlements as he
entered. And the housekeeper, although neither "stately" nor
"tall," nor full of reminiscences of "his late lordship, the
present Earl's father," was very sensible and practical. The
Barbarian could, of course, have his choice of rooms--but--she had
thought--remembering his tastes the last time, that the long blue
room? Exactly! The long, low-arched room, with the faded blue
tapestry, looking upon the gallery--capital! He had always liked
that room. From purely negative evidence he had every reason to
believe that it was the one formidable-looking room in England that
Queen Elizabeth had not slept in.
When the footman had laid out his clothes, and his step grew
fainter along the passage, until it was suddenly swallowed up with
the closing of a red baize door in the turret staircase, like a
trap in an oubliette, the whole building seemed to sink back into
repose. Quiet it certainly was, but not more so, he remembered,
than when the chambers on either side were filled with guests, and
floating voices in the corridor were lost in those all-absorbing
walls. So far, certainly, this was no new experience. It was past
four. He waited for the shadows to gather. Light thickened beyond
his windows; gradually the outflanking wall and part of a projecting
terrace crumbled away in the darkness, as if Night were slowly
reducing the castle. The figures on the tapestry in his room stood
out faintly. The gallery, seen through his open door, barred with
black spaces between the mullioned windows, presently became
obliterated, as if invaded by a dull smoke from without. But nothing
moved, nothing glimmered. Really this might become in time very
He was startled, however, while dressing, to see from his windows
that the great banqueting hall was illuminated, but on coming down
was amused to find his dinner served on a small table in its oaken
solitude lit by the large electric chandelier--for Stukeley Castle
under its present lord had all the modern improvements--shining on
the tattered banners and glancing mail above him. It was evidently
the housekeeper's reading of some written suggestion of her noble
master. The Barbarian, in a flash of instinct, imagined the
"Humor him as a harmless lunatic; the plate is quite safe."
Declining the further offer of an illumination of the picture
gallery, grand drawing-room, ball-room, and chapel, a few hours
later he found himself wandering in the corridor with a single
candle and a growing conviction of the hopelessness of his
experiment. The castle had as yet yielded to him nothing that
he had not seen before in the distraction of company and the
garishness of day. It was becoming a trifle monotonous. Yet fine--
exceedingly; and now that a change of wind had lifted the fog, and
the full moon shone on the lower half of the pictures of the
gallery, starting into the most artificial simulation of life a
number of Van Dyke legs, farthingales, and fingers that would have
deceived nobody, it seemed gracious, gentle, and innocent beyond
expression. Wandering down the gallery, conscious of being more
like a ghost than any of the painted figures, and that they might
reasonably object to him, he wished he could meet the original of
one of those pictured gallants and secretly compare his fingers
with the copy. He remembered an embroidered pair of gloves in a
cabinet and a suit of armor on the wall that, in measurement, did
not seem to bear out the delicacy of the one nor the majesty of the
other. It occurred to him also to satisfy a yearning he had once
felt to try on a certain breastplate and steel cap that hung over
an oaken settle. It will be perceived that he was getting a good
deal bored. For thus caparisoned he listlessly, and, as will be
seen, imprudently, allowed himself to sink back into a very modern
chair, and give way to a dreamy cogitation.
What possible interest could the dead have in anything that was
here? Admitting that they had any, and that it was not the LIVING,
whom the Barbarian had always found most inclined to haunt the
past, would not a ghost of any decided convictions object to such a
collection as his descendant had gathered in this gallery? Yonder
idiot in silk and steel had blunderingly and cruelly persecuted his
kinsman in leather and steel only a few panels distant. Would they
care to meet here? And if their human weaknesses had died with
them, what would bring them here at all? And if not THEM--who
then? He stopped short. The door at the lower end of the gallery
had opened! Not stealthily, not noiselessly, but in an ordinary
fashion, and a number of figures, dressed in the habiliments of a
bygone age, came trooping in. They did not glide in nor float in,
but trampled in awkwardly, clumsily, and unfamiliarly, gaping about
them as they walked. At the head was apparently a steward in a
kind of livery, who stopped once or twice and seemed to be pointing
out and explaining certain objects in the room. A flash of
indignant intelligence filled the brain of the Barbarian! It
seemed absurd!--impossible!--but it was true! It was a holiday
excursion party of ghosts, being shown over Stukeley Castle by a
ghostly Cicerone! And as his measured, monotonous voice rose on
the Christmas morning air, it could be heard that he was actually
showing off, not the antiquities of the Castle, but the MODERN
"This 'ere, gossips,"--the Barbarian instantly detected the fallacy
of all the so-called mediaeval jargon he had read,--"is the
Helectric Bell, which does away with our hold, hordinary 'orn
blowin', and the hattendant waitin' in the 'all for the usual
'Without there, who waits?' which all of us was accustomed to in
mortal flesh. You hobserve this button. I press it so, and it
instantly rings a bell in the kitchen 'all, and shows in fair
letters the name of this 'ere gallery--as we will see later. Will
hany good dame or gaffer press the button? Will YOU, mistress?"
said the Cicerone to a giggling, kerchief-coifed lass.
"Oi soy, Maudlin!--look out--will yer!--It's the soime old gag as
them bloomin' knobs you ketched hold of when yer was 'ere las'
Whitsuntide," called out the mediaeval 'Arry of the party.
"It is NOT the Galvanic-Magnetic machine in 'is lordship's
library," said the Cicerone, severely, "which is a mere toy for
infants, and hold-fashioned. And we have 'ere a much later
invention. I open this little door, I turn this 'andle--called a
switch--and, has you perceive, the gallery is hinstantly
There was a hoarse cry of astonishment from the assemblage. The
Barbarian felt an awful thrill as this searching, insufferable
light of the nineteenth century streamed suddenly upon the up-
turned, vacant-eyed, and dull faces of those sightseers of the
past. But there was no responsive gleam in their eyes.
"It be the sun," gasped an old woman in a gray cloak.
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