From Sand Hill to Pine
Part 2 out of 4
small for the ring. He tried to fathom the depths of the sun-
bonnet, but it was dented on one side, and he could discern only a
single pale blue eye and a thin black arch of eyebrow.
"Well," said Fleming, "is it a go?"
"Of course ye'll be comin' back for it again," said the girl
There was so much of hopeless disappointment at that prospect in
her voice that Fleming laughed outright. "I'm afraid I shall, for
I value the ring very much," he said.
The girl handed him the pan. "It's our bread pan," she said.
It might have been anything, for it was by no means new; indeed, it
was battered on one side and the bottom seemed to have been broken;
but it would serve, and Fleming was anxious to be off. "Thank
you," he said briefly, and turned away. The hound barked again as
he passed; he heard the girl say, "Shut your head, Tige!" and saw
her turn back into the kitchen, still holding the ring before the
When he reached the woods, he attacked the outcrop he had noticed,
and detached with his hands and the aid of a sharp rock enough of
the loose soil to fill the pan. This he took to the spring, and,
lowering the pan in the pool, began to wash out its contents with
the centrifugal movement of the experienced prospector. The
saturated red soil overflowed the brim with that liquid ooze known
as "slumgullion," and turned the crystal pool to the color of blood
until the soil was washed away. Then the smaller stones were
carefully removed and examined, and then another washing of the now
nearly empty pan showed the fine black sand covering the bottom.
This was in turn as gently washed away.
Alas! the clean pan showed only one or two minute glistening yellow
scales, like pinheads, adhering from their specific gravity to the
bottom; gold, indeed, but merely enough to indicate "the color,"
and common to ordinary prospecting in his own locality.
He tried another panful with the same result. He became aware that
the pan was leaky, and that infinite care alone prevented the
bottom from falling out during the washing. Still it was an
experiment, and the result a failure.
Fleming was too old a prospector to take his disappointment
seriously. Indeed, it was characteristic of that performance and
that period that failure left neither hopelessness nor loss of
faith behind it; the prospector had simply miscalculated the exact
locality, and was equally as ready to try his luck again. But
Fleming thought it high time to return to his own mining work in
camp, and at once set off to return the pan to its girlish owner
and recover his ring.
As he approached the cabin again, be heard the sound of singing.
It was evidently the girl's voice, uplifted in what seemed to be a
fragment of some negro camp-meeting hymn:--
"Dar was a poor man and his name it was Lazarum,
Lord bress de Lamb--glory hallelugerum!
Lord bress de Lamb!"
The first two lines had a brisk movement, accented apparently by
the clapping of hands or the beating of a tin pan, but the refrain,
"Lord bress de Lamb," was drawn out in a lugubrious chant of
"The rich man died and he went straight to hellerum.
Lord bress de Lamb--glory hallelugerum!
Lord bress de Lamb!"
Fleming paused at the cabin door. Before he could rap the voice
"When ye see a poo' man be sure to give him crumbsorum,
Lord bress de Lamb--glory hallelugerum!
Lord bress de Lamb!"
At the end of this interminable refrain, drawn out in a youthful
nasal contralto, Fleming knocked. The girl instantly appeared,
holding the ring in her fingers. "I reckoned it was you," she
said, with an affected briskness, to conceal her evident dislike at
parting with the trinket. "There it is!"
But Fleming was too astounded to speak. With the opening of the
door the sunbonnet had fallen back like a buggy top, disclosing for
the first time the head and shoulders of the wearer. She was not a
child, but a smart young woman of seventeen or eighteen, and much
of his embarrassment arose from the consciousness that he had no
reason whatever for having believed her otherwise.
"I hope I didn't interrupt your singing," he said awkwardly.
It was only one o' mammy's camp-meetin' songs," said the girl.
"Your mother? Is she in?" he asked, glancing past the girl into
"'Tain't mother--she's dead. Mammy's our old nurse. She's gone to
Jimtown, and taken my duds to get some new ones fitted to me.
These are some o' mother's."
This accounted for her strange appearance; but Fleming noticed that
the girl's manner had not the slightest consciousness of their
unbecomingness, nor of the charms of face and figure they had
She looked at him curiously. "Hev you got religion?"
"Well, no!" said Fleming, laughing; "I'm afraid not."
"Dad hez--he's got it pow'ful."
"Is that the reason he don't like miners?" asked Fleming.
"'Take not to yourself the mammon of unrighteousness,'" said the
girl, with the confident air of repeating a lesson. "That's what
the Book says."
"But I read the Bible, too," replied the young man.
"Dad says, 'The letter killeth'!" said the girl sententiously.
Fleming looked at the trophies nailed on the walls with a vague
wonder if this peculiar Scriptural destructiveness had anything to
do with his skill as a marksman. The girl followed his eye.
"Dad's a mighty hunter afore the Lord."
"What does he do with these skins?"
"Trades 'em off for grub and fixin's. But he don't believe in
trottin' round in the mud for gold."
"Don't you suppose these animals would have preferred it if he had?
Gold hunting takes nothing from anybody."
The girl stared at him, and then, to his great surprise, laughed
instead of being angry. It was a very fascinating laugh in her
imperfectly nourished pale face, and her little teeth revealed the
bluish milky whiteness of pips of young Indian corn.
"Wot yer lookin' at?" she asked frankly.
"You," he replied, with equal frankness.
"It's them duds," she said, looking down at her dress; "I reckon I
ain't got the hang o' 'em"
Yet there was not the slightest tone of embarrassment or even
coquetry in her manner, as with both hands she tried to gather in
the loose folds around her waist.
"Let me help you," he said gravely.
She lifted up her arms with childlike simplicity and backed toward
him as he stepped behind her, drew in the folds, and pinned them
around what proved a very small waist indeed. Then he untied the
apron, took it off, folded it in half, and retied its curtailed
proportions around the waist. "It does feel a heap easier," she
said, with a little shiver of satisfaction, as she lifted her round
cheek, and the tail of her blue eyes with their brown lashes, over
her shoulder. It was a tempting moment--but Jack felt that the
whole race of gold hunters was on trial just then, and was adamant!
Perhaps he was a gentle fellow at heart, too.
"I could loop up that dress also, if I had more pins," he remarked
tentatively. Jack had sisters of his own.
The pins were forthcoming. In this operation--a kind of festooning--
the girl's petticoat, a piece of common washed-out blue flannel, as
pale as her eyes, but of the commonest material, became visible, but
without fear or reproach to either.
"There, that looks more tidy," said Jack, critically surveying his
work and a little of the small ankles revealed. The girl also
examined it carefully by its reflection on the surface of the
saucepan. "Looks a little like a chiny girl, don't it?"
Jack would have resented this, thinking she meant a Chinese, until
he saw her pointing to a cheap crockery ornament, representing a
Dutch shepherdess, on the shelf. There was some resemblance.
"You beat mammy out o' sight!" she exclaimed gleefully. "It will
jest set her clear crazy when she sees me."
"Then you had better say you did it yourself," said Fleming.
"Why?" asked the girl, suddenly opening her eyes on him with
"You said your father didn't like miners, and he mightn't like your
lending your pan to me."
"I'm more afraid o' lyin' than o' dad," she said with an elevation
of moral sentiment that was, however, slightly weakened by the
addition, "Mammy'll say anything I'll tell her to say."
"Well, good-by," said Fleming, extending his hand.
"Ye didn't tell me what luck ye had with the pan," she said,
delaying taking his hand.
Fleming shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, my usual luck,--nothing," he
returned, with a smile.
"Ye seem to keer more for gettin' yer old ring back than for any
luck," she continued. "I reckon you ain't much o' a miner."
"I'm afraid not."
"Ye didn't say wot yer name was, in case dad wants to know."
"I don't think he will want to; but it's John Fleming."
She took his hand. "You didn't tell me yours," he said, holding
the little red fingers, "in case I wanted to know."
It pleased her to consider the rejoinder intensely witty. She
showed all her little teeth, threw away his hand, and said:--
"G' long with ye, Mr. Fleming. It's Tinka"--
"Yes; short for Katinka,--Katinka Jallinger."
"Good-by, Miss Jallinger."
"Good-by. Dad's name is Henry Boone Jallinger, of Kentucky, ef ye
was ever askin'."
He turned away as she swiftly re-entered the house. As he walked
away, he half expected to hear her voice uplifted again in the
camp-meeting chant, but he was disappointed. When he reached the
top of the hill he turned and looked back at the cabin.
She was apparently waiting for this, and waved him an adieu with
the humble pan he had borrowed. It flashed a moment dazzlingly as
it caught the declining sun, and then went out, even obliterating
the little figure behind it.
Mr. Jack Fleming was indeed "not much of a miner." He and his
partners--both as young, hopeful, and inefficient as himself--had
for three months worked a claim in a mountain mining settlement
which yielded them a certain amount of healthy exercise, good-
humored grumbling, and exalted independence. To dig for three or
four hours in the morning, smoke their pipes under a redwood-tree
for an hour at noon, take up their labors again until sunset, when
they "washed up" and gathered sufficient gold to pay for their
daily wants, was, without their seeking it, or even knowing it, the
realization of a charming socialistic ideal which better men than
themselves had only dreamed of. Fleming fell back into this
refined barbarism, giving little thought to his woodland experience,
and no revelation of it to his partners. He had transacted their
business at the mining town. His deviations en route were nothing
to them, and small account to himself.
The third day after his return he was lying under a redwood when
his partner approached him.
"You aren't uneasy in your mind about any unpaid bill--say a wash
bill--that you're owing?"
"There's a big nigger woman in camp looking for you; she's got a
folded account paper in her hand. It looks deucedly like a bill."
"There must be some mistake," suggested Fleming, sitting up.
"She says not, and she's got your name pat enough! Faulkner" (his
other partner) "headed her straight up the gulch, away from camp,
while I came down to warn you. So if you choose to skedaddle into
the brush out there and lie low until we get her away, we'll fix
"Nonsense! I'll see her."
His partner looked aghast at this temerity, but Fleming, jumping to
his feet, at once set out to meet his mysterious visitor. This was
no easy matter, as the ingenious Faulkner was laboriously leading
his charge up the steep gulch road, with great politeness, but many
audible misgivings as to whether this was not "Jack Fleming's day
for going to Jamestown."
He was further lightening the journey by cheering accounts of the
recent depredations of bears and panthers in that immediate
locality. When overtaken by Fleming he affected a start of joyful
surprise, to conceal the look of warning which Fleming did not
heed,--having no eyes but for Faulkners companion. She was a very
fat negro woman, panting with exertion and suppressed impatience.
Fleming's heart was filled with compunction.
"Is you Marse Fleming?" she gasped.
"Yes," said Fleming gently. "What can I do for you?"
"Well! Ye kin pick dis yar insek, dis caterpillier," she said,
pointing to Faulkner, "off my paf. Ye kin tell dis yar chipmunk
dat when he comes to showin' me mule tracks for b'ar tracks, he's
barkin' up de wrong tree! Dat when he tells me dat he sees panfers
a-promenadin' round in de short grass or hidin' behime rocks in de
open, he hain't talkin' to no nigger chile, but a growed woman! Ye
kin tell him dat Mammy Curtis lived in de woods afo' he was born,
and hez seen more b'ars and mountain lyuns dan he hez hairs in his
The word "Mammy" brought a flash of recollection to Fleming.
"I am very sorry," he began; but to his surprise the negro woman
burst into a good-tempered laugh.
"All right, honey! S'long's you is Marse Fleming and de man dat
took dat 'ar pan offer Tinka de odder day, I ain't mindin' yo'
frens' bedevilments. I've got somefin fo' you, yar, and a little
box," and she handed him a folded paper.
Fleming felt himself reddening, he knew not why, at which Faulkner
discreetly but ostentatiously withdrew, conveying to his other
partner painful conviction that Fleming had borrowed a pan from a
traveling tinker, whose negro wife was even now presenting a bill
for the same, and demanding a settlement. Relieved by his
departure, Fleming hurriedly tore open the folded paper. It was a
letter written upon a leaf torn out of an old account book, whose
ruled lines had undoubtedly given his partners the idea that it was
a bill. Fleming hurriedly read the following, traced with a pencil
in a schoolgirl's hand:--
Mr. J. FLEMING.
Dear Sir,--After you went away that day I took that pan you brought
back to mix a batch of bread and biscuits. The next morning at
breakfast dad says: "What's gone o' them thar biscuits--my teeth is
just broke with them--they're so gritty--they're abominable!
What's this?" says he, and with that he chucks over to me two or
three flakes of gold that was in them. You see what had happened,
Mr. Fleming, was this! You had better luck than you was knowing
of! It was this way! Some of the gold you washed had got slipped
into the sides of the pan where it was broke, and the sticky dough
must have brought it out, and I kneaded them up unbeknowing. Of
course I had to tell a wicked lie, but "Be ye all things to all
men," says the Book, and I thought you ought to know your good
luck, and I send mammy with this and the gold in a little box. Of
course, if dad was a hunter of Mammon and not of God's own beasts,
he would have been mighty keen about finding where it came from,
but he allows it was in the water in our near spring. So good-by.
Do you care for your ring now as much as you did?
Yours very respectfully,
As Mr. Fleming glanced up from the paper, mammy put a small
cardboard box in his hand. For an instant he hesitated to open it,
not knowing how far mammy was intrusted with the secret. To his
great relief she said briskly: "Well, dar! now dat job's done gone
and often my han's, I allow to quit and jest get off dis yer camp
afo' ye kin shake a stick. So don't tell me nuffin I ain't gotter
tell when I goes back."
Fleming understood. "You can tell her I thank her--and--I'll
attend to it," he said vaguely; "that is--I"--
"Hold dar! that's just enuff, honey--no mo'! So long to ye and
He watched her striding away toward the main road, and then opened
It contained three flakes of placer or surface gold, weighing in
all about a quarter of an ounce. They could easily have slipped
into the interstices of the broken pan and not have been observed
by him. If this was the result of the washing of a single pan--and
he could now easily imagine that other flakes might have escaped--
what-- But he stopped, dazed and bewildered at the bare suggestion.
He gazed upon the vanishing figure of "mammy." Could she--could
Katinka--have the least suspicion of the possibilities of this
discovery? Or had Providence put the keeping of this secret into
the hands of those who least understood its importance? For an
instant he thought of running after her with a word of caution; but
on reflection he saw that this might awaken her suspicion and
precipitate a discovery by another.
His only safety for the present was silence, until he could repeat
his experiment. And that must be done quickly.
How should he get away without his partners' knowledge of his
purpose? He was too loyal to them to wish to keep this good
fortune to himself, but he was not yet sure of his good fortune.
It might be only a little "pocket" which he had just emptied; it
might be a larger one which another trial would exhaust.
He had put up no "notice;" he might find it already in possession
of Katinka's father, or any chance prospector like himself. In
either case he would be covered with ridicule by his partners and
the camp, or more seriously rebuked for his carelessness and
stupidity. No! he could not tell them the truth; nor could he lie.
He would say he was called away for a day on private business.
Luckily for him, the active imagination of his partners was even
now helping him. The theory of the "tinker" and the "pan" was
indignantly rejected by his other partner. His blushes and
embarrassment were suddenly remembered by Faulkner, and by the time
he reached his cabin, they had settled that the negro woman had
brought him a love letter! He was young and good looking; what was
more natural than that he should have some distant love affair?
His embarrassed statement that he must leave early the next morning
on business that he could not at PRESENT disclose was considered
amply confirmatory, and received with maliciously significant
acquiescence. "Only," said Faulkner, "at YOUR age, sonny,"--he was
nine months older than Fleming,--"I should have gone TO-NIGHT."
Surely Providence was favoring him!
He was off early the next morning. He was sorely tempted to go
first to the cabin, but every moment was precious until he had
tested the proof of his good fortune.
It was high noon before he reached the fringe of forest. A few
paces farther and he found the spring and outcrop. To avert his
partners' suspicions he had not brought his own implements, but had
borrowed a pan, spade, and pick from a neighbor's claim before
setting out. The spot was apparently in the same condition as when
he left it, and with a beating heart he at once set to work, an
easy task with his new implements. He nervously watched the water
overflow the pan of dirt at its edges until, emptied of earth and
gravel, the black sand alone covered the bottom. A slight
premonition of disappointment followed; a rich indication would
have shown itself before this! A few more workings, and the pan
was quite empty except for a few pin-points of "color," almost
exactly the quantity he found before. He washed another pan with
the same result. Another taken from a different level of the
outcrop yielded neither more nor less! There was no mistake: it
was a failure! His discovery had been only a little "pocket," and
the few flakes she had sent him were the first and last of that
He sat down with a sense of relief; he could face his partners
again without disloyalty; he could see that pretty little figure
once more without the compunction of having incurred her father's
prejudices by locating a permanent claim so near his cabin. In
fact, he could carry out his partners' fancy to the letter!
He quickly heaped his implements together and turned to leave the
wood; but he was confronted by a figure that at first he scarcely
recognized. Yet--it was Katinka! the young girl of the cabin, who
had sent him the gold. She was dressed differently--perhaps in her
ordinary every-day garments--a bright sprigged muslin, a chip hat
with blue ribbons set upon a coil of luxurious brown hair. But
what struck him most was that the girlish and diminutive character
of the figure had vanished with her ill-fitting clothes; the girl
that stood before him was of ordinary height, and of a prettiness
and grace of figure that he felt would have attracted anywhere.
Fleming felt himself suddenly embarrassed,--a feeling that was not
lessened when he noticed that her pretty lip was compressed and her
eyebrows a little straightened as she gazed at him.
"Ye made a bee line for the woods, I see," she said coldly. "I
allowed ye might have been droppin' in to our house first."
"So I should," said Fleming quickly, "but I thought I ought to
first make sure of the information you took the trouble to send
me." He hesitated to speak of the ill luck he had just experienced;
he could laugh at it himself--but would she?
"And ye got a new pan?" she said half poutingly.
Here seemed his opportunity. "Yes, but I'm afraid it hasn't the
magic of yours. I haven't even got the color. I believe you
bewitched your old pan."
Her face flushed a little and brightened, and her lip relaxed with
a smile. "Go 'long with yer! Ye don't mean to say ye had no luck
"None--but in seeing you."
Her eyes sparkled. "Ye see, I said all 'long ye weren't much o' a
miner. Ye ain't got no faith. Ef ye had as much as a grain o'
mustard seed, ye'd remove mountains; it's in the Book."
"Yes, and this mountain is on the bedrock, and my faith is not
strong enough," he said laughingly. "And then, that would be
having faith in Mammon, and you don't want me to have THAT."
She looked at him curiously. "I jest reckon ye don't care a
picayune whether ye strike anything or not," she said half
"To please you I'll try again, if you'll look on. Perhaps you'll
bring me luck as you did before. You shall take the pan. I will
fill it and you shall wash it out. You'll be my MASCOT."
She stiffened a little at this, and then said pertly, "Wot's that?"
"My good fairy."
She smiled again, this time with a new color in her pale face.
"Maybe I am," she said, with sudden gravity.
He quickly filled the pan again with soil, brought it to the
spring, and first washed out the greater bulk of loose soil. "Now
come here and kneel down beside me," he said, "and take the pan and
do as I show you."
She knelt down obediently. Suddenly she lifted her little hand
with a gesture of warning. "Wait a minit--jest a minit--till the
water runs clear again."
The pool had become slightly discolored from the first washing.
"That makes no difference," he said quickly.
"Ah! but wait, please!" She laid her brown hand upon his arm; a
pleasant warmth seemed to follow her touch. Then she said joyously,
"Look down there."
"Where?" he asked.
"There--don't ye see it?"
"You and me!"
He looked where she pointed. The pool had settled, resumed its
mirror-like calm, and reflected distinctly, not only their two
bending faces, but their two figures kneeling side by side. Two
tall redwoods rose on either side of them, like the columns before
There was a moment of silence. The drone of a bumble-bee near by
seemed to make the silence swim drowsily in their ears; far off
they heard the faint beat of a woodpecker. The suggestion of their
kneeling figures in this magic mirror was vague, unreasoning, yet
for the moment none the less irresistible. His arm instinctively
crept around her little waist as he whispered,--he scarce knew what
he said,--"Perhaps here is the treasure I am seeking."
The girl laughed, released herself, and sprang up; the pan sank
ingloriously to the bottom of the pool, where Fleming had to grope
for it, assisted by Tinka, who rolled up her sleeve to her elbow.
For a minute or two they washed gravely, but with no better success
than attended his own individual efforts. The result in the bottom
of the pan was the same. Fleming laughed.
"You see," he said gayly, "the Mammon of unrighteousness is not for
me--at least, so near your father's tabernacle."
"That makes no difference now," said the girl quickly, "for dad is
goin' to move, anyway, farther up the mountains. He says it's
gettin' too crowded for him here--when the last settler took up a
section three miles off."
"And are YOU going too?" asked the young man earnestly.
Tinka nodded her brown head. Fleming heaved a genuine sigh.
"Well, I'll try my hand here a little longer. I'll put up a notice
of claim; I don't suppose your father would object. You know he
"I reckon ye might do it ef ye wanted--ef ye was THAT keen on
gettin' gold!" said Tinka, looking away. There was something in
the girl's tone which this budding lover resented. He had become
"Oh, well," he said, "I see that it might make unpleasantness with
your father. I only thought," he went on, with tenderer
tentativeness, "that it would be pleasant to work here near you."
"Ye'd be only wastin' yer time," she said darkly.
Fleming rose gravely. "Perhaps you're right," he answered sadly
and a little bitterly, "and I'll go at once."
He walked to the spring, and gathered up his tools. "Thank you
again for your kindness, and good-by."
He held out his hand, which she took passively, and he moved away.
But he had not gone far before she called him. He turned to find
her still standing where he had left her, her little hands clinched
at her side, and her widely opened eyes staring at him. Suddenly
she ran at him, and, catching the lapels of his coat in both hands,
held him rigidly fast.
"No! no! ye sha'n't go--ye mustn't go!" she said, with hysterical
intensity. "I want to tell ye something! Listen!--you--you--Mr.
Fleming! I've been a wicked, wicked girl! I've told lies to dad--
to mammy--to YOU! I've borne false witness--I'm worse than
Sapphira--I've acted a big lie. Oh, Mr. Fleming, I've made you
come back here for nothing! Ye didn't find no gold the other day.
There wasn't any. It was all me! I--I--SALTED THAT PAN!"
"Salted it!" echoed Fleming, in amazement.
"Yes, 'salted it,'" she faltered; "that's what dad says they call
it--what those wicked sons of Mammon do to their claims to sell
them. I--put gold in the pan myself; it wasn't there before."
"But why?" gasped Fleming.
She stopped. Then suddenly the fountains in the deep of her blue
eyes were broken up; she burst into a sob, and buried her head in
her hands, and her hands on his shoulder. "Because--because"--she
sobbed against him--"I WANTED YOU to come back!"
He folded her in his arms. He kissed her lovingly, forgivingly,
gratefully, tearfully, smilingly--and paused; then he kissed her
sympathetically, understandingly, apologetically, explanatorily, in
lieu of other conversation. Then, becoming coherent, he asked,--
"But WHERE did you get the gold?"
"Oh," she said between fitful and despairing sobs, "somewhere!--I
don't know--out of the old Run--long ago--when I was little! I
didn't never dare say anything to dad--he'd have been crazy mad at
his own daughter diggin'--and I never cared nor thought a single
bit about it until I saw you."
"And you have never been there since?"
"Nor anybody else?"
Suddenly she threw back her head; her chip hat fell back from her
face, rosy with a dawning inspiration! "Oh, say, Jack!--you don't
think that--after all this time--there might"-- She did not finish
the sentence, but, grasping his hand, cried, "Come!"
She caught up the pan, he seized the shovel and pick, and they
raced like boy and girl down the hill. When within a few hundred
feet of the house she turned at right angles into the clearing, and
saying, "Don't be skeered; dad's away," ran boldly on, still
holding his hand, along the little valley. At its farther
extremity they came to the "Run," a half-dried watercourse whose
rocky sides were marked by the erosion of winter torrents. It was
apparently as wild and secluded as the forest spring. "Nobody ever
came here," said the girl hurriedly, "after dad sunk the well at
One or two pools still remained in the Run from the last season's
flow, water enough to wash out several pans of dirt.
Selecting a spot where the white quartz was visible, Fleming
attacked the bank with the pick. After one or two blows it began
to yield and crumble away at his feet. He washed out a panful
perfunctorily, more intent on the girl than his work; she, eager,
alert, and breathless, had changed places with him, and become the
anxious prospector! But the result was the same. He threw away
the pan with a laugh, to take her little hand! But she whispered,
He attacked the bank once more with such energy that a great part
of it caved and fell, filling the pan and even burying the shovel
in the debris. He unearthed the latter while Tinka was struggling
to get out the pan.
"The mean thing is stuck and won't move," she said pettishly. "I
think it's broken now, too, just like ours."
Fleming came laughingly forward, and, putting one arm around the
girl's waist, attempted to assist her with the other. The pan was
immovable, and, indeed, seemed to be broken and bent. Suddenly he
uttered an exclamation and began hurriedly to brush away the dirt
and throw the soil out of the pan.
In another moment he had revealed a fragment of decomposed quartz,
like discolored honeycombed cheese, half filling the pan. But on
its side, where the pick had struck it glancingly, there was a
yellow streak like a ray of sunshine! And as he strove to lift it
he felt in that unmistakable omnipotency of weight that it was
seamed and celled with gold.
The news of Mr. Fleming's engagement, two weeks later, to the
daughter of the recluse religious hunter who had made a big strike
at Lone Run, excited some skeptical discussion, even among the
honest congratulations of his partners.
"That's a mighty queer story how Jack got that girl sweet on him
just by borrowin' a prospectin' pan of her," said Faulkner, between
the whiffs of his pipe under the trees. "You and me might have
borrowed a hundred prospectin' pans and never got even a drink
thrown in. Then to think of that old preachin' coon-hunter hevin'
to give in and pass his strike over to his daughter's feller, jest
because he had scruples about gold diggin' himself. He'd hev
booted you and me outer his ranch first."
"Lord, ye ain't takin' no stock in that hogwash," responded the
other. "Why, everybody knows old man Jallinger pretended to be
sick o' miners and minin' camps, and couldn't bear to hev 'em near
him, only jest because he himself was all the while secretly
prospectin' the whole lode and didn't want no interlopers. It was
only when Fleming nippled in by gettin' hold o' the girl that
Jallinger knew the secret was out, and that's the way he bought him
off. Why, Jack wasn't no miner--never was--ye could see that. HE
never struck anything. The only treasure he found in the woods was
A BELLE OF CANADA CITY
Cissy was tying her hat under her round chin before a small glass
at her window. The window gave upon a background of serrated
mountain and olive-shadowed canyon, with a faint additional outline
of a higher snow level--the only dreamy suggestion of the whole
landscape. The foreground was a glaringly fresh and unpicturesque
mining town, whose irregular attempts at regularity were set forth
with all the cruel, uncompromising clearness of the Californian
atmosphere. There was the straight Main Street with its new brick
block of "stores," ending abruptly against a tangled bluff; there
was the ruthless clearing in the sedate pines where the hideous
spire of the new church imitated the soaring of the solemn shafts
it had displaced with almost irreligious mockery. Yet this
foreground was Cissy's world--her life, her sole girlish experience.
She did not, however, bother her pretty head with the view just
then, but moved her cheek up and down before the glass, the better
to examine by the merciless glare of the sunlight a few freckles
that starred the hollows of her temples. Like others of her sex,
she was a poor critic of what was her real beauty, and quarreled
with that peculiar texture of her healthy skin which made her face
as eloquent in her sun-kissed cheek as in her bright eyes and
expression. Nevertheless, she was somewhat consoled by the
ravishing effect of the bowknot she had just tied, and turned away
not wholly dissatisfied. Indeed, as the acknowledged belle of
Canada City and the daughter of its principal banker, small wonder
that a certain frank vanity and childlike imperiousness were among
her faults--and her attractions.
She bounded down the stairs and into the front parlor, for their
house possessed the unheard-of luxury of a double drawing-room,
albeit the second apartment contained a desk, and was occasionally
used by Cissy's father in private business interviews with anxious
seekers of "advances" who shunned the publicity of the bank. Here
she instantly flew into the arms of her bosom friend, Miss Piney
Tibbs, a girl only a shade or two less pretty than herself, who,
always more or less ill at ease in these splendors, was awaiting
her impatiently. For Miss Tibbs was merely the daughter of the
hotel-keeper; and although Tibbs was a Southerner, and had owned
"his own niggers" in the States, she was of inferior position and a
protegee of Cissy's.
"Thank goodness you've come," exclaimed Miss Tibbs, "for I've bin
sittin' here till I nigh took root. What kep' ye?"
"How does it look?" responded Cissy, as a relevant reply.
The "it" referred to Cissy's new hat, and to the young girl the
coherence was perfectly plain. Miss Tibbs looked at "it" severely.
It would not do for a protegee to be too complaisant.
"Hem! Must have cost a heap o' money."
"It did! Came from the best milliner in San Francisco."
"Of course," said Piney, with half assumed envy. "When your popper
runs the bank and just wallows in gold!"
"Never mind, dear," replied Cissy cheerfully. "So'll YOUR popper
some day. I'm goin' to get mine to let YOUR popper into something--
Ditch stocks and such. Yes! True, O King! Popper'll do anything
for me," she added a little loftily.
Loyal as Piney was to her friend, she was by no means convinced of
this. She knew the difference between the two men, and had a vivid
recollection of hearing her own father express his opinion of
Cissy's respected parent as a "Gold Shark" and "Quartz Miner
Crusher." It did not, however, affect her friendship for Cissy.
She only said, "Let's come!" caught Cissy around the waist, pranced
with her out into the veranda, and gasped, out of breath, "Where
are we goin' first?"
"Down Main Street," said Cissy promptly.
"And let's stop at Markham's store. They've got some new things in
from Sacramento," added Piney.
"Country styles," returned Cissy, with a supercilious air. "No!
Besides, Markham's head clerk is gettin' too presumptuous. Just
guess! He asked me, while I was buyin' something, if I enjoyed the
dance last Monday!"
"But you danced with him," said the simple Piney, in astonishment.
"But not in his store among his customers," said Cissy sapiently.
"No! we're going down Main Street past Secamps'. Those Secamp
girls are sure to be at their windows, looking out. This hat will
just turn 'em green--greener than ever."
"You're just horrid, Ciss!" said Piney, with admiration.
"And then," continued Cissy, "we'll just sail down past the new
block to the parson's and make a call."
"Oh, I see," said Piney archly. "It'll be just about the time when
the new engineer of the mill works has a clean shirt on, and is
smoking his cigyar before the office."
Cissy tossed her hat disdainfully. "Much anybody cares whether
he's there or not! I haven't forgotten how he showed us over the
mill the other day in a pair of overalls, just like a workman."
"But they say he's awfully smart and well educated, and needn't
work, and I'm sure it's very nice of him to dress just like the
other men when he's with 'em," urged Piney.
"Bah! That was just to show that he didn't care what we thought of
him, he's that conceited! And it wasn't respectful, considering
one of the directors was there, all dressed up. Don't tell me!
You can see it in his eye, looking you over without blinking and
then turning away as if he'd got enough of you. He makes me tired."
Piney did not reply. The engineer had seemed to her to be a
singularly attractive young man, yet she was equally impressed with
Cissy's superior condition, which could find flaws in such
perfection. Following her friend down the steps of the veranda,
they passed into the staring graveled walk of the new garden, only
recently recovered from the wild wood, its accurate diamond and
heart shaped beds of vivid green set in white quartz borders giving
it the appearance of elaborately iced confectionery. A few steps
further brought them to the road and the wooden "sidewalk" to Main
Street, which carried civic improvements to the hillside, and Mr.
Trixit's very door. Turning down this thoroughfare, they stopped
laughing, and otherwise assumed a conscious half artificial air;
for it was the hour when Canada City lounged listlessly before its
shops, its saloons, its offices and mills, or even held lazy
meetings in the dust of the roadway, and the passage down the
principal street of its two prettiest girls was an event to be
viewed as if it were a civic procession. Hats flew off as they
passed; place was freely given; impeding barrels and sacks were
removed from the wooden pavement, and preoccupied indwellers
hastily summoned to the front door to do homage to Cissy Trixit and
Piney as they went by. Not but that Canada City, in the fierce and
unregenerate days of its youth, had seen fairer and higher colored
faces, more gayly bedizened, on its thoroughfares, but never
anything so fresh and innocent. Men stood there all unconsciously,
reverencing their absent mothers, sisters, and daughters, in their
spontaneous homage to the pair, and seemed to feel the wholesome
breath of their Eastern homes wafted from the freshly ironed skirts
of these foolish virgins as they rustled by. I am afraid that
neither Cissy nor Piney appreciated this feeling; few women did at
that time; indeed, these young ladies assumed a slight air of
"Really, they do stare so," said Cissy, with eyes dilating with
pleasurable emotion; "we'll have to take the back street next
Piney, proud in the glory reflected from Cissy, and in her own,
answered, "We will--sure!"
There was only one interruption to this triumphal progress, and
that was so slight as to be noticed by only one of the two girls.
As they passed the new works at the mill, the new engineer, as
Piney had foreseen, was leaning against the doorpost, smoking a
pipe. He took his hat from his head and his pipe from his month as
they approached, and greeted them with an easy "Good-afternoon,"
yet with a glance that was quietly observant and tolerantly
"There!" said Cissy, when they had passed, "didn't I tell you? Did
you ever see such conceit in your born days? I hope you did not
look at him."
Piney, conscious of having done so, and of having blushed under his
scrutiny, nevertheless stoutly asserted that she had merely looked
at him "to see who it was." But Cissy was placated by passing the
Secamps' cottage, from whose window the three strapping daughters
of John Secamp, lately an emigrant from Missouri, were, as Cissy
had surmised, lightening the household duties by gazing at the--to
them--unwonted wonders of the street. Whether their complexions,
still bearing traces of the alkali dust and inefficient nourishment
of the plains, took a more yellow tone from the spectacle of
Cissy's hat, I cannot say. Cissy thought they did; perhaps Piney
was nearer the truth when she suggested that they were only
"looking" to enable them to make a home-made copy of the hat next
Their progress forward and through the outskirts of the town was of
the same triumphal character. Teamsters withheld their oaths and
their uplifted whips as the two girls passed by; weary miners,
toiling in ditches, looked up with a pleasure that was half
reminiscent of their past; younger skylarkers stopped in their
horse-play with half smiling, half apologetic faces; more ambitious
riders on the highway urged their horses to greater speed under the
girls' inspiring eyes, and "Vaquero Billy," charging them, full
tilt, brought up his mustang on its haunches and rigid forelegs,
with a sweeping bow of his sombrero, within a foot of their
artfully simulated terror! In this way they at last reached the
clearing in the forest, the church with its ostentatious spire, and
the Reverend Mr. Windibrook's dwelling, otherwise humorously known
as "The Pastorage," where Cissy intended to call.
The Reverend Mr. Windibrook had been selected by his ecclesiastical
superiors to minister to the spiritual wants of Canada City as
being what was called a "hearty" man. Certainly, if considerable
lung capacity, absence of reserve, and power of handshaking and
back slapping were necessary to the redemption of Canada City, Mr.
Windibrook's ministration would have been successful. But,
singularly enough, the rude miner was apt to resent this
familiarity, and it is recorded that Isaac Wood, otherwise known as
"Grizzly Woods," once responded to a cheerful back slap from the
reverend gentleman by an ostentatiously friendly hug which nearly
dislocated the parson's ribs. Perhaps Mr. Windibrook was more
popular on account of his admiring enthusiasm of the prosperous
money-getting members of his flock and a singular sympathy with
their methods, and Mr. Trixit's daring speculations were an
especially delightful theme to him.
"Ah, Miss Trixit," he said, as Cissy entered the little parlor,
"and how is your dear father? Still startling the money market
with his fearless speculations? This, brother Jones," turning to a
visitor, "is the daughter of our Napoleon of finance, Montagu
Trixit. Only last week, in that deal in 'the Comstock,' he cleared
fifty thousand dollars! Yes, sir," repeating it with unction,
"fifty--thousand--dollars!--in about two hours, and with a single
stroke of the pen! I believe I am not overstating, Miss Trixit?"
he added, appealing to Cissy with a portentous politeness that was
as badly fitting as his previous "heartiness."
Cissy colored slightly. "I don't know," she said simply. She was
perfectly truthful. She knew nothing of her father's business,
except the vague reputation of his success.
Her modesty, however, produced a singular hilarity in Mr. Windibrook,
and a playful push. "YOU don't know? Ha, but I do. Yes, sir,"--to
the visitor,--"I have reason to remember it. I called upon him the
next day. I used, sir, the freedom of an old friend. 'Trixit,' I
said, clapping my hand on his shoulder, 'the Lord has been good to
you. I congratulate you.'
"'H'm!' he said, without looking up. 'What do you reckon those
congratulations are worth?'
"Many a man, sir, who didn't know his style, would have been
staggered. But I knew my man. I looked him straight in the eye.
'A new organ,' I said, 'and as good a one as Sacramento can turn
"He took up a piece of paper, scrawled a few lines on it to his
cashier, and said, 'Will that do?'" Mr. Windibrook's voice sank to
a thrilling whisper. "It was an order for one thousand dollars!
Fact, sir. THAT is the father of this young lady."
"Ye had better luck than Bishop Briggs had with old Johnson, the
Excelsior Bank president," said the visitor, encouraged by
Windibrook's "heartiness" into a humorous retrospect. "Briggs goes
to him for a subscription for a new fence round the buryin'-ground--
the old one havin' rotted away. 'Ye don't want no fence,' sez
Johnson, short like. 'No fence round a buryin'-ground?' sez
Briggs, starin'. 'No! Them as is IN the buryin'-ground can't get
OUT, and them as ISN'T don't want to get IN, nohow! So you kin
just travel--I ain't givin' money away on uselessnesses!' Ha! ha!"
A chill silence followed, which checked even Piney's giggle. Mr.
Windibrook evidently had no "heartiness" for non-subscribing humor.
"There are those who can jest with sacred subjects," he said
ponderously, "but I have always found Mr. Trixit, though blunt,
eminently practical. Your father is still away," he added,
shifting the conversation to Cissy, "hovering wherever he can
extract the honey to store up for the provision of age. An
"He's still away," said Cissy, feeling herself on safe ground,
though she was not aware of her father's entomological habits. "In
San Francisco, I think."
She was glad to get away from Mr. Windibrook's "heartiness" and
console herself with Mrs. Windibrook's constitutional depression,
which was partly the result of nervous dyspepsia and her husband's
boisterous cordiality. "I suppose, dear, you are dreadfully
anxious about your father when he is away from home?" she said to
Cissy, with a sympathetic sigh.
Cissy, conscious of never having felt a moment's anxiety, and
accustomed to his absences, replied naively, "Why?"
"Oh," responded Mrs. Windibrook, "on account of his great business
responsibilities, you know; so much depends upon him."
Again Cissy did not comprehend; she could not understand why this
masterful man, her father, who was equal to her own and, it seemed,
everybody's needs, had any responsibility, or was not as infallible
and constant as the sunshine or the air she breathed. Without
being his confidante, or even his associate, she had since her
mother's death no other experience; youthfully alive to the
importance of their wealth, it seemed to her, however, only a
natural result of being HIS daughter. She smiled vaguely and a
little impatiently. They might have talked to her about HERSELF;
it was a little tiresome to always have to answer questions about
her "popper." Nevertheless, she availed herself of Mrs.
Windibrook's invitation to go into the garden and see the new
summerhouse that had been put up among the pines, and gradually
diverted her hostess's conversation into gossip of the town. If it
was somewhat lugubrious and hesitating, it was, however, a relief
to Cissy, and bearing chiefly upon the vicissitudes of others, gave
her the comforting glow of comparison.
Touching the complexion of the Secamp girls, Mrs. Windibrook
attributed it to their great privations in the alkali desert. "One
day," continued Mrs. Windibrook, "when their father was ill with
fever and ague, they drove the cattle twenty miles to water through
that dreadful poisonous dust, and when they got there their lips
were cracked and bleeding and their eyelids like burning knives,
and Mamie Secamp's hair, which used to be a beautiful brown like
your own, my dear, was bleached into a rusty yellow."
"And they WILL wear colors that don't suit them," said Cissy
"Never mind, dear," said Mrs. Windibrook ambiguously; "I suppose
they will have their reward."
Nor was the young engineer discussed in a lighter vein. "It pains
me dreadfully to see that young man working with the common
laborers and giving himself no rest, just because he says he wants
to know exactly 'how the thing is done' and why the old works
failed," she remarked sadly. "When Mr. Windibrook knew he was the
son of Judge Masterton and had rich relations, he wished, of
course, to be civil, but somehow young Masterton and he didn't 'hit
off.' Indeed, Mr. Windibrook was told that he had declared that
the prosperity of Canada City was only a mushroom growth, and it
seems too shocking to repeat, dear, but they say he said that the
new church--OUR church--was simply using the Almighty as a big
bluff to the other towns. Of course, Mr. Windibrook couldn't see
him after that. Why, he even said your father ought to send you to
school somewhere, and not let you grow up in this half civilized
Strangely enough, Cissy did not hail this corroboration of her
dislike to young Masterton with the liveliness one might have
expected. Perhaps it was because Piney Tibbs was no longer
present, having left Cissy at the parsonage and returned home.
Still she enjoyed her visit after a fashion, romped with the
younger Windibrooks and climbed a tree in the security of her
sylvan seclusion and the promptings of her still healthy, girlish
blood, and only came back to cake and tea and her new hat, which
she had prudently hung up in the summer-house, as the afternoon was
waning. When they returned to the house, they found that Mr.
Windibrook had gone out with his visitor, and Cissy was spared the
advertisement of a boisterous escort home, which he generally
insisted upon. She gayly took leave of the infant Windibrook and
his mother, sallied out into the empty road, and once more became
conscious of her new hat.
The shadows were already lengthening, and a cool breeze stirred the
deep aisles of the pines on either side of the highway. One or two
people passed her hurriedly, talking and gesticulating, evidently
so preoccupied that they did not notice her. Again, a rapid
horseman rode by without glancing round, overtook the pedestrians,
exchanged a few hurried words with them, and then spurred swiftly
away as one of them shouted after him, "There's another dispatch
confirming it." A group of men talking by the roadside failed to
look up as she passed. Cissy pouted slightly at this want of
taste, which made some late election news or the report of a horse
race more enthralling than her new hat and its owner. Even the
toilers in the ditches had left their work, and were congregated
around a man who was reading aloud from a widely margined "extra"
of the "Canada City Press." It seemed provoking, as she knew her
cheeks were glowing from her romp, and was conscious that she was
looking her best. However, the Secamps' cottage was just before
her, and the girls were sure to be on the lookout! She shook out
her skirts and straightened her pretty little figure as she
approached the house. But to her surprise, her coming had
evidently been anticipated by them, and they were actually--and
unexpectedly--awaiting her behind the low whitewashed garden
palings! As she neared them they burst into a shrill, discordant
laugh, so full of irony, gratified malice, and mean exaltation that
Cissy was for a moment startled. But only for a moment; she had
her father's reckless audacity, and bore them down with a display
of such pink cheeks and flashing eyes that their laughter was
checked, and they remained open-mouthed as she swept by them.
Perhaps this incident prevented her from noticing another but more
passive one. A group of men standing before the new mill--the same
men who had so solicitously challenged her attention with their
bows a couple of hours ago--turned as she approached and suddenly
dispersed. It was not until this was repeated by another group
that its oddity forced itself upon her still angry consciousness.
Then the street seemed to be full of those excited preoccupied
groups who melted away as she advanced. Only one man met her
curious eyes,--the engineer,--yet she missed the usual critical
smile with which he was wont to greet her, and he gave her a bow of
such profound respect and gravity that for the first time she felt
really uneasy. Was there something wrong with her hat? That
dreadful, fateful hat! Was it too conspicuous? Did he think it
was vulgar? She was eager to cross the street on the next block
where there were large plate-glass windows which she and Piney--if
Piney were only with her now!--had often used as mirrors.
But there was a great crowd on the next block, congregated around
the bank,--her father's bank! A vague terror, she knew not what,
now began to creep over her. She would have turned into a side
street, but mingled with her fear was a resolution not to show it,--
not to even THINK of it,--to combat it as she had combated the
horrid laugh of the Secamp girls, and she kept her way with a
beating heart but erect head, without looking across the street.
There was another crowd before the newspaper office--also on the
other side--and a bulletin board, but she would not try to read it.
Only one idea was in her mind,--to reach home before any one should
speak to her; for the last intelligible sound that had reached her
was the laugh of the Secamp girls, and this was still ringing in
her ears, seeming to voice the hidden strangeness of all she saw,
and stirring her, as that had, with childish indignation. She kept
on with unmoved face, however, and at last turned into the planked
side-terrace,--a part of her father's munificence,--and reached the
symmetrical garden-beds and graveled walk. She ran up the steps of
the veranda and entered the drawing-room through the open French
window. Glancing around the familiar room, at her father's closed
desk, at the open piano with the piece of music she had been
practicing that morning, the whole walk seemed only a foolish dream
that had frightened her. She was Cissy Trixit, the daughter of the
richest man in the town! This was her father's house, the wonder
of Canada City!
A ring at the front doorbell startled her; without waiting for the
servant to answer it, she stepped out on the veranda, and saw a boy
whom she recognized as a waiter at the hotel kept by Piney's
father. He was holding a note in his hand, and staring intently at
the house and garden. Seeing Cissy, he transferred his stare to
her. Snatching the note from him, she tore it open, and read in
Piney's well-known scrawl, "Dad won't let me come to you now, dear,
but I'll try to slip out late to-night." Why should she want to
come? She had said nothing about coming NOW--and why should her
father prevent her? Cissy crushed the note between her fingers,
and faced the boy.
"What are you staring at--idiot?"
The boy grinned hysterically, a little frightened at Cissy's
straightened brows and snapping eyes.
"Get away! there's no answer."
The boy ran off, and Cissy returned to the drawing-room. Then it
occurred to her that the servant had not answered the bell. She
rang again furiously. There was no response. She called down the
basement staircase, and heard only the echo of her voice in the
depths. How still the house was! Were they ALL out,--Susan,
Norah, the cook, the Chinaman, and the gardener? She ran down into
the kitchen; the back door was open, the fires were burning, dishes
were upon the table, but the kitchen was empty. Upon the floor lay
a damp copy of the "extra." She picked it up quickly. Several
black headlines stared her in the face. "Enormous Defalcation!"
"Montagu Trixit Absconded!" "50,000 Dollars Missing!" "Run on the
She threw the paper through the open door as she would have hurled
back the accusation from living lips. Then, in a revulsion of
feeling lest any one should find her there, she ran upstairs and
locked herself in her own room.
So that was what it all meant! All!--from the laugh of the Secamp
girls to the turning away of the townspeople as she went by. Her
father was a thief who had stolen money from the bank and run away
leaving her alone to bear it! No! It was all a lie--a wicked,
jealous lie! A foolish lie, for how could he steal money from HIS
OWN bank? Cissy knew very little of her father--perhaps that was
why she believed in him; she knew still less of business, but she
knew that HE did. She had often heard them say it--perhaps the
very ones who now called him names. He! who had made Canada City
what it was! HE, who, Windibrook said, only to-day, had, like
Moses, touched the rocks of the Canada with his magic wand of
Finance, and streams of public credit and prosperity had gushed
from it! She would never speak to them again! She would shut
herself up here, dismiss all the servants but the Chinaman, and
wait until her father returned.
There was a knock, and the entreating voice of Norah, the cook,
outside the door. Cissy unlocked it and flung it open indignantly.
"Ah! It's yourself, miss--and I never knew ye kem back till I met
that gossoon of a hotel waiter in the street," said the panting
servant. "Sure it was only an hour ago while I was at me woorrck
in the kitchen, and Jim rushes in and sez: 'For the love of God, if
iver ye want to see a blessed cint of the money ye put in the
masther's bank, off wid ye now and draw it out--for there's a run
on the bank!'"
"It was an infamous lie," said Cissy fiercely.
"Sure, miss, how was oi to know? And if the masther HAS gone away,
it's ownly takin' me money from the other divils down there that's
drawin' it out and dividin' it betwixt and between them."
Cissy had a very vague idea of what a "run on the bank" meant, but
Norah's logic seemed to satisfy her feminine reason. She softened
"Mr. Windibrook is in the parlor, miss, and a jintleman on the
veranda," continued Norah, encouraged.
Cissy started. "I'll come down," she said briefly.
Mr. Windibrook was waiting beside the piano, with his soft hat in
one hand and a large white handkerchief in the other. He had
confidently expected to find Cissy in tears, and was ready with
boisterous condolement, but was a little taken aback as the young
girl entered with a pale face, straightened brows, and eyes that
shone with audacious rebellion. However, it was too late to change
his attitude. "Ah, my young friend," he said a little awkwardly,
"we must not give way to our emotions, but try to recognize in our
trials the benefits of a great lesson. But," he added hurriedly,
seeing her stand still silent but erect before him, "I see that you
do!" He paused, coughed slightly, cast a glance at the veranda,--
where Cissy now for the first time observed a man standing in an
obviously assumed attitude of negligent abstraction,--moved towards
the back room, and in a lower voice said, "A word with you in
Without replying, Cissy followed him.
"If," said Mr. Windibrook, with a sickly smile, "you are questioned
regarding your father's affairs, you may remember his peculiar and
utterly unsolicited gift of a certain sum towards a new organ, to
which I alluded to-day. You can say that he always expressed great
liberality towards the church, and it was no surprise to you."
Cissy only stared at him with dangerous eyes.
"Mrs. Windibrook," continued the reverend gentleman in his highest,
heartiest voice, albeit a little hurried, "wished me to say to you
that until you heard from--your friends--she wanted you to come and
stay with her. DO come! DO!"
Cissy, with her bright eyes fixed upon her visitor, said, "I shall
"But," said Mr. Windibrook impatiently, "you cannot. That man you
see on the veranda is the sheriff's officer. The house and all
that it contains are in the hands of the law."
Cissy's face whitened in proportion as her eyes grew darker, but
she said stoutly, "I shall stay here till my popper tells me to
"Till your popper tells you to go!" repeated Mr. Windibrook
harshly, dropping his heartiness and his handkerchief in a burst of
unguarded temper. "Your papa is a thief escaping from justice, you
foolish girl; a disgraced felon, who dare not show his face again
in Canada City; and you are lucky, yes! lucky, miss, if you do not
share his disgrace!"
"And you're a wicked, wicked liar!" said Cissy, clinching her
little fists at her side and edging towards him with a sidelong
bantam-like movement as she advanced her freckled cheek close to
his with an effrontery so like her absconding father that he
recoiled before it. "And a mean, double-faced hypocrite, too!
Didn't you always praise him? Didn't you call him a Napoleon, and
a--Moses? Didn't you say he was the making of Canada City? Didn't
you get him to raise your salary, and start a subscription for your
new house? Oh, you--you--stinking beast!"
Here the stranger on the veranda, still gazing abstractedly at the
landscape, gave a low and apparently unconscious murmur, as if
enraptured with the view. Mr. Windibrook, recalled to an attempt
at dignity, took up his hat and handkerchief. "When you have
remembered yourself and your position, Miss Trixit," he said
loftily, "the offer I have made you"--
"I despise it! I'd sooner stay in the woods with the grizzlies and
rattlesnakes?" said Cissy pantingly. "Go and leave me alone! Do
you hear?" She stamped her little foot. "Are you listening? Go!"
Mr. Windibrook promptly retreated through the door and down the
steps into the garden, at which the stranger on the veranda
reluctantly tore himself away from the landscape and slowly entered
the parlor through the open French window. Here, however, he
became equally absorbed and abstracted in the condition of his
beard, carefully stroking his shaven cheek and lips and pulling his
After a pause he turned to the angry Cissy, standing by the piano,
radiant with glowing cheeks and flashing eyes, and said slowly, "I
reckon you gave the parson as good as he sent. It kinder settles a
man to hear the frozen truth about himself sometimes, and you've
helped old Shadbelly considerably on the way towards salvation.
But he was right about one thing, Miss Trixit. The house IS in the
hands of the law. I'm representing it as deputy sheriff. Mebbe
you might remember me--Jake Poole--when your father was addressing
the last Citizen's meeting, sittin' next to him on the platform--
I'M in possession. It isn't a job I'm hankerin' much arter; I'd a
lief rather hunt hoss thieves or track down road agents than this
kind o' fancy, underhand work. So you'll excuse me, miss, if I
ain't got the style." He paused, rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and
then said slowly and with great deliberation: "Ef there's any
little thing here, miss,--any keepsakes or such trifles ez you keer
for in partickler, things you wouldn't like strangers to have,--you
just make a little pile of 'em and drop 'em down somewhere outside
the back door. There ain't no inventory taken nor sealin' up of
anythin' done just yet, though I have to see there ain't anythin'
disturbed. But I kalkilate to walk out on that veranda for a spell
and look at the landscape." He paused again, and said, with a sigh
of satisfaction, "It's a mighty pooty view out thar; it just takes
me every time."
As he turned and walked out through the French window, Cissy did
not for a moment comprehend him; then, strangely enough, his act of
rude courtesy for the first time awakened her to the full sense of
the situation. This house, her father's house, was no longer hers!
If her father should NEVER return, she wanted nothing from it,
NOTHING! She gripped her beating heart with the little hand she
had clinched so valiantly a moment ago. Suddenly her hand dropped.
Some one had glided noiselessly into the back room; a figure in a
blue blouse; a Chinaman, their house servant, Ah Fe. He cast a
furtive glance at the stranger on the veranda, and then beckoned to
her stealthily. She came towards him wonderingly, when he suddenly
whipped a note from his sleeve, and with a dexterous movement
slipped it into her fingers. She tore it open. A single glance
showed her a small key inclosed in a line of her father's
handwriting. Drawing quickly back into the corner, she read as
follows: "If this reaches you in time, take from the second drawer
of my desk an envelope marked 'Private Contracts' and give it to
the bearer." There was neither signature nor address.
Putting her finger to her lips, she cast a quick glance at the
absorbed figure on the veranda and stepped before the desk. She
fitted the key to the drawer and opened it rapidly but noiselessly.
There lay the envelope, and among other ticketed papers a small
roll of greenbacks--such as her father often kept there. It was
HIS money; she did not scruple to take it with the envelope.
Handing the latter to the Chinaman, who made it instantly disappear
up his sleeve like a conjurer's act, she signed him to follow her
into the hall.
"Who gave you that note, Ah Fe?" she whispered breathlessly.
"Who gave it to him?"
"And to HIM?"
"Yes--heap Chinaman--allee same as gang."
"You mean it passed from one Chinaman's hand to another?"
"Why didn't the first Chinaman who got it bring it here?"
"S'pose Mellikan man want to catchee lettel. He spotty Chinaman.
He follee Chinaman. Chinaman passee lettel nex' Chinaman. He no
get. Mellikan man no habe got. Sabe?"
"Then this package will go back the same way?"
"And who will YOU give it to now?"
"Allee same man blingee me lettel. Hop Li--who makee washee."
An idea here struck Cissy which made her heart jump and her cheeks
flame. Ah Fe gazed at her with an infantile smile of admiration.
"How far did that letter come?" she asked, with eager questioning
"Lettee me see him," said Ah Fe.
Cissy handed him the missive; he examined closely some half-a-dozen
Chinese characters that were scrawled along the length of the outer
fold, and which she had innocently supposed were a part of the
markings of the rice paper on which the note was written.
"Heap Chinaman velly much walkee--longee way! S'pose you look."
He pointed through the open front door to the prospect beyond. It
was a familiar one to Cissy,--the long Canada, the crest on crest
of serried pines, and beyond the dim snow-line. Ah Fe's brown
finger seemed to linger there.
"In the snow," she whispered, her cheek whitening like that dim
line, but her eyes sparkling like the sunshine over it.
"Allee same, John," said Ah Fe plaintively.
"Ah Fe," whispered Cissy, "take ME with you to Hop Li."
"No good," said Ah Fe stolidly. "Hop Li, he givee this"--he
indicated the envelope in his sleeve--"to next Chinaman. HE no go.
S'pose you go with me, Hop Li--you no makee nothing--allee same,
"I know; but you just take me there. DO!"
The young girl was irresistible. Ah Fe's face relaxed. "Allee
litee!" he said, with a resigned smile.
"You wait here a moment," said Cissy, brightening. She flew up the
staircase. In a few minutes she was back again. She had exchanged
her smart rose-sprigged chintz for a pathetic little blue-checked
frock of her school-days; the fateful hat had given way to a brown
straw "flat," bent like a frame around her charming face. All the
girlishness, and indeed a certain honest boyishness of her nature,
seemed to have come out in her glowing, freckled cheek, brilliant,
audacious eyes, and the quick stride which brought her to Ah Fe's
"Now let's go," she said, "out the back way and down the side
streets." She paused, cast a glance through the drawing-room at
the contemplative figure of the sheriff's deputy on the veranda,
and then passed out of the house forever.
. . . . . .
The excitement over the failure of Montagu Trixit's bank did not
burn itself out until midnight. By that time, however, it was
pretty well known that the amount of the defalcations had been
exaggerated; that it had been preceded by the suspension of the
"Excelsior Bank" of San Francisco, of which Trixit was also a
managing director, occasioned by the discovery of the withdrawal of
securities for use in the branch bank at Canada City; that he had
fled the State eastward across the Sierras; yet that, owing to the
vigilance of the police on the frontier, he had failed to escape
and was in hiding. But there were adverse reports of a more
sinister nature. It was said that others were implicated; that
they dared not bring him to justice; it was pointed out that there
was more concern among many who were not openly connected with the
bank than among its unfortunate depositors. Besides the inevitable
downfall of those who had invested their fortunes in it, there was
distrust or suspicion everywhere. Even Trixit's enemies were
forced to admit the saying that "Canada City was the bank, and the
bank was Trixit."
Perhaps this had something to do with an excited meeting of the
directors of the New Mill, to whose discussions Dick Masterton, the
engineer, had been hurriedly summoned. When the president told him
that he had been selected to undertake the difficult and delicate
mission of discovering the whereabouts of Montagu Trixit, and, if
possible, procuring an interview with him, he was amazed. What had
the New Mill, which had always kept itself aloof from the bank and
its methods, to do with the disgraced manager? He was still more
astonished when the president added bluntly:--
"Trixit holds securities of ours for money advanced to the mill by
himself privately. They do not appear on the books, but if he
chooses to declare them as assets of the bank, it's a bad thing for
us. If he is bold enough to keep them, he may be willing to make
some arrangement with us to carry them on. If he has got away or
committed suicide, as some say, it's for you to find the
whereabouts of the securities and get them. He is said to have
been last seen near the Summit. You understand our position?"
Masterton did, with suppressed disgust. But he was young, and
there was the thrill of adventure in this. "I will go," he said
"We thought you would. You must take the up stage to-night. Come
again and get your final instructions. By the way, you might get
some information at Trixit's house. You--er--er--are acquainted
with his daughter, I think?"
"Which makes it quite impossible for me to seek her for such a
purpose," said Masterton coldly.
A few hours later he was on the coach. As they cleared the
outskirts of the town, they passed two Chinamen plodding sturdily
along in the dust of the highway.
. . . . . .
Mr. Masterton started from a slight doze in the heavy, lumbering
"mountain wagon" which had taken the place of the smart Concord
coach that he had left at the last station. The scenery, too, had
changed; the four horses threaded their way through rocky defiles
of stunted larches and hardy "brush," with here and there open
patches of shrunken snow. Yet at the edge of declivities he could
still see through the rolled-up leather curtains the valley below
bathed in autumn, the glistening rivers half spent with the long
summer drought, and the green slopes rolling upward into crest
after crest of ascending pines. At times a drifting haze, always
imperceptible from below, veiled the view; a chill wind blew
through the vehicle, and made the steel sledge-runners that hung
beneath the wagon, ready to be shipped under the useless wheels, an
ominous provision. A few rude "stations," half blacksmith shops,
half grocery, marked the deserted but wellworn road; along, narrow
"packer's" wagon, or a tortuous file of Chinamen carrying
mysterious bundles depending from bamboo poles, was their rare and
only company. The rough sheepskin jackets which these men wore
over their characteristic blue blouses and their heavy leggings
were a new revelation to Masterton, accustomed to the thinly clad
coolie of the mines. They seemed a distinct race.
"I never knew those chaps get so high up, but they seem to
understand the cold," he remarked.
The driver looked up, and ejaculated his disgust and his tobacco
juice at the same moment.
"I reckon they're everywhar in Californy whar you want 'em and whar
you don't; you take my word for it, afore long Californy will hev
to reckon that she ginerally DON'T want 'em, ef a white man has to
live here. With a race tied up together in a language ye can't
understand, ways that no feller knows,--from their prayin' to
devils, swappin' their wives, and havin' their bones sent back to
Chiny,--wot are ye goin' to do, and where are ye? Wot are ye goin'
to make outer men that look so much alike ye can't tell 'em apart;
that think alike and act alike, and never in ways that ye kin catch
on to! Fellers knotted together in some underhand secret way o'
communicatin' with each other, so that ef ye kick a Chinaman up
here on the Summit, another Chinaman will squeal in the valley!
And the way they do it just gets me! Look yer! I'll tell ye
somethin' that happened, that's gospel truth! Some of the boys
that reckoned to hev some fun with the Chinee gang over at Cedar
Camp started out one afternoon to raid 'em. They groped along
through the woods whar nobody could see 'em, kalkilatin' to come
down with a rush on the camp, over two miles away. And nobody DID
see 'em, only ONE Chinaman wot they met a mile from the camp,
burnin' punk to his joss or devil, and he scooted away just in the
contrary direction. Well, sir, when they waltzed into that camp,
darn my skin! ef there was a Chinaman there, or as much as a grain
of rice to grab! Somebody had warned 'em! Well! this sort o' got
the boys, and they set about discoverin' how it was done. One of
'em noticed that there was some of them bits of tissue paper slips
that they toss around at funerals lyin' along the road near the
camp, and another remembered that the Chinaman they met on the hill
tossed a lot of that paper in the air afore he scooted. Well, sir,
the wind carried just enough of that paper straight down the hill
into that camp ten minutes afore THEY could get there, to give them
Chinamen warnin'--whatever it was! Fact! Why, I've seen 'em
stringin' along the road just like them fellers we passed just now,
and then stop all of a suddent like hounds off the scent, jabber
among themselves, and start off in a different direction"--
"Just what they're doing now! By thunder!" interrupted another
passenger, who was looking through the rolled-up curtain at his
All the passengers turned by one accord and looked out. The file
of Chinamen under observation had indeed turned, and was even then
moving rapidly away at right angles from the road.
"Got some signal, you bet!" said the driver; "some yeller paper or
piece o' joss stick in the road. What?"
The remark was addressed to the passenger who had just placed his
finger on his lip, and indicated a stolid-looking Chinaman,
overlooked before, who was sitting in the back or "steerage" seat.
"Oh, he be darned!" said the driver impatiently. "HE is no
account; he's only the laundryman from Rocky Canyon. I'm talkin'
of the coolie gang."
But here the conversation flagged, and the air growing keener, the
flaps of the leather side curtains were battened down. Masterton
gave himself up to conflicting reflections. The information that
he had gathered was meagre and unsatisfactory, and he could only
trust to luck and circumstance to fulfill his mission. The first
glow of adventure having passed, he was uneasily conscious that the
mission was not to his taste. The pretty, flushed but defiant face
of Cissy that afternoon haunted him; he had not known the immediate
cause of it, but made no doubt that she had already heard the news
of her father's disgrace when he met her. He regretted now that he
hadn't spoken to her, if only a few formal words of sympathy. He
had always been half tenderly amused at her frank conceit and her
"airs,"--the innocent, undisguised pride of the country belle, so
different from the hard aplomb of the city girl! And now the
foolish little moth, dancing in the sunshine of prosperity, had
felt the chill of winter in its pretty wings. The contempt he had
for the father had hitherto shown itself in tolerant pity for the
daughter, so proud of her father's position and what it brought
her. In the revelation that his own directors had availed
themselves of that father's methods, and the ignoble character of
his present mission, he felt a stirring of self-reproach. What
would become of her? Of course, frivolous as she was, she would
not feel the keenness of this misfortune like another, nor yet rise
superior to it. She would succumb for the present, to revive
another season in a dimmer glory elsewhere. His critical, cynical
observation of her had determined that any filial affection she
might have would be merged and lost in the greater deprivation of
A sudden darkening of the landscape below, and a singular opaque
whitening of the air around them, aroused him from his thoughts.
The driver drew up the collar of his overcoat and laid his whip
smartly over the backs of his cattle. The air grew gradually
darker, until suddenly it seemed to disintegrate into invisible
gritty particles that swept through the wagon. Presently these
particles became heavier, more perceptible, and polished like small
shot, and a keen wind drove them stingingly into the faces of the
passengers, or insidiously into their pockets, collars, or the
folds of their clothes. The snow forced itself through the
"We'll get over this when once we've passed the bend; the road
seems to dip beyond," said Masterton cheerfully from his seat
beside the driver.
The driver gave him a single scornful look, and turned to the
passenger who occupied the seat on the other side of him. "I don't
like the look o' things down there, but ef we are stuck, we'll have
to strike out for the next station."
"But," said Masterton, as the wind volleyed the sharp snow pellets
in their faces and the leaders were scarcely distinguishable
through the smoke-like discharges, "it can't be worse than here."
The driver did not speak, but the other passenger craned over his
back, and said explanatorily:--
"I reckon ye don't know these storms; this kind o' dry snow don't
stick and don't clog. Look!"
Indeed, between the volleys, Masterton could see that the road was
perfectly bare and wind-swept, and except slight drifts and banks
beside outlying bushes and shrubs,--which even then were again
blown away before his eyes,--the level landscape was unclothed and
unchanged. Where these mysterious snow pellets went to puzzled and
confused him; they seemed to vanish, as they had appeared, into the
air about them.
"I'd make a straight rush for the next station," said the other
passenger confidently to the driver. "If we're stuck, we're that
much on the way; if we turn back now, we'll have to take the grade
anyway when the storm's over, and neither you nor I know when
THAT'll be. It may be only a squall just now, but it's gettin'
rather late in the season. Just pitch in and drive all ye know."
The driver laid his lash on the horses, and for a few moments the
heavy vehicle dashed forward in violent conflict with the storm.
At times the elastic hickory framework of its domed leather roof
swayed and bent like the ribs of an umbrella; at times it seemed as
if it would be lifted bodily off; at times the whole interior of
the vehicle was filled with a thin smoke by drifts through every
cranny. But presently, to Masterton's great relief, the
interminable level seemed to end, and between the whitened blasts
he could see that the road was descending. Again the horses were
urged forward, and at last he could feel that the vehicle began to
add the momentum of its descent to its conflict with the storm.
The blasts grew less violent, or became only the natural resistance
of the air to their dominant rush. With the cessation of the snow
volleys and the clearing of the atmosphere, the road became more
strongly defined as it plunged downward to a terrace on the
mountain flank, several hundred feet below. Presently they came
again upon a thicker growth of bushes, and here and there a
solitary fir. The wind died away; the cold seemed to be less
bitter. Masterton, in his relief, glanced smilingly at his
companions on the box, but the driver's mouth was compressed as he
urged his team forward, and the other passenger looked hardly less
anxious. They were now upon the level terrace, and the storm
apparently spending its fury high up and behind them. But in spite
of the clearing of the air, he could not but notice that it was
singularly dark. What was more singular, the darkness seemed to
have risen from below, and to flow in upon them as they descended.
A curtain of profound obscurity, darker even than the mountain wall
at their side, shut out the horizon and the valley below. But for
the temperature, Masterton would have thought a thunderstorm was
closing in upon them. An odd feeling of uneasiness crept over him.
A few fitful gusts now came from the obscurity; one of them was
accompanied by what seemed a flight of small startled birds
crossing the road ahead of them. A second larger and more
sustained flight showed his astonished eyes that they were white,
and each bird an enormous flake of SNOW! For an instant the air
was filled with these disks, shreds, patches,--two or three
clinging together,--like the downfall shaken from a tree, striking
the leather roof and sides with a dull thud, spattering the road
into which they descended with large rosettes that melted away only
to be followed by hundreds more that stuck and STAYED. In five
minutes the ground was white with it, the long road gleaming out
ahead in the darkness; the roof and sides of the wagon were
overlaid with it as with a coating of plaster of Paris; the harness
of the horses, and even the reins, stood out over their steaming
backs like white trappings. In five minutes more the steaming
backs themselves were blanketed with it; the arms and legs of the
outside passengers pinioned to the seats with it, and the arms of
the driver kept free only by incessant motion. It was no longer
snowing; it was "snowballing;" it was an avalanche out of the
slopes of the sky. The exhausted horses floundered in it; the
clogging wheels dragged in it; the vehicle at last plunged into a
billow of it--and stopped.
The bewildered and half blinded passengers hurried out into the
road to assist the driver to unship the wheels and fit the steel
runners in their axles. But it was too late! By the time the
heavy wagon was converted into a sledge, it was deeply imbedded in
wet and clinging snow. The narrow, long-handled shovels borrowed
from the prospectors' kits were powerless before this heavy, half
liquid impediment. At last the driver, with an oath, relinquished
the attempt, and, unhitching his horses, collected the passengers
and led them forward by a narrower and more sheltered trail toward
the next stations now scarce a mile away. The led horses broke a
path before them, the snow fell less heavily, but it was nearly an
hour before the straggling procession reached the house, and the
snow-coated and exhausted passengers huddled and steamed round the
red-hot stove in the bar-room. The driver had vanished with his
team into the shed; Masterton's fellow passenger on the box-seat,
after a few whispered words to the landlord, also disappeared.
"I see you've got Jake Poole with you," said one of the bar-room
loungers to Masterton, indicating the passenger who had just left.
"I reckon he's here on the same fool business."
Masterton looked his surprise and mystification.
"Jake Poole, the deputy sheriff," repeated the other. "I reckon
he's here pretendin' to hunt for Montagu Trixit like the San
Francisco detectives that kem up yesterday."
Masterton with difficulty repressed a start. He had heard of
Poole, but did not know him by sight. "I don't think I
understand," he said coolly.
"I reckon you're a stranger in these parts," returned the lounger,
looking at Masterton curiously. "Ef you warn't, ye'd know that
about the last man San Francisco or Canada City WANTED to ketch is
Monty Trixit! He knows too much and THEY know it. But they've got
to keep up a show chase--a kind o' cirkis-ridin'--up here to
satisfy the stockholders. You bet that Jake Poole hez got his
orders--they might kill him to shut his mouth, ef they got an
excuse--and he made a fight--but he ain't no such fool. No, sir!
Why, the sickest man you ever saw was that director that kem up
here with a detective when he found that Monty HADN'T left the
"Then he IS hiding about here?" said Masterton, with assumed
The man paused, lowered his voice, and said: "I wouldn't swear he
wasn't a mile from whar we're talkin' now. Why, they do allow that
he's taken a drink at this very bar SINCE the news came!--and that
thar's a hoss kept handy in the stable already saddled just to
tempt him ef he was inclined to scoot."
"That's only a bluff to start him goin' so that they kin shoot him
in his tracks," said a bystander.
"That ain't no good ef he has, as they SAY he has, papers stowed
away with a friend that would frighten some mighty partickler men
out o' their boots," returned the first speaker. "But he's got his
spies too, and thar ain't a man that crosses the Divide as ain't
spotted by them. The officers brag about havin' put a cordon
around the district, and yet they've just found out that he managed
to send a telegraphic dispatch from Black Rock station right under
their noses. Why, only an hour or so arter the detectives and the
news arrived here, thar kem along one o' them emigrant teams from
Pike, and the driver said that a smart-lookin' chap in store-
clothes had come out of an old prospector's cabin up thar on the
rise about a mile away and asked for a newspaper. And the
description the teamster gave just fitted Trixit to a T. Well, the
information was give so public like that the detectives HAD to make
a rush over thar, and b'gosh! although thar wasn't a soul passed
them but a file of Chinese coolies, when they got thar they found
NOTHIN',--nothin' but them Chinamen cookin' their rice by the
Masterton smiled carelessly, and walked to the window, as if intent
upon the still falling snow. But he had at once grasped the
situation that seemed now almost providential for his inexperience
and his mission. The man he was seeking was within his possible
reach, if the story he had heard was true. The detectives would
not be likely to interfere with his plans, for he was the only man
who really wished to meet the fugitive. The presence of Poole made
him uneasy, though he had never met the man before. Was it barely
possible that he was on the same mission on behalf of others? IF
what he heard was true, there might be others equally involved with
the absconding manager. But then the spies--how could the deputy
sheriff elude them, and how could HE?
He was turning impatiently away from the window when his eye caught
sight of a straggling file of Chinamen breasting the storm on their
way up the hill. A sudden idea seized him. Perhaps THEY were the
spies in question. He remembered the driver's story. A sudden
flash of intuition made him now understand the singular way the
file of coolies which they met had diverted their course after
passing the wagon. They had recognized the deputy on the box.
Stay!--there was another Chinaman in the coach; HE might have given
them the signal. He glanced hurriedly around the room for him; he
was gone. Perhaps he had already joined the file he had just seen.
His only hope was to follow them--but how? and how to do it
quietly? The afternoon was waning; it would be three or four hours
before the down coach would arrive, from which the driver expected
assistance. Now, if ever, was his opportunity.
He made his way through the back door, and found himself among the
straw and chips of the stable-yard and woodshed. Still uncertain
what to do, he mechanically passed before the long shed which
served as temporary stalls for the steaming wagon horses. At the
further end, to his surprise, was a tethered mustang ready saddled
and bridled--the opportune horse left for the fugitive, according
to the lounger's story. Masterton cast a quick glance around the
stable; it was deserted by all save the feeding animals.
He was new to adventures of this kind, or he would probably have
weighed the possibilities and consequences. He was ordinarily a
thoughtful, reflective man, but like most men of intellect, he was
also imaginative and superstitious, and this crowning accident of
the providential situation in which he found himself was superior
to his logic. There would also be a grim irony in his taking this
horse for such a purpose. He again looked and listened. There was
no one within sight or hearing. He untied the rope from the bit-
ring, leaped into the saddle, and emerged cautiously from the shed.
The wet snow muffled the sound of the horse's hoofs. Moving round
to the rear of the stable so as to bring it between himself and the
station, he clapped his heels into the mustang's flanks and dashed
into the open.
At first he was confused and bewildered by the half hidden boulders
and snow-shrouded bushes that beset the broken ground, and dazzled
by the still driving storm. But he knew that they would also
divert attention from his flight, and beyond, he could now see a
white slope slowly rising before him, near whose crest a few dark
spots were crawling in file, like Alpine climbers. They were the
Chinamen he was seeking. He had reasoned that when they discovered
they were followed they would, in the absence of any chance of
signaling through the storm, detach one of their number to give the
alarm. HIM he would follow. He felt his revolver safe on his hip;
he would use it only if necessary to intimidate the spies.
For some moments his ascent through the wet snow was slow and
difficult, but as he advanced, he felt a change of temperature
corresponding to that he had experienced that afternoon on the
wagon coming down. The air grew keener, the snow drier and finer.
He kept a sharp lookout for the moving figures, and scanned the
horizon for some indication of the prospector's deserted hut.
Suddenly the line of figures he was watching seemed to be broken,
and then gathered together as a group. Had they detected him?
Evidently they had, for, as he had expected, one of them had been
detached, and was now moving at right angles from the party towards
the right. With a thrill of excitement he urged his horse forward;
the group was far to the left, and he was nearing the solitary
figure. But to his astonishment, as he approached the top of the
slope he now observed another figure, as far to the left of the
group as he was to the right, and that figure he could see, even at
that distance, was NOT a Chinaman. He halted for a better
observation; for an instant he thought it might be the fugitive
himself, but as quickly he recognized it was another man--the
deputy. It was HE whom the Chinaman had discovered; it was HE who
had caused the diversion and the dispatch of the vedette to warn
the fugitive. His own figure had evidently not yet been detected.
His heart beat high with hope; he again dashed forward after the
flying messenger, who was undoubtedly seeking the prospector's
ruined hut and--Trixit.
But it was no easy matter. At this elevation the snow had formed a
crust, over which the single Chinaman--a lithe young figure--
skimmed like a skater, while Masterton's horse crashed though it
into unexpected depths. Again, the runner could deviate by a
shorter cut, while the horseman was condemned to the one half
obliterated trail. The only thing in Masterton's favor, however,
was that he was steadily increasing his distance from the group and
the deputy sheriff, and so cutting off their connection with the
messenger. But the trail grew more and more indistinct as it
neared the summit, until at last it utterly vanished. Still he
kept up his speed toward the active little figure--which now seemed
to be that of a mere boy--skimming over the frozen snow. Twice a
stumble and flounder of the mustang through the broken crust ought
to have warned him of his recklessness, but now a distinct glimpse
of a low, blackened shanty, the prospector's ruined hut, toward
which the messenger was making, made him forget all else. The
distance was lessening between them; he could see the long pigtail
of the fugitive standing out from his bent head, when suddenly his
horse plunged forward and downward. In an awful instant of
suspense and twilight, such as he might have seen in a dream, he
felt himself pitched headlong into suffocating depths, followed by
a shock, the crushing weight and steaming flank of his horse across
his shoulder, utter darkness, and--merciful unconsciousness.
How long he lay there thus he never knew. With his returning
consciousness came this strange twilight again,--the twilight of a
dream. He was sitting in the new church at Canada City, as he had
sat the first Sunday of his arrival there, gazing at the pretty
face of Cissy Trixit in the pew opposite him, and wondering who she
was. Again he saw the startled, awakened light that came into her
adorable eyes, the faint blush that suffused her cheek as she met
his inquiring gaze, and the conscious, half conceited, half girlish
toss of her little head as she turned her eyes away, and then a
file of brown Chinamen, muttering some harsh, uncouth gibberish,
interposed between them. This was followed by what seemed to be
the crashing in of the church roof, a stifling heat succeeded by a
long, deadly chill. But he knew that THIS last was all a dream,
and he tried to struggle to his feet to see Cissy's face again,--a
reality that he felt would take him out of this horrible trance,--
and he called to her across the pew and heard her sweet voice again
in answer, and then a wave of unconsciousness once more submerged
He came back to life with a sharp tingling of his whole frame as if
pierced with a thousand needles. He knew he was being rubbed, and
in his attempts to throw his torturers aside, he saw faintly by the
light of a flickering fire that they were Chinamen, and he was
lying on the floor of a rude hut. With his first movements they
ceased, and, wrapping him like a mummy in warm blankets, dragged
him out of the heap of loose snow with which they had been rubbing
him, toward the fire that glowed upon the large adobe hearth. The
stinging pain was succeeded by a warm glow; a pleasant languor,
which made even thought a burden, came over him, and yet his
perceptions were keenly alive to his surroundings. He heard the
Chinamen mutter something and then depart, leaving him alone. But
presently he was aware of another figure that had entered, and was
now sitting with its back to him at a rude table, roughly
extemporized from a packing-box, apparently engaged in writing. It
was a small Chinaman, evidently the one he had chased! The events
of the past few hours--his mission, his intentions, and every
incident of the pursuit--flashed back upon him. Where was he?
What was he doing here? Had Trixit escaped him?
In his exhausted state he was unable to formulate a question which
even then he doubted if the Chinaman could understand. So he
simply watched him lazily, and with a certain kind of fascination,
until he should finish his writing and turn round. His long
pigtail, which seemed ridiculously disproportionate to his size,--
the pigtail which he remembered had streamed into the air in his
flight,--had partly escaped from the discovered hat under which it
had been coiled. But what was singular, it was not the wiry black
pigtail of his Mongolian fellows, but soft and silky, and as the
firelight played upon it, it seemed of a shining chestnut brown!
It was like--like--he stopped--was he dreaming again? A long sigh
The figure instantly turned. He started. It was Cissy Trixit!
There was no mistaking that charming, sensitive face, glowing with
health and excitement, albeit showing here and there the mark of
the pigment with which it had been stained, now hurriedly washed
off. A little of it had run into the corners of her eyelids, and
enhanced the brilliancy of her eyes.
He found his tongue with an effort. "What are you doing here?" he
asked with a faint voice, and a fainter attempt to smile.
"That's what I might ask about you," she said pertly, but with a
slight touch of scorn; "but I guess I know as well as I do about
the others. I came here to see my father," she added defiantly.
"And you are the--the--one--I chased?"
"Yes; and I'd have outrun you easily, even with your horse to help
you," she said proudly, "only I turned back when you went down into
that prospector's hole with your horse and his broken neck atop of
He groaned slightly, but more from shame than pain. The young girl
took up a glass of whiskey ready on the table and brought it to
him. "Take that; it will fetch you all right in a moment. Popper
says no bones are broken."
Masterton waived the proffered glass. "Your father--is he here?"
he asked hurriedly, recalling his mission.
"Not now; he's gone to the station--to--fetch--my clothes," she
said, with a little laugh.
"To the station?" repeated Masterton, bewildered.
"Yes," she replied, "to the station. Of course you don't know the
news," she added, with an air of girlish importance. "They've
stopped all proceedings against him, and he's as free as you are."
Masterton tried to rise, but another groan escaped him. He was
really in pain. Cissy's bright eyes softened. She knelt beside
him, her soft breath fanning his hair, and lifted him gently to a
"Oh, I've done it before," she laughed, as she read his wonder,
with his gratitude, in his eyes. "The horse was already stiff, and
you were nearly so, by the time I came up to you and got"--she
laughed again--"the OTHER Chinaman to help me pull you out of that
"I know I owe you my life," he said, his face flushing.
"It was lucky I was there," she returned naively; "perhaps lucky
you were chasing me."
"I'm afraid that of the many who would run after you I should be
the least lucky," he said, with an attempt to laugh that did not,
however, conceal his mortification; "but I assure you that I only
wished to have an interview with your father,--a BUSINESS
interview, perhaps as much in his interest as my own."
The old look of audacity came back to her face. "I guess that's
what they all came here for, except one, but it didn't keep them
Back to Full Books