Part 7 out of 8
advantage of this labor-saving phenomenon, the Lone Star partners
sprang into the water, and by disentangling and directing the eddying
fragments completed their work.
"The Old Man oughter been here to see this," said the Left Bower; "it's
just one o' them climaxes of poetic justice he's always huntin' up.
It's easy to see what's happened. One o' them high-toned shrimps over
in the Excelsior claim has put a blast in too near the creek. He's
tumbled the bank into the creek and sent the back water down here just
to wash out our race. That's what I call poetical retribution."
"And who was it advised us to dam the creek below the race and make it
do the thing?" asked the Right Bower, moodily.
"That was one of the Old Man's ideas, I reckon," said the Left Bower,
"And you remember," broke in the Judge with animation, "I allus said,
'Go slow, go slow. You just hold on and suthin' will happen.' And," he
added, triumphantly, "you see suthin' _has_ happened. I don't want to
take credit to myself, but I reckoned on them Excelsior boys bein'
fools, and took the chances."
"And what if I happen to know that the Excelsior boys ain't blastin'
to-day?" said the Right Bower, sarcastically.
As the Judge had evidently based his hypothesis on the alleged fact of
a blast, he deftly evaded the point. "I ain't sayin' the Old Man's head
ain't level on some things; he wants a little more _sabe_ of the world.
He's improved a good deal in euchre lately, and in poker--well! he's
got that sorter dreamy, listenin'-to-the-angels kind o' way that you
can't exactly tell whether he's bluffin' or has got a full hand. Hasn't
he?" he asked, appealing to Union Mills.
But that gentleman, who had been watching the dark face of the Right
Bower, preferred to take what he believed to be his cue from him. "That
ain't the question," he said virtuously; "we ain't takin' this step to
make a card sharp out of him. We're not doin' Chinamen's work in this
race to-day for that. No, sir! We're teachin' him to paddle his own
canoe." Not finding the sympathetic response he looked for in the Right
Bower's face, he turned to the Left.
"I reckon we were teachin' him our canoe was too full," was the Left
Bower's unexpected reply. "That's about the size of it."
The Right Bower shot a rapid glance under his brows at his brother. The
latter, with his hands in his pockets, stared unconsciously at the
rushing water, and then quietly turned away. The Right Bower followed
him. "Are you goin' back on us?" he asked.
"Are _you_?" responded the other.
"_No_, then it is," returned the Left Bower quietly. The elder brother
hesitated in half-angry embarrassment.
"Then what did you mean by saying we reckoned our canoe was too full?"
"Wasn't that our idea?" returned the Left Bower, indifferently.
Confounded by this practical expression of his own unformulated good
intentions, the Right Bower was staggered.
"Speakin' of the Old Man," broke in the Judge, with characteristic
infelicity, "I reckon he'll sort o' miss us, times like these. We were
allers runnin' him and bedevilin' him, after work, just to get him
excited and amusin', and he'll kinder miss that sort o' stimulatin'. I
reckon we'll miss it too, somewhat. Don't you remember, boys, the night
we put up that little sell on him and made him believe we'd struck it
rich in the bank of the creek, and got him so conceited, he wanted to
go off and settle all our debts at once?"
"And how I came bustin' into the cabin with a pan full of iron pyrites
and black sand," chuckled Union Mills, continuing the reminiscences,
"and how them big gray eyes of his nearly bulged out of his head. Well,
it's some satisfaction to know we did our duty by the young fellow even
in those little things." He turned for confirmation of their general
disinterestedness to the Right Bower, but he was already striding away,
uneasily conscious of the lazy following of the Left Bower, like a
laggard conscience at his back. This movement again threw Union Mills
and the Judge into feeble complicity in the rear, as the procession
slowly straggled homeward from the creek.
Night had fallen. Their way lay through the shadow of Lone Star
Mountain, deepened here and there by the slight, bosky ridges that,
starting from its base, crept across the plain like vast roots of its
swelling trunk. The shadows were growing blacker as the moon began to
assert itself over the rest of the valley, when the Right Bower halted
suddenly on one of these ridges. The Left Bower lounged up to him and
stopped also, while the two others came up and completed the group.
"There's no light in the shanty," said the Right Bower in a low voice,
half to himself and half in answer to their inquiring attitude. The men
followed the direction of his finger. In the distance the black outline
of the Lone Star cabin stood out distinctly in the illumined space.
There was the blank, sightless, external glitter of moonlight on its
two windows that seemed to reflect its dim vacancy, empty alike of
light and warmth and motion.
"That's sing'lar," said the Judge in an awed whisper.
The Left Bower, by simply altering the position of his hands in his
trousers' pockets, managed to suggest that he knew perfectly the
meaning of it, had always known it; but that being now, so to speak, in
the hands of Fate, he was callous to it. This much, at least, the elder
brother read in his attitude. But anxiety at that moment was the
controlling impulse of the Right Bower, as a certain superstitious
remorse was the instinct of the two others, and without heeding the
cynic, the three started at a rapid pace for the cabin.
They reached it silently, as the moon, now riding high in the heavens,
seemed to touch it with the tender grace and hushed repose of a tomb.
It was with something of this feeling that the Right Bower softly
pushed open the door; it was with something of this dread that the two
others lingered on the threshold, until the Right Bower, after vainly
trying to stir the dead embers on the hearth into life with his foot,
struck a match and lit their solitary candle. Its flickering light
revealed the familiar interior unchanged in aught but one thing. The
bunk that the Old Man had occupied was stripped of its blankets; the
few cheap ornaments and photographs were gone; the rude poverty of the
bare boards and scant pallet looked up at them unrelieved by the bright
face and gracious youth that had once made them tolerable. In the grim
irony of that exposure, their own penury was doubly conscious. The
little knapsack, the tea-cup and coffee-pot that had hung near his bed,
were gone also. The most indignant protest, the most pathetic of the
letters he had composed and rejected, whose torn fragments still
littered the floor, could never have spoken with the eloquence of this
empty space! The men exchanged no words; the solitude of the cabin,
instead of drawing them together, seemed to isolate each one in selfish
distrust of the others. Even the unthinking garrulity of Union Mills
and the Judge was checked. A moment later, when the Left Bower entered
the cabin, his presence was scarcely noticed.
The silence was broken by a joyous exclamation from the Judge. He had
discovered the Old Man's rifle in the corner, where it had been at
first overlooked. "He ain't gone yet, gentlemen--for yer's his rifle,"
he broke in, with a feverish return of volubility, and a high excited
falsetto. "He wouldn't have left this behind. No! I knowed it from the
first. He's just outside a bit, foraging for wood and water. No, sir!
Coming along here I said to Union Mills--didn't I?--'Bet your life the
Old Man's not far off, even if he ain't in the cabin.' Why, the moment
I stepped foot"--
"And I said coming along," interrupted Union Mills, with equally
reviving mendacity, 'Like as not he's hangin' round yer and lyin' low
just to give us a surprise.' He! ho!"
"He's gone for good, and he left that rifle here on purpose," said the
Left Bower in a low voice, taking the weapon almost tenderly in his
"Drop it, then!" said the Right Bower. The voice was that of his
brother, but suddenly changed with passion. The two other partners drew
back in alarm.
"I'll not leave it here for the first comer," said the Left Bower,
calmly, "because we've been fools and he too. It's too good a weapon
"Drop it, I say!" said the Right Bower, with a savage stride towards
The younger brother brought the rifle to a half charge with a white
face but a steady eye.
"Stop where you are!" he said collectedly. "Don't row with _me_,
because you haven't either the grit to stick to your ideas or the heart
to confess them wrong. We've followed your lead, and--here we are! The
camp's broken up--the Old Man's gone--and we're going. And as for the
"Drop it, do you hear!" shouted the Right Bower, clinging to that one
idea with the blind pertinacity of rage and a losing cause. "Drop it!"
The Left Bower drew back, but his brother had seized the barrel with
both hands. There was a momentary struggle, a flash through the
half-lighted cabin, and a shattering report. The two men fell back from
each other; the rifle dropped on the floor between them.
The whole thing was over so quickly that the other two partners had not
had time to obey their common impulse to separate them, and
consequently even now could scarcely understand what had passed. It was
over so quickly that the two actors themselves walked back to their
places, scarcely realizing their own act.
A dead silence followed. The Judge and Union Mills looked at each other
in dazed astonishment, and then nervously set about their former
habits, apparently in that fatuous belief common to such natures, that
they were ignoring a painful situation. The Judge drew the barrel
towards him, picked up the cards, and began mechanically to "make a
patience," on which Union Mills gazed with ostentatious interest, but
with eyes furtively conscious of the rigid figure of the Right Bower by
the chimney and the abstracted face of the Left Bower at the door. Ten
minutes had passed in this occupation, the Judge and Union Mills
conversing in the furtive whispers of children unavoidably but
fascinatedly present at a family quarrel, when a light step was heard
upon the crackling brushwood outside, and the bright panting face of
the Old Man appeared upon the threshold. There was a shout of joy; in
another moment he was half-buried in the bosom of the Right Bower's
shirt, half-dragged into the lap of the Judge, upsetting the barrel,
and completely encompassed by the Left Bower and Union Mills. With the
enthusiastic utterance of his name the spell was broken.
Happily unconscious of the previous excitement that had provoked this
spontaneous unanimity of greeting, the Old Man, equally relieved, at
once broke into a feverish announcement of his discovery. He painted
the details with, I fear, a slight exaggeration of coloring, due partly
to his own excitement, and partly to justify their own. But he was
strangely conscious that these bankrupt men appeared less elated with
their personal interest in their stroke of fortune than with his own
success. "I told you he'd do it," said the Judge, with a reckless
unscrupulousness of the statement that carried everybody with it; "look
at him! the game little pup." "Oh, no! he ain't the right breed, is
he?" echoed Union Mills with arch irony, while the Right and Left
Bower, grasping either hand, pressed a proud but silent greeting that
was half new to him, but wholly delicious. It was not without
difficulty that he could at last prevail upon them to return with him
to the scene of his discovery, or even then restrain them from
attempting to carry him thither on their shoulders on the plea of his
previous prolonged exertions. Once only there was a momentary
embarrassment. "Then you fired that shot to bring me back?" said the
Old Man, gratefully. In the awkward silence that followed, the hands of
the two brothers sought and grasped each other, penitently. "Yes,"
interposed the Judge with delicate tact, "ye see the Right and Left
Bower almost quarreled to see which should be the first to fire for ye.
I disremember which did"--"I never touched the trigger," said the Left
Bower, hastily. With a hurried backward kick, the Judge resumed, "It
went off sorter spontaneous."
The difference in the sentiment of the procession that once more issued
from the Lone Star cabin did not fail to show itself in each individual
partner according to his temperament. The subtle tact of Union Mills,
however, in expressing an awakened respect for their fortunate partner
by addressing him, as if unconsciously, as "Mr. Ford" was at first
discomposing, but even this was forgotten in their breathless
excitement as they neared the base of the mountain. When they had
crossed the creek the Right Bower stopped reflectively.
"You say you heard the slide come down before you left the cabin?" he
said, turning to the Old Man.
"Yes; but I did not know then what it was. It was about an hour and a
half after you left," was the reply.
"Then look here, boys," continued the Right Bower with superstitious
exultation; "it was the _slide_ that tumbled into the creek, overflowed
it, and helped _us_ clear out the race!"
It seemed so clear that Providence had taken the partners of the Lone
Star directly in hand that they faced the toilsome ascent of the
mountain with the assurance of conquerors. They paused only on the
summit to allow the Old Man to lead the way to the slope that held
their treasure. He advanced cautiously to the edge of the crumbling
cliff, stopped, looked bewildered, advanced again, and then remained
white and immovable. In an instant the Right Bower was at his side.
"Is anything the matter? Don't--don't look so, Old Man, for God's
The Old Man pointed to the dull, smooth, black side of the mountain,
without a crag, break, or protuberance, and said with ashen lips:
* * * * *
And it was gone! A _second_ slide had taken place, stripping the flank
of the mountain, and burying the treasure and the weak implement that
had marked its side deep under a chaos of rock and debris at its base.
"Thank God!" The blank faces of his companions turned quickly to the
Right Bower. "Thank God!" he repeated, with his arm round the neck of
the Old Man.
"Had he stayed behind he would have been buried too." He paused, and,
pointing solemnly to the depths below, said, "And thank God for showing
us where we may yet labor for it in hope and patience like honest men."
The men silently bowed their heads and slowly descended the mountain.
But when they had reached the plain, one of them called out to the
others to watch a star that seemed to be rising and moving towards them
over the hushed and sleeping valley.
"It's only the stage-coach, boys," said the Left Bower, smiling; "the
coach that was to take us away."
In the security of their new-found fraternity they resolved to wait and
see it pass. As it swept by with flash of light, beat of hoofs, and
jingle of harness, the only real presence in the dreamy landscape, the
driver shouted a hoarse greeting to the phantom partners, audible only
to the Judge, who was nearest the vehicle.
"Did you hear--_did_ you hear what he said, boys?" he gasped, turning
to his companions. "No? Shake hands all round, boys! God bless you all,
boys! To think we didn't know it all this while!"
A SHIP OF '49.
It had rained so persistently in San Francisco during the first week of
January, 1854, that a certain quagmire in the roadway of Long Wharf had
become impassable, and a plank was thrown over its dangerous depth.
Indeed, so treacherous was the spot that it was alleged, on good
authority, that a hastily embarking traveler had once hopelessly lost
his portmanteau, and was fain to dispose of his entire interest in it
for the sum of two dollars and fifty cents to a speculative stranger on
the wharf. As the stranger's search was rewarded afterwards only by the
discovery of the body of a casual Chinaman, who had evidently
endeavored wickedly to anticipate him, a feeling of commercial
insecurity was added to the other eccentricities of the locality.
The plank led to the door of a building that was a marvel even in the
chaotic frontier architecture of the street. The houses on either
side--irregular frames of wood or corrugated iron--bore evidence of
having been quickly thrown together, to meet the requirements of the
goods and passengers who were once disembarked on what was the muddy
beach of the infant city. But the building in question exhibited a
certain elaboration of form and design utterly inconsistent with this
idea. The structure obtruded a bowed front to the street, with a
curving line of small windows, surmounted by elaborate carvings and
scroll work of vines and leaves, while below, in faded gilt letters,
appeared the legend "Pontiac--Marseilles." The effect of this
incongruity was startling.
It is related that an inebriated miner, impeded by mud and drink before
its door, was found gazing at its remarkable facade with an expression
of the deepest despondency. "I hev lived a free life, pardner," he
explained thickly to the Samaritan who succored him, "and every time
since I've been on this six weeks' jamboree might have kalkilated it
would come to this. Snakes I've seen afore now, and rats I'm not
unfamiliar with, but when it comes to the starn of a ship risin' up out
of the street, I reckon it's time to pass in my checks."
"It _is_ a ship, you blasted old soaker," said the Samaritan curtly.
It was indeed a ship. A ship run ashore and abandoned on the beach
years before by her gold-seeking crew, with the debris of her scattered
stores and cargo, overtaken by the wild growth of the strange city and
the reclamation of the muddy flat, wherein she lay hopelessly imbedded;
her retreat cut off by wharves and quays and breakwater, jostled at
first by sheds, and then impacted in a block of solid warehouses and
dwellings, her rudder, port, and counter boarded in, and now gazing
hopelessly through her cabin windows upon the busy street before her.
But still a ship despite her transformation. The faintest line of
contour yet left visible spoke of the buoyancy of another element; the
balustrade of her roof was unmistakably a taffrail. The rain slipped
from her swelling sides with a certain lingering touch of the sea; the
soil around her was still treacherous with its suggestions, and even
the wind whistled nautically over her chimney. If, in the fury of some
southwesterly gale, she had one night slipped her strange moorings and
left a shining track through the lower town to the distant sea, no one
would have been surprised.
Least of all, perhaps, her present owner and possessor, Mr. Abner Nott.
For by the irony of circumstances, Mr. Nott was a Far Western farmer
who had never seen a ship before, nor a larger stream of water than a
tributary of the Missouri River. In a spirit, half of fascination, half
of speculation, he had bought her at the time of her abandonment, and
had since mortgaged his ranch at Petaluma with his live stock, to
defray the expenses of filling in the land where she stood, and the
improvements of the vicinity. He had transferred his household goods
and his only daughter to her cabin, and had divided the space "between
decks" and her hold into lodging-rooms, and lofts for the storage of
goods. It could hardly be said that the investment had been profitable.
His tenants vaguely recognized that his occupancy was a sentimental
rather than a commercial speculation, and often generously lent
themselves to the illusion by not paying their rent. Others treated
their own tenancy as a joke,--a quaint recreation born of the childlike
familiarity of frontier intercourse. A few had left; carelessly
abandoning their unsalable goods to their landlord, with great
cheerfulness and a sense of favor. Occasionally Mr. Abner Nott, in a
practical relapse, raged against the derelicts, and talked of
dispossessing them, or even dismantling his tenement, but he was easily
placated by a compliment to the "dear old ship," or an effort made by
some tenant to idealize his apartment. A photographer who had
ingeniously utilized the forecastle for a gallery (accessible from the
bows in the next street), paid no further tribute than a portrait of
the pretty face of Rosey Nott. The superstitious reverence in which
Abner Nott held his monstrous fancy was naturally enhanced by his
purely bucolic exaggeration of its real functions and its native
element. "This yer keel has sailed, and sailed, and sailed," he would
explain with some incongruity of illustration, "in a bee line, makin'
tracks for days runnin'. I reckon more storms and blizzards hez tackled
her than you ken shake a stick at. She's stampeded whales afore now,
and sloshed round with pirates and freebooters in and outer the Spanish
Main, and across lots from Marcelleys where she was rared. And yer she
sits peaceful-like just ez if she'd never been outer a pertater patch,
and hadn't ploughed the sea with fo'sails and studdin' sails and them
things cavortin' round her masts."
Abner Nott's enthusiasm was shared by his daughter, but with more
imagination, and an intelligence stimulated by the scant literature of
her father's emigrant wagon and the few books found on the cabin
shelves. But to her the strange shell she inhabited suggested more of
the great world than the rude, chaotic civilization she saw from the
cabin windows or met in the persons of her father's lodgers. Shut up
for days in this quaint tenement, she had seen it change from the
enchanted playground of her childish fancy to the theater of her active
maidenhood, but without losing her ideal romance in it. She had
translated its history in her own way, read its quaint nautical
hieroglyphics after her own fashion, and possessed herself of its
secrets. She had in fancy made voyages in it to foreign lands, had
heard the accents of a softer tongue on its decks, and on summer
nights, from the roof of the quarter-deck, had seen mellower
constellations take the place of the hard metallic glitter of the
Californian skies. Sometimes, in her isolation, the long, cylindrical
vault she inhabited seemed, like some vast sea-shell, to become musical
with the murmurings of the distant sea. So completely had it taken the
place of the usual instincts of feminine youth that she had forgotten
she was pretty, or that her dresses were old in fashion and scant in
quantity. After the first surprise of admiration her father's lodgers
ceased to follow the abstracted nymph except with their eyes,--partly
respecting her spiritual shyness, partly respecting the jealous
supervision of the paternal Nott. She seldom penetrated the crowded
center of the growing city; her rare excursions were confined to the
old ranch at Petaluma, whence she brought flowers and plants, and even
extemporized a hanging-garden on the quarter-deck.
It was still raining, and the wind, which had increased to a gale, was
dashing the drops against the slanting cabin windows with a sound like
spray when Mr. Abner Nott sat before a table seriously engaged with his
accounts. For it was "steamer night,"--as that momentous day of
reckoning before the sailing of the regular mail steamer was briefly
known to commercial San Francisco,--and Mr. Nott was subject at such
times to severely practical relapses. A swinging light seemed to bring
into greater relief that peculiar encased casket-like security of the
low-timbered, tightly-fitting apartment, with its toy-like utilities of
space, and made the pretty oval face of Rosey Nott appear a
characteristic ornament. The sliding door of the cabin communicated
with the main deck, now roofed in and partitioned off so as to form a
small passage that led to the open starboard gangway, where a narrow,
enclosed staircase built on the ship's side took the place of the
ship's ladder under her counter, and opened in the street.
A dash of rain against the window caused Rosey to lift her eyes from
"It's much nicer here than at the ranch, father," she said coaxingly,
"even leaving alone its being a beautiful ship instead of a shanty; the
wind don't whistle through the cracks and blow out the candle when
you're reading, nor the rain spoil your things hung up against the
wall. And you look more like a gentleman sitting in his own--ship--you
know, looking over his bills and getting ready to give his orders."
Vague and general as Miss Rosey's compliment was, it had its full
effect upon her father, who was at times dimly conscious of his
hopeless rusticity and its incongruity with his surroundings. "Yes," he
said awkwardly, with a slight relaxation of his aggressive attitude;
"yes, in course it's more bang-up style, but it don't pay--Rosey--it
don't pay. Yer's the Pontiac that oughter be bringin' in, ez rents go,
at least three hundred a month, don't make her taxes. I bin thinkin'
seriously of sellin' her."
As Rosey knew her father had experienced this serious contemplation on
the first of every month for the last two years, and cheerfully ignored
it the next day, she only said, "I'm sure the vacant rooms and lofts
are all rented, father."
"That's it," returned Mr. Nott thoughtfully, plucking at his bushy
whiskers with his fingers and thumb as if he were removing dead and
sapless incumbrances in their growth, "that's just what it is--them's
ez in it themselves don't pay, and them ez haz left their goods--the
goods don't pay. The feller ez stored them iron sugar kettles in the
forehold, after trying to get me to make another advance on 'em, sez he
believes he'll have to sacrifice 'em to me after all, and only begs I'd
give him a chance of buying back the half of 'em ten years from now, at
double what I advanced him. The chap that left them five hundred cases
of hair dye 'tween decks and then skipped out to Sacramento, met me the
other day in the street and advised me to use a bottle ez an
advertisement, or try it on the starn of the Pontiac for fireproof
paint. That foolishness ez all he's good for. And yet thar might be
suthin' in the paint, if a feller had nigger luck. Ther's that New York
chap ez bought up them damaged boxes of plug terbakker for fifty
dollars a thousand, and sold 'em for foundations for that new building
in Sansome Street at a thousand clear profit. It's all luck, Rosey."
The girl's eyes had wandered again to the pages of her book. Perhaps
she was already familiar with the text of her father's monologue. But
recognizing an additional querulousness in his voice, she laid the book
aside and patiently folded her hands in her lap.
"That's right--for I've suthin' to tell ye. The fact is Sleight wants
to buy the Pontiac out and out just ez she stands with the two fifty
vara lots she stands on."
"Sleight wants to buy her? Sleight?" echoed Rosey incredulously.
"You bet! Sleight--the big financier, the smartest man in 'Frisco."
"What does he want to buy her for?" asked Rosey, knitting her pretty
The apparently simple question suddenly puzzled Mr. Nott. He glanced
feebly at his daughter's face, and frowned in vacant irritation.
"That's so," he said, drawing a long breath; "there's suthin' in that."
"What did he _say_?" continued the young girl, impatiently.
"Not much. 'You've got the Pontiac, Nott,' sez he. 'You bet!' sez I.
'What'll you take for her and the lot she stands on?' sez he, short and
sharp. Some fellers, Rosey," said Nott, with a cunning smile, "would
hev blurted out a big figger and been cotched. That ain't my style. I
just looked at him. 'I'll wait fur your figgers until next steamer
day,' sez he, and off he goes like a shot. He's awfully sharp, Rosey."
"But if he is sharp, father, and he really wants to buy the ship,"
returned Rosey, thoughtfully, "it's only because he knows it's valuable
property, and not because he likes it as we do. He can't take that
value away even if we don't sell it to him, and all the while we have
the comfort of the dear old Pontiac, don't you see?"
This exhaustive commercial' reasoning was so sympathetic to Mr. Nott's
instincts that he accepted it as conclusive. He, however, deemed it
wise to still preserve his practical attitude. "But that don't make it
pay by the month, Rosey. Suthin' must be done. I'm thinking I'll clean
out that photographer."
"Not just after he's taken such a pretty view of the cabin front of the
Pontiac from the street, father! No! He's going to give us a copy, and
put the other in a shop window in Montgomery Street."
"That's so," said Mr. Nott, musingly; "it's no slouch of an
advertisement. 'The Pontiac,' the property of A. Nott, Esq., of St. Jo,
Missouri. Send it on to your aunt Phoebe; sorter make the old folks
open their eyes--oh? Well, seem' he's been to some expense fittin' up
an entrance from the other street, we'll let him slide. But as to that
d----d old Frenchman Ferrers, in the next loft, with his stuck-up airs
and high-falutin style, we must get quit of him; he's regularly gouged
me in that ere horsehair spekilation."
"How can you say that, father!" said Rosey, with a slight increase of
color. "It was your own offer. You know those bales of curled horsehair
were left behind by the late tenant to pay his rent. When Mr. De
Ferrieres rented the room afterwards, you told him you'd throw them in
in the place of repairs and furniture. It was your own offer."
"Yes, but I didn't reckon ther'd ever be a big price per pound paid for
the darned stuff for sofys and cushions and sich."
"How do you know _he_ knew it, father?" responded Rosey.
"Then why did he look so silly at first, and then put on airs when I
joked him about it, eh?"
"Perhaps he didn't understand your joking, father. He's a foreigner,
and shy and proud, and--not like the others. I don't think he knew what
you meant then, any more than he believed he was making a bargain
before. He may be poor, but I think he's been--a--a--gentleman."
The young girl's animation penetrated even Mr. Nott's slow
comprehension. Her novel opposition, and even the prettiness it
enhanced, gave him a dull premonition of pain. His small round eyes
became abstracted, his mouth remained partly open, even his fresh color
"You seem to have been takin' stock of this yer man, Rosey," he said,
with a faint attempt at archness; "if he warn't ez old ez a crow, for
all his young feathers, I'd think he was makin' up to you."
But the passing glow had faded from her young cheeks, and her eyes
wandered again to her book. "He pays his rent regularly every steamer
night," she said, quietly, as if dismissing an exhausted subject, "and
he'll be here in a moment, I dare say." She took up her book, and
leaning her head on her hand, once more became absorbed in its pages.
An uneasy silence followed. The rain beat against the windows, the
ticking of a clock became audible, but still Mr. Nott sat with vacant
eyes fixed on his daughter's face, and the constrained smile on his
lips. He was conscious that he had never seen her look so pretty
before, yet he could not tell why this was no longer an unalloyed
satisfaction. Not but that he had always accepted the admiration of
others for her as a matter of course, but for the first time he became
conscious that she not only had an interest in others, but apparently a
superior knowledge of them. How did she know these things about this
man, and why had she only now accidentally spoken of them? _He_ would
have done so. All this passed so vaguely through his unreflective mind,
that he was unable to retain any decided impression, but the
far-reaching one that his lodger had obtained some occult influence
over her through the exhibition of his baleful skill in the horsehair
speculation. "Them tricks is likely to take a young girl's fancy. I
must look arter her," he said to himself softly.
A slow regular step in the gangway interrupted his paternal
reflections. Hastily buttoning across his chest the pea-jacket which he
usually wore at home as a single concession to his nautical
surroundings, he drew himself up with something of the assumption of a
shipmaster, despite certain bucolic suggestions of his boots and legs.
The footsteps approached nearer, and a tall figure suddenly stood in
It was a figure so extraordinary that even in the strange masquerade of
that early civilization it was remarkable; a figure with whom father
and daughter were already familiar without abatement of wonder--the
figure of a rejuvenated old man, padded, powdered, dyed, and painted to
the verge of caricature, but without a single suggestion of
ludicrousness or humor. A face so artificial that it seemed almost a
mask, but, like a mask, more pathetic than amusing. He was dressed in
the extreme of fashion of a dozen years before; his pearl--gray
trousers strapped tightly over his varnished boots, his voluminous
satin cravat and high collar embraced his rouged cheeks and dyed
whiskers, his closely-buttoned frock coat clinging to a waist that
seemed accented by stays.
He advanced two steps into the cabin with an upright precision of
motion that might have hid the infirmities of age, and said
deliberately with a foreign accent:
In the actual presence of the apparition Mr. Nott's dignified
resistance wavered. But glancing uneasily at his daughter and seeing
her calm eyes fixed on the speaker without embarrassment, he folded his
arms stiffly, and with a lofty simulation of examining the ceiling,
"Ahem! Rosa! The gentleman's account."
It was an infelicitous action. For the stranger, who evidently had not
noticed the presence of the young girl before, started, took a step
quickly forward, bent stiffly but profoundly over the little hand that
held the account, raised it to his lips, and with "a thousand pardons,
mademoiselle," laid a small canvas bag containing the rent before the
disorganized Mr. Nott and stiffly vanished.
The night was a troubled one to the simple-minded proprietor of the
good ship Pontiac. Unable to voice his uneasiness by further
discussion, but feeling that his late discomposing interview with his
lodger demanded some marked protest, he absented himself on the plea of
business during the rest of the evening, happily to his daughter's
utter obliviousness of the reason. Lights were burning brilliantly in
counting-rooms and offices, the feverish life of the mercantile city
was at its height. With a vague idea of entering into immediate
negotiations with Mr. Sleight for the sale of the ship--as a direct way
out of his present perplexity, he bent his steps towards the
financier's office, but paused and turned back before reaching the
door. He made his way to the wharf and gazed abstractedly at the lights
reflected in the dark, tremulous, jelly-like water. But wherever he
went he was accompanied by the absurd figure of his lodger--a figure he
had hitherto laughed at or half pitied, but which now, to his
bewildered comprehension, seemed to have a fateful significance. Here a
new idea seized him, and he hurried back to the ship, slackening his
pace only when he arrived at his own doorway. Here he paused a moment
and slowly ascended the staircase. When he reached the passage he
coughed slightly and paused again. Then he pushed open the door of the
darkened cabin and called softly:
"What is it, father?" said Rosey's voice from the little state-room on
the right--Rosey's own bower.
"Nothing!" said Mr. Nott, with an affectation of languid calmness; "I
only wanted to know if you was comfortable. It's an awful busy night in
"I reckon thar's tons o' gold goin' to the States tomorrow."
"Pretty comfortable, eh?"
"Well, I'll browse round a spell, and turn in myself soon."
Mr. Nott took down a hanging lantern, lighted it, and passed out into
the gangway. Another lamp hung from the companion hatch to light the
tenants to the lower deck, whence he descended. This deck was divided
fore and aft by a partitioned passage,--the lofts or apartments being
lighted from the ports, and one or two by a door cut through the ship's
side communicating with an alley on either side. This was the case with
the loft occupied by Mr. Nott's strange lodger, which, besides a door
in the passage, had this independent communication with the alley. Nott
had never known him to make use of the latter door; on the contrary, it
was his regular habit to issue from his apartment at three o'clock
every afternoon, dressed as he has been described, stride deliberately
through the passage to the upper deck and thence into the street, where
his strange figure was a feature of the principal promenade for two or
three hours, returning as regularly at eight o'clock to the ship and
the seclusion of his loft. Mr. Nott paused before the door, under the
pretense of throwing the light before him into the shadows of the
forecastle: all was silent within. He was turning back when he was
impressed by the regular recurrence of a peculiar rustling sound which
he had at first referred to the rubbing of the wires of the swinging
lantern against his clothing. He set down the light and listened; the
sound was evidently on the other side of the partition; the sound of
some prolonged, rustling, scraping movement, with regular intervals.
Was it due to another of Mr. Nott's unprofitable tenants--the rats? No.
A bright idea flashed upon Mr. Nott's troubled mind. It was De
Ferrieres snoring! He smiled grimly. "Wonder if Rosey'd call him a
gentleman if she heard that," he chuckled to himself as he slowly made
his way back to the cabin and the small state-room opposite to his
daughter's. During the rest of the night he dreamed of being compelled
to give Rosey in marriage to his lodger, who added insult to the
outrage by snoring audibly through the marriage service.
Meantime, in her cradle-like nest in her nautical bower, Miss Rosey
slumbered as lightly. Waking from a vivid dream of Venice--a child's
Venice--seen from the swelling deck of the proudly-riding Pontiac, she
was so impressed as to rise and cross on tiptoe to the little slanting
port-hole. Morning was already dawning over the flat, straggling city,
but from every counting-house and magazine the votive tapers of the
feverish worshipers of trade and mammon were still flaring fiercely.
The day following "steamer night" was usually stale and flat at San
Francisco. The reaction from the feverish exaltation of the previous
twenty-four hours was seen in the listless faces and lounging feet of
promenaders, and was notable in the deserted offices and warehouses
still redolent of last night's gas, and strewn with the dead ashes of
last night's fires. There was a brief pause before the busy life which
ran its course from "steamer day" to steamer day was once more taken
up. In that interval a few anxious speculators and investors breathed
freely, some critical situation was relieved, or some impending
catastrophe momentarily averted. In particular, a singular stroke of
good fortune that morning befell Mr. Nott. He not only secured a new
tenant, but, as he sagaciously believed, introduced into the Pontiac a
counteracting influence to the subtle fascinations of De Ferrieres.
The new tenant apparently possessed a combination of business
shrewdness and brusque frankness that strongly impressed his landlord.
"You see, Rosey," said Nott, complacently describing the interview to
his daughter, "when I sorter intimated in a keerless kind o' way that
sugar kettles and hair dye was about played out ez securities, he just
planked down the money for two months in advance. 'There,' sez he,
'that's _your_ security--now where's _mine_?' 'I reckon I don't hitch
on, pardner,' sez I; 'security what for?' ''Spose you sell the ship?'
sez he, 'afore the two months is up. I've heard that old Sleight wants
to buy her.' 'Then you gets back your money,' sez I. 'And lose my
room,' sez he; 'not much, old man. You sign a paper that whoever buys
the ship inside o' two months hez to buy _me_ ez a tenant with it;
that's on the square.' So I sign the paper. It was mighty cute in the
young feller, wasn't it?" he said, scanning his daughter's pretty
puzzled face a little anxiously; "and don't you see, ez I ain't goin'
to sell the Pontiac, it's just about ez cute in me, eh? He's a
contractor somewhere around yer, and wants to be near his work. So he
takes the room next to the Frenchman, that that ship-captain quit for
the mines, and succeeds naterally to his chest and things. He's mighty
peart-looking, that young feller, Rosey--long black mustaches, all his
own color, Rosey--and he's a regular high-stepper, you bet. I reckon
he's not only been a gentleman, but ez _now_. Some o' them contractors
are very high-toned!"
"I don't think we have any right to give him the captain's chest,
father," said Rosey; "there may be some private things in it. There
were some letters and photographs in the hair-dye man's trunk that you
gave the photographer."
"That's just it, Rosey," returned Abner Nott with sublime
unconsciousness, "photographs and love letters you can't sell for cash,
and I don't mind givin' 'em away, if they kin make a feller-creature
"But, father, have we the _right_ to give 'em away?"
"They're collateral security, Rosey." said her father grimly.
"Co-la-te-ral," he continued, emphasizing each syllable by tapping the
fist of one hand in the open palm of the other. "Co-la-te-ral is the
word the big business sharps yer about call 'em. You can't get round
that." He paused a moment, and then, as a new idea seemed to be
painfully borne in his round eyes, continued cautiously: "Was that the
reason why you wouldn't touch any of them dresses from the trunks of
that opery gal ez skedaddled for Sacramento? And yet them trunks I
regularly bought at auction--Rosey--at auction, on spec--and they
didn't realize the cost of drayage."
A slight color mounted to Rosey's face. "No," she said, hastily, "not
that." Hesitating a moment, she then drew softly to his side, and,
placing her arms around his neck, turned his broad, foolish face
towards her own. "Father," she began, "when mother died, would _you_
have liked anybody to take her trunks and paw round her things and wear
"When your mother died, just this side o' Sweetwater, Rosey," said Mr.
Nott, with beaming unconsciousness, "she had n't any trunks. I reckon
she had n't even an extra gown hanging up in the wagin, 'cept the
petticoat ez she had wrapped around yer. It was about ez much ez we
could do to skirmish round with Injins, alkali, and cold, and we sorter
forgot to dress for dinner. She never thought, Rosey, that you and me
would live to be inhabitin' a paliss of a real ship. Ef she had she
would have died a proud woman."
He turned his small, loving, boar-like eyes upon her as a
preternaturally innocent and trusting companion of Ulysses might have
regarded the transforming Circe. Rosey turned away with the faintest
sigh. The habitual look of abstraction returned to her eyes as if she
had once more taken refuge in her own ideal world. Unfortunately the
change did not escape either the sensitive observation or the fatuous
misconception of the sagacious parent. "Ye'll be mountin' a few
furbelows and fixins, Rosey, I reckon, ez only natural. Mebbee ye'll
have to prink up a little now that we've got a gentleman contractor in
the ship. I'll see what I kin pick up in Montgomery Street." And indeed
he succeeded a few hours later in accomplishing with equal infelicity
his generous design. When she returned from her household tasks she
found on her berth a purple velvet bonnet of extraordinary make, and a
pair of white satin slippers. "They'll do for a start-off, Rosey," he
explained, "and I got 'em at my figgers."
"But I go out so seldom, father; and a bonnet"--
"That's so," interrupted Mr. Nott, complacently, "it might be jest ez
well for a young gal like yer to appear ez if she _did_ go out, or
would go out if she wanted to. So you kin be wearin' that ar headstall
kinder like this evening when the contractor's here, ez if you'd jest
come in from _a pasear_."
Miss Rosey did not however immediately avail herself of her father's
purchase, but contented herself with the usual scarlet ribbon that like
a snood confined her brown hair, when she returned to her tasks. The
space between the galley and the bulwarks had been her favorite resort
in summer when not actually engaged in household work. It was now
lightly roofed over with boards and tarpaulin against the winter rain,
but still afforded her a veranda-like space before the galley door,
where she could read or sew, looking over the bow of the Pontiac to the
tossing bay or the farther range of the Contra Costa hills.
Hither Miss Rosey brought the purple prodigy, partly to please her
father, partly with a view of subjecting it to violent radical changes.
But after trying it on before the tiny mirror in the galley once or
twice, her thoughts wandered away, and she fell into one of her
habitual reveries seated on a little stool before the galley door.
She was aroused from it by the slight shaking and rattling of the doors
of a small hatch on the deck, not a dozen yards from where she sat. It
had been evidently fastened from below during the wet weather, but as
she gazed, the fastenings were removed, the doors were suddenly lifted,
and the head and shoulders of a young man emerged from the deck. Partly
from her father's description, and partly from the impossibility of its
being anybody else, she at once conceived it to be the new lodger. She
had time to note that he was young and good-looking, graver perhaps
than became his sudden pantomimic appearance, but before she could
observe him closely, he had turned, closed the hatch with a certain
familiar dexterity, and walked slowly towards the bows. Even in her
slight bewilderment she observed that his step upon the deck seemed
different to her father's or the photographer's, and that he laid his
hand on various objects with a half-caressing ease and habit. Presently
he paused and turned back, and glancing at the galley door for the
first time encountered her wondering eyes.
It seemed so evident that she had been a curious spectator of his
abrupt entrance on deck that he was at first disconcerted and confused.
But after a second glance at her he appeared to resume his composure,
and advanced a little defiantly towards the galley.
"I suppose I frightened you, popping up the fore hatch just now?"
"The what?" asked Rosey.
"The fore hatch," he repeated impatiently, indicating it with a
"And that's the fore hatch?" she said abstractedly. "You seem to know
"Yes--a little," he said quietly. "I was below, and unfastened the
hatch to come up the quickest way and take a look round. I've just
hired a room here," he added explanatorily.
"I thought so," said Rosey simply; "you're the contractor?"
"The contractor!--oh, yes! You seem to know it all."
"Father's told me."
"Oh, he's your father--Nott? Certainly. I see now," he continued,
looking at her with a half repressed smile. "Certainly, Miss Nott, good
morning," he half added and walked towards the companion-way. Something
in the direction of his eyes as he turned away made Rosey lift her
hands to her head. She had forgotten to remove her father's baleful
She snatched it off and ran quickly to the companion-way.
"Sir!" she called.
The young man turned half-way down the steps and looked up. There was a
faint color in her cheeks, and her pretty brown hair was slightly
disheveled from the hasty removal of the bonnet.
"Father's very particular about strangers being on this deck," she said
a little sharply.
"Oh--ah--I'm sorry I intruded."
"I--I--thought I'd tell you," said Rosey, frightened by her boldness
into a feeble anti-climax.
She came back slowly to the galley and picked up the unfortunate bonnet
with a slight sense of remorse. Why should she feel angry with her poor
father's unhappy offering? And what business had this strange young man
to use the ship so familiarly? Yet she was vaguely conscious that she
and her father, with all their love and their domestic experience of
it, lacked a certain instinctive ease in its possession that the half
indifferent stranger had shown on first treading its deck. She walked
to the hatchway and examined it with a new interest. Succeeding in
lifting the hatch, she gazed at the lower deck. As she already knew the
ladder had long since been removed to make room for one of the
partitions, the only way the stranger could have reached it was by
leaping to one of the rings. To make sure of this she let herself down
holding on to the rings, and dropped a couple of feet to the deck
below. She was in the narrow passage her father had penetrated the
previous night. Before her was the door leading to De Ferriferes' loft,
always locked. It was silent within; it was the hour when the old
Frenchman made his habitual promenade in the city. But the light from
the newly-opened hatch allowed her to see more of the mysterious
recesses of the forward bulkhead than she had known before, and she was
startled by observing another yawning hatchway at her feet from which
the closely-fitting door had been lifted, and which the new lodger had
evidently forgotten to close again. The young girl stooped down and
peered cautiously into the black abyss. Nothing was to be seen, nothing
heard but the distant gurgle and click of water in some remoter depth.
She replaced the hatch and returned by way of the passage to the cabin.
When her father came home that night she briefly recounted the
interview with the new lodger, and her discovery of his curiosity. She
did this with a possible increase of her usual shyness and abstraction,
and apparently more as a duty than a colloquial recreation. But it
pleased Mr. Nott also to give it more than his usual misconception.
"Looking round the ship, was he--eh, Rosey?" he said with infinite
archness. "In course, kinder sweepin' round the galley, and offerin' to
fetch you wood and water, eh?" Even when the young girl had picked up
her book with the usual faint smile of affectionate tolerance, and then
drifted away in its pages, Mr. Nott chuckled audibly. "I reckon old
Frenchy didn't come by when the young one was bedevlin' you there."
"What, father?" said Rosey, lifting her abstracted eyes to his face.
At the moment it seemed impossible that any human intelligence could
have suspected deceit or duplicity in Rosey's clear gaze. But Mr.
Nott's intelligence was superhuman. "I was sayin' that Mr. Ferrieres
didn't happen in while the young feller was there--eh?"
"No, father," answered Rosey, with an effort to follow him out of the
pages of her book. "Why?"
But Mr. Nott did not reply. Later in the evening he awkwardly waylaid
the new lodger before the cabin-door as that gentleman would have
passed on to his room.
"I'm afraid," said the young man, glancing at Rosey, "that I intruded
upon your daughter to-day. I was a little curious to see the old ship,
and I didn't know what part of it was private."
"There ain't no private part to this yer ship--that ez, 'cepting the
rooms and lofts," said Mr. Nott, authoritatively. Then, subjecting the
anxious look of his daughter to his usual faculty for misconception, he
added, "Thar ain't no place whar you haven't as much right to go ez any
other man; thar ain't any man, furriner or Amerykan, young or old, dyed
or undyed, ez hev got any better rights. You hear me, young fellow. Mr.
Renshaw--my darter. My darter--Mr. Renshaw. Rosey, give the gentleman a
chair. She's only jest come in from a promeynade, and hez jest taken
off her bonnet," he added, with an arch look at Rosey and a hurried
look around the cabin, as if he hoped to see the missing gift visible
to the general eye. "So take a seat a minit, won't ye?"
But Mr. Renshaw, after an observant glance at the young girl's
abstracted face, brusquely excused himself. "I've got a letter to
write," he said, with a half bow to Rosey. "Good night."
He crossed the passage to the room that had been assigned to him, and
closing the door gave way to some irritability of temper in his efforts
to light the lamp and adjust his writing materials. For his excuse to
Mr. Nott was more truthful than most polite pretexts. He had, indeed, a
letter to write, and one that, being yet young in duplicity, the near
presence of his host rendered difficult. For it ran as follows:--
DEAR SLEIGHT: As I found I couldn't get a chance to make any
examination of the ship except as occasion offered, I just went in to
rent lodgings in her from the God-forsaken old ass who owns her, and
here I am a tenant for two months. I contracted for that time in case
the old fool should sell out to some one else before. Except that she's
cut up a little between decks by the partitions for lofts that that
Pike County idiot has put into her, she looks but little changed, and
her _fore-hold_, as far as I can judge, is intact. It seems that Nott
bought her just as she stands, with her cargo half out, but he wasn't
here when she broke cargo. If anybody else had bought her but this
cursed Missourian, who hasn't got the hayseed out of his hair, I might
have found out something from him, and saved myself this kind of
fooling, which isn't in my line. If I could get possession of a loft on
the main deck, well forward, just over the fore-hold, I could satisfy
myself in a few hours, but the loft is rented by that crazy Frenchman
who parades Montgomery Street every afternoon, and though old Pike
County wants to turn him out, I'm afraid I can't get it for a week to
If anything should happen to me, just you waltz down here and corral my
things at once, for this old frontier pirate has a way of confiscating
his lodgers' trunks.
If Mr. Renshaw indulged in any further curiosity regarding the interior
of the Pontiac, he did not make his active researches manifest to
Rosey. Nor, in spite of her father's invitation, did he again approach
the galley--a fact which gave her her first vague impression in his
favor. He seemed also to avoid the various advances which Mr. Nott
appeared impelled to make, whenever they met in the passage, but did so
without seemingly avoiding _her_, and marked his half contemptuous
indifference to the elder Nott by an increase of respect to the young
girl. She would have liked to ask him something about ships, and was
sure his conversation would have been more interesting than that of old
Captain Bower, to whose cabin he had succeeded, who had once told her a
ship was the "devil's hencoop." She would have liked also to explain to
him that she was not in the habit of wearing a purple bonnet. But her
thoughts were presently engrossed by an experience which interrupted
the even tenor of her young life.
She had been, as she afterwards remembered, impressed with a nervous
restlessness one afternoon, which made it impossible for her to perform
her ordinary household duties, or even to indulge her favorite
recreation of reading or castle-building. She wandered over the ship,
and, impelled by the same vague feeling of unrest, descended to the
lower deck and the forward bulkhead where she had discovered the open
hatch. It had not been again disturbed, nor was there any trace of
further exploration. A little ashamed, she knew not why, of revisiting
the scene of Mr. Renshaw's researches, she was turning back when she
noticed that the door which communicated with De Ferrieres' loft was
partly open. The circumstance was so unusual that she stopped before it
in surprise. There was no sound from within; it was the hour when its
queer occupant was always absent; he must have forgotten to lock the
door, or it had been unfastened by other hands. After a moment of
hesitation she pushed it further open and stepped into the room.
By the dim light of two port-holes she could see that the floor was
strewn and piled with the contents of a broken bale of curled
horse-hair, of which a few untouched bales still remained against the
wall. A heap of morocco skins, some already cut in the form of
chair-cushion covers, and a few cushions unfinished and unstuffed, lay
in the light of the ports, and gave the apartment the appearance of a
cheap workshop. A rude instrument for combining the horse-hair, awls,
buttons, and thread, heaped on a small bench, showed that active work
had been but recently interrupted. A cheap earthenware ewer and basin
on the floor, and a pallet made of an open bale of horse-hair, on which
a ragged quilt and blanket were flung, indicated that the solitary
worker dwelt and slept beside his work.
The truth flashed upon the young girl's active brain, quickened by
seclusion and fed by solitary books. She read with keen eyes the
miserable secret of her father's strange guest in the poverty-stricken
walls, in the mute evidences of menial handicraft performed in
loneliness and privation, in this piteous adaptation of an accident to
save the conscious shame of premeditated toil. She knew now why he had
stammeringly refused to receive her father's offer to buy back the
goods he had given him; she knew now how hardly gained was the pittance
that paid his rent and supported his childish vanity and grotesque
pride. From a peg in the corner hung the familiar masquerade that hid
his poverty--the pearl-gray trousers, the black frock-coat, the tall
shining hat--in hideous contrast to the penury of his surroundings. But
if _they_ were here, where was _he_, and in what new disguise had he
escaped from his poverty? A vague uneasiness caused her to hesitate and
return to the open door. She had nearly reached it when her eye fell on
the pallet which it partly illuminated. A singular resemblance in the
ragged heap made her draw closer. The faded quilt was a dressing-gown,
and clutching its folds lay a white, wasted hand.
The emigrant childhood of Rose Nott had been more than once shadowed by
scalping-knives, and she was acquainted with Death. She went fearlessly
to the couch, and found that the dressing-gown was only an enwrapping
of the emaciated and lifeless body of De Ferrieres. She did not retreat
or call for help, but examined him closely. He was unconscious, but not
pulseless; he had evidently been strong enough to open the door for air
or succor, but had afterwards fallen into a fit on the couch. She flew
to her father's locker and the galley fire, returned, and shut the door
behind her, and by the skillful use of hot water and whiskey soon had
the satisfaction of seeing a faint color take the place of the faded
rouge in the ghastly cheeks. She was still chafing his hands when he
slowly opened his eyes. With a start, he made a quick attempt to push
aside her hand and rise. But she gently restrained him.
"Eh--what!" he stammered, throwing his face back from hers with an
effort and trying to turn it to the wall.
"You have been ill," she said quietly. "Drink this."
With his face still turned away he lifted the cup to his chattering
teeth. When he had drained it he threw a trembling glance round the
room and at the door.
"There's no one been here but myself," she said quickly. "I happened to
see the door open as I passed. I didn't think it worth while to call
The searching look he gave her turned into an expression of relief,
which, to her infinite uneasiness, again feebly lightened into one of
antiquated gallantry. He drew the dressing-gown around him with an air.
"Ah! it is a goddess, Mademoiselle, that has deigned to enter the cell
where--where--I amuse myself. It is droll, is it not? I came here to
make--what you call--the experiment of your father's fabric. I make
myself--ha! ha!--like a workman. Ah, bah! the heat, the darkness, the
plebeian motion make my head to go round. I stagger, I faint, I cry
out, I fall. But what of that? The great God hears my cry and sends me
an angel. _Voila_!"
He attempted an easy gesture of gallantry, but overbalanced himself and
fell sideways on the pallet with a gasp. Yet there was so much genuine
feeling mixed with his grotesque affectation, so much piteous
consciousness of the ineffectiveness of his falsehood, that the young
girl, who had turned away, came back and laid her hand upon his arm.
"You must lie still and try to sleep," she said gently. "I will return
again. Perhaps," she added, "there is some one I can send for?"
He shook his head violently. Then in his old manner added, "After
"I mean"--she hesitated; "have you no friends?"
"Friends,--ah! without doubt." He shrugged his shoulders. "But
Mademoiselle will comprehend"--
"You are better now," said Rosey quickly, "and no one need know
anything if you don't wish it. Try to sleep. You need not lock the door
when I go; I will see that no one comes in."
He flushed faintly and averted his eyes. "It is too droll,
Mademoiselle, is it not?"
"Of course it is," said Rosey, glancing round the miserable room.
"And Mademoiselle is an angel."
He carried her hand to his lips humbly--his first purely unaffected
action. She slipped through the door, and softly closed it behind her.
Reaching the upper deck she was relieved to find her father had not
returned, and her absence had been unnoticed. For she had resolved to
keep De Ferrieres' secret to herself from the moment that she had
unwittingly discovered it, and to do this and still be able to watch
over him without her father's knowledge required some caution. She was
conscious of his strange aversion to the unfortunate man without
understanding the reason, but as she was in the habit of entertaining
his caprices more from affectionate tolerance of his weakness than
reverence of his judgment, she saw no disloyalty to him in withholding
a confidence that might be disloyal to another. "It won't do father any
good to know it," she said to herself, "and if it _did_ it oughtn't
to," she added with triumphant feminine logic. But the impression made
upon her by the spectacle she had just witnessed was stronger than any
other consideration. The revelation of De Ferriefres' secret poverty
seemed a chapter from a romance of her own weaving; for a moment it
lifted the miserable hero out of the depths of his folly and
selfishness. She forgot the weakness of the man in the strength of his
dramatic surroundings. It partly satisfied a craving she had felt; it
was not exactly the story of the ship, as she had dreamed it, but it
was an episode in her experience of it that broke its monotony. That
she should soon learn, perhaps from De Ferrieres' own lips, the true
reason of his strange seclusion, and that it involved more than
appeared to her now, she never for a moment doubted.
At the end of an hour she again knocked softly at the door, carrying
some light nourishment she had prepared for him. He was asleep, but she
was astounded to find that in the interval he had managed to dress
himself completely in his antiquated finery. It was a momentary shock
to the allusion she had been fostering, but she forgot it in the
pitiable contrast between his haggard face and his pomatumed hair and
beard, the jauntiness of his attire and the collapse of his invalid
figure. When she had satisfied herself that his sleep was natural, she
busied herself softly in arranging the miserable apartment. With a few
feminine touches she removed the slovenliness of misery, and placed the
loose material and ostentatious evidences of his work on one side.
Finding that he still slept, and knowing the importance of this natural
medication, she placed the refreshment she had brought by his side and
noiselessly quitted the apartment. Hurrying through the gathering
darkness between decks, she once or twice thought she heard footsteps,
and paused, but encountering no one, attributed the impression to her
over-consciousness. Yet she thought it prudent to go to the galley
first, where she lingered a few moments before returning to the cabin.
On entering she was a little startled at observing a figure seated at
her father's desk, but was relieved at finding it was Mr. Renshaw.
He rose and put aside the book he had idly picked up. "I am afraid I am
an intentional intruder this time, Miss Nott. But I found no one here,
and I was tempted to look into this ship-shape little snuggery. You see
the temptation got the better of me."
His voice and smile were so frank and pleasant, so free from his
previous restraint, yet still respectful, so youthful yet manly, that
Rosey was affected by them even in her preoccupation. Her eyes
brightened and then dropped before his admiring glance. Had she known
that the excitement of the last few hours had brought a wonderful charm
into her pretty face, had aroused the slumbering life of her
half-wakened beauty, she would have been more confused. As it was, she
was only glad that the young man should turn out to be "nice." Perhaps
he might tell her something about ships; perhaps if she had only known
him longer she might, with De Ferrieres' permission, have shared her
confidence with him, and enlisted his sympathy and assistance. She
contented herself with showing this anticipatory gratitude in her face
as she begged him, with the timidity of a maiden hostess, to resume his
But Mr. Renshaw seemed to talk only to make her talk, and I am forced
to admit that Rosey found this almost as pleasant. It was not long
before he was in possession of her simple history from the day of her
baby emigration to California to the transfer of her childish life to
the old ship, and even of much of the romantic fancies she had woven
into her existence there. Whatever ulterior purpose he had in view, he
listened as attentively as if her artless chronicle was filled with
practical information. Once, when she had paused for breath, he said
gravely, "I must ask you to show me over this wonderful ship some day
that I may see it with your eyes."
"But I think you know it already better than I do," said Rosey with a
Mr. Renshaw's brow clouded slightly. "Ah," he said, with a touch of his
former restraint; "and why?"
"Well," said Rosey timidly, "I thought you went round and touched
things in a familiar way as if you had handled them before."
The young man raised his eyes to Rosey's and kept them there long
enough to bring back his gentler expression. "Then, because I found you
trying on a very queer bonnet the first day I saw you," he said,
mischievously, "I ought to believe you were in the habit of wearing
In the first flush of mutual admiration young people are apt to find a
laugh quite as significant as a sigh for an expression of sympathetic
communion, and this master-stroke of wit convulsed them both. In the
midst of it Mr. Nott entered the cabin. But the complacency with which
he viewed the evident perfect understanding of the pair was destined to
suffer some abatement. Rosey, suddenly conscious that she was in some
way participating in the ridicule of her father through his unhappy
gift, became embarrassed. Mr. Renshaw's restraint returned with the
presence of the old man. In vain, at first, Abner Nott strove with
profound levity to indicate his arch comprehension of the situation,
and in vain, later, becoming alarmed, he endeavored, with cheerful
gravity, to indicate his utter obliviousness of any but a business
significance in their _tete-a-tete_.
"I oughtn't to hev intruded, Rosey," he said, "when you and the
gentleman were talkin' of contracts, mebbee; but don't mind me. I'm on
the fly, anyhow, Rosey dear, hevin' to see a man round the corner."
But even the attitude of withdrawing did not prevent the exit of
Renshaw to his apartment and of Rosey to the galley. Left alone in the
cabin, Abner Nott felt in the knots and tangles of his beard for a
reason. Glancing down at his prodigious boots, which, covered with mud
and gravel, strongly emphasized his agricultural origin, and gave him a
general appearance of standing on his own broad acres, he was struck
with an idea. "It's them boots," he whispered to himself, softly; "they
somehow don't seem 'xactly to trump or follow suit in this yer cabin;
they don't hitch into anythin' but jist slosh round loose, and so to
speak play it alone. And them young critters nat'rally feels it and
gets out o' the way." Acting upon this instinct with his usual
precipitate caution, he at once proceeded to the nearest second-hand
shop, and, purchasing a pair of enormous carpet slippers, originally
the property of a gouty sea-captain, reappeared with a strong
suggestion of newly upholstering the cabin. The improvement, however,
was fraught with a portentous circumstance. Mr. Nott's footsteps, which
usually announced his approach all over the ship, became stealthy and
Meantime Miss Rosey had taken advantage of the absence of her father to
visit her patient. To avoid attracting attention she did not take a
light, but groped her way to the lower deck and rapped softly at the
door. It was instantly opened by De Ferrieres. He had apparently
appreciated the few changes she had already made in the room, and had
himself cleared away the pallet from which he had risen to make two low
seats against the wall. Two bits of candle placed on the floor
illuminated the beams above, the dressing-gown was artistically draped
over the solitary chair, and a pile of cushions formed another seat.
With elaborate courtesy he handed Miss Rosey to the chair. He looked
pale and weak, though the gravity of the attack had evidently passed.
Yet he persisted in remaining standing. "If I sit," he explained with a
gesture, "I shall again disgrace myself by sleeping in Mademoiselle's
presence. Yes! I shall sleep--I shall dream--and wake to find her
More embarrassed by his recovery than when he was lying helplessly
before her, she said hesitatingly that she was glad he was better, and
that she hoped he liked the broth.
"It was manna from heaven, Mademoiselle. See, I have taken it
all--every precious drop. What else could I have done for
He showed her the empty bowl. A swift conviction came upon her that the
man had been suffering from want of food. The thought restored her
self-possession even while it brought the tears to her eyes. "I wish
you would let me speak to father--or some one," she said impulsively,
A quick and half insane gleam of terror and suspicion lit up his deep
eyes. "For what, Mademoiselle! For an accident--that is
nothing--absolutely nothing, for I am strong and well now--see!" he
said tremblingly. "Or for a whim--for a folly you may say, that they
will misunderstand. No, Mademoiselle is good, is wise. She will say to
herself, 'I understand, my friend Monsieur de Ferrieres for the moment
has a secret. He would seem poor, he would take the role of artisan, he
would shut himself up in these walls--perhaps I may guess why, but it
is his secret. I think of it no more.'" He caught her hand in his with
a gesture that he would have made one of gallantry, but that in its
tremulous intensity became a piteous supplication.
"I have said nothing, and will say nothing, if you wish it," said Rosey
hastily; "but others may find out how you live here. This is not fit
work for you. You seem to be a--a gentleman. You ought to be a lawyer,
or a doctor, or in a bank," she continued timidly, with a vague
enumeration of the prevailing degrees of local gentility.
He dropped her hand. "Ah! does not Mademoiselle comprehend that it is
_because_ I am a gentleman that there is nothing between it and this?
Look!" he continued almost fiercely. "What if I told you it is the
lawyer, it is the doctor, it is the banker that brings me, a gentleman,
to this, eh? Ah, bah! What do I say? This is honest, what I do! But the
lawyer, the banker, the doctor, what are they?" He shrugged his
shoulders, and pacing the apartment with a furtive glance at the half
anxious, half frightened girl, suddenly stopped, dragged a small
portmanteau from behind the heap of bales and opened it. "Look,
Mademoiselle," he said, tremulously lifting a handful of worn and
soiled letters and papers. "Look--these are the tools of your banker,
your lawyer, your doctor. With this the banker will make you poor, the
lawyer will prove you a thief, the doctor will swear you are crazy, eh?
What shall you call the work of a gentleman--this"--he dragged the pile
of cushions forward--"or this?"
To the young girl's observant eyes some of the papers appeared to be of
a legal or official character, and others like bills of lading, with
which she was familiar. Their half theatrical exhibition reminded her
of some play she had seen; they might be the clue to some story, or the
mere worthless hoardings of some diseased fancy. Whatever they were, De
Ferrieres did not apparently care to explain further; indeed, the next
moment his manner changed to his old absurd extravagance. "But this is
stupid for Mademoiselle to hear. What shall we speak of? Ah! what
_should_ we speak of in Mademoiselle's presence?"
"But are not these papers valuable?" asked Rosey, partly to draw her
host's thoughts back to their former channel.
"Perhaps." He paused and regarded the young girl fixedly. "Does
Mademoiselle think so?"
"I don't know," said Rosey. "How should I?"
"Ah! if Mademoiselle thought so--if Mademoiselle would deign"--He
stopped again and placed his hand upon his forehead. "It might be so!"
"I must go now," said Rosey hurriedly, rising with an awkward sense of
constraint. "Father will wonder where I am."
"I shall explain. I will accompany you, Mademoiselle."
"No, no," said Rosey, quickly; "he must not know I have been here!" She
stopped. The honest blush flew to her cheek, and then returned again,
because she had blushed.
De Ferrieres gazed at her with an exalted look. Then drawing himself to
his full height, he said, with an exaggerated and indescribable
gesture, "Go, my child, go. Tell your father that you have been alone
and unprotected in the abode of poverty and suffering, but--that it was
in the presence of Armand de Ferrieres."
He threw open the door with a bow that nearly swept the ground, but did
not again offer to take her hand. At once impressed and embarrassed at
this crowning incongruity, her pretty lips trembled between a smile and
a cry as she said, "Good-night," and slipped away into the darkness.
Erect and grotesque De Ferrieres retained the same attitude until the
sound of her footsteps was lost, when he slowly began to close the
door. But a strong arm arrested it from without, and a large carpeted
foot appeared at the bottom of the narrowing opening. The door yielded,
and Mr. Abner Nott entered the room.
With an exclamation and a hurried glance around him, De Ferrieres threw
himself before the intruder. But slowly lifting his large hand, and
placing it on his lodger's breast, he quietly overbore the sick man's
feeble resistance with an impact of power that seemed almost as moral
as it was physical. He did not appear to take any notice of the room or
its miserable surroundings; indeed, scarcely of the occupant. Still
pushing him, with abstracted eyes and immobile face, to the chair that
Rosey had just quitted, he made him sit down, and then took up his own
position on the pile of cushions opposite. His usually underdone
complexion was of watery blueness; but his dull, abstracted glance
appeared to exercise a certain dumb, narcotic fascination on his
"I mout," said Nott, slowly, "hev laid ye out here on sight, without
enny warnin', or dropped ye in yer tracks in Montgomery Street,
wherever there was room to work a six-shooter in comf'ably? Johnson, of
Petaluny--him, ye know, ez hed a game eye--fetched Flynn comin' outer
meetin' one Sunday, and it was only on account of his wife, and she a
second-hand one, so to speak. There was Walker, of Contra Costa,
plugged that young Sacramento chap, whose name I disremember, full o'
holes jest ez he was sayin' 'Good-by' to his darter. I mout hev done
all this if it had settled things to please me. For while you and Flynn
and that Sacramento chap ez all about the same sort o' men, Rosey's a
different kind from their sort o' women."
"Mademoiselle is an angel!" said De Ferrieres, suddenly rising, with an
excess of extravagance. "A saint! Look! I cram the lie, ha! down his
throat who challenges it."
"Ef by mam'selle ye mean my Rosey," said Nott, quietly laying his
powerful hands on De Ferrieres' shoulders, and slowly pinning him down
again upon his chair, "ye're about right, though she ain't mam'selle
yet. Ez I was sayin', I might hev killed you off-hand ef I hed thought
it would hev been a good thing for Rosey."
"For, her? Ah, well! Look, I am ready," interrupted De Ferrieres, again
springing to his feet, and throwing open his coat with both hands.
"See! here at my heart--fire!"
"Ez I was sayin'," continued Nott, once more pressing the excited man
down in his chair, "I might hev wiped ye out--and mebbee ye wouldn't
hev keered--or _you_ might hev wiped _me_ out, and I mout hev said.
'Thank'ee,' but I reckon this ain't a case for what's comfable for you
and me. It's what's good for _Rosey_. And the thing to kalkilate is,
what's to be done."
His small round eyes for the first time rested on De Ferrieres' face,
and were quickly withdrawn. It was evident that this abstracted look,
which had fascinated his lodger, was merely a resolute avoidance of De
Ferrieres' glance, and it became apparent later that this avoidance was
due to a ludicrous appreciation of De Ferrieres' attractions.
"And after we've done _that_ we must kalkilate what Rosey _is_, and
what Rosey wants. P'r'aps, ye allow, _you_ know what Rosey is? P'r'aps
you've seen her prance round in velvet bonnets and white satin
slippers, and sich. P'r'aps you've seen her readin' tracks and v'yages,
without waitin' to spell a word, or catch her breath. But that ain't
the Rosey ez _I_ knows. It's a little child ez uster crawl in and out
the tail-board of a Mizzouri wagon on the alcali-pizoned plains, where
there wasn't another bit of God's mercy on yearth to be seen for miles
and miles. It's a little gal as uster hunger and thirst ez quiet and
mannerly ez she now eats and drinks in plenty; whose voice was ez
steady with Injins yellin' round yer nest in the leaves on Sweetwater
ez in her purty cabin up yonder. _That's_ the gal ez I knows! That's
the Rosey ez my ole woman puts into my arms one night arter we left
Laramie when the fever was high, and sez, 'Abner,' sez she, 'the
chariot is swingin' low for me to-night, but thar ain't room in it for
her or you to git in or hitch on. Take her and rare her, so we kin all
jine on the other shore,' sez she. And I'd knowed the other shore
wasn't no Kaliforny. And that night, p'r'aps, the chariot swung lower
than ever before, and my ole woman stepped into it, and left me and
Rosey to creep on in the old wagon alone. It's them kind o' things,"
added Mr. Nott thoughtfully, "that seem to pint to my killin' you on
sight ez the best thing to be done. And yet Rosey mightn't like it."
He had slipped one of his feet out of his huge carpet slippers, and, as
he reached down to put it on again, he added calmly: "And ez to yer
marrying _her_ it ain't to be done."
The utterly bewildered expression which transfigured De Ferrieres' face
at this announcement was unobserved by Nott's averted eyes, nor did he
perceive that his listener the next moment straightened his erect
figure and adjusted his cravat.
"Ef Rosey," he continued, "hez read in v'yages and tracks in Eyetalian
and French countries of such chaps ez you and kalkilates you're the
right kind to tie to, mebbee it mout hev done if you'd been livin' over
thar in a pallis, but somehow it don't jibe in over here and agree with
a ship--and that ship lying comf'able ashore in San Francisco. You
don't seem to suit the climate, you see, and your general gait is
likely to stampede the other cattle. Agin," said Nott, with an
ostentation of looking at his companion but really gazing on vacancy,
"this fixed-up, antique style of yours goes better with them
ivy-kivered ruins in Rome and Palmyry that Rosey's mixed you up with,
than it would yere. I ain't sayin'," he added as De Ferrieres was about
to speak, "I ain't sayin' ez that child ain't smitten with ye. It ain't
no use to lie and say she don't prefer you to her old father, or young
chaps of her own age and kind. I've seed it afor now. I suspicioned it
afor I seed her slip out o' this place to-night. Thar! keep your hair
on, such ez it is!" he added, as De Ferrieres attempted a quick
deprecatory gesture. "I ain't askin' yer how often she comes here, nor
what she sez to you nor you to her. I ain't asked her and I don't ask
you. I'll allow ez you've settled all the preliminaries and bought her
the ring and sich; I'm only askin' you now, kalkilatin' you've got all
the keerds in your own hand, what you'll take to step out and leave the
The dazed look of De Ferrieres might have forced itself even upon
Nott's one-idead fatuity, had it not been a part of that gentleman's
system delicately to look another way at that moment so as not to
embarrass his adversary's calculation. "Pardon," stammered De
Ferrieres, "but I do not comprehend!" He raised his hand to his head.
"I am not well--I am stupid. Ah, mon Dieu!"
"I ain't sayin'," added Nott more gently, "ez you don't feel bad. It's
nat'ral. But it ain't business. I'm asking you," he continued, taking
from his breast-pocket a large wallet, "how much you'll take in cash
now, and the rest next steamer day, to give up Rosey and leave the
De Ferrieres staggered to his feet despite Nott's restraining hand. "To
leave Mademoiselle and leave the ship?" he said huskily, "is it not?"
"In course. Yer can leave things yer just ez you found 'em when you
came, you know," continued Nott, for the first time looking round the
miserable apartment. "It's a business job. I'll take the bales back
agin, and you kin reckon up what you're out, countin' Rosey and loss o'
"He wishes me to go--he has said," repeated De Ferrieres to himself
"Ef you mean _me_ when you say _him_, and ez thar ain't any other man
around, I reckon you do--'yes!'"
"And he asks me--he--this man of the feet and the daughter--asks me--De
Ferrieres--what I will take," continued De Ferrieres, buttoning his
coat. "No! it is a dream!" He walked stiffly to the corner where his
portmanteau lay, lifted it, and going to the outer door, a cut through
the ship's side that communicated with the alley, unlocked it and flung
it open to the night. A thick mist like the breath of the ocean flowed
into the room.
"You ask me what I shall take to go," he said as he stood on the
threshold. "I shall take what _you_ cannot give, Monsieur, but what I
would not keep if I stood here another moment. I take my Honor,
Monsieur, and--I take my leave!"
For a moment his grotesque figure was outlined in the opening, and then
disappeared as if he had dropped into an invisible ocean below.
Stupefied and disconcerted a this complete success of his overtures,
Abner Nott remained speechless, gazing at the vacant space until a cold
influx of the mist recalled him. Then he rose and shuffled quickly to
"Hi! Ferrers! Look yer--Say! Wot's your hurry, pardner?"
But there was no response. The thick mist, which hid the surrounding
objects, seemed to deaden all sound also. After a moment's pause he
closed the door, but did not lock it, and retreating to the center of
the room remained blinking at the two candles and plucking some
perplexing problem from his beard. Suddenly an idea seized him. Rosey!
Where was she? Perhaps it had been a preconcerted plan, and she had
fled with him. Putting out the lights he stumbled hurriedly through the
passage to the gangway above. The cabin--door was open; there was the
sound of voices--Renshaw's and Rosey's. Mr. Nott felt relieved but not
unembarrassed. He would have avoided his daughter's presence that
evening. But even while making this resolution with characteristic
infelicity he blundered into the room. Rosey looked up with a slight
start; Renshaw's animated face was changed to its former expression of
"You came in so like a ghost, father," said Rosey with a slight
peevishness that was new to her. "And I thought you were in town. Don't
go, Mr. Renshaw."
But Mr. Renshaw intimated that he had already trespassed upon Miss
Nott's time, and that no doubt her father wanted to talk with her. To
his surprise and annoyance, however, Mr. Nott insisted on accompanying
him to his room, and without heeding Renshaw's cold "Goodnight,"
entered and closed the door behind him.
"P'raps," said Mr. Nott with a troubled air, "you disremember that when
you first kem here you asked me if you could hev that 'er loft that the
Frenchman had downstairs."
"No, I don't remember it," said Renshaw almost rudely. "But," he added,
after a pause, with the air of a man obliged to revive a stale and
unpleasant memory, "if I did--what about it?"
"Nuthin', only that you kin hev it to-morrow, ez that 'ere Frenchman is
movin' out," responded Nott. "I thought you was sorter keen about it
when you first kem."
"Umph! we'll talk about it to-morrow." Something in the look of wearied
perplexity with which Mr. Nott was beginning to regard his own _mal a
propos_ presence, arrested the young man's attention. "What's the
reason you didn't sell this old ship long ago, take a decent house in
the town, and bring up your daughter like a lady?" he asked, with a
sudden blunt good-humor. But even this implied blasphemy against the
habitation he worshiped did not prevent Mr. Nott from his usual
misconstruction of the question.
"I reckon, now, Rosey's got high-flown ideas of livin' in a castle with
ruins, eh?" he said cunningly.
"Haven't heard her say," returned Renshaw abruptly. "Good-night."
Firmly convinced that Rosey had been unable to conceal from Mr. Renshaw
the influence of her dreams of a castellated future with De Ferrieres,
he regained the cabin. Satisfying himself that his daughter had
retired, he sought his own couch. But not to sleep. The figure of De
Ferrieres, standing in the ship side and melting into the outer
darkness, haunted him, and compelled him in dreams to rise and follow
him through the alleys and byways of the crowded city. Again, it was a
part of his morbid suspicion that he now invested the absent man with a
potential significance and an unknown power.
What deep-laid plans might he not form to possess himself of Rosey, of
which he, Abner Nott, would be ignorant? Unchecked by the restraint of
a father's roof, he would now give full license to his power. "Said
he'd take his Honor with him," muttered Abner to himself in the dim
watches of the night; "lookin' at that sayin' in its right light, it
The elaborately untruthful account which Mr. Nott gave his daughter of
De Ferrieres' sudden departure was more fortunate than his usual
equivocations. While it disappointed and slightly mortified her, it did
not seem to her inconsistent with what she already knew of him. "Said
his doctor had ordered him to quit town under an hour, owing to a
comin' attack of hay fever, and he had a friend from furrin parts
waitin' him at the Springs, Rosey," explained Nott, hesitating between
his desire to avoid his daughter's eyes and his wish to observe her
"Was he worse?--I mean did he look badly, father?" inquired Rosey,
"I reckon not exactly bad. Kinder looked as if he mout be worse soon ef
he didn't hump hisself."
"Did you see him?--in his room?" asked Rosey anxiously. Upon the answer
to this simple question depended the future confidential relations of
father and daughter. If her father had himself detected the means by
which his lodger existed, she felt that her own obligations to secrecy
had been removed. But Mr. Nott's answer disposed of this vain hope. It
was a response after his usual fashion to the question he _imagined_
she artfully wished to ask, _i.e._ if he had discovered their
rendezvous of the previous night. This it was part of his peculiar
delicacy to ignore. Yet his reply showed that he had been unconscious
of the one miserable secret that he might have read easily.
"I was there an hour or so--him and me alone--discussin' trade. I
reckon he's got a good thing outer that curled horse-hair, for I see
he's got in an invoice o' cushions. I've stowed 'em all in the forrard
bulkhead until he sends for 'em, ez Mr. Renshaw hez taken the loft."
But although Mr. Renshaw had taken the loft, he did not seem in haste
to occupy it. He spent part of the morning in uneasily pacing his room,
in occasional sallies into the street from which he purposelessly
returned, and once or twice in distant and furtive contemplation of
Rosey at work in the galley. This last observation was not unnoticed by
the astute Nott, who at once conceiving that he was nourishing a secret
and hopeless passion for Rosey, began to consider whether it was not
his duty to warn the young man of her preoccupied affections. But Mr.
Renshaw's final disappearance obliged him to withhold his confidence
This time Mr. Renshaw left the ship with the evident determination of
some settled purpose. He walked rapidly until he reached the
counting-house of Mr. Sleight, when he was at once shown into a private
office. In a few moments Mr. Sleight, a brusque but passionless man,
"Well," said Sleight, closing the door carefully. "What news?"
"None," said Renshaw bluntly. "Look here, Sleight," he added, turning
to him suddenly. "Let me out of this game. I don't like it."
"Does that mean you've found nothing?" asked Sleight, sarcastically.
"It means that I haven't looked for anything, and that I don't intend
to without the full knowledge of that d--d fool who owns the ship."
"You've changed your mind since you wrote that letter," said Sleight
coolly, producing from a drawer the note already known to the reader.
Renshaw mechanically extended his hand to take it. Mr. Sleight dropped
the letter back into the drawer, which he quietly locked. The
apparently simple act dyed Mr. Renshaw's cheek with color, but it
vanished quickly, and with it any token of his previous embarrassment.
He looked at Sleight with the convinced air of a resolute man who had
at last taken a disagreeable step but was willing to stand by the
"I _have_ changed my mind," he said coolly. "I found out that it was
one thing to go down there as a skilled prospector might go to examine
a mine that was to be valued according to his report of the
indications, but that it was entirely another thing to go and play the
spy in a poor devil's house in order to buy something he didn't know he
was selling and wouldn't sell if he did."
"And something that the man _he_ bought of didn't think of selling;
something _he_ himself never paid for, and never expected to buy,"
"But something that _we_ expect to buy from our knowledge of all this,
and it is that which makes all the difference."
"But you knew all this before."
"I never saw it in this light before. I never thought of it until I was
living there face to face with the old fool I was intending to
overreach. I never was _sure_ of it until this morning, when he
actually turned out one of his lodgers that I might have the very room
I required to play off our little game in comfortably. When he did
that, I made up my mind to drop the whole thing, and I'm here to do
"And let somebody else take the responsibility--with the
percentage--unless you've also felt it your duty to warn Nott too,"
said Sleight with a sneer.
"You only dare say that to me, Sleight," said Renshaw quietly, "because
you have in that drawer an equal evidence of my folly and my
confidence; but if you are wise you will not presume too far on either.
Let us see how we stand. Through the yarn of a drunken captain and a
mutinous sailor you became aware of an unclaimed shipment of treasure,
concealed in an unknown ship that entered this harbor. You are enabled,
through me, to corroborate some facts and identify the ship. You
proposed to me, as a speculation, to identify the treasure if possible
before you purchased the ship. I accepted the offer without
consideration; on consideration I now decline it, but without prejudice
or loss to any one but myself. As to your insinuation I need not remind
you that my presence here to-day refutes it. I would not require your
permission to make a much better bargain with a good-natured fool like
Nott than I could with you. Or if I did not care for the business I
could have warned the girl"--
"The girl--what girl?"
Renshaw bit his lip, but answered boldly: "The old man's daughter--a
poor girl--whom this act would rob as well as her father."
Sleight looked at his companion attentively. "You might have said so at
first, and let up on this camp-meetin' exhortation. Well
then--admitting you've got the old man and the young girl on the same
string, and that you've played it pretty low down in the short time
you've been there--I suppose, Dick Renshaw, I've got to see your bluff.
Well, how much is it? What's the figure you and she have settled on?"
For an instant Mr. Sleight was in physical danger.
But before he had finished speaking Renshaw's quick sense of the
ludicrous had so far overcome his first indignation as to enable him
even to admire the perfect moral insensibility of his companion. As he
rose and walked towards the door, he half wondered that he had ever
treated the affair seriously. With a smile he replied:
"Far from bluffing, Sleight, I am throwing my cards on the table.
Consider that I've passed out. Let some other man take my hand. Rake
down the pot if you like, old man, _I_ leave for Sacramento to-night.
When the door had closed behind him Mr. Sleight summoned his clerk.
"Is that petition for grading Pontiac Street ready?"
"I've seen the largest property holders, sir; they're only waiting for
you to sign first," Mr. Sleight paused and then affixed his signature
to the paper his clerk laid before him. "Get the other names and send
it up at once."
"If Mr. Nott doesn't sign, sir?"
"No matter. He will be assessed all the same." Mr. Sleight took up his
"The Lascar seaman that was here the other day has been wanting to see
you, sir. I said you were busy."
Mr. Sleight put down his hat. "Send him up."
Nevertheless Mr. Sleight sat down and at once abstracted himself so
completely as to be apparently in utter oblivion of the man who
entered. He was lithe and Indian-looking; bearing in dress and manner
the careless slouch without the easy frankness of a sailor.
"Well!" said Sleight without looking up.
"I was only wantin' to know ef you had any news for me, boss?"
"News?" echoed Sleight as if absently; "news of what?"
"That little matter of the Pontiac we talked about, boss," returned the
Lascar with an uneasy servility in the whites of his teeth and eyes.
"Oh," said Sleight, "that's played out. It's a regular fraud. It's an
old forecastle yarn, my man, that you can't reel off in the cabin."
The sailor's face darkened.
"The man who was looking into it has thrown the whole thing up. I tell
you it's played out!" repeated Sleight, without raising his head.
"It's true, boss--every word," said the Lascar, with an appealing
insinuation that seemed to struggle hard with savage earnestness. "You
can swear me, boss; I wouldn't lie to a gentleman like you. Your man
hasn't half looked, or else--it must be there, or"--
"That's just it," said Sleight slowly; "who's to know that your friends
haven't been there already--that seems to have been your style."
"But no one knew it but me, until I told you, I swear to God. I ain't
lying, boss, and I ain't drunk. Say--don't give it up, boss. That man
of yours likely don't believe it, because he don't know anything about
it. I _do--I_ could find it."
A silence followed. Mr. Sleight remained completely absorbed in his
papers for some moments. Then glancing at the Lascar, he took his pen,
wrote a hurried note, folded it, addressed it, and, holding it between
his fingers, leaned back in his chair.
"If you choose to take this note to my man, he may give it another
show. Mind, I don't say that he _will_. He's going to Sacramento
to-night, but you could go down there and find him before he starts.
He's got a room there, I believe. While you're waiting for him you
might keep your eyes open to satisfy yourself."
"Ay, ay, sir," said the sailor, eagerly endeavoring to catch the eye of
his employer. But Mr. Sleight looked straight before him, and he turned
"The Sacramento boat goes at nine," said Mr. Sleight quietly.
This time their glances met, and the Lascar's eye glistened with subtle
intelligence. The next moment he was gone, and Mr. Sleight again became
absorbed in his papers.
Meanwhile Renshaw was making his way back to the Pontiac with that
light-hearted optimism that had characterized his parting with Sleight.
It was this quality of his nature, fostered perhaps by the easy
civilization in which he moved, that had originally drawn him into
relations with the man he just quitted; a quality that had been
troubled and darkened by those relations, yet, when they were broken,
at once returned. It consequently did not occur to him that he had only
selfishly compromised with the difficulty; it seemed to him enough that
he had withdrawn from a compact he thought dishonorable; he was not
called upon to betray his partner in that compact merely to benefit
others. He had been willing to incur suspicion and loss to reinstate
himself in his self-respect, more he could not do without justifying
that suspicion. The view taken by Sleight was, after all, that which
most business men would take--which even the unbusinesslike Nott would
take--which the girl herself might be tempted to listen to. Clearly he
could do nothing but abandon the Pontiac and her owner to the fate he
could not in honor avert. And even that fate was problematical. It did
not follow that the treasure was still concealed in the Pontiac, nor
that Nott would be willing to sell her. He would make some excuse to
Nott--he smiled to think he would probably be classed in the long line
of absconding tenants--he would say good-by to Rosey, and leave for
Sacramento that night. He ascended the stairs to the gangway with a
freer breast than when he first entered the ship.
Mr. Nott was evidently absent, and after a quick glance at the
half-open cabin-door, Renshaw turned towards the galley. But Miss Rosey
was not in her accustomed haunt, and with a feeling of disappointment,
which seemed inconsistent with so slight a cause, he crossed the deck
impatiently and entered his room. He was about to close the door when
the prolonged rustle of a trailing skirt in the passage attracted his
attention. The sound was so unlike that made by any garment worn by
Rosey that he remained motionless, with his hand on the door. The sound
approached nearer, and the next moment a white veiled figure with a
trailing skirt slowly swept past the room. Renshaw's pulses halted for
an instant in half superstitious awe. As the apparition glided on and
vanished in the cabin-door he could only see that it was the form of a
beautiful and graceful woman--but nothing more. Bewildered and curious,
he forgot himself so far as to follow it, and impulsively entered the
cabin. The figure turned, uttered a little cry, threw the veil aside,
and showed the half troubled, half blushing face of Rosey.
"I--beg--your pardon," stammered Renshaw; "I didn't know it was you."
"I was trying on some things," said Rosey, recovering her composure and
pointing to an open trunk that seemed to contain a theatrical
wardrobe--"some things father gave me long ago. I wanted to see if
there was anything I could use. I thought I was all alone in the ship,
but fancying I heard a noise forward I came out to see what it was. I
suppose it must have been you."
She raised her clear eyes to his, with a slight touch of womanly
reserve that was so incompatible with any vulgar vanity or girlish
coquetry that he became the more embarrassed. Her dress, too, of a
slightly antique shape, rich but simple, seemed to reveal and accent a
certain repose of gentlewomanliness, that he was now wishing to believe
he had always noticed. Conscious of a superiority in her that now
seemed to change their relations completely, he alone remained silent,
awkward, and embarrassed before the girl who had taken care of his
room, and who cooked in the galley! What he had thoughtlessly
considered a merely vulgar business intrigue against her stupid father,
now to his extravagant fancy assumed the proportions of a sacrilege to
"You've had your revenge, Miss Nott, for the fright I once gave you,"
he said a little uneasily, "for you quite startled me just now as you
passed. I began to think the Pontiac was haunted. I thought you were a
ghost. I don't know why such a ghost should _frighten_ anybody," he
went on with a desperate attempt to recover his position by gallantry.
"Let me see--that's Donna Elvira's dress--is it not?"
"I don't think that was the poor woman's name," said Rosey simply; "she
died of yellow fever at New Orleans as Signora Somebody."
Her ignorance seemed to Mr. Renshaw so plainly to partake more of the
nun than the provincial, that he hesitated to explain to her that he
meant the heroine of an opera.
"It seems dreadful to put on the poor thing's clothes, doesn't it?" she
Mr. Renshaw's eyes showed so plainly that he thought otherwise, that
she drew a little austerely towards the door of her state-room.
"I must change these things before any one comes," she said dryly.
"That means I must go, I suppose. But couldn't you let me wait here or
in the gangway until then, Miss Nott? I am going away to-night, and I
mayn't see you again." He had not intended to say this, but it slipped
from his embarrassed tongue. She stopped with her hand on the door.
"You are going away?"
"I--think--I must leave to-night. I have some important business in
She raised her frank eyes to his. The unmistakable look of
disappointment that he saw in them gave his heart a sudden throb and
sent the quick blood to his cheeks.
"It's too bad," she said, abstractedly. "Nobody ever seems to stay here
long. Captain Bower promised to tell me all about the ship, and he went
away the second week. The photographer left before he finished the
picture of the Pontiac; Monsieur de Ferrieres has only just gone; and
now _you_ are going."
"Perhaps, unlike them, I have finished my season of usefulness here,"
he replied, with a bitterness he would have recalled the next moment.
But Rosey, with a faint sigh, saying, "I won't be long," entered the
state-room and closed the door behind her.
Renshaw bit his lip and pulled at the long silken threads of his
mustache until they smarted. Why had he not gone at once? Why was it
necessary to say he might not see her again--and if he had said it, why
should he add anything more? What was he waiting for now? To endeavor
to prove to her that he really bore no resemblance to Captain Bower,
the photographer, the crazy Frenchman De Ferrieres? Or would he be
forced to tell her that he was running away from a conspiracy to
defraud her father--merely for something to say? Was there ever such
folly? Rosey was "not long," as she had said, but he was beginning to
pace the narrow cabin impatiently when the door opened and she
She had resumed her ordinary calico gown, but such was the impression
left upon Renshaw's fancy that she seemed to wear it with a new grace.
At any other time he might have recognized the change as due to a new
corset, which strict veracity compels me to record Rosey had adopted
for the first time that morning. Howbeit, her slight coquetry seemed to
have passed, for she closed the open trunk with a return of her old
listless air, and sitting on it rested her elbows on her knees and her
oval chin in her hands.
"I wish you would do me a favor," she said after a reflective pause.
"Let me know what it is and it shall be done," replied Renshaw quickly.
"If you should come across Monsieur de Ferrieres, or hear of him, I
wish you would let me know. He was very poorly when he left here, and I
should like to know if he was better. He didn't say where he was going.
At least, he didn't tell father; but I fancy he and father don't
"I shall be very glad of having even _that_ opportunity of making you
remember me, Miss Nott," returned Renshaw with a faint smile. "I don't
suppose either that it would be very difficult to get news of your
friend--everybody seems to know him."
"But not as I did," said Rosey, with an abstracted little sigh.
Mr. Renshaw opened his brown eyes upon her. Was he mistaken? Was this
romantic girl only a little coquette playing her provincial airs on
him? "You say he and your father didn't agree? That means, I suppose,
that _you_ and he agreed?--and that was the result."
"I don't think father knew anything about it," said Rosey simply.
Mr. Renshaw rose. And this was what he had been waiting to hear!
"Perhaps," he said grimly, "you would also like news of the
photographer and Captain Bower, or did your father agree with them
"No," said Rosey quietly. She remained silent for a moment, and lifting
her lashes said, "Father always seemed to agree with _you_, and
"That's why _you_ don't."
"I didn't say that," said Rosey, with an incongruous increase of
coldness and color. "I only meant to say it was that which makes it
seem so hard you should go now."
Notwithstanding his previous determination Renshaw found himself
sitting down again. Confused and pleased, wishing he had said more--or
less--he said nothing, and Rosey was forced to continue.
"It's strange, isn't it--but father was urging me this morning to make
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