Moon-Face and Other Stories
Part 2 out of 3
us, this is farthest from our intention.
You will readily comprehend, after a little sober thought, that your
life is dear to us. Do not be afraid. We would not hurt you for the
world. It is our policy to cherish you tenderly and protect you from
all harm. Your death means nothing to us. If it did, rest assured
that we would not hesitate a moment in destroying you. Think this
over, Mr. Hale. When you have paid us our price, there will be need
of retrenchment. Dismiss your guards now, and cut down your expenses.
Within minutes of the time you receive this a nurse-girl will have
been choked to death in Brentwood Park. The body may be found in the
shrubbery lining the path which leads off to the left from the
THE MINIONS OF MIDAS.
The next instant Mr. Hale was at the telephone, warning the
Inspector of the impending murder. The Inspector excused himself in
order to call up Police Sub-station F and despatch men to the scene.
Fifteen minutes later he rang us up and informed us that the body
had been discovered, yet warm, in the place indicated. That evening
the papers teemed with glaring Jack-the-Strangler headlines,
denouncing the brutality of the deed and complaining about the
laxity of the police. We were also closeted with the Inspector, who
begged us by all means to keep the affair secret. Success, he said,
depended upon silence.
As you know, John, Mr. Hale was a man of iron. He refused to
surrender. But, oh, John, it was terrible, nay, horrible--this awful
something, this blind force in the dark. We could not fight, could
not plan, could do nothing save hold our hands and wait. And week
by week, as certain as the rising of the sun, came the notification
and death of some person, man or woman, innocent of evil, but just
as much killed by us as though we had done it with our own hands.
A word from Mr. Hale and the slaughter would have ceased. But he
hardened his heart and waited, the lines deepening, the mouth and
eyes growing sterner and firmer, and the face aging with the hours.
It is needless for me to speak of my own suffering during that
frightful period. Find here the letters and telegrams of the M.
of M., and the newspaper accounts, etc., of the various murders.
You will notice also the letters warning Mr. Hale of certain
machinations of commercial enemies and secret manipulations of
stock. The M. of M. seemed to have its hand on the inner pulse of
the business and financial world. They possessed themselves of and
forwarded to us information which our agents could not obtain.
One timely note from them, at a critical moment in a certain deal,
saved all of five millions to Mr. Hale. At another time they sent us
a telegram which probably was the means of preventing an anarchist
crank from taking my employer's life. We captured the man on his
arrival and turned him over to the police, who found upon him
enough of a new and powerful explosive to sink a battleship.
We persisted. Mr. Hale was grit clear through. He disbursed at the
rate of one hundred thousand per week for secret service. The aid
of the Pinkertons and of countless private detective agencies was
called in, and in addition to this thousands were upon our payroll.
Our agents swarmed everywhere, in all guises, penetrating all
classes of society. They grasped at a myriad clues; hundreds of
suspects were jailed, and at various times thousands of suspicious
persons were under surveillance, but nothing tangible came to light.
With its communications the M. of M. continually changed its
method of delivery. And every messenger they sent us was arrested
forthwith. But these inevitably proved to be innocent individuals,
while their descriptions of the persons who had employed them for
the errand never tallied. On the last day of December we received
OFFICE OF THE M. OF M., December 31, 1899.
MR. EBEN HALE, Money Baron:
Dear Sir,--Pursuant of our policy, with which we flatter ourselves
you are already well versed, we beg to state that we shall give a
passport from this Vale of Tears to Inspector Bying, with whom,
because of our attentions, you have become so well acquainted. It
is his custom to be in his private office at this hour. Even as you
read this he breathes his last.
THE MINIONS OF MIDAS.
I dropped the letter and sprang to the telephone. Great was my
relief when I heard the Inspector's hearty voice. But, even as he
spoke, his voice died away in the receiver to a gurgling sob, and
I heard faintly the crash of a falling body. Then a strange voice
hello'd me, sent me the regards of the M. of M., and broke the
switch. Like a flash I called up the public office of the Central
Police, telling them to go at once to the Inspector's aid in his
private office. I then held the line, and a few minutes later
received the intelligence that he had been found bathed in his own
blood and breathing his last. There were no eyewitnesses, and no
trace was discoverable of the murderer.
Whereupon Mr. Hale immediately increased his secret service till
a quarter of a million flowed weekly from his coffers. He was
determined to win out. His graduated rewards aggregated over ten
millions. You have a fair idea of his resources and you can see in
what manner he drew upon them. It was the principle, he affirmed,
that he was fighting for, not the gold. And it must be admitted that
his course proved the nobility of his motive. The police departments
of all the great cities cooperated, and even the United States
Government stepped in, and the affair became one of the highest
questions of state. Certain contingent funds of the nation were
devoted to the unearthing of the M. of M., and every government
agent was on the alert. But all in vain. The Minions of Midas
carried on their damnable work unhampered. They had their way and
But while he fought to the last, Mr. Hale could not wash his hands
of the blood with which they were dyed. Though not technically a
murderer, though no jury of his peers would ever have convicted him,
none the less the death of every individual was due to him. As I
said before, a word from him and the slaughter would have ceased.
But he refused to give that word. He insisted that the integrity of
society was assailed; that he was not sufficiently a coward to
desert his post; and that it was manifestly just that a few should
be martyred for the ultimate welfare of the many. Nevertheless this
blood was upon his head, and he sank into deeper and deeper gloom. I
was likewise whelmed with the guilt of an accomplice. Babies were
ruthlessly killed, children, aged men; and not only were these
murders local, but they were distributed over the country. In the
middle of February, one evening, as we sat in the library, there
came a sharp knock at the door. On responding to it I found, lying
on the carpet of the corridor, the following missive:
OFFICE OF THE M. OF M., February 15, 1900.
MR. EBEN HALE, Money Baron:
Dear Sir,--Does not your soul cry out upon the red harvest it
is reaping? Perhaps we have been too abstract in conducting our
business. Let us now be concrete. Miss Adelaide Laidlaw is a
talented young woman, as good, we understand, as she is beautiful.
She is the daughter of your old friend, Judge Laidlaw, and we happen
to know that you carried her in your arms when she was an infant.
She is your daughter's closest friend, and at present is visiting
her. When your eyes have read thus far her visit will have
THE MINIONS OF MIDAS.
My God! did we not instantly realize the terrible import! We
rushed through the dayrooms--she was not there--and on to her own
apartments. The door was locked, but we crashed it down by hurling
ourselves against it. There she lay, just as she had finished
dressing for the opera, smothered with pillows torn from the couch,
the flush of life yet on her flesh, the body still flexible and
warm. Let me pass over the rest of this horror. You will surely
remember, John, the newspaper accounts.
Late that night Mr. Hale summoned me to him, and before God did
pledge me most solemnly to stand by him and not to compromise,
even if all kith and kin were destroyed.
The next day I was surprised at his cheerfulness. I had thought he
would be deeply shocked by this last tragedy--how deep I was soon to
learn. All day he was light-hearted and high-spirited, as though at
last he had found a way out of the frightful difficulty. The next
morning we found him dead in his bed, a peaceful smile upon his
careworn face--asphyxiation. Through the connivance of the police
and the authorities, it was given out to the world as heart disease.
We deemed it wise to withhold the truth; but little good has it done
us, little good has anything done us.
Barely had I left that chamber of death, when--but too late--the
following extraordinary letter was received:
OFFICE OF THE M. of M., February 17, 1900.
MR. EBEN HALE, Money Baron:
Dear Sir,--You will pardon our intrusion, we hope, so closely upon
the sad event of day before yesterday; but what we wish to say may
be of the utmost importance to you. It is in our mind that you may
attempt to escape us. There is but one way, apparently, as you have
ere this doubtless discovered. But we wish to inform you that even
this one way is barred. You may die, but you die failing and
acknowledging your failure. Note this: WE ARE PART AND PARCEL OF
YOUR POSSESSIONS. WITH YOUR MILLIONS WE PASS DOWN TO YOUR HEIRS
AND ASSIGNS FOREVER.
We are the inevitable. We are the culmination of industrial and
social wrong. We turn upon the society that has created us. We are
the successful failures of the age, the scourges of a degraded
We are the creatures of a perverse social selection. We meet force
with force. Only the strong shall endure. We believe in the survival
of the fittest. You have crushed your wage slaves into the dirt and
you have survived. The captains of war, at your command, have shot
down like dogs your employees in a score of bloody strikes. By such
means you have endured. We do not grumble at the result, for we
acknowledge and have our being in the same natural law. And now the
question has arisen: UNDER THE PRESENT SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT, WHICH OF
US SHALL SURVIVE? We believe we are the fittest. You believe you are
the fittest. We leave the eventuality to time and law.
THE MINIONS OF MIDAS.
John, do you wonder now that I shunned pleasure and avoided friends?
But why explain? Surely this narrative will make everything clear.
Three weeks ago Adelaide Laidlaw died. Since then I have waited
in hope and fear. Yesterday the will was probated and made public.
Today I was notified that a woman of the middle class would be
killed in Golden Gate Park, in faraway San Francisco. The
despatches in to-night's papers give the details of the brutal
happening--details which correspond with those furnished me in
It is useless. I cannot struggle against the inevitable. I have been
faithful to Mr. Hale and have worked hard. Why my faithfulness
should have been thus rewarded I cannot understand. Yet I cannot be
false to my trust, nor break my word by compromising. Still, I have
resolved that no more deaths shall be upon my head. I have willed
the many millions I lately received to their rightful owners. Let
the stalwart sons of Eben Hale work out their own salvation. Ere
you read this I shall have passed on. The Minions of Midas are
all-powerful. The police are impotent. I have learned from them that
other millionnaires have been likewise mulcted or persecuted--how
many is not known, for when one yields to the M. of M., his mouth is
thenceforth sealed. Those who have not yielded are even now reaping
their scarlet harvest. The grim game is being played out. The
Federal Government can do nothing. I also understand that similar
branch organizations have made their appearance in Europe. Society
is shaken to its foundations. Principalities and powers are as
brands ripe for the burning. Instead of the masses against the
classes, it is a class against the classes. We, the guardians of
human progress, are being singled out and struck down. Law and order
The officials have begged me to keep this secret. I have done so,
but can do so no longer. It has become a question of public import,
fraught with the direst consequences, and I shall do my duty before
I leave this world by informing it of its peril. Do you, John, as my
last request, make this public. Do not be frightened. The fate of
humanity rests in your hand. Let the press strike off millions of
copies; let the electric currents sweep it round the world; wherever
men meet and speak, let them speak of it in fear and trembling. And
then, when thoroughly aroused, let society arise in its might and
cast out this abomination.
Yours, in long farewell,
THE SHADOW AND THE FLASH
When I look back, I realize what a peculiar friendship it was.
First, there was Lloyd Inwood, tall, slender, and finely knit,
nervous and dark. And then Paul Tichlorne, tall, slender, and finely
knit, nervous and blond. Each was the replica of the other in
everything except color. Lloyd's eyes were black; Paul's were blue.
Under stress of excitement, the blood coursed olive in the face of
Lloyd, crimson in the face of Paul. But outside this matter of
coloring they were as like as two peas. Both were high-strung, prone
to excessive tension and endurance, and they lived at concert pitch.
But there was a trio involved in this remarkable friendship, and the
third was short, and fat, and chunky, and lazy, and, loath to say,
it was I. Paul and Lloyd seemed born to rivalry with each other, and
I to be peacemaker between them. We grew up together, the three of
us, and full often have I received the angry blows each intended for
the other. They were always competing, striving to outdo each other,
and when entered upon some such struggle there was no limit either
to their endeavors or passions.
This intense spirit of rivalry obtained in their studies and their
games. If Paul memorized one canto of "Marmion," Lloyd memorized two
cantos, Paul came back with three, and Lloyd again with four, till
each knew the whole poem by heart. I remember an incident that
occurred at the swimming hole--an incident tragically significant of
the life-struggle between them. The boys had a game of diving to the
bottom of a ten-foot pool and holding on by submerged roots to see
who could stay under the longest. Paul and Lloyd allowed themselves
to be bantered into making the descent together. When I saw their
faces, set and determined, disappear in the water as they sank
swiftly down, I felt a foreboding of something dreadful. The moments
sped, the ripples died away, the face of the pool grew placid and
untroubled, and neither black nor golden head broke surface in
quest of air. We above grew anxious. The longest record of the
longest-winded boy had been exceeded, and still there was no sign.
Air bubbles trickled slowly upward, showing that the breath had been
expelled from their lungs, and after that the bubbles ceased to
trickle upward. Each second became interminable, and, unable longer
to endure the suspense, I plunged into the water.
I found them down at the bottom, clutching tight to the roots, their
heads not a foot apart, their eyes wide open, each glaring fixedly
at the other. They were suffering frightful torment, writhing and
twisting in the pangs of voluntary suffocation; for neither would
let go and acknowledge himself beaten. I tried to break Paul's hold
on the root, but he resisted me fiercely. Then I lost my breath
and came to the surface, badly scared. I quickly explained the
situation, and half a dozen of us went down and by main strength
tore them loose. By the time we got them out, both were unconscious,
and it was only after much barrel-rolling and rubbing and pounding
that they finally came to their senses. They would have drowned
there, had no one rescued them.
When Paul Tichlorne entered college, he let it be generally
understood that he was going in for the social sciences. Lloyd
Inwood, entering at the same time, elected to take the same course.
But Paul had had it secretly in mind all the time to study the
natural sciences, specializing on chemistry, and at the last moment
he switched over. Though Lloyd had already arranged his year's work
and attended the first lectures, he at once followed Paul's lead and
went in for the natural sciences and especially for chemistry. Their
rivalry soon became a noted thing throughout the university. Each
was a spur to the other, and they went into chemistry deeper than
did ever students before--so deep, in fact, that ere they took their
sheepskins they could have stumped any chemistry or "cow college"
professor in the institution, save "old" Moss, head of the
department, and even him they puzzled and edified more than once.
Lloyd's discovery of the "death bacillus" of the sea toad, and his
experiments on it with potassium cyanide, sent his name and that of
his university ringing round the world; nor was Paul a whit behind
when he succeeded in producing laboratory colloids exhibiting
amoeba-like activities, and when he cast new light upon the
processes of fertilization through his startling experiments with
simple sodium chlorides and magnesium solutions on low forms of
It was in their undergraduate days, however, in the midst of their
profoundest plunges into the mysteries of organic chemistry, that
Doris Van Benschoten entered into their lives. Lloyd met her first,
but within twenty-four hours Paul saw to it that he also made her
acquaintance. Of course, they fell in love with her, and she became
the only thing in life worth living for. They wooed her with equal
ardor and fire, and so intense became their struggle for her that
half the student-body took to wagering wildly on the result. Even
"old" Moss, one day, after an astounding demonstration in his
private laboratory by Paul, was guilty to the extent of a month's
salary of backing him to become the bridegroom of Doris Van
In the end she solved the problem in her own way, to everybody's
satisfaction except Paul's and Lloyd's. Getting them together, she
said that she really could not choose between them because she loved
them both equally well; and that, unfortunately, since polyandry was
not permitted in the United States she would be compelled to forego
the honor and happiness of marrying either of them. Each blamed the
other for this lamentable outcome, and the bitterness between them
grew more bitter.
But things came to a head enough. It was at my home, after they had
taken their degrees and dropped out of the world's sight, that the
beginning of the end came to pass. Both were men of means, with
little inclination and no necessity for professional life. My
friendship and their mutual animosity were the two things that
linked them in any way together. While they were very often at my
place, they made it a fastidious point to avoid each other on such
visits, though it was inevitable, under the circumstances, that they
should come upon each other occasionally.
On the day I have in recollection, Paul Tichlorne had been mooning
all morning in my study over a current scientific review. This left
me free to my own affairs, and I was out among my roses when Lloyd
Inwood arrived. Clipping and pruning and tacking the climbers on the
porch, with my mouth full of nails, and Lloyd following me about and
lending a hand now and again, we fell to discussing the mythical
race of invisible people, that strange and vagrant people the
traditions of which have come down to us. Lloyd warmed to the talk
in his nervous, jerky fashion, and was soon interrogating the
physical properties and possibilities of invisibility. A perfectly
black object, he contended, would elude and defy the acutest vision.
"Color is a sensation," he was saying. "It has no objective reality.
Without light, we can see neither colors nor objects themselves. All
objects are black in the dark, and in the dark it is impossible to
see them. If no light strikes upon them, then no light is flung back
from them to the eye, and so we have no vision-evidence of their
"But we see black objects in daylight," I objected.
"Very true," he went on warmly. "And that is because they are not
perfectly black. Were they perfectly black, absolutely black, as it
were, we could not see them--ay, not in the blaze of a thousand suns
could we see them! And so I say, with the right pigments, properly
compounded, an absolutely black paint could be produced which would
render invisible whatever it was applied to."
"It would be a remarkable discovery," I said non-committally, for
the whole thing seemed too fantastic for aught but speculative
"Remarkable!" Lloyd slapped me on the shoulder. "I should say so.
Why, old chap, to coat myself with such a paint would be to put the
world at my feet. The secrets of kings and courts would be mine,
the machinations of diplomats and politicians, the play of
stock-gamblers, the plans of trusts and corporations. I could keep
my hand on the inner pulse of things and become the greatest power
in the world. And I--" He broke off shortly, then added, "Well, I
have begun my experiments, and I don't mind telling you that I'm
right in line for it."
A laugh from the doorway startled us. Paul Tichlorne was standing
there, a smile of mockery on his lips.
"You forget, my dear Lloyd," he said.
"You forget," Paul went on--"ah, you forget the shadow."
I saw Lloyd's face drop, but he answered sneeringly, "I can carry a
sunshade, you know." Then he turned suddenly and fiercely upon him.
"Look here, Paul, you'll keep out of this if you know what's good
A rupture seemed imminent, but Paul laughed good-naturedly. "I
wouldn't lay fingers on your dirty pigments. Succeed beyond your
most sanguine expectations, yet you will always fetch up against
the shadow. You can't get away from it. Now I shall go on the very
opposite tack. In the very nature of my proposition the shadow will
"Transparency!" ejaculated Lloyd, instantly. "But it can't be
"Oh, no; of course not." And Paul shrugged his shoulders and
strolled off down the briar-rose path.
This was the beginning of it. Both men attacked the problem with all
the tremendous energy for which they were noted, and with a rancor
and bitterness that made me tremble for the success of either. Each
trusted me to the utmost, and in the long weeks of experimentation
that followed I was made a party to both sides, listening to their
theorizings and witnessing their demonstrations. Never, by word or
sign, did I convey to either the slightest hint of the other's
progress, and they respected me for the seal I put upon my lips.
Lloyd Inwood, after prolonged and unintermittent application, when
the tension upon his mind and body became too great to bear, had a
strange way of obtaining relief. He attended prize fights. It was at
one of these brutal exhibitions, whither he had dragged me in order
to tell his latest results, that his theory received striking
"Do you see that red-whiskered man?" he asked, pointing across the
ring to the fifth tier of seats on the opposite side. "And do you
see the next man to him, the one in the white hat? Well, there is
quite a gap between them, is there not?"
"Certainly," I answered. "They are a seat apart. The gap is the
He leaned over to me and spoke seriously. "Between the red-whiskered
man and the white-hatted man sits Ben Wasson. You have heard me
speak of him. He is the cleverest pugilist of his weight in the
country. He is also a Caribbean negro, full-blooded, and the
blackest in the United States. He has on a black overcoat buttoned
up. I saw him when he came in and took that seat. As soon as he sat
down he disappeared. Watch closely; he may smile."
I was for crossing over to verify Lloyd's statement, but he
restrained me. "Wait," he said.
I waited and watched, till the red-whiskered man turned his head as
though addressing the unoccupied seat; and then, in that empty
space, I saw the rolling whites of a pair of eyes and the white
double-crescent of two rows of teeth, and for the instant I could
make out a negro's face. But with the passing of the smile his
visibility passed, and the chair seemed vacant as before.
"Were he perfectly black, you could sit alongside him and not see
him," Lloyd said; and I confess the illustration was apt enough to
make me well-nigh convinced.
I visited Lloyd's laboratory a number of times after that, and
found him always deep in his search after the absolute black. His
experiments covered all sorts of pigments, such as lamp-blacks,
tars, carbonized vegetable matters, soots of oils and fats, and
the various carbonized animal substances.
"White light is composed of the seven primary colors," he argued to
me. "But it is itself, of itself, invisible. Only by being reflected
from objects do it and the objects become visible. But only that
portion of it that is reflected becomes visible. For instance, here
is a blue tobacco-box. The white light strikes against it, and, with
one exception, all its component colors--violet, indigo, green,
yellow, orange, and red--are absorbed. The one exception is BLUE. It
is not absorbed, but reflected. Wherefore the tobacco-box gives us a
sensation of blueness. We do not see the other colors because they
are absorbed. We see only the blue. For the same reason grass is
GREEN. The green waves of white light are thrown upon our eyes."
"When we paint our houses, we do not apply color to them," he said
at another time. "What we do is to apply certain substances that
have the property of absorbing from white light all the colors
except those that we would have our houses appear. When a substance
reflects all the colors to the eye, it seems to us white. When it
absorbs all the colors, it is black. But, as I said before, we
have as yet no perfect black. All the colors are not absorbed. The
perfect black, guarding against high lights, will be utterly and
absolutely invisible. Look at that, for example."
He pointed to the palette lying on his work-table. Different shades
of black pigments were brushed on it. One, in particular, I could
hardly see. It gave my eyes a blurring sensation, and I rubbed them
and looked again.
"That," he said impressively, "is the blackest black you or any
mortal man ever looked upon. But just you wait, and I'll have a
black so black that no mortal man will be able to look upon it--and
On the other hand, I used to find Paul Tichlorne plunged as deeply
into the study of light polarization, diffraction, and interference,
single and double refraction, and all manner of strange organic
"Transparency: a state or quality of body which permits all rays
of light to pass through," he defined for me. "That is what I am
seeking. Lloyd blunders up against the shadow with his perfect
opaqueness. But I escape it. A transparent body casts no shadow;
neither does it reflect light-waves--that is, the perfectly
transparent does not. So, avoiding high lights, not only will such
a body cast no shadow, but, since it reflects no light, it will
also be invisible."
We were standing by the window at another time. Paul was engaged
in polishing a number of lenses, which were ranged along the sill.
Suddenly, after a pause in the conversation, he said, "Oh! I've
dropped a lens. Stick your head out, old man, and see where it went
Out I started to thrust my head, but a sharp blow on the forehead
caused me to recoil. I rubbed my bruised brow and gazed with
reproachful inquiry at Paul, who was laughing in gleeful, boyish
"Well?" he said.
"Well?" I echoed.
"Why don't you investigate?" he demanded. And investigate I did.
Before thrusting out my head, my senses, automatically active, had
told me there was nothing there, that nothing intervened between
me and out-of-doors, that the aperture of the window opening was
utterly empty. I stretched forth my hand and felt a hard object,
smooth and cool and flat, which my touch, out of its experience,
told me to be glass. I looked again, but could see positively
"White quartzose sand," Paul rattled off, "sodic carbonate, slaked
lime, cutlet, manganese peroxide--there you have it, the finest
French plate glass, made by the great St. Gobain Company, who made
the finest plate glass in the world, and this is the finest piece
they ever made. It cost a king's ransom. But look at it! You can't
see it. You don't know it's there till you run your head against it.
"Eh, old boy! That's merely an object-lesson--certain elements, in
themselves opaque, yet so compounded as to give a resultant body
which is transparent. But that is a matter of inorganic chemistry,
you say. Very true. But I dare to assert, standing here on my two
feet, that in the organic I can duplicate whatever occurs in the
"Here!" He held a test-tube between me and the light, and I noted
the cloudy or muddy liquid it contained. He emptied the contents of
another test-tube into it, and almost instantly it became clear and
"Or here!" With quick, nervous movements among his array of
test-tubes, he turned a white solution to a wine color, and a light
yellow solution to a dark brown. He dropped a piece of litmus paper
into an acid, when it changed instantly to red, and on floating it
in an alkali it turned as quickly to blue.
"The litmus paper is still the litmus paper," he enunciated in the
formal manner of the lecturer. "I have not changed it into something
else. Then what did I do? I merely changed the arrangement of its
molecules. Where, at first, it absorbed all colors from the light
but red, its molecular structure was so changed that it absorbed red
and all colors except blue. And so it goes, ad infinitum. Now, what
I purpose to do is this." He paused for a space. "I purpose to
seek--ay, and to find--the proper reagents, which, acting upon the
living organism, will bring about molecular changes analogous to
those you have just witnessed. But these reagents, which I shall
find, and for that matter, upon which I already have my hands, will
not turn the living body to blue or red or black, but they will turn
it to transparency. All light will pass through it. It will be
invisible. It will cast no shadow."
A few weeks later I went hunting with Paul. He had been promising me
for some time that I should have the pleasure of shooting over a
wonderful dog--the most wonderful dog, in fact, that ever man shot
over, so he averred, and continued to aver till my curiosity was
aroused. But on the morning in question I was disappointed, for
there was no dog in evidence.
"Don't see him about," Paul remarked unconcernedly, and we set off
across the fields.
I could not imagine, at the time, what was ailing me, but I had a
feeling of some impending and deadly illness. My nerves were all
awry, and, from the astounding tricks they played me, my senses
seemed to have run riot. Strange sounds disturbed me. At times I
heard the swish-swish of grass being shoved aside, and once the
patter of feet across a patch of stony ground.
"Did you hear anything, Paul?" I asked once.
But he shook his head, and thrust his feet steadily forward.
While climbing a fence, I heard the low, eager whine of a dog,
apparently from within a couple of feet of me; but on looking about
me I saw nothing.
I dropped to the ground, limp and trembling.
"Paul," I said, "we had better return to the house. I am afraid I am
going to be sick."
"Nonsense, old man," he answered. "The sunshine has gone to your
head like wine. You'll be all right. It's famous weather."
But, passing along a narrow path through a clump of cottonwoods,
some object brushed against my legs and I stumbled and nearly fell.
I looked with sudden anxiety at Paul.
"What's the matter?" he asked. "Tripping over your own feet?"
I kept my tongue between my teeth and plodded on, though sore
perplexed and thoroughly satisfied that some acute and mysterious
malady had attacked my nerves. So far my eyes had escaped; but, when
we got to the open fields again, even my vision went back on me.
Strange flashes of vari-colored, rainbow light began to appear and
disappear on the path before me. Still, I managed to keep myself in
hand, till the vari-colored lights persisted for a space of fully
twenty seconds, dancing and flashing in continuous play. Then I sat
down, weak and shaky.
"It's all up with me," I gasped, covering my eyes with my hands.
"It has attacked my eyes. Paul, take me home."
But Paul laughed long and loud. "What did I tell you?--the most
wonderful dog, eh? Well, what do you think?"
He turned partly from me and began to whistle. I heard the patter of
feet, the panting of a heated animal, and the unmistakable yelp of a
dog. Then Paul stooped down and apparently fondled the empty air.
"Here! Give me your fist."
And he rubbed my hand over the cold nose and jowls of a dog. A dog
it certainly was, with the shape and the smooth, short coat of a
Suffice to say, I speedily recovered my spirits and control. Paul
put a collar about the animal's neck and tied his handkerchief to
its tail. And then was vouchsafed us the remarkable sight of an
empty collar and a waving handkerchief cavorting over the fields.
It was something to see that collar and handkerchief pin a bevy of
quail in a clump of locusts and remain rigid and immovable till we
had flushed the birds.
Now and again the dog emitted the vari-colored light-flashes I have
mentioned. The one thing, Paul explained, which he had not
anticipated and which he doubted could be overcome.
"They're a large family," he said, "these sun dogs, wind dogs,
rainbows, halos, and parhelia. They are produced by refraction of
light from mineral and ice crystals, from mist, rain, spray, and no
end of things; and I am afraid they are the penalty I must pay for
transparency. I escaped Lloyd's shadow only to fetch up against the
A couple of days later, before the entrance to Paul's laboratory,
I encountered a terrible stench. So overpowering was it that it
was easy to discover the source--a mass of putrescent matter on
the doorstep which in general outlines resembled a dog.
Paul was startled when he investigated my find. It was his invisible
dog, or rather, what had been his invisible dog, for it was now
plainly visible. It had been playing about but a few minutes before
in all health and strength. Closer examination revealed that the
skull had been crushed by some heavy blow. While it was strange that
the animal should have been killed, the inexplicable thing was that
it should so quickly decay.
"The reagents I injected into its system were harmless," Paul
explained. "Yet they were powerful, and it appears that when
death comes they force practically instantaneous disintegration.
Remarkable! Most remarkable! Well, the only thing is not to die.
They do not harm so long as one lives. But I do wonder who smashed
in that dog's head."
Light, however, was thrown upon this when a frightened housemaid
brought the news that Gaffer Bedshaw had that very morning, not more
than an hour back, gone violently insane, and was strapped down
at home, in the huntsman's lodge, where he raved of a battle with
a ferocious and gigantic beast that he had encountered in the
Tichlorne pasture. He claimed that the thing, whatever it was, was
invisible, that with his own eyes he had seen that it was invisible;
wherefore his tearful wife and daughters shook their heads, and
wherefore he but waxed the more violent, and the gardener and the
coachman tightened the straps by another hole.
Nor, while Paul Tichlorne was thus successfully mastering the
problem of invisibility, was Lloyd Inwood a whit behind. I went over
in answer to a message of his to come and see how he was getting on.
Now his laboratory occupied an isolated situation in the midst
of his vast grounds. It was built in a pleasant little glade,
surrounded on all sides by a dense forest growth, and was to be
gained by way of a winding and erratic path. But I have travelled
that path so often as to know every foot of it, and conceive my
surprise when I came upon the glade and found no laboratory. The
quaint shed structure with its red sandstone chimney was not. Nor
did it look as if it ever had been. There were no signs of ruin,
no debris, nothing.
I started to walk across what had once been its site. "This," I said
to myself, "should be where the step went up to the door." Barely
were the words out of my mouth when I stubbed my toe on some
obstacle, pitched forward, and butted my head into something that
FELT very much like a door. I reached out my hand. It WAS a door. I
found the knob and turned it. And at once, as the door swung inward
on its hinges, the whole interior of the laboratory impinged upon
my vision. Greeting Lloyd, I closed the door and backed up the path
a few paces. I could see nothing of the building. Returning and
opening the door, at once all the furniture and every detail of
the interior were visible. It was indeed startling, the sudden
transition from void to light and form and color.
"What do you think of it, eh?" Lloyd asked, wringing my hand. "I
slapped a couple of coats of absolute black on the outside yesterday
afternoon to see how it worked. How's your head? you bumped it
pretty solidly, I imagine."
"Never mind that," he interrupted my congratulations. "I've
something better for you to do."
While he talked he began to strip, and when he stood naked before me
he thrust a pot and brush into my hand and said, "Here, give me a
coat of this."
It was an oily, shellac-like stuff, which spread quickly and easily
over the skin and dried immediately.
"Merely preliminary and precautionary," he explained when I had
finished; "but now for the real stuff."
I picked up another pot he indicated, and glanced inside, but could see
"It's empty," I said.
"Stick your finger in it."
I obeyed, and was aware of a sensation of cool moistness. On
withdrawing my hand I glanced at the forefinger, the one I had
immersed, but it had disappeared. I moved and knew from the
alternate tension and relaxation of the muscles that I moved it, but
it defied my sense of sight. To all appearances I had been shorn
of a finger; nor could I get any visual impression of it till I
extended it under the skylight and saw its shadow plainly blotted
on the floor.
Lloyd chuckled. "Now spread it on, and keep your eyes open."
I dipped the brush into the seemingly empty pot, and gave him a long
stroke across his chest. With the passage of the brush the living
flesh disappeared from beneath. I covered his right leg, and he was
a one-legged man defying all laws of gravitation. And so, stroke by
stroke, member by member, I painted Lloyd Inwood into nothingness.
It was a creepy experience, and I was glad when naught remained in
sight but his burning black eyes, poised apparently unsupported in
"I have a refined and harmless solution for them," he said. "A fine
spray with an air-brush, and presto! I am not."
This deftly accomplished, he said, "Now I shall move about, and do
you tell me what sensations you experience."
"In the first place, I cannot see you," I said, and I could hear
his gleeful laugh from the midst of the emptiness. "Of course,"
I continued, "you cannot escape your shadow, but that was to be
expected. When you pass between my eye and an object, the object
disappears, but so unusual and incomprehensible is its disappearance
that it seems to me as though my eyes had blurred. When you move
rapidly, I experience a bewildering succession of blurs. The
blurring sensation makes my eyes ache and my brain tired."
"Have you any other warnings of my presence?" he asked.
"No, and yes," I answered. "When you are near me I have feelings
similar to those produced by dank warehouses, gloomy crypts, and
deep mines. And as sailors feel the loom of the land on dark nights,
so I think I feel the loom of your body. But it is all very vague
Long we talked that last morning in his laboratory; and when I
turned to go, he put his unseen hand in mine with nervous grip, and
said, "Now I shall conquer the world!" And I could not dare to tell
him of Paul Tichlorne's equal success.
At home I found a note from Paul, asking me to come up immediately,
and it was high noon when I came spinning up the driveway on my
wheel. Paul called me from the tennis court, and I dismounted and
went over. But the court was empty. As I stood there, gaping
open-mouthed, a tennis ball struck me on the arm, and as I turned
about, another whizzed past my ear. For aught I could see of my
assailant, they came whirling at me from out of space, and right
well was I peppered with them. But when the balls already flung at
me began to come back for a second whack, I realized the situation.
Seizing a racquet and keeping my eyes open, I quickly saw a rainbow
flash appearing and disappearing and darting over the ground. I took
out after it, and when I laid the racquet upon it for a half-dozen
stout blows, Paul's voice rang out:
"Enough! Enough! Oh! Ouch! Stop! You're landing on my naked skin,
you know! Ow! O-w-w! I'll be good! I'll be good! I only wanted you
to see my metamorphosis," he said ruefully, and I imagined he was
rubbing his hurts.
A few minutes later we were playing tennis--a handicap on my part,
for I could have no knowledge of his position save when all the
angles between himself, the sun, and me, were in proper conjunction.
Then he flashed, and only then. But the flashes were more brilliant
than the rainbow--purest blue, most delicate violet, brightest
yellow, and all the intermediary shades, with the scintillant
brilliancy of the diamond, dazzling, blinding, iridescent.
But in the midst of our play I felt a sudden cold chill, reminding
me of deep mines and gloomy crypts, such a chill as I had
experienced that very morning. The next moment, close to the net,
I saw a ball rebound in mid-air and empty space, and at the same
instant, a score of feet away, Paul Tichlorne emitted a rainbow
flash. It could not be he from whom the ball had rebounded, and
with sickening dread I realized that Lloyd Inwood had come upon the
scene. To make sure, I looked for his shadow, and there it was, a
shapeless blotch the girth of his body, (the sun was overhead),
moving along the ground. I remembered his threat, and felt sure that
all the long years of rivalry were about to culminate in uncanny
I cried a warning to Paul, and heard a snarl as of a wild beast, and
an answering snarl. I saw the dark blotch move swiftly across the
court, and a brilliant burst of vari-colored light moving with equal
swiftness to meet it; and then shadow and flash came together and
there was the sound of unseen blows. The net went down before my
frightened eyes. I sprang toward the fighters, crying:
"For God's sake!"
But their locked bodies smote against my knees, and I was
"You keep out of this, old man!" I heard the voice of Lloyd Inwood
from out of the emptiness. And then Paul's voice crying, "Yes, we've
had enough of peacemaking!"
From the sound of their voices I knew they had separated. I could
not locate Paul, and so approached the shadow that represented
Lloyd. But from the other side came a stunning blow on the point of
my jaw, and I heard Paul scream angrily, "Now will you keep away?"
Then they came together again, the impact of their blows, their
groans and gasps, and the swift flashings and shadow-movings telling
plainly of the deadliness of the struggle.
I shouted for help, and Gaffer Bedshaw came running into the court.
I could see, as he approached, that he was looking at me strangely,
but he collided with the combatants and was hurled headlong to the
ground. With despairing shriek and a cry of "O Lord, I've got 'em!"
he sprang to his feet and tore madly out of the court.
I could do nothing, so I sat up, fascinated and powerless, and
watched the struggle. The noonday sun beat down with dazzling
brightness on the naked tennis court. And it was naked. All I could
see was the blotch of shadow and the rainbow flashes, the dust
rising from the invisible feet, the earth tearing up from beneath
the straining foot-grips, and the wire screen bulge once or twice as
their bodies hurled against it. That was all, and after a time even
that ceased. There were no more flashes, and the shadow had become
long and stationary; and I remembered their set boyish faces when
they clung to the roots in the deep coolness of the pool.
They found me an hour afterward. Some inkling of what had happened
got to the servants and they quitted the Tichlorne service in a
body. Gaffer Bedshaw never recovered from the second shock he
received, and is confined in a madhouse, hopelessly incurable. The
secrets of their marvellous discoveries died with Paul and Lloyd,
both laboratories being destroyed by grief-stricken relatives. As
for myself, I no longer care for chemical research, and science is a
tabooed topic in my household. I have returned to my roses. Nature's
colors are good enough for me.
ALL GOLD CANYON
It was the green heart of the canyon, where the walls swerved back
from the rigid plan and relieved their harshness of line by making a
little sheltered nook and filling it to the brim with sweetness and
roundness and softness. Here all things rested. Even the narrow
stream ceased its turbulent down-rush long enough to form a quiet
pool. Knee-deep in the water, with drooping head and half-shut eyes,
drowsed a red-coated, many-antlered buck.
On one side, beginning at the very lip of the pool, was a tiny
meadow, a cool, resilient surface of green that extended to the base
of the frowning wall. Beyond the pool a gentle slope of earth ran
up and up to meet the opposing wall. Fine grass covered the
slope--grass that was spangled with flowers, with here and there
patches of color, orange and purple and golden. Below, the canyon
was shut in. There was no view. The walls leaned together abruptly
and the canyon ended in a chaos of rocks, moss-covered and hidden
by a green screen of vines and creepers and boughs of trees. Up the
canyon rose far hills and peaks, the big foothills, pine-covered and
remote. And far beyond, like clouds upon the border of the slay,
towered minarets of white, where the Sierra's eternal snows flashed
austerely the blazes of the sun.
There was no dust in the canyon. The leaves and flowers were clean
and virginal. The grass was young velvet. Over the pool three
cottonwoods sent their scurvy fluffs fluttering down the quiet air.
On the slope the blossoms of the wine-wooded manzanita filled the
air with springtime odors, while the leaves, wise with experience,
were already beginning their vertical twist against the coming
aridity of summer. In the open spaces on the slope, beyond the
farthest shadow-reach of the manzanita, poised the mariposa lilies,
like so many flights of jewelled moths suddenly arrested and on the
verge of trembling into flight again. Here and there that woods
harlequin, the madrone, permitting itself to be caught in the act of
changing its pea-green trunk to madder-red, breathed its fragrance
into the air from great clusters of waxen bells. Creamy white were
these bells, shaped like lilies-of-the-valley, with the sweetness
of perfume that is of the springtime.
There was not a sigh of wind. The air was drowsy with its weight of
perfume. It was a sweetness that would have been cloying had the
air been heavy and humid. But the air was sharp and thin. It was as
starlight transmuted into atmosphere, shot through and warmed by
sunshine, and flower-drenched with sweetness.
An occasional butterfly drifted in and out through the patches of
light and shade. And from all about rose the low and sleepy hum
of mountain bees--feasting Sybarites that jostled one another
good-naturedly at the board, nor found time for rough discourtesy.
So quietly did the little stream drip and ripple its way through the
canyon that it spoke only in faint and occasional gurgles. The voice
of the stream was as a drowsy whisper, ever interrupted by dozings
and silences, ever lifted again in the awakenings.
The motion of all things was a drifting in the heart of the canyon.
Sunshine and butterflies drifted in and out among the trees. The hum
of the bees and the whisper of the stream were a drifting of sound.
And the drifting sound and drifting color seemed to weave together
in the making of a delicate and intangible fabric which was the
spirit of the place. It was a spirit of peace that was not of death,
but of smooth-pulsing life, of quietude that was not silence,
of movement that was not action, of repose that was quick with
existence without being violent with struggle and travail. The
spirit of the place was the spirit of the peace of the living,
somnolent with the easement and content of prosperity, and
undisturbed by rumors of far wars.
The red-coated, many-antlered buck acknowledged the lordship of the
spirit of the place and dozed knee-deep in the cool, shaded pool.
There seemed no flies to vex him and he was languid with rest.
Sometimes his ears moved when the stream awoke and whispered; but
they moved lazily, with, foreknowledge that it was merely the
stream grown garrulous at discovery that it had slept.
But there came a time when the buck's ears lifted and tensed with
swift eagerness for sound. His head was turned down the canyon. His
sensitive, quivering nostrils scented the air. His eyes could not
pierce the green screen through which the stream rippled away, but
to his ears came the voice of a man. It was a steady, monotonous,
singsong voice. Once the buck heard the harsh clash of metal upon
rock. At the sound he snorted with a sudden start that jerked him
through the air from water to meadow, and his feet sank into the
young velvet, while he pricked his ears and again scented the air.
Then he stole across the tiny meadow, pausing once and again to
listen, and faded away out of the canyon like a wraith, soft-footed
and without sound.
The clash of steel-shod soles against the rocks began to be heard,
and the man's voice grew louder. It was raised in a sort of chant
and became distinct with nearness, so that the words could be heard:
"Turn around an' tu'n yo' face
Untoe them sweet hills of grace
(D' pow'rs of sin yo' am scornin'!).
Look about an' look aroun',
Fling yo' sin-pack on d' groun'
(Yo' will meet wid d' Lord in d' mornin'!)."
A sound of scrambling accompanied the song, and the spirit of the
place fled away on the heels of the red-coated buck. The green
screen was burst asunder, and a man peered out at the meadow and the
pool and the sloping side-hill. He was a deliberate sort of man. He
took in the scene with one embracing glance, then ran his eyes over
the details to verify the general impression. Then, and not until
then, did he open his mouth in vivid and solemn approval:
"Smoke of life an' snakes of purgatory! Will you just look at that!
Wood an' water an' grass an' a side-hill! A pocket-hunter's delight
an' a cayuse's paradise! Cool green for tired eyes! Pink pills for
pale people ain't in it. A secret pasture for prospectors and a
resting-place for tired burros, by damn!"
He was a sandy-complexioned man in whose face geniality and
humor seemed the salient characteristics. It was a mobile face,
quick-changing to inward mood and thought. Thinking was in him a
visible process. Ideas chased across his face like wind-flaws across
the surface of a lake. His hair, sparse and unkempt of growth, was
as indeterminate and colorless as his complexion. It would seem that
all the color of his frame had gone into his eyes, for they were
startlingly blue. Also, they were laughing and merry eyes, within
them much of the naivete and wonder of the child; and yet, in an
unassertive way, they contained much of calm self-reliance and
strength of purpose founded upon self-experience and experience
of the world.
From out the screen of vines and creepers he flung ahead of him a
miner's pick and shovel and gold-pan. Then he crawled out himself
into the open. He was clad in faded overalls and black cotton shirt,
with hobnailed brogans on his feet, and on his head a hat whose
shapelessness and stains advertised the rough usage of wind and rain
and sun and camp-smoke. He stood erect, seeing wide-eyed the secrecy
of the scene and sensuously inhaling the warm, sweet breath of the
canyon-garden through nostrils that dilated and quivered with delight.
His eyes narrowed to laughing slits of blue, his face wreathed
itself in joy, and his mouth curled in a smile as he cried aloud:
"Jumping dandelions and happy hollyhocks, but that smells good to
me! Talk about your attar o' roses an' cologne factories! They
ain't in it!"
He had the habit of soliloquy. His quick-changing facial expressions
might tell every thought and mood, but the tongue, perforce, ran
hard after, repeating, like a second Boswell.
The man lay down on the lip of the pool and drank long and deep of
its water. "Tastes good to me," he murmured, lifting his head and
gazing across the pool at the side-hill, while he wiped his mouth
with the back of his hand. The side-hill attracted his attention.
Still lying on his stomach, he studied the hill formation long and
carefully. It was a practised eye that travelled up the slope to the
crumbling canyon-wall and back and down again to the edge of the
pool. He scrambled to his feet and favored the side-hill with a
"Looks good to me," he concluded, picking up his pick and shovel and
He crossed the stream below the pool, stepping agilely from stone to
stone. Where the sidehill touched the water he dug up a shovelful of
dirt and put it into the gold-pan. He squatted down, holding the pan
in his two hands, and partly immersing it in the stream. Then he
imparted to the pan a deft circular motion that sent the water
sluicing in and out through the dirt and gravel. The larger and the
lighter particles worked to the surface, and these, by a skilful
dipping movement of the pan, he spilled out and over the edge.
Occasionally, to expedite matters, he rested the pan and with his
fingers raked out the large pebbles and pieces of rock.
The contents of the pan diminished rapidly until only fine dirt and
the smallest bits of gravel remained. At this stage he began to work
very deliberately and carefully. It was fine washing, and he washed
fine and finer, with a keen scrutiny and delicate and fastidious
touch. At last the pan seemed empty of everything but water; but
with a quick semicircular flirt that sent the water flying over the
shallow rim into the stream, he disclosed a layer of black sand on
the bottom of the pan. So thin was this layer that it was like a
streak of paint. He examined it closely. In the midst of it was a
tiny golden speck. He dribbled a little water in over the depressed
edge of the pan. With a quick flirt he sent the water sluicing
across the bottom, turning the grains of black sand over and over.
A second tiny golden speck rewarded his effort.
The washing had now become very fine--fine beyond all need of
ordinary placer-mining. He worked the black sand, a small portion
at a time, up the shallow rim of the pan. Each small portion he
examined sharply, so that his eyes saw every grain of it before he
allowed it to slide over the edge and away. Jealously, bit by bit,
he let the black sand slip away. A golden speck, no larger than a
pin-point, appeared on the rim, and by his manipulation of the
riveter it returned to the bottom of the pan. And in such fashion
another speck was disclosed, and another. Great was his care of
them. Like a shepherd he herded his flock of golden specks so that
not one should be lost. At last, of the pan of dirt nothing remained
but his golden herd. He counted it, and then, after all his labor,
sent it flying out of the pan with one final swirl of water.
But his blue eyes were shining with desire as he rose to his feet.
"Seven," he muttered aloud, asserting the sum of the specks for
which he had toiled so hard and which he had so wantonly thrown
away. "Seven," he repeated, with the emphasis of one trying to
impress a number on his memory.
He stood still a long while, surveying the hill-side. In his eyes
was a curiosity, new-aroused and burning. There was an exultance
about his bearing and a keenness like that of a hunting animal
catching the fresh scent of game.
He moved down the stream a few steps and took a second panful of dirt.
Again came the careful washing, the jealous herding of the golden
specks, and the wantonness with which he sent them flying into the
stream when he had counted their number.
"Five," he muttered, and repeated, "five."
He could not forbear another survey of the hill before filling the
pan farther down the stream. His golden herds diminished. "Four,
three, two, two, one," were his memory-tabulations as he moved down
the stream. When but one speck of gold rewarded his washing, he
stopped and built a fire of dry twigs. Into this he thrust the
gold-pan and burned it till it was blue-black. He held up the pan and
examined it critically. Then he nodded approbation. Against such a
color-background he could defy the tiniest yellow speck to elude him.
Still moving down the stream, he panned again. A single speck was
his reward. A third pan contained no gold at all. Not satisfied with
this, he panned three times again, taking his shovels of dirt within
a foot of one another. Each pan proved empty of gold, and the fact,
instead of discouraging him, seemed to give him satisfaction. His
elation increased with each barren washing, until he arose,
"If it ain't the real thing, may God knock off my head with sour
Returning to where he had started operations, he began to pan up the
stream. At first his golden herds increased--increased prodigiously.
"Fourteen, eighteen, twenty-one, twenty-six," ran his memory
tabulations. Just above the pool he struck his richest
"Almost enough to save," he remarked regretfully as he allowed the
water to sweep them away.
The sun climbed to the top of the sky. The man worked on. Pan by
pan, he went up the stream, the tally of results steadily decreasing.
"It's just booful, the way it peters out," he exulted when a
shovelful of dirt contained no more than a single speck of gold.
And when no specks at all were found in several pans, he
straightened up and favored the hillside with a confident glance.
"Ah, ha! Mr. Pocket!" he cried out, as though to an auditor hidden
somewhere above him beneath the surface of the slope. "Ah, ha!
Mr. Pocket! I'm a-comin', I'm a-comin', an' I'm shorely gwine to
get yer! You heah me, Mr. Pocket? I'm gwine to get yer as shore as
punkins ain't cauliflowers!"
He turned and flung a measuring glance at the sun poised above him
in the azure of the cloudless sky. Then he went down the canyon,
following the line of shovel-holes he had made in filling the pans.
He crossed the stream below the pool and disappeared through the
green screen. There was little opportunity for the spirit of the
place to return with its quietude and repose, for the man's voice,
raised in ragtime song, still dominated the canyon with possession.
After a time, with a greater clashing of steel-shod feet on rock, he
returned. The green screen was tremendously agitated. It surged back
and forth in the throes of a struggle. There was a loud grating and
clanging of metal. The man's voice leaped to a higher pitch and was
sharp with imperativeness. A large body plunged and panted. There
was a snapping and ripping and rending, and amid a shower of falling
leaves a horse burst through the screen. On its back was a pack,
and from this trailed broken vines and torn creepers. The animal
gazed with astonished eyes at the scene into which it had been
precipitated, then dropped its head to the grass and began
contentedly to graze. A second horse scrambled into view, slipping
once on the mossy rocks and regaining equilibrium when its hoofs
sank into the yielding surface of the meadow. It was riderless,
though on its back was a high-horned Mexican saddle, scarred and
discolored by long usage.
The man brought up the rear. He threw off pack and saddle, with an
eye to camp location, and gave the animals their freedom to graze.
He unpacked his food and got out frying-pan and coffee-pot. He
gathered an armful of dry wood, and with a few stones made a place
for his fire.
"My!" he said, "but I've got an appetite. I could scoff iron-filings
an' horseshoe nails an' thank you kindly, ma'am, for a second
He straightened up, and, while he reached for matches in the pocket
of his overalls, his eyes travelled across the pool to the
side-hill. His fingers had clutched the match-box, but they relaxed
their hold and the hand came out empty. The man wavered perceptibly.
He looked at his preparations for cooking and he looked at the hill.
"Guess I'll take another whack at her," he concluded, starting to
cross the stream.
"They ain't no sense in it, I know," he mumbled apologetically. "But
keepin' grub back an hour ain't goin' to hurt none, I reckon."
A few feet back from his first line of test-pans he started a second
line. The sun dropped down the western sky, the shadows lengthened,
but the man worked on. He began a third line of test-pans. He was
cross-cutting the hillside, line by line, as he ascended. The centre
of each line produced the richest pans, while the ends came where no
colors showed in the pan. And as he ascended the hillside the lines
grew perceptibly shorter. The regularity with which their length
diminished served to indicate that somewhere up the slope the last
line would be so short as to have scarcely length at all, and that
beyond could come only a point. The design was growing into an
inverted "V." The converging sides of this "V" marked the boundaries
of the gold-bearing dirt.
The apex of the "V" was evidently the man's goal. Often he ran his
eye along the converging sides and on up the hill, trying to divine
the apex, the point where the gold-bearing dirt must cease. Here
resided "Mr. Pocket"--for so the man familiarly addressed the
imaginary point above him on the slope, crying out:
"Come down out o' that, Mr. Pocket! Be right smart an' agreeable,
an' come down!"
"All right," he would add later, in a voice resigned to determination.
"All right, Mr. Pocket. It's plain to me I got to come right up an'
snatch you out bald-headed. An' I'll do it! I'll do it!" he would
threaten still later.
Each pan he carried down to the water to wash, and as he went higher
up the hill the pans grew richer, until he began to save the gold
in an empty baking-powder can which he carried carelessly in his
hip-pocket. So engrossed was he in his toil that he did not notice
the long twilight of oncoming night. It was not until he tried
vainly to see the gold colors in the bottom of the pan that he
realized the passage of time. He straightened up abruptly. An
expression of whimsical wonderment and awe overspread his face as
"Gosh darn my buttons! if I didn't plumb forget dinner!"
He stumbled across the stream in the darkness and lighted his
long-delayed fire. Flapjacks and bacon and warmed-over beans
constituted his supper. Then he smoked a pipe by the smouldering
coals, listening to the night noises and watching the moonlight
stream through the canyon. After that he unrolled his bed, took off
his heavy shoes, and pulled the blankets up to his chin. His face
showed white in the moonlight, like the face of a corpse. But it
was a corpse that knew its resurrection, for the man rose suddenly
on one elbow and gazed across at his hillside.
"Good night, Mr. Pocket," he called sleepily. "Good night."
He slept through the early gray of morning until the direct rays of
the sun smote his closed eyelids, when he awoke with a start and
looked about him until he had established the continuity of his
existence and identified his present self with the days previously
To dress, he had merely to buckle on his shoes. He glanced at his
fireplace and at his hillside, wavered, but fought down the
temptation and started the fire.
"Keep yer shirt on, Bill; keep yer shirt on," he admonished himself.
"What's the good of rushin'? No use in gettin' all het up an'
sweaty. Mr. Pocket'll wait for you. He ain't a-runnin' away before
you can get yer breakfast. Now, what you want, Bill, is something
fresh in yer bill o' fare. So it's up to you to go an' get it."
He cut a short pole at the water's edge and drew from one of his
pockets a bit of line and a draggled fly that had once been a royal
"Mebbe they'll bite in the early morning," he muttered, as he made
his first cast into the pool. And a moment later he was gleefully
crying: "What'd I tell you, eh? What'd I tell you?"
He had no reel, nor any inclination to waste time, and by main
strength, and swiftly, he drew out of the water a flashing ten-inch
trout. Three more, caught in rapid succession, furnished his
breakfast. When he came to the stepping-stones on his way to his
hillside, he was struck by a sudden thought, and paused.
"I'd just better take a hike down-stream a ways," he said. "There's
no tellin' what cuss may be snoopin' around."
But he crossed over on the stones, and with a "I really oughter take
that hike," the need of the precaution passed out of his mind and he
fell to work.
At nightfall he straightened up. The small of his back was stiff
from stooping toil, and as he put his hand behind him to soothe the
protesting muscles, he said:
"Now what d'ye think of that, by damn? I clean forgot my dinner
again! If I don't watch out, I'll sure be degeneratin' into a
"Pockets is the damnedest things I ever see for makin' a man
absent-minded," he communed that night, as he crawled into his
blankets. Nor did he forget to call up the hillside, "Good night,
Mr. Pocket! Good night!"
Rising with the sun, and snatching a hasty breakfast, he was early
at work. A fever seemed to be growing in him, nor did the increasing
richness of the test-pans allay this fever. There was a flush in his
cheek other than that made by the heat of the sun, and he was
oblivious to fatigue and the passage of time. When he filled a pan
with dirt, he ran down the hill to wash it; nor could he forbear
running up the hill again, panting and stumbling profanely, to
refill the pan.
He was now a hundred yards from the water, and the inverted "V" was
assuming definite proportions. The width of the pay-dirt steadily
decreased, and the man extended in his mind's eye the sides of the
"V" to their meeting-place far up the hill. This was his goal, the
apex of the "V," and he panned many times to locate it.
"Just about two yards above that manzanita bush an' a yard to the
right," he finally concluded.
Then the temptation seized him. "As plain as the nose on your face,"
he said, as he abandoned his laborious cross-cutting and climbed to
the indicated apex. He filled a pan and carried it down the hill
to wash. It contained no trace of gold. He dug deep, and he dug
shallow, filling and washing a dozen pans, and was unrewarded even
by the tiniest golden speck. He was enraged at having yielded to the
temptation, and cursed himself blasphemously and pridelessly. Then
he went down the hill and took up the cross-cutting.
"Slow an' certain, Bill; slow an' certain," he crooned. "Short-cuts
to fortune ain't in your line, an' it's about time you know it. Get
wise, Bill; get wise. Slow an' certain's the only hand you can play;
so go to it, an' keep to it, too."
As the cross-cuts decreased, showing that the sides of the "V" were
converging, the depth of the "V" increased. The gold-trace was
dipping into the hill. It was only at thirty inches beneath the
surface that he could get colors in his pan. The dirt he found at
twenty-five inches from the surface, and at thirty-five inches,
yielded barren pans. At the base of the "V," by the water's edge,
he had found the gold colors at the grass roots. The higher he went
up the hill, the deeper the gold dipped.
To dig a hole three feet deep in order to get one test-pan was a
task of no mean magnitude; while between the man and the apex
intervened an untold number of such holes to be. "An' there's no
tellin' how much deeper it'll pitch," he sighed, in a moment's
pause, while his fingers soothed his aching back.
Feverish with desire, with aching back and stiffening muscles, with
pick and shovel gouging and mauling the soft brown earth, the man
toiled up the hill. Before him was the smooth slope, spangled
with flowers and made sweet with their breath. Behind him was
devastation. It looked like some terrible eruption breaking out on
the smooth skin of the hill. His slow progress was like that of a
slug, befouling beauty with a monstrous trail.
Though the dipping gold-trace increased the man's work, he found
consolation in the increasing richness of the pans. Twenty cents,
thirty cents, fifty cents, sixty cents, were the values of the gold
found in the pans, and at nightfall he washed his banner pan, which
gave him a dollar's worth of gold-dust from a shovelful of dirt.
"I'll just bet it's my luck to have some inquisitive cuss come
buttin' in here on my pasture," he mumbled sleepily that night as
he pulled the blankets up to his chin.
Suddenly he sat upright. "Bill!" he called sharply. "Now, listen to
me, Bill; d'ye hear! It's up to you, to-morrow mornin', to mosey
round an' see what you can see. Understand? Tomorrow morning, an'
don't you forget it!"
He yawned and glanced across at his side-hill. "Good night,
Mr. Pocket," he called.
In the morning he stole a march on the sun, for he had finished
breakfast when its first rays caught him, and he was climbing the
wall of the canyon where it crumbled away and gave footing. From
the outlook at the top he found himself in the midst of loneliness.
As far as he could see, chain after chain of mountains heaved
themselves into his vision. To the east his eyes, leaping the miles
between range and range and between many ranges, brought up at last
against the white-peaked Sierras--the main crest, where the backbone
of the Western world reared itself against the sky. To the north
and south he could see more distinctly the cross-systems that broke
through the main trend of the sea of mountains. To the west the
ranges fell away, one behind the other, diminishing and fading into
the gentle foothills that, in turn, descended into the great valley
which he could not see.
And in all that mighty sweep of earth he saw no sign of man nor of
the handiwork of man--save only the torn bosom of the hillside at
his feet. The man looked long and carefully. Once, far down his own
canyon, he thought he saw in the air a faint hint of smoke. He
looked again and decided that it was the purple haze of the hills
made dark by a convolution of the canyon wall at its back.
"Hey, you, Mr. Pocket!" he called down into the canyon. "Stand out
from under! I'm a-comin', Mr. Pocket! I'm a-comin'!"
The heavy brogans on the man's feet made him appear clumsy-footed,
but he swung down from the giddy height as lightly and airily as a
mountain goat. A rock, turning under his foot on the edge of the
precipice, did not disconcert him. He seemed to know the precise
time required for the turn to culminate in disaster, and in the
meantime he utilized the false footing itself for the momentary
earth-contact necessary to carry him on into safety. Where the earth
sloped so steeply that it was impossible to stand for a second
upright, the man did not hesitate. His foot pressed the impossible
surface for but a fraction of the fatal second and gave him the
bound that carried him onward. Again, where even the fraction of a
second's footing was out of the question, he would swing his body
past by a moment's hand-grip on a jutting knob of rock, a crevice,
or a precariously rooted shrub. At last, with a wild leap and yell,
he exchanged the face of the wall for an earth-slide and finished
the descent in the midst of several tons of sliding earth and
His first pan of the morning washed out over two dollars in coarse
gold. It was from the centre of the "V." To either side the
diminution in the values of the pans was swift. His lines of
crosscutting holes were growing very short. The converging sides of
the inverted "V" were only a few yards apart. Their meeting-point
was only a few yards above him. But the pay-streak was dipping
deeper and deeper into the earth. By early afternoon he was sinking
the test-holes five feet before the pans could show the gold-trace.
For that matter, the gold-trace had become something more than a
trace; it was a placer mine in itself, and the man resolved to come
back after he had found the pocket and work over the ground. But
the increasing richness of the pans began to worry him. By late
afternoon the worth of the pans had grown to three and four dollars.
The man scratched his head perplexedly and looked a few feet up the
hill at the manzanita bush that marked approximately the apex of the
"V." He nodded his head and said oracularly:
"It's one o' two things, Bill; one o' two things. Either Mr.
Pocket's spilled himself all out an' down the hill, or else Mr.
Pocket's that damned rich you maybe won't be able to carry him all
away with you. And that'd be hell, wouldn't it, now?" He chuckled
at contemplation of so pleasant a dilemma.
Nightfall found him by the edge of the stream his eyes wrestling
with the gathering darkness over the washing of a five-dollar pan.
"Wisht I had an electric light to go on working." he said.
He found sleep difficult that night. Many times he composed himself
and closed his eyes for slumber to overtake him; but his blood
pounded with too strong desire, and as many times his eyes opened
and he murmured wearily, "Wisht it was sun-up."
Sleep came to him in the end, but his eyes were open with the first
paling of the stars, and the gray of dawn caught him with breakfast
finished and climbing the hillside in the direction of the secret
abiding-place of Mr. Pocket.
The first cross-cut the man made, there was space for only three
holes, so narrow had become the pay-streak and so close was he to
the fountainhead of the golden stream he had been following for four
"Be ca'm, Bill; be ca'm," he admonished himself, as he broke ground
for the final hole where the sides of the "V" had at last come
together in a point.
"I've got the almighty cinch on you, Mr. Pocket, an' you can't lose
me," he said many times as he sank the hole deeper and deeper.
Four feet, five feet, six feet, he dug his way down into the earth.
The digging grew harder. His pick grated on broken rock. He examined
the rock. "Rotten quartz," was his conclusion as, with the shovel,
he cleared the bottom of the hole of loose dirt. He attacked the
crumbling quartz with the pick, bursting the disintegrating rock
asunder with every stroke.
He thrust his shovel into the loose mass. His eye caught a gleam of
yellow. He dropped the shovel and squatted suddenly on his heels.
As a farmer rubs the clinging earth from fresh-dug potatoes, so the
man, a piece of rotten quartz held in both hands, rubbed the dirt
"Sufferin' Sardanopolis!" he cried. "Lumps an' chunks of it! Lumps
an' chunks of it!"
It was only half rock he held in his hand. The other half was virgin
gold. He dropped it into his pan and examined another piece. Little
yellow was to be seen, but with his strong fingers he crumbled the
rotten quartz away till both hands were filled with glowing yellow.
He rubbed the dirt away from fragment after fragment, tossing them
into the gold-pan. It was a treasure-hole. So much had the quartz
rotted away that there was less of it than there was of gold. Now
and again he found a piece to which no rock clung--a piece that was
all gold. A chunk, where the pick had laid open the heart of the
gold, glittered like a handful of yellow jewels, and he cocked his
head at it and slowly turned it around and over to observe the rich
play of the light upon it.
"Talk about yer Too Much Gold diggin's!" the man snorted
contemptuously. "Why, this diggin' 'd make it look like thirty
cents. This diggin' is All Gold. An' right here an' now I name
this yere canyon 'All Gold Canyon,' b' gosh!"
Still squatting on his heels, he continued examining the fragments
and tossing them into the pan. Suddenly there came to him a
premonition of danger. It seemed a shadow had fallen upon him. But
there was no shadow. His heart had given a great jump up into his
throat and was choking him. Then his blood slowly chilled and he
felt the sweat of his shirt cold against his flesh.
He did not spring up nor look around. He did not move. He was
considering the nature of the premonition he had received, trying
to locate the source of the mysterious force that had warned him,
striving to sense the imperative presence of the unseen thing that
threatened him. There is an aura of things hostile, made manifest by
messengers refined for the senses to know; and this aura he felt,
but knew not how he felt it. His was the feeling as when a cloud
passes over the sun. It seemed that between him and life had passed
something dark and smothering and menacing; a gloom, as it were,
that swallowed up life and made for death--his death.
Every force of his being impelled him to spring up and confront the
unseen danger, but his soul dominated the panic, and he remained
squatting on his heels, in his hands a chunk of gold. He did not
dare to look around, but he knew by now that there was something
behind him and above him. He made believe to be interested in the
gold in his hand. He examined it critically, turned it over and
over, and rubbed the dirt from it. And all the time he knew that
something behind him was looking at the gold over his shoulder.
Still feigning interest in the chunk of gold in his hand, he
listened intently and he heard the breathing of the thing behind
him. His eyes searched the ground in front of him for a weapon,
but they saw only the uprooted gold, worthless to him now in his
extremity. There was his pick, a handy weapon on occasion; but this
was not such an occasion. The man realized his predicament. He was
in a narrow hole that was seven feet deep. His head did not come to
the surface of the ground. He was in a trap.
He remained squatting on his heels. He was quite cool and collected;
but his mind, considering every factor, showed him only his
helplessness. He continued rubbing the dirt from the quartz
fragments and throwing the gold into the pan. There was nothing else
for him to do. Yet he knew that he would have to rise up, sooner or
later, and face the danger that breathed at his back.
The minutes passed, and with the passage of each minute he knew
that by so much he was nearer the time when he must stand up, or
else--and his wet shirt went cold against his flesh again at the
thought--or else he might receive death as he stooped there over
Still he squatted on his heels, rubbing dirt from gold and debating
in just what manner he should rise up. He might rise up with a rush
and claw his way out of the hole to meet whatever threatened on
the even footing above ground. Or he might rise up slowly and
carelessly, and feign casually to discover the thing that breathed
at his back. His instinct and every fighting fibre of his body
favored the mad, clawing rush to the surface. His intellect, and the
craft thereof, favored the slow and cautious meeting with the thing
that menaced and which he could not see. And while he debated,
a loud, crashing noise burst on his ear. At the same instant he
received a stunning blow on the left side of the back, and from the
point of impact felt a rush of flame through his flesh. He sprang up
in the air, but halfway to his feet collapsed. His body crumpled in
like a leaf withered in sudden heat, and he came down, his chest
across his pan of gold, his face in the dirt and rock, his legs
tangled and twisted because of the restricted space at the bottom of
the hole. His legs twitched convulsively several times. His body
was shaken as with a mighty ague. There was a slow expansion of the
lungs, accompanied by a deep sigh. Then the air was slowly, very
slowly, exhaled, and his body as slowly flattened itself down into
Above, revolver in hand, a man was peering down over the edge of the
hole. He peered for a long time at the prone and motionless body
beneath him. After a while the stranger sat down on the edge of the
hole so that he could see into it, and rested the revolver on his
knee. Reaching his hand into a pocket, he drew out a wisp of brown
paper. Into this he dropped a few crumbs of tobacco. The combination
became a cigarette, brown and squat, with the ends turned in. Not
once did he take his eyes from the body at the bottom of the hole.
He lighted the cigarette and drew its smoke into his lungs with a
caressing intake of the breath. He smoked slowly. Once the cigarette
went out and he relighted it. And all the while he studied the body
In the end he tossed the cigarette stub away and rose to his feet.
He moved to the edge of the hole. Spanning it, a hand resting on
each edge, and with the revolver still in the right hand, he muscled
his body down into the hole. While his feet were yet a yard from the
bottom he released his hands and dropped down.
At the instant his feet struck bottom he saw the pocket-miner's arm
leap out, and his own legs knew a swift, jerking grip that overthrew
him. In the nature of the jump his revolver-hand was above his head.
Swiftly as the grip had flashed about his legs, just as swiftly he
brought the revolver down. He was still in the air, his fall in
process of completion, when he pulled the trigger. The explosion was
deafening in the confined space. The smoke filled the hole so that
he could see nothing. He struck the bottom on his back, and like a
cat's the pocket-miner's body was on top of him. Even as the miner's
body passed on top, the stranger crooked in his right arm to fire;
and even in that instant the miner, with a quick thrust of elbow,
struck his wrist. The muzzle was thrown up and the bullet thudded
into the dirt of the side of the hole.
The next instant the stranger felt the miner's hand grip his wrist.
The struggle was now for the revolver. Each man strove to turn
it against the other's body. The smoke in the hole was clearing.
The stranger, lying on his back, was beginning to see dimly. But
suddenly he was blinded by a handful of dirt deliberately flung into
his eyes by his antagonist. In that moment of shock his grip on the
revolver was broken. In the next moment he felt a smashing darkness
descend upon his brain, and in the midst of the darkness even the
But the pocket-miner fired again and again, until the revolver was
empty. Then he tossed it from him and, breathing heavily, sat down
on the dead man's legs.
The miner was sobbing and struggling for breath. "Measly skunk!" he
panted; "a-campin' on my trail an' lettin' me do the work, an' then
shootin' me in the back!"
He was half crying from anger and exhaustion. He peered at the face
of the dead man. It was sprinkled with loose dirt and gravel, and it
was difficult to distinguish the features.
"Never laid eyes on him before," the miner concluded his scrutiny.
"Just a common an' ordinary thief, damn him! An' he shot me in the
back! He shot me in the back!"
He opened his shirt and felt himself, front and back, on his left
"Went clean through, and no harm done!" he cried jubilantly.
"I'll bet he aimed right all right, but he drew the gun over when
he pulled the trigger--the cuss! But I fixed 'm! Oh, I fixed 'm!"
His fingers were investigating the bullet-hole in his side, and a
shade of regret passed over his face. "It's goin' to be stiffer'n
hell," he said. "An' it's up to me to get mended an' get out o'
He crawled out of the hole and went down the hill to his camp. Half
an hour later he returned, leading his pack-horse. His open shirt
disclosed the rude bandages with which he had dressed his wound. He
was slow and awkward with his left-hand movements, but that did not
prevent his using the arm.
The bight of the pack-rope under the dead man's shoulders enabled
him to heave the body out of the hole. Then he set to work gathering
up his gold. He worked steadily for several hours, pausing often to
rest his stiffening shoulder and to exclaim:
"He shot me in the back, the measly skunk! He shot me in the back!"
When his treasure was quite cleaned up and wrapped securely into a
number of blanket-covered parcels, he made an estimate of its value.
"Four hundred pounds, or I'm a Hottentot," he concluded. "Say two
hundred in quartz an' dirt--that leaves two hundred pounds of gold.
Bill! Wake up! Two hundred pounds of gold! Forty thousand dollars!
An' it's yourn--all yourn!"
He scratched his head delightedly and his fingers blundered into an
unfamiliar groove. They quested along it for several inches. It was
a crease through his scalp where the second bullet had ploughed.
He walked angrily over to the dead man.
"You would, would you?" he bullied. "You would, eh? Well, I fixed
you good an' plenty, an' I'll give you decent burial, too. That's
more'n you'd have done for me."
He dragged the body to the edge of the hole and toppled it in. It
struck the bottom with a dull crash, on its side, the face twisted
up to the light. The miner peered down at it.
"An' you shot me in the back!" he said accusingly.
With pick and shovel he filled the hole. Then he loaded the gold on
his horse. It was too great a load for the animal, and when he had
gained his camp he transferred part of it to his saddle-horse. Even
so, he was compelled to abandon a portion of his outfit--pick and
shovel and gold-pan, extra food and cooking utensils, and divers
odds and ends.
The sun was at the zenith when the man forced the horses at the
screen of vines and creepers. To climb the huge boulders the animals
were compelled to uprear and struggle blindly through the tangled
mass of vegetation. Once the saddle-horse fell heavily and the man
removed the pack to get the animal on its feet. After it started on
its way again the man thrust his head out from among the leaves and
peered up at the hillside.
"The measly skunk!" he said, and disappeared.
There was a ripping and tearing of vines and boughs. The trees
surged back and forth, marking the passage of the animals through
the midst of them. There was a clashing of steel-shod hoofs on
stone, and now and again an oath or a sharp cry of command. Then
the voice of the man was raised in song:--
"Tu'n around an' tu'n yo' face
Untoe them sweet hills of grace
(D' pow'rs of sin yo' am scornin'!).
Look about an, look aroun',
Fling yo' sin-pack on d' groun'
(Yo' will meet wid d' Lord in d' mornin'!)."
The song grew faint and fainter, and through the silence crept back
the spirit of the place. The stream once more drowsed and whispered;
the hum of the mountain bees rose sleepily. Down through the
perfume-weighted air fluttered the snowy fluffs of the cottonwoods.
The butterflies drifted in and out among the trees, and over all
blazed the quiet sunshine. Only remained the hoof-marks in the
meadow and the torn hillside to mark the boisterous trail of
the life that had broken the peace of the place and passed on.
"It is my right to know," the girl said.
Her voice was firm-fibred with determination. There was no hint of
pleading in it, yet it was the determination that is reached through
a long period of pleading. But in her case it had been pleading, not
of speech, but of personality. Her lips had been ever mute, but her
face and eyes, and the very attitude of her soul, had been for a
long time eloquent with questioning. This the man had known, but he
had never answered; and now she was demanding by the spoken word
that he answer.
"It is my right," the girl repeated.
"I know it," he answered, desperately and helplessly.
She waited, in the silence which followed, her eyes fixed upon the
light that filtered down through the lofty boughs and bathed the
great redwood trunks in mellow warmth. This light, subdued and
colored, seemed almost a radiation from the trunks themselves, so
strongly did they saturate it with their hue. The girl saw without
seeing, as she heard, without hearing, the deep gurgling of the
stream far below on the canyon bottom.
She looked down at the man. "Well?" she asked, with the firmness
which feigns belief that obedience will be forthcoming.
She was sitting upright, her back against a fallen tree-trunk, while
he lay near to her, on his side, an elbow on the ground and the hand
supporting his head.
"Dear, dear Lute," he murmured.
She shivered at the sound of his voice--not from repulsion, but from
struggle against the fascination of its caressing gentleness. She
had come to know well the lure of the man--the wealth of easement
and rest that was promised by every caressing intonation of his
voice, by the mere touch of hand on hand or the faint impact of his
breath on neck or cheek. The man could not express himself by word
nor look nor touch without weaving into the expression, subtly and
occultly, the feeling as of a hand that passed and that in passing
stroked softly and soothingly. Nor was this all-pervading caress a
something that cloyed with too great sweetness; nor was it sickly
sentimental; nor was it maudlin with love's madness. It was
vigorous, compelling, masculine. For that matter, it was largely
unconscious on the man's part. He was only dimly aware of it. It was
a part of him, the breath of his soul as it were, involuntary and
But now, resolved and desperate, she steeled herself against him. He
tried to face her, but her gray eyes looked out to him, steadily,
from under cool, level brows, and he dropped his head upon her knee.
Her hand strayed into his hair softly, and her face melted into
solicitude and tenderness. But when he looked up again, her gray
eyes were steady, her brows cool and level.
"What more can I tell you?" the man said. He raised his head and met
her gaze. "I cannot marry you. I cannot marry any woman. I love
you--you know that--better than my own life. I weigh you in the
scales against all the dear things of living, and you outweigh
everything. I would give everything to possess you, yet I may not.
I cannot marry you. I can never marry you."
Her lips were compressed with the effort of control. His head was
sinking back to her knee, when she checked him.
"You are already married, Chris?"
"No! no!" he cried vehemently. "I have never been married. I want to
marry only you, and I cannot!"
"Don't!" he interrupted. "Don't ask me!"
"It is my right to know," she repeated.
"I know it," he again interrupted. "But I cannot tell you."
"You have not considered me, Chris," she went on gently.
"I know, I know," he broke in.
"You cannot have considered me. You do not know what I have to bear
from my people because of you."
"I did not think they felt so very unkindly toward me," he said
"It is true. They can scarcely tolerate you. They do not show it
to you, but they almost hate you. It is I who have had to bear
all this. It was not always so, though. They liked you at first
as . . . as I liked you. But that was four years ago. The time passed
by--a year, two years; and then they began to turn against you. They
are not to be blamed. You spoke no word. They felt that you were
destroying my life. It is four years, now, and you have never once
mentioned marriage to them. What were they to think? What they have
thought, that you were destroying my life."
As she talked, she continued to pass her fingers caressingly through
his hair, sorrowful for the pain that she was inflicting.
"They did like you at first. Who can help liking you? You seem to
draw affection from all living things, as the trees draw the
moisture from the ground. It comes to you as it were your
birthright. Aunt Mildred and Uncle Robert thought there was nobody
like you. The sun rose and set in you. They thought I was the
luckiest girl alive to win the love of a man like you. 'For it looks
very much like it,' Uncle Robert used to say, wagging his head
wickedly at me. Of course they liked you. Aunt Mildred used to sigh,
and look across teasingly at Uncle, and say, 'When I think of Chris,
it almost makes me wish I were younger myself.' And Uncle would
answer, 'I don't blame you, my dear, not in the least.' And then the
pair of them would beam upon me their congratulations that I had won
the love of a man like you.
"And they knew I loved you as well. How could I hide it?--this
great, wonderful thing that had entered into my life and swallowed
up all my days! For four years, Chris, I have lived only for you.
Every moment was yours. Waking, I loved you. Sleeping, I dreamed of
you. Every act I have performed was shaped by you, by the thought of
you. Even my thoughts were moulded by you, by the invisible presence
of you. I had no end, petty or great, that you were not there for
"I had no idea of imposing such slavery," he muttered.
"You imposed nothing. You always let me have my own way. It was you
who were the obedient slave. You did for me without offending me.
You forestalled my wishes without the semblance of forestalling
them, so natural and inevitable was everything you did for me. I
said, without offending me. You were no dancing puppet. You made no
fuss. Don't you see? You did not seem to do things at all. Somehow
they were always there, just done, as a matter of course.
"The slavery was love's slavery. It was just my love for you that
made you swallow up all my days. You did not force yourself into my
thoughts. You crept in, always, and you were there always--how much,
you will never know.
"But as time went by, Aunt Mildred and Uncle grew to dislike you.
They grew afraid. What was to become of me? You were destroying my
life. My music? You know how my dream of it has dimmed away. That
spring, when I first met you--I was twenty, and I was about to start
for Germany. I was going to study hard. That was four years ago, and
I am still here in California.
"I had other lovers. You drove them away--No! no! I don't mean that.
It was I that drove them away. What did I care for lovers, for
anything, when you were near? But as I said, Aunt Mildred and Uncle
grew afraid. There has been talk--friends, busybodies, and all the
rest. The time went by. You did not speak. I could only wonder,
wonder. I knew you loved me. Much was said against you by Uncle at
first, and then by Aunt Mildred. They were father and mother to me,
you know. I could not defend you. Yet I was loyal to you. I refused
to discuss you. I closed up. There was half-estrangement in my
home--Uncle Robert with a face like an undertaker, and Aunt Mildred's
heart breaking. But what could I do, Chris? What could I do?"
The man, his head resting on her knee again, groaned, but made no
"Aunt Mildred was mother to me, yet I went to her no more with my
confidences. My childhood's book was closed. It was a sweet book,
Chris. The tears come into my eyes sometimes when I think of it.
But never mind that. Great happiness has been mine as well. I am
glad I can talk frankly of my love for you. And the attaining of
such frankness has been very sweet. I do love you, Chris. I love
you . . . I cannot tell you how. You are everything to me, and more
besides. You remember that Christmas tree of the children?--when we
played blindman's buff? and you caught me by the arm so, with such
a clutching of fingers that I cried out with the hurt? I never told
you, but the arm was badly bruised. And such sweet I got of it you
could never guess. There, black and blue, was the imprint of your
fingers--your fingers, Chris, your fingers. It was the touch of you
made visible. It was there a week, and I kissed the marks--oh, so
often! I hated to see them go; I wanted to rebruise the arm and make
them linger. I was jealous of the returning white that drove the
bruise away. Somehow,--oh! I cannot explain, but I loved you so!"
In the silence that fell, she continued her caressing of his hair,
while she idly watched a great gray squirrel, boisterous and
hilarious, as it scampered back and forth in a distant vista of the
redwoods. A crimson-crested woodpecker, energetically drilling a
fallen trunk, caught and transferred her gaze. The man did not lift
his head. Rather, he crushed his face closer against her knee, while
his heaving shoulders marked the hardness with which he breathed.
"You must tell me, Chris," the girl said gently. "This mystery--it
is killing me. I must know why we cannot be married. Are we always
to be this way?--merely lovers, meeting often, it is true, and yet
with the long absences between the meetings? Is it all the world
holds for you and me, Chris? Are we never to be more to each other?
Oh, it is good just to love, I know--you have made me madly happy;
but one does get so hungry at times for something more! I want more
and more of you, Chris. I want all of you. I want all our days to be
together. I want all the companionship, the comradeship, which
cannot be ours now, and which will be ours when we are married--"
She caught her breath quickly. "But we are never to be married.
I forgot. And you must tell me why."
The man raised his head and looked her in the eyes. It was a way he
had with whomever he talked, of looking them in the eyes.
"I have considered you, Lute," he began doggedly. "I did consider
you at the very first. I should never have gone on with it. I should
have gone away. I knew it. And I considered you in the light of that
knowledge, and yet . . . I did not go away. My God! what was I to
do? I loved you. I could not go away. I could not help it. I stayed.
I resolved, but I broke my resolves. I was like a drunkard. I was
drunk of you. I was weak, I know. I failed. I could not go away. I
tried. I went away--you will remember, though you did not know why.
You know now. I went away, but I could not remain away. Knowing that
we could never marry, I came back to you. I am here, now, with you.
Send me away, Lute. I have not the strength to go myself."
"But why should you go away?" she asked. "Besides, I must know why,
before I can send you away."
"Don't ask me."
"Tell me," she said, her voice tenderly imperative.
"Don't, Lute; don't force me," the man pleaded, and there was appeal
in his eyes and voice.
"But you must tell me," she insisted. "It is justice you owe me."
The man wavered. "If I do . . ." he began. Then he ended with
determination, "I should never be able to forgive myself. No, I
cannot tell you. Don't try to compel me, Lute. You would be as sorry
"If there is anything . . . if there are obstacles . . . if this
mystery does really prevent . . ." She was speaking slowly, with
long pauses, seeking the more delicate ways of speech for the
framing of her thought. "Chris, I do love you. I love you as deeply
as it is possible for any woman to love, I am sure. If you were to
say to me now 'Come,' I would go with you. I would follow wherever
you led. I would be your page, as in the days of old when ladies
went with their knights to far lands. You are my knight, Chris, and
you can do no wrong. Your will is my wish. I was once afraid of the
censure of the world. Now that you have come into my life I am no
longer afraid. I would laugh at the world and its censure for your
sake--for my sake too. I would laugh, for I should have you, and you
are more to me than the good will and approval of the world. If you
say 'Come,' I will--"
"Don't! Don't!" he cried. "It is impossible! Marriage or not, I
cannot even say 'Come.' I dare not. I'll show you. I'll tell you."
He sat up beside her, the action stamped with resolve. He took her
hand in his and held it closely. His lips moved to the verge of
speech. The mystery trembled for utterance. The air was palpitant
with its presence. As if it were an irrevocable decree, the girl
steeled herself to hear. But the man paused, gazing straight out
before him. She felt his hand relax in hers, and she pressed it
sympathetically, encouragingly. But she felt the rigidity going out
of his tensed body, and she knew that spirit and flesh were relaxing
together. His resolution was ebbing. He would not speak--she knew
it; and she knew, likewise, with the sureness of faith, that it was
because he could not.
She gazed despairingly before her, a numb feeling at her heart, as
though hope and happiness had died. She watched the sun flickering
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