Part 2 out of 4
that's one reason why I left the company and took that other
plantation. But even that didn't work; they had their suspicions
"Did Miss Dows give that as a reason for declining your suit?"
asked Courtland slowly.
"Yes. You know what a straightforward girl she is. She didn't
come no rot about 'not expecting anything of the kind,' or about
'being a sister to me,' and all that, for, by Jove! she's always
more like a fellow's sister, don't you know, than his girl. Of
course, it was hard lines for me, but I suppose she was about
right." He stopped, and then added with a kind of gentle
persistency: "YOU think she was about right, don't you?"
With what was passing in Courtland's mind the question seemed so
bitterly ironical that at first he leaned half angrily forward, in
an unconscious attempt to catch the speaker's expression in the
darkness. "I should hardly venture to give an opinion," he said,
after a pause. "Miss Dows' relations with her neighbors are so
very peculiar. And from what you tell me of her cousin it would
seem that her desire to placate them is not always to be depended
"I'm not finding fault with HER, you know," said Champney hastily.
"I'm not such a beastly cad as that; I wouldn't have spoken of my
affairs at all, but you asked, you know. I only thought, if she
was going to get herself into trouble on account of that Frenchman,
you might talk to her--she'd listen to you, because she'd know you
only did it out of business reasons. And they're really business
reasons, you know. I suppose you don't think much of my business
capacity, colonel, and you wouldn't go much on my judgment--
especially now; but I've been here longer than you and"--he lowered
his voice slightly and dragged his chair nearer Courtland--"I don't
like the looks of things here. There's some devilment plotting
among those rascals. They're only awaiting an opportunity; a
single flash would be enough to set them in a blaze, even if the
fire wasn't lit and smouldering already like a spark in a bale of
cotton. I'd cut the whole thing and clear out if I didn't think it
would make it harder for Miss Dows, who would be left alone."
"You're a good fellow, Champney," said Courtland, laying his hand
on the young man's shoulder with a sudden impulse, "and I forgive
you for overlooking any concern that I might have. Indeed," he
added, with an odd seriousness and a half sigh, "it's not strange
that you should. But I must remind you that the Dowses are
strictly the agents and tenants of the company I represent, and
that their rights and property under that tenancy shall not be
interfered with by others as long as I am here. I have no right,
however," he added gravely, "to keep Miss Dows from imperiling them
by her social relations."
Champney rose and shook hands with him awkwardly. "The shower
seems to be holding up," he said, "and I'll toddle along before it
starts afresh. Good-night! I say--you didn't mind my coming to
you this way, did you? By Jove! I thought you were a little stand-
offish at first. But you know what I meant?"
"Perfectly, and I thank you." They shook hands again. Champney
stepped from the portico, and, reaching the gate, seemed to vanish
as he had come, out of the darkness.
The storm was not yet over; the air had again become close and
suffocating. Courtland remained brooding in his chair. Whether he
could accept Champney's news as true or not, he felt that he must
end this suspense at once. A half-guilty consciousness that he was
thinking more of it in reference to his own passion than his duty
to the company did not render his meditations less unpleasant. Yet
while he could not reconcile Miss Sally's confidences in the
cemetery concerning the indifference of her people to Champney's
attentions with what Champney had just told him of the reasons she
had given HIM for declining them, I am afraid he was not shocked by
her peculiar ethics. A lover seldom finds fault with his mistress
for deceiving his rival, and is as little apt to consider the
logical deduction that she could deceive him also, as Othello was
to accept Brabantio's warning, The masculine sense of honor which
might have resented the friendship of a man capable of such
treachery did not hesitate to accept the love of a woman under the
same conditions. Perhaps there was an implied compliment in thus
allowing her to take the sole ethical responsibility, which few
women would resist.
In the midst of this gloomy abstraction Courtland suddenly raised
his head and listened.
There was a sound of heavy footsteps in the hall coming from the
rear of the house, and presently a darker bulk appeared in the
shadowed doorway. It was his principal overseer--a strong and
superior negro, selected by his fellow-freedmen from among their
number in accordance with Courtland's new regime.
"Did you come here from the plantation or the town?"
"The town, sah."
"I think you had better keep out of the town in the evenings for
the present," said Courtland in a tone of quiet but positive
"Are dey goin' to bring back de ole 'patter rollers,'* sah?" asked
the man with a slight sneer.
* The "patrol" or local police who formerly had the surveillance of
"I don't know," returned Courtland calmly, ignoring his overseer's
manner. "But if they did you must comply with the local regulations
unless they conflict with the Federal laws, when you must appeal to
the Federal authorities. I prefer you should avoid any trouble
until you are sure."
"I reckon they won't try any games on me," said the negro with a
Courtland looked at him intently.
"I thought as much! You're carrying arms, Cato! Hand them over."
The overseer hesitated for a moment, and then unstrapped a revolver
from his belt, and handed it to Courtland.
"Now how many of you are in the habit of going round the town armed
"Only de men who've been insulted, sah."
"And how have YOU been insulted?"
"Marse Tom Highee down in de market reckoned it was high time fancy
niggers was drov into de swamp, and I allowed that loafers and
beggars had better roost high when workin' folks was around, and
Marse Tom said he'd cut my haht out."
"And do you think your carrying a revolver will prevent him and his
friends performing that operation if you provoked them?"
"You said we was to pertect ourse'fs, sah," returned the negro
gloomily. "What foh den did you drill us to use dem rifles in de
"To defend yourselves TOGETHER under orders if attacked, not to
singly threaten with them in a street row. Together, you would
stand some chance against those men; separately they could eat you
"I wouldn't trust too much to some of dem niggers standing
together, sah," said Gate darkly. "Dey'd run before de old
masters--if they didn't run to 'em. Shuah!"
A fear of this kind had crossed Courtland's mind before, but he
made no present comment. "I found two of the armory rifles in the
men's cabins yesterday," he resumed quietly. "See that it does not
occur again! They must not be taken from the armory except to
There was a moment of silence. Then it was broken by a sudden gust
that swept through the columns of the portico, stirring the vines.
The broad leaves of the ailantus began to rustle; an ominous
pattering followed; the rain had recommenced. And as Courtland
rose and walked towards the open window its blank panes and the
interior of the office were suddenly illuminated by a gleam of
He entered the office, bidding Cato follow, and lit the lamp above
his desk. The negro remained standing gloomily but respectfully by
"Cato, do you know anything of Mr. Dumont--Miss Dows' cousin?"
The negro's white teeth suddenly flashed in the lamplight. "Ya!
ha! I reckon, sah."
"Then he's a great friend of your people?"
"I don't know about dat, sah. But he's a pow'ful enemy of de Reeds
and de Higbees!"
"On account of his views, of course?"
"'Deed no!" said Cato with an astounded air. "Jess on account of
"Yes, sah. De old blood quo'll of de families. It's been goin' on
over fifty years, sah. De granfader, fader, and brudder of de
Higbees was killed by de granfader, fader, and brudder of de
Doomonts. De Reeds chipped in when all de Higbees was played out,
fo' dey was relations, but dey was chawed up by some of de Dowses,
first cousins to de Doomonts."
"What? Are the Dows in this vendetta?"
"No, sah. No mo'. Dey's bin no man in de family since Miss
Sally's fader died--dat's let de Dows out fo' ever. De las'
shootin' was done by Marse Jack Doomont, who crippled Marse Tom
Higbee's brudder Jo, and den skipped to Europe. Dey say he's come
back, and is lying low over at Atlanty. Dar'll be lively times of
he comes here to see Miss Sally."
"But he may have changed his ideas while living abroad, where this
sort of thing is simple murder."
The negro shook his head grimly. "Den he wouldn't come, sah. No,
sah. He knows dat Tom Higbee's bound to go fo' him or leave de
place, and Marse Jack wouldn't mind settlin' HIM too as well as his
brudder, for de scores is agin' de Doomonts yet. And Marse Jack
ain't no slouch wid a scatter gun."
At any other time the imminence of this survival of a lawless
barbarism of which he had heard so much would have impressed
Courtland; now he was only interested in it on account of the
inconceivable position in which it left Miss Sally. Had she
anything to do with this baleful cousin's return, or was she only
to be a helpless victim of it?
A white, dazzling, and bewildering flash of lightning suddenly lit
up the room, the porch, the dripping ailantus, and the flooded
street beyond. It was followed presently by a crash of thunder,
with what seemed to be a second fainter flash of lightning, or
rather as if the first flash had suddenly ignited some inflammable
substance. With the long reverberation of the thunder still
shaking the house, Courtland slipped quickly out of the window and
passed down to the gate.
"Did it strike anything, sah?" said the startled negro, as
"Not that I can see," said his employer shortly. "Go inside, and
call Zoe and her daughter from the cabin and bring them in the
hall. Stay till I come. Go!--I'll shut the windows myself."
"It must have struck somewhere, sah, shuah! Deh's a pow'ful smell
of sulphur right here," said the negro as he left the room.
Courtland thought so too, but it was a kind of sulphur that he had
smelled before--on the battlefield! For when the door was closed
behind his overseer he took the lamp to the opposite wall and
examined it carefully. There was the distinct hole made by a
bullet which had missed Cato's head at the open window by an inch.
In an instant Courtland had regained complete possession of
himself. His distracting passion--how distracting he had never
before realized--was gone! His clear sight--no longer distorted by
sentiment--had come back; he saw everything in its just proportion--
his duty, the plantation, the helpless freedman threatened by
lawless fury; the two women--no longer his one tantalizing vision,
but now only a passing detail of the work before him. He saw them
through no aberrating mist of tenderness or expediency--but with
the single directness of the man of action.
The shot had clearly been intended for Cato. Even if it were an
act of mere personal revenge, it showed a confidence and security
in the would-be assassin that betokened cooperation and an
organized plan. He had availed himself of the thunderstorm, the
flash and long reverberating roll of sound--an artifice not unknown
to border ambush--to confuse discovery at the instant. Yet the
attack might be only an isolated one; or it might be the beginning
of a general raid upon the Syndicate's freedmen. If the former he
could protect Cato from its repetition by guarding him in the
office until he could be conveyed to a place of safety; if the
latter, he must at once collect the negroes at their quarters, and
take Cato with him. He resolved upon the latter course. The
quarters were half a mile from the Dows' dwelling--which was two
He sat down and wrote a few lines to Miss Dows stating that, in
view of some threatened disturbances in the town, he thought it
advisable to keep the negroes in their quarters, whither he was
himself going. He sent her his housekeeper and the child, as they
had both better remain in a place of security until he returned to
town. He gave the note to Zoe, bidding her hasten by the back
garden across the fields. Then he turned to Cato.
"I am going with you to the quarters tonight," he said quietly,
"and you can carry your pistol back to the armory yourself." He
handed him the weapon. The negro received it gratefully, but
suddenly cast a searching glance at his employer. Courtland's
face, however, betrayed no change. When Zoe had gone, he continued
tranquilly, "We will go by the back way through the woods." As the
negro started slightly, Courtland continued in the same even tone:
"The sulphur you smelled just now, Cato, was the smoke of a gun
fired at YOU from the street. I don't propose that the shot shall
be repeated under the same advantages."
The negro became violently agitated. "It was dat sneakin' hound,
Tom Higbee," he said huskily.
Courtland looked at him sharply. "Then there was something more
than WORDS passed between him and you, Cato. What happened? Come,
"He lashed me with his whip, and I gib him one right under the
yeah, and drupped him," said Cato, recovering his courage with his
anger at the recollection. "I had a right to defend myse'f, sah."
"Yes, and I hope you'll be able to do it, now," said Courtland
calmly, his face giving no sign of his conviction that Cato's fate
was doomed by that single retaliating blow, "but you'll be safer at
the quarters." He passed into his bedroom, took a revolver from
his bedhead and a derringer from the drawer, both of which he
quickly slipped beneath his buttoned coat, and returned.
"When we are in the fields, clear of the house, keep close by my
side, and even try to keep step with me. What you have to say, say
NOW; there must be no talking to betray our position--we must go
silently, and you'll have enough to do to exercise your eyes and
ears. I shall stand between you and any attack, but I expect you
to obey orders without hesitation." He opened the back door,
motioned to Cato to pass out, followed him, locked the door behind
them, and taking the negro's arm walked beside the low palings to
the end of the garden, where they climbed the fence and stood upon
the open field beyond.
Unfortunately, it had grown lighter with the breaking of the heavy
clouds, and gusty gleams of moonlight chased each other over the
field, or struck a glitter from standing rain-pools between the
little hillocks. To cross the open field and gain the fringe of
woods on the other side was the nearest way to the quarters, but
for the moment was the most exposed course; to follow the hedge to
the bottom of the field and the boundary fence and then cross at
right angles, in its shadow, would be safer, but they would lose
valuable time. Believing that Cato's vengeful assailant was still
hovering near with his comrades, Courtland cast a quick glance down
the shadowy line of Osage hedge beside them. Suddenly Cato grasped
his arm and pointed in the same direction, where the boundary fence
he had noticed--a barrier of rough palings--crossed the field.
With the moon low on the other side of it, it was a mere black
silhouette, broken only by bright silver openings and gaps along
its surface that indicated the moonlit field beyond. At first
Courtland saw nothing else. Then he was struck by the fact that
these openings became successively and regularly eclipsed, as with
the passing of some opaque object behind them. It was a file of
men on the other side of the fence, keeping in its shelter as they
crossed the field towards his house. Roughly calculating from the
passing obscurations, there must have been twelve or fifteen in
He could no longer doubt their combined intentions, nor hesitate
how to meet them. He must at once make for the quarters with Cato,
even if he had to cross that open field before them. He knew that
they would avoid injuring him personally, in the fear of possible
Federal and political complications, and he resolved to use that
fear to insure Cato's safety. Placing his hands on the negro's
shoulders, he shoved him forwards, falling into a "lock step" so
close behind him that it became impossible for the most expert
marksman to fire at one without imperiling the other's life. When
half way across the field he noticed that the shadows seen through
the openings of the fence had paused. The ambushed men had
evidently seen the double apparition, understood it, and, as he
expected, dared not fire. He reached the other side with Cato in
safety, but not before he saw the fateful shadows again moving, and
this time in their own direction. They were evidently intending to
pursue them. But once within the woods Courtland knew that his
chances were equal. He breathed more freely. Cato, now less
agitated, had even regained something of his former emotional
combativeness which Courtland had checked. Although far from
confident of his henchman's prowess in an emergency, the prospect
of getting him safe into the quarters seemed brighter.
It was necessary, also, to trust to his superior wood-craft and
knowledge of the locality, and Courtland still walking between him
and his pursuers and covering his retreat allowed him to lead the
way. It lay over ground that was beginning to slope gently; the
underbrush was presently exchanged for springy moss, the character
of the trees changed, the black trunks of cypresses made the gloom
thicker. Trailing vines and parasites brushed their faces, a
current of damp air seemed to flow just above the soil in which
their lower limbs moved sluggishly as through stagnant water. As
yet there was no indication of pursuit. But Courtland felt that it
was not abandoned. Indeed, he had barely time to check an
exclamation from the negro, before the dull gallop of horse-hoofs
in the open ahead of them was plain to them both. It was a second
party of their pursuers, mounted, who had evidently been sent to
prevent their final egress from the woods, while those they had
just evaded were no doubt slowly and silently following them on
foot. They were to be caught between two fires!
"What is there to the left of us?" whispered Courtland quickly.
Courtland set his teeth together. His dull-witted companion had
evidently walked them both into the trap! Nevertheless, his
resolve was quickly made. He could already see through the
thinning fringe of timber the figures of the mounted men in the
"This should be the boundary line of the plantation? This field
beside us is ours?" he said interrogatively.
"Yes," returned the negro, "but de quarters is a mile furder."
"Good! Stay here until I come back or call you; I'm going to talk
to these fellows. But if you value your life, don't YOU speak nor
He strode quickly through the intervening trees and stepped out
into the moonlight. A suppressed shout greeted him, and half a
dozen mounted men, masked and carrying rifles, rode down towards
him, but he remained quietly waiting there, and as the nearest
approached him, he made a step forward and cried, "Halt!"
The men pulled up sharply and mechanically at that ring of military
"What are you doing here?" said Courtland.
"We reckon that's OUR business, co'nnle."
"It's mine, when you're on property that I control."
The man hesitated and looked interrogatively towards his fellows.
"I allow you've got us there, co'nnle," he said at last with the
lazy insolence of conscious power, but I don't mind telling you
we're wanting a nigger about the size of your Cato. We hain't got
anything agin YOU, co'nnle; we don't want to interfere with YOUR
property, and YOUR ways, but we don't calculate to have strangers
interfere with OUR ways and OUR customs. Trot out your nigger--you
No'th'n folks don't call HIM 'property,' you know--and we'll clear
off your land."
"And may I ask what you want of Cato?" said Courtland quietly.
"To show him that all the Federal law in h-ll won't protect him
when he strikes a white man!" burst out one of the masked figures,
"Then you compel me to show YOU," said Courtland immovably, "what
any Federal citizen may do in the defense of Federal law. For I'll
kill the first man that attempts to lay hands upon him on my
property. Some of you, who have already tried to assassinate him
in cold blood, I have met before in less dishonorable warfare than
this, and THEY know I am able to keep my word."
There was a moment's silence; the barrel of the revolver he was
holding at his side glistened for an instant in the moonlight, but
he did not move. The two men rode up to the first speaker and
exchanged words. A light laugh followed, and the first speaker
turned again to Courtland with a mocking politeness.
"Very well, co'nnle, if that's your opinion, and you allow we can't
follow our game over your property, why, we reckon we'll have to
give way TO THOSE WHO CAN. Sorry to have troubled YOU. Good-
He lifted his hat ironically, waved it to his followers, and the
next moment the whole party were galloping furiously towards the
For the first time that evening a nervous sense of apprehension
passed over Courtland. The impending of some unknown danger is
always more terrible to a brave man than the most overwhelming odds
that he can see and realize. He felt instinctively that they had
uttered no vague bravado to cover up their defeat; there was still
some advantage on which they confidently reckoned--but what? Was
it only a reference to the other party tracking them through the
woods on which their enemies now solely relied? He regained Cato
quickly; the white teeth of the foolishly confident negro were
already flashing his imagined triumph to his employer. Courtland's
heart grew sick as he saw it.
"We're not out of the woods yet, Cato," he said dryly; "nor are
they. Keep your eyes and ears open, and attend to me. How long
can we keep in the cover of these woods, and still push on in the
direction of the quarters?"
"There's a way roun' de edge o' de swamp, sah, but we'd have to go
back a spell to find it."
"And dar's moccasins and copperheads lying round here in de trail!
Dey don't go for us ginerally--but," be hesitated, "white men don't
stand much show."
"Good! Then it is as bad for those who are chasing us as for me.
That will do. Lead on."
They retraced their steps cautiously, until the negro turned into a
lighter by-way. A strange mephitic odor seemed to come from sodden
leaves and mosses that began to ooze under their feet. They had
picked their way in silence for some minutes; the stunted willows
and cypress standing farther and farther apart, and the openings
with clumps of sedge were frequent. Courtland was beginning to
fear this exposure of his follower, and had moved up beside him,
when suddenly the negro caught his arm, and trembled violently.
His lips were parted over his teeth, the whites of his eyes
glistened, he seemed gasping and speechless with fear.
"What's the matter, Cato?" said Courtland glancing instinctively at
the ground beneath. "Speak, man!--have you been bitten?"
The word seemed to wring an agonized cry from the miserable man.
"Bitten! No; but don't you hear 'em coming, sah! God Almighty!
don't you hear dat?"
"De dogs! de houns!--DE BLOODHOUNS! Dey've set 'em loose on me!"
It was true! A faint baying in the distance was now distinctly
audible to Courtland. He knew now plainly the full, cruel purport
of the leader's speech,--those who could go anywhere were tracking
Every trace of manhood had vanished from the negro's cowering
frame. Courtland laid his hand assuringly, appealingly, and then
savagely on his shoulder.
"Come! Enough of this! I am here, and will stand by you, whatever
comes. These dogs are no more to be feared than the others. Rouse
yourself, man, and at least help ME make a fight of it."
"No! no!" screamed the terrified man. "Lemme go! Lemme go back to
de Massas! Tell 'em I'll come! Tell 'em to call de houns off me,
and I'll go quiet! Lemme go!" He struggled violently in his
In all Courtland's self-control, habits of coolness, and
discipline, it is to be feared there was still something of the old
Berserker temper. His face was white, his eyes blazed in the
darkness; only his voice kept that level distinctness which made it
for a moment more terrible than even the baying of the tracking
hounds to the negro's ear. "Cato," he said, "attempt to run now,
and, by God! I'll save the dogs the trouble of grappling your
living carcass! Come here! Up that tree with you!" pointing to a
swamp magnolia. "Don't move as long as I can stand here, and when
I'm down--but not till then--save yourself--the best you can."
He half helped, half dragged, the now passive African to the
solitary tree; as the bay of a single hound came nearer, the negro
convulsively scrambled from Courtland's knee and shoulder to the
fork of branches a dozen feet from the ground. Courtland drew his
revolver, and, stepping back a few yards into the open, awaited the
It came unexpectedly from behind. A sudden yelp of panting cruelty
and frenzied anticipation at Courtland's back caused him to change
front quickly, and the dripping fangs and snaky boa-like neck of a
gray weird shadow passed him. With an awful supernaturalness of
instinct, it kept on in an unerring line to the fateful tree. But
that dread directness of scent was Courtland's opportunity. His
revolver flashed out in an aim as unerring. The brute, pierced
through neck and brain, dashed on against the tree in his impetus,
and then rolled over against it in a quivering bulk. Again another
bay coming from the same direction told Courtland that his pursuers
had outflanked him, and the whole pack were crossing the swamp.
But he was prepared; again the same weird shadow, as spectral and
monstrous as a dream, dashed out into the brief light of the open,
but this time it was stopped, and rolled over convulsively before
it had crossed. Flushed, with the fire of fight in his veins,
Courtland turned almost furiously from the fallen brutes at his
feet to meet the onset of the more cowardly hunters whom he knew
were at his heels. At that moment it would have fared ill with the
foremost. No longer the calculating steward and diplomatic
manager, no longer the cool-headed arbiter of conflicting
interests, he was ready to meet them, not only with the intrepid
instincts of a soldier, but with an aroused partisan fury equal to
their own. To his surprise no one followed; the baying of a third
hound seemed to be silenced and checked; the silence was broken
only by the sound of distant disputing voices and the uneasy
trampling of hoofs. This was followed by two or three rifle shots
in the distance, but not either in the direction of the quarters
nor the Dows' dwelling-house. There evidently was some interruption
in the pursuit,--a diversion of some kind had taken place,--but what
he knew not. He could think of no one who might have interfered on
his behalf, and the shouting and wrangling seemed to be carried on
in the accents of the one sectional party. He called cautiously to
Cato. The negro did not reply. He crossed to the tree and shook it
impatiently. Its boughs were empty; Cato was gone! The miserable
negro must have taken advantage of the first diversion in his favor
to escape. But where, and how, there was nothing left to indicate.
As Courtland had taken little note of the trail, he had no idea of
his own whereabouts. He knew he must return to the fringe of
cypress to be able to cross the open field and gain the negro
quarters, where it was still possible that Cato had fled. Taking a
general direction from the few stars visible above the opening, he
began to retrace his steps. But he had no longer the negro's
woodcraft to guide him. At times his feet were caught in trailing
vines which seemed to coil around his ankles with ominous
suggestiveness; at times the yielding soil beneath his tread showed
his perilous proximity to the swamp, as well as the fact that he
was beginning to incline towards that dread circle which is the
hopeless instinct of all lost and straying humanity. Luckily the
edge of the swamp was more open, and he would be enabled to correct
his changed course again by the position of the stars. But he was
becoming chilled and exhausted by these fruitless efforts, and at
length, after a more devious and prolonged detour, which brought
him back to the swamp again, he resolved to skirt its edge in
search of some other mode of issuance. Beyond him, the light
seemed stronger, as of a more extended opening or clearing, and
there was even a superficial gleam from the end of the swamp
itself, as if from some ignis fatuus or the glancing of a pool of
unbroken water. A few rods farther brought him to it and a full
view of the unencumbered expanse. Beyond him, far across the
swamp, he could see a hillside bathed in the moonlight with
symmetrical lines of small white squares dotting its slopes and
stretching down into a valley of gleaming shafts, pyramids, and
tombs. It was the cemetery; the white squares on the hillside were
the soldiers' graves. And among them even at that distance,
uplifting solemnly, like a reproachful phantom, was the broken
shaft above the dust of Chester Brooks.
With the view of that fateful spot, which he had not seen since his
last meeting there with Sally Dows, a flood of recollection rushed
upon him. In the white mist that hung low along the farther edge
of the swamp he fancied he could see again the battery smoke
through which the ghostly figure of the dead rider had charged his
gun three years before; in the vapory white plumes of a funereal
plant in the long avenue he was reminded of the light figure of
Miss Sally as she appeared at their last meeting. In another
moment, in his already dazed condition, he might have succumbed to
some sensuous memory of her former fascinations, but he threw it
off savagely now, with a quick and bitter recalling of her deceit
and his own weakness. Turning his back upon the scene with a half-
superstitious tremor, he plunged once more into the trackless
covert. But he was conscious that his eyesight was gradually
growing dim and his strength falling. He was obliged from time to
time to stop and rally his sluggish senses, that seemed to grow
heavier under some deadly exhalation that flowed around him. He
even seemed to hear familiar voices,--but that must be delusion.
At last he stumbled. Throwing out an arm to protect himself, he
came heavily down upon the ooze, striking a dull, half-elastic root
that seemed--it must have been another delusion--to move beneath
him, and even--so confused were his senses now--to strike back
angrily upon his prostrate arm. A sharp pain ran from his elbow to
shoulder and for a moment stung him to full consciousness again.
There were voices surely,--the voices of their former pursuers! If
they were seeking to revenge themselves upon him for Cato's escape,
he was ready for them. He cocked his revolver and stood erect. A
torch flashed through the wood. But even at that moment a film
came over his eyes; he staggered and fell.
An interval of helpless semi-consciousness ensued. He felt himself
lifted by strong arms and carried forward, his arm hanging
uselessly at his side. The dank odor of the wood was presently
exchanged for the free air of the open field; the flaming pine-knot
torches were extinguished in the bright moonlight. People pressed
around him, but so indistinctly he could not recognize them. All
his consciousness seemed centred in the burning, throbbing pain of
his arm. He felt himself laid upon the gravel; the sleeve cut from
his shoulder, the cool sensation of the hot and bursting skin bared
to the night air, and then a soft, cool, and indescribable pressure
upon a wound he had not felt before. A voice followed,--high,
lazily petulant, and familiar to him, and yet one he strove in vain
"De Lawdy-Gawd save us, Miss Sally! Wot yo' doin' dah? Chile!
Chile! Yo' 'll kill yo'se'f, shuah!"
The pressure continued, strange and potent even through his pain,
and was then withdrawn. And a voice that thrilled him said:--
"It's the only thing to save him! Hush, ye chattering black crow!
Say anything about this to a living soul, and I'll have yo'
flogged! Now trot out the whiskey bottle and pour it down him."
When Courtland's eyes opened again, he was in bed in his own room
at Redlands, with the vivid morning sun occasionally lighting up
the wall whenever the closely drawn curtains were lightly blown
aside by the freshening breeze. The whole events of the night
might have been a dream but for the insupportable languor which
numbed his senses, and the torpor of his arm, that, swollen and
discolored, lay outside the coverlet on a pillow before him.
Cloths that had been wrung out in iced water were replaced upon it
from time to time by Sophy, Miss Dows' housekeeper, who, seated
near his bedhead, was lazily fanning him. Their eyes met.
"Broken?" he said interrogatively, with a faint return of his old
deliberate manner, glancing at his helpless arm.
"Deedy no, cunnle! Snake bite," responded the negress.
"Snake bite!" repeated Courtland with languid interest, "what
"Moccasin o' copperhead--if you doun know yo'se'f which," she
replied. "But it's all right now, honey! De pizen's draw'd out
and clean gone. Wot yer feels now is de whiskey. De whiskey
STAYS, sah. It gets into de lubrications of de skin, sah, and has
to be abso'bed."
Some faint chord of memory was touched by the girl's peculiar
"Ah," said Courtland quickly, "you're Miss Dows' Sophy. Then you
can tell me"--
"Nuffin, sah absomlutely nuffin!" interrupted the girl, shaking her
head with impressive official dignity. "It's done gone fo'bid by
de doctor! Yo' 're to lie dar and shut yo'r eye, honey," she
added, for the moment reverting unconsciously to the native
maternal tenderness of her race, "and yo' 're not to bodder yo'se'f
ef school keeps o' not. De medical man say distinctly, sah," she
concluded, sternly recalling her duty again, "no conversation wid
But Courtland had winning ways with all dependents. "But you will
answer me ONE question, Sophy, and I'll not ask another. Has"--he
hesitated in his still uncertainty as to the actuality of his
experience and its probable extent--"has--Cato--escaped?"
"If yo' mean dat sassy, bull-nigger oberseer of yo'se, cunnle, HE'S
safe, yo' bet!" returned Sophy sharply. "Safe in his own quo'tahs
night afo' las', after braggin' about the bloodhaowns he killed;
and safe ober the county line yes'day moan'in, after kicking up all
dis rumpus. If dar is a sassy, highfalutin' nigger I jiss 'spises--
its dat black nigger Cato o' yo'se! Now,"--relenting--"yo' jiss
wink yo' eye, honey, and don't excite yo'se'f about sach black
trash; drap off to sleep comfor'ble. Fo' you do'an get annuder
word out o' Sophy, shuah!"
As if in obedience, Courtland closed his eyes. But even in his
weak state he was conscious of the blood coming into his cheek at
Sophy's relentless criticism of the man for whom he had just
periled his life and position. Much of it he felt was true; but
how far had he been a dupe in his quixotic defense of a quarrelsome
blusterer and cowardly bully? Yet there was the unmistakable shot
and cold-blooded attempt at Cato's assassination! And there were
the bloodhounds sent to track the unfortunate man! That was no
dream--but a brutal inexcusable fact!
The medical practitioner of Redlands he remembered was conservative,
old-fashioned, and diplomatic. But his sympathies had been
broadened by some army experiences, and Courtland trusted to some
soldierly and frank exposition of the matter from him. Nevertheless,
Dr. Maynard was first healer, and, like Sophy, professionally
cautious. The colonel had better not talk about it now. It was
already two days old; the colonel had been nearly forty-eight hours
in bed. It was a regrettable affair, but the natural climax of
long-continued political and racial irritation--and not without
GREAT provocation! Assassination was a strong word; could Colonel
Courtland swear that Cato was actually AIMED AT, or was it not
merely a demonstration to frighten a bullying negro? It might have
been necessary to teach him a lesson--which the colonel by this time
ought to know could only be taught to these inferior races by FEAR.
The bloodhounds! Ah, yes!--well, the bloodhounds were, in fact,
only a part of that wholesome discipline. Surely Colonel Courtland
was not so foolish as to believe that, even in the old slave-holding
days, planters sent dogs after runaways to mangle and destroy THEIR
OWN PROPERTY? They might as well, at once, let them escape! No,
sir! They were used only to frighten and drive the niggers out of
swamps, brakes, and hiding-places--as no nigger had ever dared to
face 'em. Cato might lie as much as he liked, but everybody knew
WHO it was that killed Major Reed's hounds. Nobody blamed the
colonel for it,--not even Major Reed,--but if the colonel had lived
a little longer in the South, he'd have known it wasn't necessary to
do that in self-preservation, as the hounds would never have gone
for a white man. But that was not a matter for the colonel to bother
about NOW. He was doing well; he had slept nearly thirty hours;
there was no fever, he must continue to doze off the exhaustion of
his powerful stimulant, and he, the doctor, would return later in
Perhaps it was his very inability to grasp in that exhausted state
the full comprehension of the doctor's meaning, perhaps because the
physical benumbing of his brain was stronger than any mental
excitement, but he slept again until the doctor reappeared.
"You're doing well enough now, colonel," said the physician, after
a brief examination of his patient, "and I think we can afford to
wake you up a bit, and even let you move your arm. You're luckier
than poor Tom Higbee, who won't be able to set his leg to the floor
for three weeks to come. I haven't got all the buckshot out of it
yet that Jack Dumont put there the other night."
Courtland started slightly. Jack Dumont! That was the name of
Sally Dows cousin of whom Champney had spoken! He had resolutely
put aside from his returning memory the hazy recollection of the
young girl's voice--the last thing he had heard that night--and the
mystery that seemed to surround it. But there was no delusion in
this cousin--his rival, and that of the equally deceived Champney.
He controlled himself and repeated coldly:--
"Yes. But of course you knew nothing of all that, while you were
off in the swamp there. Yet, by Jingo! it was Dumont's shooting
Higbee that helped YOU to get off your nigger a darned sight more
than YOUR killing the dogs."
"I don't understand," returned Courtland coldly.
"Well, you see, Dumont, who had taken up No'th'n principles, I
reckon, more to goad the Higbees and please Sally Dows than from
any conviction, came over here that night. Whether he suspected
anything was up, or wanted to dare Higbee for bedevilment, or was
only dancing attendance on Miss Sally, no one knows. But he rode
slap into Highee's party, called out, 'If you're out hunting, Tom,
here's a chance for your score!' meaning their old vendetta feud,
and brings his shot-gun up to his shoulder. Higbee wasn't quick
enough, Dumont lets fly, drops Higbee, and then gallops off chased
by the Reeds to avenge Higbee, and followed by the whole crowd to
see the fun, which was a little better than nigger-driving. And
that let you and Cato out, colonel."
"Got clean away to Foxboro' Station, leaving another score on his
side for the Reeds and Higbees to wipe out as best they can. You
No'th'n men don't believe in these sort of things, colonel, but
taken as a straight dash and hit o' raiding, that stroke of Sally
Dows' cousin was mighty fine!"
Courtland controlled himself with difficulty. The doctor had
spoken truly. The hero of this miserable affair was HER cousin--
HIS RIVAL! And to him--perhaps influenced by some pitying appeal
of Miss Sally for the man she had deceived--Courtland owed his
life! He instinctively drew a quick, sharp breath.
"Are you in pain?"
"Not at all. When can I get up?"
"And this arm?"
"Better not use it for a week or two." He stopped, and, glancing
paternally at the younger man, added gravely but kindly: "If you'll
take my unprofessional advice, Colonel Courtland, you'll let this
matter simmer down. It won't hurt you and your affairs here that
folks have had a taste of your quality, and the nigger a lesson
that his fellows won't forget."
"I thank you," returned Courtland coldly; "but I think I already
understand my duty to the company I represent and the Government I
"Possibly, colonel," said the doctor quietly; "but you'll let an
older man remind you and the Government that you can't change the
habits or relations of two distinct races in a few years. Your
friend, Miss Sally Dows--although not quite in my way of thinking--
has never attempted THAT."
"I am fully aware that Miss Dows possesses diplomatic accomplishments
and graces that I cannot lay claim to," returned Courtland bitterly.
The doctor lifted his eyebrows slightly and changed the subject.
When he had gone, Courtland called for writing materials. He had
already made up his mind, and one course alone seemed proper to
him. He wrote to the president of the company, detailing the
circumstances that had just occurred, admitting the alleged
provocation given by his overseer, but pointing out the terrorism
of a mob-law which rendered his own discipline impossible. He
asked that the matter be reported to Washington, and some measures
taken for the protection of the freedmen, in the mean time he
begged to tender his own resignation, but he would stay until his
successor was appointed, or the safety of his employees secured.
Until then, he should act upon his own responsibility and according
to his judgment. He made no personal charges, mentioned no names,
asked for no exemplary prosecution or trial of the offenders, but
only demanded a safeguard against a repetition of the offense. His
next letter, although less formal and official, was more difficult.
It was addressed to the commandant of the nearest Federal barracks,
who was an old friend and former companion-in-arms. He alluded to
some conversation they had previously exchanged in regard to the
presence of a small detachment of troops at Redlands during the
elections, which Courtland at the time, however, had diplomatically
opposed. He suggested it now as a matter of public expediency and
prevention. When he had sealed the letters, not caring to expose
them to the espionage of the local postmaster or his ordinary
servants, he intrusted them to one of Miss Sally's own henchmen, to
be posted at the next office, at Bitter Creek Station, ten miles
Unfortunately, this duty accomplished, the reaction consequent on
his still weak physical condition threw him back upon himself and
his memory. He had resolutely refused to think of Miss Sally; he
had been able to withstand the suggestions of her in the presence
of her handmaid--supposed to be potent in nursing and herb-lore--
whom she had detached to wait upon him, and he had returned
politely formal acknowledgments to her inquiries. He had
determined to continue this personal avoidance as far as possible
until he was relieved, on the ground of that BUSINESS expediency
which these events had made necessary. She would see that he was
only accepting the arguments with which she had met his previous
advances. Briefly, he had recourse to that hopeless logic by which
a man proves to himself that he has no reason for loving a certain
woman, and is as incontestably convinced by the same process that
he has. And in the midst of it he weakly fell asleep, and dreamed
that he and Miss Sally were walking in the cemetery; that a hideous
snake concealed among some lilies, over which the young girl was
bending, had uplifted its triangular head to strike. That he
seized it by the neck, struggled with it until he was nearly
exhausted, when it suddenly collapsed and shrunk, leaving in his
palm the limp, crushed, and delicately perfumed little thread glove
which he remembered to have once slipped from her hand.
When he awoke, that perfume seemed to be still in the air, distinct
from the fresh but homelier scents of the garden which stole
through the window. A sense of delicious coolness came with the
afternoon breeze, that faintly trilled the slanting slats of the
blind with a slumberous humming as of bees. The golden glory of a
sinking southern sun was penciling the cheap paper on the wall with
leafy tracery and glowing arabesques. But more than that, the calm
of some potent influence--or some unseen presence--was upon him,
which he feared a movement might dispel. The chair at the foot of
his bed was empty. Sophy had gone out. He did not turn his head
to look further; his languid eyes falling aimlessly upon the carpet
at his bedside suddenly dilated. For they fell also on the
"smallest foot in the State."
He started to his elbow, but a soft hand was laid gently yet firmly
upon his shoulder, and with a faint rustle of muslin skirts Miss
Sally rose from an unseen chair at the head of his bed, and stood
"Don't stir, co'nnle, I didn't sit where I could look in yo'r face
for fear of waking yo'. But I'll change seats now." She moved to
the chair which Sophy had vacated, drew it slightly nearer the bed,
and sat down.
"It was very kind of you--to come," said Courtland hesitatingly, as
with a strong effort he drew his eyes away from the fascinating
vision, and regained a certain cold composure, "but I am afraid my
illness has been greatly magnified. I really am quite well enough
to be up and about my business, if the doctor would permit it. But
I shall certainly manage to attend to my duty to-morrow, and I hope
to be at your service.
"Meaning that yo' don't care to see me NOW, co'nnle," she said
lightly, with a faint twinkle in her wise, sweet eyes. "I thought
of that, but as my business wouldn't wait, I brought it to yo'."
She took from the folds of her gown a letter. To his utter
amazement it was the one he had given his overseer to post to the
commandant that morning. To his greater indignation the seal was
"Who has dared?" he demanded, half rising.
Her little hand was thrust out half deprecatingly. "No one yo' can
fight, co'nnle; only ME. I don't generally open other folks'
letters, and I wouldn't have done it for MYSELF; I did for yo'."
"For yo'. I reckoned what yo' MIGHT do, and I told Sam to bring ME
the letters first. I didn't mind what yo' wrote to the company--
for they'll take care of yo', and their own eggs are all in the
same basket. I didn't open THAT one, but I did THIS when I saw the
address. It was as I expected, and yo' 'd given yo'self away! For
if yo' had those soldiers down here, yo' 'd have a row, sure!
Don't move, co'nnle, YO' may not care for that, it's in YO'R line.
But folks will say that the soldiers weren't sent to prevent
RIOTING, but that Co'nnle Courtland was using his old comrades to
keep order on his property at Gov'ment expense. Hol' on! Hol' on!
co'nnle," said the little figure, rising and waving its pretty arms
with a mischievous simulation of terrified deprecation. "Don't
shoot! Of course yo' didn't mean THAT, but that's about the way
that So'th'n men will put it to yo'r Gov'ment. For," she
continued, more gently, yet with the shrewdest twinkle in her gray
eyes, "if yo' really thought the niggers might need Federal
protection, yo' 'd have let ME write to the commandant to send an
escort--not to YO, but to CATO--that HE might be able to come back
in safety. Yo' 'd have had yo'r soldiers; I'd have had back my
nigger, which"--demurely--"yo' don't seem to worry yo'self much
about, co'nnle; and there isn't a So'th'n man would have objected.
But," still more demurely, and affectedly smoothing out her crisp
skirt with her little hands, "yo' haven't been troubling me much
with yo'r counsel lately."
A swift and utterly new comprehension swept over Courtland. For
the first time in his knowledge of her he suddenly grasped what
was, perhaps, the true conception of her character. Looking at her
clearly now, he understood the meaning of those pliant graces, so
unaffected and yet always controlled by the reasoning of an
unbiased intellect; her frank speech and plausible intonations!
Before him stood the true-born daughter of a long race of
politicians! All that he had heard of their dexterity, tact, and
expediency rose here incarnate, with the added grace of womanhood.
A strange sense of relief--perhaps a dawning of hope--stole over
"But how will this insure Cato's safety hereafter, or give
protection to the others?" he said, fixing his eyes upon her.
"The future won't concern YO' much, co'nnle, if as yo' say here
yo'r resignation is sent in, and yo'r successor appointed," she
replied, with more gravity than she had previously shown.
"But you do not think I will leave YOU in this uncertainty," he
said passionately. He stopped suddenly, his brow darkened. "I
forgot," he added coldly, "you will be well protected. Your--
COUSIN--will give you the counsel of race--and--closer ties."
To his infinite astonishment, Miss Sally leaned forward in her
chair and buried her laughing face in both of her hands. When her
dimples had become again visible, she said with an effort, "Don't
yo' think, co'nnle, that as a peacemaker my cousin was even a
bigger failure than yo'self?"
"I don't understand," stammered Courtland.
"Don't yo' think," she continued, wiping her eyes demurely, "that
if a young woman about my size, who had got perfectly tired and
sick of all this fuss made about yo', because yo' were a No'th'n
man, managing niggers--if that young woman wanted to show her
people what sort of a radical and abolitionist a SO'TH'N man of
their own sort might become, she'd have sent for Jack Dumont as a
sample? Eh? Only, I declare to goodness, I never reckoned that he
and Higbee would revive the tomfooling of the vendetta, and take to
shootin' each other at once."
"And your sending for your cousin was only a feint to protect me?"
said Courtland faintly.
"Perhaps he didn't have to be SENT for, co'nnle," she said, with a
slight touch of coquetry. "Suppose we say, I LET HIM COME. He'd
be hanging round, for he has property here, and wanted to get me to
take it up with mine in the company. I knew what his new views and
ideas were, and I thought I'd better consult Champney--who, being a
foreigner, and an older resident than yo', was quite neutral. He
didn't happen to tell YO' anything about it--did he, co'nnle?" she
added with a grave mouth, but an indescribable twinkle in her eyes.
Courtland's face darkened. "He did--and he further told me, Miss
Dows, that he himself was your suitor, and that you had refused him
because of the objections of your people."
She raised her eyes to his swiftly and dropped them.
"And yo' think I ought to have accepted him?" she said slowly.
"No! but--you know--you told me"--he began hurriedly. But she had
already risen, and was shaking out the folds of her dress.
"We're not talking BUSINESS co'nnle--and business was my only
excuse for coming here, and taking Sophy's place. I'll send her in
to yo', now."
"But, Miss Dows!--Miss Sally!"
She stopped--hesitated--a singular weakness for so self-contained a
nature--and then slowly produced from her pocket a second letter--
the one that Courtland had directed to the company. "I didn't read
THIS letter, as I just told yo' co'nnle, for I reckon I know what's
in it, but I thought I'd bring it with me too, in case YO' CHANGED
He raised himself on his pillow as she turned quickly away; but in
that single vanishing glimpse of her bright face he saw what
neither he nor any one else had ever seen upon the face of Sally
Dows--a burning blush!
"Miss Sally!" He almost leaped from the bed, but she was gone.
There was another rustle at the door--the entrance of Sophy.
"Call her back, Sophy, quick!" he said.
The negress shook her turbaned head. "Not much, honey! When Miss
Sally say she goes--she done gone, shuah!"
"But, Sophy!" Perhaps something in the significant face of the
girl tempted him; perhaps it was only an impulse of his forgotten
youth. "Sophy!" appealingly--"tell me!--is Miss Sally engaged to
"Wat dat?" said Sophy in indignant scorn. "Miss Sally engaged to
dat Dumont! What fo'? Yo' 're crazy! No!"
"Nor Champney? Tell me, Sophy, has she a LOVER?"
For a moment the whites of Sophy's eyes were uplifted in speechless
scorn. "Yo' ask dat! Yo' lyin' dar wid dat snake-bit arm! Yo'
lyin' dar, and Miss Sally--who has only to whistle to call de fust
quality in de State raoun her--coming and going here wid you, and
trotting on yo'r arrants--and yo' ask dat! Yes! she has a lover,
and what's me', she CAN'T HELP IT; and yo' 're her lover; and
what's me', YO' can't help it either! And yo' can't back out of it
now--bo'fe of yo'--nebber! Fo' yo' 're hers, and she's yo'rs--fo'
ebber. For she sucked yo' blood."
"What!" gasped Courtland, aghast at what he believed to be the
sudden insanity of the negress.
"Yes! Whar's yo'r eyes? whar's yo'r years? who's yo' dat yo'
didn't see nor heah nuffin? When dey dragged yo' outer de swamp
dat night--wid de snake-bite freshen yo'r arm--didn't SHE, dat poh
chile!--dat same Miss Sally--frow herself down on yo', and put dat
baby mouf of hers to de wound and suck out de pizen and sabe de
life ob yo' at de risk ob her own? Say? And if dey's any troof in
Hoodoo, don't dat make yo' one blood and one soul! Go way, white
man! I'm sick of yo'. Stop dar! Lie down dar! Hol' on, co'nnle,
for massy's sake. Well, dar--I'll call her back!"
And she did!
"Look here--don't you know--it rather took me by surprise," said
Champney, a few days later, with a hearty grip of the colonel's
uninjured hand; "but I don't bear malice, old fellow, and, by Jove!
it was SUCH a sensible, all-round, business-like choice for the
girl to make that no wonder we never thought of it before. Hang it
all, you see a fellow was always so certain it would be something
out of the way and detrimental, don't you know, that would take the
fancy of a girl like that--somebody like that cousin of hers or
Higbee, or even ME, by Jove that we never thought of looking beyond
our noses--never thought of the BUSINESS! And YOU all the time so
cold and silent and matter-of-fact about it! But I congratulate
you! You've got the business down on a safe basis now, and what's
more, you've got the one woman who can run it."
They say he was a true prophet. At least the Syndicate affairs
prospered, and in course of time even the Reeds and the Higbees
participated in the benefits. There were no more racial
disturbances; only the districts polled a peaceful and SMALLER
Democratic majority at the next election. There were not wanting
those who alleged that Colonel Courtland had simply become MRS.
COURTLAND'S SUPERINTENDENT; that she had absorbed him as she had
every one who had come under her influence, and that she would not
rest until she had made him a Senator (to represent Mrs. Courtland)
in the councils of the nation. But when I last dined with them in
Washington, ten years ago, I found them both very happy and
comfortable, and I remember that Mrs. Courtland's remarks upon
Federal and State interests, the proper education of young girls,
and the management of the family, were eminently wise and practical.
THE CONSPIRACY OF MRS. BUNKER.
On the northerly shore of San Francisco Bay a line of bluffs
terminates in a promontory, at whose base, formed by the crumbling
debris of the cliff above, there is a narrow stretch of beach, salt
meadow, and scrub oak. The abrupt wall of rock behind it seems to
isolate it as completely from the mainland as the sea before it
separates it from the opposite shore. In spite of its contiguity
to San Francisco,--opposite also, but hidden by the sharp re-
entering curve of coast,--the locality was wild, uncultivated, and
unfrequented. A solitary fisherman's cabin half hidden in the
rocks was the only trace of habitation. White drifts of sea-gulls
and pelican across the face of the cliff, gray clouds of sandpipers
rising from the beach, the dripping flight of ducks over the salt
meadows, and the occasional splash of a seal from the rocks, were
the only signs of life that could be seen from the decks of passing
ships. And yet the fisherman's cabin was occupied by Zephas Bunker
and his young wife, and he had succeeded in wresting from the hard
soil pasturage for a cow and goats, while his lateen-sailed
fishing-boat occasionally rode quietly in the sheltered cove below.
Three years ago Zephas Bunker, an ex-whaler, had found himself
stranded on a San Francisco wharf and had "hired out" to a small
Petaluma farmer. At the end of a year he had acquired little taste
for the farmer's business, but considerable for the farmer's
youthful daughter, who, equally weary of small agriculture, had
consented to elope with him in order to escape it. They were
married at Oakland; he put his scant earnings into a fishing-boat,
discovered the site for his cabin, and brought his bride thither.
The novelty of the change pleased her, although perhaps it was but
little advance on her previous humble position. Yet she preferred
her present freedom to the bare restricted home life of her past;
the perpetual presence of the restless sea was a relief to the old
monotony of the wheat field and its isolated drudgery. For Mary's
youthful fancy, thinly sustained in childhood by the lightest
literary food, had neither been stimulated nor disillusioned by her
marriage. That practical experience which is usually the end of
girlish romance had left her still a child in sentiment. The long
absences of her husband in his fishing-boat kept her from wearying
of or even knowing his older and unequal companionship; it gave her
a freedom her girlhood had never known, yet added a protection that
suited her still childish dependency, while it tickled her pride
with its equality. When not engaged in her easy household duties
in her three-roomed cottage, or the care of her rocky garden patch,
she found time enough to indulge her fancy over the mysterious haze
that wrapped the invisible city so near and yet unknown to her; in
the sails that slipped in and out of the Golden Gate, but of whose
destination she knew nothing; and in the long smoke trail of the
mail steamer which had yet brought her no message. Like all
dwellers by the sea, her face and her thoughts were more frequently
turned towards it; and as with them, it also seemed to her that
whatever change was coming into her life would come across that
vast unknown expanse. But it was here that Mrs. Bunker was
It had been a sparkling summer morning. The waves were running
before the dry northwest trade winds with crystalline but colorless
brilliancy. Sheltered by the high, northerly bluff, the house and
its garden were exposed to the untempered heat of the cloudless sun
refracted from the rocky wall behind it. Some tarpaulin and ropes
lying among the rocks were sticky and odorous; the scrub oaks and
manzanita bushes gave out the aroma of baking wood; occasionally a
faint pot-pourri fragrance from the hot wild roses and beach grass
was blown along the shore; even the lingering odors of Bunker's
vocation, and of Mrs. Bunker's cooking, were idealized and refined
by the saline breath of the sea at the doors and windows. Mrs.
Bunker, in the dazzling sun, bending over her peas and lettuces
with a small hoe, felt the comfort of her brown holland sunbonnet.
Secure in her isolation, she unbuttoned the neck of her gown for
air, and did not put up the strand of black hair that had escaped
over her shoulder. It was very hot in the lee of the bluff, and
very quiet in that still air. So quiet that she heard two distinct
reports, following each other quickly, but very faint and far.
She glanced mechanically towards the sea. Two merchant-men in
midstream were shaking out their wings for a long flight, a pilot
boat and coasting schooner were rounding the point, but there was
no smoke from their decks. She bent over her work again, and in
another moment had forgotten it. But the heat, with the dazzling
reflection from the cliff, forced her to suspend her gardening, and
stroll along the beach to the extreme limit of her domain. Here
she looked after the cow that had also strayed away through the
tangled bush for coolness. The goats, impervious to temperature,
were basking in inaccessible fastnesses on the cliff itself that
made her eyes ache to climb. Over an hour passed, she was
returning, and had neared her house, when she was suddenly startled
to see the figure of a man between her and the cliff. He was
engaged in brushing his dusty clothes with a handkerchief, and
although he saw her coming, and even moved slowly towards her,
continued his occupation with a half-impatient, half-abstracted
air. Her feminine perception was struck with the circumstance that
he was in deep black, with scarcely a gleam of white showing even
at his throat, and that he wore a tall black hat. Without knowing
anything of social customs, it seemed to her that his dress was
inconsistent with his appearance there.
"Good-morning," he said, lifting his hat with a preoccupied air.
"Do you live here?"
"Yes," she said wonderingly.
"I mean any other people? Are there any other houses?" he said
with a slight impatience.
He looked at her and then towards the sea. "I expect some friends
who are coming for me in a boat. I suppose they can land easily
"Didn't you yourself land here just now?" she said quickly.
He half hesitated, and then, as if scorning an equivocation, made a
hasty gesture over her shoulder and said bluntly, "No, I came over
"Down the cliff?" she repeated incredulously.
"Yes," he said, glancing at his clothes; "it was a rough scramble,
but the goats showed me the way."
"And you were up on the bluff all the time?" she went on curiously.
"Yes. You see--I"--he stopped suddenly at what seemed to be the
beginning of a prearranged and plausible explanation, as if
impatient of its weakness or hypocrisy, and said briefly, "Yes, I
Like most women, more observant of his face and figure, she did not
miss this lack of explanation. He was a very good-looking man of
middle age, with a thin, proud, high-bred face, which in a country
of bearded men had the further distinction of being smoothly
shaven. She had never seen any one like him before. She thought
he looked like an illustration of some novel she had read, but also
somewhat melancholy, worn, and tired.
"Won't you come in and rest yourself?" she said, motioning to the
"Thank you," he said, still half absently. "Perhaps I'd better.
It may be some time yet before they come."
She led the way to the cabin, entered the living room--a plainly
furnished little apartment between the bedroom and the kitchen--
pointed to a large bamboo armchair, and placed a bottle of whiskey
and some water on the table before him. He thanked her again very
gently, poured out some spirits in his glass, and mixed it with
water. But when she glanced towards him again he had apparently
risen without tasting it, and going to the door was standing there
with his hand in the breast of his buttoned frock coat, gazing
silently towards the sea. There was something vaguely historical
in his attitude--or what she thought might be historical--as of
somebody of great importance who had halted on the eve of some
great event at the door of her humble cabin.
His apparent unconsciousness of her and of his surroundings, his
preoccupation with something far beyond her ken, far from piquing
her, only excited her interest the more. And then there was such
an odd sadness in his eyes.
"Are you anxious for your folks' coming?" she said at last,
following his outlook.
"I--oh no!" he returned, quickly recalling himself, "they'll be
sure to come--sooner or later. No fear of that," he added, half
smilingly, half wearily.
Mrs. Bunker passed into the kitchen, where, while apparently
attending to her household duties, she could still observe her
singular guest. Left alone, he seated himself mechanically in the
chair, and gazed fixedly at the fireplace. He remained a long time
so quiet and unmoved, in spite of the marked ostentatious clatter
Mrs. Bunker found it necessary to make with her dishes, that an
odd fancy that he was scarcely a human visitant began to take
possession of her. Yet she was not frightened. She remembered
distinctly afterwards that, far from having any concern for
herself, she was only moved by a strange and vague admiration of
But her prolonged scrutiny was not without effect. Suddenly he
raised his dark eyes, and she felt them pierce the obscurity of her
kitchen with a quick, suspicious, impatient penetration, which as
they met hers gave way, however, to a look that she thought was
gently reproachful. Then he rose, stretched himself to his full
height, and approaching the kitchen door leaned listlessly against
"I don't suppose you are ever lonely here?"
"Of course not. You have yourself and husband. Nobody interferes
with you. You are contented and happy together."
Mrs. Bunker did not say, what was the fact, that she had never
before connected the sole companionship of her husband with her
happiness. Perhaps it had never occurred to her until that moment
how little it had to do with it. She only smiled gratefully at the
change in her guest's abstraction.
"Do you often go to San Francisco?" he continued.
"I have never been there at all. Some day I expect we will go
there to live."
"I wouldn't advise you to," he said, looking at her gravely. "I
don't think it will pay you. You'll never be happy there as here.
You'll never have the independence and freedom you have here.
You'll never be your own mistress again. But how does it happen
you never were in San Francisco?" he said suddenly.
If he would not talk of himself, here at least was a chance for
Mrs. Bunker to say something. She related how her family had
emigrated from Kansas across the plains and had taken up a
"location" at Contra Costa. How she didn't care for it, and how
she came to marry the seafaring man who brought her here--all with
great simplicity and frankness and as unreservedly as to a superior
being--albeit his attention wandered at times, and a rare but
melancholy smile that he had apparently evoked to meet her
conversational advances became fixed occasionally. Even his dark
eyes, which had obliged Mrs. Bunker to put up her hair and button
her collar, rested upon her without seeing her.
"Then your husband's name is Bunker?" he said when she paused at
last. "That's one of those Nantucket Quaker names--sailors and
whalers for generations--and yours, you say, was MacEwan. Well,
Mrs. Bunker, YOUR family came from Kentucky to Kansas only lately,
though I suppose your father calls himself a Free-States man. You
ought to know something of farming and cattle, for your ancestors
were old Scotch Covenanters who emigrated a hundred years ago, and
were great stock raisers."
All this seemed only the natural omniscience of a superior being.
And Mrs. Bunker perhaps was not pained to learn that her husband's
family was of a lower degree than her own. But the stranger's
knowledge did not end there. He talked of her husband's business--
he explained the vast fishing resources of the bay and coast. He
showed her how the large colony of Italian fishermen were inimical
to the interests of California and to her husband--particularly as
a native American trader. He told her of the volcanic changes of
the bay and coast line, of the formation of the rocky ledge on
which she lived. He pointed out to her its value to the Government
for defensive purposes, and how it naturally commanded the entrance
of the Golden Gate far better than Fort Point, and that it ought to
be in its hands. If the Federal Government did not buy it of her
husband, certainly the State of California should. And here he
fell into an abstraction as deep and as gloomy as before. He
walked to the window, paced the floor with his hand in his breast,
went to the door, and finally stepped out of the cabin, moving
along the ledge of rocks to the shore, where he stood motionless.
Mrs. Bunker had listened to him with parted lips and eyes of
eloquent admiration. She had never before heard anyone talk like
THAT--she had not believed it possible that any one could have such
knowledge. Perhaps she could not understand all he said, but she
would try to remember it after he had gone. She could only think
now how kind it was of him that in all this mystery of his coming,
and in the singular sadness that was oppressing him, he should try
to interest her. And thus looking at him, and wondering, an idea
came to her.
She went into her bedroom and took down her husband's heavy pilot
overcoat and sou'wester, and handed them to her guest.
"You'd better put them on if you're going to stand there," she
"But I am not cold," he said wonderingly.
"But you might be SEEN," she said simply. It was the first
suggestion that had passed between them that his presence there was
a secret. He looked at her intently, then he smiled and said, "I
think you're right, for many reasons," put the pilot coat over his
frock coat, removed his hat with the gesture of a bow, handed it to
her, and placed the sou'wester in its stead. Then for an instant
he hesitated as if about to speak, but Mrs. Bunker, with a delicacy
that she could not herself comprehend at the moment, hurried back
to the cabin without giving him an opportunity.
Nor did she again intrude upon his meditations. Hidden in his
disguise, which to her eyes did not, however, seem to conceal his
characteristic figure, he wandered for nearly an hour under the
bluff and along the shore, returning at last almost mechanically to
the cabin, where, oblivious of his surroundings, he reseated
himself in silence by the table with his cheek resting on his hand.
Presently, her quick, experienced ear detected the sound of oars in
their row-locks; she could plainly see from her kitchen window a
small boat with two strangers seated at the stern being pulled to
the shore. With the same strange instinct of delicacy, she
determined not to go out lest her presence might embarrass her
guest's reception of his friends. But as she turned towards the
living room she found he had already risen and was removing his hat
and pilot coat. She was struck, however, by the circumstance that
not only did he exhibit no feeling of relief at his deliverance,
but that a half-cynical, half-savage expression had taken the place
of his former melancholy. As he went to the door, the two gentlemen
hastily clambered up the rocks to greet him.
"Jim reckoned it was you hangin' round the rocks, but I couldn't
tell at that distance. Seemed you borrowed a hat and coat. Well--
it's all fixed, and we've no time to lose. There's a coasting
steamer just dropping down below the Heads, and it will take you
aboard. But I can tell you you've kicked up a h-ll of a row over
there." He stopped, evidently at some sign from her guest. The
rest of the man's speech followed in a hurried whisper, which was
stopped again by the voice she knew. "No. Certainly not." The
next moment his tall figure was darkening the door of the kitchen;
his hand was outstretched. "Good-by, Mrs. Bunker, and many thanks
for your hospitality. My friends here," he turned grimly to the
men behind him, "think I ought to ask you to keep this a secret
even from your husband. I DON'T! They also think that I ought to
offer you money for your kindness. I DON'T! But if you will honor
me by keeping this ring in remembrance of it"--he took a heavy seal
ring from his finger--"it's the only bit of jewelry I have about
me--I'll be very glad. Good-by!" She felt for a moment the firm,
soft pressure of his long, thin fingers around her own, and then--
he was gone. The sound of retreating oars grew fainter and fainter
and was lost. The same reserve of delicacy which now appeared to
her as a duty kept her from going to the window to watch the
destination of the boat. No, he should go as he came, without her
supervision or knowledge.
Nor did she feel lonely afterwards. On the contrary, the silence
and solitude of the isolated domain had a new charm. They kept the
memory of her experience intact, and enabled her to refill it with
his presence. She could see his tall figure again pausing before
her cabin, without the incongruous association of another
personality; she could hear his voice again, unmingled with one
more familiar. For the first time, the regular absence of her
husband seemed an essential good fortune instead of an accident of
their life. For the experience belonged to HER, and not to him and
her together. He could not understand it; he would have acted
differently and spoiled it. She should not tell him anything of
it, in spite of the stranger's suggestion, which, of course, he had
only made because he didn't know Zephas as well as she did. For
Mrs. Bunker was getting on rapidly; it was her first admission of
the conjugal knowledge that one's husband is inferior to the
outside estimate of him. The next step--the belief that he was
deceiving HER as he was THEM--would be comparatively easy.
Nor should she show him the ring. The stranger had certainly never
said anything about that! It was a heavy ring, with a helmeted
head carved on its red carnelian stone, and what looked like
strange letters around it. It fitted her third finger perfectly;
but HIS fingers were small, and he had taken it from his little
finger. She should keep it herself. Of course, if it had been
money, she would have given it to Zephas; but the stranger knew
that she wouldn't take money. How firmly he had said that "I
don't!" She felt the warm blood fly to her fresh young face at the
thought of it. He had understood her. She might be living in a
poor cabin, doing all the housework herself, and her husband only a
fisherman, but he had treated her like a lady.
And so the afternoon passed. The outlying fog began to roll in at
the Golden Gate, obliterating the headland and stretching a fleecy
bar across the channel as if shutting out from vulgar eyes the way
that he had gone. Night fell, but Zephas had not yet come. This
was unusual, for he was generally as regular as the afternoon
"trades" which blew him there. There was nothing to detain him in
this weather and at this season. She began to be vaguely uneasy;
then a little angry at this new development of his incompatibility.
Then it occurred to her, for the first time in her wifehood, to
think what she would do if he were lost. Yet, in spite of some
pain, terror, and perplexity at the possibility, her dominant
thought was that she would be a free woman to order her life as she
It was after ten before his lateen sail flapped in the little cove.
She was waiting to receive him on the shore. His good-humored
hirsute face was slightly apologetic in expression, but flushed and
disturbed with some new excitement to which an extra glass or two
of spirits had apparently added intensity. The contrast between
his evident indulgence and the previous abstemiousness of her late
guest struck her unpleasantly. "Well--I declare," she said
indignantly, "so THAT'S what kept you!"
"No," he said quickly; "there's been awful times over in 'Frisco!
Everybody just wild, and the Vigilance Committee in session. Jo
Henderson's killed! Shot by Wynyard Marion in a duel! He'll be
lynched, sure as a gun, if they ketch him."
"But I thought men who fought duels always went free."
"Yes, but this ain't no common duel; they say the whole thing was
planned beforehand by them Southern fire-eaters to get rid o'
Henderson because he's a Northern man and anti-slavery, and that
they picked out Colonel Marion to do it because he was a dead shot.
They got him to insult Henderson, so he was bound to challenge
Marion, and that giv' Marion the chyce of weppings. It was a
reg'lar put up job to kill him."
"And what's all this to do with you?" she asked, with irritation.
"Hold on, won't you! and I'll tell you. I was pickin' up nets off
Saucelito about noon, when I was hailed by one of them Vigilance
tugs, and they set me to stand off and on the shore and watch that
Marion didn't get away, while they were scoutin' inland. Ye see
THE DUEL TOOK PLACE JUST OVER THE BLUFF THERE--BEHIND YE--and they
allowed that Marion had struck away north for Mendocino to take
ship there. For after overhaulin' his second's boat, they found
out that they had come away from Saucelito ALONE. But they sent a
tug around by sea to Mendocino to head him off there, while they're
closin' in around him inland. They're bound to catch him sooner or
later. But you ain't listenin', Mollie?"
She was--in every fibre--but with her head turned towards the
window, and the invisible Golden Gate through which the fugitive
had escaped. For she saw it all now--that glorious vision--her
high-bred, handsome guest and Wynyard Marion were one and the same
person. And this rough, commonplace man before her--her own
husband--had been basely set to capture him!
During that evening and the next Mrs. Bunker, without betraying her
secret, or exciting the least suspicion on the part of her husband,
managed to extract from him not only a rough description of Marion
which tallied with her own impressions, but a short history of his
career. He was a famous politician who had held high office in the
South; he was an accomplished lawyer; he had served in the army; he
was a fiery speaker; he had a singular command of men. He was
unmarried, but there were queer stories of his relations with some
of the wives of prominent officials, and there was no doubt that he
used them in some of his political intrigues. He, Zephas, would
bet something that it was a woman who had helped him off! Did she
Yes, she had spoken. It made her sick to sit there and hear such
stories! Because a man did not agree with some people in politics
it was perfectly awful to think how they would abuse him and take
away his character! Men were so awfully jealous, too; if another
man happened to be superior and fine-looking there wasn't anything
bad enough for them to say about him! No! she wasn't a slavery
sympathizer either, and hadn't anything to do with man politics,
although she was a Southern woman, and the MacEwans had come from
Kentucky and owned slaves. Of course, he, Zephas, whose ancestors
were Cape Cod Quakers and had always been sailors, couldn't
understand. She did not know what he meant by saying "what a long
tail our cat's got," but if he meant to call her a cat, and was
going to use such language to her, he had better have stayed in San
Francisco with his Vigilance friends. And perhaps it would have
been better if he had stayed there before he took her away from her
parents at Martinez. Then she wouldn't have been left on a desert
rock without any chance of seeing the world, or ever making any
friends or acquaintances!
It was their first quarrel. Discreetly made up by Mrs. Bunker in
some alarm at betraying herself; honestly forgiven by Zephas in a
rude, remorseful consciousness of her limited life. One or two
nights later, when he returned, it was with a mingled air of
mystery and satisfaction. "Well, Mollie," he said cheerfully, "it
looks as if your pets were not as bad as I thought them."
"My pets!" repeated Mrs. Bunker, with a faint rising of color.
"Well, I call these Southern Chivs your pets, Mollie, because you
stuck up for them so the other night. But never mind that now.
What do you suppose has happened? Jim Rider, you know, the
Southern banker and speculator, who's a regular big Injin among the
'Chivs,' he sent Cap Simmons down to the wharf while I was
unloadin' to come up and see him. Well, I went, and what do y'u
think? He told me he was gettin' up an American Fishin' Company,
and wanted me to take charge of a first-class schooner on shares.
Said he heard of me afore, and knew I was an American and a white
man, and just the chap ez could knock them Eytalians outer the
"Yes," interrupted Mrs. Bunker quickly, but emphatically, "the
fishing interest ought to be American and protected by the State,
with regular charters and treaties."
"I say, Mollie," said her astonished but admiring husband, "you've
been readin' the papers or listenin' to stump speakin' sure."
"Go on," returned Mrs. Bunker impatiently, "and say what happened
"Well," returned Zephas, "I first thought, you see, that it had
suthin' to do with that Marion business, particklerly ez folks
allowed he was hidin' somewhere yet, and they wanted me to run him
off. So I thought Rider might as well know that I wasn't to be
bribed, so I ups and tells him how I'd been lyin' off Saucelito the
other day workin' for the other side agin him. With that he
laughs, says he didn't want any better friends than me, but that I
must be livin' in the backwoods not to know that Wynyard Marion had
escaped, and was then at sea on his way to Mexico or Central
America. Then we agreed to terms, and the long and short of it is,
Mollie, that I'm to have the schooner with a hundred and fifty
dollars a month, and ten per cent. shares after a year! Looks like
biz, eh, Mollie, old girl? but you don't seem pleased."
She had put aside the arm with which he was drawing her to him, and
had turned her white face away to the window. So HE had gone--this
stranger--this one friend of her life--she would never see him
again, and all that would ever come of it was this pecuniary
benefit to her husband, who had done nothing. He would not even
offer her money, but he had managed to pay his debt to her in this
way that their vulgar poverty would appreciate. And this was the
end of her dream!
"You don't seem to take it in, Mollie," continued the surprised
Zephas. "It means a house in 'Frisco and a little cabin for you on
the schooner when you like."
"I don't want it! I won't have it! I shall stay here," she burst
out with a half-passionate, half-childish cry, and ran into her
bedroom, leaving the astonished Zephas helpless in his awkward
"By Gum! I must take her to 'Frisco right off, or she'll be havin'
the high strikes here alone. I oughter knowed it would come to
this!" But although he consulted "Cap" Simmons the next day, who
informed him it was all woman's ways when "struck," and advised him
to pay out all the line he could at such delicate moments, she had
no recurrence of the outbreak. On the contrary, for days and weeks
following she seemed calmer, older, and more "growed up;" although
she resisted changing her seashore dwelling for San Francisco, she
accompanied him on one or two of his "deep sea" trips down the
coast, and seemed happier on their southern limits. She had taken
to reading the political papers and speeches, and some cheap
American histories. Captain Bunker's crew, profoundly convinced
that their skipper's wife was a "woman's rights" fanatic, with the
baleful qualities of "sea lawyer" superadded, marveled at his
It was on returning home from one of these trips that they touched
briefly at San Francisco, where the Secretary of the Fishing
Company came on board. Mrs. Bunker was startled to recognize in
him one of the two gentlemen who had taken Mr. Marion off in the
boat, but as he did not appear to recognize her even after an
awkward introduction by her husband, she would have recovered her
equanimity but for a singular incident. As her husband turned
momentarily away, the Secretary, with a significant gesture,
slipped a letter into her hand. She felt the blood rush to her
face as, with a smile, he moved away to follow her husband. She
came down to the little cabin and impatiently tore open the
envelope, which bore no address. A small folded note contained the
"I never intended to burden you with my confidence, but the
discretion, tact, and courage you displayed on our first meeting,
and what I know of your loyalty since, have prompted me to trust
myself again to your kindness, even though you are now aware whom
you have helped, and the risks you ran. My friends wish to
communicate with me and to forward to me, from time to time,
certain papers of importance, which, owing to the tyrannical
espionage of the Government, would be discovered and stopped in
passing through the express or post-office. These papers will be
left at your house, but here I must trust entirely to your wit and
judgment as to the way in which they should be delivered to my
agent at the nearest Mexican port. To facilitate your action, your
husband will receive directions to pursue his course as far south
as Todos Santos, where a boat will be ready to take charge of them
when he is sighted. I know I am asking a great favor, but I have
such confidence in you that I do not even ask you to commit
yourself to a reply to this. If it can be done I know that you
will do it; if it cannot, I will understand and appreciate the
reason why. I will only ask you that when you are ready to receive
the papers you will fly a small red pennant from the little
flagstaff among the rocks. Believe me, your friend and grateful
Mrs. Bunker cast a hasty glance around her, and pressed the letter
to her lips. It was a sudden consummation of her vaguest, half-
formed wishes, the realization of her wildest dreams! To be the
confidante of the gallant but melancholy hero in his lonely exile
and persecution was to satisfy all the unformulated romantic
fancies of her girlish reading; to be later, perhaps, the Flora
Macdonald of a middle-aged Prince Charlie did not, however, evoke
any ludicrous associations in her mind. Her feminine fancy exalted
the escaped duelist and alleged assassin into a social martyr. His
actual small political intrigues and ignoble aims of office seemed
to her little different from those aspirations of royalty which she
had read about--as perhaps they were. Indeed, it is to be feared
that in foolish little Mrs. Bunker, Wynyard Marion had found the
old feminine adoration of pretension and privilege which every
rascal has taken advantage of since the flood.
Howbeit, the next morning after she had returned and Zephas had
sailed away, she flew a red bandana handkerchief on the little
flagstaff before the house. A few hours later, a boat appeared
mysteriously from around the Point. Its only occupant--a common
sailor--asked her name, and handed her a sealed package. Mrs.
Bunker's invention had already been at work. She had created an
aunt in Mexico, for whom she had, with some ostentation, made some
small purchases while in San Francisco. When her husband spoke of
going as far south as Todos Santos, she begged him to deliver the
parcel to her aunt's messenger, and even addressed it boldly to
her. Inside the outer wrapper she wrote a note to Marion, which,
with a new and amazing diffidence, she composed and altered a dozen
times, at last addressing the following in a large, school-girl
hand: "Sir, I obey your commands to the last. Whatever your
oppressors or enemies may do, you can always rely and trust upon
She who in deepest sympathy signs herself ever, Mollie Rosalie
MacEwan." The substitution of her maiden name in full seemed in
her simplicity to be a delicate exclusion of her husband from the
affair, and a certain disguise of herself to alien eyes. The
superscription, "To Mrs. Marion MacEwan from Mollie Bunker, to be
called for by hand at Todos Santos," also struck her as a marvel of
ingenuity. The package was safely and punctually delivered by
Zephas, who brought back a small packet directed to her, which on
private examination proved to contain a letter addressed to "J. E.
Kirby, to be called for," with the hurried line: "A thousand
thanks, W. M." Mrs. Bunker drew a long, quick breath. He might
have written more; he might have--but the wish remained still
unformulated. The next day she ran up a signal; the same boat and
solitary rower appeared around the Point, and took the package. A
week later, when her husband was ready for sea, she again hoisted
her signal. It brought a return package for Mexico, which she
inclosed and readdressed, and gave to her husband. The recurrence
of this incident apparently struck a bright idea from the simple
"Look here, Mollie, why don't you come YOURSELF and see your aunt.
I can't go into port without a license, and them port charges cost
a heap o' red tape, for they've got a Filibuster scare on down
there just now, but you can go ashore in the boat and I'll get
permission from the Secretary to stand off and wait for you there
for twenty-four hours." Mrs. Bunker flushed and paled at the
thought. She could see him! The letter would be sufficient
excuse, the distrust suggested by her husband would give color to
her delivering it in person. There was perhaps a brief twinge of
conscience in taking this advantage of Zephas' kindness, but the
next moment, with that peculiar logic known only to the sex, she
made the unfortunate man's suggestion a condonation of her deceit.
SHE hadn't asked to go; HE had offered to take her. He had only
himself to thank.
Meantime the political excitement in which she had become a
partisan without understanding or even conviction, presently
culminated with the Presidential campaign and the election of
Abraham Lincoln. The intrigues of Southern statesmen were revealed
in open expression, and echoed in California by those citizens of
Southern birth and extraction who had long, held place, power, and
opinion there. There were rumors of secession, of California
joining the South, or of her founding an independent Pacific
Empire. A note from "J. E. Kirby" informed Mrs. Bunker that she
was to carefully retain any correspondence that might be in her
hands until further orders, almost at the same time that Zephas as
regretfully told her that his projected Southern trip had been
suspended. Mrs. Bunker was disappointed, and yet, in some singular
conditions of her feelings, felt relieved that her meeting with
Marion was postponed. It is to be feared that some dim conviction,
unworthy a partisan, that in the magnitude of political events her
own petty personality might be overlooked by her hero tended
somewhat to her resignation.
Meanwhile the seasons had changed. The winter rains had set in;
the trade winds had shifted to the southeast, and the cottage,
although strengthened, enlarged, and made more comfortable through
the good fortunes of the Bunkers, was no longer sheltered by the
cliff, but was exposed to the full strength of the Pacific gales.
There were long nights when she could hear the rain fall monotonously
on the shingles, or startle her with a short, sharp reveille en the
windows; there were brief days of flying clouds and drifting
sunshine, and intervals of dull gray shadow, when the heaving white
breakers beyond the Gate slowly lifted themselves and sank before
her like wraiths of warning. At such times, in her accepted
solitude, Mrs. Bunker gave herself up to strange moods and singular
visions; the more audacious and more striking it seemed to her from
their very remoteness, and the difficulty she was beginning to have
in materializing them. The actual personality of Wynyard Marion, as
she knew it in her one interview, had become very shadowy and faint
in the months that passed, yet when the days were heavy she
sometimes saw herself standing by his side in some vague tropical
surroundings, and hailed by the multitude as the faithful wife and
consort of the great Leader, President, Emperor--she knew not what!
Exactly how this was to be managed, and the manner of Zephas'
effacement from the scene, never troubled her childish fancy, and,
it is but fair to say, her woman's conscience. In the logic before
alluded to, it seemed to her that all ethical responsibility for her
actions rested with the husband who had unduly married her. Nor
were those visions always roseate. In the wild declamation of that
exciting epoch which filled the newspapers there was talk of short
shrift with traitors. So there were days when the sudden onset of a
squall of hail against her window caused her to start as if she had
heard the sharp fusillade of that file of muskets of which she had
sometimes read in history.
One day she had a singular fright. She had heard the sound of oars
falling with a precision and regularity unknown to her. She was
startled to see the approach of a large eight-oared barge rowed by
men in uniform, with two officers wrapped in cloaks in the stern
sheets, and before them the glitter of musket barrels. The two
officers appeared to be conversing earnestly, and occasionally
pointing to the shore and the bluff above. For an instant she
trembled, and then an instinct of revolt and resistance followed.
She hurriedly removed the ring, which she usually wore when alone,
from her finger, slipped it with the packet under the mattress of
her bed, and prepared with blazing eyes to face the intruders. But
when the boat was beached, the two officers, with scarcely a glance
towards the cottage, proceeded leisurely along the shore. Relieved,
yet it must be confessed a little piqued at their indifference, she
snatched up her hat and sallied forth to confront them.
"I suppose you don't know that this is private property?" she said
The group halted and turned towards her. The orderly, who was
following, turned his face aside and smiled. The younger officer
demurely lifted his cap. The elder, gray, handsome, in a general's
uniform, after a moment's half-astounded, half-amused scrutiny of
the little figure, gravely raised his gauntleted fingers in a
"I beg your pardon, madam, but I am afraid we never even thought of
that. We are making a preliminary survey for the Government with a
possible view of fortifying the bluff. It is very doubtful if you
will be disturbed in any rights you may have, but if you are, the
Government will not fail to make it good to you." He turned
carelessly to the aide beside him. "I suppose the bluff is quite
inaccessible from here?"
"I don't know about that, general. They say that Marion, after he
killed Henderson, escaped down this way," said the young man.
"Indeed, what good was that? How did he get away from here?"
"They say that Mrs. Fairfax was hanging round in a boat, waiting
for him. The story of the escape is all out now."
They moved away with a slight perfunctory bow to Mrs. Bunker, only
the younger officer noting that the pert, pretty little Western
woman wasn't as sharp and snappy to his superior as she had at
first promised to be.
She turned back to the cottage astounded, angry, and vaguely
alarmed. Who was this Mrs. Fairfax who had usurped her fame and
solitary devotion? There was no woman in the boat that took him
off; it was equally well known that he went in the ship alone. If
they had heard that some woman was with him here--why should they
have supposed it was Mrs. Fairfax? Zephas might know something--
but he was away. The thought haunted her that day and the next.
On the third came a more startling incident.
She had been wandering along the edge of her domain in a state of
restlessness which had driven her from the monotony of the house
when she heard the barking of the big Newfoundland dog which Zephas
had lately bought for protection and company. She looked up and
saw the boat and its solitary rower at the landing. She ran
quickly to the house to bring the packet. As she entered she
started back in amazement. For the sitting-room was already in
possession of a woman who was seated calmly by the table.
The stranger turned on Mrs. Bunker that frankly insolent glance and
deliberate examination which only one woman can give another. In
that glance Mrs. Bunker felt herself in the presence of a superior,
even if her own eyes had not told her that in beauty, attire, and
bearing the intruder was of a type and condition far beyond her
own, or even that of any she had known. It was the more crushing
that there also seemed to be in this haughty woman the same
incongruousness and sharp contrast to the plain and homely
surroundings of the cottage that she remembered in HIM.
"Yo' aw Mrs. Bunker, I believe," she said in languid Southern
accents. "How de doh?"
"I am Mrs. Bunker," said Mrs. Bunker shortly.
"And so this is where Cunnle Marion stopped when he waited fo' the
boat to take him off," said the stranger, glancing lazily around,
and delaying with smiling insolence the explanation she knew Mrs.
Bunker was expecting. "The cunnle said it was a pooh enough place,
but I don't see it. I reckon, however, he was too worried to judge
and glad enough to get off. Yo' ought to have made him talk--he
generally don't want much prompting to talk to women, if they're
"He didn't seem in a hurry to go," said Mrs. Bunker indignantly.
The next moment she saw her error, even before the cruel, handsome
smile of her unbidden guest revealed it.
"I thought so," she said lazily; "this IS the place and here's
where the cunnle stayed. Only yo' oughtn't have given him and
yo'self away to the first stranger quite so easy. The cunnle might
have taught yo' THAT the two or three hours he was with yo'."
"What do you want with me?" demanded Mrs. Bunker angrily.
"I want a letter yo' have for me from Cunnle Marion."
"I have nothing for you," said Mrs. Bunker. "I don't know who you
"You ought to, considering you've been acting as messenger between
the cunnle and me," said the lady coolly.
"That's not true," said Mrs. Bunker hotly, to combat an inward
The lady rose with a lazy, languid grace, walked to the door and
called still lazily, "O Pedro!"
The solitary rower clambered up the rocks and appeared on the
"Is this the lady who gave you the letters for me and to whom you
"They were addressed to a Mr. Kirby," said Mrs. Bunker sullenly.
"How was I to know they were for Mrs. Kirby?"
"Mr. Kirby, Mrs. Kirby, and myself are all the same. You don't
suppose the cunnle would give my real name and address? Did you
address yo'r packet to HIS real name or to some one else. Did you
let your husband know who they were for?"
Oddly, a sickening sense of the meanness of all these deceits and
subterfuges suddenly came over Mrs. Bunker. Without replying she
went to her bedroom and returned with Colonel Marion's last letter,
which she tossed into her visitor's lap.
"Thank yo', Mrs. Bunker. I'll be sure to tell the cunnle how
careful yo' were not to give up his correspondence to everybody.
It'll please him mo' than to hear yo' are wearing his ring--which
everybody knows--before people."
"He gave it to me--he--he knew I wouldn't take money," said Mrs.
"He didn't have any to give," said the lady slowly, as she removed
the envelope from her letter and looked up with a dazzling but
cruel smile. "A So'th'n gentleman don't fill up his pockets when
he goes out to fight. He don't tuck his maw's Bible in his breast-
pocket, clap his dear auntie's locket big as a cheese plate over
his heart, nor let his sole leather cigyar case that his gyrl gave
him lie round him in spots when he goes out to take another
gentleman's fire. He leaves that to Yanks!"
"Did you come here to insult my husband?" said Mrs. Bunker in the
rage of desperation.
"To insult yo' husband! Well--I came here to get a letter that his
wife received from his political and natural enemy and--perhaps I
DID!" With a side glance at Mrs. Bunker's crimson cheek she added
carelessly, "I have nothing against Captain Bunker; he's a
straightforward man and must go with his kind. He helped those
hounds of Vigilantes because he believes in them. We couldn't
bribe him if we wanted to. And we don't."
If she only knew something of this woman's relations to Marion--
which she only instinctively suspected--and could retaliate upon
her, Mrs. Bunker felt she would have given up her life at that
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