Part 3 out of 4
"Colonel Marion seems to find plenty that he can bribe," she said
roughly, "and I've yet to know who YOU are to sit in judgment on
them. You've got your letter, take it and go! When he wants to
send you another through me, somebody else must come for it, not
you. That's all!"
She drew back as if to let the intruder pass, but the lady, without
moving a muscle, finished the reading of her letter, then stood up
quietly and began carefully to draw her handsome cloak over her
shoulders. "Yo' want to know who I am, Mrs. Bunker," she said,
arranging the velvet collar under her white oval chin. "Well, I'm
a So'th'n woman from Figinya, and I'm Figinyan first, last, and all
the time." She shook out her sleeves and the folds of her cloak.
"I believe in State rights and slavery--if you know what that
means. I hate the North, I hate the East, I hate the West. I hate
this nigger Government, I'd kill that man Lincoln quicker than
lightning!" She began to draw down the fingers of her gloves,
holding her shapely hands upright before her. "I'm hard and fast
to the Cause. I gave up house and niggers for it." She began to
button her gloves at the wrist with some difficulty, tightly
setting together her beautiful lips as she did so. "I gave up my
husband for it, and I went to the man who loved it better and had
risked more for it than ever he had. Cunnle Marion's my friend.
I'm Mrs. Fairfax, Josephine Hardee that was; HIS disciple and
follower. Well, maybe those puritanical No'th'n folks might give
it another name!"
She moved slowly towards the door, but on the threshold paused,
as Colonel Marion had, and came back to Mrs. Bunker with an
outstretched hand. "I don't see that yo' and me need quo'll. I
didn't come here for that. I came here to see yo'r husband, and
seeing YO' I thought it was only right to talk squarely to yo', as
yo' understand I WOULDN'T talk to yo'r husband. Mrs. Bunker, I
want yo'r husband to take me away--I want him to take me to the
cunnle. If I tried to go in any other way I'd be watched, spied
upon and followed, and only lead those hounds on his track. I
don't expect yo' to ASK yo' husband for me, but only not to
interfere when I do."
There was a touch of unexpected weakness in her voice and a look of
pain in her eyes which was not unlike what Mrs. Bunker had seen and
pitied in Marion. But they were the eyes of a woman who had
humbled her, and Mrs. Bunker would have been unworthy her sex if
she had not felt a cruel enjoyment in it. Yet the dominance of the
stranger was still so strong that she did not dare to refuse the
proffered hand. She, however, slipped the ring from her finger and
laid it in Mrs. Fairfax's palm.
"You can take that with you," she said, with a desperate attempt to
imitate the other's previous indifference. "I shouldn't like to
deprive you and YOUR FRIEND of the opportunity of making use of it
again. As for MY husband, I shall say nothing of you to him as
long as you say nothing to him of me--which I suppose is what you
The insolent look came back to Mrs. Fairfax's face. "I reckon yo'
're right," she said quietly, putting the ring in her pocket as she
fixed her dark eyes on Mrs. Bunker, "and the ring may be of use
again. Good-by, Mrs. Bunker."
She waved her hand carelessly, and turning away passed out of the
house. A moment later the boat and its two occupants pushed from
the shore, and disappeared round the Point.
Then Mrs. Bunker looked round the room, and down upon her empty
finger, and knew that it was the end of her dream. It was all over
now--indeed, with the picture of that proud, insolent woman before
her she wondered if it had ever begun. This was the woman she had
allowed herself to think SHE might be. This was the woman HE was
thinking of when he sat there; this was the Mrs. Fairfax the
officers had spoken of, and who had made her--Mrs. Bunker--the go-
between for their love-making! All the work that she had done for
him, the deceit she had practiced on her husband, was to bring him
and this woman together! And they both knew it, and had no doubt
laughed at her and her pretensions!
It was with a burning cheek that she thought how she had intended
to go to Marion, and imagined herself arriving perhaps to find that
shameless woman already there. In her vague unformulated longings
she had never before realized the degradation into which her
foolish romance might lead her. She saw it now; that humiliating
moral lesson we are all apt to experience in the accidental display
of our own particular vices in the person we hate, she had just
felt in Mrs. Fairfax's presence. With it came the paralyzing fear
of her husband's discovery of her secret. Secure as she had been
in her dull belief that he had in some way wronged her by marrying
her, she for the first time began to doubt if this condoned the
deceit she had practiced on him. The tribute Mrs. Fairfax had paid
him--this appreciation of his integrity and honesty by an enemy and
a woman like herself--troubled her, frightened her, and filled her
with her first jealousy! What if this woman should tell him all;
what if she should make use of him as Marion had of her! Zephas
was a strong Northern partisan, but was he proof against the
guileful charms of such a devil? She had never thought before of
questioning his fidelity to her; she suddenly remembered now some
rough pleasantries of Captain Simmons in regard to the inconstancy
of his calling. No! there was but one thing for her to do: she
would make a clean breast to him; she would tell him everything she
had done except the fatal fancy that compelled her to it! She
began to look for his coming now with alternate hope and fear--with
unabated impatience! The night that he should have arrived passed
slowly; morning came, but not Zephas. When the mist had lifted she
ran impatiently to the rocks and gazed anxiously towards the lower
bay. There were a few gray sails scarce distinguishable above the
grayer water--but they were not his. She glanced half mechanically
seaward, and her eyes became suddenly fixed. There was no mistake!
She knew the rig!--she could see the familiar white lap-streak as
the vessel careened on the starboard tack--it was her husband's
schooner slowly creeping out of the Golden Gate!
Her first wild impulse was to run to the cove, for the little
dingey always moored there, and to desperately attempt to overtake
him. But the swift consciousness of its impossibility was followed
by a dull, bewildering torpor, that kept her motionless, helplessly
following the vessel with straining eyes, as if they could evoke
some response from its decks. She was so lost in this occupation
that she did not see that a pilot-boat nearly abreast of the cove
had put out a two-oared gig, which was pulling quickly for the
rocks. When she saw it, she trembled with the instinct that it
brought her intelligence. She was right; it was a brief note from
her husband, informing her that he had been hurriedly dispatched on
a short sea cruise; that in order to catch the tide he had not time
to go ashore at the bluff, but he would explain everything on his
return. Her relief was only partial; she was already experienced
enough in his vocation to know that the excuse was a feeble one.
He could easily have "fetched" the bluff in tacking out of the Gate
and have signaled to her to board him in her own boat. The next
day she locked up her house, rowed round the Point to the
Embarcadero, where the Bay steamboats occasionally touched and took
up passengers to San Francisco. Captain Simmons had not seen her
husband this last trip; indeed, did not know that he had gone out
of the Bay. Mrs. Bunker was seized with a desperate idea. She
called upon the Secretary of the Fishing Trust. That gentle man
was business-like, but neither expansive nor communicative. Her
husband had NOT been ordered out to sea by them; she ought to know
that Captain Bunker was now his own master, choosing his own
fishing grounds, and his own times and seasons. He was not aware
of any secret service for the Company in which Captain Bunker was
engaged. He hoped Mrs. Bunker would distinctly remember that the
little matter of the duel to which she referred was an old bygone
affair, and never anything but a personal matter, in which the
Fishery had no concern whatever, and in which HE certainly should
not again engage. He would advise Mrs. Bunker, if she valued her
own good, and especially her husband's, to speedily forget all
about it. These were ugly times, as it was. If Mrs. Bunker's
services had not been properly rewarded or considered it was
certainly a great shame, but really HE could not be expected to
make it good. Certain parties had cost him trouble enough already.
Besides, really, she must see that his position between her
husband, whom he respected, and a certain other party was a
delicate one. But Mrs. Bunker heard no more. She turned and ran
down the staircase, carrying with her a burning cheek and blazing
eye that somewhat startled the complacent official.
She did not remember how she got home again. She had a vague
recollection of passing through the crowded streets, wondering if
the people knew that she was an outcast, deserted by her husband,
deceived by her ideal hero, repudiated by her friends! Men had
gathered in knots before the newspaper offices, excited and
gesticulating over the bulletin boards that had such strange
legends as "The Crisis," "Details of an Alleged Conspiracy to
Overthrow the Government," "The Assassin of Henderson to the Fore
Again," "Rumored Arrests on the Mexican Frontier." Sometimes she
thought she understood the drift of them; even fancied they were
the outcome of her visit--as if her very presence carried treachery
and suspicion with it--but generally they only struck her benumbed
sense as a dull, meaningless echo of something that had happened
long ago. When she reached her house, late that night, the
familiar solitude of shore and sea gave her a momentary relief, but
with it came the terrible conviction that she had forfeited her
right to it, that when her husband came back it would be hers no
longer, and that with their meeting she would know it no more. For
through all her childish vacillation and imaginings she managed to
cling to one steadfast resolution. She would tell him EVERYTHING,
and know the worst. Perhaps he would never come; perhaps she
should not be alive to meet him.
And so the days and nights slowly passed. The solitude which her
previous empty deceit had enabled her to fill with such charming
visions now in her awakened remorse seemed only to protract her
misery. Had she been a more experienced, though even a more
guilty, woman she would have suffered less. Without sympathy or
counsel, without even the faintest knowledge of the world or its
standards of morality to guide her, she accepted her isolation and
friendlessness as a necessary part of her wrongdoing. Her only
criterion was her enemy--Mrs. Fairfax--and SHE could seek her
relief by joining her lover; but Mrs. Bunker knew now that she
herself had never had one--and was alone! Mrs. Fairfax had broken
openly with her husband; but SHE had DECEIVED hers, and the
experience and reckoning were still to come. In her miserable
confession it was not strange that this half child, half woman,
sometimes looked towards that gray sea, eternally waiting for her,--
that sea which had taken everything from her and given her nothing
in return,--for an obliterating and perhaps exonerating death!
The third day of her waiting isolation was broken upon by another
intrusion. The morning had been threatening, with an opaque,
motionless, livid arch above, which had taken the place of the
usual flying scud and shaded cloud masses of the rainy season. The
whole outlying ocean, too, beyond the bar, appeared nearer, and
even seemed to be lifted higher than the Bay itself, and was lit
every now and then with wonderful clearness by long flashes of
breaking foam like summer lightning. She knew that this meant a
southwester, and began, with a certain mechanical deliberation, to
set her little domain in order against the coming gale. She drove
the cows to the rude shed among the scrub oaks, she collected the
goats and young kids in the corral, and replenished the stock of
fuel from the woodpile. She was quite hidden in the shrubbery when
she saw a boat making slow headway against the wind towards the
little cove where but a moment before she had drawn up the dingey
beyond the reach of breaking seas. It was a whaleboat from
Saucelito containing a few men. As they neared the landing she
recognized in the man who seemed to be directing the boat the
second friend of Colonel Marion--the man who had come with the
Secretary to take him off, but whom she had never seen again. In
her present horror of that memory she remained hidden, determined
at all hazards to avoid a meeting. When they had landed, one of
the men halted accidentally before the shrubbery where she was
concealed as he caught his first view of the cottage, which had
been invisible from the point they had rounded.
"Look here, Bragg," he said, turning to Marion's friend, in a voice
which was distinctly audible to Mrs. Bunker. "What are we to say
to these people?"
"There's only one," returned the other. "The man's at sea. His
wife's here. She's all right."
"You said she was one of us?"
"After a fashion. She's the woman who helped Marion when he was
here. I reckon he made it square with her from the beginning, for
she forwarded letters from him since. But you can tell her as much
or as little as you find necessary when you see her."
"Yes, but we must settle that NOW," said Bragg sharply, "and I
propose to tell her NOTHING. I'm against having any more
petticoats mixed up with our affairs. I propose to make an
examination of the place without bothering our heads about her."
"But we must give some reason for coming here, and we must ask her
to keep dark, or we'll have her blabbing to the first person she
meets," urged the other.
"She's not likely to see anybody before night, when the brig will
be in and the men and guns landed. Move on, and let Jim take
soundings off the cove, while I look along the shore. It's just as
well that there's a house here, and a little cover like this"--
pointing to the shrubbery--"to keep the men from making too much of
a show until after the earthworks are up. There are sharp eyes
over at the Fort."
"There don't seem to be any one in the house now," returned the
other after a moment's scrutiny of the cottage, "or the woman would
surely come out at the barking of the dog, even if she hadn't seen
us. Likely she's gone to Saucelito."
"So much the better. Just as well that she should know nothing
until it happens. Afterwards we'll settle with the husband for the
price of possession; he has only a squatter's rights. Come along;
we'll have bad weather before we get back round the Point again,
but so much the better, for it will keep off any inquisitive
They moved away. But Mrs. Bunker, stung through her benumbed and
brooding consciousness, and made desperate by this repeated
revelation of her former weakness, had heard enough to make her
feverish to hear more. She knew the intricacies of the shrubbery
thoroughly. She knew every foot of shade and cover of the
clearing, and creeping like a cat from bush to bush she managed,
without being discovered, to keep the party in sight and hearing
all the time. It required no great discernment, even for an
inexperienced woman like herself, at the end of an hour, to gather
their real purpose. It was to prepare for the secret landing of an
armed force, disguised as laborers, who, under the outward show of
quarrying in the bluff, were to throw up breastworks, and fortify
the craggy shelf. The landing was fixed for that night, and was to
be effected by a vessel now cruising outside the Heads.
She understood it all now. She remembered Marion's speech about
the importance of the bluff for military purposes; she remembered
the visit of the officers from the Fort opposite. The strangers
were stealing a march upon the Government, and by night would be in
possession. It was perhaps an evidence of her newly awakened and
larger comprehension that she took no thought of her loss of home
and property,--perhaps there was little to draw her to it now,--but
was conscious only of a more terrible catastrophe--a catastrophe to
which she was partly accessory, of which any other woman would have
warned her husband--or at least those officers of the Fort whose
business it was to-- Ah, yes! the officers of the Fort--only just
opposite to her! She trembled, and yet flushed with an
inspiration. It was not too late yet--why not warn them NOW?
But how? A message sent by Saucelito and the steamboat to San
Francisco--the usual way--would not reach them tonight. To go
herself, rowing directly across in the dingey, would be the only
security of success. If she could do it? It was a long pull--the
sea was getting up--but she would try.
She waited until the last man had stepped into the boat, in nervous
dread of some one remaining. Then, when the boat had vanished
round the Point again, she ran back to the cottage, arrayed herself
in her husband's pilot coat, hat, and boots, and launched the
dingey. It was a heavy, slow, but luckily a stanch and seaworthy
boat. It was not until she was well off shore that she began to
feel the full fury of the wind and waves, and knew the difficulty
and danger of her undertaking. She had decided that her shortest
and most direct course was within a few points of the wind, but the
quartering of the waves on the broad bluff bows of the boat tended
to throw it to leeward, a movement that, while it retarded her
forward progress, no doubt saved the little craft from swamping.
Again, the feebleness and shortness of her stroke, which never
impelled her through a rising wave, but rather lifted her half way
up its face, prevented the boat from taking much water, while her
steadfast gaze, fixed only on the slowly retreating shore, kept her
steering free from any fatal nervous vacillation, which the sight
of the threatening seas on her bow might have produced. Preserved
through her very weakness, ignorance, and simplicity of purpose,
the dingey had all the security of a drifting boat, yet retained a
certain gentle but persistent guidance. In this feminine fashion
she made enough headway to carry her abreast of the Point, where
she met the reflux current sweeping round it that carried her well
along into the channel, now sluggish with the turn of the tide.
After half an hour's pulling, she was delighted to find herself
again in a reverse current, abreast of her cottage, but steadily
increasing her distance from it. She was, in fact, on the extreme
outer edge of a vast whirlpool formed by the force of the gale on a
curving lee shore, and was being carried to her destination in a
semicircle around that bay which she never could have crossed. She
was moving now in a line with the shore and the Fort, whose
flagstaff, above its green, square, and white quarters, she could
see distinctly, and whose lower water battery and landing seemed to
stretch out from the rocks scarcely a mile ahead. Protected by the
shore from the fury of the wind, and even of the sea, her progress
was also steadily accelerated by the velocity of the current,
mingling with the ebbing tide. A sudden fear seized her. She
turned the boat's head towards the shore, but it was swept quickly
round again; she redoubled her exertions, tugging frantically at
her helpless oars. She only succeeded in getting the boat into the
trough of the sea, where, after a lurch that threatened to capsize
it, it providentially swung around on its short keel and began to
drift stern on. She was almost abreast of the battery now; she
could hear the fitful notes of a bugle that seemed blown and
scattered above her head; she even thought she could see some men
in blue uniforms moving along the little pier. She was passing it;
another fruitless effort to regain her ground, but she was swept
along steadily towards the Gate, the whitening bar, and the open
She knew now what it all meant. This was what she had come for;
this was the end! Beyond, only a little beyond, just a few moments
longer to wait, and then, out there among the breakers was the rest
that she had longed for but had not dared to seek. It was not her
fault; they could not blame HER. He would come back and never know
what had happened--nor even know how she had tried to atone for her
deceit. And he would find his house in possession of--of--those
devils! No! No! she must not die yet, at least not until she had
warned the Fort. She seized the oars again with frenzied strength;
the boat had stopped under the unwonted strain, staggered, tried to
rise in an uplifted sea, took part of it over her bow, struck down
Mrs. Bunker under half a ton of blue water that wrested the oars
from her paralyzed hands like playthings, swept them over the
gunwale, and left her lying senseless in the bottom of the boat.
. . . . . .
"Hold har-rd--or you'll run her down."
"Now then, Riley,--look alive,--is it slapin' ye are!"
"Hold yer jaw, Flanigan, and stand ready with the boat-hook. Now
then, hold har-rd!"
The sudden jarring and tilting of the water-logged boat, a sound of
rasping timbers, the swarming of men in shirtsleeves and blue
trousers around her, seemed to rouse her momentarily, but she again
When she struggled back to consciousness once more she was wrapped
in a soldier's jacket, her head pillowed on the shirt-sleeve of an
artillery corporal in the stern sheets of that eight-oared
government barge she had remembered. But the only officer was a
bareheaded, boyish lieutenant, and the rowers were an athletic but
unseamanlike crew of mingled artillerymen and infantry.
"And where did ye drift from, darlint?"
Mrs. Bunker bridled feebly at the epithet.
"I didn't drift. I was going to the Fort."
"The Fort, is it?"
"Yes. I want to see the general."
"Wadn't the liftenant do ye? Or shure there's the adjutant; he's a
"Silence, Flanigan," said the young officer sharply. Then turning
to Mrs. Bunker he said, "Don't mind HIM, but let his wife take you
to the canteen, when we get in, and get you some dry clothes."
But Mrs. Bunker, spurred to convalescence at the indignity,
protested stiffly, and demanded on her arrival to be led at once to
the general's quarters. A few officers, who had been attracted to
the pier by the rescue, acceded to her demand.
She recognized the gray-haired, handsome man who had come ashore
at her house. With a touch of indignation at her treatment, she
briefly told her story. But the general listened coldly and
gravely with his eyes fixed upon her face.
"You say you recognized in the leader of the party a man you had
seen before. Under what circumstances?"
Mrs. Bunker hesitated with burning cheeks. "He came to take
Colonel Marion from our place."
"When you were hiding him,--yes, we've heard the story. Now, Mrs.
Bunker, may I ask you what you, as a Southern sympathizer, expect
to gain by telling me this story?"
But here Mrs. Bunker burst out. "I am not a Southern sympathizer!
Never! Never! Never! I'm a Union woman,--wife of a Northern man.
I helped that man before I knew who he was. Any Christian,
Northerner or Southerner, would have done the same!"
Her sincerity and passion were equally unmistakable. The general
rose, opened the door of the adjoining room, said a few words to an
orderly on duty, and returned. "What you are asking of me, Mrs.
Bunker, is almost as extravagant and unprecedented as your story.
You must understand, as well as your husband, that if I land a
force on your property it will be to TAKE POSSESSION of it in the
name of the Government, for Government purposes."
"Yes, yes," said Mrs. Bunker eagerly; "I know that. I am willing;
Zephas will be willing."
"And," continued the general, fixing his eyes on her face, "you
will also understand that I may be compelled to detain you here as
a hostage for the safety of my men."
"Oh no! no! please!" said Mrs. Bunker, springing up with an
imploring feminine gesture; "I am expecting my husband. He may
be coming back at any moment; I must be there to see him FIRST!
Please let me go back, sir, with your men; put me anywhere ashore
between them and those men that are coming. Lock me up; keep me a
prisoner in my own home; do anything else if you think I am
deceiving you; but don't keep me here to miss him when he comes!"
"But you can see him later," said the general.
"But I must see him FIRST," said Mrs. Bunker desperately. "I must
see him first, for--for--HE KNOWS NOTHING OF THIS. He knows
nothing of my helping Colonel Marion; he knows nothing of--how
foolish I have been, and--he must not know it from others! There!"
It was out at last. She was sobbing now, but her pride was gone.
She felt relieved, and did not even notice the presence of two or
three other officers, who had entered the room, exchanged a few
hurried words with their superior, and were gazing at her in
The general's brow relaxed, and he smiled. "Very well, Mrs.
Bunker; it shall be as you like, then. You shall go and meet your
husband with Captain Jennings here,"--indicating one of the
officers,--"who will take charge of you and the party."
"And," said Mrs. Bunker, looking imploringly through her wet but
pretty lashes at the officer, "he won't say anything to Zephas,
"Not a syllable," said Captain Jennings gravely. "But while the
tug is getting ready, general, hadn't Mrs. Bunker better go to Mrs.
"I think not," said the general, with a significant look at the
officer as he gallantly offered his arm to the astonished Mrs.
Bunker, "if she will allow me the pleasure of taking her to my
There was an equally marked respect in the manner of the men and
officers as Mrs. Bunker finally stepped on board the steam tug that
was to convey the party across the turbulent bay. But she heeded
it not, neither did she take any concern of the still furious gale,
the difficult landing, the preternatural activity of the band of
sappers, who seemed to work magic with their picks and shovels, the
shelter tents that arose swiftly around her, the sheds and bush
inclosures that were evoked from the very ground beneath her feet;
the wonderful skill, order, and discipline that in a few hours
converted her straggling dominion into a formal camp, even to the
sentinel, who was already calmly pacing the rocks by the landing as
if he had being doing it for years! Only one thing thrilled her--
the sudden outburst, fluttering and snapping of the national flag
from her little flagstaff. He would see it--and perhaps be
And indeed it seemed as if the men had caught the infection of her
anxiety, for when her strained eyes could no longer pierce the
murky twilight settling over the Gate, one came running to her to
say that the lookout had just discovered through his glass a close-
reefed schooner running in before the wind. It was her husband,
and scarcely an hour after night had shut in the schooner had
rounded to off the Point, dropped her boat, and sped away to
anchorage. And then Mrs. Bunker, running bareheaded down the
rocks, breaking in upon the hurried explanation of the officer of
the guard, threw herself upon her husband's breast, and sobbed and
laughed as if her heart would break!
Nor did she scarcely hear his hurried comment to the officer and
unconscious corroboration of her story: how a brig had raced them
from the Gate, was heading for the bar, but suddenly sheered off
and put away to sea again, as if from some signal from the
headland. "Yes--the bluff," interrupted Captain Jennings bitterly,
"I thought of that, but the old man said it was more diplomatic
just now to PREVENT an attempt than even to successfully resist
But when they were alone again in their little cottage, and Zephas'
honest eyes--with no trace of evil knowledge or suspicion in their
homely, neutral lightness--were looking into hers with his usual
simple trustfulness, Mrs. Bunker trembled, whimpered, and--I grieve
to say--basely funked her boasted confession. But here the Deity
which protects feminine weakness intervened with the usual miracle.
As he gazed at his wife's troubled face, an apologetic cloud came
over his rugged but open brow, and a smile of awkward deprecating
embarrassment suffused his eyes. "I declare to goodness, Mollie,
but I must tell you suthin, although I guess I didn't kalkilate to
say a word about it. But, darn it all, I can't keep it in. No!
Lookin' inter that innercent face o' yourn"--pressing her flushing
cheeks between his cool brown hands--"and gazing inter them two
truthful eyes"--they blinked at this moment with a divine modesty--
"and thinkin' of what you've just did for your kentry--like them
revolutionary women o' '76--I feel like a darned swab of a traitor
myself. Well! what I want ter tell you is this: Ye know, or ye've
heard me tell o' that Mrs. Fairfax, as left her husband for that
fire-eatin' Marion, and stuck to him through thick and thin, and
stood watch and watch with him in this howlin' Southern rumpus
they're kickin' up all along the coast, as if she was a man
herself. Well, jes as I hauled up at the wharf at 'Frisco, she
"'You're Cap Bunker?' she says.
"'That's me, ma'am,' I says.
"'You're a Northern man and you go with your kind,' sez she; 'but
you're a white man, and thar's no cur blood in you.' But you ain't
listenin', Mollie; you're dead tired, lass,"--with a commiserating
look at her now whitening face,--"and I'll haul in line and wait.
Well, to cut it short, she wanted me to take her down the coast a
bit to where she could join Marion. She said she'd been shook by
his friends, followed by spies--and, blame my skin, Mollie, ef that
proud woman didn't break down and CRY like a baby. Now, Mollie,
what got ME in all this, was that them Chivalry folks--ez was
always jawin' about their 'Southern dames' and their 'Ladye fairs,'
and always runnin' that kind of bilge water outer their scuppers
whenever they careened over on a fair wind--was jes the kind to
throw off on a woman when they didn't want her, and I kinder
thought I'd like HER to see the difference betwixt the latitude o'
Charleston and Cape Cod. So I told her I didn't want the jewelry
and dimons she offered me, but if she would come down to the wharf,
after dark, I'd smuggle her aboard, and I'd allow to the men that
she was YOUR AUNTIE ez I was givin' a free passage to! Lord! dear!
think o' me takin' the name o' Mollie Bunker's aunt in vain for
that sort o' woman! Think o' me," continued Captain Bunker with a
tentative chuckle, "sort o' pretendin' to hand yo'r auntie to
Kernel Marion for--for his lady love! I don't wonder ye's half
frighted and half laffin'," he added, as his wife uttered a
hysterical cry; "it WAS awful! But it worked, and I got her off,
and wot's more I got her shipped to Mazatlan, where she'll join
Marion, and the two are goin' back to Virginy, where I guess they
won't trouble Californy again. Ye know now, deary," he went on,
speaking with difficulty through Mrs. Bunker's clinging arms and
fast dripping tears, "why I didn't heave to to say 'good-by.' But
it's all over now--I've made a clean breast of it, Mollie--and
don't you cry!"
But it was NOT all over. For a moment later Captain Bunker began
to fumble in his waistcoat pocket with the one hand that was not
clasping his wife's waist. "One thing more, Mollie; when I left
her and refused to take any of her dimons, she put a queer sort o'
ring into my hand, and told me with a kind o' mischievious,
bedevilin' smile, that I must keep it to remember her by. Here it
is--why, Mollie lass! are you crazy?"
She had snatched it from his fingers and was running swiftly from
the cottage out into the tempestuous night. He followed closely,
until she reached the edge of the rocks. And only then, in the
struggling, fast-flying moonlight, she raised a passionate hand,
and threw it far into the sea!
As he led her back to the cottage she said she was jealous, and
honest Captain Bunker, with his arm around her, felt himself the
happiest man in the world!
. . . . . .
From that day the flag flew regularly over the rocky shelf, and, in
time, bugles and morning drumbeats were wafted from it to the decks
of passing ships. For the Federal Government had adjudged the land
for its own use, paid Captain Bunker a handsome sum for its
possession, and had discreetly hidden the little cottage of Mrs.
Bunker and its history forever behind bastion and casemate.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF BUCKEYE CAMP
The tiny lights that had been far scattered and intermittent as
fireflies all along the dark stream at last dropped out one by one,
leaving only the three windows of "Parks' Emporium" to pierce the
profoundly wooded banks of the South Fork. So all-pervading was
the darkness that the mere opening of the "Emporium" front door
shot out an illuminating shaft which revealed the whole length of
the little main street of "Buckeye," while the simple passing of a
single figure before one of the windows momentarily eclipsed a
third of the settlement. This undue pre-eminence given to the only
three citizens of Buckeye who were still up at ten o 'clock seemed
to be hardly justified by their outward appearance, which was that
of ordinary long-bearded and long-booted river bar miners. Two sat
upon the counter with their hands upon their knees, the third
leaned beside the open window.
It was very quiet. The faint, far barking of a dog, or an
occasional subdued murmur from the river shallows, audible only
when the wind rose slightly, helped to intensify their solitude.
So supreme had it become that when the man at the window at last
continued his conversation meditatively, with his face towards it,
he seemed to be taking all Nature into his confidence.
"The worst thing about it is, that the only way we can keep her out
of the settlement is by the same illegal methods which we deplore
in other camps. We have always boasted that Buckeye could get
along without Vigilance Committees or Regulators."
"Yes, and that was because we started it on the principle of
original selection, which we are only proposing to continue,"
replied one of the men on the counter. "So there's nothing wrong
about our sending a deputation to wait upon her, to protest against
her settling here, and give her our reasons."
"Yes, only it has all the impudence without the pluck of the
Regulators. You demand what you are afraid to enforce. Come,
Parks, you know she has all the rights on her side. Look at it
squarely. She proposes to open a store and sell liquor and cigars,
which she serves herself, in the broken-down tienda which was
regularly given to her people by the Spanish grantee of the land
we're squatting on. It's not her fault but ours if we've adopted a
line of rules, which don't agree with hers, to govern the settlers
on HER land, nor should she be compelled to follow them. Nor
because we justify OUR squatting here, on the ground that the
Spanish grant isn't confirmed yet, can we forbid her squatting
under the same right."
"But look at the moral question, Brace. Consider the example; the
influence of such a shop, kept by such a woman, on the community!
We have the right to protect ourselves--the majority."
"That's the way the lynchers talk," returned Brace. "And I'm not
so sure about there being any moral question yet. You are assuming
too much. There is no reason why she shouldn't run the tienda as
decently--barring the liquor sale, which, however, is legal, and
for which she can get a license--as a man could, and without
interfering with our morals."
"Then what is the use of our rules?"
"They were made for those who consented to adopt them, as we all
did. They still bind US, and if we don't choose to buy her liquor
or cigars that will dispose of her and her tienda much more
effectually than your protest. It's a pity she's a lone
unprotected woman. Now if she only had a husband"--
"She carries a dagger in her garter."
This apparently irrelevant remark came from the man who had not yet
spoken, but who had been listening with the languid unconcern of
one who, relinquishing the labor of argument to others, had
consented to abide by their decision. It was met with a scornful
smile from each of the disputants, perhaps even by an added shrug
of the shoulders from the woman's previous defender! HE was
evidently not to be taken in by extraneous sentiment. Nevertheless,
both listened as the speaker, slowly feeling his knees as if they
were his way to a difficult subject, continued with the same
suggestion of stating general fact, but waiving any argument
himself. "Clarkson of Angels allows she's got a free, gaudy,
picter-covered style with the boys, but that she can be gilt-edged
when she wants to. Rowley Meade--him ez hed his skelp pulled over
his eyes at one stroke, foolin' with a she bear over on Black
Mountain--allows it would be rather monotonous in him attemptin' any
familiarities with her. Bulstrode's brother, ez was in Marysville,
said there was a woman--like to her, but not her--ez made it lively
for the boys with a game called 'Little Monte,' and he dropped a
hundred dollars there afore he came away. They do say that about
seven men got shot in Marysville on account o' this one, or from
some oneasiness that happened at her shop. But then," he went on
slowly and deferentially as the faces of the two others were lowered
and became fixed, "SHE says she tired o' drunken rowdies,--there's a
sameness about 'em, and it don't sell her pipes and cigars, and
that's WHY she's coming here. Thompson over at Dry Creek sez that
THAT'S where our reputation is playin' us! 'We've got her as a
reward o' virtoo, and be d----d to us.' But," cautiously, "Thompson
ain't drawed a sober breath since Christmas."
The three men looked in each other's faces in silence. The same
thought occurred to each; the profane Thompson was right, and the
woman's advent was the logical sequence of their own ethics. Two
years previously, the Buckeye Company had found gold on the South
Fork, and had taken up claims. Composed mainly of careful,
provident, and thoughtful men,--some of cultivation and
refinement,--they had adopted a certain orderly discipline for
their own guidance solely, which, however, commended itself to
later settlers, already weary of the lawlessness and reckless
freedom which usually attended the inception of mining settlements.
Consequently the birth of Buckeye was accompanied with no dangerous
travail; its infancy was free from the diseases of adolescent
communities. The settlers, without any express prohibition, had
tacitly dispensed with gambling and drinking saloons; following the
unwritten law of example, had laid aside their revolvers, and
mingled together peacefully when their labors were ended, without
a single peremptory regulation against drinking and playing, or
carrying lethal weapons. Nor had there been any test of fitness or
qualification for citizenship through previous virtue. There were
one or two gamblers, a skillful duelist, and men who still drank
whiskey who had voluntarily sought the camp. Of some such
antecedents was the last speaker. Probably with two wives
elsewhere, and a possible homicidal record, he had modestly held
aloof from obtrusive argument.
"Well, we must have a meeting and put the question squarely to the
boys to-morrow," said Parks, gazing thoughtfully from the window.
The remark was followed by another long silence. Beyond, in the
darkness, Buckeye, unconscious of the momentous question awaiting
its decision, slept on peacefully.
"I brought the keg of whiskey and brandy from Red Gulch to-day that
Doctor Duchesne spoke of," he resumed presently. "You know he said
we ought to have some in common stock that he could always rely
upon in emergencies, and for use after the tule fever. I didn't
agree with him, and told him how I had brought Sam Denver through
an attack with quinine and arrowroot, but he laughed and wanted to
know if we'd 'resolved' that everybody should hereafter have the
Denver constitution. That's the trouble with those old army
surgeons,--they never can get over the 'heroics' of their past.
Why he told Parson Jennings that he'd rather treat a man for jim-
jams than one that was dying for want of stimulants. However, the
liquor is here, and one of the things we must settle tomorrow is
the question if it ought not to be issued only on Duchesne's
prescription. When I made that point to him squarely, he grinned
again, and wanted to know if I calculated to put the same
restriction on the sale of patent medicines and drugs generally."
"'N powder 'n shot," contributed the indifferent man.
"Perhaps you'd better take a look at the liquor, Saunders," said
Parks, dismissing the ethical question. "YOU know more about it
than we do. It ought to be the best."
Saunders went behind the counter, drew out two demijohns, and,
possibly from the force of habit, selected THREE mugs from the
crockery and poured some whiskey into each, before he could check
"Perhaps we had better compare tastes," said Brace blandly. They
all sipped their liquor slowly and in silence. The decision was
favorable. "Better try some with water to see how it mixes," said
Saunders, lazily filling the glasses with a practiced hand. This
required more deliberation, and they drew their chairs to the table
and sat down. A slight relaxation stole over the thoughtful faces
of Brace and Parks, a gentle perspiration came over the latter's
brow, but the features and expression of Saunders never changed.
The conversation took a broader range; politics and philosophy
entered into it; literature and poetry were discussed by Parks and
Brace, Saunders still retaining the air of a dispassionate
observer, ready to be convinced, but abstaining from argument--and
occasionally replenishing the glasses. There was felt to be no
inconsistency between their present attitude and their previous
conversation; rather it proved to them that gentlemen could
occasionally indulge in a social glass together without frequenting
a liquor saloon. This was stated with some degree of effusion by
Parks and assented to with singular enthusiasm by Brace; Saunders
nodding. It was also observed with great penetration by Brace that
in having really GOOD, specially selected liquor like that, the
great danger of the intoshikat'n 'fx--he corrected himself with
great deliberation, "the intoxicating effects"--of adulterated
liquors sold in drinking saloons was obviated. Mr. Brace thought
also that the vitiated quality of the close air of a crowded saloon
had a great deal to do with it--the excess of carbon--hic--he
begged their pardon--carbonic acid gas undoubtedly rendered people
"slupid and steepy." "But here, from the open window," he walked
dreamily to it and leaned out admiringly towards the dark landscape
that softly slumbered without, "one could drink in only health and
"Wot's that?" said Saunders, looking up.
"I said health and poetry," returned Brace with some dignity. "I
"No. I mean wot's that noise? Listen."
They listened so breathlessly that the soft murmur of the river
seemed to flow in upon them. But above it quite distinctly came
the regular muffled beat of horse-hoofs in the thick dust and the
occasional rattle of wheels over rocky irregularities. But still
very far and faint, and fading like the noises in a dream. Brace
drew a long breath; Parks smiled and softly closed his eyes. But
Saunders remained listening.
"That was over OUR road, near the turnpike!" he said musingly.
"That's queer; thar ain't any of the boys away to-night, and that's
a wagon. It's some one comin' here. Hark to that! There it is
It was the same sound but more distinct and nearer, and then was
"They're dragging through the river sand that's just abreast o'
Mallory's. Stopped there, I reckon. No! pushin' on again. Hear
'em grinding along the gravel over Hamilton's trailin's? Stopped
agin--that's before Somerville's shanty. What's gone o' them now?
Maybe they've lost the trail and got onto Gray's slide through the
woods. It's no use lookin'; ye couldn't see anything in this
nigger dark. Hol' on! If they're comin' through the woods, ye'll
hear 'em again jest off here. Yes! by thunder! here they are."
This time the clatter and horse-hoofs were before them, at the very
door. A man's voice cried, "Whoa!" and there was a sudden bound on
the veranda. The door opened; for an instant the entrance appeared
to be filled with a mass of dazzling white flounces, and a figure
which from waist to crown was impenetrably wrapped and swathed in
black lace. Somewhere beneath its folds a soft Spanish, yet
somewhat childish voice cried, "Tente. Hol' on," turned and
vanished. This was succeeded by the apparition of a silent,
swarthy Mexican, who dropped a small trunk at their feet and
vanished also. Then the white-flounced and black-laced figure
reappeared as the departing wagon rattled away, glided to the
centre of the room, placed on the trunk a small foot, whose low-
quartered black satin slipper seemed to be held only by the toe,
threw back with both hands the black lace mantilla, which was
pinned by a rose over her little right ear, and with her hands
slightly extended and waving softly said, "Mira caballeros! 'Ere
we are again, boys! Viva! Aow ees your mother? Aow ees that for
high? Behold me! just from Pike!"
Parks and Brace, who had partly risen, fell back hopelessly in
their chairs again and gazed at the figure with a feeble smile of
vacuous pain and politeness. At which it advanced, lowered its
black eyes mischievously over the table and the men who sat there,
poured out a glass of the liquor, and said: "I look towards you,
boys! Don't errise. You are just a leetle weary, eh? A leetle.
Oh yes! a leetle tired of crookin' your elbow--eh? Don't care if
the school keep!--eh? Don't want any pie! Want to go 'ome, eh?"
But here Mr. Parks rose with slight difficulty, but unflinching
dignity, and leaned impressively over the table, "May I ashk--may I
be permitted to arsk, madam, to what we may owe the pleasure of
Her face and attitude instantly changed. Her arms dropped and
caught up the mantilla with a quick but not ungraceful sweep, and
in apparently a single movement she was draped, wrapped, and
muffled from waist to crown as before. With a slight inclination
of her head, she said in quite another voice: "Si, senor. I have
arrive here because in your whole great town of Booki there is not
so much as one"--she held up a small brown finger--"as much as ONE
leetle light or fire like thees; be-cause in this grand pueblo
there is not one peoples who have not already sleep in his bed but
thees! Bueno! I have arrive all the same like a leetle bird, like
the small fly arrive to the light! not to YOU--only to THE LIGHT!
I go not to my casa for she is dark, and tonight she have nothing
to make the fire or bed. I go not to the 'otel--there is not ONE"--
the brown finger again uplifted--"'otel in Booki! I make the
'otel--the Fonda--in my hoose manana--to-morrow! Tonight I and
Sanchicha make the bed for us 'ere. Sanchicha, she stands herself
now over in the street. We have mooch sorrow we have to make the
caballeros mooch tr-rouble to make disposition of his house. But
what will you?"
There was another awkward silence, and then Saunders, who had been
examining the intruder with languid criticism, removed his pipe
from his mouth and said quietly:--
"That's the woman you're looking for--Jovita Mendez!"
The rest of that interview has not been recorded. Suffice it that
a few minutes later Parks, Brace, and Saunders left the Emporium,
and passed the night in the latter's cabin, leaving the Emporium
in possession of Miss Mendez and her peon servant; that at the
earliest dawn the two women and their baggage were transferred to
the old adobe house, where, however, a Mexican workman had already
arrived, and with a basketful of red tiles was making it habitable.
Buckeye, which was popularly supposed to sleep with one eye on the
river, and always first repaired there in the morning to wash and
work, was only awake to the knowledge of the invasion at noon. The
meeting so confidently spoken of the night before had NOT been
called. Messrs. Parks and Brace were suffering from headaches--
undoubtedly a touch of tule chill. Saunders, at work with his
partner in Eagle Bar, was as usual generous with apparently
irrelevant facts on all subjects--but that of the strangers. It
would seem as if the self-constituted Committee of Safety had done
And nothing whatever seemed to happen! Thompson of Angels, smoking
a meditative pipe at noon on the trail noticed the repairing of the
old adobe house, casually spoke of it on his return to his work,
without apparent concern or exciting any comment. The two
Billinger brothers saw Jovita Mendez at the door of her house an
hour later, were themselves seen conversing with her by Jim Barker,
but on returning to their claim, neither they nor Barker exhibited
any insurrectionary excitement. Later on, Shuttleworth was found
in possession of two bundles of freshly rolled corn-husk cigarettes,
and promised to get his partner some the next day, but that
gentleman anticipated him. By nightfall nearly all Buckeye had
passed in procession before the little house without exhibiting any
indignation or protest. That night, however, it seemed as if the
events for which the Committee was waiting were really impending.
The adult female population of Buckeye consisted of seven
women--wives of miners. That they would submit tamely to the
introduction of a young, pretty, and presumably dangerous member of
their own sex was not to be supposed. But whatever protest they
made did not pass beyond their conjugal seclusion, and was
apparently not supported by their husbands. Two or three of them,
under the pretext of sympathy of sex, secured interviews with the
fair intruder, the result of which was not, however, generally
known. But a few days later Mrs. "Bob" Carpenter--a somewhat
brick-dusty blonde--was observed wearing some black netting and a
heavily flounced skirt, and Mrs. Shuttleworth in her next visit to
Fiddletown wore her Paisley shawl affixed to her chestnut hair by a
bunch of dog-roses, and wrapped like a plaid around her waist. The
seven ladies of Buckeye, who had never before met, except on
domestic errands to each other's houses or on Sunday attendance at
the "First Methodist Church" at Fiddletown, now took to walking
together, or in their husbands' company, along the upper bank of the
river--the one boulevard of Buckeye. The third day after Miss
Mendez' arrival they felt the necessity of immediate shopping
expeditions to Fiddletown. This operation had hitherto been
confined to certain periods, and restricted to the laying in of
stores of rough household stuffs; but it now apparently included a
wider range and more ostentatious quality. Parks' Emporium no
longer satisfied them, and this unexpected phase of the situation
was practically brought home to the proprietor in the necessity of
extending the more inoffensive and peaceful part of his stock. And
when, towards the end of the week, a cartload of pretty fixtures,
mirrors, and furniture arrived at the tienda, there was a renewed
demand at the Emporium for articles not in stock, and the consequent
diverting of custom to Fiddletown. Buckeye found itself face to
face with a hitherto undreamt of and preposterous proposition. It
seemed that the advent of the strange woman, without having yet
produced any appreciable effect upon the men, had already
insidiously inveigled the adult female population into ostentatious
At the end of a week the little adobe house was not only rendered
habitable, but was even made picturesque by clean white curtains at
its barred windows, and some bright, half-Moorish coloring of beams
and rafters. Nearly the whole ground floor was given up to the
saloon of the tienda, which consisted of a small counter at one
side, containing bottles and glasses, and another, flanking it,
with glass cases, containing cigars, pipes, and tobacco, while the
centre of the room was given up to four or five small restaurant
tables. The staff of Jovita was no longer limited to Sanchicha,
but had been augmented by a little old man of indefinite antiquity
who resembled an Aztec idol, and an equally old Mexican, who looked
not unlike a brown-tinted and veined tobacco leaf himself, and
might have stood for a sign. But the genius of the place, its
omnipresent and all-pervading goddess, was Jovita! Smiling,
joyous, indefatigable in suavity and attention; all-embracing in
her courtesies; frank of speech and eye; quick at repartee and
deftly handling the slang of the day and the locality with a
childlike appreciation and an infantine accent that seemed to
redeem it from vulgarity or unfeminine boldness! Few could resist
the volatile infection of her presence. A smile was the only
tribute she exacted, and good-humor the rule laid down for her
guests. If it occasionally required some mental agility to respond
to her banter, a Californian gathering was, however, seldom lacking
in humor. Yet she was always the principal performer to an
admiring audience. Perhaps there was security in this multitude
of admirers; perhaps there was a saving grace in this humorous
trifling. The passions are apt to be serious and solitary, and
Jovita evaded them with a jest,--which, if not always delicate or
witty, was effective in securing the laughter of the majority and
the jealousy of none.
At the end of the week another peculiarity was noticed. There was
a perceptible increase of the Mexican population, who had always
hitherto avoided Buckeye. On Sunday an Irish priest from El Pasto
said mass in a patched-up corner of the old Mission ruin opposite
Rollinson's Ford. A few lounging "Excelsior" boys were equally
astonished to see Jovita's red rose crest and black mantilla glide
by, and followed her unvarying smile and jesting salutation up to
the shadow of the crumbling portal. At vespers nearly all Buckeye,
hitherto virtuously skeptical and good-humoredly secure in Works
without Faith, made a point of attending; it was alleged by some to
see if Jovita's glossy Indian-inky eyes would suffer aberration in
her devotions. But the rose-crested head was never lifted from the
well-worn prayer-book or the brown hands which held a certain poor
little cheap rosary like a child's string of battered copper coins.
Buckeye lounged by the wall through the service with respectful
tolerance and uneasy shifting legs, and came away. But the
apparently simple event did not end there. It was unconsciously
charged with a tremendous import to the settlement. For it was
discovered the next day by Mrs. "Bob" Carpenter and Nan
Shuttleworth that the Methodist Church at Fiddletown was too far
away, and Buckeye ought to have a preacher of its own. Seats were
fitted up in the loft of Carpenter's store-house, where the
Reverend Henry McCorkle held divine service, and instituted a Bible
class. At the end of two weeks it appeared that Jovita's invasion--
which was to bring dissipation and ruin to Buckeye--had indirectly
brought two churches! A chilling doubt like a cold mist settled
along the river. As the two rival processions passed on the third
Sunday, Jo Bateman, who had been in the habit of reclining on that
day in his shirtsleeves under a tree, with a novel in his hand,
looked gloomily after them. Then knocking the ashes from his pipe,
he rose, shook hands with his partners, said apologetically that he
had lately got into the habit of RESPECTING THE SABBATH, and was
too old to change again, and so shook the red dust of Buckeye from
his feet and departed.
As yet there had not been the slightest evidence of disorderly
conduct on the part of the fair proprietress of the tienda, nor her
customers, nor any drunkenness or riotous disturbance that could
be at all attributed to her presence. There was, it is true,
considerable hilarity, smoking, and some gambling there until a
late hour, but this could not be said to interfere with the rest
and comfort of other people. A clue to the mystery of so
extraordinary a propriety was given by Jovita herself. One day she
walked into Parks' Emporium and demanded an interview with the
"You have made the rules for thees Booki?"
"Yes--that is--I and my friends have."
"And when one shall not have mind the rule--when one have say, 'No!
damn the rule,' what shall you make to him? Shall you aprison
Mr. Parks hastened to say with a superior, yet engaging smile that
it never had been necessary, as the rules were obligatory upon the
honor and consent of all--and were never broken. "Except," he
added, still more engagingly, "she would remember, in her case--
with their consent."
"And your caballeros break not the rules?"
"Then they shall not break the rules of me--at MY TIENDA! Look! I
have made the rule that I shall not have a caballero drunk at my
house; I have made the rule that I shall not sell him the
aguardiente when he have too mooch. I have made the rule that when
he gamble too mooch, when he put up too mooch money, I say 'No!' I
will not that he shall! I make one more rule: that he shall not
quarrel nor fight in my house. When he quarrel and fight, I say
'Go! Vamos! Get out!'"
"And very good rules they are too, Miss Mendez."
Jovita fixed her shining black eyes on the smiling Parks. "And
when he say, 'No, nevarre, damn the rules!' When he come drunk,
remain drunk, play high and fight, YOU will not poonish him? YOU
will not take him out?"
"Well, you see, the fact is, I have not the power."
"Are you not the Alcalde?"
"No. There is a Justice of the Peace at Fiddletown, but even he
could do nothing to enforce your rules. But if anything should
happen, you can make a complaint to him."
"Bueno. You have not the power; I have. I make not the complaint
to Fiddletown. I make the complaint to Jose Perez, to Manuel, to
Antonio, to Sanchicha--she is a strong one! I say 'Chook him out.'
They chook him out! they remove him! He does not r-r-remain.
Enough. Bueno. Gracias, senor, good-a-by!"
She was gone. For the next four days Parks was in a state of some
anxiety--but it appeared unnecessarily so. Whether the interview
had become known along the river did not transpire, but there
seemed to be no reason for Miss Mendez to enforce her rules. It
was said that once, when Thompson of Angels was a little too noisy,
he had been quietly conducted by his friends from the tienda
without the intervention of Jose. The frequenters of the saloon
became its police.
Yet the event--long protracted--came at last! It was a dry,
feverish, breezeless afternoon, when the short, echoless explosion
of a revolver puffed out on the river, followed by another,
delivered so rapidly that they seemed rolled into one. There was
no mistaking that significant repetition. ONE shot might have been
an accident; TWO meant intention. The men dropped their picks and
shovels and ran--ran as they never before ran in Buckeye--ran
mechanically, blindly groping at their belts and pockets for the
weapons that hung there no longer; ran aimlessly, as to purpose,
but following instinctively with hurried breath and quivering
nostrils the cruel scent of powder and blood. Ran until, reaching
the tienda, the foremost stumbled over the body of Shuttleworth;
came upon the half-sitting, half-leaning figure of Saunders against
its adobe wall! The doors were barred and closed, and even as the
crowd charged furiously forward, a window was sharply shut above,
in their very face.
"Stand back, gentlemen! Lift him up. What's the row? What is it,
Saunders? Who did it? Speak, man!"
But Saunders, who was still supporting himself against the wall,
only looked at them with a singular and half-apologetic smile, and
then leaned forward as if to catch the eye of Shuttleworth, who was
recovering consciousness in the uplifted arms of his companions.
But neither spoke.
"It's some d----d Greaser inside!" said Thompson, with sudden
ferocity. "Some of her cursed crew! Break down the doors, boys!"
It was the voice of Shuttleworth, speaking with an effort. He was
hard hit, somewhere in the groin; pain and blood were coming with
consciousness and movement, and his face was ghastly. Yet there
was the same singular smile of embarrassment which Saunders had
worn, and a touch of invincible disgust in his voice as he
stammered quickly, "Don't be d----d fools! It's no one in THERE.
It's only me and HIM! He'll tell you that. Won't you, Saunders?"
"Yes," said Saunders, leaning anxiously forward, with a brightening
face. "D--n it all--can't you see? It's only--only us."
"You and me, that's all," repeated Shuttleworth, with a feverish
laugh. "Only our d----d foolishness! Think of it, boys! He gave
me the lie, and I drew!"
"Both of us full, you know--reg'lar beasts," said Saunders, sinking
back against the wall. "Kick me, somebody, and finish me off."
"I don't see any weapons here," said Brace gravely, examining the
"They're inside," said Shuttleworth with tremulous haste. "We
began it in there--just like hogs, you know! Didn't we, Saunders?"
"You bet," said Saunders faintly. "Reg'lar swine."
Parks looked graver still, and as he passed a handkerchief around
the wounded man's thigh, said: "But I don't see where you got your
pistols, and how you got out here."
"Clinched, you know; sorter rolled over out here--and--and--oh,
d--n it--don't talk!"
"He means," said Shuttleworth still feebly, "that we--we--grabbed
ANOTHER MAN'S six-shooter and--and--he that is--and they--he--he
and me grabbed each other, and--don't you see--?" but here,
becoming more involved and much weaker, he discreetly fainted away.
And that was all Buckeye ever knew of the affair! For they refused
to speak of it again, and Dr. Duchesne gravely forbade any further
interrogation. Both men's revolvers were found undischarged in
their holsters, hanging in their respective cabins. The balls
which were afterwards extracted from the two men singularly
disappeared; Dr. Duchesne asserting with a grim smile that they had
* It was a frontier superstition that the ball extracted from a
gunshot wound, if swallowed by the wounded man, prevented
inflammation or any supervening complications.
Nothing could be ascertained of the facts at the tienda, which at
that hour of the day appeared to have been empty of customers, and
was occupied only by Miss Mendez and her retainers. All surmises
as to the real cause of the quarrel and the reason for the
reticence of the two belligerents were suddenly and unexpectedly
stopped by their departure from Buckeye as soon as their condition
permitted, on the alleged opinion of Dr. Duchesne that the air of
the river was dangerous to their convalescence. The momentary
indignation against the tienda which the two combatants had
checked, eventually subsided altogether. After all, the fight had
taken place OUTSIDE; it was not even proven that the provocation
had been given AT the tienda! Its popularity was undiminished.
It was the end of the rainy season, and a wet night. Brace and
Parks were looking from the window over the swollen river, with
faces quite as troubled as the stream below. Nor was the prospect
any longer the same. In the past two years Buckeye had grown into
a city. They could now count a half dozen church spires from the
window of the three-storied brick building which had taken the
place of the old wooden Emporium, but they could also count the
brilliantly lit windows of an equal number of saloons and gambling-
houses which glittered through the rain, or, to use the words of a
local critic, "Shone seven nights in the week to the Gospel shops'
ONE!" A difficulty had arisen which the two men had never dreamed
of, and a struggle had taken place between the two rival powers,
which was developing a degree of virulence and intolerance on both
sides that boded no good to Buckeye. The disease which its infancy
had escaped had attacked its adult growth with greater violence.
The new American saloons which competed with Jovita Mendez' Spanish
venture had substituted a brutal masculine sincerity for her veiled
feminine methods. There was higher play, deeper drinking, darker
passion. Yet the opposition, after the fashion of most reformers,
were casting back to the origin of the trouble in Jovita, and were
confounding principles and growth. "If it had not been for her the
rule would never have been broken." "If there was to be a cleaning
out of the gambling houses, she must go first!"
The sounds of a harp and a violin played in the nearest saloon
struggled up to them with the opening and shutting of its swinging
baize inner doors. There was boisterous chanting from certain
belated revelers in the next street which had no such remission.
The brawling of the stream below seemed to be echoed in the uneasy
streets; the quiet of the old days had departed with the sedate,
encompassing woods that no longer fringed the river bank; the
restful calm of Nature had receded before the dusty outskirts of
"It's mighty unfortunate, too," said Brace moodily, "that
Shuttleworth and Saunders, who haven't been in the place since
their row, have come over from Fiddletown to-day, and are banging
around town. They haven't said anything that I know of, but their
PRESENCE is quite enough to revive the old feeling against her
shop. The Committee," he added bitterly, "will be sure to say that
not only the first gambling, but the first shooting in Buckeye took
place there. If they get up that story again--no matter how quiet
SHE has become since--no matter what YOU may say as mayor--it will
go hard with her. What's that now?"
They listened breathlessly. Above the brawling of the river, the
twanging of the harp-player, and the receding shouts of the
revelers, they could hear the hollow wooden sidewalks resounding
with the dull, monotonous trampling of closely following feet.
Parks rose with a white face.
"Will you stand by me--and HER?"
"Stand by YOU AND HER? Eh? What? Good God! Parks!--you don't
mean to say you--it's gone as far as THAT?"
"Will you or won't you?"
The sound of the trampling had changed to a shuffling on the
pavement below, and then footsteps began to ascend the stairs.
Brace held out his hand quickly and grasped that of Parks as
the door opened to half a dozen men. They were evidently the
ringleaders of the crowd below. There was no hesitation or
doubt in their manner; the unswerving directness which always
characterized those illegal demonstrations lent it something of
dignity. Nevertheless, Carpenter, the spokesman, flushed slightly
before Parks' white, determined face.
"Come, Parks, you know what we're after," he said bluntly. "We
didn't come here to parley. We knew YOUR sentiments and what YOU
think is your duty. We know what we consider OURS--and so do you.
But we're here to give you a chance, either as mayor, or, if you
prefer it, as the oldest citizen here, to take a hand in our
business to-night. We're not ashamed of what we're going to do,
and we're willing to abide by it; so there's no reason why we
shouldn't speak aboveboard of it to you. We even invite you to
take part in our last 'call' tonight at the Hall."
"Go!" whispered Brace quickly, "YOU'LL GAIN TIME!"
Parks' face changed, and he turned to Carpenter. "Enough," he said
gravely. "I reserve what I have to say of these proceedings till I
join you there." He stopped, whispered a few words to Brace, and
then disappeared as the men descended the stairs, and, joining the
crowd on the pavement, proceeded silently towards the Town Hall.
There was nothing in the appearance of that decorous procession to
indicate its unlawful character or the recklessness with which it
There were thirty or forty men already seated in the Hall. The
meeting was brief and to the point. The gambling saloons were to
be "cleaned out" that night, the tables and appliances thrown into
the street and burnt, the doors closed, and the gamblers were to be
conducted to the outskirts of the town and forbidden to enter it
again on pain of death.
"Does this yer refer to Jovita Mendez' saloon?" asked a voice.
To their surprise the voice was not Parks' but Shuttleworth's. It
was also a matter to be noted that he stood a little forward of the
crowd, and that there was a corresponding movement of a dozen or
more men from Fiddletown who apparently were part of the meeting.
The chairman (No. 10) said there was to be no exception, and
certainly not for the originator of disorder in Buckeye! He was
surprised that the question should be asked by No. 72, who was an
old resident of Buckeye, and who, with No. 73, had suffered from
the character of that woman's saloon.
"That's jest it," said Shuttleworth, "and ez I reckon that SAUNDERS
AND ME did all the disorder there was, and had to turn ourselves
out o' town on account of it, I don't see jest where SHE could come
into this affair. Only," he turned and looked around him, "in one
way! And that way, gentlemen, would be for her to come here and
boot one half o' this kempany out o' town, and shoot the other
half! You hear me!--that's so!" He stopped, tugged a moment at
his cravat and loosened his shirt-collar as if it impeded his
utterance, and went on. "I've got to say suthin' to you gentlemen
about me and Saunders and this woman; I've got to say suthin'
that's hard for a white man to say, and him a married man, too--
I've got to say that me and Saunders never had no QU'OLL, never had
NO FIGHT at her shop: I've got to say that me and Saunders got shot
by Jovita Mendez for INSULTIN' HER--for tryin' to treat her as if
she was the common dirt of the turnpike--and served us right! I've
got to say that Saunders and me made a bet that for all her airs
she wasn't no better than she might be, and we went there drunk to
try her--and that we got left, with two shots into us like hounds
as we were! That's so!--wasn't it, Saunders?"
"With two shots inter us like hounds ez we were," repeated Saunders
with deliberate precision.
"And I've got to say suthin' more, gen'lemen," continued
Shuttleworth, now entirely removing his coat and vest, and
apparently shaking himself free from any extraneous trammels. "I've
got to say this--I've got to say that thar ain't a man in Buckeye,
from Dirty Dick over yon to the mayor of this town, ez hasn't tried
the same thing on and got left--got left, without shootin' maybe,
more's the pity, but got left all the same! And I've got to say,"
lifting his voice, "THAT EF THAT'S WHAT YOU CALL DISORDERLINESS IN
HER--if that's what yo'r turnin' this woman out o' town for--why"--
He stopped, absolutely breathless and gasping. For there was a
momentary shock of surprise and shame, and then he was overborne
by peal after peal of inextinguishable laughter. But it was the
laughter that precipitated doubt, enlightened justice, cleared
confusion, and--saved them!
In vain a few struggled to remind them that the question of the
OTHER saloons was still unaffected. It was lost in the motion
enthusiastically put and carried that the Committee should
instantly accompany Saunders and Shuttleworth to Jovita's saloon to
make an apology in their presence. Five minutes later they halted
hilariously before its door. But it was closed, dark, and silent!
Their sudden onset and alarm brought Sanchicha to the half-opened
door. "Ah, yes! the Senorita? Bueno! She had just left for
Fiddletown with the Senor Parks, the honorable mayor. They had
been married only a few moments before by the Reverend Mr. McCorkle!"
THEIR UNCLE FROM CALIFORNIA.
It was bitterly cold. When night fell over Lakeville, Wisconsin,
the sunset, which had flickered rather than glowed in the western
sky, took upon itself a still more boreal tremulousness, until at
last it seemed to fade away in cold blue shivers to the zenith.
Nothing else stirred; in the crisp still air the evening smoke of
chimneys rose threadlike and vanished. The stars were early, pale,
and pitiless; when the later moonlight fell, it appeared only to
whiten the stiffened earth like snow, except where it made a dull,
pewter-like film over the three frozen lakes which encompassed the
The site of the town itself was rarely beautiful, and its pioneers
and founders had carried out the suggestions they had found there
with loving taste and intelligence.
Themselves old voyageurs, trappers, and traders, they still loved
Nature too well to exclude her from the restful homes they had
achieved after years of toiling face to face with her. So a strip
of primeval forest on the one side, and rolling level prairie on
the other, still came up to the base of the hill, whereon they
had built certain solid houses, which a second generation had
beautified and improved with modern taste, but which still retained
their old honesty of foundation and wholesome rustic space. These
yet stood among the old trees, military squares, and broad sloping
avenues of the town. Seen from the railway by day, the regularity
of streets and blocks was hidden by environing trees; there
remained only a picturesque lifting of rustic gardens, brown roofs,
gables, spires, and cupolas above the mirroring lake: seen from the
railway this bitter night, the invisible terraces and streets were
now pricked out by symmetrical lines and curves of sparkling
lights, which glittered through the leafless boughs and seemed to
encircle the hill like a diadem.
Central in the chiefest square, and yet preserving its old lordly
isolation in a wooded garden, the homestead of Enoch Lane stood
with all its modern additions and improvements. Already these
included not only the latest phases of decoration, but various
treasures brought by the second generation from Europe, which they
were wont to visit, but from which they always contentedly returned
to their little provincial town. Whether there was some instinctive
yearning, like the stirred sap of great forests, in their wholesome
pioneer blood, or whether there was some occult fascination in the
pretty town-crested hill itself, it was still certain that the
richest inhabitants always preferred to live in Lakeville. Even the
young, who left it to seek their fortune elsewhere, came back to
enjoy their success under the sylvan vaults of this vast ancestral
roof. And that was why, this 22d of December, 1870, the whole
household of Gabriel Lane was awaiting the arrival from California
of his brother, Sylvester Lane, at the old homestead which he had
left twenty years ago.
"And you don't know how he looks?" said Kitty Lane to her father.
"I do, perfectly; rather chubby, with blue eyes, curly hair, fair
skin, and blushes when you speak to him."
"Eh?--Oh, well, he USED to. You see that was twenty-five years
ago, when he left here for boarding-school. He ran away from
there, as I told you; went to sea, and finally brought up at San
"And you haven't had any picture, or photograph of him, since?"
"No--that is--I say!--you haven't, any of you, got a picture of
Sylvester, have you?" he turned in a vague parenthetical appeal to
the company of relatives and friends collected in the drawing-room
"Cousin Jane has; she knows all about him!"
But it appeared that Cousin Jane had only heard Susan Marckland say
that Edward Bingham had told her that he was in California when
"Uncle Sylvester" had been nearly hanged by a Vigilance Committee
for protecting a horse thief or a gambler, or some such person.
This was felt to be ineffective as a personal description.
"He's sure to wear a big beard; they all do when they first come
back," said Amos Gunn, with metropolitan oraculousness.
"He has a big curling mustache, long silken hair, and broad
shoulders," said Marie du Page.
There was such piquant conviction in the manner of the speaker, who
was also a very pretty girl, that they all turned towards her, and
Kitty quickly said,--
"But YOU'VE never seen him?"
"No--but--" She stopped, and, lifting one shoulder, threw her
spirited head sideways, in a pretty deprecatory way, with elevated
eyebrows and an expression intended to show the otherwise
untranslatable character of her impression. But it showed quite
as pleasantly the other fact, that she was the daughter of a
foreigner, an old French military explorer, and that she had
retained even in Anglo-Saxon Lakeville some of the Gallic
"Well, how many of you girls are going with me to meet him at the
station?" said Gabriel, dismissing with masculine promptness the
lesser question. "It's time to be off."
"I'd like to go," said Kitty, "and so would Cousin Jane; but
really, papa, you see if YOU don't know him, and WE don't either,
and you've got to satisfy yourself that it's the right man, and
then introduce YOURSELF and then us--and all this on the platform
before everybody--it makes it rather embarrassing for us. And
then, as he's your younger brother and we're supposed to be his
affectionate nieces, you know, it would make HIM feel SO
"And if he were to KISS you," said Marie tragically, "and then turn
out not to be him!"
"So," continued Kitty, "you'd better take Cousin John, who was more
in Uncle Sylvester's time, to represent the Past of the family, and
perhaps Mr. Gunn"--
"To represent the future, I suppose?" interrupted Gabriel in a
"To represent a name that most men of the world in New York and San
Francisco know," went on Kitty, without a blush. "It would make
recognition and introduction easier. And take an extra fur with
you, dear--not for HIM but for yourself. I suppose he's lived so
much in the open air as to laugh at our coddling."
"I don't know about that," said her father thoughtfully; "the last
telegram I have from him, en route, says he's half frozen, and
wants a close carriage sent to the station."
"Of course," said Marie impatiently, "you forget the poor creature
comes from burning canyons and hot golden sands and perpetual
"Very well; but come along, Marie, and see how I've prepared his
room," and as her father left the drawing-room Kitty carried off
her old schoolfellow upstairs.
The room selected for the coming Sylvester had been one of the
elaborate guest-chambers, but was now stripped of its more
luxurious furniture and arranged with picturesque yet rural
extravagance. A few rare buffalo, bear, and panther skins were
disposed over the bare floor, and even displayed gracefully over
some elaborately rustic chairs. The handsome French bedstead had
been displaced for a small wrought-iron ascetic-looking couch
covered with a gorgeously striped Mexican blanket. The fireplace
had been dismantled of its steel grate, and the hearth extended so
as to allow a pile of symmetrically heaped moss-covered hickory
logs to take its place. The walls were covered with trophies of
the chase, buck-horns and deer-heads, and a number of Indian arrows
stood in a sheaf in the corners beside a few modern guns and
"Perfectly lovely," said Marie, "but"--with a slight shiver of her
expressive shoulders--"a little cold and outdoorish, eh?"
"Nonsense," returned Kitty dictatorially, "and if he IS cold, he
can easily light those logs. They always build their open fires
under a tree. Why, even Mr. Gunn used to do that when he was
camping out in the Adirondacks last summer. I call it perfectly
comfortable and SO natural." Nevertheless, they had both tucked
their chilly hands under the fleecy shawls they had snatched from
the hall for this hyperborean expedition.
"You have taken much pains for him, Kaitee," said Marie, with her
faintest foreign intonation. "You will like this strange uncle--
"He is a wonderful man, Marie; he's been everywhere, seen everything,
and done everything out there. He's fought duels, been captured by
Indians and tied to a stake to be tortured. He's been leader of a
Vigilance Committee, and they say that he has often shot and killed
men himself. I'm afraid he's been rather wicked, you know. He's
lived alone in the woods like a hermit without seeing a soul, and
then, again, he's been a chief among the Indians, with Heaven knows
how many Indian wives! They called him 'The Pale-faced Thunderbolt,'
my dear, and 'The Young Man who Swallows the Lightning,' or
something like that."
"And what can he want here?" asked Marie.
"To see us, my dear," said Kitty loftily; "and then, too, he has to
settle something about HIS share of the property; for you know
grandpa left a share of it to him. Not that he's ever bothered
himself about it, for he's rich,--a kind of Monte Cristo, you
know,--with a gold mine and an island off the coast, to say nothing
of a whole county that he owns, that is called after him, and
millions of wild cattle that he rides among and lassos! It's
dreadfully hard to do. You know you take a long rope with a
slipknot, and you throw it around your head so, and"--
"Hark!" said Marie, with a dramatic start, and her finger on her
small mouth, "he comes!"
There was the clear roll of wheels along the smooth, frozen
carriage sweep towards the house, the sharp crisp click of hoofs on
stone, the opening of heavy doors, the sudden sparkling invasion of
frigid air, the uplifting of voices in greeting,--but all familiar!
There were Gabriel Lane's cheery, hopeful tones, the soprano of
Cousin Jane and Cousin Emma, the baritone of Mr. Gunn, and the
grave measured oratorical utterance of Parson Dexter, who had
joined the party at the station; but certainly the accents of no
STRANGER. Had he come? Yes, for his name was just then called,
and the quick ear of Marie had detected a light, lounging, alien
footstep cross the cold strip of marble vestibule. The two girls
exchanged a rapid glance; each looked into the mirror, and then
interrogatively at the other, nodded their heads affirmatively, and
descended to the drawing-room. A group had already drawn round the
fire, and a small central figure, who, with its back turned towards
them, was still enwrapped in an enormous overcoat of rich fur, was
engaged in presenting an alternate small varnished leather boot to
the warmth of the grate. As they entered the room the heavy fur
was yielded up with apparent reluctance, and revealed to the
astonished girls a man of ordinary stature with a slight and
elegant figure set off by a traveling suit of irreproachable cut.
His light reddish-yellow hair, mustache, and sunburned cheek, which
seemed all of one color and outline, made it impossible to detect
the gray of the one or the hollowness of the other, and gave no
indication of his age. Yet there was clearly no mistake. Here was
Gabriel Lane seizing their nervously cold fingers and presenting
them to their "Uncle Sylvester."
Far from attempting to kiss Kitty, the stranger for an instant
seemed oblivious of the little hand she offered him in the half-
preoccupied bow he gave her. But Marie was not so easily passed
over, and, with her audacious face challenging his, he abstractedly
imparted to the shake of her hand something of the fervor that he
should have shown his relative. And, then, still warming his feet
on the fender, he seemed to have forgotten them both.
"Accustomed as you have been, sir," said the Reverend Mr. Dexter,
seizing upon an awkward silence, and accenting it laboriously,
"perhaps I should say INURED as you have been to the exciting and
stirring incidents of a lawless and adventurous community, you
doubtless find in a pastoral, yet cultivated and refined, seclusion
like Lakeville a degree of"--
"Oh, several degrees," said Uncle Sylvester, blandly flicking bits
of buffalo hair from his well-fitting trousers; "it's colder, you
"I was referring to a less material contrast," continued Mr.
Dexter, with a resigned smile; "yet, as to the mere question of
cold, I am told, sir, that in California there are certain severe
regions of altitude--although the mean temperature"--
"I suppose out in California you fellows would say our temperature
was a darned sight MEANER, eh?" broke in Amos Gunn, with a
confidential glance at the others, as if offering a humorous
diversion suited to the Californian taste. Uncle Sylvester did
not, however, smile. Gazing critically at Gunn, he said
thoughtfully: "I think not; I've even known men killed for saying
less than that," and turned to the clergyman. "You are quite
right; some of the higher passes are very cold. I was lost in one
of them in '56 with a small party. We were seventy miles from any
settlement, we had had nothing to eat for thirty-six hours; our
campfire, melting the snow, sank twelve feet below the surface."
The circle closed eagerly around him, Marie, Kitty, and Cousin Jane
pressing forward with excited faces; even the clergyman assumed an
expression of profound interest. "A man by the name of Thompson, I
think," continued Uncle Sylvester, thoughtfully gazing at the fire,
"was frozen a few yards away. Towards morning, having been fifty-
eight hours without food, our last drop of whiskey exhausted, and
the fire extinguished, we found"--
"Yes, yes!" said half a dozen voices.
"We found," continued Uncle Sylvester, rubbing his hands cheerfully,
"we found it--exceedingly cold. Yes--EXCEEDINGLY cold!"
There was a dead silence.
"But you escaped!" said Kitty breathlessly.
"I think so. I think we all escaped--that is, except Thompson, if
his name WAS Thompson; it might have been Parker," continued Uncle
Sylvester, gazing with a certain languid astonishment on the eager
faces around him.
"But HOW did you escape?"
"Oh, somehow! I don't remember exactly. I don't think," he went
on reflectively, "that we had to eat Thompson--if it was HIM--at
least not then. No"--with a faint effort of recollection--"that
would have been another affair. Yes," assuringly to the eager,
frightened eyes of Cousin Jane, "you are quite right, that was
something altogether different. Dear me; one quite mixes up these
A servant had entered, and after a hurried colloquy with Gabriel,
the latter turned to Uncle Sylvester--
"Excuse me, but I think there must be some mistake! We brought up
your luggage with you--two trunks--in the station wagon. A man has
just arrived with three more, which he says are yours."
"There should be five in all, I think," said Uncle Sylvester
"Maybe there are, sir, I didn't count exactly," said the servant.
"All right," said Uncle Sylvester cheerfully, turning to his
brother. "You can put them in my room or on the landing, except
two marked 'L' in a triangle. They contain some things I picked up
for you and the girls. We'll look them over in the morning. And,
if you don't mind, I'll excuse myself now and go to bed."
"But it's only half past ten," said Gabriel remonstratingly. "You
don't, surely, go to bed at half past ten?"
"I do when I travel. Travel is SO exhausting. Good-night! Don't
let anybody disturb themselves to come with me."
He bowed languidly to the company, and disappeared with a yawn
gracefully disguised into a parting smile.
"Well!" said Cousin Jane, drawing a long breath.
"I don't believe it's your Uncle Sylvester at all!" said Marie
vivaciously. "It's some trick that Gabriel is playing upon us.
And he's not even a good actor--he forgets his part."
"And, then, five trunks for one single man! Heavens! what can he
have in them" said Cousin Emma.
"Perhaps his confederates, to spring out upon us at night, after
"Are you sure you remembered him, papa?" said Kitty sotto voce.
"Certainly. And, my dear child, he knows all the family history as
well as you do; and"--continued her father with a slight laugh that
did not, however, conceal a certain seriousness that was new to
him--"I only wish I understood as much about the property as he
does. By the way, Amos," he broke off suddenly, turning to the
young man, "he seemed to know your people."
"Most men in the financial world do," said Gunn a little
"Yes; but he asked me if you hadn't a relative of some kind in
Southern California or Mexico."
A slight flush--so slight that only the keen, vivaciously observant
eyes of Marie noticed it--passed over the young man's face.
"I believe it is a known fact that our branch of the family never
emigrated from their native town," he said emphatically. "The
Gunns were rather peculiar and particular in that respect."
"Then there were no offshoots from the old STOCK," said Gabriel.
Nevertheless, this pet joke of Gabriel's did not dissipate the
constraint and disappointment left upon the company by Uncle
Sylvester's unsatisfying performance and early withdrawal, and they
separated soon after, Kitty and Marie being glad to escape upstairs
together. On the landing they met two of the Irish housemaids in a
state of agitated exhaustion. It appeared that the "sthrange
gintleman" had requested that his bed be remade from bedclothes
and bedding ALWAYS CARRIED WITH HIM IN HIS TRUNKS! From their
apologetic tone it was evident that he had liberally rewarded them.
"Shure, Miss," protested Norah, in deprecation of Kitty's flashing
eye, "there's thim that's lived among shnakes and poysin riptiles
and faverous disayses that's particklar av the beds and sheets they
lie on. Hisht! Howly Mother! it's something else he's wanting
The door of Uncle Sylvester's room had slowly opened, and a blue
pyjama'd sleeve appeared, carefully depositing the sheaf of bows
and arrows outside the door. "I say, Norah, or Bridget there, some
of you take those infernal things away. And look out, will you,
for the arrowheads are deadly poison. The fool who got 'em didn't
know they were African, and not Indian at all! And hold on!" The
hand vanished, and presently reappeared holding two rifles. "And
take these away, too! They're loaded, capped, and NOT on the half-
cock! A jar, a fall, the slightest shock is enough to send them
"I'm dreadfully sorry that you should find it so uncomfortable in
our house, Uncle Sylvester," said Kitty, with a flushed cheek and
"Oh, it's you--is it?" said Uncle Sylvester's voice cheerfully. "I
thought it was Bridget out there. No, I don't intend to find it
uncomfortable. That's why I'm putting these things outside. But,
for Heaven's sake, don't YOU touch them. Leave that to the
ineffable ass who put them there. Good-night!"
The door closed; the whispering voices of the girls faded from the
corridor; the lights were lowered in the central hall, only the red
Cyclopean eye of an enormous columnar stove, like a lighthouse,
gleamed through the darkness. Outside, the silent night sparkled,
glistened, and finally paled. Towards morning, having invested the
sturdy wooden outer walls of the house and filmed with delicate
tracery every available inch of window pane, it seemed stealthily
to invade the house itself, stilling and chilling it as it drew
closer around its central heart of warmth and life. Only once the
frigid stillness was broken by the opening of a door and steps
along the corridor. This was preceded by an acrid smell of burning
It was subtle enough to permeate the upper floor and the bedroom
of Marie du Page, who was that night a light and nervous sleeper.
Peering from her door, she could see, on the lower corridor, the
extraordinary spectacle of Uncle Sylvester, robed in a gorgeous
Japanese dressing-gown of quilted satin trimmed with the fur of
the blue fox, candle in hand, leisurely examining the wall of the
passage. Presently, drawing out a footrule from his pocket, he
actually began to measure it! Miss Du Page saw no more. Hurriedly
closing her door, she locked and bolted it, firmly convinced that
Gabriel Lane was harboring in the guise of Uncle Sylvester a
somnambulist, a maniac, or an impostor.
"It doesn't seem as if Uncle Sylvester was any the more comfortable
for having his own private bedding with him," said Kitty Lane,
entering Marie's room early the next morning. "Bridget found him
curled up in his furs like a cat asleep on the drawing-room sofa
Marie started; she remembered her last night's vision. But some
instinct--she knew not what--kept her from revealing it at this
moment. She only said a little ironically:--
"Perhaps he missed the wild freedom of his barbaric life in a small
"No. Bridget says he said something about being smoked out of his
room by a ridiculous wood fire. The idea! As if a man brought up
in the woods couldn't stand a little smoke. No--that's his excuse!
Marie!--do you know what I firmly believe?"
"No," said Marie quickly.
"I firmly believe that poor man is ashamed of his past rough life,
and does everything he can to forget it. That's why he affects
those ultra-civilized and effeminate ways, and goes to the other
extreme, as people always do."
"Then you think he's really reformed, and isn't likely to take an
impulse to rob and murder anybody again?"
"Why, Marie, what nonsense!"
Nevertheless, Uncle Sylvester appeared quite fresh and cheerful at
breakfast. It seemed that he had lit the fire before undressing,
but the green logs were piled so far into the room that the smoke
nearly suffocated him. Fearful of alarming the house by letting
the smoke escape through the door, he opened the window, and when
it had partly dispersed, sought refuge himself from the arctic air
of his bedroom in the drawing-room. So far the act did not seem
inconsistent with his sanity, or even intelligence and consideration
for others. But Marie fixed upon him a pair of black, audacious
"Did you ever walk in your sleep, Mr. Lane?"
"No; but"--thoughtfully breaking an egg--"I have ridden, I think."
"In your sleep? Oh, do tell us all about it!" said Cousins Jane
and Emma in chorus.
Uncle Sylvester cast a resigned glance out of the window. "Oh,
yes--certainly; it isn't much. You see at one time I was in the
habit of making long monotonous journeys, and they were often
exhausting, and," he added, becoming wearied as if at the
recollection, "always dreadfully tiresome. As the trail was
sometimes very uncertain and dangerous, I rode a very surefooted
mule that could go anywhere where there was space big enough to set
her small hoofs upon. One night I was coming down the slope of a
mountain towards a narrow valley and river that were crossed by an
old, abandoned flume, of which nothing was now left but the upright
trestle-work and long horizontal string-piece. As the trail was
very difficult and the mule's pace was slow, I found myself dozing
at times, and at last I must have fallen asleep. I think I must
have been awakened by a singular regularity in the movement of the
mule--or else it was the monotony of step that had put me to sleep
and the cessation of it awakened me. You see, at first I was not
certain that I wasn't really dreaming. For the trail seemed to
have disappeared; the wall of rock on one side had vanished also,
and there appeared to be nothing ahead of me but the opposite
Uncle Sylvester stopped to look out of the window at a passing
carriage. Then he went on. "The moon came out, and I saw what had
happened. The mule, either of her own free will, or obeying some
movement I had given the reins in my sleep, had swerved from the
trail, got on top of the flume, and was actually walking across the
valley on the narrow string-piece, a foot wide, half a mile long,
and sixty feet from the ground. I knew," he continued, examining
his napkin thoughtfully, "that she was perfectly surefooted, and
that if I kept quiet she could make the passage, but I suddenly
remembered that midway there was a break and gap of twenty feet in
the continuous line, and that the string-piece was too narrow to
allow her to turn round and retrace her steps."
"Good heavens!" said Cousin Jane.
"I beg your pardon?" said Uncle Sylvester politely.
"I only said, 'Good heavens!' Well?" she added impatiently.
"Well?" repeated Uncle Sylvester vaguely. "Oh, that's all. I only
wanted to explain what I meant by saying I had ridden in my sleep."
"But," said Cousin Jane, leaning across the table with grim
deliberation and emphasizing each word with the handle of her
knife, "how--did--you--and--that--mule get down?"
"Oh, with slings and ropes, you know--so," demonstrating by placing
his napkin-ring in a sling made of his napkin.
"And I suppose you carried the slings and ropes with you in your
five trunks!" gasped Cousin Jane.
"No. Fellows on the river brought 'em in the morning. Mighty spry
chaps, those river miners."
"Very!" said Cousin Jane.
Breakfast over, they were not surprised that their sybaritic guest
excused himself from an inspection of the town in the frigid
morning air, and declined joining a skating party to the lake
on the ground that he could keep warmer indoors with half the
exertion. An hour later found him standing before the fire in
Gabriel Lane's study, looking languidly down on his elder brother.
"Then, as far as I can see," he said quietly, "you have made ducks
and drakes of your share of the property, and that virtually you
are in the hands of this man Gunn and his father."
"You're putting it too strongly," said Gabriel deprecatingly. "In
the first place, my investments with Gunn's firm are by no means
failures, and they only hold as security a mortgage on the forest
land below the hill. It's scarcely worth the money. I would have
sold it long ago, but it had been a fancy of father's to keep it
wild land for the sake of old times and the healthiness of the
"There used to be a log cabin there, where the old man had a habit
of camping out whenever he felt cramped by civilization up here,
wasn't there?" said Uncle Sylvester meditatively.
"Yes," said Gabriel impatiently; "it's still there--but to return
to Mr. Gunn. He has taken a fancy to Kitty, and even if I could
not lift the mortgage, there's some possibility that the land would
still remain in the family."
"I think I'll drive over this afternoon and take a look at the old
shanty if this infernal weather lets up."
"Yes; but just now, my dear Sylvester, let us attend to business.
I want to show you those investments."
"Oh, certainly; trot 'em out," said his brother, plucking up a
simulation of interest as he took a seat at the table.
From a drawer of his desk Gabriel brought out a bundle of
prospectuses and laid them before Uncle Sylvester.
A languid smile of recognition lit up the latter's face. "Ah!
yes," he said, glancing at them. "The old lot: 'Carmelita,' 'Santa
Maria,' and 'Preciosa!' Just as I imagined--and yet who'd have
thought of seeing them HERE! A good deal rouged and powdered, Miss
Carmelita, since I first knew you! Considerably bolstered up by
miraculous testimony to your powers, my dear Santa Maria, since
the day I found you out, to my cost! And you too, Preciosa!--a
precious lot of money I dropped on you in the old days!"
"You are joking," said Gabriel, with an uneasy smile. "You don't
mean to imply that this stock is old and worthless?"
"There isn't a capital in America or Europe where for the last five
years it hasn't been floated with a new character each time. My
dear Gabriel, that stock isn't worth the paper it is printed on."
"But it is impossible that an experienced financier like Gunn could
"I'm sorry to hear THAT."
"Come, Sylvester! confess you've taken a prejudice against Gunn
from your sudden dislike of his son! And what have you against
"I couldn't say exactly," said Uncle Sylvester reflectively. "It
may be his eyes, or only his cravat! But," rising cheerfully and
placing his hand lightly on his brother's shoulder, "don't YOU
worry yourself about that stock, old man; I'LL see that somebody
else has the worry and you the cash. And as to the land and--
Kitty--well, you hold on to them both until you find out which the
young man is really after."
"And then?" said Gabriel, with a smile.
"Don't give him either! But, I say, haven't we had enough business
this morning? Let's talk of something else. Who's the French
"Marie? She's the daughter of Jules du Page--don't you remember?--
father's friend. When Jules died, it was always thought that
father, who had half adopted her as a child, would leave her some
legacy. But you know that father died without making a will, and
that--rich as he was--his actual assets were far less than we had
reason to expect. Kitty, who felt the disappointment as keenly as
her friend, I believe would have divided her own share with her.
It's odd, by the way, that father could have been so deceived in
the amount of his capital, or how he got rid of his money in a way
that we knew nothing of. Do you know, Sylvester, I've sometimes
"What?" said Uncle Sylvester suddenly.
The bored languor of his face had abruptly vanished. Every muscle
was alert; his gray eyes glittered.
"That he advanced money to Du Page, who lost it, or that they
speculated together," returned Gabriel, who, following Uncle
Sylvester's voice only, had not noticed the change of expression.
"That would seem to be a weakness of the Lane family," said Uncle
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