Part 6 out of 7
his right or to resent his rudeness. He had accepted his guest's
careless or premeditated silence regarding the particulars of his
accident as a matter of course, and had never dreamed of
questioning him. That it was a natural accident of that great
world so apart from his own experiences he did not doubt, and
thought no more about it. The advent of the man himself was
greater to him than the causes which brought him there. He was as
yet quite unconscious of the complete fascination this mysterious
stranger held over him, but he found himself shyly pleased with
even the slight interest he had displayed in his affairs, and his
hand felt yet warm and tingling from his sudden soft but expressive
grasp, as if it had been a woman's. There is a simple intuition of
friendship in some lonely, self-abstracted natures that is nearly
akin to love at first sight. Even the audacities and insolence of
this stranger affected Morse as he might have been touched and
captivated by the coquetries or imperiousness of some bucolic
virgin. And this reserved and shy frontiersman found himself that
night sleepless, and hovering with an abashed timidity and
consciousness around the wagon that sheltered his guest, as if he
had been a very Corydon watching the moonlit couch of some
He was off by daylight--after having placed a rude breakfast by the
side of the still sleeping guest--and before midday he had returned
with a horse. When he handed the stranger his pouch, less the
amount he had paid for the horse, the man said curtly:
"What's that for?"
"Your change. I paid only fifty dollars for the horse."
The stranger regarded him with his peculiar smile. Then, replacing
the pouch in his belt, he shook Morse's hand again and mounted the
"So your name's Martin Morse! Well--goodby, Morsey!"
Morse hesitated. A blush rose to his dark check. "You didn't tell
me your name," he said. "In case--"
"In case I'm WANTED? Well, you can call me Captain Jack." He
smiled, and, nodding his head, put spurs to his mustang and
Morse did not do much work that day, falling into abstracted moods
and living over his experiences of the previous night, until he
fancied he could almost see his strange guest again. The narrow
strip of meadow was haunted by him. There was the tree under which
he had first placed him, and that was where he had seen him sitting
up in his dripping but well-fitting clothes. In the rough garments
he had worn and returned lingered a new scent of some delicate
soap, overpowering the strong alkali flavor of his own. He was
early by the river side, having a vague hope, he knew not why, that
he should again see him and recognize him among the passengers. He
was wading out among the reeds, in the faint light of the rising
moon, recalling the exact spot where he had first seen the
stranger, when he was suddenly startled by the rolling over in the
water of some black object that had caught against the bank, but
had been dislodged by his movements. To his horror it bore a faint
resemblance to his first vision of the preceding night. But a
second glance at the helplessly floating hair and bloated outline
showed him that it was a DEAD man, and of a type and build far
different from his former companion. There was a bruise upon his
matted forehead and an enormous wound in his throat already washed
bloodless, white, and waxen. An inexplicable fear came upon him,
not at the sight of the corpse, for he had been in Indian massacres
and had rescued bodies mutilated beyond recognition; but from some
moral dread that, strangely enough, quickened and deepened with the
far-off pant of the advancing steamboat. Scarcely knowing why, he
dragged the body hurriedly ashore, concealing it in the reeds, as
if he were disposing of the evidence of his own crime. Then, to
his preposterous terror, he noticed that the panting of the
steamboat and the beat of its paddles were "slowing" as the vague
bulk came in sight, until a huge wave from the suddenly arrested
wheels sent a surge like an enormous heartbeat pulsating through
the sedge that half submerged him. The flashing of three or four
lanterns on deck and the motionless line of lights abreast of him
dazzled his eyes, but he knew that the low fringe of willows hid
his house and wagon completely from view. A vague murmur of voices
from the deck was suddenly overridden by a sharp order, and to his
relief the slowly revolving wheels again sent a pulsation through
the water, and the great fabric moved solemnly away. A sense of
relief came over him, he knew not why, and he was conscious that
for the first time he had not cared to look at the boat.
When the moon arose he again examined the body, and took from its
clothing a few articles of identification and some papers of
formality and precision, which he vaguely conjectured to be some
law papers from their resemblance to the phrasing of sheriffs' and
electors' notices which he had seen in the papers. He then buried
the corpse in a shallow trench, which he dug by the light of the
moon. He had no question of responsibility; his pioneer training
had not included coroners' inquests in its experience; in giving
the body a speedy and secure burial from predatory animals he did
what one frontiersman would do for another--what he hoped might be
done for him. If his previous unaccountable feelings returned
occasionally, it was not from that; but rather from some uneasiness
in regard to his late guest's possible feelings, and a regret that
he had not been here at the finding of the body. That it would in
some way have explained his own accident he did not doubt.
The boat did not "slow up" the next night, but passed as usual; yet
three or four days elapsed before he could look forward to its
coming with his old extravagant and half-exalted curiosity--which
was his nearest approach to imagination. He was then able to
examine it more closely, for the appearance of the stranger whom he
now began to call "his friend" in his verbal communings with
himself--but whom he did not seem destined to again discover; until
one day, to his astonishment, a couple of fine horses were brought
to his clearing by a stock-drover. They had been "ordered" to be
left there. in vain Morse expostulated and questioned.
"Your name's Martin Morse, ain't it?" said the drover, with
business brusqueness; "and I reckon there ain't no other man o'
that name around here?"
"No," said Morse.
"Well, then, they're YOURS."
"But who sent them?" insisted Morse. "What was his name, and where
does he live?"
"I didn't know ez I was called upon to give the pedigree o'
buyers," said the drover dryly; "but the horses is 'Morgan,' you
can bet your life." He grinned as he rode away.
That Captain Jack sent them, and that it was a natural prelude to
his again visiting him, Morse did not doubt, and for a few days he
lived in that dream. But Captain Jack did not come. The animals
were of great service to him in "rounding up" the stock he now
easily took in for pasturage, and saved him the necessity of having
a partner or a hired man. The idea that this superior gentleman in
fine clothes might ever appear to him in the former capacity had
even flitted through his brain, but he had rejected it with a sigh.
But the thought that, with luck and industry, he himself might, in
course of time, approximate to Captain Jack's evident station, DID
occur to him, and was an incentive to energy. Yet it was quite
distinct from the ordinary working man's ambition of wealth and
state. It was only that it might make him more worthy of his
friend. The great world was still as it had appeared to him in the
passing boat--a thing to wonder at--to be above--and to criticize.
For all that, he prospered in his occupation. But one day he woke
with listless limbs and feet that scarcely carried him through his
daily labors. At night his listlessness changed to active pain and
a feverishness that seemed to impel him toward the fateful river,
as if his one aim in life was to drink up its waters and bathe in
its yellow stream. But whenever he seemed to attempt it, strange
dreams assailed him of dead bodies arising with swollen and
distorted lips to touch his own as he strove to drink, or of his
mysterious guest battling with him in its current, and driving him
ashore. Again, when he essayed to bathe his parched and crackling
limbs in its flood, he would be confronted with the dazzling lights
of the motionless steamboat and the glare of stony eyes--until he
fled in aimless terror. How long this lasted he knew not, until
one morning he awoke in his new cabin with a strange man sitting by
his bed and a Negress in the doorway.
"You've had a sharp attack of 'tule fever,'" said the stranger,
dropping Morse's listless wrist and answering his questioning eyes,
"but you're all right now, and will pull through."
"Who are you?" stammered Morse feebly.
"Dr. Duchesne, of Sacramento."
"How did you come here?"
"I was ordered to come to you and bring a nurse, as you were alone.
There she is." He pointed to the smiling Negress.
"WHO ordered you?"
The doctor smiled with professional tolerance. "One of your
friends, of course."
"But what was his name?"
"Really, I don't remember. But don't distress yourself. He has
settled for everything right royally. You have only to get strong
now. My duty is ended, and I can safely leave you with the nurse.
Only when you are strong again, I say--and HE says--keep back
farther from the river."
And that was all he knew. For even the nurse who attended him
through the first days of his brief convalescence would tell him
nothing more. He quickly got rid of her and resumed his work, for
a new and strange phase of his simple, childish affection for his
benefactor, partly superinduced by his illness, was affecting him.
He was beginning to feel the pain of an unequal friendship; he was
dimly conscious that his mysterious guest was only coldly returning
his hospitality and benefits, while holding aloof from any
association with him--and indicating the immeasurable distance that
separated their future intercourse. He had withheld any kind
message or sympathetic greeting; he had kept back even his NAME.
The shy, proud, ignorant heart of the frontiersman swelled beneath
the fancied slight, which left him helpless alike of reproach or
resentment. He could not return the horses, although in a fit of
childish indignation he had resolved not to use them; he could not
reimburse him for the doctor's bill, although he had sent away the
He took a foolish satisfaction in not moving back from the river,
with a faint hope that his ignoring of Captain Jack's advice might
mysteriously be conveyed to him. He even thought of selling out
his location and abandoning it, that he might escape the cold
surveillance of his heartless friend. All this was undoubtedly
childish--but there is an irrepressible simplicity of youth in all
deep feeling, and the worldly inexperience of the frontiersman left
him as innocent as a child. In this phase of his unrequited
affection he even went so far as to seek some news of Captain Jack
at Sacramento, and, following out his foolish quest, even to take
the steamboat from thence to Stockton.
What happened to him then was perhaps the common experience of such
natures. Once upon the boat the illusion of the great world it
contained for him utterly vanished. He found it noisy, formal,
insincere, and--had he ever understood or used the word in his
limited vocabulary--VULGAR. Rather, perhaps, it seemed to him that
the prevailing sentiment and action of those who frequented it--and
for whom it was built--were of a lower grade than his own. And,
strangely enough, this gave him none of his former sense of
critical superiority, but only of his own utter and complete
isolation. He wandered in his rough frontiersman's clothes from
deck to cabin, from airy galleries to long saloons, alone,
unchallenged, unrecognized, as if he were again haunting it only in
spirit, as he had so often done in his dreams.
His presence on the fringe of some voluble crowd caused no
interruption; to him their speech was almost foreign in its
allusions to things he did not understand, or, worse, seemed
inconsistent with their eagerness and excitement. How different
from all this were his old recollections of slowly oncoming teams,
uplifted above the level horizon of the plains in his former
wanderings; the few sauntering figures that met him as man to man,
and exchanged the chronicle of the road; the record of Indian
tracks; the finding of a spring; the discovery of pasturage, with
the lazy, restful hospitality of the night! And how fierce here
this continual struggle for dominance and existence, even in this
lull of passage. For above all and through all he was conscious of
the feverish haste of speed and exertion.
The boat trembled, vibrated, and shook with every stroke of the
ponderous piston. The laughter of the crowd, the exchange of
gossip and news, the banquet at the long table, the newspapers and
books in the reading-room, even the luxurious couches in the
staterooms, were all dominated, thrilled, and pulsating with the
perpetual throb of the demon of hurry and unrest. And when at last
a horrible fascination dragged him into the engine room, and he saw
the cruel relentless machinery at work, he seemed to recognize and
understand some intelligent but pitiless Moloch, who was dragging
this feverish world at its heels.
Later he was seated in a corner of the hurricane deck, whence he
could view the monotonous banks of the river; yet, perhaps by
certain signs unobservable to others, he knew he was approaching
his own locality. He knew that his cabin and clearing would be
undiscernible behind the fringe of willows on the bank, but he
already distinguished the points where a few cottonwoods struggled
into a promontory of lighter foliage beyond them. Here voices fell
upon his ear, and he was suddenly aware that two men had lazily
crossed over from the other side of the boat, and were standing
before him looking upon the bank.
"It was about here, I reckon," said one, listlessly, as if
continuing a previous lagging conversation, "that it must have
happened. For it was after we were making for the bend we've just
passed that the deputy, goin' to the stateroom below us, found the
door locked and the window open. But both men--Jack Despard and
Seth Hall, the sheriff--weren't to be found. Not a trace of 'em.
The boat was searched, but all for nothing. The idea is that the
sheriff, arter getting his prisoner comf'ble in the stateroom, took
off Jack's handcuffs and locked the door; that Jack, who was mighty
desp'rate, bolted through the window into the river, and the
sheriff, who was no slouch, arter him. Others allow--for the
chairs and things was all tossed about in the stateroom--that the
two men clinched THAR, and Jack choked Hall and chucked him out,
and then slipped cl'ar into the water himself, for the stateroom
window was just ahead of the paddle box, and the cap'n allows that
no man or men could fall afore the paddles and live. Anyhow, that
was all they ever knew of it."
"And there wasn't no trace of them found?" said the second man,
after a long pause.
"No. Cap'n says them paddles would hev' just snatched 'em and
slung 'em round and round and buried 'em way down in the ooze of
the river bed, with all the silt of the current atop of 'em, and
they mightn't come up for ages; or else the wheels might have
waltzed 'em way up to Sacramento until there wasn't enough left of
'em to float, and dropped 'em when the boat stopped."
"It was a mighty fool risk for a man like Despard to take," resumed
the second speaker as he turned away with a slight yawn.
"Bet your life! but he was desp'rate, and the sheriff had got him
sure! And they DO say that he was superstitious, like all them
gamblers, and allowed that a man who was fixed to die by a rope or
a pistol wasn't to be washed out of life by water."
The two figures drifted lazily away, but Morse sat rigid and
motionless. Yet, strange to say, only one idea came to him clearly
out of this awful revelation--the thought that his friend was still
true to him--and that his strange absence and mysterious silence
were fully accounted for and explained. And with it came the more
thrilling fancy that this man was alive now to HIM alone.
HE was the sole custodian of his secret. The morality of the
question, while it profoundly disturbed him, was rather in
reference to its effect upon the chances of Captain Jack and the
power it gave his enemies than his own conscience. He would rather
that his friend should have proven the proscribed outlaw who
retained an unselfish interest in him than the superior gentleman
who was coldly wiping out his gratitude. He thought he understood
now the reason of his visitor's strange and varying moods--even his
bitter superstitious warning in regard to the probable curse
entailed upon one who should save a drowning man. Of this he
recked little; enough that he fancied that Captain Jack's concern
in his illness was heightened by that fear, and this assurance of
his protecting friendship thrilled him with pleasure.
There was no reason now why he should not at once go back to his
farm, where, at least, Captain Jack would always find him; and he
did so, returning on the same boat. He was now fully recovered
from his illness, and calmer in mind; he redoubled his labors to
put himself in a position to help the mysterious fugitive when the
time should come. The remote farm should always be a haven of
refuge for him, and in this hope he forbore to take any outside
help, remaining solitary and alone, that Captain Jack's retreat
should be inviolate. And so the long, dry season passed, the hay
was gathered, the pasturing herds sent home, and the first rains,
dimpling like shot the broadening surface of the river, were all
that broke his unending solitude. In this enforced attitude of
waiting and expectancy he was exalted and strengthened by a new
idea. He was not a religious man, but, dimly remembering the
exhortations of some camp meeting of his boyhood, he conceived the
idea that he might have been selected to work out the regeneration
of Captain Jack. What might not come of this meeting and communing
together in this lonely spot? That anything was due to the memory
of the murdered sheriff, whose bones were rotting in the trench
that he daily but unconcernedly passed, did not occur to him.
Perhaps his mind was not large enough for the double consideration.
Friendship and love--and, for the matter of that, religion--are
But one night he awakened with a start. His hand, which was
hanging out of his bunk, was dabbling idly in water. He had barely
time to spring to his middle in what seemed to be a slowly filling
tank before the door fell out as from that inward pressure, and his
whole shanty collapsed like a pack of cards. But it fell outwards,
the roof sliding from over his head like a withdrawn canopy; and he
was swept from his feet against it, and thence out into what might
have been another world! For the rain had ceased, and the full
moon revealed only one vast, illimitable expanse of water! It was
not an overflow, but the whole rushing river magnified and repeated
a thousand times, which, even as he gasped for breath and clung to
the roof, was bearing him away he knew not whither. But it was
bearing him away upon its center, for as he cast one swift glance
toward his meadows he saw they were covered by the same sweeping
torrent, dotted with his sailing hayricks and reaching to the
wooded foothills. It was the great flood of '54. In its awe-
inspiring completeness it might have seemed to him the primeval
As his frail raft swept under a cottonwood he caught at one of the
overhanging limbs, and, working his way desperately along the
bough, at last reached a secure position in the fork of the tree.
Here he was for the moment safe. But the devastation viewed from
this height was only the more appalling. Every sign of his
clearing, all evidence of his past year's industry, had
disappeared. He was now conscious for the first time of the lowing
of the few cattle he had kept as, huddled together on a slight
eminence, they one by one slipped over struggling into the flood.
The shining bodies of his dead horses rolled by him as he gazed.
The lower-lying limbs of the sycamore near him were bending with
the burden of the lighter articles from his overturned wagon and
cabin which they had caught and retained, and a rake was securely
lodged in a bough. The habitual solitude of his locality was now
strangely invaded by drifting sheds, agricultural implements, and
fence rails from unknown and remote neighbors, and he could faintly
hear the far-off calling of some unhappy farmer adrift upon a spar
of his wrecked and shattered house. When day broke he was cold and
Hours passed in hopeless monotony, with no slackening or diminution
of the waters. Even the drifts became less, and a vacant sea at
last spread before him on which nothing moved. An awful silence
impressed him. In the afternoon rain again began to fall on this
gray, nebulous expanse, until the whole world seemed made of
aqueous vapor. He had but one idea now--the coming of the evening
boat, and he would reserve his strength to swim to it. He did not
know until later that it could no longer follow the old channel of
the river, and passed far beyond his sight and hearing. With his
disappointment and exposure that night came a return of his old
fever. His limbs were alternately racked with pain or benumbed and
lifeless. He could scarcely retain his position--at times he
scarcely cared to--and speculated upon ending his sufferings by a
quick plunge downward. In other moments of lucid misery he was
conscious of having wandered in his mind; of having seen the dead
face of the murdered sheriff, washed out of his shallow grave by
the flood, staring at him from the water; to this was added the
hallucination of noises. He heard voices, his own name called by a
voice he knew--Captain Jack's!
Suddenly he started, but in that fatal movement lost his balance
and plunged downward. But before the water closed above his head
he had had a cruel glimpse of help near him; of a flashing light--
of the black hull of a tug not many yards away--of moving figures--
the sensation of a sudden plunge following his own, the grip of a
strong hand upon his collar, and--unconsciousness!
When he came to he was being lifted in a boat from the tug and
rowed through the deserted streets of a large city, until he was
taken in through the second-story window of a half-submerged hotel
and cared for. But all his questions yielded only the information
that the tug--a privately procured one, not belonging to the Public
Relief Association--had been dispatched for him with special
directions, by a man who acted as one of the crew, and who was the
one who had plunged in for him at the last moment. The man had
left the boat at Stockton. There was nothing more? Yes!--he had
left a letter. Morse seized it feverishly. It contained only a
We are quits now. You are all right. I have saved YOU from
drowning, and shifted the curse to my own shoulders. Good-by.
The astounded man attempted to rise--to utter an exclamation--but
fell back, unconscious.
Weeks passed before he was able to leave his bed--and then only as
an impoverished and physically shattered man. He had no means to
restock the farm left bare by the subsiding water. A kindly train-
packer offered him a situation as muleteer in a pack train going to
the mountains--for he knew tracks and passes and could ride. The
mountains gave him back a little of the vigor he had lost in the
river valley, but none of its dreams and ambitions. One day, while
tracking a lost mule, he stopped to slake his thirst in a
waterhole--all that the summer had left of a lonely mountain
torrent. Enlarging the hole to give drink to his beast also, he
was obliged to dislodge and throw out with the red soil some bits
of honeycomb rock, which were so queer-looking and so heavy as to
attract his attention. Two of the largest he took back to camp
with him. They were gold! From the locality he took out a
fortune. Nobody wondered. To the Californian's superstition it
was perfectly natural. It was "nigger luck"--the luck of the
stupid, the ignorant, the inexperienced, the nonseeker--the irony
of the gods!
But the simple, bucolic nature that had sustained itself against
temptation with patient industry and lonely self-concentration
succumbed to rapidly acquired wealth. So it chanced that one day,
with a crowd of excitement-loving spendthrifts and companions, he
found himself on the outskirts of a lawless mountain town. An
eager, frantic crowd had already assembled there--a desperado was
to be lynched! Pushing his way through the crowd for a nearer view
of the exciting spectacle, the changed and reckless Morse was
stopped by armed men only at the foot of a cart, which upheld a
quiet, determined man, who, with a rope around his neck, was
scornfully surveying the mob, that held the other end of the rope
drawn across the limb of a tree above him. The eyes of the doomed
man caught those of Morse--his expression changed--a kindly smile
lit his face--he bowed his proud head for the first time, with an
easy gesture of farewell.
And then, with a cry, Morse threw himself upon the nearest armed
guard, and a fierce struggle began. He had overpowered one
adversary and seized another in his hopeless fight toward the cart
when the half-astonished crowd felt that something must be done.
It was done with a sharp report, the upward curl of smoke and the
falling back of the guard as Morse staggered forward FREE--with a
bullet in his heart. Yet even then he did not fall until he
reached the cart, when he lapsed forward, dead, with his arms
outstretched and his head at the doomed man's feet.
There was something so supreme and all-powerful in this hopeless
act of devotion that the heart of the multitude thrilled and then
recoiled aghast at its work, and a single word or a gesture from
the doomed man himself would have set him free. But they say--and
it is credibly recorded--that as Captain Jack Despard looked down
upon the hopeless sacrifice at his feet his eyes blazed, and he
flung upon the crowd a curse so awful and sweeping that, hardened
as they were, their blood ran cold, and then leaped furiously to
"And now," he said, coolly tightening the rope around his neck with
a jerk of his head--"Go on, and be damned to you! I'm ready."
They did not hesitate this time. And Martin Morse and Captain Jack
Despard were buried in the same grave.
A CONVERT OF THE MISSION
The largest tent of the Tasajara camp meeting was crowded to its
utmost extent. The excitement of that dense mass was at its
highest pitch. The Reverend Stephen Masterton, the single erect,
passionate figure of that confused medley of kneeling worshipers,
had reached the culminating pitch of his irresistible exhortatory
power. Sighs and groans were beginning to respond to his appeals,
when the reverend brother was seen to lurch heavily forward and
fall to the ground.
At first the effect was that of a part of his performance; the
groans redoubled, and twenty or thirty brethren threw themselves
prostrate in humble imitation of the preacher. But Sister Deborah
Stokes, perhaps through some special revelation of feminine
intuition, grasped the fallen man, tore loose his black silk
necktie, and dragged him free of the struggling, frantic crowd
whose paroxysms he had just evoked. Howbeit he was pale and
unconscious, and unable to continue the service. Even the next
day, when he had slightly recovered, it was found that any attempt
to renew his fervid exhortations produced the same disastrous
A council was hurriedly held by the elders. In spite of the
energetic protests of Sister Stokes, it was held that the Lord "was
wrestlin' with his sperrit," and he was subjected to the same
extraordinary treatment from the whole congregation that he himself
had applied to THEM. Propped up pale and trembling in the
"Mourners' Bench" by two brethren, he was "striven with," exhorted,
prayed over, and admonished, until insensibility mercifully
succeeded convulsions. Spiritual therapeutics having failed, he
was turned over to the weak and carnal nursing of "womenfolk." But
after a month of incapacity he was obliged to yield to "the flesh,"
and, in the local dialect, "to use a doctor."
It so chanced that the medical practitioner of the district was a
man of large experience, of military training, and plain speech.
When, therefore, he one day found in his surgery a man of rude
Western type, strong-limbed and sunburned, but trembling,
hesitating and neurotic in movement, after listening to his
symptoms gravely, he asked, abruptly: "And how much are you
"I am a lifelong abstainer," stammered his patient in quivering
indignation. But this was followed by another question so frankly
appalling to the hearer that he staggered to his feet.
"I'm Stephen Masterton--known of men as a circuit preacher, of the
Northern California district," he thundered--"and an enemy of the
flesh in all its forms."
"I beg your pardon," responded Dr. Duchesne, grimly, "but as you
are suffering from excessive and repeated excitation of the nervous
system, and the depression following prolonged artificial
exaltation--it makes little difference whether the cause be
spiritual, as long as there is a certain physical effect upon your
BODY--which I believe you have brought to me to cure. Now--as to
diet? you look all wrong there.
"My food is of the simplest--I have no hankering for fleshpots,"
responded the patient.
"I suppose you call saleratus bread and salt pork and flapjacks
SIMPLE?" said the doctor, coolly; "they are COMMON enough, and if
you were working with your muscles instead of your nerves in that
frame of yours they might not hurt you; but you are suffering as
much from eating more than you can digest as the veriest gourmand.
You must stop all that. Go down to a quiet watering-place for two
months." . . .
"I go to a watering-place?" interrupted Masterton; "to the haunt of
the idle, the frivolous and wanton--never!"
"Well, I'm not particular about a 'watering-place,'" said the
doctor, with a shrug, "although a little idleness and frivolity
with different food wouldn't hurt you--but you must go somewhere
and change your habits and mode of life COMPLETELY. I will find
you some sleepy old Spanish town in the southern country where you
can rest and diet. If this is distasteful to you," he continued,
grimly, "you can always call it 'a trial.'"
Stephen Masterton may have thought it so when, a week later, he
found himself issuing from a rocky gorge into a rough, badly paved,
hilly street, which seemed to be only a continuation of the
mountain road itself. It broadened suddenly into a square or
plaza, flanked on each side by an irregular row of yellowing adobe
houses, with the inevitable verandaed tienda in each corner, and
the solitary, galleried fonda, with a half-Moorish archway leading
into an inner patio or courtyard in the center.
The whole street stopped as usual at the very door of the Mission
church, a few hundred yards farther on, and under the shadow of the
two belfry towers at each angle of the facade, as if this were the
ultima thule of every traveler. But all that the eye rested on was
ruined, worn, and crumbling. The adobe houses were cracked by the
incessant sunshine of the half-year-long summer, or the more
intermittent earthquake shock; the paved courtyard of the fonda was
so uneven and sunken in the center that the lumbering wagon and
faded diligencia stood on an incline, and the mules with difficulty
kept their footing while being unladen; the whitened plaster had
fallen from the feet of the two pillars that flanked the Mission
doorway, like bandages from a gouty limb, leaving the reddish core
of adobe visible; there were apparently as many broken tiles in the
streets and alleys as there were on the heavy red roofs that
everywhere asserted themselves--and even seemed to slide down the
crumbling walls to the ground. There were hopeless gaps in grille
and grating of doorways and windows, where the iron bars had
dropped helplessly out, or were bent at different angles. The
walls of the peaceful Mission garden and the warlike presidio were
alike lost in the escalading vines or leveled by the pushing boughs
of gnarled pear and olive trees that now surmounted them. The dust
lay thick and impalpable in hollow and gutter, and rose in little
vapory clouds with a soft detonation at every stroke of his horse's
hoofs. Over all this dust and ruin, idleness seemed to reign
supreme. From the velvet-jacketed figures lounging motionless in
the shadows of the open doorways--so motionless that only the lazy
drift of cigarette smoke betokened their breathing--to the
reclining peons in the shade of a catalpa, or the squatting Indians
in the arroyo--all was sloth and dirt.
The Rev. Stephen Masterton felt his throat swell with his old
exhortative indignation. A gaudy yellow fan waved languidly in
front of a black rose-crested head at a white-curtained window. He
knew he was stifling with righteous wrath, and clapped his spurs to
Nevertheless, in a few days, by the aid of a letter to the
innkeeper, he was installed in a dilapidated adobe house, not
unlike those he had seen, but situated in the outskirts and
overlooking the garden and part of the refectory of the old
Mission. It had even a small garden of its own--if a strip of hot
wall, overburdened with yellow and white roses, a dozen straggling
callas, a bank of heliotrope, and an almond tree could be called a
garden. It had an open doorway, but so heavily recessed in the
thick walls that it preserved seclusion, a sitting-room, and an
alcoved bedroom with deep embrasured windows that however excluded
the unwinking sunlight and kept an even monotone of shade.
Strange to say, he found it cool, restful, and, in spite of the
dust, absolutely clean, and, but for the scent of heliotrope,
entirely inodorous. The dry air seemed to dissipate all noxious
emanations and decay--the very dust itself in its fine
impalpability was volatile with a spicelike piquancy, and left no
A wrinkled Indian woman, brown and veined like a tobacco leaf,
ministered to his simple wants. But these wants had also been
regulated by Dr. Duchesne. He found himself, with some grave
doubts of his effeminacy, breakfasting on a single cup of chocolate
instead of his usual bowl of molasses-sweetened coffee; crumbling a
crisp tortilla instead of the heavy saleratus bread, greasy
flapjack, or the lard-fried steak, and, more wonderful still,
completing his repast with purple grapes from the Mission wall. He
could not deny that it was simple--that it was even refreshing and
consistent with the climate and his surroundings. On the other
hand, it was the frugal diet of the commonest peasant--and were not
those peons slothful idolaters?
At the end of the week--his correspondence being also restricted by
his doctor to a few lines to himself regarding his progress--he
wrote to that adviser:
"The trembling and unquiet has almost ceased; I have less nightly
turmoil and visions; my carnal appetite seems to be amply mollified
and soothed by these viands, whatever may be their ultimate effect
upon the weakness of our common sinful nature. But I should not be
truthful to you if I did not warn you that I am viewing with the
deepest spiritual concern a decided tendency toward sloth, and a
folding of the hands over matters that often, I fear, are spiritual
as well as temporal. I would ask you to consider, in a spirit of
love, if it be not wise to rouse my apathetic flesh, so as to
strive, even with the feeblest exhortations, against this sloth in
others--if only to keep one's self from falling into the pit of
What answer he received is not known, but it is to be presumed that
he kept loyal faith with his physician, and gave himself up to
simple walks and rides and occasional meditation. His solitude was
not broken in upon; curiosity was too active a vice, and induced
too much exertion for his indolent neighbors, and the Americano's
basking seclusion, though unlike the habits of his countrymen, did
not affect them. The shopkeeper and innkeeper saluted him always
with a profound courtesy which awakened his slight resentment,
partly because he was conscious that it was grateful to him, and
partly that he felt he ought to have provoked in them a less
Once, when he had unwittingly passed the confines of his own
garden, through a gap in the Mission orchard, a lissome, black-
coated shadow slipped past him with an obeisance so profound and
gentle that he was startled at first into an awkward imitation of
it himself, and then into an angry self-examination. He knew that
he loathed that long-skirted, womanlike garment, that dangling,
ostentatious symbol, that air of secrecy and mystery, and he
inflated his chest above his loosely tied cravat and unbuttoned
waistcoat with a contrasted sense of freedom. But he was conscious
the next day of weakly avoiding a recurrence of this meeting, and
in his self-examination put it down to his self-disciplined
observance of his doctor's orders. But when he was strong again,
and fitted for his Master's work, how strenuously he should improve
the occasion this gave him of attacking the Scarlet Woman among her
slaves and worshipers!
His afternoon meditations and the perusal of his only book--the
Bible--were regularly broken in upon at about sunset by two or
three strokes from the cracked bell that hung in the open belfry
which reared itself beyond the gnarled pear tees. He could not say
that it was aggressive or persistent, like his own church bells,
nor that it even expressed to him any religious sentiment.
Moreover, it was not a Sabbath" bell, but a DAILY one, and even
then seemed to be only a signal to ears easily responsive, rather
than a stern reminder. And the hour was always a singularly
It was when the sun had slipped from the glaring red roofs, and the
yellowing adobe of the Mission walls and the tall ranks of wild
oats on the hillside were all of the one color of old gold. It was
when the quivering heat of the arroyo and dusty expanse of plaza
was blending with the soft breath of the sea fog that crept through
the clefts of the coast range, until a refreshing balm seemed to
fall like a benediction on all nature. It was when the trade-wind-
swept and irritated surfaces of the rocky gorge beyond were soothed
with clinging vapors; when the pines above no longer rocked
monotonously, and the great undulating sea of the wild-oat plains
had gone down and was at rest. It was at this hour, one afternoon,
that, with the released scents of the garden, there came to him a
strange and subtle perfume that was new to his senses. He laid
aside his book, went into the garden, and, half-unconscious of his
trespass, passed through the Mission orchard and thence into the
little churchyard beside the church.
Looking at the strange inscriptions in an unfamiliar tongue, he was
singularly touched with the few cheap memorials lying upon the
graves--like childish toys--and for the moment overlooked the
papistic emblems that accompanied them. It struck him vaguely that
Death, the common leveler, had made even the symbols of a faith
eternal inferior to those simple records of undying memory and
affection, and he was for a moment startled into doubt.
He walked to the door of the church; to his surprise it was open.
Standing upon the threshold, he glanced inside, and stood for a
moment utterly bewildered. In a man of refined taste and education
that bizarre and highly colored interior would have only provoked a
smile or shrug; to Stephen Masterton's highly emotional nature, but
artistic inexperience, strangely enough it was profoundly
impressive. The heavily timbered, roughly hewn roof, barred with
alternate bands of blue and Indian red, the crimson hangings, the
gold and black draperies, affected this religious backwoodsman
exactly as they were designed to affect the heathen and acolytes
for whose conversion the temple had been reared. He could scarcely
take his eyes from the tinsel-crowned Mother of Heaven, resplendent
in white and gold and glittering with jewels; the radiant shield
before the Host, illuminated by tall spectral candles in the
mysterious obscurity of the altar, dazzled him like the rayed disk
of the setting sun.
A gentle murmur, as of the distant sea, came from the altar. In
his naive bewilderment he had not seen the few kneeling figures in
the shadow of column and aisle; it was not until a man, whom he
recognized as a muleteer he had seen that afternoon gambling and
drinking in the fonda, slipped by him like a shadow and sank upon
his knees in the center of the aisle that he realized the
HE, Stephen Masterton, was looking upon some rite of Popish
idolatry! He was turning quickly away when the keeper of the
tienda--a man of sloth and sin--gently approached him from the
shadow of a column with a mute gesture, which he took to be one of
invitation. A fierce protest of scorn and indignation swelled to
his throat, but died upon his lips. Yet he had strength enough to
erect his gaunt emaciated figure, throwing out his long arms and
extended palms in the attitude of defiant exorcism, and then rush
swiftly from the church. As he did so he thought he saw a faint
smile cross the shopkeeper's face, and a whispered exchange of
words with a neighboring worshiper of more exalted appearance came
to his ears. But it was not intelligible to his comprehension.
The next day he wrote to his doctor in that quaint grandiloquence
of written speech with which the half-educated man balances the
slips of his colloquial phrasing:
Do not let the purgation of my flesh be unduly protracted. What
with the sloth and idolatries of Baal and Ashteroth, which I see
daily around me, I feel that without a protest not only the flesh
but the spirit is mortified. But my bodily strength is mercifully
returning, and I found myself yesterday able to take a long ride at
that hour which they here keep sacred for an idolatrous rite, under
the beautiful name of "The Angelus." Thus do they bear false
witness to Him! Can you tell me the meaning of the Spanish words
"Don Keyhotter"? I am ignorant of these sensuous Southern
languages, and am aware that this is not the correct spelling, but
I have striven to give the phonetic equivalent. It was used, I am
inclined to think, in reference to MYSELF, by an idolater.
P.S.--You need not trouble yourself. I have just ascertained that
the words in question were simply the title of an idle novel, and,
of course, could not possibly refer to ME.
Howbeit it was as "Don Quixote"--that is, the common Spaniard's
conception of the Knight of La Mancha, merely the simple fanatic
and madman--that Mr. Stephen Masterton ever after rode all
unconsciously through the streets of the Mission, amid the half-
pitying, half-smiling glances of the people.
In spite of his meditations, his single volume, and his habit of
retiring early, he found his evenings were growing lonely and
tedious. He missed the prayer meeting, and, above all, the hymns.
He had a fine baritone voice, sympathetic, as may be imagined, but
not cultivated. One night, in the seclusion of his garden, and
secure in his distance from other dwellings, he raised his voice in
a familiar camp-meeting hymn with a strong Covenanter's ring in the
chorus. Growing bolder as he went on, he at last filled the quiet
night with the strenuous sweep of his chant. Surprised at his own
fervor, he paused for a moment, listening, half frightened, half
ashamed of his outbreak. But there was only the trilling of the
night wind in the leaves, or the far-off yelp of a coyote.
For a moment he thought he heard the metallic twang of a stringed
instrument in the Mission garden beyond his own, and remembered his
contiguity to the church with a stir of defiance. But he was
relieved, nevertheless. His pent-up emotion had found vent, and
without the nervous excitement that had followed his old
exaltation. That night he slept better. He had found the Lord
The next evening he chanced upon a softer hymn of the same
simplicity, but with a vein of human tenderness in its aspirations,
which his more hopeful mood gently rendered. At the conclusion of
the first verse he was, however, distinctly conscious of being
followed by the same twanging sound he had heard on the previous
night, and which even his untutored ear could recognize as an
attempt to accompany him. But before he had finished the second
verse the unknown player, after an ingenious but ineffectual essay
to grasp the right chord, abandoned it with an impatient and almost
pettish flourish, and a loud bang upon the sounding-board of the
unseen instrument. Masterton finished it alone.
With his curiosity excited, however, he tried to discover the
locality of the hidden player. The sound evidently came from the
Mission garden; but in his ignorance of the language he could not
even interrogate his Indian housekeeper. On the third night,
however, his hymn was uninterrupted by any sound from the former
musician. A sense of disappointment, he knew not why, came over
him. The kindly overture of the unseen player had been a relief to
his loneliness. Yet he had barely concluded the hymn when the
familiar sound again struck his ears. But this time the musician
played boldly, confidently, and with a singular skill on the
The brilliant prelude over, to his entire surprise and some
confusion, a soprano voice, high, childish, but infinitely quaint
and fascinating, was mischievously uplifted. But alas! even to his
ears, ignorant of the language, it was very clearly a song of
levity and wantonness, of freedom and license, of coquetry and
incitement! Yet such was its fascination that he fancied it was
reclaimed by the delightful childlike and innocent expression of
Enough that this tall, gaunt, broad-shouldered man arose and,
overcome by a curiosity almost as childlike, slipped into the
garden and glided with an Indian softness of tread toward the
voice. The moon shone full upon the ruined Mission wall tipped
with clusters of dark foliage. Half hiding, half mingling with one
of them--an indistinct bulk of light-colored huddled fleeces like
an extravagant bird's nest--hung the unknown musician. So intent
was the performer's preoccupation that Masterton actually reached
the base of the wall immediately below the figure without
attracting its attention. But his foot slipped on the crumbling
debris with a snapping of dry twigs. There was a quick little cry
from above. He had barely time to recover his position before the
singer, impulsively leaning over the parapet, had lost hers, and
fell outward. But Masterton was tall, alert, and self-possessed,
and threw out his long arms. The next moment they were full of
soft flounces, a struggling figure was against his breast, and a
woman's frightened little hands around his neck. But he had broken
her fall, and almost instantly, yet with infinite gentleness, he
released her unharmed, with hardly her crisp flounces crumpled, in
an upright position against the wall. Even her guitar, still
hanging from her shoulder by a yellow ribbon, had bounded elastic
and resounding against the wall, but lay intact at her satin-
slippered feet. She caught it up with another quick little cry,
but this time more of sauciness than fear, and drew her little hand
across its strings, half defiantly.
"I hope you are not hurt?" said the circuit preacher, gravely.
She broke into a laugh so silvery that he thought it no
extravagance to liken it to the moonbeams that played over her made
audible. She was lithe, yet plump; barred with black and yellow
and small-waisted like a pretty wasp. Her complexion in that light
was a sheen of pearl satin that made her eyes blacker and her
little mouth redder than any other color could. She was small,
but, remembering the fourteen-year-old wife of the shopkeeper, he
felt that, for all her childish voice and features, she was a grown
woman, and a sudden shyness took hold of him.
But she looked pertly in his face, stood her guitar upright before
her, and put her hands behind her back as she leaned saucily
against the wall and shrugged her shoulders.
"It was the fault of you," she said, in a broken English that
seemed as much infantine as foreign. "What for you not remain to
yourself in your own CASA? So it come. You creep so--in the dark-
-and shake my wall, and I fall. And she," pointing to the guitar,
"is a'most broke! And for all thees I have only make to you a
"I beg your pardon," said Masterton quickly, "but I was curious. I
thought I might help you, and--"
"Make yourself another cat on the wall, eh? No; one is enough,
A frown lowered on Masterton's brow. "You don't understand me," he
said, bluntly. "I did not know WHO was here."
"Ah, BUENO! Then it is Pepita Ramirez, you see," she said, tapping
her bodice with one little finger, "all the same; the niece from
Manuel Garcia, who keeps the Mission garden and lif there. And
"My name is Masterton."
"Masterton," he repeated.
She tried to pronounce it once or twice desperately, and then shook
her little head so violently that a yellow rose fastened over her
ear fell to the ground. But she did not heed it, nor the fact that
Masterton had picked it up.
"Ah, I cannot!" she said, poutingly. "It is as deefeecult to make
go as my guitar with your serenade."
"Can you not say 'Stephen Masterton'?" he asked, more gently, with
a returning and forgiving sense of her childishness.
"Es-stefen? Ah, ESTEBAN! Yes; Don Esteban! BUENO! Then, Don
Esteban, what for you sink so melank-olly one night, and one night
so fierce? The melank-olly, he ees not so bad; but the fierce--ah!
he is weeked! Ess it how the Americano make always his serenade?"
Masterton's brow again darkened. And his hymn of exultation had
been mistaken by these people--by this--this wanton child!
"It was no serenade," he replied, curtly; "it was in the praise of
"Of how mooch?"
"Of the Lord of Hosts--of the Almighty in Heaven." He lifted his
long arms reverently on high.
"Oh!" she said, with a frightened look, slightly edging away from
the wall. At a secure distance she stopped. "Then you are a
soldier, Don Esteban?"
"Then what for you sink 'I am a soldier of the Lord,' and you will
make die 'in His army'? Oh, yes; you have said." She gathered up
her guitar tightly under her arm, shook her small finger at him
gravely, and said, "You are a hoombog, Don Esteban; good a' night,"
and began to glide away.
"One moment, Miss--Miss Ramirez," called Masterton. "I--that is
you--you have--forgotten your rose," he added, feebly, holding up
the flower. She halted.
"Ah, yes; he have drop, you have pick him up, he is yours. I have
drop, you have pick ME up, but I am NOT yours. Good a' night,
COMANDANTE Don Esteban!"
With a light laugh she ran along beside the wall for a little
distance, suddenly leaped up and disappeared in one of the largest
gaps in its ruined and helpless structure. Stephen Masterton gazed
after her stupidly, still holding the rose in his hand. Then he
threw it away and re-entered his home.
Lighting his candle, he undressed himself, prayed fervently--so
fervently that all remembrance of the idle, foolish incident was
wiped from his mind, and went to bed. He slept well and
dreamlessly. The next morning, when his thoughts recurred to the
previous night, this seemed to him a token that he had not deviated
from his spiritual integrity; it did not occur to him that the
thought itself was a tacit suspicion.
So his feet quite easily sought the garden again in the early
sunshine, even to the wall where she had stood. But he had not
taken into account the vivifying freshness of the morning, the
renewed promise of life and resurrection in the pulsing air and
potent sunlight, and as he stood there he seemed to see the figure
of the young girl again leaning against the wall in all the charm
of her irrepressible and innocent youth. More than that, he found
the whole scene re-enacting itself before him; the nebulous drapery
half hidden in the foliage, the cry and the fall; the momentary
soft contact of the girl's figure against his own, the clinging
arms around his neck, the brush and fragrance of her flounces--all
this came back to him with a strength he had NOT felt when it
He was turning hurriedly away when his eyes fell upon the yellow
rose still lying in the debris where he had thrown it--but still
pure, fresh, and unfaded. He picked it up again, with a singular
fancy that it was the girl herself, and carried it into the house.
As he placed it half shyly in a glass on his table a wonderful
thought occurred to him. Was not the episode of last night a
special providence? Was not that young girl, wayward and
childlike, a mere neophyte in her idolatrous religion, as yet
unsteeped in sloth and ignorance, presented to him as a brand to be
snatched from the burning? Was not this the opportunity of
conversion he had longed for--this the chance of exercising his
gifts of exhortation that he had been hiding in the napkin of
solitude and seclusion? Nay, was not all this PREDESTINED? His
illness, his consequent exile to this land of false gods--this
contiguity to the Mission--was not all this part of a supremely
ordered plan for the girl's salvation--and was HE not elected and
ordained for that service? Nay, more, was not the girl herself a
mere unconscious instrument in the hands of a higher power; was not
her voluntary attempt to accompany him in his devotional exercise a
vague stirring of that predestined force within her? Was not even
that wantonness and frivolity contrasted with her childishness--
which he had at first misunderstood--the stirrings of the flesh and
the spirit, and was he to abandon her in that struggle of good and
He lifted his bowed head, that had been resting on his arm before
the little flower on the table--as if it were a shrine--with a
flash of resolve in his blue eyes. The wrinkled Concepcion coming
to her duties in the morning scarcely recognized her gloomily
abstracted master in this transfigured man. He looked ten years
She met his greeting, and the few direct inquiries that his new
resolve enabled him to make more freely, with some information--
which a later talk with the shopkeeper, who had a fuller English
vocabulary, confirmed in detail.
"YES! truly this was a niece of the Mission gardener, who lived
with her uncle in the ruined wing of the presidio. She had taken
her first communion four years ago. Ah, yes, she was a great
musician, and could play on the organ. And the guitar, ah, yes--of
a certainty. She was gay, and flirted with the caballeros, young
and old, but she cared not for any."
Whatever satisfaction this latter statement gave Masterton, he
believed it was because the absence of any disturbing worldly
affection would make her an easier convert.
But how continue this chance acquaintance and effect her
conversion? For the first time Masterton realized the value of
expediency; while his whole nature impelled him to seek her society
frankly and publicly and exhort her openly, he knew that this was
impossible; still more, he remembered her unmistakable fright at
his first expression of faith; he must "be wise as the serpent and
harmless as the dove." He must work upon her soul alone, and
secretly. He, who would have shrunk from any clandestine
association with a girl from mere human affection, saw no wrong in
a covert intimacy for the purpose of religious salvation. Ignorant
as he was of the ways of the world, and inexperienced in the usages
of society, he began to plan methods of secretly meeting her with
all the intrigue of a gallant. The perspicacity as well as the
intuition of a true lover had descended upon him in this effort of
mere spiritual conquest.
Armed with his information and a few Spanish words, he took the
yellow Concepcion aside and gravely suborned her to carry a note to
be delivered secretly to Miss Ramirez. To his great relief and
some surprise the old woman grinned with intelligence, and her
withered hand closed with a certain familiar dexterity over the
epistle and the accompanying gratuity. To a man less naively one-
ideaed it might have awakened some suspicion; but to the more
sanguine hopefulness of Masterton it only suggested the fancy that
Concepcion herself might prove to be open to conversion, and that
he should in due season attempt HER salvation also. But that would
be later. For Concepcion was always with him and accessible; the
girl was not.
The note, which had cost him some labor of composition, simple and
almost businesslike as was the result, ran as follows:
"I wish to see you upon some matter of grave concern to yourself.
Will you oblige me by coming again to the wall of the Mission
tonight at early candlelight? It would avert worldly suspicion if
you brought also your guitar."
The afternoon dragged slowly on; Concepcion returned; she had, with
great difficulty, managed to see the senorita, but not alone; she
had, however, slipped the note into her hand, not daring to wait
for an answer.
In his first hopefulness Masterton did not doubt what the answer
would be, but as evening approached he grew concerned as to the
girl's opportunities of coming, and regretted that he had not given
her a choice of time.
Before his evening meal was finished he began to fear for her
willingness, and doubt the potency of his note. He was accustomed
to exhort ORALLY--perhaps he ought to have waited for the chance of
SPEAKING to her directly without writing.
When the moon rose he was already in the garden. Lingering at
first in the shadow of an olive tree, he waited until the moonbeams
fell on the wall and its crests of foliage. But nothing moved
among that ebony tracery; his ear was strained for the familiar
tinkle of the guitar--all was silent. As the moon rose higher he
at last boldly walked to the wall, and listened for any movement on
the other side of it. But nothing stirred. She was evidently NOT
coming--his note had failed.
He was turning away sadly, but as he faced his home again he heard
a light laugh beside him. He stopped. A black shadow stepped out
from beneath his own almond tree. He started when, with a gesture
that seemed familiar to him, the upper part of the shadow seemed to
fall away with a long black mantilla and the face of the young girl
He could see now that she was clad in black lace from head to foot.
She looked taller, older, and he fancied even prettier than before.
A sudden doubt of his ability to impress her, a swift realization
of all the difficulties of the attempt, and, for the first time
perhaps, a dim perception of the incongruity of the situation came
"I was looking for you on the wall," he stammered.
"MADRE DE DIOS!" she retorted, with a laugh and her old audacity,
"you would that I shall ALWAYS hang there, and drop upon you like a
pear when you shake the tree? No!"
"You haven't brought your guitar," he continued, still more
awkwardly, as he noticed that she held only a long black fan in her
"For why? You would that I PLAY it, and when my uncle say 'Where
go Pepita? She is loss,' someone shall say, 'Oh! I have hear her
tink-a-tink in the garden of the Americano, who lif alone.' And
then--it ess finish!"
Masterton began to feel exceedingly uncomfortable. There was
something in this situation that he had not dreamed of. But with
the persistency of an awkward man he went on.
"But you played on the wall the other night, and tried to accompany
"But that was lass night and on the wall. I had not speak to you,
you had not speak to me. You had not sent me the leetle note by
your peon." She stopped, and suddenly opening her fan before her
face, so that only her mischievous eyes were visible, added: "You
had not asked me then to come to hear you make lof to me, Don
Esteban. That is the difference."
The circuit preacher felt the blood rush to his face. Anger,
shame, mortification, remorse, and fear alternately strove with
him, but above all and through all he was conscious of a sharp,
exquisite pleasure--that frightened him still more. Yet he managed
"No! no! You cannot think me capable of such a cowardly trick?"
The girl started, more at the unmistakable sincerity of his
utterance than at the words, whose full meaning she may have only
"A treek? A treek?" she slowly and wonderingly repeated. Then
suddenly, as if comprehending him, she turned her round black eyes
full upon him and dropped her fan from her face.
"And WHAT for you ask me to come here then?"
"I wanted to talk with you," he began, "on far more serious
matters. I wished to--" but he stopped. He could not address this
quaint child-woman staring at him in black-eyed wonder, in either
the measured or the impetuous terms with which he would have
exhorted a maturer responsible being. He made a step toward her;
she drew back, striking at his extended hand half impatiently, half
mischievously with her fan.
He flushed--and then burst out bluntly, "I want to talk with you
about your soul."
"Your immortal soul, unhappy girl."
"What have you to make with that? Are you a devil?" Her eyes grew
rounder, though she faced him boldly.
"I am a Minister of the Gospel," he said, in hurried entreaty.
"You must hear me for a moment. I would save your soul."
"My immortal soul lif with the Padre at the Mission--you moost seek
her there! My mortal BODY," she added, with a mischievous smile,
"say to you, 'good a' night, Don Esteban.'" She dropped him a
little curtsy and--ran away.
"One moment, Miss Ramirez," said Masterton, eagerly; but she had
already slipped beyond his reach. He saw her little black figure
passing swiftly beside the moonlit wall, saw it suddenly slide into
a shadowy fissure, and vanish.
In his blank disappointment he could not bear to re-enter the house
he had left so sanguinely a few moments before, but walked moodily
in the garden. His discomfiture was the more complete since he
felt that his defeat was owing to some mistake in his methods, and
not the incorrigibility of his subject.
Was it not a spiritual weakness in him to have resented so sharply
the girl's imputation that he wished to make love to her? He
should have borne it as Christians had even before now borne
slander and false testimony for their faith! He might even have
ACCEPTED it, and let the triumph of her conversion in the end prove
his innocence. Or was his purpose incompatible with that sisterly
affection he had so often preached to the women of his flock? He
might have taken her hand, and called her "Sister Pepita," even as
he had called Deborah "Sister." He recalled the fact that he had
for an instant held her struggling in his arms: he remembered the
thrill that the recollection had caused him, and somehow it now
sent a burning blush across his face. He hurried back into the
The next day a thousand wild ideas took the place of his former
settled resolution. He would seek the Padre, this custodian of the
young girl's soul; he would convince HIM of his error, or beseech
him to give him an equal access to her spirit! He would seek the
uncle of the girl, and work upon his feelings.
Then for three or four days he resolved to put the young girl from
his mind, trusting after the fashion of his kind for some special
revelation from a supreme source as an indication for his conduct.
This revelation presently occurred, as it is apt to occur when
One evening his heart leaped at the familiar sound of Pepita's
guitar in the distance. Whatever his ultimate intention now, he
hurriedly ran into the garden. The sound came from the former
direction, but as he unhesitatingly approached the Mission wall, he
could see that she was not upon it, and as the notes of her guitar
were struck again, he knew that they came from the other side. But
the chords were a prelude to one of his own hymns, and he stood
entranced as her sweet, childlike voice rose with the very words
that he had sung. The few defects were those of purely oral
imitation, the accents, even the slight reiteration of the "s,"
were Pepita's own:
Cheeldren oof the Heavenly King,
As ye journey essweetly ssing;
Essing your great Redeemer's praise,
Glorioos in Hees works and ways.
He was astounded. Her recollection of the air and words was the
more wonderful, for he remembered now that he had only sung that
particular hymn once. But to his still greater delight and
surprise, her voice rose again in the second verse, with a touch of
plaintiveness that swelled his throat:
We are traveling home to God,
In the way our farzers trod,
They are happy now, and we
Soon their happiness shall see.
The simple, almost childish words--so childish that they might have
been the fitting creation of her own childish lips--here died away
with a sweep and crash of the whole strings. Breathless silence
followed, in which Stephen Masterton could feel the beatings of his
"Miss Ramirez," he called, in a voice that scarcely seemed his own.
There was no reply. "Pepita!" he repeated; it was strangely like
the accent of a lover, but he no longer cared. Still the singer's
voice was silent.
Then he ran swiftly beside the wall, as he had seen her run, until
he came to the fissure. It was overgrown with vines and brambles
almost as impenetrable as an abatis, but if she had pierced it in
her delicate crape dress, so could he! He brushed roughly through,
and found himself in a glimmering aisle of pear trees close by the
white wall of the Mission church.
For a moment in that intricate tracing of ebony and ivory made by
the rising moon, he was dazzled, but evidently his irruption into
the orchard had not been as lithe and silent as her own, for a
figure in a parti-colored dress suddenly started into activity, and
running from the wall, began to course through the trees until it
became apparently a part of that involved pattern. Nothing
daunted, however, Stephen Masterton pursued, his speed increased as
he recognized the flounces of Pepita's barred dress, but the young
girl had the advantage of knowing the locality, and could evade her
pursuer by unsuspected turns and doubles.
For some moments this fanciful sylvan chase was kept up in perfect
silence; it might have been a woodland nymph pursued by a wandering
shepherd. Masterton presently saw that she was making toward a
tiled roof that was now visible as projecting over the presidio
wall, and was evidently her goal of refuge. He redoubled his
speed; with skillful audacity and sheer strength of his broad
shoulders he broke through a dense ceanothus hedge which Pepita was
swiftly skirting, and suddenly appeared between her and her house.
With her first cry, the young girl turned and tried to bury herself
in the hedge; but in another stride the circuit preacher was at her
side, and caught her panting figure in his arms.
While he had been running he had swiftly formulated what he should
do and what he should say to her. To his simple appeal for her
companionship and willing ear he would add a brotherly tenderness,
that should invite her trustfulness in him; he would confess his
wrong and ask her forgiveness of his abrupt solicitations; he would
propose to teach her more hymns, they would practice psalmody
together; even this priest, the custodian of her soul, could not
object to that; but chiefly he would thank her: he would tell her
how she had pleased him, and this would lead to more serious and
thoughtful converse. All this was in his mind while he ran, was
upon his lips as he caught her and for an instant she lapsed,
exhausted, in his arms. But, alas! even in that moment he suddenly
drew her toward him, and kissed her as only a lover could!
The wire grass was already yellowing on the Tasajara plains with
the dusty decay of the long, dry summer when Dr. Duchesne returned
to Tasajara. He came to see the wife of Deacon Sanderson, who,
having for the twelfth time added to the population of the
settlement, was not "doing as well" as everybody--except, possibly,
Dr. Duchesne--expected. After he had made this hollow-eyed, over-
burdened, undernourished woman as comfortable as he could in her
rude, neglected surroundings, to change the dreary chronicle of
suffering, he turned to the husband, and said, "And what has become
of Mr. Masterton, who used to be in your--vocation?" A long groan
came from the deacon.
"Hallo! I hope he has not had a relapse," said the doctor,
earnestly. "I thought I'd knocked all that nonsense out of him--I
beg your pardon--I mean," he added, hurriedly, "he wrote to me only
a few weeks ago that he was picking up his strength again and doing
"In his weak, gross, sinful flesh--yes, no doubt," returned the
Deacon, scornfully, "and, perhaps, even in a worldly sense, for
those who value the vanities of life; but he is lost to us, for all
time, and lost to eternal life forever. Not," he continued in
sanctimonious vindictiveness, "but that I often had my doubts of
Brother Masterton's steadfastness. He was too much given to
imagery and song."
"But what has he done?" persisted Dr. Duchesne.
"Done! He has embraced the Scarlet Woman!"
"Dear me!" said the doctor, "so soon? Is it anybody you knew
here?--not anybody's wife? Eh?"
"He has entered the Church of Rome," said the Deacon, indignantly,
"he has forsaken the God of his fathers for the tents of the
idolaters; he is the consort of Papists and the slave of the Pope!"
"But are you SURE?" said Dr. Duchesne, with perhaps less concern
"Sure," returned the Deacon angrily, "didn't Brother Bulkley, on
account of warning reports made by a God-fearing and soul-seeking
teamster, make a special pilgrimage to this land of Sodom to
inquire and spy out its wickedness? Didn't he find Stephen
Masterton steeped in the iniquity of practicing on an organ--he
that scorned even a violin or harmonium in the tents of the Lord--
in an idolatrous chapel, with a foreign female Papist for a
teacher? Didn't he find him a guest at the board of a Jesuit
priest, visiting the schools of the Mission where this young
Jezebel of a singer teaches the children to chant in unknown
tongues? Didn't he find him living with a wrinkled Indian witch
who called him 'Padrone'--and speaking her gibberish? Didn't he
find him, who left here a man mortified in flesh and spirit and
pale with striving with sinners, fat and rosy from native wines and
fleshpots, and even vain and gaudy in colored apparel? And last of
all, didn't Brother Bulkley hear that a rumor was spread far and
wide that this miserable backslider was to take to himself a wife--
in one of these strange women--that very Jezebel who seduced him?
What do you call that?"
"It looks a good deal like human nature," said the doctor,
musingly, "but I call it a cure!"
THE INDISCRETION OF ELSBETH
The American paused. He had evidently lost his way. For the last
half hour he had been wandering in a medieval town, in a profound
medieval dream. Only a few days had elapsed since he had left the
steamship that carried him hither; and the accents of his own
tongue, the idioms of his own people, and the sympathetic community
of New World tastes and expressions still filled his mind until he
woke up, or rather, as it seemed to him, was falling asleep in the
past of this Old World town which had once held his ancestors.
Although a republican, he had liked to think of them in quaint
distinctive garb, representing state and importance--perhaps even
aristocratic pre-eminence--content to let the responsibility of
such "bad eminence" rest with them entirely, but a habit of
conscientiousness and love for historic truth eventually led him
also to regard an honest BAUER standing beside his cattle in the
quaint market place, or a kindly-faced black-eyed DIENSTMADCHEN in
a doorway, with a timid, respectful interest, as a possible type of
his progenitors. For, unlike some of his traveling countrymen in
Europe, he was not a snob, and it struck him--as an American--that
it was, perhaps, better to think of his race as having improved
than as having degenerated. In these ingenuous meditations he had
passed the long rows of quaint, high houses, whose sagging roofs
and unpatched dilapidations were yet far removed from squalor,
until he had reached the road bordered by poplars, all so unlike
his own country's waysides--and knew that he had wandered far from
He did not care, however, to retrace his steps and return by the
way he had come. There was, he reasoned, some other street or
turning that would eventually bring him to the market place and his
hotel, and yet extend his experience of the town. He turned at
right angles into a narrow grass lane, which was, however, as
neatly kept and apparently as public as the highway. A few
moments' walking convinced him that it was not a thoroughfare and
that it led to the open gates of a park. This had something of a
public look, which suggested that his intrusion might be at least a
pardonable trespass, and he relied, like most strangers, on the
exonerating quality of a stranger's ignorance. The park lay in the
direction he wished to go, and yet it struck him as singular that a
park of such extent should be still allowed to occupy such valuable
urban space. Indeed, its length seemed to be illimitable as he
wandered on, until he became conscious that he must have again lost
his way, and he diverged toward the only boundary, a high, thickset
hedge to the right, whose line he had been following.
As he neared it he heard the sound of voices on the other side,
speaking in German, with which he was unfamiliar. Having, as yet,
met no one, and being now impressed with the fact that for a public
place the park was singularly deserted, he was conscious that his
position was getting serious, and he determined to take this only
chance of inquiring his way. The hedge was thinner in some places
than in others, and at times he could see not only the light
through it but even the moving figures of the speakers, and the
occasional white flash of a summer gown. At last he determined to
penetrate it, and with little difficulty emerged on the other side.
But here he paused motionless. He found himself behind a somewhat
formal and symmetrical group of figures with their backs toward
him, but all stiffened into attitudes as motionless as his own, and
all gazing with a monotonous intensity in the direction of a
handsome building, which had been invisible above the hedge but
which now seemed to arise suddenly before him. Some of the figures
were in uniform. Immediately before him, but so slightly separated
from the others that he was enabled to see the house between her
and her companions, he was confronted by the pretty back,
shoulders, and blond braids of a young girl of twenty. Convinced
that he had unwittingly intruded upon some august ceremonial, he
instantly slipped back into the hedge, but so silently that his
momentary presence was evidently undetected. When he regained the
park side he glanced back through the interstices; there was no
movement of the figures nor break in the silence to indicate that
his intrusion had been observed. With a long breath of relief he
hurried from the park.
It was late when he finally got back to his hotel. But his little
modern adventure had, I fear, quite outrun his previous medieval
reflections, and almost his first inquiry of the silver-chained
porter in the courtyard was in regard to the park. There was no
public park in Alstadt! The Herr possibly alluded to the Hof
Gardens--the Schloss, which was in the direction he indicated. The
Schloss was the residency of the hereditary Grand Duke. JA WOHL!
He was stopping there with several Hoheiten. There was naturally a
party there--a family reunion. But it was a private enclosure. At
times, when the Grand Duke was not in residence," it was open to
the public. In point of fact, at such times tickets of admission
were to be had at the hotel for fifty pfennige each. There was
not, of truth, much to see except a model farm and dairy--the
pretty toy of a previous Grand Duchess.
But he seemed destined to come into closer collision with the
modern life of Alstadt. On entering the hotel, wearied by his long
walk, he passed the landlord and a man in half-military uniform on
the landing near his room. As he entered his apartment he had a
vague impression, without exactly knowing why, that the landlord
and the military stranger had just left it. This feeling was
deepened by the evident disarrangement of certain articles in his
unlocked portmanteau and the disorganization of his writing case.
A wave of indignation passed over him. It was followed by a knock
at the door, and the landlord blandly appeared with the stranger.
"A thousand pardons," said the former, smilingly, "but Herr
Sanderman, the Ober-Inspector of Police, wishes to speak with you.
I hope we are not intruding?"
"Not NOW," said the American, dryly.
The two exchanged a vacant and deprecating smile.
"I have to ask only a few formal questions," said the Ober-
Inspector in excellent but somewhat precise English, "to supplement
the report which, as a stranger, you may not know is required by
the police from the landlord in regard to the names and quality of
his guests who are foreign to the town. You have a passport?"
"I have," said the American still more dryly. "But I do not keep
it in an unlocked portmanteau or an open writing case."
"An admirable precaution," said Sanderman, with unmoved politeness.
"May I see it? Thanks," he added, glancing over the document which
the American produced from his pocket. "I see that you are a born
American citizen--and an earlier knowledge of that fact would have
prevented this little contretemps. You are aware, Mr. Hoffman,
that your name is German?"
"It was borne by my ancestors, who came from this country two
centuries ago," said Hoffman, curtly.
"We are indeed honored by your return to it," returned Sanderman
suavely, "but it was the circumstance of your name being a local
one, and the possibility of your still being a German citizen
liable to unperformed military duty, which has caused the trouble."
His manner was clearly civil and courteous, but Hoffman felt that
all the time his own face and features were undergoing a profound
scrutiny from the speaker.
"And you are making sure that you will know me again?" said
Hoffman, with a smile.
"I trust, indeed, both," returned Sanderman, with a bow, "although
you will permit me to say that your description here," pointing to
the passport, "scarcely does you justice. ACH GOTT! it is the same
in all countries; the official eye is not that of the young DAMEN."
Hoffman, though not conceited, had not lived twenty years without
knowing that he was very good-looking, yet there was something in
the remark that caused him to color with a new uneasiness.
The Ober-Inspector rose with another bow, and moved toward the
door. "I hope you will let me make amends for this intrusion by
doing anything I can to render your visit here a pleasant one.
Perhaps," he added, "it is not for long."
But Hoffman evaded the evident question, as he resented what he
imagined was a possible sneer.
"I have not yet determined my movements," he said.
The Ober-Inspector brought his heels together in a somewhat stiffer
military salute and departed.
Nothing, however, could have exceeded the later almost servile
urbanity of the landlord, who seemed to have been proud of the
official visit to his guest. He was profuse in his attentions, and
even introduced him to a singularly artistic-looking man of middle
age, wearing an order in his buttonhole, whom he met casually in
"Our Court photographer," explained the landlord with some fervor,
"at whose studio, only a few houses distant, most of the Hoheiten
and Prinzessinen of Germany have sat for their likenesses."
"I should feel honored if the distinguished American Herr would
give me a visit," said the stranger gravely, as he gazed at Hoffman
with an intensity which recalled the previous scrutiny of the
Police Inspector, "and I would be charmed if he would avail himself
of my poor skill to transmit his picturesque features to my unique
Hoffman returned a polite evasion to this invitation, although he
was conscious of being struck with this second examination of his
face, and the allusion to his personality.
The next morning the porter met him with a mysterious air. The
Herr would still like to see the Schloss? Hoffman, who had quite
forgotten his adventure in the park, looked vacant. JA WOHL--the
Hof authorities had no doubt heard of his visit and had intimated
to the hotel proprietor that he might have permission to visit the
model farm and dairy. As the American still looked indifferent the
porter pointed out with some importance that it was a Ducal
courtesy not to be lightly treated; that few, indeed, of the
burghers themselves had ever been admitted to this eccentric whim
of the late Grand Duchess. He would, of course, be silent about
it; the Court would not like it known that they had made an
exception to their rules in favor of a foreigner; he would enter
quickly and boldly alone. There would be a housekeeper or a
dairymaid to show him over the place.
More amused at this important mystery over what he, as an American,
was inclined to classify as a "free pass" to a somewhat heavy "side
show," he gravely accepted the permission, and the next morning
after breakfast set out to visit the model farm and dairy.
Dismissing his driver, as he had been instructed, Hoffman entered
the gateway with a mingling of expectancy and a certain amusement
over the "boldness" which the porter had suggested should
characterize his entrance. Before him was a beautifully kept lane
bordered by arbored and trellised roses, which seemed to sink into
the distance. He was instinctively following it when he became
aware that he was mysteriously accompanied by a man in the livery
of a chasseur, who was walking among the trees almost abreast of
him, keeping pace with his step, and after the first introductory
military salute preserving a ceremonious silence. There was
something so ludicrous in this solemn procession toward a peaceful,
rural industry that by the time they had reached the bottom of the
lane the American had quite recovered his good humor. But here a
new astonishment awaited him. Nestling before him in a green
amphitheater lay a little wooden farm-yard and outbuildings, which
irresistibly suggested that it had been recently unpacked and set
up from a box of Nuremberg toys. The symmetrical trees, the
galleried houses with preternaturally glazed windows, even the
spotty, disproportionately sized cows in the white-fenced barnyards
were all unreal, wooden and toylike.
Crossing a miniature bridge over a little stream, from which he was
quite prepared to hook metallic fish with a magnet their own size,
he looked about him for some real being to dispel the illusion.
The mysterious chasseur had disappeared. But under the arch of an
arbor, which seemed to be composed of silk ribbons, green glass,
and pink tissue paper, stood a quaint but delightful figure.
At first it seemed as if he had only dispelled one illusion for
another. For the figure before him might have been made of Dresden
china--so daintily delicate and unique it was in color and
arrangement. It was that of a young girl dressed in some forgotten
medieval peasant garb of velvet braids, silver-staylaced corsage,
lace sleeves, and helmeted metallic comb. But, after the Dresden
method, the pale yellow of her hair was repeated in her bodice, the
pink of her cheeks was in the roses of her chintz overskirt. The
blue of her eyes was the blue of her petticoat; the dazzling
whiteness of her neck shone again in the sleeves and stockings.
Nevertheless she was real and human, for the pink deepened in her
cheeks as Hoffman's hat flew from his head, and she recognized the
civility with a grave little curtsy.
"You have come to see the dairy," she said in quaintly accurate
English; "I will show you the way."
"If you please," said Hoffman, gaily, "but--"
"But what?" she said, facing him suddenly with absolutely
Hoffman looked into them so long that their frank wonder presently
contracted into an ominous mingling of restraint and resentment.
Nothing daunted, however, he went on:
"Couldn't we shake all that?"
The look of wonder returned. "Shake all that?" she repeated. "I
do not understand."
"Well! I'm not positively aching to see cows, and you must be sick
of showing them. I think, too, I've about sized the whole show.
Wouldn't it be better if we sat down in that arbor--supposing it
won't fall down--and you told me all about the lot? It would save
you a heap of trouble and keep your pretty frock cleaner than
trapesing round. Of course," he said, with a quick transition to
the gentlest courtesy, "if you're conscientious about this thing
we'll go on and not spare a cow. Consider me in it with you for
the whole morning."
She looked at him again, and then suddenly broke into a charming
laugh. It revealed a set of strong white teeth, as well as a
certain barbaric trace in its cadence which civilized restraint had
not entirely overlaid.
"I suppose she really is a peasant, in spite of that pretty frock,"
he said to himself as he laughed too.
But her face presently took a shade of reserve, and with a gentle
but singular significance she said:
"I think you must see the dairy."
Hoffman's hat was in his hand with a vivacity that tumbled the
brown curls on his forehead. "By all means," he said instantly,
and began walking by her side in modest but easy silence. Now that
he thought her a conscientious peasant he was quiet and respectful.
Presently she lifted her eyes, which, despite her gravity, had not
entirely lost their previous mirthfulness, and said:
"But you Americans--in your rich and prosperous country, with your
large lands and your great harvests--you must know all about
"Never was in a dairy in my life," said Hoffman gravely. "I'm from
the city of New York, where the cows give swill milk, and are kept
Her eyebrows contracted prettily in an effort to understand. Then
she apparently gave it up, and said with a slanting glint of
mischief in her eyes:
"Then you come here like the other Americans in hope to see the
Grand Duke and Duchess and the Princesses?"
"No. The fact is I almost tumbled into a lot of 'em--standing like
wax figures--the other side of the park lodge, the other day--and
got away as soon as I could. I think I prefer the cows."
Her head was slightly turned away. He had to content himself with
looking down upon the strong feet in their serviceable but smartly
buckled shoes that uplifted her upright figure as she moved beside
"Of course," he added with boyish but unmistakable courtesy, "if
it's part of your show to trot out the family, why I'm in that,
too. I dare say you could make them interesting."
"But why," she said with her head still slightly turned away toward
a figure--a sturdy-looking woman, which, for the first time,
Hoffman perceived was walking in a line with them as the chasseur
had done--"why did you come here at all?"
"The first time was a fool accident," he returned frankly. "I was
making a short cut through what I thought was a public park. The
second time was because I had been rude to a Police Inspector whom
I found going through my things, but who apologized--as I suppose--
by getting me an invitation from the Grand Duke to come here, and I
thought it only the square thing to both of 'em to accept it. But
I'm mighty glad I came; I wouldn't have missed YOU for a thousand
dollars. You see I haven't struck anyone I cared to talk to
since." Here he suddenly remarked that she hadn't looked at him,
and that the delicate whiteness of her neck was quite suffused with
pink, and stopped instantly. Presently he said quite easily:
"Who's the chorus?"
"Yes. She's watching us as if she didn't quite approve, you know--
just as if she didn't catch on."
"She's the head housekeeper of the farm. Perhaps you would prefer
to have her show you the dairy; shall I call her?"
The figure in question was very short and stout, with voluminous
"Please don't; I'll stay without your setting that paperweight on
me. But here's the dairy. Don't let her come inside among those
pans of fresh milk with that smile, or there'll be trouble."
The young girl paused too, made a slight gesture with her hand, and
the figure passed on as they entered the dairy. It was beautifully
clean and fresh. With a persistence that he quickly recognized as
mischievous and ironical, and with his characteristic adaptability
accepted with even greater gravity and assumption of interest, she
showed him all the details. From thence they passed to the
farmyard, where he hung with breathless attention over the names of
the cows and made her repeat them. Although she was evidently
familiar with the subject, he could see that her zeal was fitful
"Suppose we sit down," he said, pointing to an ostentatious rustic
seat in the center of the green.
"Sir down?" she repeated wonderingly. "What for?"
"To talk. We'll knock off and call it half a day."
"But if you are not looking at the farm you are, of course, going,"
she said quickly.
"Am I? I don't think these particulars were in my invitation."
She again broke into a fit of laughter, and at the same time cast a
bright eye around the field.
"Come," he said gently, "there are no other sightseers waiting, and
your conscience is clear," and he moved toward the rustic seat.
"Certainly not--there," she added in a low voice.
They moved on slowly together to a copse of willows which overhung
the miniature stream.
"You are not staying long in Alstadt?" she said.
"No; I only came to see the old town that my ancestors came from."
They were walking so close together that her skirt brushed his
trousers, but she suddenly drew away from him, and looking him
fixedly in the eye said:
"Ah, you have relations here?"
"Yes, but they are dead two hundred years."
She laughed again with a slight expression of relief. They had
entered the copse and were walking in dense shadow when she
suddenly stopped and sat down upon a rustic bench. To his surprise
he found that they were quite alone.
"Tell me about these relatives," she said, slightly drawing aside
her skirt to make room for him on the seat.
He did not require a second invitation. He not only told her all
about his ancestral progenitors, but, I fear, even about those more
recent and more nearly related to him; about his own life, his
vocation--he was a clever newspaper correspondent with a roving
commission--his ambitions, his beliefs and his romance.
"And then, perhaps, of this visit--you will also make 'copy'?"
He smiled at her quick adaptation of his professional slang, but
shook his head.
"No," he said gravely. "No--this is YOU. The CHICAGO INTERVIEWER
is big pay and is rich, but it hasn't capital enough to buy you
He gently slid his hand toward hers and slipped his fingers softly
around it. She made a slight movement of withdrawal, but even
then--as if in forgetfulness or indifference--permitted her hand to
rest unresponsively in his. It was scarcely an encouragement to
gallantry, neither was it a rejection of an unconscious
"But you haven't told me about yourself," he said.
"Oh, I"--she returned, with her first approach to coquetry in a
laugh and a sidelong glance, "of what importance is that to you?
It is the Grand Duchess and Her Highness the Princess that you
Americans seek to know. I am--what I am--as you see."
"You bet," said Hoffman with charming decision.
"You ARE, you know, and that's good enough for me, but I don't even
know your name."
She laughed again, and after a pause, said: "Elsbeth."
"But I couldn't call you by your first name on our first meeting,
"Then you Americans are really so very formal--eh?" she said slyly,
looking at her imprisoned hand.
"Well, yes," returned Hoffman, disengaging it. "I suppose we are
respectful, or mean to be. But whom am I to inquire for? To write
"You are neither to write nor inquire."
"What?" She had moved in her seat so as to half-face him with eyes
in which curiosity, mischief, and a certain seriousness alternated,
but for the first time seemed conscious of his hand, and accented
her words with a slight pressure.
"You are to return to your hotel presently, and say to your
landlord: 'Pack up my luggage. I have finished with this old town
and my ancestors, and the Grand Duke, whom I do not care to see,
and I shall leave Alstadt tomorrow!'"
"Thank you! I don't catch on."
"Of what necessity should you? I have said it. That should be
enough for a chivalrous American like you." She again
significantly looked down at her hand.
"If you mean that you know the extent of the favor you ask of me, I
can say no more," he said seriously; "but give me some reason for
"Ah so!" she said, with a slight shrug of her shoulders. "Then 1
must tell you. You say you do not know the Grand Duke and Duchess.
Well! THEY KNOW YOU. The day before yesterday you were wandering
in the park, as you admit. You say, also, you got through the
hedge and interrupted some ceremony. That ceremony was not a Court
function, Mr. Hoffman, but something equally sacred--the
photographing of the Ducal family before the Schloss. You say that
you instantly withdrew. But after the photograph was taken the
plate revealed a stranger standing actually by the side of the
Princess Alexandrine, and even taking the PAS of the Grand Duke
himself. That stranger was you!"
"And the picture was spoiled," said the American, with a quiet
"I should not say that," returned the lady, with a demure glance at
her companion's handsome face, "and I do not believe that the
Princess--who first saw the photograph--thought so either. But she
is very young and willful, and has the reputation of being very
indiscreet, and unfortunately she begged the photographer not to
destroy the plate, but to give it to her, and to say nothing about
it, except that the plate was defective, and to take another.
Still it would have ended there if her curiosity had not led her to
confide a description of the stranger to the Police Inspector, with
the result you know."
"Then I am expected to leave town because I accidentally stumbled
into a family group that was being photographed?"
"Because a certain Princess was indiscreet enough to show her
curiosity about you," corrected the fair stranger.
"But look here! I'll apologize to the Princess, and offer to pay
for the plate."
"Then you do want to see the Princess?" said the young girl
smiling; "you are like the others."
"Bother the Princess! I want to see YOU. And I don't see how they
can prevent it if I choose to remain."
"Very easily. You will find that there is something wrong with
your passport, and you will be sent on to Pumpernickel for
examination. You will unwittingly transgress some of the laws of
the town and be ordered to leave it. You will be shadowed by the
police until you quarrel with them--like a free American--and you
are conducted to the frontier. Perhaps you will strike an officer
who has insulted you, and then you are finished on the spot."
The American's crest rose palpably until it cocked his straw hat
over his curls.
"Suppose I am content to risk it--having first laid the whole
matter and its trivial cause before the American Minister, so that
he could make it hot for this whole caboodle of a country if they
happened to 'down me.' By Jove! I shouldn't mind being the martyr
of an international episode if they'd spare me long enough to let
me get the first 'copy' over to the other side." His eyes
"You could expose them, but they would then deny the whole story,
and you have no evidence. They would demand to know your
informant, and I should be disgraced, and the Princess, who is
already talked about, made a subject of scandal. But no matter!
It is right that an American's independence shall not be interfered
She raised the hem of her handkerchief to her blue eyes and
slightly turned her head aside. Hoffman gently drew the
handkerchief away, and in so doing possessed himself of her other
"Look here, Miss--Miss--Elsbeth. You know I wouldn't give you
away, whatever happened. But couldn't I get hold of that
photographer--I saw him, he wanted me to sit to him--and make him
"He wanted you to sit to him," she said hurriedly, "and did you?"
"No," he replied. "He was a little too fresh and previous, though
I thought he fancied some resemblance in me to somebody else."
"Ah!" She said something to herself in German which he did not
understand, and then added aloud:
"You did well; he is a bad man, this photographer. Promise me you
shall not sit for him."
"How can I if I'm fired out of the place like this?" He added
ruefully, "But I'd like to make him give himself away to me
"He will not, and if he did he would deny it afterward. Do not go
near him nor see him. Be careful that he does not photograph you
with his instantaneous instrument when you are passing. Now you
must go. I must see the Princess."
"Let me go, too. I will explain it to her," said Hoffman.
She stopped, looked at him keenly, and attempted to withdraw her
hands. "Ah, then it IS so. It is the Princess you wish to see.
You are curious--you, too; you wish to see this lady who is
interested in you. I ought to have known it. You are all alike."
He met her gaze with laughing frankness, accepting her outburst as
a charming feminine weakness, half jealousy, half coquetry--but
retained her hands.
"Nonsense," he said. "I wish to see her that I may have the right
to see you--that you shall not lose your place here through me;
that I may come again."
"You must never come here again."
"Then you must come where I am. We will meet somewhere when you
have an afternoon off. You shall show me the town--the houses of
my ancestors--their tombs; possibly--if the Grand Duke rampages--
the probable site of my own."
She looked into his laughing eyes with her clear, stedfast, gravely
questioning blue ones. "Do not you Americans know that it is not
the fashion here, in Germany, for the young men and the young women
to walk together--unless they are VERLOBT?"
"Engaged." She nodded her head thrice: viciously, decidedly,
"So much the better."
"ACH GOTT!" She made a gesture of hopelessness at his
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