The Golden Fleece
Part 2 out of 3
than the aged and austere Kamaiakan, who,
for reasons best known to himself, chose to
spend the hours usually devoted to rest in an
attitude that no European or white American
could have maintained with comfort longer
than five minutes.
An hour--two hours--passed away. Then
Kamaiakan noiselessly arose, peered about
him cautiously for a few moments, and
passed out of the court-yard through the
open gate. He turned to the left, and,
stealing beneath Miriam's windows, paused
there for an instant and made certain
gestures with his arms. Anon he continued
his way to the garden, and was soon concealed
by the thick shrubbery.
History requires us to follow him. The
garden extended westward, and was quite a
spacious enclosure: one not familiar with its
winding paths might easily lose himself
there on a dark night. But Kamaiakan
knew where he was going, and the way
thither. He now stalked along more swiftly,
taking one turn after another, brushing aside
the low-hanging boughs, and passing the
loveliest flowers without a glance. He was
as one preoccupied with momentous business.
Presently he arrived at a small open space,
remote and secluded. It was completely
surrounded by tall shrubbery. In the centre
was a basin of stone, evidently very
ancient, filled to the brim with the clear
water of a spring, which bubbled up from
the bottom, and, overflowing by way of a
gap in the edge, became a small rivulet,
which stole away in the direction of the sea.
Across the slightly undulating surface of the
basin trembled the radiance of the star.
Kamaiakan knelt down beside it, and,
bending over, gazed intently into the water.
Presently he dipped his hands in it, and
sprinkled shining drops over his own gaunt
person, and over the ground in the vicinity
of the spring. He made strange movements
with his arms, bowed his head and erected it
again, and traced curious figures on the
ground with his finger. It appeared as if
the venerable Indian had solemnly lost his
senses and had sought out this lonely spot to
indulge the vagaries of his insanity. If so,
his silence and deliberation afforded an
example worthy of consideration by other
Suddenly he ceased his performance, and
held himself in a listening attitude. A light,
measured sound was audible, accompanied
by the rustling of leaves. It came nearer.
There was a glimpse of whiteness through
the interstices of the surrounding foliage,
and then a slender figure, clad in close-fitting
raiment, entered the little circle. It
wore a sort of tunic, reaching half-way to
the knees, and leggings of the same soft,
grayish-white material. The head was covered
with a sort of hood, which left only the
face exposed; and this too might be covered
by a species of veil or mask, which, however,
was now fastened back on the headpiece,
after the manner of a visor. The
front of the tunic was embroidered with
fantastic devices in gold thread, brightened
here and there with precious stones; and
other devices appeared on the hood. The
face of this figure was pale and calm, with
great dark eyes beneath black brows. The
stature was no greater than that of a lad of
fifteen, but the bearing was composed and
dignified. The contours of the figure,
however, even as seen by that dim light, were
those of neither a boy nor a man. The
wearer of the tunic was a girl, just rounding
into womanhood, and the face was the face
Yet it was not by this name that Kamaiakan
addressed her. After making a deep
obeisance, touching his hand to her foot and
then to his own forehead and breast, he said,
in a language that was neither Spanish nor
such as the modern Indians of Mexico use,--
"Welcome, Semitzin! May this night
be the beginning of high things!"
"I am ready," replied the other, in a
soft and low voice, but with a certain stateliness
of utterance unlike the usual manner
of General Trednoke's daughter: "I was
glad to hear you call, and to see again the
stars and the earth. Have you anything to
"There are events which may turn to our
harm, most revered princess. The master
of this house----"
"Why do you not call him my father,
Kamaiakan?" interposed the other. "He
is indeed the father of this mortal body
which I wear, which (as you tell me) bears
the name of Miriam. Besides, are not
Miriam and I united by the thread of
"Something of the spirit that is you
dwells in her also," said the Indian.
"And does she know of it?"
"At times, my princess; but only as one
remembers a dream."
"I wish I might converse with her and
instruct her in the truth," said the princess.
"And she, in turn, might speak to me of
things that perplex me. I live and move in
this mortal world, and yet (you tell me)
three centuries have passed since what is
called my death. To me it seems as if I
had but slept through a night, and were
awake again. Nor can I tell what has
happened--what my life and thoughts have
been--during this long lapse of time. Yet
it must be that I live another life: I cannot
rest in extinction. Three times you have
called me forth; yet whence I come hither,
or whither I return, is unknown to me."
"There is a memory of the spirit,"
replied Kamaiakan, "and a memory of the
body. They are separate, and cannot
communicate with each other. Such is the
"Yet I remember, as if it were yesterday,
the things that were done when Montezuma
was king. And well do I remember you,
"It is true I live again, princess, though
not in the flesh and bones that died with
you in the past. But in the old days I was
acquainted with mysteries, and learned the
secrets of the world of spirits; and this
science still remained with me after the
change, so that I was able to know that I
was I, and that you could be recalled to
speak with me through the tongue of Miriam.
But there are some things that I do not
know; and it is for that I have been bold
to summon you."
"What can I tell you that can be of use
to you in this present life, Kamaiakan, when
all whom we knew and loved are gone?"
"To you only, Semitzin, is known the
place of concealment of the treasure which,
in the old times, you and I hid in the
desert. I indeed remember the event, and
somewhat of the region of the hiding; but
I cannot put my hand upon the very spot.
I have tried to discover it; but when I
approach it my mind becomes confused
between the present and the past, and I am
"I remember it well," said Semitzin.
"We rode across the desert, carrying the
treasure on mules. The air was still, and
the heat very heavy. The desert descended
in a great hollow: you told me it was where,
in former days, the ocean had been. At
last there were rocky hills before us; we
rode towards a great rock shaped like the
pyramid on which the sacrifices were held
in Tenochtitlan. We passed round its base,
and entered a deep and narrow valley, that
seemed to have been ploughed out of the
heart of the earth and to descend into it.
Then---- But what is it you wish to do
with this treasure, Kamaiakan?"
"It belongs to your race, princess, and
was hidden that the murderers of Montezuma
might not seize it. I was bound by
an oath, after the peril was past, to restore
it to the rightful owners. But our country
remained under the rule of the conquerors;
and my life went out. But now the
conquerors have been conquered in their turn,
and Miriam is the last inheritor of your
blood. When I have delivered to her this
trust, my work will be done, and I can return
to the world which you inhabit. The
time is come; and only by your help can
the restitution be made."
"Was there, then, a time fixed?"
"The stars tell me so. And other events
make it certain that there must be no delay.
The general has it in mind to discover the
gates through which the waters under-ground
may arise and again form the sea which flowed
hereabouts in the ancient times. Now, this
sea will fill the ravine in which the treasure
lies, and make it forever unattainable. A
youth has also come here who is skilled in
the sciences, and whom the general will ask
to help him in the thing he is to attempt."
"Who is this youth?" asked Semitzin.
"He is of the new people who inherit
this land: his name is Freeman."
"There is something in me--I know not
what--that seems to tell me I have been
near such a one. Can it be so?"
"The other self, who now sleeps, knows
of him," replied the ancient Indian. "He
is a well-looking youth, and I think he
has a desire towards her we call Miriam."
"And does she love him?" inquired the
"A maiden's heart is a riddle, even to
herself," said Kamaiakan.
"But there is a sympathy that makes me
feel her heart in my own," rejoined Semitzin.
"Love is a thing that pierces through
time, and through barriers which separate
the mind and memory of the past from the
present. I--as you know, Kamaiakan--was
never wedded; the fate of our people, and
my early end, kept that from me. But the
thought of that youth is here,"--she put
her hand on her bosom,--"and it seems to
me that, were we to meet, I should know
him. Perhaps, were that to be, Miriam and
I might thus come to be aware of each
other, and live henceforth one life."
"Such matters are beyond my knowledge,"
said the Indian, shaking his head.
"The gods know what will be. It is for
us, now, to regain the treasure. Are you
willing, my princess, to accompany me
"I am ready. Shall it be now?"
"Not now, but soon. I will call you
when the moment comes. The place is but
a ride of two or three hours from here.
None must know of our departure, for there
are some here whom I do not trust. We
must go by night. You will wear the
garments you now have on, without which all
"How can the garments affect the result,
"A powerful spell is laid upon them,
princess. Moreover, the characters wrought
upon them, with gold thread and jewels, are
mystical, and the substance of the garment
itself has a virtue to preserve the wearer
from evil. It is the same that was worn by
you when the treasure was hidden; and it
may be, Semitzin, that without its magic aid
your spirit could not know itself in this
world as now it can."
As he spoke the last words, a low sound,
wandering and muttering with an inward
note, came palpitating on their ears through
the night air. It seemed to approach from
no direction that could be identified, yet it
was at first remote, and then came nearer,
and in a moment trembled around them,
and shivered in the solid earth beneath their
feet; and in another instant it had passed
on, and was subdued slowly into silence in
the shadowy distance. No one who has
once heard that sound can mistake it for
any other, or ever can forget it. The air
had suddenly become close and tense; and
now a long breeze swept like a sigh through
the garden, dying away in a long-drawn
wail; and out of the west came a hollow
murmur, like that of a mighty wave breaking
upon the shore of the ocean.
"The earthquake!" whispered Kamaiakan,
rising to his feet. And then he pointed
to the stone basin. "Look! the spring!"
"It is gone!" exclaimed Semitzin.
And, in truth, the water, with a strange,
sucking noise, disappeared through the
bottom of the basin, leaving the glistening
cavity which had held it, green with slimy
"The time is near, indeed!" muttered
the Indian. "The second shock may cause
the waters from which this spring came to
rise as no living man has seen them rise, and
make the sea return, and the treasure be
lost. In a few days all may be over. But
you, princess, must vanish: though the shock
was but slight, some one might be awakened;
and were you to be discovered, our plans
might go wrong."
"Must I depart so soon?" said Semitzin,
regretfully. "The earth is beautiful,
Kamaiakan: the smell of the flowers is sweet,
and the stars in the sky are bright. To feel
myself alive, to breathe, to walk, to see, are
sweet. Perhaps I have no other conscious life
than this. I would like to remain as I am: I
would like to see the sun shine, and to hear
the birds sing, and to see the men and
women who live in this age. Is there no
way of keeping me here?"
"I cannot tell; it may be,--but it must
not be now, Semitzin," the old man replied,
with a troubled look. "The ways of the
gods are not our ways. She whose body
you inhabit--she has her life to live."
"But is that girl more worthy to live than
I? You have called me into being again:
you have made me know how pleasant this
world is. Miriam sleeps: she need never
know; she need never awake again. You
were faithful to me in the old time: have
you more care for her than for me? I feel
all the power and thirst of youth in me: the
gods did not let me live out my life: may
they not intend that I shall take it up again
now? Besides, I wear Miriam's body:
could I not seem to others to be Miriam
indeed? How could they guess the truth?"
"I will think of what you say, princess,"
said Kamaiakan. "Something may perhaps
be done; but it must be done gradually:
you would need much instruction in the
ways of the new world before you could
safely enter into its life. Leave that to me.
I am loyal as ever: is it not to fulfil the
oath made to you that I am here? and what
would Miriam be to me, were she not your
inheritor? Be satisfied for the present: in
a few days we will meet and speak again."
"The power is yours, Kamaiakan: it is
well to argue, when with a word you can
banish me forever! Yet what if I were to
say that, unless you consent to the thing I
desire, I will not show you where the treasure
"Princess Semitzin!" exclaimed the
Indian, "remember that it is not against me,
but against the gods, that you would contend.
The gods know that I have no care for
treasure. But they will not forgive a broken
oath; and they will not hold that one guiltless
through whom it is brought to naught?"
"Well, we shall meet again," answered
Semitzin, after a pause. "But do you
remember that you, too, are not free from
responsibility in this matter. You have
called me back: see to it that you do me
justice." She waved her hands with a gesture
of adieu, turned, and left the enclosure.
Kamaiakan sank down again beside the
empty bowl of the fountain.
Semitzin returned along the path by which
she had come, towards the house. As she
turned round one of the corners, she saw a
man's figure before her, strolling slowly
along in the same direction in which she
was going. In a few moments he heard her
light footfall, and, facing about, confronted
her. She continued to advance until she
was within arm's reach of him: then she
paused, and gazed steadfastly in his face.
He was the first human being, save Kamaiakan,
that she had seen since her eyes closed
upon the world of Tenochtitlan, three hundred
The young man looked upon her with
manifest surprise. It was too dark to
distinguish anything clearly, but it did not take
him long to surmise that the figure was that
of a woman, and her countenance, though
changed in aspect by the head-dress she
were, yet had features which, he knew, he
had seen before. But could it be Miriam
Trednoke who was abroad at such an hour
and in such a costume? He did not recognize
the Golden Fleece, but it was evident
enough that she was clad as women are not.
Before he could think of anything to say
to her, she smiled, and uttered some words
in a soft, flowing language with which he
was entirely unacquainted. The next moment
she had glided past him, and was out
of sight round the curve of the path, leaving
him in a state of perplexity not altogether
"What the deuce can it mean?" he
muttered to himself. "I can't be mistaken
about its being Miriam. And yet she didn't
look at me as if she recognized me. What
can she be doing out here at midnight? I
suppose it's none of my business: in fact,
she might very reasonably ask the same question
of me. And if I were to tell her that
I had only ridden over to spend a
sentimental hour beneath her window, what
would she say? If she answered in the
same lingo she used just now, I should be
as wise as before. After all, it may have
been somebody else. The image in my
mind projected itself on her countenance.
I certainly must be in love! I almost wish
I'd never come here. This complication
about the general's irrigating scheme makes
it awkward. I'm bound not to explain
things to him; and yet, if I don't, and he
discovers (as he can't help doing) what I
am here for, nothing will persuade him that
I haven't been playing a double game; and
that would not be a promising preliminary
towards becoming a member of his family.
If Miriam were only Grace, now, it would
be plain sailing. Hello! who's this? Senor
Don Miguel, as I'm a sinner! What is he
up to, pray? Can this be the explanation
of Miriam's escapade? I have a strong
desire to blow a hole through that fellow!
--Buenas noches, Senor de Mendoza! I
am enchanted to have the unexpected honor
of meeting you."
Senor de Mendoza turned round,
disagreeably startled. It is only fair to explain
that he had not come hither with any lover-
like designs towards Miriam. Grace was
the magnet that had drawn his steps to the
Trednokes' garden, and the truth is that
that enterprising young lady was not without
a suspicion that he might turn up.
Could this information have been imparted
to Freeman, it would have saved much
trouble; but, as it was, not only did he
jump to the conclusion that Don Miguel
was his rival (and, seemingly, a not
unsuccessful one), but a similar misgiving as to
Freeman's purposes towards Grace found its
way into the heart of the Spaniard. It was
a most perverse trick of fate.
The two men contemplated each other,
each after his own fashion: Don Miguel
pale, glaring, bristling; Freeman smiling,
"Why are you here, senor?" demanded
the former, at length.
"Partly, senor, because such is my
pleasure. Partly, to inform you that your
presence here offends me, and to humbly request
you to be off."
"Senor, this is an impertinence."
"Senor, one is not impertinent to prowling
greasers. One admonishes them, and,
if they do not obey, one chastises them."
"Do you talk of chastising Don Miguel
de Mendoza? Senor, I will wash out that
insult with your blood!"
"Excellent! It is at your service for the
taking. But, lest we disturb the repose of
our friends yonder, let us seek a more
convenient spot. I noticed a very pretty little
glade on the right as I rode over here. You
are armed? Good! we will have this little
affair adjusted within half an hour. Yonder
star--the planet of love, senor--shall see
fair play. Andamos!"
Having mounted their steeds, the two
sanguinary young gentlemen rode onwards,
side by side, but in silence; for the
souls of those who have resolved to slay each
other find small delight in vain
conversation. Moreover, there is that in the
conscious proximity of death which stimulates
to thought much more than to speech. But
Freeman preserved an outward demeanor of
complacent calm, as one who doubts not,
nor dreads, the issue; and, indeed, this was
not the first time by many that he had taken
his life in his hand and brought it unscathed
through dangers. Don Miguel, on the other
hand, was troubled in spirit, and uneasy in
the flesh. He was one soon hot and soon
cold; and this long ride to the decisive
event went much against his stomach. If
the conflict had taken place there in the
garden, while the fire of the insult was yet
scorching him, he could have fought it out
with good will; but now the night air seemed
chiller and chiller, and its frigidity crept
into his nerves: he doubted of the steadiness
of his aim, bethought himself that the
darkness was detrimental to accurate shooting,
and wondered whether Senor Freeman
would think it necessary to fight across a
handkerchief. He could not help regretting,
too, that the quarrel had not been occasioned
by some more definite and satisfactory
provocation,--something which merely to think
of would steel the heart to irrevocable
murderousness. But no blow had passed; even
the words, though bitter to swallow, had
been wrapt in the phrases of courtesy; and
perhaps the whole affair was the result of
some misapprehension. He stole a look at
the face of his companion; and the latter's
air of confident and cheerful serenity made
him feel worse than ever. Was he being
brought out here to be butchered for
nothing,--he, Don Miguel de Mendoza, who
had looked forward to many pleasures in
this life? It was too bad. It was true, the
fortune of war might turn the other way;
but Don Miguel was aware of a sensation in
his bones which made this hope weak.
At length Freeman drew rein and glanced
around him. They were in a lonely and--
Don Miguel thought--a most desolate and
unattractive spot. An open space of about
half an acre was bounded on one side by a
growth of wild mustard, whose slender stalks
rose to more than the height of a man's
head. On the other side was a grove of
live-oak; and in front, the ground fell away
in a rugged, bush-grown declivity.
"It strikes me that this is just about what
we want," remarked Freeman, in his full,
cheerful tones. "We are half a mile from
the road; the ground is fairly level; and
there's no possibility of our being disturbed.
I was thinking, this afternoon, as I passed
through here, what an ideal spot it was for
just such a little affair as you and I are bent
on. But I didn't venture to anticipate
such speedy good fortune as your obliging
condescension has brought to pass, Don
"Caramba!" muttered the senor,
shivering. He might have said more, but was
unwilling to trust his voice, or to waste
Meanwhile, Freeman had dismounted,
and was tethering his horse. It occurred
to the senor that it would be easy to pull
his gun, send a bullet through his
companion, and gallop away. He did not
yield to this temptation, partly from
traditional feeling that it would not be suitable
conduct for a De Mendoza, partly because
he might miss the shot or only inflict a
wound, and partly because such deeds
demand a nerve which, at that moment, was
not altogether at his command. Instead,
he slowly dismounted himself, and wondered
whether it would ever be vouchsafed him to
sit in that saddle again.
Freeman now produced his revolver, a
handsome, silver-mounted weapon, that
looked business-like. "What sort of a
machine is yours?" he inquired, pleasantly.
"You can take your choice. I'm not
particular, but I can recommend this as a sure
thing, if you would like to try it. It never
misses at twenty paces."
"Twenty paces?" repeated Don Miguel,
with a faint gleam of hope.
"Of course we won't have any twenty
paces to-night, "added Freeman, with a
laugh. "I thought it might be a good
plan to start at, say, fifteen, and advance
firing. In that way, one or other of us
will be certain to do something sooner or
later. Would that arrangement be agreeable
to Senor de Mendoza?"
"Valga me Dios! I am content," said
the latter, fetching a deep breath, and setting
his teeth. "I will keep my weapon."
"Muy buen," returned the American.
"So now let us take our ground: that is, if
you are quite ready?"
Accordingly they selected their stations,
facing respectively about north and south,
with the planet of love between them, as it
were. "Oblige me by giving the word,
senor," said Freeman, cocking his weapon.
But Don Miguel was staring with perturbed
visage at something behind his antagonist.
"Santa Maria!" he faltered,
"what is yonder? It is a spirit!"
Freeman had his wits about him, and
perhaps entertained a not too high opinion
of Mexican fair play. So, before turning
round, he advanced till he was alongside
his companion. Then he looked, and saw
something which was certainly enigmatic.
Among the wild-mustard plants there
appeared a moving luminosity, having an
irregular, dancing motion, as of a will-o'-the-
wisp singularly agitated. Sometimes it
uplifted itself on high, then plunged
downwards, and again jerked itself from side to
side; occasionally it would quite vanish for
an instant. Accompanying this manifestation
there was a clawing and reaching of
shadowy arms: altogether, it was as if some
titanic spectral grasshopper, with a heart of
fire, were writhing and kicking in convulsions
of phantom agony. Such an apparition,
in an hour and a place so lonely,
might stagger a less superstitious soul than
that of Don Miguel de Mendoza.
Freeman gazed at it for a moment in
silence. It mystified him, and then irritated
him. When one is bent heart and soul upon
an important enterprise, any interruption is
an annoyance. Perhaps there was in the
young American's nature just enough remains
of belief in witches and hobgoblins
to make him feel warranted in resorting to
extreme measures. At any rate, he lifted
his revolver, and fired.
It was a long shot for a revolver:
nevertheless it took effect. The luminous object
disappeared with a faint explosive sound,
followed by a shout unmistakably human.
The long stems of the wild mustard swayed
and parted, and out sprang a figure, which
ran straight towards the two young men.
Hereupon, Don Miguel, hissing out an appeal
to the Virgin and the saints, turned and
Meanwhile, the mysterious figure
continued its onward career; and Freeman
once more levelled his weapon,--when a
voice, which gave him such a start of
surprise as well-nigh caused him to pull the
trigger for sheer lack of self-command,
called out, "Why, you abominable young
villain! What the mischief do you mean?
Do you want to be hanged?"
"Professor Meschines!" faltered Freeman.
It was indeed that worthy personage, and
he was on fire with wrath. He held in one
hand a shattered lantern mounted on the
end of a pole, and in the other a long-
handled net of gauze, such as entomologists
use to catch moths withal. Under his left
arm was slung a brown japanned case, in
which he presumably deposited the spoils
of his skill. Freeman's shot had not only
smashed and extinguished the lantern which
served as bait for the game, but had also
given the professor a disagreeable reminder
that the tenure of human life is as precarious
as that of the silly moth which allows itself
to be lured to destruction by shining promises
"Upon my soul, professor, I am very
sorry," said Freeman. "You have no idea
how formidable you looked; and you could
hardly expect me to imagine that you would
be abroad at such an hour----"
"And why not, I should like to know?"
shouted the professor, towering with
indignation. "Was I doing anything to be
ashamed of? And what are you doing here,
pray, with loaded revolvers in your hands?
--Hallo! who's this?" he exclaimed, as
Don Miguel advanced doubtfully out of the
gloom. "Senor de Mendoza, as I'm a
sinner! and armed, too! Well, really!
Are you two out on a murdering expedition?
--Oho!" he went on, in a changed tone,
glancing keenly from one to another:
"methinks I see the bottom of this mystery.
You have ridden forth, like the champions
of romance, to do doughty deeds upon each
other!--Is it not so, Don Miguel?" he
demanded, turning his fierce spectacles
suddenly on that young man.
Don Miguel, ignoring a secret gesture
from Freeman, admitted that he had been
on the point of expunging the latter from
this mortal sphere.
The professor chuckled sarcastically. "I
see! Blood! Wounded honor! The code!
--But, by the way, I don't see your seconds!
Where are your seconds?"
"My dear sir," said Freeman, "I assure
you it's all a mistake. We just happened
to meet at the gen--er--happened to meet,
and were riding home together----"
"Now, listen to me, Harvey," the
professor interrupted, holding up an expository
finger. "You have known me since some
ten years, I think; and I have known you.
You were a clever boy in your studies; but
it was your foible to fancy yourself cleverer
than you were. Acting under that delusion,
you pitted yourself against me on one or
two occasions; and I leave it to your candid
recollection whether you or I had the best
of the encounter. You call yourself a man,
now; but I make bold to say that the--
discrepancy, let us call it--between you and me
remains as conspicuous as ever it was. I see
through you, sir, much more clearly than, by
this light, I can see you. I am fond of you,
Harvey; but I feel nothing but contempt
for your present attitude. In the first place,
conscious as you are of your skill with that
weapon, you know that this affair--even had
seconds been present--would have been, not
a duel, but an assassination. You acted like
a coward!--I say it, sir, like a coward!--
and I hope you may live to be as much
ashamed of yourself as I am now ashamed
for you. Secondly, your conduct, considered
in its relations to--to certain persons
whom I will not name, is that of a boor and
a blackguard. Suppose you had accomplished
the cowardly murder--the cowardly
murder, I said, sir--that you were bent upon
to-night. Do you think that would be a
grateful and acceptable return for the courtesy
and confidence that have been shown
you in that house?--a house, sir, to which I
myself introduced you, under the mistaken
belief that you were a gentleman, or, at
least, could feign gentlemanly behavior!
But I won't--my feelings won't allow me to
enlarge further upon this point. But allow
me to add, in the third place, that you have
shown yourself a purblind donkey. Actually,
you haven't sense enough to know the difference
between those who pull with you and
those who pull against you. Now, I happen
to know--to know, do you hear?--that had
you succeeded in what you were just about
to attempt, you would have removed your
surest ally,--the surest, because his interests
prompt him to favor yours. You pick out
the one man who was doing his best to clear
the obstacle out of your path, and what do
you do?--Thank him?--Not you! You plot
to kill him! But even had he been, as you
in your stupidity imagined, your rival, do
you think the course you adopted would
have promoted your advantage? Let me
tell you, sir, that you don't know the kind
of people you are dealing with. You would
never have been permitted to cross their
threshold again. And you may take my
word for it, if ever you venture to recur to
any such folly, I will see to it that you
receive your deserts.--Well, I think we
understand each other, now?"
Freeman's emotions had undergone
several variations during the course of the
mighty professor's harangue. But he had
ended by admitting the force of the
argument; and the reminiscences of college
lecturings aroused by the incident had
tickled his sense of humor and quenched
his anger. He looked at the professor with
a sparkle of laughter in his eyes.
"I have done very wrong, sir," he said,
"and I'm very sorry for it. If you won't
give me any bad marks this time, I'll
promise to be good in future."
"Ah! very smooth! To begin with,
suppose you ask pardon of Senor Don
Miguel de Mendoza for the affront you
have put upon him."
To a soul really fearless, even an apology
has no terrors. Moreover, Freeman's night
ride with Don Miguel, though brief in time,
had sufficed to give him the measure of the
Mexican's character; and he respected it so
little that he could no longer take the man
seriously, or be sincerely angry with him.
The professor's assurance as to Don Miguel's
inoffensiveness had also its weight; and it
was therefore with a quite royal gesture
of amicable condescension that Freeman
turned upon his late antagonist and held out
"Senor Don Miguel de Mendoza," said
he, "I humbly tender you my apologies
and crave your pardon. My conduct has
been inexcusable; I beg you to excuse it.
I deserve your reprobation; I entreat the
favor of your friendship. Senor, between
men of honor, a misunderstanding is a
misunderstanding, and an apology is an
apology. I lament the existence of the
first; the professor, here, is witness that I
lay the second at your feet. May I hope
to receive your hand as a pledge that you
restore me to the privilege of your good
Now, Don Miguel's soul had been grievously
exercised that night: he had been
insulted, he had shivered beneath the shadow
of death, he had been a prey to superstitious
terrors, and he had been utterly perplexed
by the professor's eloquent address, whereof
(as it was delivered in good American, and
with a rapidity of utterance born of strong
feeling) he had comprehended not a word,
and the unexpected effect of which upon
his late adversary he was at a loss to
understand. Although, therefore, he had no
stomach for battle, he was oppressed by a
misgiving lest the whole transaction had
been in some way planned to expose him to
ridicule; and for this reason he was
disposed to treat Freeman's peaceful overtures
with suspicion. His heart did not respond
to those overtures, but neither was it stout
enough to enable him to reject them
explicitly. Accordingly, he adopted that
middle course which, in spite of the
proverb, is not seldom the least expedient.
He disregarded the proffered hand, bowed
very stiffly, and, saying, "Senor, I am
satisfied," stalked off with all the rigidity
of one in whose veins flows the sangre azul
of Old Castile. Freeman smiled superior
upon his retreat, and then, producing a
cigar-case, proceeded to light up with the
professor. In this fragrant and friendly
cloud we will leave them, and return for a
few minutes to the house of General Trednoke.
It will be remembered that something was
said of Grace being privy to the nocturnal
advances of Senor de Mendoza. We are
not to suppose that this implies in her
anything worse than an aptness to indulge in
romantic adventure: the young lady
enjoyed the mystery of romance, and knew
that serenades, and whisperings over star-lit
balconies, were proper to this latitude. It
may be open to question whether she really
was much interested in De Mendoza, save
as he was a type of the adoring Spaniard.
That the scene required: she could imagine
him (for the time-being) to be the Cid of
ancient legend, and she herself would enact
a role of corresponding elevation. Grace
would doubtless have prospered better had
she been content with one adorer at a time;
but, while turning to a new love, she was by
no means disposed to loosen the chains of a
former one; and, though herself as jealous
as is a tiger-cat of her young, she could
never recognize the propriety of a similar
passion on the part of her victims. She
had been indignant at Freeman's apparent
infidelity with Miriam; but when she had
(as she imagined) discovered her mistake,
she had listened with a heart at ease to
the protestations of Don Miguel. She had
parted from him that evening with a half
expressed understanding that he was to
reappear beneath her window before day-
light; and she had pictured to herself a
charming balcony-scene, such as she had
beheld in Italian opera. Accordingly, she
had attired herself in a becoming negligee,
and had spent the fore part of the night
somewhat restlessly, occasionally emerging
on the veranda and gazing down into the
perfumed gloom of the garden. At length she
fancied that she heard footsteps. Whose
could they be, unless Don Miguel's? Grace
retreated within her window to await
developments. Don Miguel did not appear;
but presently she descried a phantom-like
figure ascending the flight of steps to the
veranda. Could that be he? If so, he
was bolder in his wooing than Grace had
been prepared for. But surely that was a
strange costume that he wore; nor did the
unconscious harmony of the gait at all resemble
the senor's self-conscious strut. And
whither was he going?
It was but too evident that he was going
straight to the room occupied by Miriam!
This was too much for Grace's equanimity.
She stepped out of her window,
and flitted with noiseless step along the
veranda. The figure that she pursued
entered the door of the house, and passed into
the corridor traversing the wing. Grace
was in time to see it cross the threshold of
Miriam's door, which stood ajar. She stole
to the door, and peeped in. There was the
figure; but of Miriam there was no trace.
The figure slowly unfastened and threw
back the hood which covered its head, at
the same time turning round, so that its
countenance was revealed. A torrent of
black hair fell down over its shoulders.
Grace uttered an involuntary exclamation.
It was Miriam herself!
The two gazed at each other a moment in
silence. "Goodness me, dear!" said Grace
at last, in a faint voice, "how you have
frightened me! I saw you go in, in that
dress, and I thought you were a man!
How my heart beats! What is the matter?"
"This is strange!" murmured the other,
after a pause. "I never heard such words;
and yet I seem to understand, and even to
speak them. It must be a dream. What
"Why, Miriam, dear! don't you know
"Oh! you think me Miriam. No; not
yet!" She raised her hands, and pressed
her fingers against her temples. "But I
feel her--I feel her coming! Not yet,
Kamaiakan! not so soon!--Do you know
him?" she suddenly asked, throwing back
her hair, and fixing an eager gaze on
"Know who? Kamaiakan? Why,
"No, not him! The youth,--the blue-
eyed,--the fair beard above his lips----"
"What are you talking about? Not
"Harvey Freeman! Ah, how sweet a
name! Harvey Freeman! I shall know it
now!--Tell him," she went on, laying her
hand majestically upon Grace's shoulder,
and speaking with an impressive earnestness,
"that Semitzin loves him!"
"Semitzin?" repeated Grace, puzzled,
and beginning to feel scared.
"Semitzin!" the other said, pointing to
her own heart. "She loves him: not as
the child Miriam loves, but with the heart
and soul of a mighty princess. When he
knows Semitzin, he will think of Miriam no
"But who is Semitzin?" inquired Grace,
with a fearful curiosity.
"The Princess of Tenochtitlan, and the
guardian of the great treasure, "was the
"Good gracious! what treasure?"
"The treasure of gold and precious
stones hidden in the gorge of the desert
hills. None knows the place of it but I;
and I will give it to none but him I love."
"But you said that . . . Really, my
dear, I don't understand a bit! As for Mr.
Freeman, he may care for Semitzin, for
aught I know; but, I must confess, I think
you're mistaken in supposing he's in love
with you,--if that is what you mean. I
met him before you did, you know; and if
I were to tell you all that we----"
"What are you or Miriam to me?--Ah!
she comes!--The treasure--by the turning
of the white pyramid--six hundred paces--
on the right--the arch----" Her voice
died away. She covered her face with her
hands, and trembled violently. Slowly she
let them fall, and stared around her.
"Grace, is it you? Has anything happened?
How came I like this? What is
"Well, if you don't know, I'm afraid I
can't tell you. I had begun to think you
had gone mad. It must be either that or
somnambulism. Who is Semitzin?"
"Semitzin? I never heard of him."
"It isn't a man: it's a princess. And
"Am I asleep or awake? What are you
"The white pyramid, you know----"
"Don't make game of me, Grace. If
I have done anything----"
"My dear, don't ask me! I tell you
frankly, I'm nonplussed. You were somebody
else a minute ago. . . . The truth is,
of course, you've been dreaming awake.
Has any one else seen you beside me?"
"Have I been out of my room?" asked
Miriam, in dismay.
"You must have been, I should think, to
get that costume. Well, the best plan will
be, I suppose, to say nothing about it to
anybody. It shall be our secret, dear. If I
were you, I would have one of the women
sleep in your room, in case you got restless
again. It's just an attack of nervousness,
probably,--having so many strangers in the
house, all of a sudden. Now you must go
to bed and get to sleep: it's awfully late,
and there'll be ever so much going on to-
Grace herself slept little that night. She
could not decide what to make of this
adventure. Nowadays we are provided with
a name for the peculiar psychical state
which Miriam was undergoing, and with
abundant instances and illustrations; but
we perhaps know what it is no more than
we did twenty-five or thirty years ago.
Grace's first idea had been that Miriam was
demented; then she thought she was playing
a part; then she did not know what to
think; and finally she came to the conclusion
that it was best to quietly await further
developments. She would keep an eye
on Freeman as well as on Miriam; something,
too, might be gathered from Don
Miguel; and then there was that talk about
a treasure. Was that all the fabric of a
dream, or was there truth at the bottom of
it? She had heard something said about a
treasure in the course of the general
conversation the day before. If there really
was a treasure, why might not she have a
hand in the discovery of it? Miriam, in
her abnormal state, had let fall some
topographical hints that might prove useful.
Well, she would work out the problem,
sooner or later. To-morrow, when the
others had gone off on their expedition, she
would have ample leisure to sound Don
Miguel, and, if he proved communicative
and available, who could tell what might
happen? But how very odd it all was!
Who was Semitzin?
While asking herself this question, Grace
fell asleep; and by the time the summons
to breakfast came, she had passed through
thrilling adventures enough to occupy a new
Scheherazade at least three years in the
telling of them.
By nine o'clock in the morning,
Professor Meschines and Harvey Freeman
had ridden up to the general's ranch,
equipped for the expedition. The general's
preparations were not yet quite completed.
A couple of mules were being loaded with
the necessary outfit. It was proposed to be
out two days, camping in the open during
the intervening night. It was necessary to
take water as well as solid provisions.
Leaving their horses in the care of a couple
of stable-boys, Meschines and Freeman
mounted the veranda, and were there
greeted by General Trednoke.
"I'm afraid we'll have a hot ride of it,"
he observed. "The atmosphere is rather
oppressive. Kamaiakan tells me there was
a touch of earthquake last night."
"I thought I noticed some disturbance,----"
returned the professor, with a stealthy side-
glance at Freeman,--"something in the
nature of an explosion."
"Earthquakes are common in this region,
aren't they?" Freeman said.
"They have made it what it is, and may
unmake it again," replied the general.
"The earthquake is the father of the desert,
as the Indians say; and it may some day
become the father of a more genial offspring.
"How are the young ladies?" inquired
"Miriam has a little headache, I
believe; and I thought Miss Parsloe was
looking a trifle pale this morning. But
you must see for yourself. Here they
Grace, who was a little taller than
Miriam, had thrown one arm round that
young lady's waist, with a view, perhaps, to
forming a picture in which she should not
be the secondary figure. In fact, they were
both of them very pretty; but Freeman had
become blind to any beauty but Miriam's.
Moreover, he was resolved to have some
private conversation with her during the
few minutes that were available. A
conversation with the professor, and some
meditations of his own, had suggested to him a
line of attack upon Grace.
"I'm afraid you were disturbed by the
earthquake last night?" he said to her.
"An earthquake? Why should you
"You look as if you had passed a restless
night. I saw Senor de Mendoza this morning.
He seems to have had a restless time
of it, too. But he is a romantic person,
and probably, if an earthquake did not
make him sleepless, something else might."
He looked at her a moment, and then
added, with a smile, "But perhaps this is
not news to you?"
"He didn't come--I didn't see him,"
returned Grace, wishing, ere the words had
left her lips, that she had kept her mouth
shut. Freeman continued to smile. How
much did he know? She felt that it might
be inexpedient to continue the conversation.
Casting about for a pretext for
retreat, her eyes fell upon Meschines.
"Oh, there's the dear professor! I must
speak to him a moment," she exclaimed,
vivaciously; and she slipped her arm from
Miriam's waist, and was off, leaving Freeman
in possession of the field, and of the
monopoly of Miriam's society.
"Miss Trednoke," said he, gravely, "I
have something to tell you, in order to clear
myself from a possible misunderstanding.
It may happen that I shall need your
vindication with your father. Will you give
"What vindication do you need, that I
can give?" asked she, opening her dark
eyes upon him questioningly.
"That's what I wish to explain. I am
in a difficult position. Would you mind
stepping down into the garden? It won't
take a minute."
Curiosity, if not especially feminine, is
at least human. Miriam descended the
steps, Freeman beside her. They strolled
down the path, amidst the flowers.
"You said, yesterday," he began, "that
I would say one thing and be another.
Now I am going to tell you what I am.
And afterwards I'll tell you why I tell it.
In the first place, you know, I'm a civil
engineer, and that includes, in my case, a
good deal of knowledge about geology and
things of that sort. I have sometimes been
commissioned to make geological surveys
for Eastern capitalists. Lately I've been
canal-digging on the Isthmus; but the other
day I got a notification from some men in
Boston and New York to come out here on a
"Secret, Mr. Freeman?"
"Yes: you will understand directly.
These men had heard enough about the
desert valleys of this region to lead them to
think that it might be reclaimed and so be
made very valuable. Such lands can be
bought now for next to nothing; but, if the
theories that control these capitalists are
correct, they could afterwards be sold at a
profit of thousands per cent. So it's
indispensable that the object of my being
here should remain unknown; otherwise,
other persons might step in and anticipate
the designs of this company."
"If those are your orders, why do you
speak to me?"
"There's a reason for doing it that
outweighs the reasons against it. I trust you
with the secret: yet I don't mean to bind
you to secrecy. You will have a perfect
right to tell it: the only result would be
that I should be discredited with my
employers; and there is nothing to warrant me
in supposing that you would be deterred by
"I don't ask to know your secret: I
think you had better say no more."
Freeman shook his head. "I must
speak," said he. "I don't care what
becomes of me, so long as I stand right in
your opinion,--your father's and yours. I
am here to find out whether this desert can
be flooded,--irrigated,--whether it's possible,
by any means, to bring water upon it.
If my report is favorable, the company will
purchase hundreds, or thousands, of square
miles, and, incidentally, my own fortune
will be made."
"Why, that's the very thing----" She
"The very thing your father had thought
of! Yes, so I imagined, though he has not
told me so in so many words. So I'm in
the position of surreptitiously taking away
the prospective fortune of a man whom I
respect and honor, and who treats me as a
Miriam walked on some steps in silence.
"It is no fault of yours," she said at last.
"You owe us nothing. You must carry out
"Yes; but what is to prevent your father
from thinking that I stole his idea and then
used it against him?"
"You can tell him the truth: he could
not complain; and why should you care if
he did? I know that men separate business
from--from other things."
They had now come to the little enclosed
space where the fountain basin was; and by
tacit consent they seated themselves upon it.
Miriam gave an exclamation of surprise.
"The water is gone!" she said. "How
"Perhaps it has gone to meet us at our
rendezvous in the desert.--No: if I tell
your father, I should be unfaithful to my
employers. But there's another alternative:
I can resign my appointment, and let my
place be taken by another."
"And give up your chance of a fortune?
You mustn't do that."
"What is it to you what becomes of
"I wish nothing but good to come to
you," said she, in a low voice.
"I have never wanted to have a fortune
until now. And I must tell you the reason
of that, too. A man without a fortune does
very well by himself. He can knock about,
and live from hand to mouth. But when
he wants to live for somebody else,--even
if he has only a very faint hope of getting
the opportunity of doing it,--then he must
have some settled means of livelihood to
justify him. So I say I am in a difficult
position. For if I give this up, I must go
away; and if I go away, I must give up
even the little hope I have."
"Don't go away," said Miriam, after a
"Do you know what you are saying?"
He hesitated a moment, looking at her as
she looked down at the empty basin. "My
hope was that you might love me; for I
love you, to be my wife."
The color slowly rose in Miriam's face:
at length she hid it in her hands. "Oh,
what is it?" she said, almost in a whisper.
"I have known you only three days. But
it seems as if I must have known you before.
There is something in me that is not like
myself. But it is the deepest thing in me;
and it loves you: yes, I love you!"
Her hands left her face, and there was a
light in her eyes which made Freeman, in
the midst of his rejoicing, feel humble and
unworthy. He felt himself in contact with
something pure and sacred. At the same
moment, the recollection recurred to him
of the figure he had seen the night before,
with the features of Miriam. Was it she
indeed? Was this she? To doubt the
identity of the individual is to lose one's
footing on the solid earth. For the first
time it occurred to him that this doubt
might affect Miriam herself. Was she
obscurely conscious of two states of being in
herself, and did she therefore fear to trust
her own impulses? But, again, love is the
master-passion; its fire fuses all things, and
gives them unity. Would not this love that
they confessed for each other burn away all
that was abnormal and enigmatic, and leave
only the unerring human heart, that knows
its own and takes it? These reflections
passed through Freeman's mind in an
instant of time. But he was no metaphysician,
and he obeyed the sane and wholesome
instinct which has ever been man's
surest and safest guide through the
mysteries and bewilderments of existence. He
took the beautiful woman in his arms and
"This is real and right, if anything is,"
said he. "If there are ghosts about, you
and I, at any rate, are flesh and blood, and
where we belong. As to the irrigation
scrape, there must be some way out of it:
if not, no matter! You and I love each
other, and the world begins from this moment!"
"My father must know to-morrow," said
"No doubt we shall all know more to-
morrow than we do to-day," returned her
lover, not knowing how abundantly his
prophecy would be fulfilled: he was over-
flowing with the fearless and enormous joy
of a young man who has attained at one
bound the summit of his desire. "There!
they are calling for me. Good-by, my
darling. Be yourself, and think of nothing
A short ride brought the little cavalcade
to the borders of the desert. Here, by
common consent, a halt was made, to draw
breath, as it were, before taking the final
plunge into the fiery furnace.
"Before we go farther," said General
Trednoke, approaching Freeman, as he was
tightening his girths, "I must tell you what
is the object of this expedition."
"It is not necessary, general," replied
the young man, straightening himself and
looking the other in the face; "for from
this point our paths lie apart."
"Why so?" demanded the general, in
"What's that?" exclaimed Meschines,
coming up, and adjusting his spectacles.
"I'm not at liberty, at present, to
explain," Freeman answered. "All I can
say is that I don't feel justified in assisting
you in your affair, and I am not able to
confide my own to you. I wish you to put
the least uncharitable construction you can
on my conduct. To-morrow, if we all live,
I may say more; now, the most I can tell
you is that I am not entirely a free agent.
Against this unexpected resolve the
general cordially protested and the professor
scoffed and contended; but Freeman stayed
firm. He had with him provisions enough
to last him three days, and a supply of
water; and in a small case he carried a
compact assortment of instruments for
scientific observation. "Take your departure
in whatever direction you like," said he,
"and I will take mine at an angle of not
less than fifteen degrees from it. If I am
not back in three days, you may conclude
something has happened."
It was certainly very hot. Freeman had
been accustomed to torrid suns in the Isthmus;
but this was a sun indefinitely multiplied
by reflections from the dusty surface
underfoot. Nor was it the fine, ethereal fire
of the Sahara: the atmosphere was dead
and heavy; for the rider was already far
below the level of the Pacific, whose cool
blue waves rolled and rippled many leagues
to the westward, as, aeons ago, they had
rolled and rippled here. There was not a
breath of air. Freeman could hear his
heart beat, and the veins in his temples and
wrists throbbed. The sweat rose on the
surface of his body, but without cooling it.
The pony which he bestrode, a bony and
sinewy beast of the toughest description,
trod onwards doggedly, but with little
animation. Freeman had no desire to push
him. Were the little animal to overdo
itself, nothing in the future could be more
certain than that his master would never see
the Trednoke ranch again. It seemed
unusually hot, even for that region.
There was little in the way of outward
incident to relieve the monotony of the
journey. Now and then a short, thick
rattlesnake, with horns on its ugly head,
wriggled out of his path. Now and then his
horse's hoof almost trod upon a hideous,
flat lizard, also horned. Here and there
the uncouth projections of a cactus pushed
upwards out of the dust; some of these the
mustang nibbled at, for the sake of their
juice. Freeman wondered where the juice
came from. The floor of the desert seemed
for the most part level, though there was a
gradual dip towards the east and northeast,
and occasionally mounds and ridges of
wind-swept dust, sometimes upwards of fifty
feet in height, broke the uniformity. The
soil was largely composed of powdered feldspar;
but there were also tracts of gravel
shingle, of yellow loam, and of alkaline
dust. In some places there appeared a salt
efflorescence, sprouting up in a sort of
ghastly vegetation, as if death itself had
acquired a sinister life. Elsewhere, the
ground quaked and yielded underfoot, and
it became necessary to make detours to
avoid these arid bogs. Once or twice, too,
Freeman turned aside lest he should trample
upon some dry bones that protruded in his
path,--bones that were their own monument,
and told their own story of struggle,
agony, exhaustion, and despair.
None of these things had any depressing
effect on Freeman's spirit. His heart was
singing with joy. To a mind logically
disposed, there was nothing but trouble in
sight, whether he succeeded or failed in his
present mission. In the former case, he
would find himself in a hostile position as
regarded the man he most desired to
conciliate; in the latter, he would remain the
mere rolling stone that he was before, and
love itself would forbid him to ask the
woman he loved to share his uncertain
existence. But Freeman was not logical: he
was happy, and he could not help it. He
had kissed Miriam, and she loved him.
His course lay a few degrees north of
east. Far across the plain, dancing and
turning somersaults in the fantastic atmosphere,
were the summits of a range of abrupt
hills, the borders of a valley or ravine
which he wished to explore. Gradually, as
he rode, his shadow lengthened before him.
It was his only companion; and yet he felt
no sense of loneliness. Miriam was in his
heart, and kept it fresh and bold. Even
hunger and thirst he scarcely felt. Who
can estimate the therapeutic and hygienic
effects of love?
The mustang could not share his rider's
source of content, but he may have been
conscious, through animal instincts whereof
we know nothing, of an uplifting and
encouraging spirit. At all events, he kept up
his steady lope without faltering or apparent
effort, and seemed to require nothing more
than the occasional wetting which Freeman
administered to his nose. There would
probably be some vegetation, and perhaps
water, on the hills; and that prospect may
likewise have helped him along.
Nevertheless, man and beast may well
have welcomed the hour when the craggy
acclivities of that lonely range became so
near that they seemed to loom above their
heads. Freeman directed his steps towards
the southern extremity, where a huge, pallid
mass, of almost regular pyramidal form,
reared itself aloft like a monument. He
skirted the base of the pyramid, and there
opened on his view a narrow, winding valley,
scarcely half a mile in apparent breadth,
and of a very wild and savage aspect. Its
general direction was nearly north and
south, and it declined downwards, as if
seeking the interior of the earth. In fact,
it looked not unlike those imaginative
pictures of the road to the infernal regions
described by the ancient poets. One could
picture Pluto in his chariot, with Proserpine
beside him, thundering downwards behind
his black horses, on the way to those sombre
and magnificent regions which are hollowed
out beneath the surface of the planet.
Freeman, however, presently saw a sight
which, if less spectacularly impressive, was
far more agreeable to his eyes. On a shelf
or cup of the declivity was a little clump of
vegetation, and in the midst of it welled up
a thin stream of water. The mustang
scrambled eagerly towards it, and, before
Freeman had had time to throw himself out
of the saddle, he had plunged his muzzle
into the rivulet. He sucked it down with
such satisfaction that it was evident the
water was not salt. Freeman laid himself
prone upon the brink, and followed his
steed's example. The draught was cool
"I didn't know how much I wanted it!"
said he to himself. "It must come from a
good way down. If I could only bring the
parent stream to the surface, my mission
would be on a fair road to success."
An examination of the spring revealed the
fact that it could not have been long in
existence. Indeed, there were no traces
whatever of long continuance. The aperture in
the rock through which it trickled bore the
appearance of having been recently opened;
fragments were lying near it that seemed to
have been just broken off. The bed of the little
stream was entirely free from moss or weeds;
and after proceeding a short distance it
dwindled and disappeared, either sucked up in
vapor by the torrid air, or absorbed into
the dusty soil. Manifestly, it was a recent
"And, to be sure, why not?" ejaculated
Freeman. "There was an earthquake last
night, which swallowed up the spring in
the Trednokes' garden: probably that same
earthquake brought this stream to light. It
vanished there, to reappear here. Well, the
loss is not important to them, but the gain is
very important to me. It is as if Miriam
had come with a cup of water to refresh her
lover in the desert. God bless her! She
has refreshed me indeed, soul and body!"
He removed the saddle from the mustang,
and turned him loose to make the best of
such scanty herbage as he could find. Then
he unpacked his own provisions, and made a
comfortable meal; after which he rolled a
cigarette and reclined on the spot most available,
to rest and recuperate. The valley, or
gorge, lay before him in the afternoon light.
It was a strange and savage spectacle. Had
it been torn asunder by some stupendous
explosion, it could not have presented a rougher
or more chaotic aspect. To look at it was
like beholding the secret places of the earth.
The rocky walls were of different colors,
yellow, blue, and red, in many shades and
gradations. They towered ruggedly upwards,
sharply shadowed and brightly lighted,
mounting in regular pinnacles, parting in
black crevices; here and there vast masses
hung poised on bases seemingly insufficient,
ready to topple over on the unwary passer
beneath. A short distance to the northward
the ravine had a turn, and a projecting
promontory hid its further extreme from sight.
Freeman made up his mind to follow it up
on foot, after the descending sun should
have thrown a shadow over it. The indications,
in his judgment, were not without
promise that a system of judiciously-applied
blastings might open up a source of water
that would transform this dreadful barrenness
into something quite different.
The shade of the great pyramid fell upon
him as he lay, but the tumultuous wall opposite
was brilliantly illuminated: the sky, over
it, was of a peculiar brassy hue, but entirely
cloudless. The radiations from the baked
surface, ascending vertically, made the rocky
bastion seem to quiver, as if it were a reflection
cast on undulating water. The wreaths
of tobacco-smoke that emanated from Freeman's
mouth also ascended, until they touched
the slant of sunlight overhead. As the
young man's eyes followed these, something
happened that caused him to utter an
exclamation and raise himself on one arm.
All at once, in the vacant air diagonally
above him, a sort of shadowy shimmer
seemed to concentrate itself, which was
rapidly resolved into color and form. It was
much as if some unseen artist had swept a
mass of mingled hues on a canvas and then
had worked them with magical speed into a
picture. There appeared a breadth of rolling
country, covered with verdure, and in
the midst of it the white walls and long,
shadowed veranda of an adobe house. Freeman
saw the vines clambering over the eaves
and roof, the vases of earthenware suspended
between the pillars and overflowing with
flowers, the long windows, the steps descending
into the garden. Now a figure clad in
white emerged from the door and advanced
slowly to the end of the veranda. He
recognized the gait and bearing: he could almost
fancy he discerned the beloved features.
She stood there for a moment, gazing, as it
seemed, directly at him. She raised her
hands, and pressed them to her lips, then
threw them outwards, with a gesture eloquent
of innocent and tender passion. Freeman's
heart leaped: involuntarily he stretched out
his arms, and murmured, "Miriam!" The
next moment, a tall, dark figure, with white
hair, wrapped in a blanket, came stalking
behind her, and made a beckoning movement.
Miriam did not turn, but her bearing
changed; her hands fell to her sides;
she seemed bewildered. Freeman sprang
angrily to his feet: the picture became
blurred; it flowed into streaks of vague
color; it was gone. There were only the
brassy sky, and the painted crags quivering
in the heat.
"That was not a mirage: it was a miracle,"
muttered the young man to himself.
"Forty miles at least, and it seemed
scarcely three hundred yards! What does
The sun sank behind the hills, and a
transparent shadow filled the gorge. Freeman,
uneasy in mind, and unable to remain
inactive, filled his canteen at the spring, and
descended to the rugged trail at the bottom.
Clambering over boulders, leaping across
narrow chasms, letting himself down from
ledges, his preoccupation soon left him, and
physical exertion took the precedence. Half
an hour's work brought him to the out-
jutting promontory which had concealed
the further reaches of the valley. These
now lay before him, merging imperceptibly
"This atmosphere is unbearable," said
Freeman. "I must get a little higher up."
He turned to the right, and saw a natural
archway, of no great height, formed in the
rock. The arch itself was white; the super-
incumbent stone was of a dull red hue. On
the left flank of the arch were a series of
inscribed characters, which might have been
cut by a human hand, or might have been a
mere natural freak. They looked like some
rude system of hieroglyphics, and bore no
meaning to Freeman's mind.
A sort of crypt or deep recess was
hollowed out beneath the arch, the full extent
of which Freeman was unable to discern.
The floor of it descended in ridges, like a
rough staircase. He stood for a few moments
peering into the gloom, tempted by
curiosity to advance, but restrained partly
by the gathering darkness, and partly by the
oppressiveness of the atmosphere, which
produced a sensation of giddiness. Something
white gleamed on the threshold of the crypt.
He picked it up. It was a human skull;
but even as he lifted it it came apart in his
hands and crumbled into fragments. Freeman's
nerves were strong, but he shuddered
slightly. The loneliness, the silence, the
mystery, and the strange light-headedness
that was coming over him combined to make
him hesitate. "I'll come back to-morrow
morning early," he said to himself.
As if in answer, a deep, appalling roar
broke forth apparently under his feet, and
went rolling and reverberating up and down
the canon. It died away, but was
immediately followed by another yet more loud,
and the ground shook and swayed beneath
his feet. A gigantic boulder, poised high
up on the other side of the canon, was
unseated, and fell with a terrific crash. A hot
wind swept sighing through the valley, and
the air rapidly became dark. Again came
the sigh, rising to a shriek, with roarings
and thunderings that seemed to proceed
both from the heavens and from the earth.
A dazzling flash of lightning split the air,
bathing it for an instant in the brightness
of day: in that instant Freeman saw the
bolt strike the great white pyramid and
splinter its crest into fragments, while the
whole surface of the gorge heaved and
undulated like a stormy sea. He had been
staggering as best he might to a higher part
of the ravine; but now he felt a stunning
blow on his head: he fell, and knew no
Two horsemen, one of whom led a third
horse, carrying a pack-saddle, had
reached the borders of the desert just as the
earthquake began. When the first shock
came, they were riding past a grove of live-
oaks: they immediately dismounted, made
fast their horses, and lay down beside some
bushes that skirted the grove. Neither the
earthquake nor the storm was so severe as
was the case farther eastward. In an hour
all was over, and they remounted and
continued their journey, guiding their course
by the stars.
"It was thus that we rode before,
Kamaiakan," remarked the younger of the two
travellers. "Yonder bright star stood as it
does now, and the hour of the night was
the same. But this shaking of the earth
makes me fear for the safety of that youth.
The sands of the desert may have swept
over him; or he may have perished in the
"The purposes of the gods cannot be
altered, Semitzin," replied the old Indian,
who perhaps would not have much regretted
such a calamity as she suggested: it would
be a simple solution of difficulties which
might otherwise prove embarrassing. "It
is my prayer, at all events, that the entrance
to the treasure may not be closed."
"I care nothing for the treasure, unless
I may share it with him," she returned.
"Since we spoke together beside the fountain,
I have seen him. He looked upon me
doubtfully, being, perhaps, perplexed
because of these features of the child Miriam,
which I am compelled to wear."
"Truly, princess, what is he, that you
should think of him?" muttered Kamaiakan.
"He satisfies my heart," was the reply.
"And I am resolved never again to give up
this mortal habitation to her you call its
rightful owner. I will never again leave
this world, which I enjoy, for the unknown
darkness out of which you called me."
"Princess, the gods do not permit such
dealings. They may, indeed, suffer you to
live again; but you must return as an
infant, in flesh and bones of your own."
"The gods have permitted me to return
as I have returned; and you well know,
Kamaiakan, that, except you use your art
to banish me and restore Miriam, there is
nothing else that can work a change."
"Murder is not lawful, Semitzin; and to
do as you desire would be an act not different
"On my head be it, then!" exclaimed
the princess. "Would it be less a murder
to send me back to nothingness than to let
her remain there? Mine is the stronger
spirit, and has therefore the better right to
live. I ask of you only to do nothing.
None need ever know that Miriam has
vanished and that Semitzin lives in her place.
I wear her body and her features, and I am
content to wear her name also, if it must be
Kamaiakan was silent. He may well be
pardoned for feeling troubled in the presence
of a situation which had perhaps never
before confronted a human being. Two
women, both tenants of the same body,
both in love with the same man, and therefore
rivals of each other, and each claiming
a right to existence: it was a difficult
problem. The old Indian heartily wished that a
separate tenement might be provided for
each of these two souls, that they might
fight out their quarrel in the ordinary way.
But his magic arts did not extend to the
creation of flesh and blood. At the same
time, he could not but feel to blame for
having brought this strenuous spirit of
Semitzin once more into the world, and he
was fain to admit that her claim was not
without justification. His motives had been
excellent, but he had not foreseen the
consequences in which the act was to land him.
Yet he more shrank from wronging Miriam
than from disappointing Semitzin.
But the latter was not to be put off by
"There has been a change since you and
I last spoke together," she said. "I am
aware of it, though I know not how; but,
in some manner, the things which Miriam
has done are perceptible to me. When I
was here before, she did but lean towards
this youth; now she has given herself to
him. She means to be united to him; and,
if I again should vanish, I should never
again find my way back. But it shall not
be so; and there is a way, Kamaiakan, by
which I can surely prevent it, even though
you refuse to aid me."
"Indeed, princess, I think you mistake
regarding the love of Miriam for this young
man; they have seen little of each other;
and it may be, as you yourself said, that he
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