The Twins of Table Mountain
Part 2 out of 3
"If you see old man Nixon, say I'm in town; if you see that ----
---- ----" (I regret to say that I cannot repeat his exact, and
brief characterization of the present condition and natal antecedents
of Kanaka Joe), "say I'm looking out for him," and was gone.
He wandered down the road, towards the one long, straggling street
of the settlement. The few people who met him at that early hour
greeted him with a kind of constrained civility; certain cautious
souls hurried by without seeing him; all turned and looked after
him; and a few followed him at a respectful distance. A somewhat
notorious practical joker and recognized wag at the Ferry
apparently awaited his coming with something of invitation and
expectation, but, catching sight of Ruth's haggard face and blazing
eyes, became instantly practical, and by no means jocular in his
greeting. At the top of the hill, Ruth turned to look once more
upon the distant mountain, now again a mere cloud-line on the
horizon. In the firm belief that he would never again see the sun
rise upon it, he turned aside into a hazel-thicket, and, tearing
out a few leaves from his pocket-book, wrote two letters,--one to
Rand, and one to Mornie, but which, as they were never delivered,
shall not burden this brief chronicle of that eventful day. For,
while transcribing them, he was startled by the sounds of a dozen
pistol-shots in the direction of the hotel he had recently quitted.
Something in the mere sound provoked the old hereditary fighting
instinct, and sent him to his feet with a bound, and a slight
distension of the nostrils, and sniffing of the air, not unknown to
certain men who become half intoxicated by the smell of powder. He
quickly folded his letters, and addressed them carefully, and,
taking off his knapsack and blanket, methodically arranged them
under a tree, with the letters on top. Then he examined the lock
of his revolver, and then, with the step of a man ten years
younger, leaped into the road. He had scarcely done so when he was
seized, and by sheer force dragged into a blacksmith's shop at the
roadside. He turned his savage face and drawn weapon upon his
assailant, but was surprised to meet the anxious eyes of the bar-
keeper of the Mansion House.
"Don't be a d----d fool," said the man quickly. "Thar's fifty
agin' you down thar. But why in h-ll didn't you wipe out old Nixon
when you had such a good chance?"
"Wipe out old Nixon?" repeated Ruth.
"Yes; just now, when you had him covered."
The bar-keeper turned quickly upon Ruth, stared at him, and then
suddenly burst into a fit of laughter. "Well, I've knowed you two
were twins, but damn me if I ever thought I'd be sold like this!"
And he again burst into a roar of laughter.
"What do you mean?" demanded Ruth savagely.
"What do I mean?" returned the barkeeper. "Why, I mean this. I
mean that your brother Rand, as you call him, he'z bin--for a young
feller, and a pious feller--doin' about the tallest kind o'
fightin' to-day that's been done at the Ferry. He laid out that ar
Kanaka Joe and two of his chums. He was pitched into on your
quarrel, and he took it up for you like a little man. I managed to
drag him off, up yer in the hazel-bush for safety, and out you
pops, and I thought you was him. He can't be far away. Halloo!
There they're comin'; and thar's the doctor, trying to keep them
A crowd of angry, excited faces, filled the road suddenly; but
before them Dr. Duchesne, mounted, and with a pistol in his hand,
opposed their further progress.
"Back in the bush!" whispered the barkeeper. "Now's your time!"
But Ruth stirred not. "Go you back," he said in a low voice, "find
Rand, and take him away. I will fill his place here." He drew his
revolver, and stepped into the road.
A shout, a report, and the spatter of red dust from a bullet near
his feet, told him he was recognized. He stirred not; but another
shout, and a cry, "There they are--BOTH of 'em!" made him turn.
His brother Rand, with a smile on his lip and fire in his eye,
stood by his side. Neither spoke. Then Rand, quietly, as of old,
slipped his hand into his brother's strong palm. Two or three
bullets sang by them; a splinter flew from the blacksmith's shed:
but the brothers, hard gripping each other's hands, and looking
into each other's faces with a quiet joy, stood there calm and
There was a momentary pause. The voice of Dr. Duchesne rose above
"Keep back, I say! keep back! Or hear me!--for five years I've
worked among you, and mended and patched the holes you've drilled
through each other's carcasses--Keep back, I say!--or the next man
that pulls trigger, or steps forward, will get a hole from me that
no surgeon can stop. I'm sick of your bungling ball practice!
Keep back!--or, by the living Jingo, I'll show you where a man's
There was a burst of laughter from the crowd, and for a moment
the twins were forgotten in this audacious speech and coolly
"That's right! Now let that infernal old hypocritical drunkard,
Mat Nixon, step to the front."
The crowd parted right and left, and half pushed, half dragged
Nixon before him.
"Gentlemen," said the doctor, "this is the man who has just shot at
Rand Pinkney for hiding his daughter. Now, I tell you, gentlemen,
and I tell him, that for the last week his daughter, Mornie Nixon,
has been under my care as a patient, and my protection as a friend.
If there's anybody to be shot, the job must begin with me!"
There was another laugh, and a cry of "Bully for old Sawbones!"
Ruth started convulsively, and Rand answered his look with a
confirming pressure of his hand.
"That isn't all, gentlemen: this drunken brute has just shot at a
gentleman whose only offence, to my knowledge, is, that he has, for
the last week, treated her with a brother's kindness, has taken her
into his own home, and cared for her wants as if she were his own
Ruth's hand again grasped his brother's. Rand colored and hung his
"There's more yet, gentlemen. I tell you that that girl, Mornie
Nixon, has, to my knowledge, been treated like a lady, has been
cared for as she never was cared for in her father's house, and,
while that father has been proclaiming her shame in every bar-room
at the Ferry, has had the sympathy and care, night and day, of two
of the most accomplished ladies of the Ferry,--Mrs. Sol Saunders,
gentlemen, and Miss Euphemia."
There was a shout of approbation from the crowd. Nixon would have
slipped away, but the doctor stopped him.
"Not yet! I've one thing more to say. I've to tell you, gentlemen,
on my professional word of honor, that, besides being an old
hypocrite, this same old Mat Nixon is the ungrateful, unnatural
GRANDFATHER of the first boy born in the district."
A wild huzza greeted the doctor's climax. By a common consent the
crowd turned toward the Twins, who, grasping each other's hands,
stood apart. The doctor nodded his head. The next moment the
Twins were surrounded, and lifted in the arms of the laughing
throng, and borne in triumph to the bar-room of the Mansion House.
"Gentlemen," said the bar-keeper, "call for what you like: the
Mansion House treats to-day in honor of its being the first time
that Rand Pinkney has been admitted to the bar."
. . . . . .
It was agreed, that, as her condition was still precarious, the
news should be broken to her gradually and indirectly. The
indefatigable Sol had a professional idea, which was not
displeasing to the Twins. It being a lovely summer afternoon, the
couch of Mornie was lifted out on the ledge, and she lay there
basking in the sunlight, drinking in the pure air, and looking
bravely ahead in the daylight as she had in the darkness, for her
couch commanded a view of the mountain flank. And, lying there,
she dreamed a pleasant dream, and in her dream saw Rand returning
up the mountain-trail. She was half conscious that he had good
news for her; and, when he at last reached her bedside, he began
gently and kindly to tell his news. But she heard him not, or
rather in her dream was most occupied with his ways and manners,
which seemed unlike him, yet inexpressibly sweet and tender. The
tears were fast coming in her eyes, when he suddenly dropped on his
knees beside her, threw away Rand's disguising hat and coat, and
clasped her in his arms. And by that she KNEW it was Ruth.
But what they said; what hurried words of mutual explanation and
forgiveness passed between them; what bitter yet tender recollections
of hidden fears and doubts, now forever chased away in the rain of
tears and joyous sunshine of that mountain-top, were then whispered;
whatever of this little chronicle that to the reader seems strange
and inconsistent (as all human record must ever be strange and
imperfect, except to the actors) was then made clear,--was never
divulged by them, and must remain with them forever. The rest of
the party had withdrawn, and they were alone. But when Mornie
turned, and placed the baby in its father's arms, they were so
isolated in their happiness, that the lower world beneath them might
have swung and drifted away, and left that mountain-top the
beginning and creation of a better planet.
. . . . . .
"You know all about it now," said Sol the next day, explaining the
previous episodes of this history to Ruth: "you've got the whole
plot before you. It dragged a little in the second act, for the
actors weren't up in their parts. But for an amateur performance,
on the whole, it wasn't bad."
"I don't know, I'm sure," said Rand impulsively, "how we'd have got
on without Euphemia. It's too bad she couldn't be here to-day."
"She wanted to come," said Sol; "but the gentleman she's engaged to
came up from Marysville last night."
"Gentleman--engaged!" repeated Rand, white and red by turns.
"Well, yes. I say, 'gentleman,' although he's in the variety
profession. She always said," said Sol, quietly looking at Rand,
"that she'd never marry OUT of it."
AN HEIRESS OF RED DOG.
The first intimation given of the eccentricity of the testator was,
I think, in the spring of 1854. He was at that time in possession
of a considerable property, heavily mortgaged to one friend, and a
wife of some attraction, on whose affections another friend held an
encumbering lien. One day it was found that he had secretly dug,
or caused to be dug, a deep trap before the front-door of his
dwelling, into which a few friends, in the course of the evening,
casually and familiarly dropped. This circumstance, slight in
itself, seemed to point to the existence of a certain humor in the
man, which might eventually get into literature, although his
wife's lover--a man of quick discernment, whose leg was broken by
the fall--took other views. It was some weeks later, that, while
dining with certain other friends of his wife, he excused himself
from the table to quietly re-appear at the front-window with a
three-quarter inch hydraulic pipe, and a stream of water projected
at the assembled company. An attempt was made to take public
cognizance of this; but a majority of the citizens of Red Dog, who
were not at dinner, decided that a man had a right to choose his
own methods of diverting his company. Nevertheless, there were
some hints of his insanity; his wife recalled other acts clearly
attributable to dementia; the crippled lover argued from his own
experience that the integrity of her limbs could only be secured by
leaving her husband's house; and the mortgagee, fearing a further
damage to his property, foreclosed. But here the cause of all this
anxiety took matters into his own hands, and disappeared.
When we next heard from him, he had, in some mysterious way, been
relieved alike of his wife and property, and was living alone at
Rockville fifty miles away, and editing a newspaper. But that
originality he had displayed when dealing with the problems of his
own private life, when applied to politics in the columns of "The
Rockville Vanguard" was singularly unsuccessful. An amusing
exaggeration, purporting to be an exact account of the manner in
which the opposing candidate had murdered his Chinese laundryman,
was, I regret to say, answered only by assault and battery. A
gratuitous and purely imaginative description of a great religious
revival in Calaveras, in which the sheriff of the county--a
notoriously profane sceptic--was alleged to have been the chief
exhorter, resulted only in the withdrawal of the county advertising
from the paper. In the midst of this practical confusion he
suddenly died. It was then discovered, as a crowning proof of his
absurdity, that he had left a will, bequeathing his entire effects
to a freckle-faced maid-servant at the Rockville Hotel. But that
absurdity became serious when it was also discovered that among
these effects were a thousand shares in the Rising Sun Mining
Company, which a day or two after his demise, and while people were
still laughing at his grotesque benefaction, suddenly sprang into
opulence and celebrity. Three millions of dollars was roughly
estimated as the value of the estate thus wantonly sacrificed. For
it is only fair to state, as a just tribute to the enterprise and
energy of that young and thriving settlement, that there was not
probably a single citizen who did not feel himself better able to
control the deceased humorist's property. Some had expressed a
doubt of their ability to support a family; others had felt perhaps
too keenly the deep responsibility resting upon them when chosen
from the panel as jurors, and had evaded their public duties; a few
had declined office and a low salary: but no one shrank from the
possibility of having been called upon to assume the functions of
Peggy Moffat, the heiress.
The will was contested,--first by the widow, who it now appeared
had never been legally divorced from the deceased; next by four of
his cousins, who awoke, only too late, to a consciousness of his
moral and pecuniary worth. But the humble legatee--a singularly
plain, unpretending, uneducated Western girl--exhibited a dogged
pertinacity in claiming her rights. She rejected all compromises.
A rough sense of justice in the community, while doubting her
ability to take care of the whole fortune, suggested that she ought
to be content with three hundred thousand dollars. "She's bound to
throw even THAT away on some derned skunk of a man, natoorally; but
three millions is too much to give a chap for makin' her onhappy.
It's offerin' a temptation to cussedness." The only opposing voice
to this counsel came from the sardonic lips of Mr. Jack Hamlin.
"Suppose," suggested that gentleman, turning abruptly on the
speaker,--"suppose, when you won twenty thousand dollars of me last
Friday night--suppose that, instead of handing you over the money
as I did--suppose I'd got up on my hind-legs, and said, 'Look yer,
Bill Wethersbee, you're a d----d fool. If I give ye that twenty
thousand, you'll throw it away in the first skin-game in 'Frisco,
and hand it over to the first short-card sharp you'll meet.
There's a thousand,--enough for you to fling away,--take it and
get!' Suppose what I'd said to you was the frozen truth, and you
know'd it, would that have been the square thing to play on you?"
But here Wethersbee quickly pointed out the inefficiency of the
comparison by stating that HE had won the money fairly with a
STAKE. "And how do you know," demanded Hamlin savagely, bending
his black eyes on the astounded casuist,--"how do you know that the
gal hezn't put down a stake?" The man stammered an unintelligible
reply. The gambler laid his white hand on Wethersbee's shoulder.
"Look yer, old man," he said, "every gal stakes her WHOLE pile,--
you can bet your life on that,--whatever's her little game. If she
took to keerds instead of her feelings, if she'd put up 'chips'
instead o' body and soul, she'd bust every bank 'twixt this and
'Frisco! You hear me?"
Somewhat of this idea was conveyed, I fear not quite as
sentimentally, to Peggy Moffat herself. The best legal wisdom of
San Francisco, retained by the widow and relatives, took occasion,
in a private interview with Peggy, to point out that she stood in
the quasi-criminal attitude of having unlawfully practised upon the
affections of an insane elderly gentleman, with a view of getting
possession of his property, and suggested to her that no vestige of
her moral character would remain after the trial, if she persisted
in forcing her claims to that issue. It is said that Peggy, on
hearing this, stopped washing the plate she had in her hands, and,
twisting the towel around her fingers, fixed her small pale blue
eyes at the lawyer.
"And ez that the kind o' chirpin these critters keep up?"
"I regret to say, my dear young lady," responded the lawyer, "that
the world is censorious. I must add," he continued, with engaging
frankness, "that we professional lawyers are apt to study the
opinion of the world, and that such will be the theory of--our
"Then," said Peggy stoutly, "ez I allow I've got to go into court
to defend my character, I might as well pack in them three millions
There is hearsay evidence that Peg added to this speech a wish and
desire to "bust the crust" of her traducers, and, remarking that
"that was the kind of hairpin" she was, closed the conversation
with an unfortunate accident to the plate, that left a severe
contusion on the legal brow of her companion. But this story,
popular in the bar-rooms and gulches, lacked confirmation in higher
circles. Better authenticated was the legend related of an
interview with her own lawyer. That gentleman had pointed out to
her the advantage of being able to show some reasonable cause for
the singular generosity of the testator.
"Although," he continued, "the law does not go back of the will for
reason or cause for its provisions, it would be a strong point with
the judge and jury--particularly if the theory of insanity were set
up--for us to show that the act was logical and natural. Of course
you have--I speak confidently, Miss Moffat--certain ideas of your
own why the late Mr. Byways was so singularly generous to you."
"No, I haven't," said Peg decidedly.
"Think again. Had he not expressed to you--you understand that
this is confidential between us, although I protest, my dear young
lady, that I see no reason why it should not be made public--had he
not given utterance to sentiments of a nature consistent with some
future matrimonial relations?" But here Miss Peg's large mouth,
which had been slowly relaxing over her irregular teeth, stopped
"If you mean he wanted to marry me-- No!"
"I see. But were there any conditions--of course you know the law
takes no cognizance of any not expressed in the will; but still,
for the sake of mere corroboration of the bequest--do you know of
any conditions on which he gave you the property?"
"You mean did he want anything in return?"
"Exactly, my dear young lady."
Peg's face on one side turned a deep magenta color, on the other a
lighter cherry, while her nose was purple, and her forehead an
Indian red. To add to the effect of this awkward and discomposing
dramatic exhibition of embarrassment, she began to wipe her hands
on her dress, and sat silent.
"I understand," said the lawyer hastily. "No matter--the
conditions WERE fulfilled."
"No!" said Peg amazedly. "How could they be until he was dead?"
It was the lawyer's turn to color and grow embarrassed.
"He DID say something, and make some conditions," continued Peg,
with a certain firmness through her awkwardness; "but that's
nobody's business but mine and his'n. And it's no call o' yours or
"But, my dear Miss Moffat, if these very conditions were proofs of
his right mind, you surely would not object to make them known, if
only to enable you to put yourself in a condition to carry them
"But," said Peg cunningly, "s'pose you and the Court didn't think
'em satisfactory? S'pose you thought 'em QUEER? Eh?"
With this helpless limitation on the part of the defence, the case
came to trial. Everybody remembers it,--how for six weeks it was
the daily food of Calaveras County; how for six weeks the
intellectual and moral and spiritual competency of Mr. James Byways
to dispose of his property was discussed with learned and formal
obscurity in the court, and with unlettered and independent
prejudice by camp-fires and in bar-rooms. At the end of that time,
when it was logically established that at least nine-tenths of the
population of Calaveras were harmless lunatics, and everybody
else's reason seemed to totter on its throne, an exhausted jury
succumbed one day to the presence of Peg in the court-room. It was
not a prepossessing presence at any time; but the excitement, and
an injudicious attempt to ornament herself, brought her defects
into a glaring relief that was almost unreal. Every freckle on her
face stood out and asserted itself singly; her pale blue eyes, that
gave no indication of her force of character, were weak and
wandering, or stared blankly at the judge; her over-sized head,
broad at the base, terminating in the scantiest possible light-
colored braid in the middle of her narrow shoulders, was as hard
and uninteresting as the wooden spheres that topped the railing
against which she sat.
The jury, who for six weeks had had her described to them by the
plaintiffs as an arch, wily enchantress, who had sapped the failing
reason of Jim Byways, revolted to a man. There was something so
appallingly gratuitous in her plainness, that it was felt that
three millions was scarcely a compensation for it. "Ef that money
was give to her, she earned it SURE, boys: it wasn't no softness of
the old man," said the foreman. When the jury retired, it was felt
that she had cleared her character: when they re-entered the room
with their verdict, it was known that she had been awarded three
millions damages for its defamation.
She got the money. But those who had confidently expected to see
her squander it were disappointed: on the contrary, it was
presently whispered that she was exceedingly penurious. That
admirable woman, Mrs. Stiver of Red Dog, who accompanied her to San
Francisco to assist her in making purchases, was loud in her
indignation. "She cares more for two bits than I do for five
dollars. She wouldn't buy anything at the 'City of Paris,' because
it was 'too expensive,' and at last rigged herself out, a perfect
guy, at some cheap slop-shops in Market Street. And after all the
care Jane and me took of her, giving up our time and experience to
her, she never so much as made Jane a single present." Popular
opinion, which regarded Mrs. Stiver's attention as purely
speculative, was not shocked at this unprofitable denouement; but
when Peg refused to give anything to clear the mortgage off the new
Presbyterian Church, and even declined to take shares in the Union
Ditch, considered by many as an equally sacred and safe investment,
she began to lose favor. Nevertheless, she seemed to be as
regardless of public opinion as she had been before the trial; took
a small house, in which she lived with an old woman who had once
been a fellow-servant, on apparently terms of perfect equality, and
looked after her money. I wish I could say that she did this
discreetly; but the fact is, she blundered. The same dogged
persistency she had displayed in claiming her rights was visible in
her unsuccessful ventures. She sunk two hundred thousand dollars
in a worn-out shaft originally projected by the deceased testator;
she prolonged the miserable existence of "The Rockville Vanguard"
long after it had ceased to interest even its enemies; she kept the
doors of the Rockville Hotel open when its custom had departed; she
lost the co-operation and favor of a fellow-capitalist through a
trifling misunderstanding in which she was derelict and impenitent;
she had three lawsuits on her hands that could have been settled
for a trifle. I note these defects to show that she was by no
means a heroine. I quote her affair with Jack Folinsbee to show
she was scarcely the average woman.
That handsome, graceless vagabond had struck the outskirts of Red
Dog in a cyclone of dissipation which left him a stranded but still
rather interesting wreck in a ruinous cabin not far from Peg
Moffat's virgin bower. Pale, crippled from excesses, with a voice
quite tremulous from sympathetic emotion more or less developed by
stimulants, he lingered languidly, with much time on his hands, and
only a few neighbors. In this fascinating kind of general
deshabille of morals, dress, and the emotions, he appeared before
Peg Moffat. More than that, he occasionally limped with her
through the settlement. The critical eye of Red Dog took in the
singular pair,--Jack, voluble, suffering, apparently overcome by
remorse, conscience, vituperation, and disease; and Peg, open-
mouthed, high-colored, awkward, yet delighted; and the critical eye
of Red Dog, seeing this, winked meaningly at Rockville. No one
knew what passed between them; but all observed that one summer day
Jack drove down the main street of Red Dog in an open buggy, with
the heiress of that town beside him. Jack, albeit a trifle shaky,
held the reins with something of his old dash; and Mistress Peggy,
in an enormous bonnet with pearl-colored ribbons a shade darker
than her hair, holding in her short, pink-gloved fingers a bouquet
of yellow roses, absolutely glowed crimson in distressful
gratification over the dash-board. So these two fared on, out of
the busy settlement, into the woods, against the rosy sunset.
Possibly it was not a pretty picture: nevertheless, as the dim
aisles of the solemn pines opened to receive them, miners leaned
upon their spades, and mechanics stopped in their toil to look
after them. The critical eye of Red Dog, perhaps from the sun,
perhaps from the fact that it had itself once been young and
dissipated, took on a kindly moisture as it gazed.
The moon was high when they returned. Those who had waited to
congratulate Jack on this near prospect of a favorable change in
his fortunes were chagrined to find, that, having seen the lady
safe home, he had himself departed from Red Dog. Nothing was to be
gained from Peg, who, on the next day and ensuing days, kept the
even tenor of her way, sunk a thousand or two more in unsuccessful
speculation, and made no change in her habits of personal economy.
Weeks passed without any apparent sequel to this romantic idyl.
Nothing was known definitely until Jack, a month later, turned up
in Sacramento, with a billiard-cue in his hand, and a heart
overcharged with indignant emotion. "I don't mind saying to you,
gentlemen, in confidence," said Jack to a circle of sympathizing
players,--"I don't mind telling you regarding this thing, that I
was as soft on that freckled-faced, red-eyed, tallow-haired gal, as
if she'd been--a--a--an actress. And I don't mind saying,
gentlemen, that, as far as I understand women, she was just as soft
on me. You kin laugh; but it's so. One day I took her out buggy-
riding,--in style, too,--and out on the road I offered to do the
square thing, just as if she'd been a lady,--offered to marry her
then and there. And what did she do?" said Jack with a hysterical
laugh. "Why, blank it all! OFFERED ME TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS A WEEK
ALLOWANCE--PAY TO BE STOPPED WHEN I WASN'T AT HOME!" The roar of
laughter that greeted this frank confession was broken by a quiet
voice asking, "And what did YOU say?"--"Say?" screamed Jack, "I
just told her to go to ---- with her money."--"They say," continued
the quiet voice, "that you asked her for the loan of two hundred
and fifty dollars to get you to Sacramento--and that you got it."--
"Who says so roared Jack. "Show me the blank liar." There was a
dead silence. Then the possessor of the quiet voice, Mr. Jack
Hamlin, languidly reached under the table, took the chalk, and,
rubbing the end of his billiard-cue, began with gentle gravity: "It
was an old friend of mine in Sacramento, a man with a wooden leg, a
game eye, three fingers on his right hand, and a consumptive cough.
Being unable, naturally, to back himself, he leaves things to me.
So, for the sake of argument," continued Hamlin, suddenly laying
down his cue, and fixing his wicked black eyes on the speaker, "say
I am afraid that this story, whether truthful or not, did not tend
to increase Peg's popularity in a community where recklessness and
generosity condoned for the absence of all the other virtues; and
it is possible, also, that Red Dog was no more free from prejudice
than other more civilized but equally disappointed matchmakers.
Likewise, during the following year, she made several more foolish
ventures, and lost heavily. In fact, a feverish desire to increase
her store at almost any risk seemed to possess her. At last it was
announced that she intended to reopen the infelix Rockville Hotel,
and keep it herself.
Wild as this scheme appeared in theory, when put into practical
operation there seemed to be some chance of success. Much,
doubtless, was owing to her practical knowledge of hotel-keeping,
but more to her rigid economy and untiring industry. The mistress
of millions, she cooked, washed, waited on table, made the beds,
and labored like a common menial. Visitors were attracted by this
novel spectacle. The income of the house increased as their
respect for the hostess lessened. No anecdote of her avarice was
too extravagant for current belief. It was even alleged that she
had been known to carry the luggage of guests to their rooms, that
she might anticipate the usual porter's gratuity. She denied
herself the ordinary necessaries of life. She was poorly clad, she
was ill-fed--but the hotel was making money.
A few hinted of insanity; others shook their heads, and said a
curse was entailed on the property. It was believed, also, from
her appearance, that she could not long survive this tax on her
energies, and already there was discussion as to the probable final
disposition of her property.
It was the particular fortune of Mr. Jack Hamlin to be able to set
the world right on this and other questions regarding her.
A stormy December evening had set in when he chanced to be a guest
of the Rockville Hotel. He had, during the past week, been engaged
in the prosecution of his noble profession at Red Dog, and had, in
the graphic language of a coadjutor, "cleared out the town, except
his fare in the pockets of the stage-driver." "The Red Dog
Standard" had bewailed his departure in playful obituary verse,
beginning, "Dearest Johnny, thou hast left us," wherein the rhymes
"bereft us" and "deplore" carried a vague allusion to "a thousand
dollars more." A quiet contentment naturally suffused his
personality, and he was more than usually lazy and deliberate in
his speech. At midnight, when he was about to retire, he was a
little surprised, however, by a tap on his door, followed by the
presence of Mistress Peg Moffat, heiress, and landlady of Rockville
Mr. Hamlin, despite his previous defence of Peg, had no liking for
her. His fastidious taste rejected her uncomeliness; his habits of
thought and life were all antagonistic to what he had heard of her
niggardliness and greed. As she stood there, in a dirty calico
wrapper, still redolent with the day's cuisine, crimson with
embarrassment and the recent heat of the kitchen range, she
certainly was not an alluring apparition. Happily for the lateness
of the hour, her loneliness, and the infelix reputation of the man
before her, she was at least a safe one. And I fear the very
consciousness of this scarcely relieved her embarrassment.
"I wanted to say a few words to ye alone, Mr. Hamlin," she began,
taking an unoffered seat on the end of his portmanteau, "or I
shouldn't hev intruded. But it's the only time I can ketch you, or
you me; for I'm down in the kitchen from sunup till now."
She stopped awkwardly, as if to listen to the wind, which was
rattling the windows, and spreading a film of rain against the
opaque darkness without. Then, smoothing her wrapper over her
knees, she remarked, as if opening a desultory conversation,
"Thar's a power of rain outside."
Mr. Hamlin's only response to this meteorological observation was a
yawn, and a preliminary tug at his coat as he began to remove it.
"I thought ye couldn't mind doin' me a favor," continued Peg, with
a hard, awkward laugh, "partik'ly seein' ez folks allowed you'd
sorter bin a friend o' mine, and hed stood up for me at times when
you hedn't any partikler call to do it. I hevn't" she continued,
looking down on her lap, and following with her finger and thumb a
seam of her gown,--"I hevn't so many friends ez slings a kind word
for me these times that I disremember them." Her under lip
quivered a little here; and, after vainly hunting for a forgotten
handkerchief, she finally lifted the hem of her gown, wiped her
snub nose upon it, but left the tears still in her eyes as she
raised them to the man, Mr. Hamlin, who had by this time divested
himself of his coat, stopped unbuttoning his waistcoat, and looked
"Like ez not thar'll be high water on the North Fork, ef this rain
keeps on," said Peg, as if apologetically, looking toward the
The other rain having ceased, Mr. Hamlin began to unbutton his
"I wanted to ask ye a favor about Mr.--about--Jack Folinsbee,"
began Peg again hurriedly. "He's ailin' agin, and is mighty low.
And he's losin' a heap o' money here and thar, and mostly to YOU.
You cleaned him out of two thousand dollars last night--all he
"Well?" said the gambler coldly.
"Well, I thought ez you woz a friend o' mine, I'd ask ye to let up
a little on him," said Peg, with an affected laugh. "You kin do
it. Don't let him play with ye."
"Mistress Margaret Moffat," said Jack, with lazy deliberation,
taking off his watch, and beginning to wind it up, "ef you're that
much stuck after Jack Folinsbee, YOU kin keep him off of me much
easier than I kin. You're a rich woman. Give him enough money to
break my bank, or break himself for good and all; but don't keep
him forlin' round me in hopes to make a raise. It don't pay,
Mistress Moffat--it don't pay!"
A finer nature than Peg's would have misunderstood or resented the
gambler's slang, and the miserable truths that underlaid it. But
she comprehended him instantly, and sat hopelessly silent.
"Ef you'll take my advice," continued Jack, placing his watch and
chain under his pillow, and quietly unloosing his cravat, "you'll
quit this yer forlin', marry that chap, and hand over to him the
money and the money-makin' that's killin' you. He'll get rid of it
soon enough. I don't say this because I expect to git it; for,
when he's got that much of a raise, he'll make a break for 'Frisco,
and lose it to some first-class sport THERE. I don't say, neither,
that you mayn't be in luck enough to reform him. I don't say,
neither--and it's a derned sight more likely!--that you mayn't be
luckier yet, and he'll up and die afore he gits rid of your money.
But I do say you'll make him happy NOW; and, ez I reckon you're
about ez badly stuck after that chap ez I ever saw any woman, you
won't be hurtin' your own feelin's either."
The blood left Peg's face as she looked up. "But that's WHY I
can't give him the money--and he won't marry me without it."
Mr. Hamlin's hand dropped from the last button of his waistcoat.
"Can't--give--him--the--money?" he repeated slowly.
"Because--because I LOVE him."
Mr. Hamlin rebuttoned his waistcoat, and sat down patiently on the
bed. Peg arose, and awkwardly drew the portmanteau a little nearer
"When Jim Byways left me this yer property," she began, looking
cautiously around, "he left it to me on CONDITIONS; not conditions
ez waz in his WRITTEN will, but conditions ez waz SPOKEN. A
promise I made him in this very room, Mr. Hamlin,--this very room,
and on that very bed you're sittin' on, in which he died."
Like most gamblers, Mr. Hamlin was superstitious. He rose hastily
from the bed, and took a chair beside the window. The wind shook
it as if the discontented spirit of Mr. Byways were without, re-
enforcing his last injunction.
"I don't know if you remember him," said Peg feverishly. "he was a
man ez hed suffered. All that he loved--wife, fammerly, friends--
had gone back on him. He tried to make light of it afore folks;
but with me, being a poor gal, he let himself out. I never told
anybody this. I don't know why he told ME; I don't know,"
continued Peg, with a sniffle, "why he wanted to make me unhappy
too. But he made me promise, that, if he left me his fortune, I'd
NEVER, NEVER--so help me God!--never share it with any man or woman
that I LOVED; I didn't think it would be hard to keep that promise
then, Mr. Hamlin; for I was very poor, and hedn't a friend nor a
living bein' that was kind to me, but HIM."
"But you've as good as broken your promise already," said Hamlin.
"You've given Jack money, as I know."
"Only what I made myself. Listen to me, Mr. Hamlin. When Jack
proposed to me, I offered him about what I kalkilated I could earn
myself. When he went away, and was sick and in trouble, I came
here and took this hotel. I knew that by hard work I could make it
pay. Don't laugh at me, please. I DID work hard, and DID make it
pay--without takin' one cent of the fortin'. And all I made,
workin' by night and day, I gave to him. I did, Mr. Hamlin. I
ain't so hard to him as you think, though I might be kinder, I
Mr. Hamlin rose, deliberately resumed his coat, watch, hat, and
overcoat. When he was completely dressed again, he turned to Peg.
"Do you mean to say that you've been givin' all the money you made
here to this A 1 first-class cherubim?"
"Yes; but he didn't know where I got it. O Mr. Hamlin! he didn't
"Do I understand you, that he's bin buckin agin Faro with the money
that you raised on hash? And YOU makin' the hash?"
"But he didn't know that, he wouldn't hev took it if I'd told him."
"No, he'd hev died fust!" said Mr. Hamlin gravely. "Why, he's that
sensitive--is Jack Folinsbee--that it nearly kills him to take
money even of ME. But where does this angel reside when he isn't
fightin' the tiger, and is, so to speak, visible to the naked eye?"
"He--he--stops here," said Peg, with an awkward blush.
"I see. Might I ask the number of his room--or should I be a--
disturbing him in his meditations?" continued Jack Hamlin, with
"Oh! then you'll promise? And you'll talk to him, and make HIM
"Of course," said Hamlin quietly.
"And you'll remember he's sick--very sick? His room's No. 44, at
the end of the hall. Perhaps I'd better go with you?"
"I'll find it."
"And you won't be too hard on him?"
"I'll be a father to him," said Hamlin demurely, as he opened the
door and stepped into the hall. But he hesitated a moment, and
then turned, and gravely held out his hand. Peg took it timidly.
He did not seem quite in earnest; and his black eyes, vainly
questioned, indicated nothing. But he shook her hand warmly, and
the next moment was gone.
He found the room with no difficulty. A faint cough from within,
and a querulous protest, answered his knock. Mr. Hamlin entered
without further ceremony. A sickening smell of drugs, a palpable
flavor of stale dissipation, and the wasted figure of Jack
Folinsbee, half-dressed, extended upon the bed, greeted him. Mr.
Hamlin was for an instant startled. There were hollow circles
round the sick man's eyes; there was palsy in his trembling limbs;
there was dissolution in his feverish breath.
"What's up?" he asked huskily and nervously.
"I am, and I want YOU to get up too."
"I can't, Jack. I'm regularly done up." He reached his shaking
hand towards a glass half-filled with suspicious, pungent-smelling
liquid; but Mr. Hamlin stayed it.
"Do you want to get back that two thousand dollars you lost?"
"Well, get up, and marry that woman down stairs."
Folinsbee laughed half hysterically, half sardonically.
"She won't give it to me."
"No; but I will."
Folinsbee, with an attempt at a reckless laugh, rose, trembling and
with difficulty, to his swollen feet. Hamlin eyed him narrowly,
and then bade him lie down again. "To-morrow will do," he said,
"If I don't "
"If you don't," responded Hamlin, "why, I'll just wade in and CUT
But on the morrow Mr. Hamlin was spared that possible act of
disloyalty; for, in the night, the already hesitating spirit of Mr.
Jack Folinsbee took flight on the wings of the south-east storm.
When or how it happened, nobody knew. Whether this last excitement
and the near prospect of matrimony, or whether an overdose of
anodyne, had hastened his end, was never known. I only know, that,
when they came to awaken him the next morning, the best that was
left of him--a face still beautiful and boy-like--looked up coldly
at the tearful eyes of Peg Moffat. "It serves me right, it's a
judgment," she said in a low whisper to Jack Hamlin; "for God knew
that I'd broken my word, and willed all my property to him."
She did not long survive him. Whether Mr. Hamlin ever clothed with
action the suggestion indicated in his speech to the lamented Jack
that night, is not of record. He was always her friend, and on her
demise became her executor. But the bulk of her property was left
to a distant relation of handsome Jack Folinsbee, and so passed out
of the control of Red Dog forever.
THE GREAT DEADWOOD MYSTERY
It was growing quite dark in the telegraph-office at Cottonwood,
Tuolumne County, California. The office, a box-like enclosure, was
separated from the public room of the Miners' Hotel by a thin
partition; and the operator, who was also news and express agent at
Cottonwood, had closed his window, and was lounging by his news-
stand preparatory to going home. Without, the first monotonous
rain of the season was dripping from the porches of the hotel in
the waning light of a December day. The operator, accustomed as he
was to long intervals of idleness, was fast becoming bored.
The tread of mud-muffled boots on the veranda, and the entrance of
two men, offered a momentary excitement. He recognized in the
strangers two prominent citizens of Cottonwood; and their manner
bespoke business. One of them proceeded to the desk, wrote a
despatch, and handed it to the other interrogatively.
"That's about the way the thing p'ints," responded his companion
"I reckoned it only squar to use his dientical words?"
The first speaker turned to the operator with the despatch.
"How soon can you shove her through?"
The operator glanced professionally over the address and the length
of the despatch.
"Now," he answered promptly.
"And she gets there?"
"To-night. But there's no delivery until to-morrow."
"Shove her through to-night, and say there's an extra twenty left
here for delivery."
The operator, accustomed to all kinds of extravagant outlay for
expedition, replied that he would lay this proposition with the
despatch, before the San Francisco office. He then took it and
read it--and re-read it. He preserved the usual professional
apathy,--had doubtless sent many more enigmatical and mysterious
messages,--but nevertheless, when he finished, he raised his eyes
inquiringly to his customer. That gentleman, who enjoyed a
reputation for equal spontaneity of temper and revolver, met his
gaze a little impatiently. The operator had recourse to a trick.
Under the pretence of misunderstanding the message, he obliged
the sender to repeat it aloud for the sake of accuracy, and
even suggested a few verbal alterations, ostensibly to insure
correctness, but really to extract further information.
Nevertheless, the man doggedly persisted in a literal transcript of
his message. The operator went to his instrument hesitatingly.
"I suppose," he added half-questioningly, "there ain't no chance of
a mistake. This address is Rightbody, that rich old Bostonian that
everybody knows. There ain't but one?"
"That's the address," responded the first speaker coolly.
"Didn't know the old chap had investments out here," suggested the
operator, lingering at his instrument.
"No more did I," was the insufficient reply.
For some few moments nothing was heard but the click of the
instrument, as the operator worked the key, with the usual
appearance of imparting confidence to a somewhat reluctant hearer
who preferred to talk himself. The two men stood by, watching his
motions with the usual awe of the unprofessional. When he had
finished, they laid before him two gold-pieces. As the operator
took them up, he could not help saying,--
"The old man went off kinder sudden, didn't he? Had no time to
"Not sudden for that kind o' man," was the exasperating reply.
But the speaker was not to be disconcerted. "If there is an
answer--" he began.
"There ain't any," replied the first speaker quietly.
"Because the man ez sent the message is dead."
"But it's signed by you two."
"On'y ez witnesses--eh?" appealed the first speaker to his comrade.
"On'y ez witnesses," responded the other.
The operator shrugged his shoulders. The business concluded, the
first speaker slightly relaxed. He nodded to the operator, and
turned to the bar-room with a pleasing social impulse. When their
glasses were set down empty, the first speaker, with a cheerful
condemnation of the hard times and the weather, apparently
dismissed all previous proceedings from his mind, and lounged out
with his companion. At the corner of the street they stopped.
"Well, that job's done," said the first speaker, by way of
relieving the slight social embarrassment of parting.
"Thet's so," responded his companion, and shook his hand.
They parted. A gust of wind swept through the pines, and struck a
faint Aeolian cry from the wires above their heads; and the rain
and the darkness again slowly settled upon Cottonwood.
The message lagged a little at San Francisco, laid over half an
hour at Chicago, and fought longitude the whole way; so that it was
past midnight when the "all night" operator took it from the wires
at Boston. But it was freighted with a mandate from the San
Francisco office; and a messenger was procured, who sped with it
through dark snow-bound streets, between the high walls of close-
shuttered rayless houses, to a certain formal square ghostly with
snow-covered statues. Here he ascended the broad steps of a
reserved and solid-looking mansion, and pulled a bronze bell-knob,
that somewhere within those chaste recesses, after an apparent
reflective pause, coldly communicated the fact that a stranger was
waiting without--as he ought. Despite the lateness of the hour,
there was a slight glow from the windows, clearly not enough to
warm the messenger with indications of a festivity within, but yet
bespeaking, as it were, some prolonged though subdued excitement.
The sober servant who took the despatch, and receipted for it as
gravely as if witnessing a last will and testament, respectfully
paused before the entrance of the drawing-room. The sound of
measured and rhetorical speech, through which the occasional
catarrhal cough of the New-England coast struggled, as the only
effort of nature not wholly repressed, came from its heavily-
curtained recesses; for the occasion of the evening had been the
reception and entertainment of various distinguished persons, and,
as had been epigrammatically expressed by one of the guests, "the
history of the country" was taking its leave in phrases more or
less memorable and characteristic. Some of these valedictory
axioms were clever, some witty, a few profound, but always left as
a genteel contribution to the entertainer. Some had been already
prepared, and, like a card, had served and identified the guest at
The last guest departed, the last carriage rolled away, when the
servant ventured to indicate the existence of the despatch to his
master, who was standing on the hearth-rug in an attitude of
wearied self-righteousness. He took it, opened it, read it, re-
read it, and said,--
"There must be some mistake! It is not for me. Call the boy,
Waters, who was perfectly aware that the boy had left, nevertheless
obediently walked towards the hall-door, but was recalled by his
"No matter--at present!"
"It's nothing serious, William?" asked Mrs. Rightbody, with languid
"No, nothing. Is there a light in my study?"
"Yes. But, before you go, can you give me a moment or two?"
Mr. Rightbody turned a little impatiently towards his wife. She
had thrown herself languidly on the sofa; her hair was slightly
disarranged, and part of a slippered foot was visible. She might
have been a finely-formed woman; but even her careless deshabille
left the general impression that she was severely flannelled
throughout, and that any ostentation of womanly charm was under
vigorous sanitary SURVEILLANCE.
"Mrs. Marvin told me to-night that her son made no secret of his
serious attachment for our Alice, and that, if I was satisfied, Mr.
Marvin would be glad to confer with you at once."
The information did not seem to absorb Mr. Rightbody's wandering
attention, but rather increased his impatience. He said hastily,
that he would speak of that to-morrow; and partly by way of
reprisal, and partly to dismiss the subject, added--
"Positively James must pay some attention to the register and the
thermometer. It was over 70 degrees to-night, and the ventilating
draught was closed in the drawing-room."
"That was because Professor Ammon sat near it, and the old
gentleman's tonsils are so sensitive."
"He ought to know from Dr. Dyer Doit that systematic and regular
exposure to draughts stimulates the mucous membrane; while fixed
air over 60 degrees invariably--"
"I am afraid, William," interrupted Mrs. Rightbody, with feminine
adroitness, adopting her husband's topic with a view of thereby
directing him from it,--"I'm afraid that people do not yet
appreciate the substitution of bouillon for punch and ices. I
observed that Mr. Spondee declined it, and, I fancied, looked
disappointed. The fibrine and wheat in liqueur-glasses passed
quite unnoticed too."
"And yet each half-drachm contained the half-digested substance of
a pound of beef. I'm surprised at Spondee!" continued Mr.
Rightbody aggrievedly. "Exhausting his brain and nerve force by
the highest creative efforts of the Muse, he prefers perfumed and
diluted alcohol flavored with carbonic acid gas. Even Mrs.
Faringway admitted to me that the sudden lowering of the
temperature of the stomach by the introduction of ice--"
"Yes; but she took a lemon ice at the last Dorothea Reception, and
asked me if I had observed that the lower animals refused their
food at a temperature over 60 degrees."
Mr. Rightbody again moved impatiently towards the door. Mrs.
Rightbody eyed him curiously.
"You will not write, I hope? Dr. Keppler told me to-night that
your cerebral symptoms interdicted any prolonged mental strain."
"I must consult a few papers," responded Mr. Rightbody curtly, as
he entered his library.
It was a richly-furnished apartment, morbidly severe in its
decorations, which were symptomatic of a gloomy dyspepsia of art,
then quite prevalent. A few curios, very ugly, but providentially
equally rare, were scattered about. There were various bronzes,
marbles, and casts, all requiring explanation, and so fulfilling
their purpose of promoting conversation, and exhibiting the
erudition of their owner. There were souvenirs of travel with a
history, old bric-a-brac with a pedigree, but little or nothing
that challenged attention for itself alone. In all cases the
superiority of the owner to his possessions was admitted. As a
natural result, nobody ever lingered there, the servants avoided
the room, and no child was ever known to play in it.
Mr. Rightbody turned up the gas, and from a cabinet of drawers,
precisely labelled, drew a package of letters. These he carefully
examined. All were discolored, and made dignified by age; but
some, in their original freshness, must have appeared trifling, and
inconsistent with any correspondent of Mr. Rightbody. Nevertheless,
that gentleman spent some moments in carefully perusing them,
occasionally referring to the telegram in his hand. Suddenly
there was a knock at the door. Mr. Rightbody started, made a
half-unconscious movement to return the letters to the drawer,
turned the telegram face downwards, and then, somewhat harshly,
"Eh? Who's there? Come in."
"I beg your pardon, papa," said a very pretty girl, entering,
without, however, the slightest trace of apology or awe in her
manner, and taking a chair with the self-possession and familiarity
of an habitue of the room; "but I knew it was not your habit to
write late, so I supposed you were not busy. I am on my way to
She was so very pretty, and withal so utterly unconscious of it, or
perhaps so consciously superior to it, that one was provoked into a
more critical examination of her face. But this only resulted in a
reiteration of her beauty, and perhaps the added facts that her
dark eyes were very womanly, her rich complexion eloquent, and her
chiselled lips fell enough to be passionate or capricious,
notwithstanding that their general effect suggested neither
caprice, womanly weakness, nor passion.
With the instinct of an embarrassed man, Mr. Rightbody touched the
topic he would have preferred to avoid.
"I suppose we must talk over to-morrow," he hesitated, "this matter
of yours and Mr. Marvin's? Mrs. Marvin has formally spoken to your
Miss Alice lifted her bright eyes intelligently, but not joyfully;
and the color of action, rather than embarrasament, rose to her
"Yes, HE said she would," she answered simply.
"At present," continued Mr. Rightbody still awkwardly, "I see no
objection to the proposed arrangement."
Miss Alice opened her round eyes at this.
"Why, papa, I thought it had been all settled long ago! Mamma knew
it, you knew it. Last July, mamma and you talked it over."
"Yes, yes," returned her father, fumbling his papers; "that is--
well, we will talk of it to-morrow." In fact, Mr. Rightbody HAD
intended to give the affair a proper attitude of seriousness and
solemnity by due precision of speech, and some apposite reflections,
when he should impart the news to his daughter, but felt himself
unable to do it now. "I am glad, Alice," he said at last, "that you
have quite forgotten your previous whims and fancies. You see WE
"Oh! I dare say, papa, if I'm to be married at all, that Mr. Marvin
is in every way suitable."
Mr. Rightbody looked at his daughter narrowly. There was not the
slightest impatience nor bitterness in her manner: it was as well
regulated as the sentiment she expressed.
"Mr. Marvin is--" he began.
"I know what Mr. Marvin IS," interrupted Miss Alice; "and he has
promised me that I shall be allowed to go on with my studies the
same as before. I shall graduate with my class; and, if I prefer
to practise my profession, I can do so in two years after our
"In two years?" queried Mr. Rightbody curiously.
"Yes. You see, in case we should have a child, that would give me
time enough to wean it."
Mr. Rightbody looked at this flesh of his flesh, pretty and
palpable flesh as it was; but, being confronted as equally with the
brain of his brain, all he could do was to say meekly,--
"Yes, certainly. We will see about all that to-morrow."
Miss Alice rose. Something in the free, unfettered swing of her
arms as she rested them lightly, after a half yawn, on her lithe
hips, suggested his next speech, although still distrait and
"You continue your exercise with the health-lift yet, I see."
"Yes, papa; but I had to give up the flannels. I don't see how
mamma could wear them. But my dresses are high-necked, and by
bathing I toughen my skin. See!" she added, as, with a child-like
unconsciousness, she unfastened two or three buttons of her gown,
and exposed the white surface of her throat and neck to her father,
"I can defy a chill."
Mr. Rightbody, with something akin to a genuine playful, paternal
laugh, leaned forward and kissed her forehead.
"It's getting late, Ally," he said parentally, but not dictatorially.
"Go to bed."
"I took a nap of three hours this afternoon," said Miss Alice, with
a dazzling smile, "to anticipate this dissipation. Good-night,
papa. To-morrow, then."
"To-morrow," repeated Mr. Rightbody, with his eyes still fixed upon
the girl vaguely. "Good-night."
Miss Alice tripped from the room, possibly a trifle the more light-
heartedly that she had parted from her father in one of his rare
moments of illogical human weakness. And perhaps it was well for
the poor girl that she kept this single remembrance of him, when, I
fear, in after-years, his methods, his reasoning, and indeed all he
had tried to impress upon her childhood, had faded from her memory.
For, when she had left, Mr. Rightbody fell again to the examination
of his old letters. This was quite absorbing; so much so, that he
did not notice the footsteps of Mrs. Rightbody, on the staircase as
she passed to her chamber, nor that she had paused on the landing
to look through the glass half-door on her husband, as he sat there
with the letters beside him, and the telegram opened before him.
Had she waited a moment later, she would have seen him rise, and
walk to the sofa with a disturbed air and a slight confusion; so
that, on reaching it, he seemed to hesitate to lie down, although
pale and evidently faint. Had she still waited, she would have
seen him rise again with an agonized effort, stagger to the table,
fumblingly refold and replace the papers in the cabinet, and lock
it, and, although now but half-conscious, hold the telegram over
the gas-flame till it was consumed.
For, had she waited until this moment, she would have flown
unhesitatingly to his aid, as, this act completed, he staggered
again, reached his hand toward the bell, but vainly, and then fell
prone upon the sofa.
But alas! no providential nor accidental hand was raised to save
him, or anticipate the progress of this story. And when, half an
hour later, Mrs. Rightbody, a little alarmed, and more indignant at
his violation of the doctor's rules, appeared upon the threshold,
Mr. Rightbody lay upon the sofa, dead!
With bustle, with thronging feet, with the irruption of strangers,
and a hurrying to and fro, but, more than all, with an impulse and
emotion unknown to the mansion when its owner was in life, Mrs.
Rightbody strove to call back the vanished life, but in vain. The
highest medical intelligence, called from its bed at this strange
hour, saw only the demonstration of its theories made a year
before. Mr. Rightbody was dead--without doubt, without mystery,
even as a correct man should die--logically, and indorsed by the
highest medical authority.
But even in the confusion, Mrs. Rightbody managed to speed a
messenger to the telegraph-office for a copy of the despatch
received by Mr. Rightbody, but now missing.
In the solitude of her own room, and without a confidant, she read
"To MR. ADAMS RIGHTBODY, BOSTON, MASS.
"Joshua Silsbie died suddenly this morning. His last request was
that you should remember your sacred compact with him of thirty
In the darkened home, and amid the formal condolements of their
friends who had called to gaze upon the scarcely cold features of
their late associate, Mrs. Rightbody managed to send another
despatch. It was addressed to "Seventy-Four and Seventy-Five,"
Cottonwood. In a few hours she received the following enigmatical
"A horse-thief named Josh Silsbie was lynched yesterday morning by
the Vigilantes at Deadwood."
The spring of 1874 was retarded in the California sierras; so much
so, that certain Eastern tourists who had early ventured into the
Yo Semite Valley found themselves, one May morning, snow-bound
against the tempestuous shoulders of El Capitan. So furious was
the onset of the wind at the Upper Merced Canyon, that even so
respectable a lady as Mrs. Rightbody was fain to cling to the neck
of her guide to keep her seat in the saddle; while Miss Alice,
scorning all masculine assistance, was hurled, a lovely chaos,
against the snowy wall of the chasm. Mrs. Rightbody screamed; Miss
Alice raged under her breath, but scrambled to her feet again in
"I told you so!" said Mrs. Rightbody, in an indignant whisper, as
her daughter again ranged beside her. "I warned you especially,
"What?" interrupted Miss Alice curtly.
"That you would need your chemiloons and high boots," said Mrs.
Rightbody, in a regretful undertone, slightly increasing her
distance from the guides.
Miss Alice shrugged her pretty shoulders scornfully, but ignored
her mother's implication.
"You were particularly warned against going into the valley at this
season," she only replied grimly.
Mrs. Rightbody raised her eyes impatiently.
"You know how anxious I was to discover your poor father's strange
correspondent, Alice. You have no consideration."
"But when YOU HAVE discovered him--what then?" queried Miss Alice.
"Yes. My belief is, that you will find the telegram only a mere
business cipher, and all this quest mere nonsense."
"Alice! Why, YOU yourself thought your father's conduct that night
very strange. Have you forgotten?"
The young lady had NOT, but, for some far-reaching feminine reason,
chose to ignore it at that moment, when her late tumble in the snow
was still fresh in her mind.
"And this woman, whoever she may be--" continued Mrs. Rightbody.
"How do you know there's a woman in the case?" interrupted Miss
Alice, wickedly I fear.
"How do--I--know--there's a woman?" slowly ejaculated Mrs.
Rightbody, floundering in the snow and the unexpected possibility
of such a ridiculous question. But here her guide flew to her
assistance, and estopped further speech. And, indeed, a grave
problem was before them.
The road that led to their single place of refuge--a cabin, half
hotel, half trading-post, scarce a mile away--skirted the base of
the rocky dome, and passed perilously near the precipitous wall of
the valley. There was a rapid descent of a hundred yards or more
to this terrace-like passage; and the guides paused for a moment of
consultation, cooly oblivious, alike to the terrified questioning
of Mrs. Rightbody, or the half-insolent independence of the
daughter. The elder guide was russet-bearded, stout, and humorous:
the younger was dark-bearded, slight, and serious.
"Ef you kin git young Bunker Hill to let you tote her on your
shoulders, I'll git the Madam to hang on to me," came to Mrs.
Rightbody's horrified ears as the expression of her particular
"Freeze to the old gal, and don't reckon on me if the daughter
starts in to play it alone," was the enigmatical response of the
Miss Alice overheard both propositions; and, before the two men
returned to their side, that high-spirited young lady had urged her
horse down the declivity.
Alas! at this moment a gust of whirling snow swept down upon her.
There was a flounder, a mis-step, a fatal strain on the wrong rein,
a fall, a few plucky but unavailing struggles, and both horse and
rider slid ignominiously down toward the rocky shelf. Mrs.
Rightbody screamed. Miss Alice, from a confused debris of snow and
ice, uplifted a vexed and coloring face to the younger guide, a
little the more angrily, perhaps, that she saw a shade of impatience
on his face.
"Don't move, but tie one end of the 'lass' under your arms, and
throw me the other," he said quietly.
"What do you mean by 'lass'--the lasso?" asked Miss Alice
"Then why don't you say so?"
"O Alice!" reproachfully interpolated Mrs. Rightbody, encircled by
the elder guide's stalwart arm.
Miss Alice deigned no reply, but drew the loop of the lasso over
her shoulders, and let it drop to her round waist. Then she
essayed to throw the other end to her guide. Dismal failure! The
first fling nearly knocked her off the ledge; the second went all
wild against the rocky wall; the third caught in a thorn-bush,
twenty feet below her companion's feet. Miss Alice's arm sunk
helplessly to her side, at which signal of unqualified surrender,
the younger guide threw himself half way down the slope, worked his
way to the thorn-bush, hung for a moment perilously over the
parapet, secured the lasso, and then began to pull away at his
lovely burden. Miss Alice was no dead weight, however, but
steadily half-scrambled on her hands and knees to within a foot or
two of her rescuer. At this too familiar proximity, she stood up,
and leaned a little stiffly against the line, causing the guide to
give an extra pull, which had the lamentable effect of landing her
almost in his arms.
As it was, her intelligent forehead struck his nose sharply, and I
regret to add, treating of a romantic situation, caused that
somewhat prominent sign and token of a hero to bleed freely. Miss
Alice instantly clapped a handful of snow over his nostrils.
"Now elevate your right arm," she said commandingly.
He did as he was bidden, but sulkily.
"That compresses the artery."
No man, with a pretty woman's hand and a handful of snow over his
mouth and nose, could effectively utter a heroic sentence, nor,
with his arm elevated stiffly over his head, assume a heroic
attitude. But, when his mouth was free again, he said half-
"I might have known a girl couldn't throw worth a cent."
"Why?" demanded Miss Alice sharply.
"Because--why--because--you see--they haven't got the experience,"
he stammered feebly.
"Nonsense! they haven't the CLAVICLE--that's all! It's because I'm
a woman, and smaller in the collar-bone, that I haven't the play of
the fore-arm which you have. See!" She squared her shoulders
slightly, and turned the blaze of her dark eyes full on his.
"Experience, indeed! A girl can learn anything a boy can."
Apprehension took the place of ill-humor in her hearer. He turned
his eyes hastily away, and glanced above him. The elder guide had
gone forward to catch Miss Alice's horse, which, relieved of his
rider, was floundering toward the trail. Mrs. Rightbody was
nowhere to be seen. And these two were still twenty feet below the
There was an awkward pause.
"Shall I put you up the same way?" he queried. Miss Alice looked
at his nose, and hesitated. "Or will you take my hand?" he added
in surly impatience. To his surprise, Miss Alice took his hand,
and they began the ascent together.
But the way was difficult and dangerous. Once or twice her feet
slipped on the smoothly-worn rock beneath; and she confessed to an
inward thankfulness when her uncertain feminine hand-grip was
exchanged for his strong arm around her waist. Not that he was
ungentle; but Miss Alice angrily felt that he had once or twice
exercised his superior masculine functions in a rough way; and yet
the next moment she would have probably rejected the idea that she
had even noticed it. There was no doubt, however, that he WAS a
A fierce scramble finally brought them back in safety to the trail;
but in the action Miss Alice's shoulder, striking a projecting
bowlder, wrung from her a feminine cry of pain, her first sign of
womanly weakness. The guide stopped instantly.
"I am afraid I hurt you?"
She raised her brown lashes, a trifle moist from suffering, looked
in his eyes, and dropped her own. Why, she could not tell. And
yet he had certainly a kind face, despite its seriousness; and a
fine face, albeit unshorn and weather-beaten. Her own eyes had
never been so near to any man's before, save her lover's; and yet
she had never seen so much in even his. She slipped her hand away,
not with any reference to him, but rather to ponder over this
singular experience, and somehow felt uncomfortable thereat.
Nor was he less so. It was but a few days ago that he had accepted
the charge of this young woman from the elder guide, who was the
recognized escort of the Rightbody party, having been a former
correspondent of her father's. He had been hired like any other
guide, but had undertaken the task with that chivalrous enthusiasm
which the average Californian always extends to the sex so rare to
him. But the illusion had passed; and he had dropped into a sulky,
practical sense of his situation, perhaps fraught with less danger
to himself. Only when appealed to by his manhood or her weakness,
he had forgotten his wounded vanity.
He strode moodily ahead, dutifully breaking the path for her in the
direction of the distant canyon, where Mrs. Rightbody and her
friend awaited them. Miss Alice was first to speak. In this
trackless, uncharted terra incognita of the passions, it is always
the woman who steps out to lead the way.
"You know this place very well. I suppose you have lived here
"You were not born here--no?"
A long pause.
"I observe they call you 'Stanislaus Joe.' Of course that is not
your real name?" (Mem.--Miss Alice had never called him ANYTHING,
usually prefacing any request with a languid, "O-er-er, please,
mister-er-a!" explicit enough for his station.)
Miss Alice (trotting after him, and bawling in his ear).--"WHAT
name did you say?"
The Man (doggedly).--"I don't know." Nevertheless, when they
reached the cabin, after an half-hour's buffeting with the storm,
Miss Alice applied herself to her mother's escort, Mr. Ryder.
"What's the name of the man who takes care of my horse?"
"Stanislaus Joe," responded Mr. Ryder.
"Is that all?"
"No. Sometimes he's called Joe Stanislaus."
Miss Alice (satirically).--"I suppose it's the custom here to send
young ladies out with gentlemen who hide their names under an
Mr. Ryder (greatly perplexed).--"Why, dear me, Miss Alice, you
allers 'peared to me as a gal as was able to take keer--"
Miss Alice (interrupting with a wounded, dove-like timidity).--"Oh,
never mind, please!"
The cabin offered but scanty accommodation to the tourists; which
fact, when indignantly presented by Mrs. Rightbody, was explained
by the good-humored Ryder from the circumstance that the usual
hotel was only a slight affair of boards, cloth, and paper, put up
during the season, and partly dismantled in the fall. "You
couldn't be kept warm enough there," he added. Nevertheless Miss
Alice noticed that both Mr. Ryder and Stanislaus Joe retired there
with their pipes, after having prepared the ladies' supper, with
the assistance of an Indian woman, who apparently emerged from the
earth at the coming of the party, and disappeared as mysteriously.
The stars came out brightly before they slept; and the next morning
a clear, unwinking sun beamed with almost summer power through the
shutterless window of their cabin, and ironically disclosed the
details of its rude interior. Two or three mangy, half-eaten
buffalo-robes, a bearskin, some suspicious-looking blankets, rifles
and saddles, deal-tables, and barrels, made up its scant inventory.
A strip of faded calico hung before a recess near the chimney, but
so blackened by smoke and age that even feminine curiosity
respected its secret. Mrs. Rightbody was in high spirits, and
informed her daughter that she was at last on the track of her
husband's unknown correspondent. "Seventy-Four and Seventy-Five
represent two members of the Vigilance Committee, my dear, and Mr.
Ryder will assist me to find them."
"Mr. Ryder!" ejaculated Miss Alice, in scornful astonishment.
"Alice," said Mrs. Rightbody, with a suspicious assumption of
sudden defence, "you injure yourself, you injure me, by this
exclusive attitude. Mr. Ryder is a friend of your father's, an
exceedingly well-informed gentleman. I have not, of course,
imparted to him the extent of my suspicions. But he can help me to
what I must and will know. You might treat him a little more
civilly--or, at least, a little better than you do his servant,
your guide. Mr. Ryder is a gentleman, and not a paid courier."
Miss Alice was suddenly attentive. When she spoke again, she
asked, "Why do you not find out something about this Silsbie--who
died--or was hung--or something of that kind?"
"Child!" said Mrs. Rightbody, "don't you see there was no Silsbie,
or, if there was, he was simply the confidant of that--woman?"
A knock at the door, announcing the presence of Mr. Ryder and
Stanislaus Joe with the horses, checked Mrs. Rightbody's speech.
As the animals were being packed, Mrs. Rightbody for a moment
withdrew in confidential conversation with Mr. Ryder, and, to the
young lady's still greater annoyance, left her alone with
Stanislaus Joe. Miss Alice was not in good temper, but she felt it
necessary to say something.
"I hope the hotel offers better quarters for travellers than this
in summer," she began.
"Then this does not belong to it?"
"Who lives here, then?"
"I beg your pardon," stammered Miss Alice, "I thought you lived
where we hired--where we met you--in--in-- You must excuse me."
"I'm not a regular guide; but as times were hard, and I was out of
grub, I took the job."
"Out of grub!" "job!" And SHE was the "job." What would Henry
Marvin say? It would nearly kill him. She began herself to feel a
little frightened, and walked towards the door.
"One moment, miss!"
The young girl hesitated. The man's tone was surly, and yet
indicated a certain kind of half-pathetic grievance. HER curiosity
got the better of her prudence, and she turned back.
"This morning," he began hastily, "when we were coming down the
valley, you picked me up twice."
"I picked YOU up?" repeated the astonished Alice.
"Yes, CONTRADICTED me: that's what I mean,--once when you said
those rocks were volcanic, once when you said the flower you picked
was a poppy. I didn't let on at the time, for it wasn't my say;
but all the while you were talking I might have laid for you--"
"I don't understand you," said Alice haughtily.
"I might have entrapped you before folks. But I only want you to
know that I'M right, and here are the books to show it."
He drew aside the dingy calico curtain, revealed a small shelf of
bulky books, took down two large volumes,--one of botany, one of
geology,--nervously sought his text, and put them in Alice's
"I had no intention--" she began, half-proudly, half-embarrassedly.
"Am I right, miss?" he interrupted.
"I presume you are, if you say so."
"That's all, ma'am. Thank you!"
Before the girl had time to reply, he was gone. When he again
returned, it was with her horse, and Mrs. Rightbody and Ryder were
awaiting her. But Miss Alice noticed that his own horse was
"Are you not going with us?" she asked.
Miss Alice felt her speech was a feeble conventionalism; but it was
all she could say. She, however, DID something. Hitherto it had
been her habit to systematically reject his assistance in mounting
to her seat. Now she awaited him. As he approached, she smiled,
and put out her little foot. He instantly stooped; she placed it
in his hand, rose with a spring, and for one supreme moment
Stanislaus Joe held her unresistingly in his arms. The next moment
she was in the saddle; but in that brief interval of sixty seconds
she had uttered a volume in a single sentence,--
"I hope you will forgive me!"
He muttered a reply, and turned his face aside quickly as if to
Miss Alice cantered forward with a smile, but pulled her hat down
over her eyes as she joined her mother. She was blushing.
Mr. Ryder was as good as his word. A day or two later he entered
Mrs. Rightbody's parlor at the Chrysopolis Hotel in Stockton, with
the information that he had seen the mysterious senders of the
despatch, and that they were now in the office of the hotel waiting
her pleasure. Mr. Ryder further informed her that these gentlemen
had only stipulated that they should not reveal their real names,
and that they be introduced to her simply as the respective
"Seventy-Four" and "Seventy-Five" who had signed the despatch sent
to the late Mr. Rightbody.
Mrs. Rightbody at first demurred to this; but, on the assurance
from Mr. Ryder that this was the only condition on which an
interview would be granted, finally consented.
"You will find them square men, even if they are a little rough,
ma'am. But, if you'd like me to be present, I'll stop; though I
reckon, if ye'd calkilated on that, you'd have had me take care o'
your business by proxy, and not come yourself three thousand miles
to do it."
Mrs. Rightbody believed it better to see them alone.
"All right, ma'am. I'll hang round out here; and ef ye should
happen to have a ticklin' in your throat, and a bad spell o'
coughin', I'll drop in, careless like, to see if you don't want
them drops. Sabe?"
And with an exceedingly arch wink, and a slight familiar tap on
Mrs. Rightbody's shoulder, which might have caused the late Mr.
Rightbody to burst his sepulchre, he withdrew.
A very timid, hesitating tap on the door was followed by the
entrance of two men, both of whom, in general size, strength, and
uncouthness, were ludicrously inconsistent with their diffident
announcement. They proceeded in Indian file to the centre of the
room, faced Mrs. Rightbody, acknowledged her deep courtesy by a
strong shake of the hand, and, drawing two chairs opposite to her,
sat down side by side.
"I presume I have the pleasure of addressing--" began Mrs. Rightbody.
The man directly opposite Mrs. Rightbody turned to the other
The other man nodded his head, and replied,--
"Seventy-Five," promptly followed the other.
Mrs. Rightbody paused, a little confused.
"I have sent for you," she began again, "to learn something more of
the circumstances under which you gentlemen sent a despatch to my
"The circumstances," replied Seventy-Four quietly, with a side-
glance at his companion, "panned out about in this yer style. We
hung a man named Josh Silsbie, down at Deadwood, for hoss-stealin'.
When I say WE, I speak for Seventy-Five yer as is present, as well
as representin', so to speak, seventy-two other gents as is
scattered. We hung Josh Silsbie on squar, pretty squar, evidence.
Afore he was strung up, Seventy-Five yer axed him, accordin' to
custom, ef ther was enny thing he had to say, or enny request that
he allowed to make of us. He turns to Seventy-Five yer, and--"
Here he paused suddenly, looking at his companion.
"He sez, sez he," began Seventy-Five, taking up the narrative,--"he
sez, 'Kin I write a letter?' sez he. Sez I, 'Not much, ole man:
ye've got no time.' Sez he, 'Kin I send a despatch by telegraph?'
I sez, 'Heave ahead.' He sez,--these is his dientikal words,--
'Send to Adam Rightbody, Boston. Tell him to remember his sacred
compack with me thirty years ago.'"
"'His sacred compack with me thirty years ago,'" echoed Seventy-
Four,--"his dientikal words."
"What was the compact?" asked Mrs. Rightbody anxiously.
Seventy-Four looked at Seventy-Five, and then both arose, and
retired to the corner of the parlor, where they engaged in a slow
but whispered deliberation. Presently they returned, and sat down
"We allow," said Seventy-Four, quietly but decidedly, "that YOU
know what that sacred compact was."
Mrs. Rightbody lost her temper and her truthfulness together. "Of
course," she said hurriedly, "I know. But do you mean to say that
you gave this poor man no further chance to explain before you
Seventy-Four and Seventy-Five both rose again slowly, and retired.
When they returned again, and sat down, Seventy-Five, who by this
time, through some subtile magnetism, Mrs. Rightbody began to
recognize as the superior power, said gravely,--
"We wish to say, regarding this yer murder, that Seventy-Four and
me is equally responsible; that we reckon also to represent, so to
speak, seventy-two other gentlemen as is scattered; that we are
ready, Seventy-Four and me, to take and holt that responsibility,
now and at any time, afore every man or men as kin be fetched agin
us. We wish to say that this yer say of ours holds good yer in
Californy, or in any part of these United States."
"Or in Canady," suggested Seventy-Four.
"Or in Canady. We wouldn't agree to cross the water, or go to
furrin parts, unless absolutely necessary. We leaves the chise of
weppings to your principal, ma'am, or being a lady, ma'am, and
interested, to any one you may fetch to act for him. An
advertisement in any of the Sacramento papers, or a playcard or
handbill stuck unto a tree near Deadwood, saying that Seventy-Four
or Seventy-Five will communicate with this yer principal or agent
of yours, will fetch us--allers."
Mrs. Rightbody, a little alarmed and desperate, saw her blunder.
"I mean nothing of the kind," she said hastily. "I only expected
that you might have some further details of this interview with
Silsbie; that perhaps you could tell me--" a bold, bright thought
crossed Mrs. Rightbody's mind--"something more about HER."
The two men looked at each other.
"I suppose your society have no objection to giving me information
about HER," said Mrs. Rightbody eagerly.
Another quiet conversation in the corner, and the return of both
"We want to say that we've no objection."
Mrs. Rightbody's heart beat high. Her boldness had made her
penetration good. Yet she felt she must not alarm the men
"Will you inform me to what extent Mr. Rightbody, my late husband,
was interested in her?"
This time it seemed an age to Mrs. Rightbody before the men
returned from their solemn consultation in the corner. She could
both hear and feel that their discussion was more animated than
their previous conferences. She was a little mortified, however,
when they sat down, to hear Seventy-Four say slowly,--
"We wish to say that we don't allow to say HOW much."
"Do you not think that the 'sacred compact' between Mr. Rightbody
and Mr. Silsbie referred to her?"
"We reckon it do."
Mrs. Rightbody, flushed and animated, would have given worlds had
her daughter been present to hear this undoubted confirmation of
her theory. Yet she felt a little nervous and uncomfortable even
on this threshold of discovery.
"Is she here now?"
"She's in Tuolumne," said Seventy-Four.
"A little better looked arter than formerly," added Seventy-Five.
"I see. Then Mr. Silsbie ENTICED her away?"
"Well, ma'am, it WAS allowed as she runned away. But it wasn't
proved, and it generally wasn't her style."
Mrs. Rightbody trifled with her next question.
"She was pretty, of course?"
The eyes of both men brightened.
"She was THAT!" said Seventy-Four emphatically.
"It would have done you good to see her!" added Seventy-Five.
Mrs. Rightbody inwardly doubted it; but, before she could ask
another question, the two men again retired to the corner for
consultation. When they came back, there was a shade more of
kindliness and confidence in their manner; and Seventy-Four opened
his mind more freely.
"We wish to say, ma'am, looking at the thing, by and large, in a
far-minded way, that, ez YOU seem interested, and ez Mr. Rightbody
was interested, and was, according to all accounts, deceived and
led away by Silsbie, that we don't mind listening to any
proposition YOU might make, as a lady--allowin' you was ekally
"I understand," said Mrs. Rightbody quickly. "And you will furnish
me with any papers?"
The two men again consulted.
"We wish to say, ma'am, that we think she's got papers, but--"
"I MUST have them, you understand," interrupted Mrs. Rightbody, "at
"We was about to say, ma'am," said Seventy-Four slowly, "that,
considerin' all things,--and you being a lady--you kin have HER,
papers, pedigree, and guaranty, for twelve hundred dollars."
It has been alleged that Mrs. Rightbody asked only one question
more, and then fainted. It is known, however, that by the next day
it was understood in Deadwood that Mrs. Rightbody had confessed to
the Vigilance Committee that her husband, a celebrated Boston
millionaire, anxious to gain possession of Abner Springer's well-
known sorrel mare, had incited the unfortunate Josh Silsbie to
steal it; and that finally, failing in this, the widow of the
deceased Boston millionaire was now in personal negotiation with
Howbeit, Miss Alice, returning home that afternoon, found her
mother with a violent headache.
"We will leave here by the next steamer," said Mrs. Rightbody
languidly. "Mr. Ryder has promised to accompany us."
"The climate, Alice, is over-rated. My nerves are already
suffering from it. The associations are unfit for you, and Mr.
Marvin is naturally impatient."
Miss Alice colored slightly.
"But your quest, mother?"
"I've abandoned it."
"But I have not," said Alice quietly. "Do you remember my guide at
the Yo Semite,--Stanislaus Joe? Well, Stanislaus Joe is--who do
Mrs. Rightbody was languidly indifferent.
"Well, Stanislaus Joe is the son of Joshua Silsbie."
Mrs. Rightbody sat upright in astonishment
"Yes. But mother, he knows nothing of what we know. His father
treated him shamefully, and set him cruelly adrift years ago; and,
when he was hung, the poor fellow, in sheer disgrace, changed his
"But, if he knows nothing of his father's compact, of what interest
"Oh, nothing! Only I thought it might lead to something."
Mrs. Rightbody suspected that "something," and asked sharply, "And
pray how did YOU find it out? You did not speak of it in the
"Oh! I didn't find it out till to-day," said Miss Alice, walking to
the window. "He happened to be here, and--told me."
If Mrs. Rightbody's friends had been astounded by her singular and
unexpected pilgrimage to California so soon after her husband's
decease, they were still more astounded by the information, a year
later, that she was engaged to be married to a Mr. Ryder, of whom
only the scant history was known, that he was a Californian, and
former correspondent of her husband. It was undeniable that the
man was wealthy, and evidently no mere adventurer; it was rumored
that he was courageous and manly: but even those who delighted in
his odd humor were shocked at his grammar and slang.
It was said that Mr. Marvin had but one interview with his father-
in-law elect, and returned so supremely disgusted, that the match
was broken off. The horse-stealing story, more or less garbled,
found its way through lips that pretended to decry it, yet eagerly
repeated it. Only one member of the Rightbody family--and a new
one--saved them from utter ostracism. It was young Mr. Ryder, the
adopted son of the prospective head of the household, whose
culture, manners, and general elegance, fascinated and thrilled
Boston with a new sensation. It seemed to many that Miss Alice
should, in the vicinity of this rare exotic, forget her former
enthusiasm for a professional life; but the young man was pitied by
society, and various plans for diverting him from any mesalliance
with the Rightbody family were concocted.
It was a wintry night, and the second anniversary of Mr. Rightbody's
death, that a light was burning in his library. But the dead man's
chair was occupied by young Mr. Ryder, adopted son of the new
proprietor of the mansion; and before him stood Alice, with her dark
eyes fixed on the table.
"There must have been something in it, Joe, believe me. Did you
never hear your father speak of mine?"
"But you say he was college-bred, and born a gentleman, and in his
youth he must have had many friends."
"Alice," said the young man gravely, "when I have done something to
redeem my name, and wear it again before these people, before YOU,
it would be well to revive the past. But till then--"
But Alice was not to be put down. "I remember," she went on,
scarcely heeding him, "that, when I came in that night, papa was
reading a letter, and seemed to be disconcerted."
"Yes; but," added Alice, with a sigh, "when we found him here
insensible, there was no letter on his person. He must have
"Did you ever look among his papers? If found, it might be a
The young man glanced toward the cabinet. Alice read his eyes, and
"Oh, dear, no! The cabinet contained only his papers, all
perfectly arranged,--you know how methodical were his habits,--and
some old business and private letters, all carefully put away."
"Let us see them," said the young man, rising.
They opened drawer after drawer; files upon files of letters and
business papers, accurately folded and filed. Suddenly Alice
uttered a little cry, and picked up a quaint ivory paper-knife
lying at the bottom of a drawer.
"It was missing the next day, and never could be found: he must
have mislaid it here. This is the drawer," said Alice eagerly.
Here was a clew. But the lower part of the drawer was filled with
old letters, not labelled, yet neatly arranged in files. Suddenly
he stopped, and said, "Put them back, Alice, at once."
"Some of these letters are in my father's handwriting."
"The more reason why I should see them," said the girl imperatively.
"Here, you take part, and I'll take part, and we'll get through
There was a certain decision and independence in her manner which
he had learned to respect. He took the letters, and in silence
read them with her. They were old college letters, so filled with
boyish dreams, ambitions, aspirations, and utopian theories, that I
fear neither of these young people even recognized their parents in
the dead ashes of the past. They were both grave, until Alice
uttered a little hysterical cry, and dropped her face in her hands.
Joe was instantly beside her.
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