Treasure and Trouble Therewith
Part 2 out of 7
unlike--Lorry--her full name was Loretta--was slender and small with
nut-brown hair and a pale, pure skin. The richest note of color in her
face was the rose of her lips, clearly outlined and smoothly pink. She
had "thrown back" to her New England forbears. On the elm-shaded
streets of Vermont villages one often sees such girls, fragile, finely
feminine, with no noticeable points except a delicate grace and
serenely honest eyes.
Chrystie was all California's--tall, broad-shouldered, promising future
opulence, her skin a warm cream deepening to shades of coral, her hair a
blonde cloud, hanging misty round her brows. She was as unsubtle as a
chromo, as fragrantly fresh as a newly wakened baby. Her hands, large,
plump, with flexible broad-tipped fingers, were ivory-colored and
satin-textured, and her teeth, narrow and slightly overlapping, would go
down to the grave with her if she lived to be eighty. Two months before
she had passed her eighteenth birthday and was now of age and in
possession of more money than she knew how to spend. She was easily
amused, overflowing with good nature and good spirits as a healthy puppy,
but owing to her sheltered environment and slight contact with the world
was, like her sister, shy with strangers.
The meal was drawing to its end when the doorbell rang.
"A visitor," said Chrystie, lifting her head like a young stag. Then she
addressed the waiting Chinaman, "Lee, let Fong open the door, I want
Lee went to fetch the coffee and direct Fong. Everybody in the house
always did what Chrystie said.
Aunt Ellen laid her old, full-veined hand on the table and pushed her
"Maybe it isn't a visitor," she said, looking tentatively at Lorry--she
hated visitors, for she had to sit up. "Do you expect someone?"
Lorry shook her head. She rarely expected anyone; evening callers were
generally school friends of Chrystie's.
Fong, muttering, was heard to pass from the kitchen.
"I do hope," said Christie, "if it's some horrible bore Fong'll have
sense enough to shut them in the reception room and give us a chance
Chrystie, like Aunt Ellen, was fond of going to bed early. She had tried
to instruct Fong in an understanding of this, but Fong, having been
trained in the hospitable ways of the past, could not be deflected into
more modern channels.
In his spotless white, his pigtail wound round his head, his feet in
thick-soled Chinese slippers, he passed up the hall to the front door.
Another chandelier hung there but in this only one burner was lit. At
five in winter and at six in summer Fong lit this as he had done for the
last twenty-four years. No one, no matter what the argument, could make
him light it any earlier, any later, or turn the cock at a lesser or
The visitor was Mark Burrage, and seeing this Fong broke into smiles and
"Good evening, Mist Bullage--Glad see you, Mist Bullage. Fine night,
Fong was an old man--just how old nobody knew. For thirty-five years he
had served the Alstons, had been George Alston's China boy in Virginia
City, and then followed him, faithful, silent, unquestioning to San
Francisco. There he had been the factotum of his "boss's" bachelor
establishment, and seen him through his brief period of married
happiness. On the day when Minnie Alston's coffin had passed through the
front door, he had carefully swept up the flower petals from the parlor
carpet, his brown face inscrutable, his heart bleeding for his boss.
Now his devotion was centered on the girls; "Miss Lolly and Miss Clist,"
he called them. He ruled them and looked out for their welfare--refused
to buy canvasbacks till they fell to the price he thought proper,
economized on the kitchen gas, gave them costly presents on the New Year,
and inquired into the character of every full-grown male who crossed
Mark Burrage he liked, found out about him through the secret channels of
information that make Chinatown one of the finest detective bureaus in
the land, and set the seal of his approval on the young man's visits. He
would no more have shown him into the reception room and gone to see if
"Miss Lolly and Miss Clist" were receiving, than he would have permitted
them to change the dinner hour.
"You bin away, Mist Bullage," he said, placing the card the young man
gave him on the hall table--cards were only presented in the case of
"How did you know that?" Mark asked, surprised.
Fong's face suggested intense, almost childish amusement.
"I dunno--I hear some place--I forget."
"I've been up in Sacramento County with my people--maybe Crowder
"Maybe--I not good memly, I get heap old man." He made a move for the
parlor door, his face wrinkled with his innocent grin. "Miss Lolly and
Miss Clist here; awful glad see you," and he threw the door open.
Mark took a deep breath and strode forward, pulling his cuffs over his
hands, which at that moment seemed to him to emerge from his sleeves
large and unlovely as two hams. The place always abashed him, its sober
air of wealth, its effortless refinement, its dainty feminine atmosphere.
No brutal male presence--one never thought of Chinese servants as
men--seemed ever to have disturbed with a recurring, habitual foot its
almost cloistral quietude. Now with memories of his own home fresh in his
mind, dinner in the kitchen, the soiled tablecloth, the sizzling pans on
the stove, he felt he had no place there and was an impostor. Their
greeting increased his discomfort. They were so kind, so hospitable,
making him come into the dining room and take a cup of coffee. It was an
uprush of that angry loyalty, that determination to hold close to his
own, which made him say as soon as he was seated,
"I've been home for two weeks."
"Home?" said Lorry gently.
And, "Where _is_ your home?" came from Aunt Ellen, as if she had just
recognized the fact that he must have one somewhere but had never thought
about it before.
The sound of his voice, gruff as a day laborer's after these flute-sweet
tones, increased his embarrassment. Nevertheless he determined that he
would tell them about his home.
"Up in Sacramento County not far from the tules. My father's a rancher,
has a little bit of land there."
"Yes, Charlie Crowder told us," said Lorry. She didn't seem to notice
the "little bit of land," it was just as if he'd said four or five
thousand acres and described a balconied house with striped awnings and
He cast a glance of gratitude toward her, met her eyes and dropped his
own to his cup. There they encountered his hand, holding the coffee
spoon, the little finger standing out from the others in a tricksy curve.
With an inward curse he straightened it, sudden red dyeing his face to
the temples. He began to hate himself and didn't know how to go on.
Chrystie unexpectedly came to the rescue.
"Sacramento County," she exclaimed with sudden animation, "not far from
the tules! There was a holdup round there two or three weeks ago. I read
it in the papers."
Aunt Ellen moved restlessly. She wanted to get to her chair in the
"Holdup?" she murmured. "They're always having holdups somewhere."
"Not like this," said Chrystie. "It was a good one--Knapp and
Garland--and they shot Wells Fargo's messenger."
"It was while I was there," said Mark, "up toward the foothills above
The young ladies were immensely interested. They wanted to hear all about
it and moved into the parlor to be settled and comfortable. They tried to
make Mark sit in a massive, gold-trimmed armchair, but he had his wits
about him by this time and took a humbler seat beside Lorry. Aunt Ellen
sank into her rocker with a sigh of achievement and Chrystie perched on
the piano stool. Then he told them the story, forgetting his bashfulness
under the spell of their attentive eyes.
"Why can't they catch them," said Chrystie, "if they know their names?"
He couldn't help laughing at that.
"Why, of course they have other names," Lorry explained. "They don't go
about as Knapp and Garland."
"But people must see them," Chrystie insisted, "somebody must know what
they look like."
Mark had to straighten it out for her.
"Their friends do--ranchers up in the hills, and their pals in the
towns. But the sheriffs and the general public don't. When they're out
for business they cover their faces, tie handkerchiefs or gunny sacks
Chrystie shuddered delightedly.
"How awful they must be! I'd love to be held up just to see them."
Mark and Lorry looked at one another and smiled, as age and experience
smile at the artlessness of youth. It was an interchange of mutual
understanding, a flash of closer intimacy, and as such lifted the young
man to sudden heights.
"Where do they put the money?" said Aunt Ellen, her thought
processes, under the unusual stimulus of a conversation on bandits,
stirred to energy.
"That's what we'd like to know, Mrs. Tisdale. They have a cache somewhere
but nobody's been able to find it. I saw the sheriff before I left and
_he_ thinks it's up in the hills among the chaparral."
"Is the messenger dead?" asked Lorry.
"Oh, no--he's getting on all right. They don't shoot to kill, just put
him out of business for the time being."
"That's merciful," Aunt Ellen announced in a sleepy voice.
Chrystie, finding no more delicious shudders in the subject, twirled
round on the stool and began softly picking out notes on the piano. For a
space Mark and Lorry talked--it was about the ranch near the
tules--rather dull as it came to Chrystie through her picking. The young
man kept looking at Lorry's face, then dropping his glance to the floor,
abashed before the gentle attention of her eyes, fearful his own might
say too much. He thought it was just her sweetness that made her ask
about his people, but everything about Mark Burrage interested her. Had
he guessed it he would have been as much surprised as she had she known
that he thought her beautiful.
Presently Chrystie's notes took form and became a tinkling tune. She
tried it over once then whirled round on the stool.
"There--I've got it! Listen. Isn't it just like it, Lorry?"
Lorry immediately ceased talking and listened while the tune ran a
halting course through several bars.
"Like what?" she said. "I don't know what it's meant to be."
"Oh!" Chrystie groaned, then shook her head at Mark. "Trust your
relations to take down your pride. Why, it's the Castanet song from 'The
Zingara!' Tum-tum-tum, tum-tum-tum," and she began swaying her body in
time, humming an air and banging out the accompaniment, "'With my
castanets, with my castanets.' That's exactly the way it goes only I
don't know the words." She whirled again to Mark. "It's the most
_delicious_ thing! Have you seen it?"
He hadn't, and Chrystie sank together on the stool in reproachful
"Oh, Mr. Burrage, you _must_ go. Don't lose a minute, this very night."
Lorry breathed an embarrassed "Chrystie!"
"I didn't mean _that_ and he knows it. I mean the soonest night _after_
tonight. We went yesterday and even Aunt Ellen loved it. Didn't you,
Aunt Ellen, startled from surreptitious slumber, gave an unnaturally
loud assent to which Chrystie paid no attention.
"It's the new opera at the Albion and Pancha Lopez is--" She threw out
her hands and looked at the ceiling, words inadequate.
"She's never done anything so good before," Lorry said.
"All in red and orange, and coins everywhere. Orange stockings and cute
little red slippers, and two long braids of black hair. Oh, down to
there," Chrystie thrust out her foot, her skirt drawn close over a
stalwart leg, on which, just above the knee, she laid her finger tips.
Her eyes on Mark were as unconscious as a baby's. "I don't think it's all
her own, it's too long--I'll ask Charlie Crowder."
Aunt Ellen had not gone off again and to prove it said,
"How would he know?"
"Well he'd see it, wouldn't he? He'd see it when she took off her hat,
all wound round her head, yards and yards of it. No, it's false, it was
pinned on under that little cap thing. And after the second act when she
came on to bow she carried a bunch of flowers--oh, that big," her arms
outlined a wide ellipse, "the same colors as her dress, red carnations
and some sort of yellowish flower I couldn't see plainly."
Mark, seeing some comment was expected of him, hazarded a safe,
"You don't say!"
"And just as she was going off"--Lorry took it up now--"she looked at
someone in a box and smiled and--"
But Chrystie couldn't bear it. She leaned toward her sister imploringly.
"Now, Lorry, let me tell that--you _know_ I noticed it first." Then to
Mark, "She was close to the side where they go off and I was looking at
her through the glasses, and I saw her just as plain give a sort of quick
look into the box and then smile and point to the flowers. It was as if
she said to the person in there, 'You see, I've got them.'"
"Who was in the box?"
Chrystie bounced exuberantly on the stool.
"That's the joke. None of us could see. Whoever he was he was far back,
out of sight. It was awfully exciting to me for I simply adore Pancha
Lopez and Charlie Crowder, who knows her so well, says she hasn't an
admirer of any kind."
Aunt Ellen came to the surface with,
"Perhaps she's going to get one now."
And Lorry added,
"I hope, if she is, he'll be somebody nice. Mr. Crowder says she's had
such a hard life and been so fine and brave all along."
Soon after that Mark left. There had been a time when the first move for
departure was as trying as the ordeal of entrance, but he had got beyond
that. Tonight he felt that he did it in quite an easy nonchalant way, the
ladies, true to a gracious tradition, trailing after him into the hall.
It was there that an unexpected blow fell; Chrystie, the _enfant
terrible, _delivered it. Gliding about to the hummed refrain of the
Castanet song her eye fell on his card. She picked it up and read
"Mark D.L. Burrage. What does D.L. stand for?"
It was Mark's habit, when this was asked, to square his shoulders, look
the questioner in the eye, and say calmly, "Daniel Lawrence."
But now that fierce loyalty to his own, that chafed pride, that angry
rebellion which this house and these girls roused in him, made him
savagely truthful. A dark mahogany-red stained his face to the forehead
and he looked at Chrystie with a lowering challenge.
"It stands for de Lafayette."
"De Lafayette!" she stared, amazed.
"Yes. My given name is Marquis de Lafayette."
There was a moment's pause. He saw Chrystie's face, blank, taking it in,
then terrible rising questions began to show in her eyes. He went on,
glaringly hostile, projecting his words at her as if she was a target and
they were missiles:
"My mother liked the name. She thought it was unusual. It was she who
gave it to me."
Chrystie's lips opened on a comment, also on laughter. He could see both
coming and he braced himself, then Lorry's voice suddenly rose, quiet,
unastonished, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to have
such a name:
"What a fine thing for her to do! She admired Lafayette and called you
after him. I think it was splendid of her."
Outside, in the darkness of the street, he could almost have wept, in
rage with himself, in the smart of her kindness.
He wished his mother had been there, in that hall, in her old clothes. He
would have hugged her to him, protested that his name was the crowning
glory of his life. He would have liked to face them down, show them his
pride in her, let them hear him tell her that whatever she had done was
in his opinion right.
The place where he lived was not far, a lodging house on one of the steep
streets that sloped to the city's hollow. As he swung down the hills he
thought of the hour of work he had promised himself, looked forward to
with relish. Now his enthusiasm was gone, extinguished like a spark
trodden out by a haughty foot. All he had done looked suddenly trivial,
his rise from a farm hand a petty achievement, he himself a rough,
uncultured boor. What right had he at the house of Lorry Alston, breaking
himself against unsurmountable barriers? In the beginning he had only
thought to enthrone her as an ideal, lovely, remote, unaspired to. She
would be a star fixed in his sky, object of his undesiring worship. But
it had not been that way. The star had not changed but he had ceased to
bow in contemplation--looked up, loved and longed.
The back wall of his dwelling rose above the trees and he saw the
darkling panes of his own windows. Soon his lamplight would glow through
them, and he would be in the armchair with his book and his pipe. The
picture brought back a surge of his conquering spirit. Nothing he had set
his hand to had beaten him yet. If he fought as he had fought for his
education, was fighting now for his place, he could fight up to her side.
There was no rival in sight; Crowder, who knew them well, had told him
so. He could put out all his energies, do more than man had ever done
before, climb, if not to her proud place, at least where he did not come
as a beggar to a queen. Then, on his feet, the future clearing before
him, he could go to her and try and win. He drew a deep breath and looked
up at the stars, remote as she had seemed that evening. The lift of his
passion swept him aloft on a wave of will and he murmured, "If she were
there among you, I'd try and get to her and carry her away in my arms."
Meantime he would not go to her house any more--at least not for a long
time. There was no good; he was not the man to sit round in parlors
looking and acting like a fool. He could only work, blaze the trail,
make the clearing, raise the homestead, and when it was ready go and
tell her so.
GREEK MEETS GREEK
Early on the evening when the Alstons had seen "The Zingara," Boyé Mayer
walked up Kearney Street looking into florists' windows. A cigarette
depended from his lip, his opened overcoat disclosed the glossy whiteness
of a shield-like shirt bosom, his head was crowned by a shining top hat.
He was altogether a noticeable and distinguished figure.
He had been twice to the Albion and was going again this evening, having
already engaged the right-hand stage box. Now he was purporting to send
Pancha Lopez a third floral tribute and with it reveal his identity. The
two previous ones had been anonymous, but tonight her curiosity--roused
to a high pitch, or he knew nothing of women--would be satisfied. She
would not only know who her unknown admirer was, but she would see him
sitting in stately solitude in the right-hand box.
She had been a great surprise. Where he had expected to find an
overblown, coarse woman with the strident voice of the music hall and its
banal vulgarities, he had seen a girl, young, spontaneous, full of a
sparkling charm. He had heard enough singing to know that her voice,
fresh and untrained, had promise, and that the spirited dash of her
performance indicated no common gifts. Under any circumstances she would
have interested him; how much more so now when he knew of her affiliation
with a notorious outlaw! She was evidently a potent personality, lawless
and daring. The situation appealed to his slyly malign humor, she
confidently secure, he completely informed. It was a fitting sequel to
the picaresque adventure and he anticipated much entertainment from
meeting her, saw himself, with stealthy adroitness, worming his way
toward her guilty secrets.
A florist's window, a bower of blossoms under the gush of electric
lights, attracted him and he turned into the shop. The proprietor came
forward, ingratiatingly polite, his welcoming words revealing white teeth
and a foreign accent.
The gentleman wanted a large sheaf bouquet in two colors, red and
orange--certainly, and a Gallic wave of the hand indicated a marble slab
where flowers were ranged in funnel-shaped green vases. Looking over
them, the gentleman lapsed into a French so perfect that the florist
suggested Monsieur was of that nation, also his own. Monsieur neither
admitted nor denied the charge, occupied over the flowers. He was very
particular about them--perhaps the florist would understand better what
he wanted when he knew they were for Miss Lopez at the Albion and were
designed to match her gypsy dress.
Ah, perfectly--several vases were drawn forward--and over these the two
men talked of Miss Lopez and her admirable performance.
"A true artist," the florist thought, "young, and without training as
Monsieur can see. A Californian, a girl of the people, risen from
nothing. But no doubt Monsieur has already heard her history."
Monsieur was a stranger, he knew little of the lady, and, apparently
engrossed in his selection of the flowers, heard such facts in the career
of Pancha Lopez as the public were allowed to know. The florist ended the
biography with what should be--for the gentleman ordering so costly a
bouquet--the most notable item--Miss Lopez was a girl of spotless
Monsieur looked surprised:
"Has no favored one, no lovers?"
The florist, combining a scarlet carnation with a sunset rose, shrugged
his shoulders, treating the subject with the lively gravity of the Gaul:
"None, Monsieur. It is known that many men have paid their court, but
no--good-day to you and out they go! She wants nobody--it is all work,
work, work. A good, industrious girl, very unusual when one considers her
beginnings. But being so, and with her talents, she will arrive. My God,
it is certain."
Monsieur appeared no longer interested. He paid for his bouquet, which
was to be sent to the stage door that evening, then wrote a message on a
card. This time the card bore no "swell sentiment;" the words were frank
and to the point:
"Why can't I know you? I want to so much. I am alone here and a stranger.
If you care to look me over and see if you think I'm worth meeting, I'll
be in the right-hand stage box tonight.
As he walked to the Albion he thought over what he had heard. It was very
different from what he had expected to hear and increased his interest in
her. He had given her credit for a high artistic intelligence, but
evidently she possessed the other kind too. How else could she have
spread an impression of herself so unlike what she really was? A deep,
_rusée_ girl! He began to be very keen to meet her and see which of the
two would be the more expert in the duel of attack and parry.
The flowers and the note were delivered in the first entr'acte. With a
sliding rush Pancha was back on the stage, her eye glued to the peephole
in the curtain. What she saw held her tranced. Like Mark, her standards
suffered from a limited experience. That the effective pose was studied,
the handsome face hard and withered, the evening dress too showily
elegant, escaped her. She had never--except on the covers of
magazines--seen such a man.
The stage hands had to pull her away from the curtain and she went to her
dressing room with her cheeks crimson under the rouge and her eyes like
black diamonds. Upon his own stage, plumed, spurred and cloaked, romance
had entered with the tread of the conqueror.
After the second gift of flowers her curiosity was as lively as Mayer had
expected. But she was not going to show it, she was going to be cool and
indifferent till he made himself known. Then she contemplated a guarded
condescension, might agree to be met and even called upon; a man who
wrote such sentiments and gave such bouquets should not be treated with
too much disdain. But when she saw him, her surprise was so great that
she forgot all her haughty intentions. Gratified vanity surged through
her. At one moment she thrilled with the anticipation of meeting such a
personage, and at the next drooped to fears that she might disappoint his
That night she answered the letter, writing it over several times:
MR. BOYÉ MAYER,
Thanks for the flowers. They're grand. I ain't ever before had such
beautys espechully the ones that matched my dress. I looked you over and
I don't think you're so bad, so if you still want to know me maybe you
can. I live in the Vallejo Hotel on Balboa Street and if you'd give
yourself the pleasure of calling I'll be there Tuesday at four.
Miss PANCHA LOPEZ.
P. S. Balboa Street is in the Mission.
The next evening she received his answer, thanking her for her kindness
and saying he would come.
She prepared for him with sedulous care, not only her room and her
clothes, but herself. She was determined she would comport herself
creditably, would be equal to the occasion and fulfill the highest
expectations. She was going to act like a lady--no one would ever suspect
she had once waited on table in the Buon Gusto restaurant, or been a
barefoot, miner's kid. As she put on her black velveteen skirt and best
crimson crêpe blouse, she pledged herself to a wary refinement, laid the
weight of it on her spirit. The only models she had to follow were the
leading ladies of the road companies she had seen, and she impressed upon
her mind details of manner from the heroines of "East Lynne" and "The
When four o'clock struck she was seated by the center table, a book
negligently held in one hand, her feet, in high-heeled, beaded slippers,
neatly crossed, and a gold bracelet given her by her father on her arm.
She took a last, inspecting glance round the room and found it entirely
satisfactory. On the table beside her a battered metal tray held a bottle
of native Chianti, two glasses and a box of cigarettes. In Pancha's world
a visitor was always offered liquid refreshment and she had chosen the
Chianti as less plebeian than beer and not so expensive as champagne. She
had no acquaintance with either wine or cigarettes; her thrifty habits
and care of her voice made her shun both.
Mayer recognized the room as a familiar type--he had been in many such
in many lands. But the girl did not fit it. She looked to him very
un-American, more like a Spaniard or a French midinette. There was
nothing about her that suggested the stage, no make-up, none of its bold
coquetry or crude allure. She was rather stiff and prim, watchful, he
thought, and her face added to the impression. With its high cheek bones
and dusky coloring he found it attractive, but also a baffling and
He was even more than she had anticipated. His deep bow over her hand,
his deference, thrilled her as the Prince might have thrilled Cinderella.
She was very careful of her manners, keeping to the weather, expressing
herself with guarded brevity. A chill constraint threatened to blight the
occasion, but Mayer, versed in the weaknesses of stage folk, directed the
conversation to her performance in "The Zingara," for which he professed
an ardent admiration.
"I was surprised by it, even after what I'd heard. I wonder if you know
how good it is?"
Her color deepened.
"I try to make it good, I've been trying for six years."
"Six years! You must have begun when you were a child."
This was too much for Pancha. Her delight at his praise had been hard to
suppress; now it burst all bonds. She forgot her refinement and the
ladylike solemnity of her face gave place to a gamin smile.
"Oh, quit it. You can't hand me out that line of talk. I'm twenty-two and
nobody believes it."
Then _he_ laughed and the constraint was dissipated like a morning mist.
They drew nearer to the table and Pancha offered the wine. To be polite
she took a little herself and Mayer, controlling grimaces as he sipped,
asked her about her career. She told him what she was willing to tell;
nothing of her private life which she thought too shamefully sordid. It
was a series of jumps from high spot to high spot in her gradual ascent.
He noticed this and judged it as a story edited for the public, it
tallied so accurately with what he had heard already from the florist.
There was evidently a rubber stamp narrative for general circulation.
After she had concluded he made his first advance, lightly with an air
"And how does it come that in this long, lonely struggle you've stayed
A belated coquetry--Pancha climbing up had wasted no time on such
unassisting arts--stirred in her. She tilted her head and shot a look at
him from the sides of her eyes.
"I guess no one came along that filled the bill."
"Among all the men that must have come along?"
"Um-um," she stood her glass on the table, turning its stem with her long
"The lady must be hard to please."
"Maybe she is."
Her eyes rested on the ruby liquid in the glass. The lids were fringed
with black lashes that grew straightly downward, making a semicircle of
little, pointed dashes on each cheek. He could not decide whether she was
embarrassed or slyly amused.
"Or perhaps she's just wedded to her art."
"That cuts some ice, I guess."
"Love is known to improve art. Haven't you ever heard that?"
"I shouldn't wonder. I've heard an awful lot about love."
"Only heard, never felt? Never responded to any of the swains that have
been crowding round?"
"How do you know they've been crowding round?"
He leaned nearer, gently impressive:
"What I'm looking at tells me so."
She met his eyes charged with sentimental meaning, and burst into
"Oh, _you_--shut up! I ain't used to such hot air. I'll have to open the
windows and let in the cold."
It was not what he had expected and he felt rebuffed. Dropping back in
his chair, he shrugged his shoulders.
"What can I say? It's not fair to let me come here and then muzzle me."
"Oh, I ain't going as far as that. But you don't have to talk to me that
way. I'm the plain, sensible kind."
He shook his head, slowly, incredulously.
"No, I've got to contradict you. Lips can tell lies but eyes can't.
You're a good many other things but you're not sensible."
"What other things?"
"Charming, fascinating, piquant, with a heart like a bright,
She threw back her head and let her laughter, rich and musical, float out
on the room.
"Oh, listen to him! Wouldn't it make a dog laugh!" Then, swaying on her
chair, she leaned toward him, grave but with her eyes twinkling. "Mr.
Man, you can't read me for a cent. Right here," she touched her heart
with a finger tip, "it's frozen hard. I keep it in cold storage."
"Hasn't it ever been taken out and thawed?"
"Never has and never will be."
She swayed away from him, keeping her glance on his. For a still second
a strange seriousness, having no place in the scene, held them. She was
conscious of perplexity in his face, he of something wistful and
questioning in hers. She spoke first.
"You're very curious about me, Mr. Boyé Mayer?"
She ought not to have said that and it was his fault that she did. She
was no mean adversary and that she had seen through his first tentatives
proved them clumsy and annoyed him. He smiled, a smile not altogether
pleasant, and rose.
"All men must be curious where you're concerned."
"Not as bad as you."
"Ah, well, I'm a child of nature. I don't hide my feelings. I'm curious
and show it. Do you know what makes me so?"
She shook her head, anticipating flatteries. But he did not break into
them as quickly as she had expected. Turning to where his hat lay he took
it up, looked at it for a moment and then, with his gray eyes shifting to
hers, said low, as if taking her into his confidence:
"I'm curious because you're interesting. I think you're the most
interesting thing I've seen since I came to San Francisco."
This was even more than she had hoped for. An unfamiliar bashfulness made
her look away from the gray eyes and stammer in rough deprecation:
"Oh, cut it out!"
"I never cut out the truth. But I'm going to cut out myself. It's time
for me to be moving on. Good-by."
His hand was extended and she put hers into it, feeling the light
pressure of his cool, dry fingers. She did not know what to say, wanted
to ask him to come again, but feared, in her new self-consciousness, it
wasn't the stylish thing to do.
"I'm real glad you called," was the nearest she dared.
He was at the door and turned, hopefully smiling.
"Sure," she murmured.
"Then why don't you ask me to come again?"
"I thought that was up to you."
He again was unable to decide whether her coyness was an expression of
embarrassment or an accomplished artfulness, but he inclined to the
"Right O! I'll come soon, in a few days. _Hasta mañana_, fair lady."
After the door had closed on him she stood sunk in thought, from which
she emerged with a deep sigh. A slow, gradual smile curved her lips; she
raised her head, looked about her, then moving to the mirror, halted in
front of it. The day was drawing toward twilight, pale light falling in
from the bay window and meeting the shadows in the back of the room. Her
figure seemed to lie on the glass as if floating on a pool of darkness.
The black skirt melted into it, but the crimson blouse and the warm
pallor of the face and arms emerged in liquid clearness, richly defined,
harmoniously glowing. She looked long, trying to see herself with his
eyes, trying to know herself anew as pretty and bewitching.
Mayer walked home wondering. He was completely intrigued by her. Her
performance in "The Zingara" had led him to expect a girl of much more
poise and finish, and yet with all her rawness she was far from naïve.
His own experience recognized hers; both had lived in the world's squalid
byways; he could have talked to her in their language and she would have
understood. But she was not of the women of such places, she had a clean,
clear quality like a flame. Daring beyond doubt, wild and elusive, but
untouched by what had touched the rest. He found it inexplicable, unless
one granted her unusual capacity, unsuspected depths and a rare and
seasoned astuteness. He had to come back to that and he was satisfied to
do so. It would add zest to the duel which had just begun.
MICHAELS, THE MINER
So distinguished a figure as Boyé Mayer could not live long unnoticed in
San Francisco. He had not been a month at the hotel before items about
him appeared in the press. Mrs. Wesson, society reporter of the
_Despatch_, after seeing him twice on Kearney Street, found out who he
was and rustled into the Argonaut office for a word with Ned Murphy. Mr.
Mayer was a wealthy gentleman from New York, but back of that Murphy
guessed he was foreign, anyway the Frenchwoman who did his laundry and
the Dutch tailor who pressed his clothes said he could talk their
languages like he was born in the countries. He wasn't friendly, sort of
distant; all he'd ever said to Murphy was that he was on the coast for
his health and wanted to live very quiet to get back his strength after
It wasn't much but Mrs. Wesson made a paragraph out of it that neatly
rounded off her column.
Even without the paragraphs he would not have been unheeded. Among the
carelessly dressed men, bustling along the streets in jostling haste, he
loomed immaculately clad, detached, splendidly idle amidst their vulgar
activity. He had the air of unnoticing hauteur, unattainable by the
American and therefore much prized. His clean-shaven, high-nosed face was
held in a brooding abstraction, his well-shod foot seemed to press the
pavement with disdain. Eating a solitary dinner at Jack's or Marchand's,
he looked neither to the right nor the left. Beauty could stare and
whisper and he never give it the compliment of a glance. Ladies who
entertained began to inquire about him, asked their menkind to find out
who he was, and if he was all right make his acquaintance and "bring him
to the house."
He was not so solitary as he looked. Besides Pancha Lopez he had met
other people. The wife of the manager of the Argonaut Hotel had asked him
to a card party, found him "a delightful gentleman" and handed him on to
her friends. They too had found him "a delightful gentleman" and the
handing on had continued. He enjoyed it, slipping comfortably into the
new environment--it was a change after the sinister years beyond the
pale, and the horrible, outcast days. Also he did not confine himself to
the small sociabilities to which he was handed on. There were many paths
of profit and pleasure in the city by the Golden Gate and he explored any
that offered entertainment--those that led to tables green as grass under
the blaze of electric lights, those that led to the poker game behind
Soledad Lanza's pink-fronted restaurant, those that led up alleys to
dark, secretive doors, and that which led to Pancha's ugly sitting room.
He sought this one often and yet for all his persuasive cunning he found
out nothing, got no further, surprised no admissions. He was drawn back
there teased and wondering and went away again, piqued and baffled.
One evening, a month after her first meeting with him, Pancha, going home
on the car, thought about her father. She felt guilty, for of late she
had rather forgotten him and this was something new and blameworthy. Now
she remembered how long it was since she had seen him and that his last
letter had come over a month ago. It was a short scrawl from Downieville
and had told her that the sale of his prospect hole--he had hoped to
sell it sometime early in September--had fallen through. He had seemed
Despite the divergent lines of their lives a great tie of affection
united them. They met only at long intervals--when he came into town for
a night--and all correspondence between them was on his side as she never
knew where he was. Even had he not lavished a rough tenderness upon her,
the memory of pangs mutually suffered, of hardships mutually endured,
would have bound her to him. He was the only person who had passed,
closely allied, an intimate figure, through the full extent of her life.
Though he was so much to her she never spoke of him, except to Charlie
Crowder, her one friend, of whose discretion she was sure. This reticence
was partly due to tenderness--the past and his place in it had their
sacredness--and partly to the miner's own wish. As her star had risen it
was he who had suggested the wisdom of "keeping him out." He thought it
bad business; an opera singer's father--especially a father with a pick
and a pan--had no advertising value and might be detrimental. When he put
it that way she saw the sense of it--Pancha was always quick to see
things from a business angle--and fell in with his wish. She was not
unwilling to. It wasn't that she was ashamed of him, she cared too little
for the world to be ashamed of anything, but she did not want him made a
joke of in the wings or written up satirically in the theatrical column.
When small road managers who had known her at the start came into town
and asked where "Pancha's Pa" was, nobody knew anything about such a
person, and they guessed "the old guy must have died."
Since she had lived at the Vallejo Hotel he had been there five times,
always after dark. She had told Cushing, the night clerk, that Mr.
Michaels was a relation of hers from the country and if he came when she
was out to let him into her rooms.
As she drew up at the desk and asked for her key--it hung on a rack
studded with little hooks--Cushing, drowsing with his feet on a chair,
rose wearily, growling through a yawn:
"Mr. Michaels has came. He's been here about an hour. I done what you
said and let him in."
She smothered an expression of joy, snatched the key and ran upstairs.
Lovely--just as she was thinking of him! She let herself in anticipating
a glad welcome and saw that he was lying on the sofa asleep.
The only light in the room was from the extension lamp on the table and
by its shaded glow she stood looking at him. He was sleeping heavily,
still wrapped in the old overcoat she knew so well, his coarse hands,
with blackened finger nails, clasped on his breast. His face, relaxed in
rest, looked worn, the forehead seamed with its one deep line, the eyes
sunk below the grizzled brows. It came upon her with a shock that he
seemed old and tired, and it hurt her. In a childish desire to bring him
back to himself, have him assume his familiar aspect and stop her pain,
she shook him by the shoulder, crying:
"Pa, Pa, wake up."
He woke with a violent start, his feet swung to the floor, his body
hunched as if to spring, his glance wildly alive. Then it fell on her and
the fierce alertness died out; his face softened into a smile, almost
sheepish, and he rubbed his hand over his eyes.
"Lord, I was asleep," he muttered.
She kissed him, pulled him up, and with an arm round his back,
steered him to an armchair, asking questions. His hand on her waist
"Well, you ain't fattened up any," he said with a quizzical grin and
That made him look more like himself, but Pancha noticed that his
movements were stiff.
"What's the matter?" she said sharply. "You ain't got the rheumatism
again, have you?"
"Nup," he sank slowly into the chair. "But sometimes when I first move
I sort 'er kink at the knees. Gets me in the morning, but I limber up
She stood beside him, uneasily frowning.
"What are you goin' to do this winter when the rains begin? You can't run
risks of being sick, and me not able to get to you."
"Sick--hell!" He shot a humorous look at her. "I ain't sick in God's own
country--it's only down here. Why y'ain't all as stiff as stone images in
this sea-damp beats me."
"Oh, it's the damp," she said, relieved.
"Course it's the damp. I wouldn't expect a rope dancer to live here and
That was like Pa; her anxiety evaporated and she began to smile.
"Well, there's one person who does--yours truly. If you don't believe it,
come to the Albion and see."
"There ain't another like you, hon. There's not your match from the
Rockies to the Pacific."
"Oh, old blarney!" she cried, now joyous, and, giving him a pat on the
shoulder, moved about collecting supper. "Sit tight there while I get you
a bite. I've some olives that'll make you think you're back among the
The supper came from divers places--the window sill, the top bureau
drawer, the closet shelf. Beer and sardines were its chief features, with
black olives soaked in oil and garlic, cheese straws taken from a corset
box, and ripe figs oozing through their paper bag.
They ate hungrily without ceremony, wiping their fingers on the towel she
had spread for a cloth. As they munched they swapped their news--his
failure at selling the ledge, her success in "The Zingara." He listened
to that with avid attention.
"Can you stay and see me tomorrow night?" she asked.
He shook his head.
"'Fraid not. I got a date with a feller in Dutch Flat for tomorrow
"About the prospect?"
"Yep--it's a chance and I got to jump at it."
"Why did it fall through before?"
He shoveled in a cracker spread with sardines before he answered.
"Oh, same old story--thought it didn't show up as big as they'd expected.
You can't count on it, no more'n you can on the weather."
She smothered a sigh. The "prospect" and the "ledge" had been part of
their life, lifting them to high hopes, dropping them to continual
disappointment. She would have counseled him to give it all up, but that
he now and then had had luck, especially in the last five years. She went
back to herself.
"'The Zingara' has been a great thing for me. Everybody says so. If the
next piece goes as big I'm going to strike for a raise. Wait till I show
you," she jumped up, rubbing her oily fingers on the towel, "and you'll
see why little Panchita's had to get an extra-sized hat."
She took from a side table a book--the actress's scrap album--and came
back flirting its pages. At one she pressed it open and held it toward
him, triumphantly pointing to a clipping. "There, from the _Sacramento
He gave a glance at the clipping and said:
"Oh, yes, _that_. Grand, ain't it?"
She was surprised.
"You've seen it. Why didn't you send it to me?"
"Who said I'd seen it?" He took the book from her, staring across it,
suddenly combative. "Don't you run along so fast. Ain't you known if I
had I'd have mailed it to you?"
"But how did you know about it?" she said, her surprise growing, for she
saw he was moved.
"You're gettin' too darned quick." He pushed the book in among the dishes
roughly, his irritation obvious.
"Ain't it possible I might have heard it? Might have met a feller that
come up from Marysville who'd seen It and told me?"
"Yes, of course it is. You needn't get mad about it."
"Mad--who said I was mad?" He bent over the book, muttering like a storm
in retreat. "I guess I ain't missed so many that when one does get by me
you should throw it in my teeth."
She smoothed the top of his head with a placating hand and went back to
her seat. Nibbling a ripe olive she watched him as he read. Her eyes
were anxiously questioning. This too--anger at so small a thing--was
When he had finished his annoyance was over; pride beamed from his face
as if a light was lit behind it.
"I guess there ain't many of 'em get a write-up like that." He put the
book aside and began a second attack on the supper. "Crowder's some
friend. His little finger's worth more'n the whole kit and crew you've
had danglin' round you since you started."
"You're right." She stretched her hand for a fig, spilling, bruised and
bursting, from the torn bag. "There's a new one dangling."
With her father Pancha was always truthful. To the rest of the world she
lied whenever she thought it necessary, never carelessly or prodigally,
for to be fearless was part of her proud self-sufficiency. But as she had
learned to fight, to battle her way up, to climb over her enemy, to wrest
her chance from opposing forces, she had learned to lie when the occasion
demanded. She was only entirely frank and entirely truthful with the one
person whom she loved.
He put down his glass and looked at her, in sudden, fixed attention.
"I've got a real, genuine, all-wool-yard-wide beau."
She leaned her elbows on the table, holding the fig to her mouth, her
thin fingers manipulating the skin as she sucked the pulp. Her eyes were
full of laughter.
"What do you mean?"
"Just what I'm telling you. You needn't look like I'd said he was a
defaulting bank cashier, nor so surprised either. It ain't flattering to
your only child."
Her father did not respond to her gayety.
"Look-a-here, Panchita," he began, but she stopped him, flapping a
"Cut it out, Pop. I know all that. You needn't come any stern parent
business over me. _I'm_ on. _I_ know my way about. I ain't going to run
my head into any noose, or tie any millstone round my neck. Don't you
think by this time you can trust me?"
Her words seemed to reassure him. The bovine intensity of his gaze
"You've had a heap of beaux," he said moodily.
"And kept every last one of 'em in their place, except for those I kicked
out. And they got to their place; my kick landed them there."
"Who is he?"
Pancha returned to her fig, looking over its wilted skin for
"Named Mayer, a foreigner--at least he's born here, but he looks foreign
and acts foreign; hands out the kind of talk you read in books. Awful
"Treats you respectful?"
She gave him a withering glance.
"_Respectful!_ Treats me like I'd faint if he spoke rough or break if he
touched me. I ain't ever seen anything so choice. You said I was
thin--it's keeping up such a dignified style that's worn me down."
This description was so unlike the bandit's idea of love-making that he
"How do you know he's a beau? Looks like to me he was just marking time."
She smiled, the secret smile of a woman who has seen the familiar signs.
She had taken another fig and delicately breaking it open, eyed its
"Nobody, anybody, everybody." She began to laugh, and putting her lips to
the fruit, sucked, and then drew them away stained with its ruby juice.
"He's always trying to draw me, find out if there isn't somebody I like.
Pop, you'd laugh if you could hear him sniffing round the subject like a
cat round the cream."
"What do you tell him?"
"_Me?_" She gave him a scornful cast of her eye. Her face was flushed,
and with her crimsoned mouth and shining eyes she was for the moment
beautiful. "I got my pride. I told him the truth at first, and when he
wouldn't believe me--'Oh, no, there _must be_ someone'--I says to myself,
'All right, deary, have it your own way,' and I jolly him along now,"
she laughed with joyous memory. "I got him good and guessing, Pop."
The old man looked dissatisfied.
"I ain't much stuck on this, Panchita. What good are you goin' to get
out of it?"
"Fun!" she cried, throwing the fig skin on the table. "Don't I deserve
some after six years? If he wants to act like a fool that's his affair,
and believe me, he's able to take care of himself. And so am I. No one
knows that better than you do, deary."
He left soon after that. In his nomad life, with its long gaps of
separation from her, it was easy for him to keep his movements concealed
and caution had become a habit. So he had not told her that on his last
visit to the city he had taken a room, instead of going to one of the
men's hotels that dotted the Mission. It was in a battered, dingy house
that crouched in shame-faced decay behind the shrubs and palms of a once
jaunty garden. Mrs. Meeker, the landlady, was a respectable woman who had
seen so complete an extinction of fortune that she asked nothing of her
few lodgers but the rent in advance and a decent standard of sobriety. To
the bandit it offered a seclusion so grateful that he had resolved to
keep it, a hiding-place to which he could steal when the longing for his
child would not be denied.
The house was not far from the Vallejo Hotel, on a cross street off one
of the main avenues of traffic. As he rounded the corner he saw the black
bushiness of its garden and then, barring the night sky, the skeleton of
a new building. The sight gave him a disagreeable shock; anything that
let more life and light into that secluded backwater was a menace. He
approached, anxiously scanning it. It took the place of old rookeries,
demolished in his absence, one side rising gaunt and high against Mrs.
Meeker's. He leaned from the front steps and looked over the fence; the
separation between the two walls was not more than two or three feet.
His room was on the top floor in the back, and gaining it, he jerked up
the shade and looked out. Formerly a row of dreary yards extended to the
houses in the rear. Now the frame of the new building filled them in,
projecting in sketchy outline to the end of the lots. Disturbed he
studied it--four stories, a hotel, apartments, or offices. Whatever it
was it would be bad for him, bringing men so close to his lair.
He stood for some time gazing out, saw a late, lopsided moon swim into
the sky and by its light the yard below develop a beauty of glistening
leaves and fretted shadows. The windows of the houses beyond the fence
shone bright, glazed with a pallid luster. Even Mrs. Meeker's stable,
wherein she kept her horse and cart, the one relic saved from better
days, stood out darkly picturesque amid the frosted silver of vines. He
saw nothing of all this, only the black skeleton which would soon be
astir with the life he shunned.
He drew down the shade and dropped heavily into a chair, his feet
sprawled, his chin sunk on his breast. The single gas jet emitted a
torn yellow flame that issued from the burner with a stuttering,
ripping sound. The light gilded the bosses of his face, wax-smooth
above the shadowed hollows, and it looked even older than it had in
sleep. His spirit drooped in a somber exhaustion--he was so tired of it
all, of the stealth, the watchfulness, the endless vigilance, the lack
of rest. One more coup, one lucky haul, and he was done. Then there
would be the ranch, peace, security, an honest ending, and Pancha,
believing, never knowing.
THE SOLID GOLD NUGGET
The autumn was drawing to an end and the winter season settling into its
gait. Everybody was back in town, at least Mrs. Wesson said so in her
column, where she also prophesied a program of festivities for the coming
six months. This was reassuring as Mrs. Wesson was supposed to know, and
anyway there were signs of it already--a first tentative outbreak of
parties, little dinners cropping up here and there. People who did things
were trailing back from Europe, bringing new clothes and ideas with which
to abash the stay-at-homes. Big houses were opening and little houses
that had been open all along were trying to pretend they had been shut.
Furs were being hung on clothes lines and raincoats brought out of
closets. Violets would soon be blooming around the roots of the live oaks
and the Marin County hills be green. In short the San Francisco winter
was at hand.
The Alston house had been cleaned and set in order from the cellar to the
roof and in its dustless, shining spaciousness Lorry sat down and faced
her duties. The time had come for her to act. Chrystie must take her
place among her fellows, be set forth, garnished and launched as befitted
the daughter of George Alston. It was an undertaking before which Lorry's
spirit quailed, but it was part of the obligation she had assumed. Though
she had accepted the idea, the translation from contemplation to action
was slow. In fact she might have stayed contemplating had not a
conversation one night with Chrystie nerved her to a desperate courage.
The girls occupied two adjoining rooms on the side of the house which
overlooked the garden. Across the hall was their parents' room, exactly
the same as it had been when Minnie Alston died there. Behind it were
others, large, high-ceilinged, with vast beds and heavy curtains. These
had been tenanted at long intervals, once by an uncle from the East,
since deceased, and lately by the Barlow girls, Chrystie's friends from
San Mateo. That had been quite an occasion. Chrystie talked of it as she
did of going to the opera or on board the English man-of-war.
Lorry was sitting in front of the glass brushing her hair, when
Chrystie, supposedly retired, came in fully dressed. She dropped onto
the side of the bed, watching her sister, with her head tilted, her eye
"What's the matter, dear?" said Lorry. "Why aren't you in bed?"
"I can't possibly imagine except that I don't want to be there," came
through the yawn.
"Aren't you sleepy?"
"In a sort of way." She yawned again and stretched with a wide spread
of arms. "I seem to be sleepy on the outside but it doesn't go down
into my soul."
Lorry, drawing the comb through her long hair which fell in a shining
sweep from her forehead to the chair seat, wanted this explained. But her
sister vaguely shook her head and stared at the carpet, then, after a
"I wish something would happen."
"What kind of thing?"
"Oh, just something--any old thing would be a change."
Lorry stopped combing.
"Do you mean that you're dull?" she asked. The worried gravity of her
face did not fit the subject.
"That must be it." Chrystie raised her eyes and looked at the cornice,
her red lips parted, her glance becoming animated. "Yes, of course,
that's it--I'm dull. Why didn't I see it myself? You've put it before me
in letters of fire--I'm dreadfully dull."
"What would you like to do?"
"Have some good times, lots of them. There aren't enough of them this
way. We can't go to the theater too often or we'd get used to it, and I
can't get the Barlows to come up here every week, they have such crowds
She sighed at the memory of the Barlows' superior advantages and the sigh
sounded like a groan of reproach in Lorry's ears. Innocently,
unconsciously, unaccusingly, Chrystie was rubbing in the failure of her
stewardship. She combed at the ends of her hair, her eyes blind to its
"Would you like to have a party here?" she said in a solemn voice.
Chrystie's glance was diverted from the cornice, wide open and
"A party here, in _this_ house?"
"Yes, it's big enough. There's plenty of room and we can afford it."
"But, Lorry"--the proposition was so startling that she could hardly
believe it--"a _real_ party?"
"Any kind of a party you want. We might have several. We could begin with
a dinner; Fong can cook anything."
Chrystie, the idea accepted and held in dazzled contemplation, suddenly
saw a flaw.
"But where would we get any men?"
"We know some and we could find some more."
"You talk as if you could find them scattered about on the ground the way
they found nuggets in '49. Let's count our nuggets." She held up the
spread fingers of a large white hand, bending one down with each name.
"There's Charlie Crowder if he can get off, and his friend Robinson in
the express company, and Roy Barlow, whom I know so well I could recite
him in my sleep, and Mrs. Kirkham's grandnephew who looks like a
child--and--and--good gracious, Lorry, is that _all_ our nuggets?"
"We could have some of those young men whose mothers knew ours."
"You said you didn't like them."
"I know I did, but if you're going to give parties you have to have
people you don't like to fill up."
"Um," Chrystie pondered, "I suppose you must. Oh, there's Marquis de
"Yes," said Lorry, "I thought of him."
Chrystie's eyes, bright with question, rested on her sister.
"You can't exactly call him a nugget."
"Because he doesn't shine, darling."
This explanation appeared to strike its maker as a consummate witticism.
She fell back on the bed in spasms of laughter.
Lorry looked annoyed.
"He's nicer than any of the others, I think."
"Of course he is, but he's been buried too long in the soil; he needs
polishing." She rolled over on the bed in her laughter.
Lorry began to braid her hair, her face grave.
"I don't think things like that matter a bit, and I don't see at all what
you're laughing at."
"I'm laughing at Marquis de Lafayette. I can't help it--something about
his hands and his manners. They're so ponderously polite; maybe it's from
waiting on table in the students' boarding house."
"I never knew you were a snob before, Chrystie."
"I guess I am. Isn't it awful? Oh, dear, I've laughed so much I've got a
pain. It's perfectly true, I'm a snob. I like my nuggets all smooth and
shiny with no knobs or bits of earth clinging to them."
Lorry's hair was done and she rose and approached her sister.
"You've spoiled my bed. Get off it and go."
But Chrystie would not move. With her face red and the tears of her
laughter standing in her eyes she gazed at the serious one.
"Lorry, darling, you look so sweet in that wrapper with your hair
slicked back. You look like somebody I know. Who is it? Oh, of course,
the Blessed Damozel, leaning on the bar of Heaven, only it's the bar
of the bed."
"Don't be silly, Chrystie. Get up."
"Never till I have your solemn, eternal, sworn-to promise."
"To give that party."
"You have it--I said I'd do it and I will."
"And get nuggets for it?"
"All right, I'll go."
She sat up, rosy, disheveled, her hair hanging in a tousled mop from its
loosened pins. Catching Lorry's hand, she squeezed it, looking up at her
like an affectionate, drowsy child.
"Dear little Blessed Damozel, I love you a lot even though you are
high-minded and think I'm a snob."
She had been in her room for some minutes, Lorry already in bed with a
light at her elbow and a book in her hand, when she reappeared in the
doorway. The pins were gone from her hair and it lay in a yellow tangle
on her shoulders, bare and milk-white. Looking at her sister with round,
shocked eyes, she said:
"It's just come to me how awful it is that two young, beautiful and
aristocratic ladies should have to hunt so hard for nuggets. It's tragic,
Lorry. It's _scandalous_," and she disappeared.
Lorry couldn't read after that. She put out the light and made plans
in the dark.
The next day she rose, grimly determined, and girded herself for action.
In the morning, giving Fong the orders, she told him she was going to
have a dinner, and in the afternoon went to see Mrs. Kirkham.
Mrs. Kirkham had once been a friend of Minnie Alston's and she was the
only one of that now diminishing group with whom Lorry felt at ease. Had
the others known of the visit and its cause they would have thrown up
their hands and said, "Just like that girl." Mrs. Kirkham was nobody now,
the last person to go to for help in social matters. In the old days in
Nevada her husband had been George Alston's paymaster, and she had held
her head high and worn diamonds.
But that was ages ago. Long before the date of this story the high head
had been lowered and the diamonds sold, all but those that encircled the
miniature of her only baby, dead before the Con-Virginia slump. She lived
in a little flat up toward the cemeteries, second floor, door to the
left, and please press the push button. In her small parlor the pictures
of the Bonanza Kings hung on the walls and she was wont, an old rheumatic
figure in shiny black with the miniature pinned at her withered throat,
to point to these and tell stories of the great Iliad of the Comstock.
She was very fond of Lorry and when she heard her predicament--a party to
be given and not enough men--patted her hand and nodded understandingly.
Times were changed--ah, if the girls had been in Virginia in the
seventies! And after a brisk canter through her memories (she always had
to have that) galloped back into the present and its needs. Lorry went
home reassured and soothed. You could always count on Mrs. Kirkham's
taking hold and helping you through.
The old lady was put on her mettle, flattered by the appeal, made to feel
she was still a living force. Also she would have done anything in the
world for Minnie's girls. She consulted with her niece, well married and
socially aspiring if not yet installed in the citadel. It was a happy
thought; the niece had the very thing, "a delightful gentleman," lately
arrived in the city. So it fell out that Boyé Mayer, under the
chaperonage of Mrs. Kirkham, was brought to call and asked to fill a seat
at the formidable dinner.
Formidable was hardly a strong enough word. It advanced on Lorry like a
darkling doom. Once she had set its machinery in motion it seemed to rush
forward with a vengeful momentum. Everybody accepted but Charlie Crowder,
who could not get off, and Mark Burrage, who wrote her a short, stiff
note saying he "was unable to attend." For a space that made her
oblivious to the larger, surrounding distress. It was a little private
and particular sting for herself that concentrated her thoughts upon the
hurt it left. After she read it her face had flushed, and she had dropped
it into her desk snapping the lid down hard. If he didn't want to come he
could stay away. Men didn't like her anyway; she knew it and she wasn't
going to make any mistakes. Her concern in life was Chrystie and it was
being pointed out to her that she wasn't supposed to have any other.
Finally the evening came and everything was ready. Fong's talents,
after years of disuse, rose in the passion of the artist and produced a
feast worthy of the past. A florist decorated the table and the lower
floor. Mother's jewels were taken out of the safety deposit box, and
Lorry and Chrystie, in French costumes with their hair dressed so that
they looked like strangers, gazed upon each other in the embowered
drawing-room realizing that they had brought it upon themselves and
must see it through.
The start was far from promising; none of them seemed able to live up to
it. Aunt Ellen kept following the strange waiters with suspicious eyes,
then looking down the glittering table at Lorry like a worried dog. And
Chrystie, who had been all blithe expectation up to the time she dressed,
was suddenly shattered by nervousness, making detached, breathless
remarks about the weather and then drinking copious draughts of water. As
for Lorry, she felt herself so small and shriveled that her new dress
hung on her in folds and her mouth was so dry she could hardly
It was awful. The guests seemed to feel the blight and wither under it,
eating carefully as if fearing sounds of mastication might intrude on the
long, recurring silences. There was a time when Lorry thought she
couldn't bear it, had a distracted temptation to leap to her feet, say
she was faint and rush from the place. Then came the turn in the
tide--Mr. Mayer, the strange man Mrs. Kirkham had produced, did it. She
had noticed that he alone seemed free from the prevailing discomfort,
looked undisturbed and calm, glancing at the table, the guests, herself
and Chrystie. But it was not until the fish that he started to talk. It
was about the fish, but it branched away from the fish, radiated out from
it to other fish, to the waters where the other fish swam, to the
countries that gave on the waters, to the people who lived in the
He woke them all up, held them entranced. Lorry couldn't be sure
whether he really was so clever or seemed so by contrast with them, but
she thought it was the latter. It didn't matter; nothing mattered
except that he was making it go. And at first she had been loath to ask
him! She hadn't liked him, thought he was too suavely elaborate, a sort
of overdone imitation. Well, thank goodness she had, for he simply took
the dinner which was settling down to a slow, sure death and made it
come to life.
Presently they were all talking, to their partners, across the table,
even to Aunt Ellen. The exhilarating sound of voices rose to a hum, then
a concerted babble broken by laughter. It grew animated, it grew
sparkling, it grew brilliant. Chrystie, with parted lips and glistening
eyes, became as artlessly amusing as she was in the bosom of her family.
She was delightful, her frank enjoyment a charming spectacle. Lorry, in
that seat which so short a time before had seemed but one remove from the
electric chair, now reigned as from a throne, proudly surveying the
splendors of her table and the gladness of her guests.
When it was over, the last carriage wheels rumbling down the street, the
girls stood in the hall and looked at one another. Aunt Ellen, creaking
in her new silks, toiled up the stairs, an old, shaky hand on the
"Come up, girls," she quavered; "you must be dead tired."
"Well," breathed Lorry with questioning eyes on her sister, "how was it?"
Chrystie jumped at her and folded her in a rapturous embrace.
"Oh, it was maddening, blissful, rip-roarious! Oh, Lorry, it was the
grandest thing since the water came up to Montgomery street!"
"You _did_ enjoy it, didn't you?"
"Enjoy it! Why, I never had such a galumptious time in my life. They
all did. The Barlow girls are on their heads about it--they said so and
I saw it."
"I think everybody had a good time."
"Of course they did. But, oh, didn't you nearly die at the beginning? I
was sick. Honestly, Lorry, I felt something sinking in me down here,
and my mouth getting all sideways. If it hadn't been for that man I'd
have just slipped out of my seat under the table and died there at
"He saved it," said Lorry solemnly, as one might mention a doctor who had
brought back from death a beloved relative.
The gas was out and they were mounting the stairs, arms entwined, warm
young flesh on warm young flesh.
"Isn't he a thoroughbred, isn't he a gem!" Chrystie chanted. "I'd like to
go to Mrs. Kirkham's tomorrow, climb up her front stairs on my knees and
knock my forehead on the sill of her parlor door."
"Did you really like him? I think he's clever and entertaining but I
wouldn't want him for a friend."
"I didn't think about him that way. I just sort of stood off and
admired. He's the most _magnetic_ thing!"
"Yes, I suppose he is, but--"
"There are no buts about it." Then in the voice of knowledge, "I'll tell
you what he is, I'll put it in terms you can understand--he's the perfect
specimen of the real, genuine, solid gold nugget."
After the dinner Mayer walked downtown. He had been a good deal
surprised, rather amused, and in the drawing-room afterward extremely
bored. His amusement was sardonic. He grinned at the thought of himself
in such company and wondered if it could have happened anywhere but
California. Those two girls, rich and young, were apparently free to ask
anybody into their house. It was curious, and he saw them similarly
placed in Europe; they would have been guarded like the royal treasure,
chiefly to keep such men as himself out.
The splendor of the entertainment had surprised him. He was becoming used
to the Californian's prodigal display of flowers, but such a dinner,
served to unappreciative youth, was something new. The whole affair had
been a combination of an intelligent luxury and a rank crudity--food fit
for kings set before boys and girls who had no more appreciation of its
excellence than babies would have had. And the silver on the table,
cumbrously magnificent, it was worth a small fortune.
Outside the humor of his own presence there, he had found the affair
tedious, especially that last hour in the drawing-room. It was the sort
of place that had always bored him even when he was young, governed by
narrow, feminine standards, breathing a ponderous respectability from
every curtain fold. Neither of the girls had been attractive. The elder,
the small, pale one, was a prim, stiff little thing. The other was
nothing but a gawky child; fine coloring--these Californians all had
it--but with no charm or mystery. They were like the fruit, all run to
size but without much flavor. He thought the elder girl had some
intelligence; one would have to be on one's guard with her. He made a
mental note of it, for he intended going there again--it was the best
meal he had eaten since he left New York.
The night was warm and soft, a moon rising over the housetops. He
breathed deep of the balmy air, inhaling it gratefully. After such a
constrained three hours he felt the need of relaxation, of easy
surroundings, of an expansion to his accustomed dimensions. Swinging down
the steep street between the dark gardens and flanking walls, he surveyed
the lights of the city's livelier center and thought of something to do
that would take the curse of the dinner off his spirit.
A half hour later Pancha, emerging from the alley that led to the
Albion's stage door, saw a tall, familiar shape approach from the
shadows. Her heart gave a jump, and as her hand was enfolded in a
strong, possessive grasp, she could not control the sudden quickening of
"Oh, it's you! Gee, how you scared me," she said, to account for it.
He squeezed the hand, murmuring apologies, his vanity gratified, for he
knew no man at the stage door would ever scare Pancha.
As it was so fine a night he suggested that she walk back to the hotel
and let him escort her, to which, with a glance at the moon, and a sniff
of the mellow air, she agreed.
So they fared forth, two dark figures, choosing quieter streets than
those she usually trod, the tapping of her high heels falling with a
smart regularity on the stillness held between the silver-washed walls.
They were rather silent, conversation broken by periods when their
mingled footfalls beat clear on the large, enfolding mutter of the city
sinking to sleep. It was his fault; heretofore he had been the leader,
conducting her by a crafty discursiveness toward those confidences she so
resolutely withheld. But tonight he did not want to talk, trailing lazy
steps beside her, casting thoughtful glances upward at the vast,
illumined sky. It made her nervous; there was something of a deep,
disturbing intimacy about it; not a sweet and soothing intimacy, but
portentous and agitating. She tried to be herself, laid about for bright
things to say and found she could pump up no defiant buoyancy, her tongue
clogged, her spirit oppressed by a disintegrating inner distress. It did
not make matters any better when he said in a dreamy tone:
"Why are you so quiet?"
"I've worked hard tonight. I'm tired and you're walking so fast."
He was immediately contrite, slackening his step, which in truth was
"Oh, Pancha, what a brute I am. Why didn't you tell me?" And he took her
hand and tried to draw it through his arm.
But she resisted, pulling away from him almost pettishly, shrinking from
"No, no, let me alone. I like to walk by myself."
He drew back with a slight shrug, more amused than repulsed. Nevertheless
he was rather sorry he had suggested the walk, he had never known her to
be less entertaining.
"Always proud, always independent, always keeping her guard up." He cast
a questioning side glance at her face, grave and pale by his shoulder.
"You wild thing, can no one tame you?"
"Why do you say I'm wild?"
"Because you are. How long have I known you? Since early in September and
I don't get any nearer. You still keep me guessing."
"About _what_?" He leaned down and spied at her profile. "About
"Yes, you--what else? You're the most secretive little sphinx
She did not answer for a moment. She _had_ been secretive, but it was
about the humble surroundings of her youth, those ignominious beginnings
of hers. Of this she could not bring herself to tell, fearful that it
would lower her in his esteem. She saw him, hearing of the Buon Gusto
restaurant and the life along the desert, withdrawing from her in shocked
repugnance. About other things--the stage, the lovers--she had been
frank, almost confidential.
"I don't see why you say that," she protested; "I've told you any amount
"But not everything. You know that, Pancha."
He was now so keen, like a dog with its nose to the scent, that he forgot
her recent refusal and hooked his hand inside her arm. This time she did
not draw away and they walked on, close-linked, alone in the moonlit
street. Conscious of her reticences, ashamed of her lack of candor, and
yet afraid to make damaging revelations, she said defensively:
"I've told you as much as I want to tell."
He seized on that, in his eagerness pressing her arm against his side,
bending over her like a lover.
"Yes, but not all. And why not all? Why should you keep anything from
"But why _should_ I tell you?" she asked, her loitering step coming
to a stop.
As the situation stood the question was a poser. He did not want to be
her lover, had never intended it; his easy gallantry had meant nothing.
But now, seeing her averted face, the eyes down-drooped, he could think
of no reply that was not love-making. She stole a swift look at him,
recognized his hesitation, and felt a stab, for it was the love-making
answer she had expected. The mortified anger of the woman who has made a
bid for tenderness and seen herself mistaken surged up in her.
She jerked her arm violently out of his grasp and walked forward at a
"What's the matter?" he said, chasing at her heels. "Are you angry?"
"I shouldn't wonder," she threw over her shoulder. "Being nagged at for
fun doesn't appeal to me."
"But what do you mean?--I'm all at sea."
She suddenly brought up short, and wheeling, faced him, her face
lowering, her breath quick:
"I'm the one to say that, for I don't get you, Boyé Mayer, I don't see
what you're up to. But sometimes I think you've just come snooping round
roe to find out something. You come and you go, always so curious, always
wanting to know, pussy-footing round with your questions and your
compliments. What's on your mind?"
Mayer found himself in an impasse. She knew him too well and she was too
angry to be diverted with the temporizing lightness of their early
acquaintance. There was only one thing to say to her, and--the cause of
her excitement plain to his informed mind--it was not difficult to say.
"Pancha," he pleaded, "you don't understand."
"You bet I don't and I want to. I'd like to have it explained--I'd like
to know what you hang round me for. Do you think I'm hiding something? Do
you think I'm a criminal?"
"I think you're the most charming girl in the world," he protested.
She gave a smothered sound of rage and started off, faster than ever,
down the street. This time he kept up with her, and rounding a corner the
two lamps at the foot of the Vallejo's steps loomed up close at hand.
"Stop," he said. "Wait." He had no idea the hotel was so near, and
surprised at the sight of it his voice became suddenly imperious and he
seized her arm with a dominating grip. She tried to jerk it away, but he
held it and drew her, stiff and averse, toward him.
"You foolish one," he whispered. "Why, don't you see? I hang around
because I can't help it. I come because I can't stay away--I want to know
about you because I'm jealous of every man that ever looked at you."
With the last word he threw his arm about her and snatched her close.
Against him she suddenly relaxed, melted into a thing of yielding
softness, while his lips touched a cheek like a burning rose petal.
The next moment she was gone. He had a glimpse of her on the Vallejo
steps in swallow-swift silhouette and then heard the bang of the door.
In her room Pancha moved about mechanically, doing the accustomed things.
She lighted the light, took off her hat and jacket, brought the milk from
the window sill. Then, with the bottle on the table beside her, she sat
down, her hands in her lap, her eyes on space. She was as motionless as a
statue, save for the breaths that lifted her chest. She sat that way for
a long time, her only movements a shifting of her blank gaze or a
respiration deeper than the others. She saw nothing of what her glance
rested on, heard none of the decreasing midnight sounds in the street or
the house about her. An intensity of feeling had lifted her to a plane
where the familiar and habitual had no more place than had premonitions
FOOLS IN THEIR FOLLY
"The Zingara" had run its course and given place to "The Gray Lady,"
which had not pleased the public. The papers said the leading role did
not show Miss Lopez off to the greatest advantage and the audiences
thinned, for Miss Lopez had transformed the Albion from a house of light
opera to a temple enshrining a star. The management, grumbling over their
mistake, laid about for something that would give the star a chance to
exhibit those qualities which had deflected so many dollars from the
"Eastern attractions" to their own box office.
Charlie Crowder and Mark Burrage, walking together in the early night,
turned into the Albion to have a look at the house and see Pancha in the
last act. They stood in the back, surveying the rows of heads in a dark
level, against the glaring picture of the stage, upon which, picked out
by the spotlight, Pancha stood singing her final solo. Crowder's eye
dropped from the solitary central figure to the audience and noted gaps
in the lines, unusual in the Albion and predicting "The Gray Lady's"
speedy demise. As the curtain fell he told Mark he was "going behind" for
a word with his friend, she would need cheering up, and Mark, nodding,
said he'd move along, he had work to do at home.
The floor of heads broke as though upheaved by an earthquake, and the
house rose, rustling and murmurous, and began crowding into the aisles.
The young man, leaning against the rail behind the last row, watched it,
a dense, coagulated mass, animated by a single impulse and moving as a
unit. Crowding up the aisle it looked like a thick dark serpent,
uncoiling its slow length, writhing toward the exit, the faces turned
toward him a pattern of pale dots on its back. Among them at first
unnoticed by his vaguely roving glance were three he knew--the two Alston
girls and Aunt Ellen.
It was always hot and stuffy in the Albion and Aunt Ellen had been
uncomfortable and fussed about it, and Chrystie was disappointed that her
favorite had not been able to make the performance a success. As they
edged forward she explained to Lorry that it wasn't Pancha's fault, it
was the sort of thing she didn't do as well as other things and she
oughtn't to have been made to do it. Then, her eye ranging, she suddenly
stopped and gave Lorry a dig with her elbow.
"There's Marquis de Lafayette. Do you see him?"
Lorry had, which did not prevent her from saying in a languid voice,
"Over there by the railing. You know he _is_ good-looking, Lorry, when
he's all by himself that way, not trying to be worthy of a college
"Um," said her sister. "It's fearfully hot in here."
"I don't see why we ever came," Aunt Ellen moaned.
They were near him now and he saw them. For a moment he stared, then gave
a nod and reddened to his forehead.
"Oh, he's blushing!" Chrystie tittered as she returned the bow. "How
The first sight of them had given Mark a shock as violent as if he had
met them in an exploration of the South Pole or the heart of a tropical
forest. It took him some minutes to recover, during which he stood
rooted, only his head moving as he watched them borne into the foyer,
there caught in merging side currents and carried toward the main
entrance. It was not till they were almost at the door, Chrystie's high
blonde crest glistening above lower and less splendid ones, that he came
to life. He did it suddenly, with a sharp reaction, and started in
impetuous pursuit. His first movement--a spirited rush--carried him into
a family, a compact phalanx moving solidly upon the exit. He ran into
someone, a child, stammered apologies, placated an irate mother, then
craning his neck for his quarry, saw the high blonde head in the distance
against the darkness of the street.
The check was more than physical. It caused a sudden uprush of his old
timidity and he stood irresolute, in everybody's way, spying at the
distant golden head. It seemed as if they had wanted to avoid him, they
had gone so quickly, just bowed and been carried on--if only Chrystie
would look back and smile. Standing on his toes, jostled and elbowed, he
caught a glimpse of them, all three, outside the door. They appeared
preoccupied, the two girls talking across Aunt Ellen, with no backward
glances for a young man struggling to reach them--anyone could have seen
they had forgotten his existence. With a set face he turned and made for
the side exit. They had no use for him; he would go home to the place
where he belonged.
The bitterness of this thought carried him through the side exit and
there left him. Whatever they felt and however they acted, it was his
duty to see them on the car. Boor! clod! goat! He could still catch them
if he went round to the front, and he started to do it, facing the
emerging throng, battling his way through. That was too slow; he backed
out, turned into the street and ran, charging through streams that had
broken from the main torrent and were trickling away in various
directions. Rounding the corner he saw he was not too late. There,
standing on the curb, were Aunt Ellen and Chrystie, conspicuous in their
ornamental clothes, looking in the opposite direction up the street's
animated vista. He followed their eyes and saw a sight that made him
halt--Lorry, her satin-slippered feet stepping delicately along the
grimy pavements, her pale skirts emerging from the rich sheath of her
cloak. Beside her, responding to a beckoning hand, a carriage rattled
down upon Chrystie and Aunt Ellen. They had a carriage and she had had
to go and find it!
With a heart seared by flaming self-scorn, Mark turned and slunk away. He
slid into the crowd's enveloping darkness as into a friendly shelter. He
wanted to hide from them, crawl off unseen like the worm he was. This was
the least violent term he applied to himself as he walked home, cursing
under his breath, wondering if in the length and breadth of the land
there lived a greater fool than he. There _was_ a mitigating
circumstance--he had never dreamed of their having a carriage. In his
experience carriages, like clergymen, were only associated with weddings
and funerals. He thought of it afterward in his room, but it didn't help
much--in fact it only accentuated the difference between them. Girls who
had carriages when they went to the Albion were not the kind for lawyers'
clerks to dream of.
Inside the carriage, Aunt Ellen insisted on an understanding with the
livery stable man:
"Running about in the mud in the middle of the night--it's ridiculous!
Lorry, are your slippers spoiled?"
"No, Aunt Ellen. There isn't any mud."
"There might just as well have been. Any time in the winter there's
liable to be mud. Will you see Crowley tomorrow and tell him we won't
have any more drivers who go away and hide in side streets?"
"Yes, I'll tell him, but he wasn't hiding, he was only a little way from
"Having no man in the family certainly _is_ inconvenient," came from
Chrystie, and then with sudden recollection: "What happened to Marquis de
Lafayette? Why didn't he come and get it?"
"I don't know, I'm sure." Lorry was looking out of the window.
"Well, I must say if we ask him to our parties the least he can do is to
find our hacks."
"I think so, too," said Aunt Ellen. "The young men of today seem to have
forgotten their manners."
"Forgotten them!" echoed Chrystie. "You can't forget what you never had."
"Oh, do keep quiet," came unexpectedly from Lorry. "The heat in that
place has given me a headache."
Then they were contrite, for Lorry almost never had anything, and their
attentions and inquiries had to be endured most of the way home.
Crowder, contrary to his expectations, found Pancha in high good spirits.
When a piece failed she was wont to display that exaggerated
discouragement peculiar to the artist. Tonight, sitting in front of her
mirror, she was as confident and smiling as she had been in the first
week of "The Zingara."
"I'm glad to see you're taking it so well," he said. "It's pretty hard
following on a big success."
"Oh, it's all in the day's work. You can't hit the bull's eye every time.
The management are going to dig down into their barrel next week, hunting
for another gypsy rôle. They want me again in my braids and my spangles.
They liked my red and orange--Spanish colors for the Spanish girl."
She flashed her gleaming smile at him and he thought how remarkably well
she was looking, getting handsomer every day. Her words recalled
something he had wanted to ask her and had forgotten.
"Talking of red and orange, how about that anonymous guy that sent you
the flowers? You remember, back in the autumn--a lot of roses with a
motto he got out of a Christmas cracker?"
She had her comb in her hand and dropped it, leaning down to scratch
round for it on the floor.
"Oh, _him_--he's just petered out."
"Did you find out who he was?"
Up to this Pancha had been nearly as truthful with Crowder as she was
with her father. But now a time had come when she felt she must lie. That
secret intimacy, growing daily dearer and more dangerous, could not be
confessed. Crowder had been mentor as well as friend and she feared not
only his curiosity but his disapproval. He would argue, plead, interfere.
She disliked what she had to say, and as she righted herself, comb in
hand, her face was flushed.
"Yes, a chap from the East. He just admired from afar and went his way."
"Oh, he's gone." Crowder was satisfied. "Seen your father lately?"
"No, but I had a letter to say he'd be down soon."
The color in her face deepened. She knew that her father would ask even
more searching questions than Crowder and she was prepared to lie to him.
Biting her lip at the thought, she looked down the long spray of lashes
defined on her cheeks. Crowder stared at her, impressed anew by that
suggestion of radiant enrichment in her appearance.
"I say, old girl," burst from him, "do you know you're looking
She raised her lids and let her glance rest on him, soft and deep. It was
a strange look to come from Pancha's bold, defiant eyes.
"Am I?" she said gently. "I guess I'm happy, that's all."
"Well, it's powerful becoming, believe me. And why are you, especially
with 'The Gray Lady' a frost?"
She rose, the red kimono falling straight about her lithe, narrow shape,
then stretched, a slow spread of arms, languid and catlike. Pressing her
hands on her eyes she said from smiling lips:
"Oh, there's no particular reason. It just happens so. I'm getting to
feel sure of myself--that's what, I guess. Now run along, old son, I'm
sleepy. 'The Gray Lady' does it to me as well as the audience.
Crowder was not the only one who had noticed Pancha's improved looks and
high spirits. Behind the scenes the failure of "The Gray Lady" had
produced dejection and rasped tempers. She alone seemed to escape the
prevailing gloom. She came in at night smiling, left a trail of notes
behind her as she walked to her dressing room, and from there clear
scales and mellow bars rose spasmodically as she dressed. Usually holding
herself aloof, she was friendly, made jokes in the wings, chatted with
the chorus, and when she left the old doorkeeper was warmed by her gay
Her confreres were puzzled; it was quite a new phase. They had not
liked Miss Lopez at first; she gave herself airs and had a bad temper.
Once she had slapped a chorus woman who had spoiled her exit; at a
rehearsal she had been so rude to the tenor the stage manager had had
to call her down and there had been a fight. Now they wondered and
whispered--under circumstances conducive to ill-humor she was as sweet
as honey dropping from the comb. They set it down to temperament;
everybody from the start had seen she had it, and anyway there wasn't
anything else to set it down to.
What they saw was only a gleam, a thin shining through of the glory
within. It irradiated, permeated, illumined her, escaping in those smiles
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