Treasure and Trouble Therewith
Part 3 out of 7
and words and snatches of song because she could not hold it in. As she
had told Crowder, she was happy, and she had never been before. She came
out of sleep to the warming sense of it. It stayed with her all day, fed
on a note, a telephone message, a gift of flowers, fed on nothing but her
It was the happiness found in little of one who has been starved,
nourished by trifles, tiny seeds flowering into growths that touched the
sky. She did not see Mayer as often as formerly and when she did their
talk was on other things than love. In fact he was rather shy of the
subject, did not repeat his kiss, was more comrade than wooer. But he
sought her, he had told her why and that was enough. What he had said she
believed, not alone because it seemed the only reasonable explanation of
his actions, but because she wanted to believe it. He had come, a
nonchalant wayfarer, and grown to care, said at last the words she was
longing to hear, and, hearing, she felt them true and was satisfied.
And then she had drifted, content to rest in the complete comfort of her
belief. The moment was enough, and she stood on the summit of each one,
swaying in blissful balance. Vaguely she knew she was moving on a final
moment, on a momentous, ultimate decision, and she neither cared nor
questioned. Like a sleepwalker she advanced, inevitably drawn, seeing a
blurred dazzle at the path's end in which she would finally be absorbed.
Everything that had made her Pancha Lopez, familiar to herself, was gone.
She was somebody else, somebody filled with a brimming gladness, with no
room for any other feeling. Her old, hard self-sufficiency seemed a poor,
bleak thing, her high head was lowered and gloried in its abasement. All
the fierce, combative spirit of the past had vanished; even her work,
heretofore her life, was executed automatically and pushed aside, an
obstruction between herself and the sight and thought of Mayer. The laws
that had ruled her conduct, the pride that had upheld her, melted like
cobwebs before the sun. She lived to please a man she thought loved her
and that she loved to the point where honor had become an empty word and
self-respect transformed to self-surrender. Whatever he would ask of her
she was ready to give. The Indian's blood prompted her to the squaw's
impassioned submission, the outlaw's to a repudiation of the law and the
Early in January her father came down and when he asked her about Mayer
she lied as she had to Crowder. She told him she still saw the man but
that his devotion had lapsed, giving evidence of a languishing interest.
When she saw her father's relief she had qualms, but her lover's voice on
the phone, asking her to dine with him that night, dispersed them. All
the lies in the world then didn't matter to Pancha.
So she drifted, not caring whither, only caring that she should see
Mayer, listen to him, dwell on his face, try to catch his wish before it
was spoken. Her outer envelope was the same, performed the same tasks,
lived in the same routine, but a new creature, a being of fire, dwelt
THE NIGHT RIDER
February had been a month of tremendous rains. Days of downpour were
succeeded by days of leaden skies and damp, brooding warmth, and then the
clouds opened again and the downpour was renewed. Along the Mother Lode
the rivers ran bank-high and the camps sat in lagoons, the sound of
running water rising from the old flumes and ditches. Down every gully
that cut the foothills came streams, loud-voiced and full of haste as
they rushed under the wooden bridges.
It was a night toward the end of the month, no rain falling now, but the
sky sagging low with a weight of cloud. An eye trained to such obscurity
could have made out the landscape in looming degrees of darkness, masses
rising against levels, the fields a shade lighter than the trees. These
were discernible as huddlings and blots and caverned blacknesses into
which the road dove and was lost. To the left the chaparral rose from the
trail's edge in dense solidity, exhaling rich earth scents and the
aromatic breath of pine and bay. The roadbed was torn to pieces, ruts
knee-high; the stones, washed loose of soil, ringing to the blow of a
A rider, advancing slowly, had noticed this and with a jerk of his rein,
directed his horse to the oozy grass along the side. Here, noiseless,
man and beast passed, a moving blackness against stationary black,
leaves and branches brushing against them. Neither heeded this; both
were used to rough ways and night traveling and to each every foot of
the road was familiar.
Under a roof of matted branches they drew up; the horse, the reins loose,
stretched its neck, blowing softly from widened nostrils. The man took a
match box from his pocket, struck a light and looked at his watch--it was
close on ten. The flame, breaking out in a red spurt, gilded the limbs of
the overarching trees, the glistening leaves, the horse's glossy neck and
the man's face. It glowed beneath the brim of his hat like a portrait
executed on a background of velvet varnished by the match's gleam--it was
the face of Garland the outlaw.
His hand again on the rein sent its message and the horse padded
softly on through the arch of trees to the open road. Had it been
brighter Garland could have seen to the right rolling country, fields
sprinkled with oak domes, falling away to the valley, to the left the
chaparral's smothering thickness. Between them the road passed, a pale
skein across the backs of the foothills, connecting camps and little
towns. Farther on the Stanislaus River, rushing down from the Sierra,
would crook its current, to run, swift and turbulent, beyond the
screen of alders and willows.
The road ascended, and on a hillcrest he again halted and looked back,
listening. Unimpeded by trees, the thick air holding all sound close to
the earth, he could hear far-distant noises. The bark of a dog came
clear--that was from Alec Porter's ranch on the slopes toward the
valley. Facing ahead he caught, faint and thin, the roar of the Crystal
Star's stamp mill. Over to the right--the road would loop down toward it
at the next turning--was Columbus, gutted and dying slowly among its
He avoided this turn, taking a branch trail that slanted through the
thicket, wet leaves slapping against him, the horse's hoofs sucking into
the spongy turf. It was still and dark, the air drenched with the odors
of mossed roots and pungent leaves. When he emerged, the lights of
Columbus shone below, a small sprinkling of yellow dots gathered about
the central brightness of the Magnolia Saloon. The night was so still he
could hear the voices of roysterers straggling home.
Presently the rushing weight of the Stanislaus River swept along the
nearby bank. He could hear the rustle of its current, the wash of its
waves sucking and nosing on the stones; feel the breath of its swollen
tide chilled by mountain snows. It was up to the alder bushes, nearly
flood high, cutting him off from a detour he had hoped to make--he would
have to ride through San Marco. He put a spur to his horse and took it
boldly, hoping the mud would dull the sound of his passage. The cabins
and shacks that fringed the town were dark but in the main street there
were lights, from the ground floor of the Mountain Hotel where he caught
a glimpse of shirt-sleeved men playing cards, from the Pioneer Saloon,
whence the jingling notes of a piano issued. There was less mud than he
had expected and the thud of his flying hoofs was flung from wall to wall
and called out a burst of barking dogs, and a startled face behind a
drawn curtain in a red-lit cabin window.
Then away into the darkness--round Chinese Crossing, under the eaves
of the spreading plant of the Northern Light, up a hill and down on
the other side through a tunnel of trees to the Stanislaus Ferry. As
he passed into their hollow he could hear the thunder of the Lizzie
J's stamps across the river, beating gigantic on the silence, shaking
The stream showed a flat space between bulwarked hills, one yellow
spot--the light in the ferryman's window--shining like an eye unwinking
and vigilant. Garland's hail was answered from within the shack, and the
ferryman came out, a dog at his heels, a lantern in his hand. There was a
short conference, and the lantern, throwing golden gleams on the ground,
swung toward the flat boat, the horse following, his steps, precise and
careful, ringing hollow on the wooden boards.
They slid out into the current, the boat vibrating to the buffets of
little waves, the dog running from side to side, barking excitedly. The
ferryman, the lantern lifted, took a look at his passenger.
"Mighty wet weather we're having," he said.
"Terrible. Don't ever remember it worse."
The light of the lantern fell on the horse's mud-caked legs.
"Looks as if you'd rid quite a ways."
"From this side of Jackson."
"That's some ride. Guess y'ain't met many folks."
"Not many. Staying indoors this weather, all that can."
"Belong round here?"
"No--back up toward the Feather."
They were in midstream, the scow advancing with a tremulous motion,
spray springing across its low edges and showering the men. The dog,
who had come to a standstill, his forepaws on the gunnel, his face
toward Garland, suddenly broke into a furious barking. Garland shifted
in his saddle.
"What's got your dog?" he said gruffly. "He ain't afraid, is he?"
"Afraid? Don't know the meanin' of the word. Don't mind him--it's his
way; lived so long with me he acts sort of notional. Some days he'll bark
like now at a passenger and then again he won't take no notice. Just
somethin' about you, can't tell what, but he scents somethin' that makes
him act unfriendly."
"What do you suppose it is?" growled the other.
The ferryman laughed.
"Oh, you can't ever tell about them animals--they got a thinkin' outfit
of their own. Goin' far?"
"Well, hope you'll get there all right. Sort of black weather to be
traveling specially if you got money on you. Knapp and Garland's bound to
get busy soon."
It was the passenger's turn to laugh.
"I'm not the sort they're after. It's big business for them. Ever
"Search me. I guess mebbe I've taken 'em acrost, but how was I to know?"
The scow bumped against its landing and man and horse embarked. There was
an interchange of rough good-nights, interrupted by the dog's frenzied
barking. As the boat pulled out into the stream, the ferryman called back
above the noise of the water:
"Looks like he had somethin' on you. I ain't ever seen him act so ugly
before." Then to the dog, "Quit that, Tim, or I'll bust your jaw."
Garland mounted the slope. The sound of the river behind him was drowned
by the roar of the Lizzie J's mill. Its rampart-like wall towered above
him, cut by the orange squares of windows, the thunder of its stamps, a
giant's feet crushing out the gold, pounding tremendous on the nocturnal
solitude. As the horse snorted upward, digging its hoofs among the
loosened stones, he looked up at it. Millions had been made there;
millions were still making. Men in distant cities were being enriched by
the golden grains beaten free by those giant feet. Once he had thought
that he, too, might ravish the earth's treasure, become as they were by
An unexpected surge of depression suddenly rose upon him. He set it down
to the barking of the dog, for, after the manner of those who lead the
lonely lives of the outlawed, he was superstitious. He believed in signs
and portents, lucky streaks, the superior instinct of animals, and as he
rode he brooded uneasily. Did it simply mean menace, or had the brute
known him for what he was and tried to warn his master?
He muttered an oath and told himself, as he had done often of late, that
he was growing old. Time and disappointment were wearing on the nerve
that had once been unbreakable. In the past he had seen his path going
unimpeded to its goal; now he recognized the possibility of failure, saw
obstructions, crept cautious where he had formerly strode undismayed,
hesitated where he had once leaped. He jerked himself upright and
expelled his breath in an angry snort. This was no time for such musings.
At Sheeps Bar, ten miles farther on, he was to meet Knapp and plan for
the holdup of the stage that tomorrow night would carry treasure to the
Cimarroon Mine at North Fork.
It was after midnight when the few faint lights of Sheeps Bar came into
view. The place was small, a main street flanked by frame houses, a
wooden arcade jutting over the sagging sidewalk. Sleep held it; blank
windowpanes looked over the arcade's roof, the one bright spot the
oblong of light that shone from the transom over the door of the
Planters Hotel. Mindful of dogs he kept to the soft earth near the
sidewalk, shooting glances left and right. But Sheeps Bar was dead;
there was not a stir of life as he passed, not the click of a latch, not
a face at door or window.
Beyond the arcade the town broke into a scattering of detached houses.
The last of these, a one-story cabin staggering to its fall on the edge
of a stream, sent forth a pale ray from a wide, uncurtained window.
Across the pane, painted in blue, were the words "Hop Sing, Chinese
Restaurant," and within the light of a kerosene lamp showed a bare
whitewashed room set forth in tables and having at one end a small
counter and cash register. On the window ledge stood a platter of tomales
and a pile of oranges.
Garland drew up, listened, then dropped off his horse and led it toward
the hovel. Before he reached it a side door opened and a head was
thrust out. A whispered hail passed and the owner of the head
emerged--a Chinaman, shadow-thin and shadow-noiseless. He slipped
through the wet grass and with an "All 'ighty, boss," that might have
been a murmur of the stirred leaves, took the horse and disappeared
with it toward a rear shed.
Garland went to the cabin. The room which he entered opened into the
restaurant and was the Chinaman's den. Its only furniture was a bunk with
a coil of dirty blankets, a chair and table, on which stood an adding
machine, the balls running on wires. Near it was the ink well and bamboo
pen and small squares of paper covered with Chinese characters. One door
led into the restaurant and another into the kitchen. In this room, lit
by a wall lamp, its window giving on a tangled growth of shrubs, sat
Knapp sprawled before the stove.
Their greetings were brief, and drawing up to the table they began the
plans for the next night's work. Through the window the air came cool and
moist, fighting with the odors of cooking and the rank, stifling Chinese
smell. On the silence without rose the horses' soft whinnyings to one
another and then the Chinaman's returning passage through the grass and
the rasp of the closing door. He put a bottle and glasses before the men,
slipped speechless into the restaurant, and returned, an animated shadow,
with the lamp in his hand. This he set on the table in his own room, and
sitting before it, began moving the balls in the adding machine. Upon the
low voices in the kitchen, the dry click of the shifted balls broke in
sharp staccato, followed by pauses when, with a hand as delicate as a
woman's, he traced the Chinese characters on the paper.
It was he who heard first. His hand, raised to move a line of the balls,
hung suspended, his eyes riveted in an agate-bright stare on the wall
opposite. He half rose; his meager body stiffened as if the muscles had
suddenly become steel; his face turned in wild question to the room
beyond. He was up and had hissed a terrified, "Look out, boss, someone
come!" when a rending blow fell on the door.
For a breath there was stillness, then pandemonium--a sudden burst of
action following on a moment of paralysis, an explosion of sound and
movement. It all came together--the breaking in of the door, the
rat-like rush of the men, the crash of falling furniture, of shivered
glass, of dark, scrambling figures, and the blinding flash of a
revolver. The Chinaman's face, ape-like in its terror, showed above the
blankets of his bunk, Knapp lay on the ground caught by the falling
table, and in the window jagged edges of glass and a trail of blood on
the sill showed the way Garland had gone. In the doorway the sheriff
stood with his leveled revolver, while the voices and trampling of men
came from the shrubs outside.
THE LAST DINNER
It was depressing weather, rain, rain, and then again rain. For two weeks
now, off and on, people had looked out through windows lashed with fine
spears or glazed with watery skins which endlessly slipped down the pane.
Muddy pools collected and spread across the street, the cars that drove
through them sending the water in fan-like spurts from their wheels. Down
the high, cobbled hills rivulets felt their way and grass sprouted
between the granite blocks. A gray wall shut in the city, which showed
dimly under the downpour, gardens blossoming, roof shining beyond roof,
wet wall dripping on wet wall.
From his parlor window in the Argonaut Hotel, Boyé Mayer looked down on
the street's swimming length, and then up at the sky's leaden pall. It
was not raining now but there was no knowing when it might begin again.
He yawned and stretched, then looked at his watch--half-past four. What
should he do for the rest of the afternoon?
Several times during the last month this problem of time to be passed
had presented itself. The rain had cut him off from stately promenades
on the sunny side of the street and the diversions of San Francisco had
grown stale from familiarity. The bloom of his adventure was tarnished;
he was becoming used to riches, and comfort had lost its first, fine,
careless rapture. It was not that he was actually bored, but he saw, as
things were going, he might eventually become so, especially if the
rain continued. So far, the green tables and Pancha had held _off_ this
undesired state, but like all attractive pastimes both had their
dangers. His luck at the green tables had been so bad that he had
resolved to give them up, and that made the menace of boredom loom
larger. Life in San Francisco in the height of the wet season, with
cards denied him and Pancha only to be visited occasionally, was not
what it had promised to be.
He had thought of leaving, going to the South, and then decided against
it. There were several reasons why it was better for him to stay. One was
the money in Sacramento. This had become an intruding matter of worry and
indecision. It was not only that the store was so greatly diminished--his
losses had made astonishing inroads in it--but he feared its discovery
and he hated his trips there. He always spent a night in the place, on a
stone-hard bed in a dirty, unaired room, and in his shabby clothes was
forced to patronize cheap eating houses where the fare sickened him. He
managed it very adroitly, carrying in his old suitcase the hat, coat,
shoes and tie he had bought in Sacramento, changing into them in the
men's washroom in the Sacramento depot, and emerging therefrom the Harry
Romaine who rented room 19 in the Whatcheer House.
Of course there was danger of detection, and faced by this and the memory
of his discomfort on the train down, he told himself he would certainly
move the money. But back in the Argonaut Hotel his resolution weakened.
Where would he move it to? He could bank it in San Francisco, but here
again there were perils, of a kind he dreaded even more than the
Sacramento trips. There was that question of references, and he feared
the eyes of men, honest men, business men. He kept away from them; they
were shrewd, bitterly hostile to such as he. So he invariably slipped
back into a state where he said he must do something, waited until he had
only a few dollars left, then, cursing and groaning, pulled the old
clothes out of his trunk, packed his battered suitcase and told Ned
Murphy he was going into the interior "on business."
But outside all these lesser boredoms and anxieties there was another
bigger than all the rest and growing every day: After the money was
It was a question that, in the past, he would have sheered away from as a
horse shies from an obstacle intruding on a pleasant road. But time had
taught him [Note: last word, 'far-righted' must be a typo] many
things--the picaroon was becoming far-sighted; the grasshopper had
learned of the ant. The spring of his youth was gone; the renewal of the
old struggle too horrible to contemplate. And he would have to
contemplate it or decide on something to forestall it. That was what he
had been thinking about for the past week, shut up in his hotel room, his
hands deep in his pockets, his eyes morosely fixed on space.
At the Alston dinner an idea had germinated in his mind. It was only a
seed at first, then it began to grow and had now assumed a definite
shape. At first he had toyed with it, viewed it from different angles as
something fantastic and irrelevant, but nevertheless having a piquancy of
its own. Then his ill-luck and that necessary facing of the situation
made him regard it more closely, compelled him to award it a serious
consideration. He did not like it; it had almost no point of appeal; it
was not the sort of thing, had chance been kinder, he would ever have
contemplated. But it was inescapable, the angel with the flaming sword
planted in his path.
Reluctant, with dragging feet, he had gone to call on the Alston girls.
There had been several visits before that in return for continued
hospitalities; but this was the first of what might be called a second
series, the first after the acceptance of his idea. It had driven him to
it, hounded him on like Orestes hounded by the furies. When he got there
he saw behind the hounding the hand of fate, for instead of finding both
sisters at home or both sisters out, he found Chrystie in and alone. She
had talked bashfully, a shy-eyed novice with blush-rose cheeks and
fingers feeling cold in the pressure of farewell. The hand of fate
pointed to her. If it had been the other sister the hand would have
pointed in vain. From the start he had felt the fundamental thing in
Lorry--character, brain, vision, whatever you like to call it--upon which
his flatteries and blandishments would have been fruitless, arrows
falling blunted against a glittering armor. But this child, this
blushing, perturbed, unformed creature, as soft and fiberless as a skein
of her own hair, was fruit for his plucking.
That was his idea.
He had brooded on it all the week, hearing the rain drumming on the roof
outside, smoking countless cigarettes, harassed, balky and beaten. He
thought of it now, his hands deep in his pockets, his chest hollowed, his
sullen eyes surveying the hill opposite, up which a cable car crawled
like a large wet beetle. He watched the car till it dipped over the
summit and there was nothing to see but the two shining rails, and the
glistening roofs and the shrouded distance. It was like his idea,
inexpressibly dreary, a forlorn, monotonous, gray shutting out what once
had been a bright, engaging prospect.
He looked again at his watch--not yet half past five--at least an hour to
pass before dinner. The green tables began to call, and he turned from
the window to the dusk of the room, tempted and restless. He must do
something or he would answer the call, and he searched his resources for
a diversion at once enlivening and inexpensive. The search brought up on
Pancha. She and her mysteries were always amusing; her love flattered
him; blues and boredom died in her presence. Dangerous she could be, but
dangerous he would not let her be--his was the master mind, cold,
self-governing, and self-sure. One more swing around the circle with
Pancha and then good-by. Soon he "would give his bridle rein a shake
beside the river shore." At that he laughed--"river shore" aptly
described San Francisco under present conditions--and laughing went to
the telephone and called her up. He caught her at rehearsal and made a
rendezvous for dinner in the banquet room at Solari's.
Solari's was a small Italian restaurant in the business quarter which had
gained fame by the patronage of the local illuminati known to press and
public as "Bohemians." They foregathered nightly there, the plate glass
window giving a view of them, conspicuously herded at a large central
table, to interested passersby. To the right of the window was a door,
giving on a narrow staircase which led up to the second floor and what
Solari called his "banquet room." Here on state occasions the Bohemians
entertained celebrities, secretly fretted by the absence of their
accustomed audience. They had decorated the walls with samples of their
art, and when Eastern visitors came to Solari's, they were always taken
up there, and expected to say that San Francisco reminded them of Paris.
Mayer liked the place and had dined there several times with Pancha,
always in the banquet room. There were newspaper men among the Bohemians
who would have found material in the simultaneous appearance of the
picturesque Mr. Mayer and the Albion's star.
He had ordered the dinner, had the fire lighted and the table spread when
she came. She had run up the stairs and was out of breath, bringing in a
whiff of the night's fresh dampness, and childishly glad to be there. She
made no attempt to hide it, laughing as she slid out of her coat and
tossed her hat on a chair. With her feet in their worn, high-heeled shoes
held out to the fire, her hands rosily transparent against the blaze, she
filled the room with a new magic and charm, sent waves of well-being
through it. They warmed and lifted Mayer from his worries, and he was
nearly as glad that he had asked her to come as she was to obey his
summons. In his relief that she was able to dissipate his gloom, he
forgot his caution and laughed with her, the laugh of the lover rejoicing
in the sight of his lady.
The dinner was good and they were merry over it. Under the shaded light
above the table he could see her color fluctuate and the quick droop of
her eyes as they met his, and these evidences of his power added to his
enjoyment. The inhibition he had put upon himself was for the time
lifted, and he spoke softly, caressingly, words that made the rose in her
cheeks burn deeper and her voice tremble in its low response. Always
keener in his chase of money than of women, his cold blood was warmed and
he permitted himself to grow tender, safe in the thought that this would
be their last dinner.
At seven she had to go, frankly reluctant, making no pretense to hide
her disinclination. She rose and went to where her coat lay over a
chair, but he was before her, and snatching it up held it spread for her
enveloping. With her arms outstretched she slid into it, then felt him
suddenly clasp her. Weakened, like a body from which the strength has
fled, she drooped against him, her head fallen back on his shoulder. He
leaned his cheek against hers, rubbing it softly, then bending lower
till he found her lips.
Out of his arms she steadied herself with a hand on the mantelpiece, the
room blurred, no breath left her for speech. For a moment the place was
noiseless save for the small, friendly sounds of the fire. Then she asked
the woman's eternal question,
"Do you love me?"
"What do you think?" he said, surprised to hear his voice shaken
"Oh, Boyé," she cried and turned on him, clasping her hands against her
heart, a figure of tragic intensity, "is it true? Do you mean it?"
He nodded, silent because he was not sure of what to say.
"It's not a lie? It's not just to get me because I'm Pancha Lopez who's
never had a lover?"
"My dear girl!" he gave his foreign shrug. "Why all this unbelief?"
"Because it's natural, because I can't help it. I want to trust, I want
to believe--but I'm afraid, I'm afraid of being hurt." She raised her
clasped hands and covered her face with them. From behind their shield
her voice came muffled and broken, "I couldn't stand that. I've never
cared before, I never thought I would--anyway not like this. It's come
and got me--it's got me down to the depths of my heart."
"Why, Pancha," he said, exceedingly uneasy, sorry now he'd asked her,
sorry he'd come. "What's the sense of talking that way--don't be so
tragic. This isn't the stage of the Albion."
"No, it's not." She dropped her hands and faced him. "It's real
life--it's _my_ real life. It's the first I've ever had." And suddenly
she went to him, caught his arm, and pressing against it looked with
impassioned eyes into his.
"Do you love me--not just to flirt and pay compliments, but truly--to
want me more than any woman in the world? Tell me the truth."
Her eyes held his, against his arm he could feel the beating of her
heart. Just at that moment the truth was the last thing he could tell.
"Little fool," he said softly, "I love you more than you deserve."
Her breath came with a sob; she drooped her head and, resting her face
against his shoulder, was still.
Over her head he looked at the fire, with his free hand gently caressing
her arm. He did not want to say any more. What he wanted was to get away,
slide out of range of her eyes and her questions. It was his own fault
that the interview had developed in a manner undesired and unintended,
but that did not make him any the less anxious to end it. Presently she
lifted her head and drew back from him. Stealing a look at her, he saw
she was pale and that her eyes were wet. She put her fingers on them,
pressing on the lids, her lips set close, her breast shaken.
In dread of another emotional outburst he looked at his watch and said in
a brisk, matter-of-fact tone,
"Look here, young woman, this is awfully jolly, but I don't want to be
the means of making trouble for you at the Albion. Won't you be late?"
She started and came to life, throwing a bewildered glance about her
for her hat.
"Yes, I'd forgotten. I must hurry. It takes me an hour to make up."
Immensely relieved, he handed her the hat, saw her put it on with
indifferent pulls and pats, and followed her to the door. At the top of
the stairs he pushed by her with a laughing,
"Here, let me go first. It's my job to lead."
She drew aside, and as he passed her he caught her eyes, lighted with a
soul-deep tenderness, the woman's look of surrender. Then as he descended
a step below her, she leaned down and brushed her cheek along his
shoulder, a touch light as the passage of a bird's wing.
"It's my job to follow where you lead," she whispered.
They went down the narrow staircase crowded close together, arm against
arm, silent. In the doorway she turned to him.
"Don't come with me. I want to be alone. I want to understand what's
happened to me. You can think of me going through the streets and saying
over and over, 'I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm happy--' And you can think
it's because of you I'm saying it."
She was gone, a small, dark figure, flitting away against the glistening
splotches of light that broke on the street's wet vista.
Not knowing what else to do, Mayer walked home. He was angry with
everything--with Pancha, with himself, with life. He thought of her
without pity, savage toward her because he had to put her away from him.
Joy came to him with outstretched hands, and he had to turn his back on
it; it made him furious. He was exasperated with himself because so much
of his money was gone, and he had to do what he didn't want to do. The
money instead of making things easier had messed them into an enraging
tangle. Life always went against him--he saw the past as governed by a
malevolent fate whose business had been a continual creating of pitfalls
for his unwary feet.
One thing was certain, he must have done with Pancha. Fortunately for
him, it would not be hard. He would give his bridle rein a shake beside
the river shore, and let the fact that he had gone sink into her, not in
a break of brutal suddenness, but by slow, illuminating degrees. For if
he was to carry out his idea--and there was nothing else to be
done--there must be no entanglements with such as Pancha. He must be
foot-loose and free, no woman clinging to that shaken bridle rein with
passionate, restraining hands.
Cross and dispirited he entered the hotel and mounted to his room. He
was beginning to hate it, its hideous hotel furniture, the memory of
hours of ennui spent there. Against his doorsill the evening paper lay,
and picking it up he let himself in and lighted the gas. On the mantel
the small nickel clock seemed to start out at him, insolently
proclaiming the hour, half past seven. He groaned in desperation and
cast the paper on the table. It had been folded once over, and as it
struck the marble, fell open. Across the front page in glaring black
letters he read the words,
"Knapp, the bandit, caught at Sheeps Bar."
THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
That night Mayer could not sleep. He kept assuring himself there was
nothing to fear, yet he did fear. Dark possibilities rose on his
imagination--in his excitement at finding the treasure he might have
left something, some betraying mark or object. Was there any way in
which the bandits could have obtained a clew to his identity; could they
have guessed, or discovered by some underground channel of espionage,
that he was the man who had robbed them? Over and over he told himself
it was impossible, but he could not lift from his spirit a dread that
made him toss in restless torment. With the daylight, his nerves
steadied, and a perusal of the morning papers still further calmed him.
Only one man had been caught--Knapp. Garland had broken through the
window, and with the darkness and his knowledge of the country to aid
him, had made his escape. The sheriff's bullet had not done its work; no
man seriously wounded could have eluded the speed and vigilance of the
pursuit. A posse was now out beating the hills, but with the long
stretch of night in his favor he had slipped through their fingers and
was safe somewhere in the chaparral or the mountains beyond. If his
friends could not help him, a force more implacable than sheriff or
deputy would bring him to justice: hunger.
The paper minutely described Knapp--young, thirty he said, a giant in
strength, and apparently simple and dull-witted. The game up, he accepted
the situation stoically and was ready to tell all he knew. Then followed
a summary of his career, his meeting with Garland six years before and
their joint activities. Of his partner's life where it did not touch his
he had no information to give. They met up at intervals, planned their
raids, executed them and then separated. He knew of Garland by no other
name, had no knowledge of his habitats or of what friends he had among
the ranchers and townspeople. His description of the elder man was
meager; all he seemed sure of was that Garland had once been a miner,
that he wanted to quit "the road," and that he was middle-aged, somewhere
around forty-five or it might be even fifty. Hop Sing, the Chinaman, was
equally in the dark as to the man who, the papers decided, had been the
brains of the combination. The restaurant keeper had merely been a humble
instrument in his strong and unscrupulous hand.
So far there was no mention of the cache in the tules. The reporters,
spilled out in the damp discomfort of the county seat, were filling their
columns with anything they could scrape together, but it was still too
early for them to have scraped more than the obvious, surface facts.
Mayer would have to wait. As he sat at the table, picking at his
breakfast, his mind darkly disturbed, he wondered if he had not better
get out, and then called himself a fool. He was secure, absolutely
secure. The man of the two who had had some capacity had escaped, and if
he had had the capacity of Napoleon how could he possibly have anything
to say that would involve Boyé Mayer?
So he soothed himself and, braced by a cup of coffee and a cold bath,
began to feel at ease. But he decided to keep to his room till he knew
more. If anything should happen he could break away quickly and he felt
safer under cover. Now, more than ever, he feared the eyes of honest men.
He had reached this decision when he suddenly remembered Pancha. The
thought of her came with an impact, causing him to stiffen and give forth
a low ejaculation. His mind ran with lightning speed over what he had
been reading, then flashed back to her. Was this man, this hulking
country Hercules, her "best beau," or was it the other one, Garland, the
one who had the brains, and who was old? It was more likely Knapp. He
could have come to the city, seen her play, been inspired by a passion
that made him daring, been her choice till Mayer had come and conquered.
Her place in the affair, overlooked in the first shock of his own alarms,
rose before him, formidable and threatening. A desire to see her, deeper
than any he had yet experienced, seized him. Her guard would be down;
with all her sly skill she could not deceive him now. She would be
frightened, she was in danger, she would betray herself. Even if she had
long ceased to care for the man, she might have some fears for him, and
how much more fears for herself? As he realized the perils of her
position, a faint, slow smile curved his lips. It was not of derision but
of a cynical comprehension. He saw her scared to the soul, scared of
discovery as Knapp's girl, who was aware of his business, who kept tab on
his comings and goings. For all anyone knew some of that money of hers,
so thriftily hoarded, might be part of the bandit's unlawful gains.
"Whew!" he breathed out. "She must be frozen to the marrow!"
But he did not dare go to her till he was more certain of how he
The next day was Sunday, and on the _Despatch's_ front page appeared
Knapp's picture and his story of the rifled cache. Licking along his dry
lips with a leathern tongue, Mayer read it and then cast the paper on the
floor and sank back in his chair in a collapse of relief. Neither man
had had any suspicion of the identity of the robber; all they knew was
that their hiding place had been discovered and the treasure stolen.
He was safe, safer than he had ever felt before. As the tramp, only two
people had seen him near the marshes, a child and a boy in a ranch yard.
Even if either of them should remember and speak of him in relation to
the theft, was there a human being who would connect that tramp with Boyé
Mayer, gentleman of leisure, in California for his health? He raised his
eyes and encountered his reflection in the mirror. Gathering himself into
an upright posture, he studied it, aristocratic, cold, immeasurably
superior; then, closing his eyes, he called up the image of himself as he
had been when he crossed the tules. No one, unless gifted with second
sight, could have recognized the one in the other. Dropping back in his
chair, he raised his glance to the floriated cement molding on the
ceiling, from which the chandelier depended, feeling as if borne by a
peaceful current into a shining, sunlit sea.
There was a performance at the Albion on Sunday night, but no rehearsal,
and in the gray of the afternoon he went across town to see Pancha.
He found her in a litter of dressmaking--lengths of material, old
costumes, bits of stage jewelry, patterns, gold lace, were outspread on
chairs, hung from the table, lay in bright rich heaps on the floor. The
shabby room, glowing with the lights on lustrous fabrics, the gloss of
crumpled silks, the glints and sweeps and sparklings of color, looked as
if in the process of transformation at the touch of a magician's wand. In
the midst of it--the enchanted princess still waiting for the wand's
touch--sat Pancha, in a faded blouse and patched skirt, sewing. Part of
her transformation was accomplished when she saw Mayer. If her clothes
remained the same, the radiance of her face was as complete as if the
spell was lifted and she found herself again a princess encountering her
His first glance fell away startled from that radiant face. There was
nothing on it or behind it but joy. He pressed a hand soft and clinging,
encircled a body that trembled under his arm and in which he could feel
the thudding of a suddenly leaping heart. Her eyes, searching his, shone
with a deep, pervasive happiness. She was nothing but glad, quiveringly,
passionately glad, moving in his embrace toward a chair, babbling
breathless greetings; she had not expected him, she was surprised, she
was--and the words trailed off, her face hidden against his arm.
It was far from what he had expected and he was thankful for that moment
when she stopped looking at him and he could master his surprise. It
nearly flooded up again when he saw the paper, news sheet on top, in a
pile by the sofa where it had evidently been thrown as she lay reading.
Presently he was in the armchair and she was moving about clearing
things away in a futile, incapable manner, darting like a perturbed bird
for a piece of silk, then dropping it and making a dive for a coil of
chiffon, which she pressed half into a drawer and left hanging over the
edge in a misty trail. As she moved, she continued her broken
babblings--excuses for the room's disorder, costumes for the new piece
to be made, all the time flashing looks at him, watchful, humble,
adoring, ready to come at his summons of word or hand. Finally, the
materials thrown into hiding places, the dresses heaped on the sofa, she
came toward him--a lithe, feline stealing across the carpet--and slipped
down on the floor at his feet.
"Well," he said, "what's the news?"
"There isn't any, except that I'm glad to see you."
She curled her legs under her tailor-fashion, and looked up at him.
"Nothing's happened to disturb the even tenor of your way?"
"Only rehearsals for the new piece and they don't bother me now.
That's all that ever happens to me, except for a gentleman caller now
She caught his eye, and, her hands clasped round one knee, swayed gently,
laughing in pure joy. He did not join in, adjusting his thoughts to this
new puzzle. Leaning against the chair back, the afternoon light yellow on
his high, receding temples and the backward brush of his hair, his look
was that of a fond, rather absent-minded amusement such as one awards to
the antics of a playful child. To anyone watching him his lack of
response would have suggested a preoccupation in more pregnant matters.
Receiving no answer, she went on:
"Only one gentleman caller, one sole alone gentleman, named Mayer, who, I
think, likes to come here." She paused, but again there was no answer and
she finished, addressing the carpet, "Or maybe I just imagine it, and he
only comes dull Sunday afternoons when there's nowhere else to go."
"Oh, silly, unbelieving child!" came his voice, slightly distrait it is
true, but containing sufficient of the lover's chiding tenderness to fill
her with delight.
But this was not what had brought him. The interview started, it was his
business now or never to solve the enigma. He stirred in his chair and,
raising a languid hand, pointed to the paper.
"I see you've been reading the _Despatch_."
"Very good story, that one on the front page, about the bandit chap."
"Knapp? Yes, bully. They've got him at last. It was exciting, wasn't it?
Like a novel. I don't often read the papers, but I did read that."
She gave no evidence, either of agitation, or of any especial interest.
Unclasping her hands from about her knee, she turned a gold bracelet that
hung loose on her wrist, watching the light slide on its surface. Her
face was gently unconcerned, serene, almost pensive. The man's eyes
explored it, searched, scanned it for a betraying sign.
"Did you notice his picture? A pretty hard-looking customer."
She nodded, absently looking at the bracelet.
"He sure was, but they're not all as bad as that. Once down at
Bakersfield I saw a bandit. They caught him near a place where I lived
and the sheriff brought him in there. He looked like a rough sort of
rancher, nothing dangerous about him."
The expression of pensiveness deepened, increased by a sudden, disturbing
thought. Would she tell him about Bakersfield and the horrible life there
with Maria Lopez?
The temptation to be frank with him, to have no secrets, to let him
know her as she was, assailed her. She resolved upon it, drew a deep
breath and said,
"I never told you that I once lived in Bakersfield."
"There are lots of things you never told me. They seem to think the other
fellow--what's his name--Garland--has really made his escape."
The confession died on her lips. She was glad of it; she would tell him
later, some other time, he was too engrossed in the bandits now.
"I guess that's right. He's got up in the hills where there are ranchers
that'll help him."
"Would any rancher dare to help him now--wouldn't they be afraid to?"
"Not his kind. Country people aren't as dull as you'd think. I've seen a
lot of them, when I was a kid and lived round in small places. They act
sort of dumb, but some of them are awful smart behind it."
"Probably get their share of the loot."
"Sure. That would be the natural thing to keep them quiet, wouldn't it?"
Mayer murmured an assent and drew himself to the edge of his chair.
"I'd hate to be one of them the way things stand now! The law, when it
gets busy, has a pretty long arm."
"I guess it has," she agreed, toying with the bracelet.
"Anyone who has had any sort of dealings, been a friend or a confederate
of either of those fellows, is in a desperately ugly position."
She nodded. He leaned still further forward, his elbows on his knees, his
glance riveted on her.
"Suppose either of them had a wife or a sweetheart--and it's probable
they have--_that's_ the person the authorities will be after."
"Yes," she dropped the bracelet and looked away from him, her expression
dreamy, "it would be. They'll start right in to hunt for them. If they
got them, what would they do to them?"
"Do?" He suddenly stretched an index finger at her, pointing into her
face. "If they find a woman or a girl who's had any acquaintance or
intimacy with either Knapp or Garland they'll land her in jail so quick
she won't have time to think. Jail, young woman, and after that the third
degree. And if she's stood in with them--well, it'll be jail for a home
till she's served her term."
She pondered for a moment, then said softly,
"It wouldn't matter if she loved him."
"Jail wouldn't matter?"
Her glance had been fastened in meditation on the shadows of the room.
Now it shifted to him, rapt and luminous. She raised herself to her knees
and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Nothing would matter if he was her man. It would be great to stand by
him and suffer for him. It would be happiness to go to jail for him, to
die for him. There'd be only one thing that she'd be thinking about--that
would make her glad to do it--to know that he loved her, Boyé."
Eye holding eye, she drew him closer till her black-fringed lids lowered
and her face, held up to his, offered itself--a symbol of a fuller gift.
Gathering her in his arms, he rose and drew her to her feet. Pressed
against him, shaken by the beating of the heart that leaped at his touch,
she again breathed the eternal question, "Do you love me"--words that
come from under-layers of doubt in the despairingly impassioned.
He reassured her as the unloving man does, lying to get away, soothing
with kisses, eager to break loose from arms that are unwelcome and yet
tempt. He played his part like a true lover and at the door was genuinely
stirred when he saw there were tears in her eyes. He had not guessed she
could be so tender, that her hard exterior hid such depths of sweetness.
His parting embrace might have deceived a more love-learned woman, and he
left her with a slight, unwonted sense of shame in his heart.
Away from her, where he could think, he pushed the shame aside as he was
ready to push her. The fire she had kindled in him died; the woman he
had clasped and kissed ceased to figure as a being to desire and became
an enigma to solve.
The fate of the bandits had touched no vulnerable spot in her. She had
been unmoved by it. Even did she adore Mayer so ardently and completely
that his presence was an anodyne for every other thought, she would have
shown, she _must_ have shown, some disturbance. He had known women who
lived so utterly in the moment that the past lost its reality, was as
dissevered from the present as though it had never existed. Was she one
of these? Could her relation--whatever it was--with either of the outlaws
have been so erased from her consciousness that she could talk of his
danger with a face as unconcerned as the one she had presented to Mayer's
It was impossible. There would have been a betrayal, a quiver of memory,
a flash of apprehension--And suddenly, gripped by conviction, he stopped
in the street and stood staring down its length.
Night was coming, the gray spotted with lamps. Each globe a sphere of
pinkish yellow, they stretched before him in a line that marched into a
distance of mingled lights and more accentuated shadows. He looked along
them as if they were bearing his thoughts back over the past, every globe
a station in the retrospect, stage by stage advancing him toward a final
point of certainty.
She didn't know!
It formed in a sentence, detached and exclamatory, in his mind, and he
stood staring at the lamps, people jostling him and some of them turning
to look back.
Now that he had guessed it everything became clear. It was like a piece
of machinery suddenly supplied with a lacking wheel which moved it to
instant action. He walked forward, seeing all the disconnected elements
take their places, seeing the whole, harmonious, intelligently related
and extremely simple. That was what had led him astray. He was not used
to simple solutions; intricate byways, complex turnings and doublings,
were what he was trained to. Working along the familiar lines, he had
overlooked what should have been easily discerned.
The man loved her, wanted to stand well with her and had deceived her as
to his occupation. And it was the older one--Knapp's picture had been in
the paper, she had seen it and it had meant nothing to her. So it was
Garland, the chap with the brains, on toward fifty--but these mountain
men with their outdoor life and unspent energies held their youth long.
His imagination, stirred to unwonted activity, pictured him, an outcast,
hunted and hiding in the mountain wilderness. As he had smiled at the
thought of Pancha's terrors, he smiled now, and again it was a curving of
the lips that had no humor behind it. It was the bitter smile of an
understanding that has no sympathy and yet has power to comprehend.
As for himself, he was out of it, the mystery was solved and he could go
his way in peace of mind. It was a fortunate ending, come just in time.
There was no need now for any more folly or philandering. They were cut
off short, romance snipped by Fate's shears, a full stop put at the last
word of the sentence. He had no fears of Pancha, she knew too much to
make trouble, and anyway there was nothing for her to make trouble about.
He had treated her with a consideration that was nothing short of
chivalrous. Even if there had been anyone belonging to her to take him to
task he could defend his conduct as that of a Sir Galahad--and there
He felt brisk, light, mettlesome. Troubles that had threatened were
dispersed; the future lay fair before him. Relieved of all
encumbering obstacles, it extended in clear perspective toward his
idea. With keen, contemplative eye he viewed it at the end of the
vista, calculating his distance, gathering his powers to cover it in a
swift dash, sure of his success.
THE WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING
One afternoon, a week later, Chrystie Alston was crossing Union Square
Plaza. It was beautiful weather, the kind that comes to San Francisco
after long spells of rain. Across the bay the distances were deep-hued
and crystal-clear, the hills clean-edged against a turquoise sky. Green
slopes showed below the dense olive of eucalyptus woods and around the
shore were the white clusterings of little towns. Where the water filled
in the end of a street's vista it was like an insert of blue enameling,
and from the city's high places Mount Diavolo could be seen, a pointed
gem, surmounting in final sharpness the hill's carven skyline.
Chrystie felt the exhilaration of the air and the sun, and walked with a
bounding, long-limbed swing. She was a glad and prosperous figure, silk
skirts swept by scintillant lights eddying back from the curves of her
hips, glossy new furs lying soft on her shoulders, and on her bosom--a
spot of purple--a bunch of violets. Her eyes were as clear as the sky,
and her hair, pressed down by the edge of a French hat, hung in a misty
golden tangle to her brows. No one needed to be told she was rich and
carefree. Her expensive clothes revealed the former, her buoyant step and
happy expression, the latter condition.
She was halfway across the Plaza when her progress suffered a check.
There was a drop in her swift faring, a poised moment of indecision.
During the halt her face lost its blithe serenity, showed a faltering
uncertainty, then stiffened into resolution. Inside her muff her hands
gripped, inside her bodice her heart jumped. Both these evidences of
agitation were hidden and that gave her confidence. Assuming an air of
nonchalance she moved forward, her gait slackened, her eyes abstractedly
shifting from the sky to the shrubs.
Boyé Mayer, advancing up the path, saw she had seen him and drew near,
watchfully amused. Almost abreast of him she directed her glance from
the shrubs to his face. Surprise at the encounter was conveyed by a
slight lifting of her brows, pleasure and greeting by a smile and
inclination of the head. Then she would have passed on, but he came to a
stop in front of her.
"Oh, don't go by as if you didn't want to speak to me," he said, and
pressed a hand that slid warm out of the new muff.
Standing thus in the remorseless sunshine she was really very handsome,
her skin flawless, her lips as red and smooth as cherries. And yet in
spite of such fineness of finish there was no magic about her, no allure,
no subtlety. Achieving graceful greetings he inwardly deplored it, noting
as he spoke how shy she was and how she sought to hide it under a crude
sprightliness. There was a shyness full of charm, a graceful gaucherie
delightful to watch as the gambolings of young animals. But Chrystie was
too conscious of herself and of him to be anything but awkward and
She was going shopping, but when he claimed a moment--just a moment, he
saw her so seldom--went to the bench he indicated and dropped down on it.
Here, a little breathless, sitting very upright, her burnished skirts
falling deep-folded to the ground, she tried to assume the worldly
lightness of tone befitting a lady of her looks in such an encounter.
"Do you often go this way, through the Plaza?" he asked after they had
disposed of the fine weather.
"Yes, quite often. When it's a nice day like this I always walk downtown,
and it's shorter going through here."
"It's odd I haven't met you before. This is my regular beat, across here
about three and then out toward the Park."
"That's a long walk," Chrystie said. "You must like exercise."
"I do, but I also like taking little rests on the way. That is, when I
meet a lady"--his eye swept her, respectfully admiring--"who looks like a
goddess dressed by Worth."
She moved in her flashing silks, making them rustle.
"Oh, Mr. Mayer, how silly," was the best she could offer in response.
"Silly! But why?" His shoulders went up with that foreignness Chrystie
thought so bewitching. "Why is it silly to say what's true?"
"But you know it's not--it's just--er--" She wanted to retort with the
witty brilliance that the occasion demanded, and what she said was, "It's
just hot air and you oughtn't to."
Then she felt her failure so acutely that she blushed, and to hide it
buried her chin in her fur and sniffed at the violets on her breast.
His voice came, close to her ear, very kind, as if he hadn't noticed
"Well, then, I'll express it differently. I'll say you're just charming.
Will that do?"
"I don't think I am. It sounds like someone smaller. I'm too big to be
That made him laugh, a jolly ringing note.
"Whatever _you_ think you are, _I_ think you're the most delightful
person in San Francisco."
The silks rustled again. Chrystie lifted her eyes from the violets to the
bench opposite from which two Italian women were watching with deep
interest this coquetting of the lordlings.
"Now you're making fun of me," she said, like a wounded child.
"Oh, dear lady," it was he who was wounded, misunderstood, hurt, "how
unkind and how untrue. Could I make fun of anyone I admired, I respected,
I--er--thought as much of as I do of you?"
She looked down at her muff. Just for a moment he thought her shyness was
"I don't know--I don't know you well enough. But you've been everywhere
and seen everything, and I must seem so--so--sort of stupid and like a
kid. I don't know what you think, but I know that's the way I feel when
I'm with you."
The Italian women were aware of a slight movement on the part of the
aristocratic gentleman which suggested an intention of laying his hand
upon that of the golden-haired lady. Then he evidently thought better of
it, and his hand dropped to the head of his cane. The golden-haired lady
had seen it, too, and affrighted slid her own into the shelter of her
muff. With down-drooped head she heard the cultured accents of the only
perfect nugget she had ever met murmur reproachfully.
"Now it's _you_ who are making fun of _me_. Why, _I'm_ the one who feels
stupid and tongue-tied. I'm the one who comes away from you abashed and
embarrassed. And why, do you suppose? Because I feel I've been with
someone who's so much finer than all the others. Not the pert, smart
girl of dinners and dances, but someone genuine and sincere and
sweet"--his glance touched the bunch of violets--"as sweet as those
violets you're wearing."
Chrystie experienced a feeling of astonishment, mixed with an uplifting
exaltation. Staring before her she struggled to adjust the familiar sense
of her shortcomings with this revelation of herself as a creature of
compelling charm. She was so thrilled she forgot her pose and murmured
"Very really. Why are you so modest, little Miss Alston?"
"I didn't know I was."
"Wonderfully so--amazingly so. But perhaps it's part of you. It is so
sometimes with a beautiful woman."
"Beautiful? Oh, no, Mr. Mayer."
"Oh, yes, Miss Alston."
Chrystie began to feel as if she was coming to life after a long period
of deadness. She had a consciousness of sudden growth, of expanding and
outflowering, of bursting into glowing bloom. A smile that she tried to
repress broke out on her lips, the repression causing it to be one-sided,
which gave it piquancy. She was invaded by a heady sense of exhilaration
and a new confidence, daring, almost reckless. It made it possible for
her to quell a rush of embarrassment and lead the conversation like a
woman of the world:
"You're mistaken about my being modest. Everybody who knows me well says
"Who's spoiled you?"
"Lorry and Aunt Ellen and Fong."
She gave him a quick side glance, met his eyes, and they both laughed, a
light-hearted mingling of treble and bass.
The Italian women breathed deeply on their bench, aware that the
interchanged glances and chimed laughter had advanced the romance on its
"Three people can't do any serious spoiling--there should be at least
four. Who's Fong?"
"Our Chinaman; he's been with us for centuries."
"Let me make the fourth. Put me on the list."
"I think you've put yourself there without being invited. Since we sat
down you've done nothing but pay me compliments."
"Never mind that. Here's a sensible suggestion: I'll judge myself if
you're spoiled and if I think you are I won't pay you one more. Isn't
"I think so."
"Very well. Of course I must know you better, have a talk with you before
I can be sure. How can we arrange that? Ah--I have it! Some bright
afternoon like this we might take a walk together."
"Yes, we could do that."
"We might go to the park--it's wonderful there on days like this."
She nodded and said slowly,
"And we could take Lorry."
"To be sure, if she'd care to come."
There was a slight pause and he saw by her profile there was doubt
in her mind.
"I don't know about her caring. Lorry doesn't like walking much."
"Then why ask her to do it?"
She stroked her muff, evidently discomfited.
"Well, you see, it's this way, I don't think Lorry'd like me to go with
"But why?" He drew himself up from the bench's back, his tone surprised,
slightly offended. "Surely having invited me to her house, she could
have no objection to my going for a stroll with you?"
"No, no--" Her discomfort was obvious now. "It isn't _you_. It's just
that father was very particular and Lorry always tries to do what he
would have liked."
"My dear young lady, your father's been dead a good many years. Things
have changed since then; the customs of his day are not the customs of
ours. Of course I wouldn't suggest that you go counter to your sister's
wishes, but"--he turned away from her, huffy, head high, a gentleman
flouted in his pride--"it's rather absurd from my point of view. Oh,
well, we'll say no more about it."
Chrystie was distracted. It was not only the humiliation of appearing
out of date and provincial; it was something much worse than that. She
saw Boyé Mayer retiring in majestic indignation and not coming back,
leaving her at this first real blossoming of their friendship because
Lorry had ideas that the rest of the world had abandoned with hoop
skirts and chignons.
"Why, why," she stammered, alarm pushing her to the recklessness of the
desperate, "couldn't we go and not tell her? It's--it's--just a prejudice
of Lorry's--no one else feels that way. The Barlow girls, who've been
very strictly brought up, go walking and even go to the theater
with"--she was going to say "their nuggets" and then changed with a gasp
to--"the men their mother asks to her parties."
So Chrystie, guileless and subjugated, assisted in the development of the
Idea. She made an engagement to meet Mr. Mayer four days later in the
Plaza and go with him to see the orchids in the park greenhouse. The Holy
Spirit orchid was in bloom and she had never seen it. A flower with such
a name as the Holy Spirit seemed to Chrystie in some way to shed an
element of propriety if not righteousness over the adventure.
It was when they were sauntering toward the end of the Plaza that a
woman, coming up a side street, saw them. She was about to cross when her
eye, ranging over the green lawns, brought up on them and she stopped,
one foot advanced, its heel knocking softly against the curbstone. As the
two tall figures moved her glance followed them, her head slowly turning.
She watched them cross the intersection of the streets, lights chasing
each other up and down the lady's waving skirt and gilding the web of
golden hair; she watched them pass by a show window, its glassy surface
holding their bright reflections; she watched their farewells at the door
of a large shop which finally absorbed the lady. Then she faced about,
and walked toward the Albion, where a rehearsal was awaiting her.
That afternoon a week had passed since Pancha had seen her lover.
During the first three days of it she experienced a still and perfect
peace. She did not want to see him; she had reached a point of complete
assurance and was glad to wait there, rest in the joy that had come to
her, dwell, awed, on its wonderfulness. In her short periods of leisure
she sat motionless, recalling lovely moments, living them over, sometimes
asking herself why he cared for her, then throwing the question
aside--that he did was all that concerned her now.
On the fourth day her serenity was disturbed very slightly, but she could
not banish a faint, intruding surprise that she had not heard from him.
She tried to smother it by a return to her old interests, but her work
had lost its power to engross and she went through it mechanically
without enthusiasm. By the fifth her mental state had changed. She would
not admit that she was uneasy, but in spite of her efforts a queer,
upsetting restlessness invaded her. Everything was all right, she knew
it, but she seemed to be dodging a shadow that fell thinly across the
brightness. That evening she played badly, missed a cue and had no snap.
She realized it, saw it in the faces of her fellows, and knew she must do
better or there would be complaints.
On the way home she argued it out with herself. She was thinking too much
of Mayer--worrying about nothing--and it was interfering with her work.
She oughtn't to be such a fool, but her place at the Albion was
important, and a word from him--a line or a phone message--would tone her
up, and she would go on even better than before. At an "all night" drug
store she bought a box of pink notepaper and a sachet, and before she
went to bed put the scented envelope in the box and covered them both
with a sofa pillow to draw out the perfume.
In the morning, after sniffing delicately at the paper, which exhaled a
powerful smell of musk, she sat at her table and wrote him a letter. She
made several drafts before she attained the tone, jocose and tender, that
would save her pride and draw from him the line that was to dissipate her
"No one has knocked at my door for nearly six days now. Not even sent me
a telephone message. But I'm not complaining as maybe the caller may have
a lot of things to keep him busy. But I would like a word just so I won't
forget you. I don't want to do that but you know these stage dames do
have sort of tricky memories. So it might be a good idea to give mine a
jolt. A post card will do it and a letter do it better, and I guess
yourself would do it best of all.
The next morning his answer came and she forgot that she ever had been
uneasy. The world shone, the air was as intoxicating as wine, the sun a
benediction. She kissed the letter and pinned it in her blouse, where it
lay against her heart, from which it had lifted all care. The second
floor of the Vallejo rang to her singing, warbling runs and high, crystal
notes, gushes of melody, and tones clear as a bird's held exultingly.
People passing stopped to listen, looking up at the open windows. And yet
it was far from a love letter:
"What a brute I must seem. I've been out of town, that's all. I have to
go every now and then--business I'm meditating in the interior. I forgot
to tell you about it, but it will take up a good deal of my time from now
on. I won't be able to see you as often as I'd like, but as soon as I
have a spare moment there'll be a knock at your door, or someone waiting
in the alley to the stage entrance. Until then _au revoir, _or in your
own beautiful language, _hasta mañana,_
If she had seen Mayer and the blonde lady before the receipt of this
missive her alarms would have increased. But the letter with one violent
push had sent her to the top of the golden moment again. She was poised
there firmly; it would take more than the sight of Mayer in casual confab
with a woman to dislodge her. He knew many people, went to many places;
she was proud of his social progress. So undisturbed was she that as she
walked to the theatre she smiled to herself, a sly, soft smile. How
surprised the lady would be if she knew that the shabby girl unnoticed on
the curb was Boyé Mayer's choice--the Rosamund of his bower, the inmate
of his secret garden.
The night and the chaparral had made Garland's escape possible. In those
first moments, breaking through the thicket with the shots and shouts of
his pursuers at his back, his mind had held nothing but a frantic fear. A
thing of gaping mouth and strained eyes, he had groped and rushed, torn
between branches, splashed through streams, a menaced animal possessed by
an animal's instinct for flight.
Then a bullet, tearing the leaves above his head, had pulled his
scattered faculties together. He dropped and lay, crawled forward in a
moist darkness, rose and made a slantwise dart across the hill's face,
crouching as a bullet struck into a nearby trunk. Pausing to listen, he
could hear the voices of his pursuers flung back and forth, sound against
sound, broken, clamorous, the baying of the pack. Against the ground,
trickle of water and stir of leaves soft around him, he lay for a second,
the breaths coming in rending gasps from his lungs.
By a series of doublings and loops, he gained the summit and here rose
and looked down. The voices were fainter, the trampling among the
branches was drifting toward the right. The lights of the town showed a
central cluster with a scattering of bright, disconnected particles as if
a fiery thing had fallen and burst, sending sparks in every direction.
Some of them moved, a train of dancing dots, lanterns carried on the
run--the town was roused for the man hunt.
He went on, down from the crest and then up; the voices died and he was
alone in the vast, enmuffling dark.
For the time safe, he allowed himself a rest, flat on his back under a
pine, breathing through open mouth. It was then that he was aware of a
wet warmth on his neck, and feeling of it with clumsy fingers remembered
the shot that had followed the breaking of the door. One inch to the left
and he would have been a dead man. As it was, it was only a surface tear
through the flesh and he sopped at it with his bandanna, muttering and
wiping his fingers on the moss.
Presently he moved on again, one with the woodland creatures in their
night prowls. He could hear them, cracklings of twigs under their furtive
feet, scurrying retreats before his heavier human tread. Once he stopped
at a cry, a shriek tearing open the silence as the lightning tears the
cope of the sky. He knew it well, had heard it often by his camp fire in
his old prospecting days--the yell of a California lion in the mountains
beyond. The night was drawing toward its last deep hours when he came to
a straight uprearing of rock, a ledge, broken and heaved upward in some
ancient earth-throe. He felt along its face, glazed by water films,
close-curtained by shrubs and ferns, found an opening and crawled in.
There he stayed for a week; saw the sun rise over the sea of pines, wheel
across the sky, drop behind the rock whence its last glow painted every
tree top with a golden varnish. Then came evening, long and still, a
great rush of color to the west, birds winging their way homeward,
shadows slanting blue over the slopes, brimming purple in the hollows.
Then night with its majestic silence and its large, serene stars. He lay
in the cave mouth looking at them, his thoughts ranging far. Sometimes
they went back to the past and he remembered the deep blue nights in
Arizona, the white glare of the days. He could see the walls of his ranch
house, with the peppers in red bunches, Juana in her calico wrapper and
Pancha playing in the shade. He rose, cursing, sopped his bandanna in the
water trickling from the rock and put it on his wound. It hurt and made
him feverish, a prey to such harassing memories.
With a piece of cord he found in his pocket he made a trap--a noose
suspended from a bent sapling--and caught a rabbit. This kept him in food
for two days, then setting it again he broke the cord, and driven by
hunger went forth, revolver in hand. He saw fresh deer tracks, and was
lucky enough to find his quarry, steal close and shoot it. His hunger
made him reckless and he lit a fire, roasting the meat on planted sticks.
But the birds came and wheeled about overhead and the specks of moving
birds in the sky can be seen from afar.
His forces restored by nourishment he grew restless. The loneliness of
the place oppressed him and he wanted to hear of Knapp. Knapp had been
caught and Knapp would talk and he burned to know what Knapp would say of
him. He was sure the man knew little; he had foreseen such a catastrophe
and been as secret as the grave, but Knapp might have picked up
something. Anyway he wanted to know just how he stood. Food, his greatest
need, supplied, his next was news, someone to tell him, or a newspaper.
The people who stood in with him were scattered far. Up beyond Angels the
Garcias were his friends, and over to the left, on the bend of the river
near Pine Flat, Old Man Haley, reputed cracked and a survivor of the
great days of the lode, had been his confederate from the start. But
Haley's shack was too near Pine Flat, and now with a reward probably
offered, he feared the Garcias--greasers, father and son, not to be
trusted. The wisest course was to lie low and keep to himself, anyway
till he knew more.
So he tracked across the country from landmark to landmark, a cave, an
abandoned tunnel, the shell of a ruined cabin. He left the foothills and
went back toward the mountain spurs where ridge rises beyond ridge, and
at the bottom of ravines rivers lie like yellow threads. Nature held him
aloof, an atom leaving no mark upon it, an intruder on its musing
self-engrossment. He moved, secure and solitary, seeing no living thing
but the game he shot and the hawk hanging poised in the blue. Sometimes
he sat for hours watching its winged shadow float over the tree tops.
Finally he knew he would have to return to the settlements, for his store
of cartridges was almost exhausted. He tried to hoard them, eking out his
deer meat with roots and berries till body and nerve began to weaken.
That decided him and he started back, eating only just enough to give him
strength to get there. He was nearly spent when he found himself once
more among the chaparral's low growth, looking down on the brown and
There was a ranch below him whose acres stretched like a patterned cloth
along the hill's slant. The house, white-painted, stood in the midst of
cultivated land which he would have to cross to reach it. But driven by
hunger he stole down, his way marked by a swaying in the close-packed
foliage. He could see the smoke rising in a blue skein from its chimney
and at night its windows break out in bright squares. He drew close
enough to watch the men go off to their work and the women move,
sunbonneted, about the yard.
The second day, faint and desperate, he ventured; it was midmorning, the
men away in the fields till noon. There was not a sound when he reached
the house, skirted the rear, and walked round to the side where a balcony
ran the length of the building. Chairs stood here and evidences of
sewing, work baskets, spools and scissors, and a tumbled heap of
material. On the step lay a newspaper and he was stretching his hand for
it when he heard the voices of women.
Through an open door he saw them--two--standing in front of a mirror, one
with her back toward him, in a blouse of pink that she was pulling into a
waistband. The other watched her, pins in her mouth, a tape measure over
her arm. Both were absorbed, the one in her reflection in the glass, the
other in the pink blouse. He trod on the step with a heavy foot and
muttered a gruff "Say, lady."
The women flashed round and he saw them to be middle-aged and young--a
mother and daughter evidently. The elder with a quick, defensive movement
walked to the doorway and stood there, blocking it. He heard the younger
exclaim, "A tramp!" and then she came forward, squeezing in beside her
mother. Hostility and apprehension were on both their faces.
"What do you want here?" said the elder sharply.
"Somethin' to eat," he answered, trying to make his hoarse tones mild; "I
bin on the tramp for days."
"No, no, go off," she cried, waving him away.
"I'm starved," he pleaded. "Any bones or scraps'll do me."
They eyed him, still apprehensive, but evidently impressed by his
"Honest to God it's true," he said, snatching at his advantage. "Can't
you see it by the looks of me?"
The girl, thrusting her hand through her mother's arm and drawing her
"All right. Go round to the kitchen."
With the words she banged the door and he heard the click of the lock,
then their scurrying steps, bangs of other doors and their receding
voices. In a twinkling he grabbed the paper, thrust it into his coat
pocket, and slouched round to the kitchen door.
"Stay out there," called the mother from within. "I'll give you food, but
I don't want no tramp tracking up my kitchen."
He could see them cutting bread and chunks of meat, flurried and he knew
frightened. Leaning against a chair was a rifle, placed where he could
see it. He could have smiled at it had he not been so bound and cramped
with fear. As they cut they interchanged low-toned remarks, and once the
elder looked at him frowningly over her shoulder.
"Why ain't you workin'? A big, husky man like you?" she asked.
"I'm calcalatin' to find work at Sonora, but I have to have the strength
to git there. I've had a bad spell of ague."
The girl raised her eyes to him and compassion softened them. As she went
back to her bread-cutting he heard her murmur,
"I guess that's straight. He sure has an awful peaked look."
It was she who gave him the food, rolled in a piece of newspaper.
Standing in the doorway, she held it out to him and said, smiling,
"There, it's a good lunch. I hope it'll brace you up so you can get
to Sonora all right. I believe you're tellin' the truth and I wish
He grunted his thanks and made off, shambling across the yard and out
into the sun-flooded fields. He had to cross them to get out of range
behind a hill spur before he turned into the woods. As he walked, feeling
their eyes boring into his back, conscious of himself as hugely
conspicuous in the untenanted landscape, he opened the paper and ate
ravenously, tearing at the bread and meat.
He was far afield before he dared to rest and look at the paper. It was
part of the Sunday edition of the _Stockton Expositor_, and in it he read
of the approaching trial of Knapp. Both Danny Leonard and Jim Bailey had
identified him by his hands and his size as the man who had wounded the
messenger, and Knapp had admitted it. The paper predicted a life sentence
for him. Then it went on to Garland, who was still at large. Various
people were sure they had seen him. A saloon keeper on the outskirts of
Placerville was ready to swear that a mounted man, who had stopped at his
place one night for a drink, was the fugitive outlaw. If this evidence
was reliable Garland was moving toward his old stamping ground, the camps
along the Feather, where it was said he had friends.
His relief was intense, for it was evident Knapp had had little to say of
him, and his hunters were on the wrong trail. Food cravings appeased, his
anxieties temporarily at rest, he was easier than he had been since the
night at Sheeps Bar. Curled under a thicket of madrone he slept like a
log and woke in the morning, his energies primed, his brain alert,
thinking of Pancha.
There were two things that had to be done--get a letter to her and
replenish his store of cartridges. If too long a time passed without news
of him, she would grow anxious, might talk, might betray suspicious facts
or draw inferences herself. A word from him, dispatched from a camp along
the lode, would quiet her. So he must gird his loins for the perilous
venture of a break into the open under the eyes of men.
Up beyond Angels, slumbering amid its rotting placers and abandoned
ditches, lies the old camp of Farleys. In times past it was a stop on the
way to the Calaveras Big Trees, but after the railroad diverted the
traffic to the Mariposa Group, Farleys was left to pursue its tranquil
way undisturbed by stage or tourist. Still it remains, if stagnant,
self-respecting, has a hotel, a post office and a street of stores, along
which the human flotsam and jetsam of the mineral belt may drift without
exciting comment. A derelict could pass along its wooden sidewalk, drop a
letter in the post box, even buy a box of cartridges without attracting
notice. And even if he should be noticed, Farleys was sleepy and a good
way from anywhere. Warnings sent from there would not be acted upon too
quickly. A man could catch the eye of Farleys, wake its suspicions and
get away while it was talking things over and starting the machinery for
This was the place he decided on and forthwith moved toward. He had four
cartridges and if game was plentiful and his aim good he might make
Farleys and still have one or maybe two left.
But it took longer than he calculated, swollen rivers blocking his path,
luck going against him. Three of his cartridges were expended on a deer
before he brought it down and the rains came back, blinding and
torrential. Forced to make detours because of the unfordable streams he
lost his way and spent precious hours groping about in pine forests, dark
as twilight, their boughs bent to the onslaught of the storm. Crossing a
watercourse he fell and his matches were soaked, and that night, crouched
against a tree trunk, a creature less protected than the beasts who had
their shelters, he sucked the raw meat.
The next day his misfortunes reached a climax when he used his last
bullet on a rabbit and missed it. He went on for twelve hours, and in the
darkness under a mass of dripping bracken began to think of Farleys less
as a place of peril than as a refuge, even though known for what he was.
But he pushed that thought away as other men push temptation and tried to
sleep under his saturated tent. In the morning he was on the trail with
the first light, staggering a little, squinting down the columned aisles
for open ground whence he could look out and get his bearings.
It was late in the afternoon, dusk at hand, when he saw the light of a
clearing. He hastened, staring ahead, stood for a stunned second, then
leaped behind a tree, muscles tight, the dull confusion of his brain
gone. Looming high through the gray of the twilight, balconied,
many-windowed, was a large white building. Outhouses sprawled at one
side, a weed-grown drive curved to its front steps, down the slant of its
roof the rain ran, spouting from broken gutters and lashing the shutters
that blinded its tiers of windows.
The first shock over, he stole cat-soft from trunk to trunk, studying it.
There were no lights, no smoke from the chimneys, no sign of habitation.
A loosened shutter on the ground floor banged furiously, calling out
echoes from the solitude. He circled the back of it, round by the
outbuildings, a lot of them, one like a stable--all silent. Then made his
way to the side with its deep, first-floor veranda and was creeping
toward the front when he ran into something--a circular construction
covered with a rough bark and topped by a balustrade.
One look at it and he gave a smothered exclamation and ran back among
the trees. The light was almost gone, but there was enough to show a
line of enormous shafts towering into a remote blackness. Like reddish
monoliths they reared themselves in a receding file, silence about
their feet, their crests far aloft moaning under the wind. In the
encroaching darkness they showed like the pillars of a temple reared by
some primordial race of giants, their foliage a roof that seemed to
touch the low sky. He knew where he was now--the Calaveras Big Trees.
The house was the old hotel, once a point of pilgrimage, long since
fallen from popularity and left to gradual decay. In summer a few
travelers found their way there, but at this season the spot was in as
complete a solitude as it had been when the first gringoes came and
stood in silent awe.
He broke his way in by the window with the loosened shutter and passed
through the dimness of long rooms, bare and chilly, his steps loud on the
uncarpeted floors. The place was damp and had the musty smell of a house
long unaired and unoccupied. The double doors into the dining room were
jammed and he had to wrench them open; in the pantry a windowpane was
broken and the rain had seeped in. Here, on a three-legged table, he
found a calendar and remembered hearing that the hotel had been opened
during the previous summer, but that, business being bad, the proprietor
had closed it after a few weeks.
In the kitchen he found signs of this period of habitation. On a shelf in
a cupboard, hidden by a debris of paper and empty boxes, he came upon two
cans evidently overlooked. He took them to the window, threw back the
shutter, and saw they contained tomatoes and cherries. This heartened him
to new efforts and he began a search through the dirty desolation of the
room. He was rewarded by finding a half-filled match box, a few sticks of
split wood and in the bottom of a coal bunker in the passage enough coal
to make at least one good fire.
Before he started it he closed the shutter tight, then, groping in the
dusk, filled the big range with paper and wood and set a match to it. It
flickered, caught, snapped cheerily, light flickering along the walls,
shining between the bars. He poured on the coal, opened all the draughts,
saw the iron grow slowly red and felt the grateful warmth. With his knife
he cut open the tomato can, heated its contents in a leaky saucepan, and,
taking it to the sink, spooned it up with a piece of wood. The cherries
were his dessert.
After that he peeled off his outer clothes and lay on the floor in front
of the range. It threw out a violent heat, but not too much for him; he
luxuriated, basked in it, delighting in the rosy patches that grew on the
stove's rusty surface, the bright droppings from its grate. Holding his
stiff feet out to it, he cooked himself, stretching and turning like a
cat. Finally, he lay quiet, his hands clasped behind his head, his eyes
touching points that the red light played upon, and listened to the rain.
The building shook to its buffets; it swept like feeling fingers across
the windows, drummed on the low roofs of the outhouses, ran in a
spattering rush along the balcony. The sound of it soothed him like a
lullaby, and with the banging of the unfastened shutter loud in his ears
he slept the sleep of the just.
The next morning, with the daylight to help him, he extended his
search and found a few spoonfuls of tea in a glass preserve jar, a
handful of moldy potatoes in a gunny-sack and in a shed back of the
kitchen a pile of cut wood. He breakfasted royally, finishing the
remains of the cherries, built the fire up high and hot, and started
to explore the house.
It was as empty as a shell, room opening out of room, half lighted, bare
and dismal. There was nothing to be got out of it and he was back on his
way to the warmth of the kitchen when he thought of the broken-legged
table in the pantry. Propping this up against the window ledge, a drawer
fell from it, scattering sheets of paper and envelopes on the floor. He
stood staring at them, lying round his feet, fallen there as if from
heaven to supply his last and now greatest need. With an upturned box for
a seat, the stub of pencil he always carried sharpened to a pin point by
his knife, he steadied the table on the windowsill, and sat down to write
to Pancha. He wrote the word "Farleys" at the top of the sheet, as he
knew she would see the Farleys postmark, but the date he omitted:
"MY DEARY PANCHITA:
"Here's the old man writing to you from Farleys. Sort of small dead
place, but there's business moving round it, so I got washed up here for
a few days. I ain't had anything that's good yet, but there's a feller
that looks like he might nibble, and take it from me my hooks are out.
Anyways if he does I'll let you know. Plenty lot of rain, but I've been
comfortable right along. Got a good room here and swell grub. And don't
you worry about my roomatiz. All you want to know is I ain't got it. I
can't give you no address, as I'm moving on soon, Wednesday maybe. But
I'll drop you a line from somewheres as soon as I got anything to say.
You want to remember I'm all right and as happy as I ever am when I ain't
with my best girl. This leaves me in good health, which I hope it finds
"YOUR BEST BEAU."
The rain lasted that day, but on the next the sun rose on a world washed
clean, woodland-scented, fresh and beautiful. The time had come for him
to dare. At nightfall he started, a young moon to guide him, followed a
road ankle high in ruts and mud, and at dawn crept into an alder thicket
for rest and sleep. It was nine, the day well started, when he walked
The little town was up and about its business, windows open, housewives
sweeping front steps. The air was redolent of pine balsam, the sun
licking up the water in hollows on the sidewalks, the distances colored a
transparent blue. Outside the saloon the barkeeper was patting his dog,
women in sunbonnets with string bags on their arms were on their way to
the general store, men were bringing out chairs and placing them with
pondering calculation the right distance from the hitching bar.
He bought his stamp and posted his letter, the man inside the window
offering comments on the weather. Then he had to face the length of the
street; he had been there before and knew the hardware store was at its
other end. As he traversed it the heads of the men--already settled in
their chairs for the day--turned hopefully at the sound of his masculine
tread. It might be someone who would stand a drink, and even if it
wasn't, staring at a passerby was something to do. To run such a gauntlet
required all his fortitude, and as he walked under the battery of eyes
the sweat gathered on his face and his heart thumped in his throat.
The clerk at the hardware store was reading a paper. When he went for the
cartridges he left it on the counter and the fugitive saw the heading of
a column, "Garland still eludes justice." As he waited he read it,
turning from it to take his package and then back to it as the clerk made
change. They were hunting in the Feather country. A blacksmith beyond
Auburn swore he knew the outlaw and had seen him, mounted on a bay horse,
ride past his shop a week before at sunset. The clerk held out the
change, and Garland, reading, nodded toward the counter. He was afraid to
extend his hand, knowing that it shook, and presently, dropping the
paper, scooped up the money with a curved palm.
"Looks like Garland was goin' to give 'em the slip after all," said
"Um--looks that way, but I wouldn't bank on it. If he's lyin' low in one
of them camps up the Feather he's liable to be seen. There's folks there
that knows him it says here and you can't always trust your friends. Fine
weather we're havin' after the rain. So long."
When he came out into the street he was nerved for a last, desperate
venture. He went to the general store and bought a stock of provisions:
bread, sugar, bacon, coffee and tobacco. The salesman was inclined to be
friendly and asked him questions, and he explained himself as a
prospector in the hills, cut off by the recent rains. He got away from
there as quickly as he could, dropped down a side path and made for the
woods and "home."
That evening he went out and lay under the giant trees, and smoked his
first pipe for weeks. The sunset gleamed through the foliage in fiery
spots, here and there piercing it with a long ray of light which slanted
across the red trunks. From the forest recesses twilight spread in
stealthy advance, and looking up he could see bits of the sky,
scatterings of pink through the darkening green. It was intensely quiet,
not a stir of wind, not a bird note, or leaf rustle. The place was held
in that mysterious silence which broods over the Californian country and
suggests a hushed and ominous attention. It is as if nature were aware of
some impending event, imminent and portentous, and waited in tranced
expectancy. The outlaw felt it, and moved, disquieted, setting his
oppression down to loneliness.
One afternoon a week later, while standing at the kitchen window, he saw
a figure dart across an opening between the trees. It went so swiftly
that he was aware of it only as a dash of darkness, the passage of a
shadow, but It left a moving wake in the ferns and grasses. With his
heart high and smothering, he felt for his revolver and crept through the
rooms to the broken window on the veranda. If he was caught he would die
game, fight from this citadel till his last cartridge was gone. His eyes
to a crack in the shutter he looked out--no one was there. The vista of
the forest stretched back as free of human presence as in the days before
man had roamed its solemn corridors.
Then he saw it again; the tightness of his muscles relaxed, and the hand
holding the revolver dropped to his side. It was a child, a boy; there
were two of them. He watched them move, foot balanced before foot, wary
eyes on the house, emerge from behind a trunk and flee to the shelter of
the next one. They were little fellows, eight or perhaps ten, in overalls
and ragged hats, scared and yet adventurous, creeping cautiously nearer.
It was easy to guess what they were and what had brought them: ranch
children who had seen the smoke of his fire, and, knowing the hotel to be
empty, had come to discover who was there. The game was up--they might
have been round the place for hours, for days. He suddenly threw open the
shutters and roared at them, an unexpected and fearful challenge. A
moment of paralyzed terror was followed by a wild rush, the bracken
breaking under their flying feet. After they had passed from his sight he
could hear the swish and crashing of their frantic flight. Two boys, so
frightened, would not take long to reach home and gasp out their story.
He left on their heels, window and door flapping behind him, the fire red
in the range.
Two days later he found cover in a deserted tunnel back in the hills. Its
timbers sagged with the weight of the years, the yellow mound of its dump
was hidden under a mantle of green. Even its mouth, once a black hole in
the hillside verdure, was curtained by a veil of creepers. There was game
and there was water and there he stayed. At first he rested, then idle
and inert lay among the ferns on the top of the dump, staring at the
distance, squinting up at the sky, deadened with the weight of the
interminable, empty days.
HALF TRUTHS AND INFERENCES
Chrystie had developed a liking for long walks. As she was a person of a
lazy habit Lorry inquired about it and received the answer that walking
was the easiest way to keep down your weight. This was a satisfactory
explanation, for Chrystie was of the ebullient, early-spreading
Californian type, and an extending acquaintance among girls of her age
might readily awake a dormant vanity. So the walks passed unchallenged.
But, beside an unwonted attention to her looks, Lorry noticed that her
sister was changing. Quite suddenly she seemed to have emerged from
childhood, blossomed into a grown-up phase. She was losing her irrelevant
high spirits, bubbled much less frequently, sometimes sat in silence for
half an hour at a time. Then there were moments when her glance was fixed
and pondering, as if her thoughts ranged afar. The new interest in her
appearance extended from her figure to her clothes. She spent so much
money on them that Lorry spoke to her about it and was answered with
mutinous irritation. Why shouldn't she have pretty things like the other
girls? What was the sense of hoarding up their money like misers? Lorry
could do it if she liked; she was going to get some good out of hers.
Lorry saw the change as the result of a widening social experience--she
had tried to find amusement, the proper surroundings of her age and
station, for Chrystie and she had succeeded. Gayeties had grown out of
that first, agitating dinner till they now moved through quite a little
round of parties. Under this new excitement Chrystie was acquiring poise,
also fluctuations of spirit and temper. Lorry supposed it was
natural--you couldn't stay up late when you weren't used to it and be as
easy-going and good-humored as when you went to bed every night at ten.
Lorry might have seen deeper, but her attention was diverted. For the
first time in her life she was thinking a good deal about her own
affairs. What she felt was kept very secret, but even if it hadn't been
there was no one to notice, certainly not Chrystie, nor Aunt Ellen. The
only other person near enough to notice was Fong, and it wasn't Fong's
place to help--at least to help in an open way.
One morning in the kitchen, when he and "Miss Lolly" were making the menu
for a new dinner, he had said,
"Mist Bullage come this time?"
"Miss Lolly," with a faint access of color and an eye sliding from Fong's
to the back porch, had answered,
"No, I'm not asking Mr. Burrage to this one, Fong."
"Why not ask Mist Bullage?" Fong had persisted, slightly reproving.
"Because I've asked him several times and he hasn't come."
That was in the old Bonanza manner. One answered a Chinaman like Fong
truthfully and frankly as man to man.
"He come this time. You lite him nice letter."
"No, I don't want to, I've enough without him. It's all made up."
"I no see why--plenty big loom, plenty good dinner. Velly nice boy, good
boy, best boy ever come to my boss's house."
"Now, Fong, don't get side-tracked. I didn't come to talk to you about
the people, I came to talk about the food."
Fong looked at her, gently inquiring, "You no like Mist Bullage,
"Of course I like him. Won't you please attend to what I'm saying?"
"Then you ask him and I make awful swell dinner--same like I make for
your Pa when General Grant eat here."
When Fong had a fixed idea that way there was no use arguing with him;
one rose with a resigned air and left the kitchen. As Lorry passed
through the pantry door he called after her, amiable but determined,
"All samey Mist Bullage no come I won't make bird nest ice cleam with
No one but Fong bothered about Mr. Burrage's absence. After the evening
at the Albion Chrystie set him down as "hopeless," and when he refused
two dinner invitations, said they ought to have asked him to wait on the
table and then he would have accepted. To this gibe Lorry made no answer,
but that night before the mirror in her own room, she addressed her
reflection with bitterness:
"Why should any man like me? I'm not pretty, I'm not clever, I'm as slow
as a snail." She saw tears rise in her eyes and finished ruthlessly, "I'm
such a fool that I cry about a man who's done everything but say straight
out, 'I don't care for you, you bore me, do leave me alone.'"
So Lorry, nursing her hidden wound, was forgetful of her stewardship.
It was a pity, for there were times when Chrystie, caught in a contrite
mood and questioned, would have told. Such times generally came when she
was preparing for one of her walks. At these moments her adventure had a
way of suddenly losing its glamour and appearing as a shabby and
underhand performance. Before she saw Mayer she often hesitated, a prey
to a chill distaste, sometimes even questioning her love for him. After
she saw him things were different. She came away filled with a bridling
vanity, feeling herself a siren, a queen of men. Helen of Troy, seeing
brave blood spilled for her possession, was not more satisfied of her
worth than Chrystie after an hour's talk with Boyé Mayer.
It was the certainty of Lorry's disapproval that made secrecy necessary.
He soon realized that Lorry was the governing force, the loved and feared
dictator. But he was a cunning wooer. He put no ban upon confession--if
Chrystie wanted to tell he was the last person to stop it. And having
placed the responsibility in her hands, he wove closer round the little
fly the parti-colored web of illusion. He made her feel the thrill of the
clandestine, the romance of stolen meetings, see herself not as a green,
affrighted girl, but a woman queening it over her own destiny, fit mate
for him in eagle flight above the hum-drum multitude.
But the moments when her conscience pricked still recurred. She was
particularly oppressed one afternoon as she sat in her room waiting for
the clock to strike three. At half past she was to meet Mayer in the
plaza, opposite the Greek Church. She had no time for a long walk that
day--an engagement for tea claimed her at five--so he had suggested the
plaza. No one they knew ever went there, and a visit to the Greek Church
would be interesting.
Her hat and furs lay ready on the bed and she sat in the long wicker
chair by the window, one hand supporting her chin, while her eyes rested
somberly on the fig tree in the garden. She was reluctant to go; she did
not know why, except that just then, waiting for the clock to strike, she
had had an eerie sort of fear of Mayer. She told herself it was because
he was so clever, so superior to any man she had ever known. But she
wished she could tell Lorry, say boldly, "Lorry, Mr. Mayer is in love
with me"--she wished she could dare.
At that moment Lorry appeared in the doorway between the two rooms.
"Hello," she said. "How serious you look."
"I'm thinking," said Chrystie, studying the fig tree.
"Are you going out?" The things on the bed had caught her eye.
"So soon? You're not asked to the Forsythe's till five and it's not
"I _could_ be going somewhere else first."
"Somewhere out of this house--that's the main thing. Since the furnace
was put in it's like a Turkish bath."
"You're going for a walk?" Lorry went to the bed and picked up the
hat. It was a new one with a French maker's name in the crown. "You
oughtn't to hack this hat about, Chrystie. I wouldn't wear it when I
went for a walk."
"Do you think it would be better to wear it in the house? Having bought
it I must wear it somewhere."
Lorry, laughing, put on the hat and looked at herself in the glass. There
was a moment's pause, then the chair creaked under a movement of
Chrystie's, and her voice came very quiet.
"Lorry, do you like Boyé Mayer?"
Lorry, studying the effect of the hat, did not answer with any special
interest. The Perfect Nugget had lost all novelty for her. He came to the
house now and then, was a help in their entertainments, and was always
considerate and polite--that was all.
"No, not much," she murmured.
"It's hard to say exactly--just something." She placed her hand over a
rakish green paradise plume to see if its elimination would be an
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