Flip, A California Romance by Bret Harte
Just where the track of the Los Gatos road streams on and upward like
the sinuous trail of a fiery rocket until it is extinguished in the blue
shadows of the Coast Range, there is an embayed terrace near the summit,
hedged by dwarf firs. At every bend of the heat- laden road the eye
rested upon it wistfully; all along the flank of the mountain, which
seemed to pant and quiver in the oven-like air, through rising dust, the
slow creaking of dragging wheels, the monotonous cry of tired springs,
and the muffled beat of plunging hoofs, it held out a promise of
sheltered coolness and green silences beyond. Sunburned and anxious faces
yearned toward it from the dizzy, swaying tops of stagecoaches, from
lagging teams far below, from the blinding white canvas covers of
"mountain schooners," and from scorching saddles that seemed to weigh
down the scrambling, sweating animals beneath. But it would seem that the
hope was vain, the promise illusive. When the terrace was reached it
appeared not only to have caught and gathered all the heat of the valley
below, but to have evolved a fire of its own from some hidden crater-like
source unknown. Nevertheless, instead of prostrating and enervating man
and beast, it was said to have induced the wildest exaltation. The heated
air was filled and stifling with resinous exhalations. The delirious
spices of balm, bay, spruce, juniper, yerba buena, wild syringa, and
strange aromatic herbs as yet unclassified, distilled and evaporated in
that mighty heat, and seemed to fire with a midsummer madness all who
breathed their fumes. They stung, smarted, stimulated, intoxicated. It
was said that the most jaded and foot-sore horses became furious and
ungovernable under their influence; wearied teamsters and muleteers, who
had exhausted their profanity in the ascent, drank fresh draughts of
inspiration in this fiery air, extended their vocabulary, and created new
and startling forms of objurgation. It is recorded that one bibulous
stage-driver exhausted description and condensed its virtues in a single
phrase: "Gin and ginger." This felicitous epithet, flung out in a
generous comparison with his favorite drink, "rum and gum," clung to it
Such was the current comment on this vale of spices. Like most human
criticism it was hasty and superficial. No one yet had been known to have
penetrated deeply its mysterious recesses. It was still far below the
summit and its wayside inn. It had escaped the intruding foot of hunter
and prospector; and the inquisitive patrol of the county surveyor had
only skirted its boundary. It remained for Mr. Lance Harriott to complete
its exploration. His reasons for so doing were simple. He had made the
journey thither underneath the stage-coach, and clinging to its axle. He
had chosen this hazardous mode of conveyance at night, as the coach crept
by his place of concealment in the wayside brush, to elude the sheriff of
Monterey County and his posse, who were after him.
He had not made himself known to his fellow-passengers as they already
knew him as a gambler, an outlaw, and a desperado; he deemed it unwise to
present himself in a newer reputation of a man who had just slain a
brother gambler in a quarrel, and for whom a reward was offered. He
slipped from the axle as the stage-coach swirled past the brushing
branches of fir, and for an instant lay unnoticed, a scarcely
distinguishable mound of dust in the broken furrows of the road. Then,
more like a beast than a man, he crept on his hands and knees into the
steaming underbrush. Here he lay still until the clatter of harness and
the sound of voices faded in the distance. Had he been followed, it would
have been difficult to detect in that inert mass of rags any semblance to
a known form or figure. A hideous reddish mask of dust and clay
obliterated his face; his hands were shapeless stumps exaggerated in his
trailing sleeves. And when he rose, staggering like a drunken man, and
plunged wildly into the recesses of the wood, a cloud of dust followed
him, and pieces and patches of his frayed and rotten garments clung to
the impeding branches. Twice he fell, but, maddened and upheld by the
smarting spices and stimulating aroma of the air, he kept on his
Gradually the heat became less oppressive; once when he stopped and
leaned exhaustedly against a sapling, he fancied he saw the zephyr he
could not yet feel in the glittering and trembling of leaves in the
distance before him. Again the deep stillness was moved with a faint
sighing rustle, and he knew he must be nearing the edge of the thicket.
The spell of silence thus broken was followed by a fainter, more musical
interruption—the glassy tinkle of water! A step further his foot
trembled on the verge of a slight ravine, still closely canopied by the
interlacing boughs overhead. A tiny stream that he could have dammed with
his hand yet lingered in this parched red gash in the hillside and
trickled into a deep, irregular, well-like cavity, that again overflowed
and sent its slight surplus on. It had been the luxurious retreat of many
a spotted trout; it was to be the bath of Lance Harriott. Without a
moment's hesitation, without removing a single garment, he slipped
cautiously into it, as if fearful of losing a single drop. His head
disappeared from the level of the bank; the solitude was again unbroken.
Only two objects remained upon the edge of the ravine,— his
revolver and tobacco pouch.
A few minutes elapsed. A fearless blue jay alighted on the bank and
made a prospecting peck at the tobacco pouch. It yielded in favor of a
gopher, who endeavored to draw it toward his hole, but in turn gave way
to a red squirrel, whose attention was divided, however, between the
pouch and the revolver, which he regarded with mischievous fascination.
Then there was a splash, a grunt, a sudden dispersion of animated nature,
and the head of Mr. Lance Harriott appeared above the bank. It was a
startling transformation. Not only that he had, by this wholesale
process, washed himself and his light "drill" garments entirely clean,
but that he had, apparently by the same operation, morally cleansed
HIMSELF, and left every stain and ugly blot of his late misdeeds and
reputation in his bath. His face, albeit scratched here and there, was
rosy, round, shining with irrepressible good humor and youthful levity.
His large blue eyes were infantine in their innocent surprise and
thoughtlessness. Dripping yet with water, and panting, he rested his
elbows lazily on the bank, and became instantly absorbed with a boy's
delight in the movements of the gopher, who, after the first alarm,
returned cautiously to abduct the tobacco pouch. If any familiar had
failed to detect Lance Harriott in this hideous masquerade of dust and
grime and tatters, still less would any passing stranger have recognized
in this blond faun the possible outcast and murderer. And, when with a
swirl of his spattering sleeve, he drove back the gopher in a shower of
spray and leaped to the bank, he seemed to have accepted his felonious
hiding-place as a mere picnicking bower.
A slight breeze was unmistakably permeating the wood from the west.
Looking in that direction, Lance imagined that the shadow was less dark,
and although the undergrowth was denser, he struck off carelessly toward
it. As he went on, the wood became lighter and lighter; branches, and
presently leaves, were painted against the vivid blue of the sky. He knew
he must be near the summit, stopped, felt for his revolver, and then
lightly put the few remaining branches aside.
The full glare of the noonday sun at first blinded him. When he could
see more clearly, he found himself on the open western slope of the
mountain, which in the Coast Range was seldom wooded. The spiced thicket
stretched between him and the summit, and again between him and the stage
road that plunges from the terrace, like forked lightning into the valley
below. He could command all the approaches without being seen. Not that
this seemed to occupy his thoughts or cause him any anxiety. His first
act was to disencumber himself of his tattered coat; he then filled and
lighted his pipe, and stretched himself full-length on the open hillside,
as if to bleach in the fierce sun. While smoking he carelessly perused
the fragment of a newspaper which had enveloped his tobacco, and being
struck with some amusing paragraph, read it half aloud again to some
imaginary auditor, emphasizing its humor with an hilarious slap upon his
Possibly from the relaxation of fatigue and the bath, which had become
a vapor one as he alternately rolled and dried himself in the baking
grass, his eyes closed dreamily. He was awakened by the sound of voices.
They were distant; they were vague; they approached no nearer. He rolled
himself to the verge of the first precipitous grassy descent. There was
another bank or plateau below him, and then a confused depth of olive
shadows, pierced here and there by the spiked helmets of pines.
There was no trace of habitation, yet the voices were those of some
monotonous occupation, and Lance distinctly heard through them the click
of crockery and the ring of some household utensil. It appeared to be the
interjectional, half listless, half perfunctory, domestic dialogue of an
old man and a girl, of which the words were unintelligible. Their voices
indicated the solitude of the mountain, but without sadness; they were
mysterious without being awe-inspiring. They might have uttered the
dreariest commonplaces, but, in their vast isolation, they seemed musical
and eloquent. Lance drew his first sigh,—they had suggested
Careless as his nature was, he was too cautious to risk detection in
broad daylight. He contented himself for the present with endeavoring to
locate that particular part of the depths from which the voices seemed to
rise. It was more difficult, however, to select some other way of
penetrating it than by the stage road. "They're bound to have a fire or
show a light when it's dark," he reasoned, and, satisfied with that
reflection, lay down again. Presently he began to amuse himself by
tossing some silver coins in the air. Then his attention was directed to
a spur of the Coast Range which had been sharply silhouetted against the
cloudless western sky. Something intensely white, something so small that
it was scarcely larger than the silver coin in his hand, was appearing in
a slight cleft of the range.
While he looked it gradually filled and obliterated the cleft. In
another moment the whole serrated line of mountain had disappeared. The
dense, dazzling white, encompassing host began to pour over and down
every ravine and pass of the coast. Lance recognized the sea- fog, and
knew that scarcely twenty miles away lay the ocean—and safety! The
drooping sun was now caught and hidden in its soft embraces. A sudden
chill breathed over the mountain. He shivered, rose, and plunged again
for very warmth into the spice-laden thicket. The heated balsamic air
began to affect him like a powerful sedative; his hunger was forgotten in
the languor of fatigue; he slumbered. When he awoke it was dark. He
groped his way through the thicket. A few stars were shining directly
above him, but beyond and below, everything was lost in the soft, white,
fleecy veil of fog. Whatever light or fire might have betokened human
habitation was hidden. To push on blindly would be madness; he could only
wait for morning. It suited the outcast's lazy philosophy. He crept back
again to his bed in the hollow and slept. In that profound silence and
shadow, shut out from human association and sympathy by the ghostly fog,
what torturing visions conjured up by remorse and fear should have
pursued him? What spirit passed before him, or slowly shaped itself out
of the infinite blackness of the wood? None. As he slipped gently into
that blackness he remembered with a slight regret, some biscuits that
were dropped from the coach by a careless luncheon-consuming passenger.
That pang over, he slept as sweetly, as profoundly, as divinely, as a
He awoke with the aroma of the woods still steeping his senses. His
first instinct was that of all young animals; he seized a few of the
young, tender green leaves of the yerba buena vine that crept over his
mossy pillow and ate them, being rewarded by a half berry-like flavor
that seemed to soothe the cravings of his appetite. The languor of sleep
being still upon him, he lazily watched the quivering of a sunbeam that
was caught in the canopying boughs above. Then he dozed again. Hovering
between sleeping and waking, he became conscious of a slight movement
among the dead leaves on the bank beside the hollow in which he lay. The
movement appeared to be intelligent, and directed toward his revolver,
which glittered on the bank. Amused at this evident return of his
larcenous friend of the previous day, he lay perfectly still. The
movement and rustle continued, but it now seemed long and undulating.
Lance's eyes suddenly became set; he was intensely, keenly awake. It was
not a snake, but the hand of a human arm, half hidden in the moss,
groping for the weapon. In that flash of perception he saw that it was
small, bare, and deeply freckled. In an instant he grasped it firmly, and
rose to his feet, dragging to his own level as he did so, the struggling
figure of a young girl.
"Leave me go!" she said, more ashamed than frightened.
Lance looked at her. She was scarcely more than fifteen, slight and
lithe, with a boyish flatness of breast and back. Her flushed face and
bare throat were absolutely peppered with minute brown freckles, like
grains of spent gunpowder. Her eyes, which were large and gray, presented
the singular spectacle of being also freckled,—at least they were
shot through in pupil and cornea with tiny spots like powdered allspice.
Her hair was even more remarkable in its tawny, deer-skin color, full of
lighter shades, and bleached to the faintest of blondes on the crown of
her head, as if by the action of the sun. She had evidently outgrown her
dress, which was made for a smaller child, and the too brief skirt
disclosed a bare, freckled, and sandy desert of shapely limb, for which
the darned stockings were equally too scant. Lance let his grasp slip
from her thin wrist to her hand, and then with a good- humored gesture
tossed it lightly back to her.
She did not retreat, but continued looking at him in a half-surly
"I ain't a bit frightened," she said; "I'm not going to run
away,— don't you fear."
"Glad to hear it," said Lance, with unmistakable satisfaction, "but
why did you go for my revolver?"
She flushed again and was silent. Presently she began to kick the
earth at the roots of the tree, and said, as if confidentially to her
"I wanted to get hold of it before you did."
"You did?—and why?"
"Oh, you know why."
Every tooth in Lance's head showed that he did, perfectly. But he was
"I didn't know what you were hiding there for," she went on, still
addressing the tree, "and," looking at him sideways under her white
lashes, "I didn't see your face."
This subtle compliment was the first suggestion of her artful sex. It
actually sent the blood into the careless rascal's face, and for a moment
confused him. He coughed. "So you thought you'd freeze on to that
six-shooter of mine until you saw my hand?"
She nodded. Then she picked up a broken hazel branch, fitted it into
the small of her back, threw her tanned bare arms over the ends of it,
and expanded her chest and her biceps at the same moment. This simple
action was supposed to convey an impression at once of ease and muscular
"Perhaps you'd like to take it now," said Lance, handing her the
"I've seen six-shooters before now," said the girl, evading the
proffered weapon and its suggestion. "Dad has one, and my brother had two
derringers before he was half as big as me."
She stopped to observe in her companion the effect of this capacity of
her family to bear arms. Lance only regarded her amusedly. Presently she
again spoke abruptly:—
"What made you eat that grass, just now?"
"Grass!" echoed Lance.
"Yes, there," pointing to the yerba buena.
Lance laughed. "I was hungry. Look!" he said, gayly tossing some
silver into the air. "Do you think you could get me some breakfast for
that, and have enough left to buy something for yourself?"
The girl eyed the money and the man with half-bashful curiosity.
"I reckon Dad might give ye suthing if he had a mind ter, though ez a
rule he's down on tramps ever since they run off his chickens. Ye might
"But I want YOU to try. You can bring it to me here."
The girl retreated a step, dropped her eyes, and, with a smile that
was a charming hesitation between bashfulness and impudence, said: "So
you ARE hidin', are ye?"
"That's just it. Your head's level. I am," laughed Lance
"Yur ain't one o' the McCarty gang—are ye?"
Mr. Lance Harriott felt a momentary moral exaltation in declaring
truthfully that he was not one of a notorious band of mountain
freebooters known in the district under that name.
"Nor ye ain't one of them chicken lifters that raided Henderson's
ranch? We don't go much on that kind o' cattle yer."
"No," said Lance, cheerfully.
"Nor ye ain't that chap ez beat his wife unto death at Santa
Lance honestly scorned the imputation. Such conjugal ill treatment as
he had indulged in had not been physical, and had been with other men's
There was a moment's further hesitation on the part of the girl. Then
she said shortly:
"Well, then, I reckon you kin come along with me."
"Where?" asked Lance.
"To the ranch," she replied simply.
"Then you won't bring me anything to eat here?"
"What for? You kin get it down there." Lance hesitated. "I tell you
it's all right," she continued. "I'll make it all right with Dad."
"But suppose I reckon I'd rather stay here," persisted Lance, with a
perfect consciousness, however, of affectation in his caution.
"Stay away then," said the girl coolly; "only as Dad perempted this
"PRE-empted," suggested Lance.
"Per-empted or pre-emp-ted, as you like," continued the girl
scornfully,—"ez he's got a holt on this yer woods, ye might ez well
see him down thar ez here. For here he's like to come any minit. You can
bet your life on that."
She must have read Lance's amusement in his eyes, for she again
dropped her own with a frown of brusque embarrassment. "Come along, then;
I'm your man," said Lance, gayly, extending his hand.
She would not accept it, eying it, however, furtively, like a horse
about to shy. "Hand me your pistol first," she said.
He handed it to her with an assumption of gayety. She received it on
her part with unfeigned seriousness, and threw it over her shoulder like
a gun. This combined action of the child and heroine, it is quite
unnecessary to say, afforded Lance undiluted joy.
"You go first," she said.
Lance stepped promptly out, with a broad grin. "Looks kinder as if I
was a prisoner, don't it?" he suggested.
"Go on, and don't fool," she replied.
The two fared onward through the wood. For one moment he entertained
the facetious idea of appearing to rush frantically away, "just to see
what the girl would do," but abandoned it. "It's an even thing if she
wouldn't spot me the first pop," he reflected admiringly.
When they had reached the open hillside, Lance stopped inquiringly.
"This way," she said, pointing toward the summit, and in quite an
opposite direction to the valley where he had heard the voices, one of
which he now recognized as hers. They skirted the thicket for a few
moments, and then turned sharply into a trail which began to dip toward a
ravine leading to the valley.
"Why do you have to go all the way round?" he asked.
"WE don't," the girl replied with emphasis; "there's a shorter
"That's telling," she answered shortly.
"What's your name?" asked Lance, after a steep scramble and a drop
into the ravine.
"I mean your first name,—your front name."
"Flip! Oh, short for Felipa!"
"It ain't Flipper,—it's Flip." And she relapsed into
"You don't ask me mine?" suggested Lance.
She did not vouchsafe a reply.
"Then you don't want to know?"
"Maybe Dad will. You can lie to HIM."
This direct answer apparently sustained the agreeable homicide for
some moments. He moved onward, silently exuding admiration.
"Only," added Flip, with a sudden caution, "you'd better agree with
The trail here turned again abruptly and re-entered the canyon. Lance
looked up, and noticed they were almost directly beneath the bay thicket
and the plateau that towered far above them. The trail here showed signs
of clearing, and the way was marked by felled trees and stumps of
"What does your father do here?" he finally asked. Flip remained
silent, swinging the revolver. Lance repeated his question.
"Burns charcoal and makes diamonds," said Flip, looking at him from
the corners of her eyes.
"Makes diamonds?" echoed Lance.
Flip nodded her head.
"Many of 'em?" he continued carelessly.
"Lots. But they're not big," she returned, with a sidelong glance.
"Oh, they're not big?" said Lance gravely.
They had by this time reached a small staked inclosure, whence the
sudden fluttering and cackle of poultry welcomed the return of the
evident mistress of this sylvan retreat. It was scarcely imposing.
Further on, a cooking stove under a tree, a saddle and bridle, a few
household implements scattered about, indicated the "ranch." Like most
pioneer clearings, it was simply a disorganized raid upon nature that had
left behind a desolate battlefield strewn with waste and decay. The
fallen trees, the crushed thicket, the splintered limbs, the rudely
torn-up soil, were made hideous by their grotesque juxtaposition with the
wrecked fragments of civilization, in empty cans, broken bottles,
battered hats, soleless boots, frayed stockings, cast-off rags, and the
crowning absurdity of the twisted-wire skeleton of a hooped skirt hanging
from a branch. The wildest defile, the densest thicket, the most virgin
solitude, was less dreary and forlorn than this first footprint of man.
The only redeeming feature of this prolonged bivouac was the cabin
itself. Built of the half-cylindrical strips of pine bark, and thatched
with the same material, it had a certain picturesque rusticity. But this
was an accident of economy rather than taste, for which Flip apologized
by saying that the bark of the pine was "no good" for charcoal.
"I reckon Dad's in the woods," she added, pausing before the open door
of the cabin. "Oh, Dad!" Her voice, clear and high, seemed to fill the
whole long canyon, and echoed from the green plateau above. The
monotonous strokes of an axe were suddenly pretermitted, and somewhere
from the depths of the close-set pines a voice answered "Flip." There was
a pause of a few moments, with some muttering, stumbling, and crackling
in the underbrush, and then the sudden appearance of "Dad."
Had Lance first met him in the thicket, he would have been puzzled to
assign his race to Mongolian, Indian, or Ethiopian origin. Perfunctory
but incomplete washings of his hands and face, after charcoal burning,
had gradually ground into his skin a grayish slate-pencil pallor,
grotesquely relieved at the edges, where the washing had left off, with a
border of a darker color. He looked like an overworked Christy minstrel
with the briefest of intervals between his performances. There were black
rims in the orbits of his eyes, as if he gazed feebly out of unglazed
spectacles, which heightened his simian resemblance, already grotesquely
exaggerated by what appeared to be repeated and spasmodic experiments in
dyeing his gray hair. Without the slightest notice of Lance, he inflicted
his protesting and querulous presence entirely on his daughter.
"Well, what's up now? Yer ye are calling me from work an hour before
noon. Dog my skin, ef I ever get fairly limbered up afore it's 'Dad!' and
To Lance's intense satisfaction the girl received this harangue with
an air of supreme indifference, and when "Dad" had relapsed into an
unintelligible, and, as it seemed to Lance, a half- frightened muttering,
she said coolly,—
"Ye'd better drop that axe and scoot round getten' this stranger some
breakfast and some grub to take with him. He's one of them San Francisco
sports out here trout fishing in the branch. He's got adrift from his
party, has lost his rod and fixins, and had to camp out last night in the
Gin and Ginger Woods."
"That's just it; it's allers suthin like that," screamed the old man,
dashing his fist on his leg in a feeble, impotent passion, but without
looking at Lance. "Why in blazes don't he go up to that there blamed
hotel on the summit? Why in thunder—" But here he caught his
daughter's large, freckled eyes full in his own. He blinked feebly, his
voice fell into a tone of whining entreaty. "Now, look yer, Flip, it's
playing it rather low down on the old man, this yer running' in o' tramps
and desarted emigrants and cast-ashore sailors and forlorn widders and
ravin' lunatics, on this yer ranch. I put it to you, Mister," he said
abruptly, turning to Lance for the first time, but as if he had already
taken an active part in the conversation,—"I put it as a gentleman
yourself, and a fair-minded sportin' man, if this is the square
Before Lance could reply, Flip had already begun. "That's just it!
D'ye reckon, being a sportin' man and an A 1 feller, he's goin' to waltz
down inter that hotel, rigged out ez he is? D'ye reckon he's goin' to let
his partners get the laugh outer him? D'ye reckon he's goin' to show his
head outer this yer ranch till he can do it square? Not much! Go 'long.
Dad, you're talking silly!"
The old man weakened. He feebly trailed his axe between his legs to a
stump and sat down, wiping his forehead with his sleeve, and imparting to
it the appearance of a slate with a difficult sum partly rubbed out. He
looked despairingly at Lance. "In course," he said, with a deep sigh,
"you naturally ain't got any money. In course you left your pocketbook,
containing fifty dollars, under a stone, and can't find it. In course,"
he continued, as he observed Lance put his hand to his pocket, "you've
only got a blank check on Wells, Fargo Co. for a hundred dollars, and
you'd like me to give you the difference?"
Amused as Lance evidently was at this, his absolute admiration for
Flip absorbed everything else. With his eyes fixed upon the girl, he
briefly assured the old man that he would pay for everything he wanted.
He did this with a manner quite different from the careless, easy
attitude he had assumed toward Flip; at least the quick-witted girl
noticed it, and wondered if he was angry. It was quite true that ever
since his eye had fallen upon another of his own sex, its glance had been
less frank and careless. Certain traits of possible impatience, which
might develop into man- slaying, were coming to the fore. Yet a word or a
gesture of Flip's was sufficient to change that manner, and when, with
the fretful assistance of her father, she had prepared a somewhat sketchy
and primitive repast, he questioned the old man about diamond-making. The
eye of Dad kindled.
"I want ter know how ye knew I was making diamonds," he asked, with a
certain bashful pettishness not unlike his daughter's.
"Heard it in 'Frisco," replied Lance, with glib mendacity, glancing at
"I reckon they're gettin' sort of skeert down there—them
jewelers," chuckled Dad, "yet it's in nater that their figgers will have
to come down. It's only a question of the price of charcoal. I suppose
they didn't tell you how I made the discovery?"
Lance would have stopped the old man's narrative by saying that he
knew the story, but he wished to see how far Flip lent herself to her
"Ye see, one night about two years ago I had a pit o' charcoal burning
out there, and tho' it had been a smouldering and a smoking and a blazing
for nigh unto a month, somehow it didn't charcoal worth a cent. And yet,
dog my skin, but the heat o' that er pit was suthin hidyus and frightful;
ye couldn't stand within a hundred yards of it, and they could feel it on
the stage road three miles over yon, t'other side the mountain. There was
nights when me and Flip had to take our blankets up the ravine and camp
out all night, and the back of this yer hut shriveled up like that bacon.
It was about as nigh on to hell as any sample ye kin get here. Now, mebbe
you think I built that air fire? Mebbe you'll allow the heat was just the
nat'ral burning of that pit?"
"Certainly," said Lance, trying to see Flip's eyes, which were
"Thet's whar you'd be lyin'! That yar heat kem out of the bowels of
the yearth,—kem up like out of a chimbley or a blast, and kep up
that yar fire. And when she cools down a month after, and I got to strip
her, there was a hole in the yearth, and a spring o' bilin', scaldin'
water pourin' out of it ez big as your waist. And right in the middle of
it was this yer." He rose with the instinct of a skillful raconteur, and
whisked from under his bunk a chamois leather bag, which he emptied on
the table before them. It contained a small fragment of native rock
crystal, half-fused upon a petrified bit of pine. It was so glaringly
truthful, so really what it purported to be, that the most unscientific
woodman or pioneer would have understood it at a glance. Lance raised his
mirthful eyes to Flip.
"It was cooled suddint,—stunted by the water," said the girl,
eagerly. She stopped, and as abruptly turned away her eyes and her
"That's it, that's just it," continued the old man. "Thar's Flip,
thar, knows it; she ain't no fool!" Lance did not speak, but turned a
hard, unsympathizing look upon the old man, and rose almost roughly. The
old man clutched his coat. "That's it, ye see. The carbon's just turning
to di'mens. And stunted. And why? 'Cos the heat wasn't kep up long
enough. Mebbe yer think I stopped thar? That ain't me. Thar's a pit out
yar in the woods ez hez been burning six months; it hain't, in course,
got the advantages o' the old one, for it's nat'ral heat. But I'm keeping
that heat up. I've got a hole where I kin watch it every four hours. When
the time comes, I'm thar! Don't you see? That's me! that's David
Fairley,—that's the old man,—you bet!"
"That's so," said Lance, curtly. "And now, Mr. Fairley, if you'll hand
me over a coat or a jacket till I can get past these fogs on the Monterey
road, I won't keep you from your diamond pit." He threw down a handful of
silver on the table.
"Ther's a deerskin jacket yer," said the old man, "that one o' them
vaqueros left for the price of a bottle of whiskey."
"I reckon it wouldn't suit the stranger," said Flip, dubiously
producing a much-worn, slashed, and braided vaquero's jacket. But it did
suit Lance, who found it warm, and also had suddenly found a certain
satisfaction in opposing Flip. When he had put it on, and nodded coldly
to the old man, and carelessly to Flip, he walked to the door.
"If you're going to take the Monterey road, I can show you a short cut
to it," said Flip, with a certain kind of shy civility.
The paternal Fairley groaned. "That's it; let the chickens and the
ranch go to thunder, as long as there's a stranger to trapse round with;
Lance would have made some savage reply, but Flip interrupted. "You
know yourself, Dad, it's a blind trail, and as that 'ere constable that
kem out here hunting French Pete, couldn't find it, and had to go round
by the canyon, like ez not the stranger would lose his way, and have to
come back!" This dangerous prospect silenced the old man, and Flip and
Lance stepped into the road together. They walked on for some moments
without speaking. Suddenly Lance turned upon his companion.
"You didn't swallow all that rot about the diamond, did you?" he
Flip ran a little ahead, as if to avoid a reply.
"You don't mean to say that's the sort of hog wash the old man serves
out to you regularly?" continued Lance, becoming more slangy in his ill
"I don't know that it's any consarn o' yours what I think," replied
Flip, hopping from boulder to boulder, as they crossed the bed of a dry
"And I suppose you've piloted round and dry-nussed every tramp and
dead beat you've met since you came here," continued Lance, with
unmistakable ill humor. "How many have you helped over this road?"
"It's a year since there was a Chinaman chased by some Irishmen from
the Crossing into the brush about yer, and he was too afeered to come
out, and nigh most starved to death in thar. I had to drag him out and
start him on the mountain, for you couldn't get him back to the road. He
was the last one but YOU."
"Do you reckon it's the right thing for a girl like you to run about
with trash of this kind, and mix herself up with all sorts of rough and
bad company?" said Lance.
Flip stopped short. "Look! if you're goin' to talk like Dad, I'll go
The ridiculousness of such a resemblance struck him more keenly than a
consciousness of his own ingratitude. He hastened to assure Flip that he
was joking. When he had made his peace they fell into talk again, Lance
becoming unselfish enough to inquire into one or two facts concerning her
life which did not immediately affect him. Her mother had died on the
plains when she was a baby, and her brother had run away from home at
twelve. She fully expected to see him again, and thought he might
sometime stray into their canyon. "That is why, then, you take so much
stock in tramps," said Lance. "You expect to recognize HIM?"
"Well," replied Flip, gravely, "there is suthing in THAT, and there's
suthing in THIS: some o' these chaps might run across brother and do him
a good turn for the sake of me."
"Like me, for instance?" suggested Lance.
"Like you. You'd do him a good turn, wouldn't you?"
"You bet!" said Lance, with a sudden emotion that quite startled him;
"only don't you go to throwing yourself round promiscuously." He was
half-conscious of an irritating sense of jealousy, as he asked if any of
her proteges had ever returned.
"No," said Flip, "no one ever did. It shows," she added with sublime
simplicity, "I had done 'em good, and they could get on alone. Don't
"It does," responded Lance grimly. "Have you any other friends that
"Only the Postmaster at the Crossing."
"Yes; he's reckonin' to marry me next year, if I'm big enough."
"And what do you reckon?" asked Lance earnestly.
Flip began a series of distortions with her shoulders, ran on ahead,
picked up a few pebbles and threw them into the wood, glanced back at
Lance with swimming mottled eyes, that seemed a piquant incarnation of
everything suggestive and tantalizing, and said,
They had by this time reached the spot where they were to separate.
"Look," said Flip, pointing to a faint deflection of their path, which
seemed, however, to lose itself in the underbrush a dozen yards away,
"ther's your trail. It gets plainer and broader the further you get on,
but you must use your eyes here, and get to know it well afore you get
into the fog. Good-by."
"Good-by." Lance took her hand and drew her beside him. She was still
redolent of the spices of the thicket, and to the young man's excited
fancy seemed at that moment to personify the perfume and intoxication of
her native woods. Half laughingly, half earnestly, he tried to kiss her;
she struggled for some time strongly, but at the last moment yielded,
with a slight return and the exchange of a subtle fire that thrilled him,
and left him standing confused and astounded as she ran away. He watched
her lithe, nymph-like figure disappear in the checkered shadows of the
wood, and then he turned briskly down the half-hidden trail. His eyesight
was keen, he made good progress, and was soon well on his way toward the
But Flip's return had not been as rapid. When she reached the wood she
crept to its beetling verge, and, looking across the canyon, watched
Lance's figure as it vanished and reappeared in the shadows and
sinuosities of the ascent. When he reached the ridge the outlying fog
crept across the summit, caught him in its embrace, and wrapped him from
her gaze. Flip sighed, raised herself, put her alternate foot on a stump,
and took a long pull at her too- brief stockings. When she had pulled
down her skirt and endeavored once more to renew the intimacy that had
existed in previous years between the edge of her petticoat and the top
of her stockings, she sighed again, and went home.
For six months the sea fogs monotonously came and went along the
Monterey coast; for six months they beleaguered the Coast Range with
afternoon sorties of white hosts that regularly swept over the mountain
crest, and were as regularly beaten back again by the leveled lances of
the morning sun. For six months that white veil which had once hidden
Lance Harriott in its folds returned without him. For that amiable outlaw
no longer needed disguise or hiding- place. The swift wave of pursuit
that had dashed him on the summit had fallen back, and the next day was
broken and scattered. Before the week had passed, a regular judicial
inquiry relieved his crime of premeditation, and showed it to be a rude
duel of two armed and equally desperate men. From a secure vantage in a
seacoast town Lance challenged a trial by his peers, and, as an already
prejudged man escaping from his executioners, obtained a change of venue.
Regular justice, seated by the calm Pacific, found the action of an
interior, irregular jury rash and hasty. Lance was liberated on bail.
The Postmaster at Fisher's Crossing had just received the weekly mail
and express from San Francisco, and was engaged in examining it. It
consisted of five letters and two parcels. Of these, three of the letters
and the two parcels were directed to Flip. It was not the first time
during the last six months that this extraordinary event had occurred,
and the curiosity of the Crossing was duly excited. As Flip had never
called personally for the letters or parcels, but had sent one of her
wild, irregular scouts or henchmen to bring them, and as she was seldom
seen at the Crossing or on the stage road, that curiosity was never
satisfied. The disappointment to the Postmaster—a man past the
middle age—partook of a sentimental nature. He looked at the
letters and parcels; he looked at his watch; it was yet early, he could
return by noon. He again examined the addresses; they were in the same
handwriting as the previous letters. His mind was made up, he would
deliver them himself. The poetic, soulful side of his mission was
delicately indicated by a pale blue necktie, a clean shirt, and a small
package of gingernuts, of which Flip was extravagantly fond.
The common road to Fairley's Ranch was by the stage turnpike to a
point below the Gin and Ginger Woods, where the prudent horseman usually
left his beast and followed the intersecting trail afoot. It was here
that the Postmaster suddenly observed on the edge of the wood the figure
of an elegantly-dressed woman; she was walking slowly, and apparently at
her ease; one hand held her skirts lightly gathered between her gloved
fingers, the other slowly swung a riding whip. Was it a picnic of some
people from Monterey or Santa Cruz? The spectacle was novel enough to
justify his coming nearer. Suddenly she withdrew into the wood; he lost
sight of her; she was gone. He remembered, however, that Flip was still
to be seen, and as the steep trail was beginning to tax all his energies,
he was fain to hurry forward. The sun was nearly vertical when he turned
into the canyon, and saw the bark roof of the cabin beyond. At almost the
same moment Flip appeared, flushed and panting, in the road before
"You've got something for me," she said, pointing to the parcel and
letters. Completely taken by surprise, the Postmaster mechanically
yielded them up, and as instantly regretted it. "They're paid for,"
continued Flip, observing his hesitation.
"That's so," stammered the official of the Crossing, seeing his last
chance of knowing the contents of the parcel vanish; "but I thought ez
it's a valooable package, maybe ye might want to examine it to see that
it was all right afore ye receipted for it."
"I'll risk it," said Flip, coolly, "and if it ain't right I'll let ye
As the girl seemed inclined to retire with her property, the
Postmaster was driven to other conversation. "We ain't had the pleasure
of seeing you down at the Crossing for a month o' Sundays," he began,
with airy yet pronounced gallantry. "Some folks let on you was keepin'
company with some feller like Bijah Brown, and you were getting a little
too set up for the Crossing." The individual here mentioned being the
county butcher, and supposed to exhibit his hopeless affection for Flip
by making a long and useless divergence from his weekly route to enter
the canyon for "orders," Flip did not deem it necessary to reply. "Then I
allowed how ez you might have company," he continued; "I reckon there's
some city folks up at the summit. I saw a mighty smart, fash'n'ble gal
cavorting round. Had no end o' style and fancy fixin's. That's my kind, I
tell you. I just weaken on that sort o' gal," he continued, in the firm
belief that he had awakened Flip's jealousy, as he glanced at her
well-worn homespun frock, and found her eyes suddenly fixed on his
"Strange I ain't got to see her yet," she replied coolly, shouldering
her parcel, and quite ignoring any sense of obligation to him for his
"But you might get to see her at the edge of the Gin and Ginger
Woods," he persisted feebly, in a last effort to detain her; "if you'll
take a pasear there with me." Flip's only response was to walk on toward
the cabin, whence, with a vague complimentary suggestion of "droppin' in
to pass the time o' day" with her father, the Postmaster meekly
The paternal Fairley, once convinced that his daughter's new companion
required no pecuniary or material assistance from his hands, relaxed to
the extent of entering into a querulous confidence with him, during which
Flip took the opportunity of slipping away. As Fairley had that
infelicitous tendency of most weak natures, to unconsciously exaggerate
unimportant details in their talk, the Postmaster presently became
convinced that the butcher was a constant and assiduous suitor of Flip's.
The absurdity of his sending parcels and letters by post when he might
bring them himself did not strike the official. On the contrary, he
believed it to be a master stroke of cunning. Fired by jealousy and
Flip's indifference, he "deemed it his duty"—using that facile form
of cowardly offensiveness—to betray Flip.
Of which she was happily oblivious. Once away from the cabin, she
plunged into the woods, with the parcel swung behind her like a knapsack.
Leaving the trail, she presently struck off in a straight line through
cover and underbrush with the unerring instinct of an animal, climbing
hand over hand the steepest ascent, or fluttering like a bird from branch
to branch down the deepest declivity. She soon reached that part of the
trail where the susceptible Postmaster had seen the fascinating unknown.
Assuring herself she was not followed, she crept through the thicket
until she reached a little waterfall and basin that had served the
fugitive Lance for a bath. The spot bore signs of later and more frequent
occupancy, and when Flip carefully removed some bark and brushwood from a
cavity in the rock and drew forth various folded garments, it was evident
she had used it as a sylvan dressing-room. Here she opened the parcel; it
contained a small and delicate shawl of yellow China crepe. Flip
instantly threw it over her shoulders and stepped hurriedly toward the
edge of the wood. Then she began to pass backward and forward before the
trunk of a tree. At first nothing was visible on the tree, but a closer
inspection showed a large pane of ordinary window glass stuck in the fork
of the branches. It was placed at such a cunning angle against the
darkness of the forest opening that it made a soft and mysterious mirror,
not unlike a Claude Lorraine glass, wherein not only the passing figure
of the young girl was seen, but the dazzling green and gold of the
hillside, and the far-off silhouetted crests of the Coast Range.
But this was evidently only a prelude to a severer rehearsal. When she
returned to the waterfall she unearthed from her stores a large piece of
yellow soap and some yards of rough cotton "sheeting." These she
deposited beside the basin and again crept to the edge of the wood to
assure herself that she was alone. Satisfied that no intruding foot had
invaded that virgin bower, she returned to her bath and began to undress.
A slight wind followed her, and seemed to whisper to the circumjacent
trees. It appeared to waken her sister naiads and nymphs, who, joining
their leafy fingers, softly drew around her a gently moving band of
trembling lights and shadows, of flecked sprays and inextricably mingled
branches, and involved her in a chaste sylvan obscurity, veiled alike
from pursuing god or stumbling shepherd. Within these hallowed precincts
was the musical ripple of laughter and falling water, and at times the
glimpse of a lithe brier-caught limb, or a ray of sunlight trembling over
bright flanks, or the white austere outline of a childish bosom.
When she drew again the leafy curtain, and once more stepped out of
the wood, she was completely transformed. It was the figure that had
appeared to the Postmaster; the slight, erect, graceful form of a young
woman modishly attired. It was Flip, but Flip made taller by the
lengthened skirt and clinging habiliments of fashion. Flip freckled, but,
through the cunning of a relief of yellow color in her gown, her piquant
brown-shot face and eyes brightened and intensified until she seemed like
a spicy odor made visible. I cannot affirm that the judgment of Flip's
mysterious modiste was infallible, or that the taste of Mr. Lance
Harriott, her patron, was fastidious; enough that it was picturesque, and
perhaps not more glaring and extravagant than the color in which Spring
herself had once clothed the sere hillside where Flip was now seated. The
phantom mirror in the tree fork caught and held her with the sky, the
green leaves, the sunlight and all the graciousness of her surroundings,
and the wind gently tossed her hair and the gay ribbons of her gypsy hat.
Suddenly she started. Some remote sound in the trail below, inaudible to
any ear less fine than hers, arrested her breathing. She rose swiftly and
darted into cover.
Ten minutes passed. The sun was declining; the white fog was beginning
to creep over the Coast Range. From the edge of the wood Cinderella
appeared, disenchanted, and in her homespun garments. The clock had
struck—the spell was past. As she disappeared down the trail even
the magic mirror, moved by the wind, slipped from the tree top to the
ground, and became a piece of common glass.
The events of the day had produced a remarkable impression on the
facial aspect of the charcoal-burning Fairley. Extraordinary processes of
thought, indicated by repeated rubbing of his forehead, had produced a
high light in the middle and a corresponding deepening of shadow at the
sides, until it bore the appearance of a perfect sphere. It was this
forehead that confronted Flip reproachfully as became a deceived comrade,
menacingly as became an outraged parent in the presence of a third party
"Fine doin's this, yer receivin' clandecent bundles and letters, eh?"
he began. Flip sent one swift, withering look of contempt at the
Postmaster, who at once becoming invertebrate and groveling, mumbled that
he must "get on" to the Crossing, and rose to go. But the old man, who
had counted on his presence for moral support, and was clearly beginning
to hate him for precipitating this scene with his daughter, whom he
feared, violently protested.
"Sit down, can't ye? Don't you see you're a witness?" he screamed
It was a fatal suggestion. "Witness," repeated Flip, scornfully.
"Yes, a witness! He gave ye letters and bundles."
"Weren't they directed to me?" asked Flip.
"Yes," said the Postmaster, hesitatingly; "in course, yes."
"Do YOU lay claim to them?" she said, turning to her father.
"No," responded the old man.
"Do you?" sharply, to the Postmaster.
"No," he replied.
"Then," said Flip, coolly, "if you're not claimin' 'em for yourself,
and you hear father say they ain't his, I reckon the less you have to say
about 'em the better."
"Thar's suthin' in that," said the old man, shamelessly abandoning the
"Then why don't she say who sent 'em, and what they are like," said
the Postmaster, "if there's nothin' in it?"
"Yes," echoed Dad. "Flip, why don't you?"
Without answering the direct question, Flip turned upon her
"Maybe you forget how you used to row and tear round here because
tramps and such like came to the ranch for suthin', and I gave it to 'em?
Maybe you'll quit tearin' round and letting yourself be made a fool of
now by that man, just because one of those tramps gets up and sends us
some presents back in turn?"
"'Twasn't me, Flip," said the old man, deprecatingly, but glaring at
the astonished Postmaster. "Twasn't my doin'. I allus said if you cast
your bread on the waters it would come back to you by return mail. The
fact is, the Gov'ment is gettin' too high-handed! Some o' these bloated
officials had better climb down before next leckshen."
"Maybe," continued Flip to her father, without looking at her
discomfited visitor, "ye'd better find out whether one of those officials
comes up to this yer ranch to steal away a gal about my own size, or to
get points about diamond-making. I reckon he don't travel round to find
out who writes all the letters that go through the Post Office."
The Postmaster had seemingly miscalculated the old man's infirm temper
and the daughter's skillful use of it. He was unprepared for Flip's
boldness and audacity, and when he saw that both barrels of the
accusation had taken effect on the charcoal burner, who was rising with
epileptic rage, he fairly turned and fled. The old man would have
followed him with objurgation beyond the door, but for the restraining
hand of Flip.
Baffled and beaten, nevertheless Fate was not wholly unkind to the
retreating suitor. Near the Gin and Ginger Woods he picked up a letter
which had fallen from Flip's pocket. He recognized the writing, and did
not scruple to read it. It was not a love epistle,—at least, not
such a one as he would have written,—it did not give the address
nor the name of the correspondent; but he read the following with greedy
"Perhaps it's just as well that you don't rig yourself out for the
benefit of those dead beats at the Crossing, or any tramp that might hang
round the ranch. Keep all your style for me when I come. I can't tell you
when, it's mighty uncertain before the rainy season. But I'm coming soon.
Don't go back on your promise about lettin up on the tramps, and being a
little more high-toned. And don't you give 'em so much. It's true I sent
you hats TWICE. I clean forgot all about the first; but I wouldn't have
given a ten-dollar hat to a nigger woman who had a sick baby because I
had an extra hat. I'd have let that baby slide. I forgot to ask whether
the skirt is worn separately; I must see the dressmaking sharp about it;
but I think you'll want something on besides a jacket and skirt; at
least, it looks like it up here. I don't think you could manage a piano
down there without the old man knowing it, and raisin' the devil
generally. I promised you I'd let up on him. Mind you keep all your
promises to me. I'm glad you're gettin' on with the six-shooter; tin cans
are good at fifteen yards, but try it on suthin' that MOVES! I forgot to
say that I am on the track of your big brother. It's a three years' old
track, and he was in Arizona. The friend who told me didn't expatiate
much on what he did there, but I reckon they had a high old time. If he's
above the earth I'll find him, you bet. The yerba buena and the southern
wood came all right,—they smelt like you. Say, Flip, do you
remember the last—the VERY last—thing that happened when you
said 'Good-by' on the trail? Don't let me ever find out that you've let
anybody else kiss—"
But here the virtuous indignation of the Postmaster found vent in an
oath. He threw the letter away. He retained of it only two
facts,—Flip HAD a brother who was missing; she had a lover present
in the flesh.
How much of the substance of this and previous letters Flip had
confided to her father I cannot say. If she suppressed anything it was
probably that which affected Lance's secret alone, and it was doubtful
how much of that she herself knew. In her own affairs she was frank
without being communicative, and never lost her shy obstinacy even with
her father. Governing the old man as completely as she did, she appeared
most embarrassed when she was most dominant; she had her own way without
lifting her voice or her eyes; she seemed oppressed by mauvaise honte
when she was most triumphant; she would end a discussion with a shy
murmur addressed to herself, or a single gesture of
The disclosure of her strange relations with an unknown man and the
exchange of presents and confidences seemed to suddenly awake Fairley to
a vague, uneasy sense of some unfulfilled duties as a parent. The first
effect of this on his weak nature was a peevish antagonism to the cause
of it. He had long, fretful monologues on the vanity of diamond-making,
if accompanied with a "pestering" by "interlopers;" on the wickedness of
concealment and conspiracy, and their effects on charcoal-burning; on the
nurturing of spies and "adders" in the family circle, and on the
seditiousness of dark and mysterious councils in which a gray-haired
father was left out. It was true that a word or look from Flip generally
brought these monologues to an inglorious and abrupt termination, but
they were none the less lugubrious as long as they lasted. In time they
were succeeded by an affectation of contrite apology and self-
depreciation. "Don't go out o' the way to ask the old man," he would say,
referring to the quantity of bacon to be ordered; "it's nat'ral a young
gal should have her own advisers." The state of the flour barrel would
also produce a like self-abasement. "Unless ye're already in
correspondence about more flour, ye might take the opinion o' the first
tramp ye meet ez to whether Santa Cruz Mills is a good brand, but don't
ask the old man." If Flip was in conversation with the butcher, Fairley
would obtrusively retire with the hope "he wasn't intrudin' on their
These phases of her father's weakness were not frequent enough to
excite her alarm, but she could not help noticing they were accompanied
with a seriousness unusual to him. He began to be tremulously watchful of
her, returning often from work at an earlier hour, and lingering by the
cabin in the morning. He brought absurd and useless presents for her, and
presented them with a nervous anxiety, poorly concealed by an assumption
of careless, paternal generosity. "Suthin' I picked up at the Crossin'
for ye to-day," he would say, airily, and retire to watch the effect of a
pair of shoes two sizes too large, or a fur cap in September. He would
have hired a cheap parlor organ for her, but for the apparently
unexpected revelation that she couldn't play. He had received the news of
a clue to his long-lost son without emotion, but lately he seemed to look
upon it as a foregone conclusion, and one that necessarily solved the
question of companionship for Flip. "In course, when you've got your own
flesh and blood with ye, ye can't go foolin' around with strangers."
These autumnal blossoms of affection, I fear, came too late for any
effect upon Flip, precociously matured by her father's indifference and
selfishness. But she was good humored, and, seeing him seriously
concerned, gave him more of her time, even visited him in the sacred
seclusion of the "diamond pit," and listened with far- off eyes to his
fitful indictment of all things outside his grimy laboratory. Much of
this patient indifference came with a capricious change in her own
habits; she no longer indulged in the rehearsal of dress, she packed away
her most treasured garments, and her leafy boudoir knew her no more. She
sometimes walked on the hillside, and often followed the trail she had
taken with Lance when she led him to the ranch. She once or twice
extended her walk to the spot where she had parted from him, and as often
came shyly away, her eyes downcast and her face warm with color. Perhaps
because these experiences and some mysterious instinct of maturing
womanhood had left a story in her eyes, which her two adorers, the
Postmaster and the Butcher, read with passion, she became famous without
knowing it. Extravagant stories of her fascinations brought strangers
into the valley. The effect upon her father may be imagined. Lance could
not have desired a more effective guardian than he proved to be in this
emergency. Those who had been told of this hidden pearl were surprised to
find it so jealously protected.
The long, parched summer had drawn to its dusty close. Much of it was
already blown abroad and dissipated on trail and turnpike, or crackled in
harsh, unelastic fibres on hillside and meadow. Some of it had
disappeared in the palpable smoke by day and fiery crests by night of
burning forests. The besieging fogs on the Coast Range daily thinned
their hosts, and at last vanished. The wind changed from northwest to
southwest. The salt breath of the sea was on the summit. And then one day
the staring, unchanged sky was faintly touched with remote mysterious
clouds, and grew tremulous in expression. The next morning dawned upon a
newer face in the heavens, on changed woods, on altered outlines, on
vanished crests, on forgotten distances. It was raining!
Four weeks of this change, with broken spaces of sunlight and intense
blue aerial islands, and then a storm set in. All day the summit pines
and redwoods rocked in the blast. At times the onset of the rain seemed
to be held back by the fury of the gale, or was visibly seen in sharp
waves on the hillside. Unknown and concealed watercourses suddenly
overflowed the trails, pools became lakes and brooks rivers. Hidden from
the storm, the sylvan silence of sheltered valleys was broken by the
impetuous rush of waters; even the tiny streamlet that traversed Flip's
retreat in the Gin and Ginger Woods became a cascade.
The storm drove Fairley from his couch early. The falling of a large
tree across the trail, and the sudden overflow of a small stream beside
it, hastened his steps. But he was doomed to encounter what was to him a
more disagreeable object—a human figure. By the bedraggled drapery
that flapped and fluttered in the wind, by the long, unkempt hair that
hid the face and eyes, and by the grotesquely misplaced bonnet, the old
man recognized one of his old trespassers,—an Indian squaw.
"Clear out 'er that! Come, make tracks, will ye?" the old man
screamed; but here the wind stopped his voice, and drove him against a
"Me heap sick," answered the squaw, shivering through her muddy
"I'll make ye a heap sicker if ye don't vamose the ranch," continued
"Me wantee Wangee girl. Wangee girl give me heap grub," said the
squaw, without moving.
"You bet your life," groaned the old man to himself. Nevertheless an
idea struck him. "Ye ain't brought no presents, hev ye?" he asked
cautiously. "Ye ain't got no pooty things for poor Wangee girl?" he
"Me got heap cache nuts and berries," said the squaw.
"Oh, in course! in course! That's just it," screamed Fairley; "you've
got 'em cached only two mile from yer, and you'll go and get 'em for a
half dollar, cash down."
"Me bring Wangee girl to cache," replied the Indian, pointing to the
wood. "Honest Injin."
Another bright idea struck Mr. Fairley. But it required some
elaboration. Hurrying the squaw with him through the pelting rain, he
reached the shelter of the corral. Vainly the shivering aborigine drew
her tightly bandaged papoose closer to her square, flat breast, and
looked longingly toward the cabin; the old man backed her against the
palisade. Here he cautiously imparted his dark intentions to employ her
to keep watch and ward over the ranch, and especially over its young
mistress—"clear out all the tramps 'ceptin' yourself, and I'll keep
ye in grub and rum." Many and deliberate repetitions of this offer in
various forms at last seemed to affect the squaw; she nodded violently,
and echoed the last word "rum." "Now," she added. The old man hesitated;
she was in possession of his secret; he groaned, and, promising an
immediate installment of liquor, led her to the cabin.
The door was so securely fastened against the impact of the storm that
some moments elapsed before the bar was drawn, and the old man had become
impatient and profane. When it was partly opened by Flip he hastily
slipped in, dragging the squaw after him, and cast one single suspicious
glance around the rude apartment which served as a sitting-room. Flip had
apparently been writing. A small inkstand was still on the board table,
but her paper had evidently been concealed before she allowed them to
enter. The squaw instantly squatted before the adobe hearth, warmed her
bundled baby, and left the ceremony of introduction to her companion.
Flip regarded the two with calm preoccupation and indifference. The only
thing that touched her interest was the old squaw's draggled skirt and
limp neckerchief. They were Flip's own, long since abandoned and cast off
in the Gin and Ginger Woods. "Secrets again," whined Fairley, still eying
Flip furtively. "Secrets again, in course—in course—jiss so.
Secrets that must be kep from the ole man. Dark doin's by one's own flesh
and blood. Go on! go on! Don't mind me." Flip did not reply. She had even
lost the interest in her old dress. Perhaps it had only touched some note
in unison with her revery.
"Can't ye get the poor critter some whiskey?" he queried, fretfully.
"Ye used to be peart enuff before." As Flip turned to the corner to lift
the demijohn, Fairley took occasion to kick the squaw with his foot, and
indicate by extravagant pantomime that the bargain was not to be alluded
to before the girl. Flip poured out some whiskey in a tin cup, and,
approaching the squaw, handed it to her. "It's like ez not," continued
Fairley to his daughter, but looking at the squaw, "that she'll be
huntin' the woods off and on, and kinder looking after the last pit near
the Madronos; ye'll give her grub and licker ez she likes. Well, d'ye
hear, Flip? Are ye moonin' agin with yer secrets? What's gone with
If the child were dreaming, it was a delicious dream. Her magnetic
eyes were suffused by a strange light, as though the eye itself had
blushed; her full pulse showed itself more in the rounding outline of her
cheek than in any deepening of color; indeed, if there was any
heightening of tint, it was in her freckles, which fairly glistened like
tiny spangles. Her eyes were downcast, her shoulders slightly bent, but
her voice was low and clear and thoughtful as ever.
"One o' the big pines above the Madrono pit has blown over into the
run," she said. "It's choked up the water, and it's risin' fast. Like ez
not it's pourin' over into the pit by this time."
The old man rose with a fretful cry. "And why in blames didn't you say
so first?" he screamed, catching up his axe and rushing to the door.
"Ye didn't give me a chance," said Flip, raising her eyes for the
first time. With an impatient imprecation, Fairley darted by her and
rushed into the wood. In an instant she had shut the door and bolted it.
In the same instant the squaw arose, dashed the long hair not only from
her eyes, but from her head, tore away her shawl and blanket, and
revealed the square shoulders of Lance Harriott! Flip remained leaning
against the door; but the young man in rising dropped the bandaged
papoose, which rolled from his lap into the fire. Flip, with a cry,
sprang toward it; but Lance caught her by the waist with one arm, as with
the other he dragged the bundle from the flames.
"Don't be alarmed," he said, gayly, "it's only—"
"What?" said Flip, trying to disengage herself.
"My coat and trousers."
Flip laughed, which encouraged Lance to another attempt to kiss her.
She evaded it by diving her head into his waistcoat, and saying, "There's
"But he's gone to clear away that tree?" suggested Lance.
One of Flip's significant silences followed.
"Oh, I see," he laughed. "That was a plan to get him away! Ah!" She
had released herself.
"Why did you come like that?" she said, pointing to his wig and
"To see if you'd know me," he responded.
"No," said Flip, dropping her eyes. "It's to keep other people from
knowing you. You're hidin' agin."
"I am," returned Lance; "but," he interrupted, "it's only the same old
"But you wrote from Monterey that it was all over," she persisted.
"So it would have been," he said gloomily, "but for some dog down here
who is hunting up an old scent. I'll spot him yet, and—" He stopped
suddenly, with such utter abstraction of hatred in his fixed and
glittering eyes that she almost feared him. She laid her hand quite
unconsciously on his arm. He grasped it; his face changed.
"I couldn't wait any longer to see you, Flip, so I came here anyway,"
he went on. "I thought to hang round and get a chance to speak to you
first, when I fell afoul of the old man. He didn't know me, and tumbled
right in my little game. Why, do you believe he wants to hire me for my
grub and liquor, to act as a sort of sentry over you and the ranch?" And
here he related with great gusto the substance of his interview. "I
reckon as he's that suspicious," he concluded, "I'd better play it out
now as I've begun, only it's mighty hard I can't see you here before the
fire in your fancy toggery, Flip, but must dodge in and out of the wet
underbrush in these yer duds of yours that I picked up in the old place
in the Gin and Ginger Woods."
"Then you came here just to see me?" asked Flip.
"For only that?"
Flip dropped her eyes. Lance had got his other arm around her waist,
but her resisting little hand was still potent.
"Listen," she said at last without looking up, but apparently talking
to the intruding arm, "when Dad comes I'll get him to send you to watch
the diamond pit. It isn't far; it's warm, and"—
"I'll come, after a bit, and see you. Quit foolin' now. If you'd only
have come here like yourself—like—like—a white
"The old man," interrupted Lance, "would have just passed me on to the
summit. I couldn't have played the lost fisherman on him at this time of
"Ye could have been stopped at the Crossing by high water, you silly,"
said the girl. "It was." This grammatical obscurity referred to the stage
"Yes, but I might have been tracked to this cabin. And look here,
Flip," he said, suddenly straightening himself, and lifting the girl's
face to a level with his own, "I don't want you to lie any more for me.
It ain't right."
"All right. Ye needn't go to the pit, then, and I won't come."
"And here's Dad coming. Quick!"
Lance chose to put his own interpretation on this last adjuration. The
resisting little hand was now lying quite limp on his shoulder, He drew
her brown, bright face near his own, felt her spiced breath on his lips,
his cheeks, his hot eyelids, his swimming eyes, kissed her, hurriedly
replaced his wig and blanket, and dropped beside the fire with the
tremulous laugh of youth and innocent first passion. Flip had withdrawn
to the window, and was looking out upon the rocking pines.
"He don't seem to be coming," said Lance, with a half-shy laugh.
"No," responded Flip demurely, pressing her hot oval cheek against the
wet panes; "I reckon I was mistaken. You're sure," she added, looking
resolutely another way, but still trembling like a magnetic needle toward
Lance, as he moved slightly before the fire, "you're SURE you'd like me
to come to you?"
"Hush!" said Flip, as this reassuring query of reproachful
astonishment appeared about to be emphasized by a forward amatory dash of
Lance's; "hush! he's coming this time, sure."
It was, indeed, Fairley, exceedingly wet, exceedingly bedraggled,
exceedingly sponged out as to color, and exceedingly profane. It appeared
that there was, indeed, a tree that had fallen in the "run," but that,
far from diverting the overflow into the pit, it had established "back
water," which had forced another outlet. All this might have been
detected at once by any human intellect not distracted by correspondence
with strangers, and enfeebled by habitually scorning the intellect of its
own progenitor. This reckless selfishness had further only resulted in
giving "rheumatics" to that progenitor, who now required the external
administration of opodeldoc to his limbs, and the internal administration
of whiskey. Having thus spoken, Mr. Fairley, with great promptitude and
infantine simplicity, at once bared two legs of entirely different colors
and mutely waited for his daughter to rub them. If Flip did this all
unconsciously, and with the mechanical dexterity of previous habit, it
was because she did not quite understand the savage eyes and impatient
gestures of Lance in his encompassing wig and blanket, and because it
helped her to voice her thought.
"Ye'll never be able to take yer watch at the diamond pit to-night,
Dad," she said; "and I've been reck'nin' you might set the squaw there
instead. I can show her what to do."
But to Flip's momentary discomfiture, her father promptly objected.
"Mebbee I've got suthin' else for her to do. Mebbee I may have my
secrets, too—eh?" he said, with dark significance, at the same time
administering a significant nudge to Lance, which kept up the young man's
exasperation. "No, she'll rest yer a bit just now. I'll set her to
watchin' suthin' else, like as not, when I want her." Flip fell into one
of her suggestive silences. Lance watched her earnestly, mollified by a
single furtive glance from her significant eyes; the rain dashed against
the windows, and occasionally spattered and hissed in the hearth of the
broad chimney, and Mr. David Fairley, somewhat assuaged by the internal
administration of whiskey, grew more loquacious. The genius of
incongruity and inconsistency which generally ruled his conduct came out
with freshened vigor under the gentle stimulation of spirit. "On an
evening like this," he began, comfortably settling himself on the floor
beside the chimney, "ye might rig yerself out in them new duds and fancy
fixin's that that Sacramento shrimp sent ye, and let your own flesh and
blood see ye. If that's too much to do for your old dad, ye might do it
to please that digger squaw as a Christian act." Whether in the hidden
depths of the old man's consciousness there was a feeling of paternal
vanity in showing this wretched aborigine the value and importance of the
treasure she was about to guard, I cannot say. Flip darted an
interrogatory look at Lance, who nodded a quiet assent, and she flew into
the inner room. She did not linger on the details of her toilet, but
reappeared almost the next moment in her new finery; buttoning the neck
of her gown as she entered the room, and chastely stopping at the window
to characteristically pull up her stocking. The peculiarity of her
situation increased her usual shyness; she played with the black and gold
beads of a handsome necklace,— Lance's last gift,—as the
merest child might; her unbuckled shoe gave the squaw a natural
opportunity of showing her admiration and devotion by insisting upon
buckling it, and gave Lance, under that disguise, an opportunity of
covertly kissing the little foot and ankle in the shadow of the chimney;
an event which provoked slight hysterical symptoms in Flip, and caused
her to sit suddenly down in spite of the remonstrances of her parent. "Ef
you can't quit gigglin' and squirmin' like an Injin baby yourself, ye'd
better git rid o' them duds," he ejaculated with peevish scorn.
Yet, under this perfunctory rebuke, his weak vanity could not be
hidden, and he enjoyed the evident admiration of a creature whom he
believed to be half-witted and degraded all the more keenly because it
did not make him jealous. She could not take Flip from him. Rendered
garrulous by liquor, he went to voice his contempt for those who might
attempt it. Taking advantage of his daughter's absence to resume her
homely garments, he whispered confidentially to Lance,—
"Ye see these yer fine dresses, ye might think is presents. Pr'aps
Flip lets on they are? Pr'aps she don't know any better. But they ain't
presents. They're only samples o' dressmaking and jewelry that a vain,
conceited shrimp of a feller up in Sacramento sends down here to get
customers for. In course I'm to pay for 'em. In course he reckons I'm to
do it. In course I calkilate to do it; but he needn't try to play 'em off
as presents. He talks suthin' o' coming down here, sportin' hisself off
on Flip as a fancy buck! Not ez long ez the old man's here, you bet."
Thoroughly carried away by his fancied wrongs, it was perhaps fortunate
that he did not observe the flashing eyes of Lance behind his lank and
lustreless wig; but seeing only the figure of Lance, as he had conjured
him, he went on: "That's why I want you to hang around her. Hang around
her ontil my boy,—him that's comin' home on a visit,—gets
here, and I reckon he'll clear out that yar Sacramento counter-jumper.
Only let me get a sight o' him afore Flip does. eh? D'ye hear? Dog my
skin if I don't believe the d——d Injin's drunk." It was
fortunate that at that moment Flip reappeared, and, dropping on the
hearth between her father and the infuriated Lance, let her hand slip in
his with a warning pressure. The light touch momentarily recalled him to
himself and her, but not until the quick-witted girl had had revealed to
her in one startled wave of consciousness the full extent of Lance's
infirmity of temper. With the instinct of awakened tenderness came a
sense of responsibility, and a vague premonition of danger. The coy
blossom of her heart was scarce unfolded before it was chilled by
approaching shadows. Fearful of, she knew not what, she hesitated. Every
moment of Lance's stay was imperiled by a single word that might spring
from his suppressed white lips; beyond and above the suspicions his
sudden withdrawal might awaken in her father's breast, she was dimly
conscious of some mysterious terror without that awaited him. She
listened to the furious onslaught of the wind upon the sycamores beside
their cabin, and thought she heard it there; she listened to the sharp
fusillade of rain upon roof and pane, and the turbulent roar and rush of
leaping mountain torrents at their very feet, and fancied it was there.
She suddenly sprang to the window, and, pressing her eyes to the pane,
saw through the misty turmoil of tossing boughs and swaying branches the
scintillating intermittent flames of torches moving on the trail above,
and KNEW it was there!
In an instant she was collected and calm. "Dad," she said, in her
ordinary indifferent tone, "there's torches movin' up toward the diamond
pit. Likely it's tramps. I'll take the squaw and see." And before the old
man could stagger to his feet she had dragged Lance with her into the
The wind charged down upon them, slamming the door at their backs,
extinguishing the broad shaft of light that had momentarily shot out into
the darkness, and swept them a dozen yards away. Gaining the lee of a
madrono tree, Lance opened his blanketed arms, enfolded the girl, and
felt her for one brief moment tremble and nestle in his bosom like some
frightened animal. "Well," he said, gayly, "what next?" Flip recovered
herself. "You're safe now anywhere outside the house. But did you expect
them tonight?" Lance shrugged his shoulders. "Why not?" "Hush!" returned
the girl; "they're coming this way."
The four flickering, scattered lights presently dropped into line. The
trail had been found; they were coming nearer. Flip breathed quickly; the
spiced aroma of her presence filled the blanket as he drew her tightly
beside him. He had forgotten the storm that raged around them, the
mysterious foe that was approaching, until Flip caught his sleeve with a
slight laugh. "Why, it's Kennedy and Bijah?"
"Who's Kennedy and Bijah?" asked Lance, curtly.
"Kennedy's the Postmaster and Bijah's the Butcher."
"What do they want?" continued Lance.
"Me," said Flip, coyly.
"Yes; let's run away."
Half leading, half dragging her friend, Flip made her way with
unerring woodcraft down the ravine. The sound of voices and even the
tumult of the storm became fainter, an acrid smell of burning green wood
smarted Lance's lips and eyes; in the midst of the darkness beneath him
gradually a faint, gigantic nimbus like a lurid eye glowed and sank,
quivered and faded with the spent breath of the gale as it penetrated
their retreat. "The pit," whispered Flip; "it's safe on the other side,"
she added, cautiously skirting the orbit of the great eye, and leading
him to a sheltered nest of bark and sawdust. It was warm and odorous.
Nevertheless, they both deemed it necessary to enwrap themselves in the
single blanket. The eye beamed fitfully upon them, occasionally a wave of
lambent tremulousness passed across it; its weirdness was an excuse for
their drawing nearer each other in playful terror.
"What did the other two want? To see you, TOO?"
"Likely," said Flip, without the least trace of coquetry. "There's
been a lot of strangers yer, off and on."
"Perhaps you'd like to go back and see them?"
"Do you want me to?"
Lance's reply was a kiss. Nevertheless he was vaguely uneasy. "Looks a
little as if I were running away, don't it?" he suggested.
"No," said Flip; "they think you're only a squaw; it's me they're
after." Lance smarted a little at this infelicitous speech. A strange and
irritating sensation had been creeping over him—it was his first
experience of shame and remorse. "I reckon I'll go back and see," he
said, rising abruptly.
Flip was silent. She was thinking. Believing that the men were seeking
her only, she knew that their attention would be directed from her
companion when it was found out he was no longer with her, and she
dreaded to meet them in his irritable presence.
"Go," she said, "tell Dad something's gone wrong in the diamond pit,
and say I'm watching it for him here."
"I'll go there and wait for him. If he can't get rid of them, and they
follow him there, I'll come back here and meet you. Anyhow, I'll manage
to have Dad wait there a spell."
She took his hand and led him back by a different path to the trail.
He was surprised to find that the cabin, its window glowing from the
fire, was only a hundred yards away. "Go in the back way, by the shed.
Don't go in the room, nor near the light, if you can. Don't talk inside,
but call or beckon to Dad. Remember," she said, with a laugh, "you're
keeping watch of me for him. Pull your hair down on your eyes so." This
operation, like most feminine embellishments of the masculine toilet was
attended by a kiss, and Flip, stepping back into the shadow, vanished in
Lance's first movements were inconsistent with his assumed sex. He
picked up his draggled skirt, and drew a bowie knife from his boot. From
his bosom he took a revolver, turning the chambers noiselessly as he felt
the caps. He then crept toward the cabin softly and gained the shed. It
was quite dark but for a pencil of light piercing a crack of the rude,
ill-fitting door that opened on the sitting-room. A single voice not
unfamiliar to him, raised in half-brutal triumph, greeted his ears.
A name was mentioned—his own! His angry hand was on the latch.
One moment more and he would have burst the door, but in that instant
another name was uttered—a name that dropped his hand from the
latch and the blood from his cheeks. He staggered backward, passed his
hand swiftly across his forehead, recovered himself with a gesture of
mingled rage and despair, and, sinking on his knees beside the door,
pressed his hot temples against the crack.
"Do I know Lance Harriott?" said the voice. "Do I know the
d——d ruffian? Didn't I hunt him a year ago into the brush
three miles from the Crossing? Didn't we lose sight of him the very day
he turned up yer at this ranch, and got smuggled over into Monterey?
Ain't it the same man as killed Arkansaw Bob—Bob Ridley—the
name he went by in Sonora? And who was Bob Ridley, eh? Who? Why, you
d——d old fool, it was Bob Fairley—YOUR SON!"
The old man's voice rose querulous and indistinct.
"What are ye talkin' about?" interrupted the first speaker. "I tell
you I KNOW. Look at these pictures. I found 'em on his body. Look at 'em.
Pictures of you and your girl. Pr'aps you'll deny them. Pr'aps you'll
tell me I lie when I tell you HE told me he was your son; told me how he
ran away from you; how you were livin' somewhere in the mountains makin'
gold, or suthin' else, outer charcoal. He told me who he was as a secret.
He never let on he told it to any one else. And when I found that the man
who killed him, Lance Harriott, had been hidin' here, had been sendin'
spies all around to find out all about your son, had been foolin' you and
tryin' to ruin your gal as he had killed your boy, I knew that HE knew
The door fell in with a crash. There was the sudden apparition of a
demoniac face, still half hidden by the long trailing black locks of hair
that curled like Medusa's around it. A cry of terror filled the room.
Three of the men dashed from the door and fled precipitately. The man who
had spoken sprang toward his rifle in the chimney corner. But the
movement was his last; a blinding flash and shattering report interposed
between him and his weapon.
The impulse carried him forward headlong into the fire, that hissed
and spluttered with his blood, and Lance Harriott with his smoking
pistol, strode past him to the door. Already far down the trail there
were hurried voices, the crack and crackling of impending branches
growing fainter and fainter in the distance. Lance turned back to the
solitary living figure—the old man.
Yet he might have been dead, too, he sat so rigid and motionless, his
fixed eyes staring vacantly at the body on the hearth. Before him on the
table lay the cheap photographs, one evidently of himself, taken in some
remote epoch of complexion, one of a child which Lance recognized as
"Tell me," said Lance hoarsely, laying his quivering hand on the
table, "was Bob Ridley your son?"
"My son," echoed the old man in a strange, far-off voice, without
turning his eyes from the corpse—"My son—is—is—is
there!" pointing to the dead man. "Hush! Didn't he tell you so? Didn't
you hear him say it? Dead—dead—shot—shot!"
"Silence! are you crazy, man?" repeated Lance, tremblingly; "that is
not Bob Ridley, but a dog, a coward, a liar gone to his reckoning. Hear
me! If your son WAS Bob Ridley, I swear to God I never knew it, now
or—or—THEN. Do you hear me? Tell me! Do you believe me?
Speak! You shall speak."
He laid his hand almost menacingly on the old man's shoulder. Fairley
slowly raised his head. Lance fell back with a groan of horror. The weak
lips were wreathed with a feeble imploring smile, but the eyes wherein
the fretful, peevish, suspicious spirit had dwelt were blank and
tenantless; the flickering intellect that had lit them was blown out and
Lance walked toward the door and remained motionless for a moment,
gazing into the night. When he turned back again toward the fire his face
was as colorless as the dead man's on the hearth; the fire of passion was
gone from his beaten eyes; his step was hesitating and slow. He went up
to the table.
"I say, old man," he said, with a strange smile and an odd, premature
suggestion of the infinite weariness of death in his voice, "you wouldn't
mind giving me this, would you?" and he took up the picture of Flip. The
old man nodded repeatedly. "Thank you," said Lance. He went to the door,
paused a moment, and returned. "Good-by, old man," he said, holding out
his hand. Fairley took it with a childish smile. "He's dead," said the
old man softly, holding Lance's hand, but pointing to the hearth. "Yes,"
said Lance, with the faintest of smiles on the palest of faces. "You feel
sorry for any one that's dead, don't you?" Fairley nodded again. Lance
looked at him with eyes as remote as his own, shook his head, and turned
away. When he reached the door he laid his revolver carefully, and,
indeed, somewhat ostentatiously, upon a chair. But when he stepped from
the threshold he stopped a moment in the light of the open door to
examine the lock of a small derringer which he drew from his pocket. He
then shut the door carefully, and with the same slow, hesitating step,
felt his way into the night.
He had but one idea in his mind, to find some lonely spot; some spot
where the footsteps of man would never penetrate, some spot that would
yield him rest, sleep, obliteration, forgetfulness, and, above all, where
HE would be forgotten. He had seen such places; surely there were
many,—where bones were picked up of dead men who had faded from the
earth and had left no other record. If he could only keep his senses now
he might find such a spot, but he must be careful, for her little feet
went everywhere, and she must never see him again alive or dead. And in
the midst of his thoughts, and the darkness, and the storm, he heard a
voice at his side, "Lance, how long you have been!"
. . . . . .
Left to himself, the old man again fell into a vacant contemplation of
the dead body before him, until a stronger blast swept down like an
avalanche upon the cabin, burst through the ill-fastened door and broken
chimney, and, dashing the ashes and living embers over the floor, filled
the room with blinding smoke and flame. Fairley rose with a feeble cry,
and then, as if acted upon by some dominant memory, groped under the bed
until he found his buckskin bag and his precious crystal, and fled
precipitately from the room. Lifted by this second shock from his apathy,
he returned to the fixed idea of his life,—the discovery and
creation of the diamond,—and forgot all else. The feeble grasp that
his shaken intellect kept of the events of the night relaxed, the
disguised Lance, the story of his son, the murder, slipped into
nothingness; there remained only the one idea, his nightly watch by the
diamond pit. The instinct of long habit was stronger than the darkness or
the onset of the storm, and he kept his tottering way over stream and
fallen timber until he reached the spot. A sudden tremor seemed to shake
the lambent flame that had lured him on. He thought he heard the sound of
voices; there were signs of recent disturbance,— footprints in the
sawdust! With a cry of rage and suspicion, Fairley slipped into the pit
and sprang toward the nearest opening. To his frenzied fancy it had been
tampered with, his secret discovered, the fruit of his long labors stolen
from him that very night. With superhuman strength he began to open the
pit, scattering the half-charred logs right and left, and giving vent to
the suffocating gases that rose from the now incandescent charcoal. At
times the fury of the gale would drive it back and hold it against the
sides of the pit, leaving the opening free; at times, following the blind
instinct of habit, the demented man would fall upon his face and bury his
nose and mouth in the wet bark and sawdust. At last, the paroxysm past,
he sank back again in his old apathetic attitude of watching, the
attitude he had so often kept beside his sylvan crucible. In this
attitude and in silence he waited for the dawn.
It came with a hush in the storm; it came with blue openings in the
broken up and tumbled heavens; it came with stars that glistened first,
and then paled, and at last sank drowning in those deep cerulean lakes;
it came with those cerulean lakes broadening into vaster seas, whose
shores expanded at last into one illimitable ocean, cerulean no more, but
flecked with crimson and opal dyes; it came with the lightly lifted misty
curtain of the day, torn and rent on crag and pine top, but always
lifting, lifting. It came with the sparkle of emerald in the grasses, and
the flash of diamonds in every spray, with a whisper in the awakening
woods, and voices in the traveled roads and trails.
The sound of these voices stopped before the pit, and seemed to
interrogate the old man. He came, and, putting his finger on his lips,
made a sign of caution. When three or four men had descended he bade them
follow him, saying, weakly and disjointedly, but persistently: "My
boy—my son Robert—came home—came home at last—
here with Flip—both of them—come and see!"
He had reached a little niche or nest in the hillside, and stopped and
suddenly drew aside a blanket. Beneath it, side by side, lay Flip and
Lance, dead, with their cold hands clasped in each other's.
"Suffocated!" said two or three, turning with horror toward the broken
up and still smouldering pit.
"Asleep!" said the old man. "Asleep! I've seen 'em lying that way when
they were babies together. Don't tell me! Don't say I don't know my own
flesh and blood! So! so! So, my pretty ones!" He stooped and kissed them.
Then, drawing the blanket over them gently, he rose and said softly,