The Golden Fleece
by Julian Hawthorne
The professor crossed one long, lean leg
over the other, and punched down the
ashes in his pipe-bowl with the square tip
of his middle finger. The thermometer on
the shady veranda marked eighty-seven
degrees of heat, and nature wooed the soul to
languor and revery; but nothing could abate
the energy of this bony sage.
"They talk about their Atlantises,--their
submerged continents!" he exclaimed, with
a sniff through his wide, hairy nostrils.
"Why, Trednoke, do you realize that we
are living literally at the bottom of a
Mesozoic--at any rate, Cenozoic--sea?"
The gentleman thus indignantly addressed
contemplated his questioner with the serenity
of one conscious of freedom from geologic
responsibility. He was a man of about the
professor's age,--say, sixty years,--but not
like him in appearance. His figure was
stately and massive,--that of one who in
his youth must have possessed vast physical
strength, rigidly developed and disciplined.
Well set upon his broad shoulders was a
noble head, crowned with gray, wavy hair;
the eyes and eyebrows were black and powerful,
but the expression was kindly and
humorous. His moustache and the Roman
convexity of his chin would have confirmed
your conviction that he was a retired
warrior; in which you would have been correct,
for General Trednoke always appeared what
he was, both outwardly and inwardly. His
great frame, clad in white linen, was
comfortably disposed in a Japanese straw arm-
chair; yet there was a soldierly poise in his
attitude. He was smoking a large and
excellent cigar; and a cup of coffee, with a
tiny glass of cognac beside it, stood on a
mahogany stand at his elbow.
"Do you remember, Meschines, the time
I licked you at school?" he inquired, in a
tone of pleasant reminiscence.
"I can't say I do. What's more, I
venture to challenge your statement. And
though you are a hundred pounds the better
of me in weight, and a West Point graduate,
I will wager my pipe (which is worth its
weight in diamonds) against that old woollen
shirt of Montezuma's that you showed me
yesterday, that I can lick you to-day, and
forget all about it before bedtime!"
"Well, I guess you could," returned the
general, with a little chuckle, "even if I
hadn't that Mexican bullet in my leg. But
you couldn't, forty-five years ago, though
you tried, and though I was a year younger
than you, and weighed five pounds less.
Come, now: you don't mean to say you've
forgotten Susan Brown!"
"Oh--ah--hah! Susan Brown! Well,
I declare! And what brought her into your
head, I should like to know?"
"Why, after breaking your heart first, and
then mine, I lost sight of her, and I don't
think I have seen her since. But it appears
she was married to a fellow named Parsloe."
"Don't fancy that name!" observed the
professor, wagging his head and frowning.
"Has a mean sound to it. But what of it?"
"Well, she died,--rest her soul!--and
Parsloe too. But they had a daughter, and
she survives them."
"And resembles her mother, eh?--No,
Trednoke, the time for that sort of thing
has gone by with me. Susan might have
had me, five-and-forty years ago; but I
can't undertake to revive my passion for
the benefit of Mrs. Parsloe's daughter.
Besides, I'm too busy to think of marriage,
and not--not old enough!"
At this tour de force, the general laughed
softly, and finished his coffee. An old
Indian, somewhat remarkable in appearance,
with shaggy white hair hanging down on
his shoulders, stepped forward from the
room where he had been waiting, and
removed the cup.
"No letters yet, Kamaiakan?" asked the
general, in Spanish.
"In a few minutes, general," the other
replied. "Pablo has just come in sight
over the hill. There were several errands."
"Muy buen!--I was going to say,
Meschines, her father and mother left the girl
poor, and she, being, apparently, clever and
energetic, took to----"
"I know!" the professor interrupted.
"They all do it, when they are clever and
energetic, and that's the end of them!--
"Not at all," returned General Trednoke.
"She entered a dry-goods store."
"Entered a dry-goods store! Well,
there's nothing so extraordinary in that.
I've seen quantities of women do it, of all
ages, colors, and degrees. What did she
"Oh, a fiddlestick!" exclaimed the
general. "Why don't you keep quiet and
listen to my story? I say, she went into a
great dry-goods store in New York, as sales-
"Bless my soul! You don't mean a
"That's what I said, isn't it? And why
"Oh, well!--but, shade of Susan Brown!
Ichabod!--what is the feminine of Ichabod,
by the way, Trednoke? But, seriously, it's
too bad. Susan may have been fickle, but
she was always aristocratic. And now her
daughter is a shop-girl. You and I are
"You are just as ridiculous, Meschines,
as you were thirty or fifty years ago," said
the general, tranquilly. "You declaim for
the sake of hearing your own voice. Besides,
what you say is un-American. Grace
Parsloe, as I was saying, got a place as shop-
girl in one of the great New York stores.
I don't say she mightn't have done worse:
what I say is, I doubt whether she could
have done better. That house--I know one
of its founders, and I know what I'm talking
about--is like an enormous family, where
children are born, year after year, grow up,
and take their places in life according to
their quality and merit. What I mean is,
that the boy who drives a wagon for them
to-day, at three dollars a week, may control
one of their chief departments, or even
become a partner, before they're done with
him; and, mutatis mutandis, the same with
the girls. When these girls marry, it's apt
to be into a higher rank of life than they
were born in; and that fact, I take it, is a
good indication that their shop-girl
experience has been an education and an
improvement. They are given work to do,
suited to their capacity, be it small or great;
they are in the way of learning something
of the great economic laws; they learn self-
restraint, courtesy, and----"
"And human nature! Yes, poor things:
they see the American buying-woman, and
that is a discipline more trying than any you
West Pointers know about! Oh, yes, I see
your point. If the fathers of the big family
ARE fathers, and the children ARE children to
them . . . All the same, I fancy the young
ladies, when they marry into the higher
social circles, as you say they do, don't, as
a rule, make their shop girl days a topic of
conversation at five-o'clock teas, or put
'Ex-shop-girl to So-and-so' at the bottom of
"I believe, after all, you're a snob,
Meschines," said the general, pensively. "But,
as I was about to say, when you interrupted
me ten minutes ago, Grace Parsloe is coming
on here to make us a visit. She fell ill, and
her employers, after doing what could be
done for her in the way of medical attendance,
made up their minds to give her a
change of climate. Now, you know, as she
had originally gone to them with a letter
from me, and as I live out here, on the
borders of the Southern desert, in a climate
that has no equal, they naturally thought of
writing to me about it. And of course I
said I'd be delighted to have her here, for a
month, or a year, or whatever time it may
be. She will be a pleasure to me, and a
friend for Miriam, and she may find a husband
somewhere up or down the coast, who
will give her a fortune, and think all the
better of her because she, like him, had the
ability and the pluck to make her own way
in the world."
"Humph! When do you expect her?"
"She may turn up any day. She is
coming round by way of the Isthmus.
From what I hear, she is really a very fine,
clever girl. She held a responsible position
in the shop, and----"
"Well, let us sink the shop, and get back
to the rational and instructive conversation
that we--or, to be more accurate, that I was
engaged in when this digression began. I
presume you are aware that all the indications
Hereupon, a hammock, suspended near the
talkers, and filled with what appeared to be
a bundle of lace and silken shawls, became
agitated, and developed at one end a slender
arched foot in an open-work silk stocking and
sandal-slipper, and at the other end a dark,
youthful, oval face, with glorious eyes and
dull black hair. A voice of music asked,--
"What is lacustrine, papa?"
"Oh, so you are awake again, Senorita
"I haven't been asleep. What is lacustrine?"
"Ask the professor."
"Lacus, you know, my dear," said the
latter, "means fresh-water indications as
"Then how does Great Salt Lake----"
"Oh, for that matter, the whole ocean
was fresh originally. Moisture, evaporation,
precipitation. Water is a great solvent:
earthquakes break the crust, and
there you are!"
"Then, before the earthquakes, the Salt
Lakes were fresh?" rejoined the hammock.
"There was fresh water west of the
Rockies and south of---- Why," cried
the professor, interrupting himself, "when
I was in Wyoming and around there, this
spring, in what they call the Bad Lands,--
cliffs and buttes of indurated yellow clay and
sandstone, worn and carved out by floods
long before the Aztecs started to move out
of Canada,--I saw fossil bones sticking out
of the cliffs, the least of which would make
the fortune of a museum. That was between
the Rockies and the Wahsatch."
"People's bones?" asked the hammock,
agitating itself again, and showing a glimpse
of a smooth throat and a slender ankle.
"Bless my soul! If there were people
in those days they must have had an anxious
time of it!" returned the sage. "No, no,
my dear. There was brontosaurus, and
atlantosaurus, and hydrosaurus, and iguanodon,
--lizards, you know, not like these little
black fellows that run about in the pulverized
feldspar here, but chaps eighty or a hundred
feet long, and twenty or thirty high; and
turtles, as big as a house."
"How did they get there?"
"Got mired while they were feeding,
perhaps; or the water drained off and left
them high and dry."
"But where did the water go to?"
The general chuckled at this juncture,
and lit another cigar. "She knows more
questions than you do the answers to them,"
quoth he. "But I wouldn't mind hearing
where the water went to, myself. I should
like to see some of it back again."
"Ask the earthquakes, and the sun.
There's a hundred and thirty degrees of
heat in some of these valleys,--abysses,
rather, three or four hundred feet below sea-
level. The earth is very thin-skinned in
this region, too, and whatever water wasn't
evaporated from above would be likely to
come to grief underneath."
"But, professor," said the musical voice,
"I thought there was a law that water
always seeks its own level. So how can
there be empty places below sea-level?"
"It's the fault of the aneroid barometer,
my dear. We were very comfortable and
commonplace until that came along and
revealed anomalies. The secret lies, I
suppose, in the trend of the strata, which is
generally north and south. You see the
ridges cropping out all through the desert;
and there's a good deal of lava oozing over
them, too. They probably act as walls, to
prevent the sea getting in from the west, or
the Colorado leaking in from the east."
"In that case," remarked the general, "a
little more seismic disturbance might produce
"It would have to be more than a little, I
suspect," returned Meschines.
"Kamaiakan told me that the Indians
have a prophecy that a great lake will come
back and make the desert fruitful, and that
there are some who know the very place
where the water will begin to flow." And
here the hammock, with a final convulsion,
gave birth to a beautiful young woman, in a
diaphanous silk dress and a white lace
mantilla. She crossed the veranda, and seated
herself on the broad arm of her father's
"Why, that's important!" said the
general, arching his brows. "I wonder if
Kamaiakan is one of those who know the
place? If so, it might be worth his while
to let me into the secret."
"Oh, you couldn't go there! It's
enchanted, and people who go near it die.
There are bones all about there, now."
"This Kamaiakan appears to be a remarkable
personage: where did you pick him
up?" inquired the professor.
"It was rather the other way," Trednoke
replied, taking one of his daughter's hands
in his, and caressing it. "We are appendages
to Kamaiakan. You look so natural,
sitting there, Meschines, that I forget it's
thirty years since we met, and that all the
significant events of my life have happened
in that time,--the Mexican war, my marriage,
and the rest of it! I have been a
widower ten years."
"And I've been a bachelor for over
sixty!" said Meschines, with a queer expression.
"Your wife was Spanish, was she not?"
"Her father was a Mexican of Andalusian
descent. But her mother was descended
from the race of Azatlan: there are records
and relics indicating that her ancestors were
princes in Tenochtitlan before Cortez made
"And I've been losing my heart to a
princess, and never realized my audacity!"
exclaimed the professor, laying his hand on
his waistcoat and making an obeisance to
She tossed her free foot, and played with
the fringe of her reboso.
"I will tell my maid to look for it," she
said; "but I think you must have left it in
"No: I'm an Aztec sacrifice!" cried the
professor; and they all laughed. "One
would hardly have anticipated," he resumed
after a pause, addressing Trednoke, "that
you would have made a double conquest,--
first of the men, and then of the woman!"
"The woman conquered me, without
trying or wishing to, and then, because she
was a woman, took compassion on me.
Whether my country has benefited much by
the Mexican annexation, I can't say; but I
know Inez--made a heaven on earth for
me," concluded the general, in a low voice.
His countenance, at this moment, wore a
solemn and humble expression, beautiful to
see; and Miriam bent and laid her cheek
against his. Meschines knocked the ashes
out of his pipe, and sighed.
"No woman ever took compassion on
me," he remarked, "and you see the result,
"Ashes,--with their wonted fires living in
them," said Trednoke.
"We were talking about this Indian of
yours," said Meschines.
"Ay, to be sure. Well, he was attached
to Inez's family when I first knew them. It
was a peculiar relation; not like that of a
servant. One finds such things in Mexico.
The conquered race were of as good strain
as their conquerors; the blood of Montezuma
was as blue as the best of the Castilian.
There were many intermarriages; and there
are many instances of the survival of
traditions and records; though the records are
often symbolic, and would have no meaning
to persons not initiated. But they have
been sufficient to perpetuate ties of a personal
nature through generation after generation;
and the alliance between Kamaiakan
and Inez was of this kind. His forefathers,
I imagine, were priests, and priests were a
mighty power in Tenochtitlan. For aught
I know, indeed Kamaiakan may be an original
priest of Montezuma's; no one knows
his age, but he does not look an hour older,
to-day, than when I first saw him, over
twenty years ago."
"He must be!" said Miriam, with some
positiveness. "He has told me of seeing
and doing things hundreds of years ago.
And he says----" She paused.
"What does he say, Nina adorada?"
asked her father.
"It was about the treasure, you know."
"Let us hear. The professor is one of
"It's one of our traditions that my
mother's ancestors, at the time of Cortez,
were very rich people," continued Miriam,
glancing at Meschines, and then letting her
eyes wander across the garden, blooming
with roses and fragrant with orange-trees,
and so across the trellised vines towards the
soft outline of the mountains eastward. "A
great part of their wealth was in the form
of jewels and precious stones. When Cortez
took the city, one of the priests, who
was a relative of our family, put the jewels
in a box, and hid them in a certain place in
"And does Kamaiakan know where the
place is?" asked the general.
"He can know, when the time comes."
"Which will be, perhaps, when you are
ready for your dowry," observed the
"A spell was put upon the spot," Miriam
went on, with a certain imaginative seriousness;
for she loved romance and mystery so
well, and was of a temperament so poetical,
that the wildest fairy-tales had a sort of
reality for her. "No one can find the
treasure while the spell remains. But
Kamaiakan understands the spell, and the
conjuration which dissolves it; and when he
dissolves it, the treasure will be found."
"And, between ourselves," added the
general, "Kamaiakan is himself the priestly
relative by whom the spell was wrought.
He bears an enchanted life, which cannot
cease until he has restored the jewels to
"There might be something in it, you
know," said Meschines, after a pause.
"The treasures of Montezuma have never
been found. Is there no old chart or
writing, in your collection of curiosities
and relics, that might throw light on it?"
"The scriptures of Anahuac were of the
replied the other. "No, I fear there is
nothing to the purpose; and if there were,
I shouldn't know how to decipher it."
"But, papa, the tunic!" exclaimed
"Oh! has the tunic anything to do with
"Is that the queer woollen garment with
the gold embroidery?" inquired the professor,
becoming more interested. "I took a
fancy to that, you remember. Has it a
"Well, it is a kind of an anomaly, I
believe," the general answered, looking up
at his daughter with a smile. "The Aztecs,
you are aware, dressed chiefly in cotton.
Even their defensive armor was of cotton,
thickly quilted. Their ornaments were
feathers, and embroidery of gold and precious
stones. But wool, for some reason, they
didn't wear; and yet this garment, as you
can see for yourself, is pure wool; and that
it is also pure Aztecan is beyond question."
"Admitting that, what clue does it give
to the treasure?"
"You must ask Kamaiakan," said Miriam:
"only, he wouldn't tell you."
"Possibly," the professor suggested, "the
place where the treasure is hidden is the
place whence the water is to flow out; and
the water is the treasure."
"Seriously, do you suppose that such a
phenomenon as the return of an inland sea
is physically practicable?" asked Trednoke.
"No phenomenon, in this part of the
world, would surprise me," returned
Meschines. "The Colorado might break its
barriers; or it is conceivable that some
huge stream, taking its rise in the heights
hundreds of miles north and east of us, may
be flowing through subterranean passages
into the sea, emerging from the sea-bottom
hundreds of miles to the westward. Now,
if a rattling good earthquake were to happen
along, you might awake in the morning
to find yourself on an island, or even under
"A moderate Mediterranean would satisfy
me," the general said. "I wouldn't
exchange the certainty of it for the treasures
"The thirst for gold and for water are
synonymous in your case?"
"Give this section a moist climate, and I
needn't tell you that the Great American
Desert would literally blossom as the rose.
Even as it is, I expect a great deal of it will
be redeemed by scientific irrigation. The
soil only needs water to become inexhaustibly
productive. Our desert, as you know,
is not sand, like parts of the Sahara; it has
all the ingredients that go to nourish plants,
only their present powdery condition makes
them unavailable. Now, I can, to-day, buy
a hundred square miles of desert for a few
dollars. You see the point, don't you?"
"And all you want is expert opinion as
to the likelihood of finding water?"
"The man who solves that question for
me in the affirmative is welcome to half my
share of the results that would ensue from it."
"Why don't you engage some expert to
"One can't always trust an expert. I
don't mean as to his expertness only, but as
to his good faith. He might prefer to sell
the idea to somebody who could pay cash,
--which I cannot."
"Why, you seem to have given this thing
a good deal of thought, Trednoke."
"Well, yes: it has been my hobby for a
year past; and I have made some investigations
myself. But this is the first time I
have spoken of it to any one."
"I understand. And what of the investigations?"
"I can say that I found enough to interest
me. I'll tell you about it some time. I
should be glad to leave Miriam something
to make her independent."
"I should say that her Creator had already
done that!" said Meschines. "By
the way, I know a young fellow--if he were
only here--who is just the man you want,
and can be trusted. He's a civil engineer,
--Harvey Freeman: the Lord only knows
in what part of the world he is at this
speaking. He has made a special study of these
"Don't you remember, papa, Coleridge's
poem of Kubla Khan?--
"Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea!"
"Our sacred river, when we find it, shall
be named Miriam."
"It ought to be Kamaiakan," she
rejoined; "for, if anybody finds it, it will
"I think I hear the wings of the angel of
whom we have been speaking," said the
general. "Yes, here he is; and he has got
the letters. Let us see! One for you
Meschines. And this, I see, is from our friend
Miss Parsloe, postmarked Santa Barbara.
Why, she'll be here to-morrow, at that
"Here's a queer coincidence!" exclaimed
the professor, who had meanwhile opened
his envelope and glanced through the contents.
"The very man I was speaking of,
--Harvey Freeman! Says he is in this
neighborhood, has heard I'm here, and is
coming down to pay me a visit. Methinks
I hear the rolling of the sacred river!"
"But you won't mention it to him,
"Bless me! Of course not. I'll bring
him over here, in the course of human
events, and you can take a look at him, and
act on your own intuitions. I won't say on
Princess Miriam's, for Harvey is a very fine-
looking fellow, and her intuitions might get
"A civil engineer!" said Miriam, with
an intonation worthy of the daughter of a
West-Pointer and the descendant of an
Kamaiakan (who spoke only Spanish) had
been gathering up some cushions that had
fallen out of the hammock. Having replaced
them, and cast a quick glance at
Meschines, he withdrew.
The Southern Pacific Railway passes, today,
not far from the site of General
Trednoke's ranch. But the events now to
be narrated occurred some years before the
era of transcontinental railroads: they were
in the air, but not yet bolted down to the
earth. The general, therefore, was a
pioneer, and was by no means overrun with
friends from the East in search of an
agreeable winter climate. The easiest way to
reach him--if you were not pressed for time
--was round the cape which forms the
southernmost point of South America and
sticks its sharp snout inquiringly into the
Antarctic solitudes, as if it scented something
questionable there. The speediest
route, though open to strange discomforts,
was by way of the Isthmus; and then there
were always the saddle, the wagon, and the
stage, with the accompaniments of road-
agents, tornadoes, deserts, and starvation.
Miss Grace Parsloe came via the Isthmus;
and the latter part of her journey had been
alleviated by the society of a young
gentleman from New York, Freeman by name.
There were other passengers on the vessel;
but these two discovered sympathies of
origin and education which made companionship
natural. They sat together at table,
leaned side by side over the taffrail,
discussed their fellow-travellers, and
investigated each other. As he lolled on the
bench with folded arms and straw hat tilted
back from his forehead she, glancing side-
long, as her manner was, saw a sunburnt
aquiline nose, a moustache of a lighter
brown than the visage which it decorated,
a lean, strong jaw, and a muscular neck.
His forehead, square and impending, was as
white as ivory in comparison with the face
below; his hair, in accordance with the
fashion introduced by the late war, was
cropped close. But what especially moved
Miss Grace were those long, lazy blue eyes,
which seemed to tolerate everything, but to
be interested in nothing,--hardly even in
her. Now, Grace could not help knowing
she was a pretty girl, and it was somewhat
of a novelty to her that Freeman should
appear so indifferent. It would have been
difficult to devise a better opportunity than
this to monopolize masculine admiration,
and she fell to speculating as to what sort of
an experience Mr. Freeman must have had,
so to panoply him against her magic. On
the other hand, she was the recipient of
whatever attentions he could bring himself
to detach from the horizon-line, or from his
own thoughts (which appeared to amount,
practically, to about the same thing). She
had no other rivals; and a woman will submit
amiably to a good deal of indifference,
provided she be assured that no other woman
is enjoying what she lacks.
Freeman, for his part, had nothing to
complain of. Grace Parsloe was a singularly
pretty girl. Singular properly qualifies
her. She was not like the others,--by
which phrase he epitomized the numerous
comely young women whom he had, at
various times and in several countries,
attended, teased, and kissed. Both physically
and mentally, she was very fine-wrought.
Her bones were small; her body and limbs
were slender, but beautifully fashioned. She
was supple and vigorous. Grace is a product
of brain as well as an effect of bodily
symmetry: Grace had the quality on both
counts. She answered to one's conception
of Mahomet's houris, assuming that the
conception is not of a fat person. Her head
was small, but well proportioned,--compact
as to the forehead, rather broad across the
cheek-bones, thence tapering to the chin.
Her eyes were blue, but of an Eastern
strangeness of shape and setting; they were
subject to great and sudden changes of
expression, depending, apparently, on the
varying state of her emotions, and betraying
an intensity more akin to the Oriental
temperament than to ours. There was in her
something subtle and fierce; yet overlaying
it, like a smooth and silken skin, were the
conventional polish and bearing of an
American school graduate. She was, in
deed, noticeably artificial and self-conscious
in manner and in the intonations of her
speech; though it was an aesthetic delight
to see her move or pose, and the quality of
her voice was music's self. But Freeman,
after due meditation, came to the conclusion
that this was the outcome of her recognition
of her own singularity: in trying to be like
other people, she fell into caricature. Freeman,
somehow, liked her the better for it.
Like most men of brain and pith, who
have seen and thought much, he was thankful
for a new thing, because, so far as it
went, it renewed him. It pleased him to
imagine that he could, with a word or a
look, cause this veil of artifice to be thrown
aside, and the primitive passion and fierceness
behind it to start forth. He allowed
himself to imagine, with a certain satisfaction,
that were he to make this young woman
jealous she would think nothing of thrusting
a dagger between his ribs. Reality,--what
a delight it is! The actual touch and feeling
of the spontaneous natural creature have
been so buried beneath centuries of hypocrisy
and humbug that we have ceased to
believe in them save as a metaphysical
abstraction. But even as water, long depressed
under-ground in perverse channels, surges
up to the surface, and above it, at last, in a
fountain of relief, so Nature, after enduring
ages of outrage and banishment, leaps back
to her rightful domain in some individual
whom we call extraordinary because he or
she is natural. Grace Parsloe did not seem
(regarded as to her temperament and quality)
to belong where she was: therefore she was
a delightful incident there. Had she been
met with in the days of the Old Testament,
or in the depths of Persia or India at the
present time, even, she might have appeared
commonplace. But here she was in conventional
costume, with conventional manners.
And, just as the nautch-girls, and other
Oriental dancers and posturers, wear a costume
which suggests nature more effectively
than does nature itself, so did Grace's
conventionality suggest to Freeman the essential
absence of conventionality more forcibly
than if he had seen her clad in a turban and
translucent caftan, dancing off John the
Baptist's head, or driving a nail into that of
Sisera. Grace certainly owed much of her
importance to her situation, which rendered
her foreign and piquante. But, then,
everything, in this world, is relative.
Racial types seem to be a failure: when they
become very marked, the race deteriorates
or vanishes. In the counties of England,
after only a thousand years, the women you
meet in the rural districts and country towns
all look like sisters. The Asiatics, of course,
are much more sunk in type than the Anglo-
Saxons; and they show us the way we would
be going. Only, there is hope in rapid
transit and the cosmopolitan spirit, and
especially in these United States, which bring
together the ends of the earth, and place
side by side a descendant of the Puritans
like Freeman, and a daughter of Irak-Ajemi.
"What are you coming to California for,
Freeman had already told her what he had
been in the Isthmus for,--to paddle in miasmatic
swamps with a view to the possibility
of a canal in the remote, speculative future.
He had given her a graphic and entertaining
picture of the hideous and inconceivable life
he had led there for six months, from which
he had emerged the only member of a party
of nineteen (whites, blacks, and yellows)
who was not either dead by disease, by
violence, or by misadventure, or had barely
escaped with life and a shattered constitution.
Freeman, after emerging from the
miasmatic hell and lake of Gehenna, had
taken a succession of baths, with soap and
friction, had been attended by a barber and
a tailor, and had himself attended the best
table to be found for love or money in the
charming town of Panama. He had also
spent more than half of the week of his
sojourn there in sleep; and he was now in the
best possible condition, physical and mental,
--though not, he admitted, pecuniary. As
to morals, they had not reached that discussion
yet. But, in all that he did say, Freeman
exhibited perfect unreserve and frankness,
answering without hesitation or embarrassment
any question she chose to ask (and
she asked some curious ones).
But when she asked him such an innocent
thing as what he was after in California--an
inquiry, by the way, put more in idleness
than out of curiosity--Freeman stroked his
yellow moustache with the thumb of the
hand that held his Cuban cigarette, gazed
with narrowed eyelids at the horizon, and
for some time made no reply at all. Finally
he said that California was a place he had
never visited, and that it would be a pity to
have been so near it and yet not have improved
the opportunity of taking a look at it.
Grace instantly scented a mystery, and
was not less promptly resolved to fathom it.
And what must be the nature of a mystery
attaching to a handsome man, unmarried,
and evidently no stranger to the gentler sex?
Of course there must be a woman in it!
Her eyes glowed with azure fire.
"You have some acquaintances in California,
I suppose?" she said, with an air of
"Well,--yes; I believe I have," Freeman
"Have they lived there long?"
"No; not over a few months. I accidentally
heard from a person in Panama. I
dropped a line to say I might turn up."
"She----you haven't had time to get an
Freeman inhaled a deep breath through
his cigarette, tilted his head back, and
allowed the smoke to escape slowly through
his nostrils. In this manner, familiar to his
deep-designing sex, he concealed a smile.
Grace was, in some respects, as transparent
as she was subtle. So long as the matter in
hand did not touch her emotions, she had no
difficulty in maintaining a deceptive surface;
but emotion she could not disguise, though
she was probably not aware of the fact; for
emotion has a tendency to shut one's own
eyes and open what they can no longer see
in one's self to the gaze of outsiders.
"No," he said, when he had recovered
his composure. "But that won't make any
difference. We are on rather intimate terms,
"Oh! Is it long since you have met?"
"Pretty long; at least it seems so to me."
Grace turned, and looked full at her
companion. He did not meet her glance, but
kept his profile steadily opposed, and went
on smoking with a dreamy air, as if lost in
memories and anticipations, sad, yet sweet.
"Really, Mr. Freeman, I hardly thought
--you have always seemed to care so little
about anything--I didn't suspect you of so
"I am like other men," he returned, with
a sigh. "My affections are not given
indiscriminately; but when they are given,--you
"Oh, I understand: pray don't think it
necessary to explain. I'm sure I'm very far
from wishing to listen to confidences about
"Yes, but I like to talk about it,"
interposed Freeman, earnestly. "I haven't had
a chance to open my heart, you know, for at
least six months. And though you and I
haven't known each other long, I believe
you to be capable of appreciating what a
man feels when he is on his way to meet
some one who----"
"Thank you! You are most considerate!
But I shall be additionally obliged if you
would tell me in what respect I can have so
far forgotten myself as to lead you to think
me likely to appreciate anything of the
kind. I assure you, Mr. Freeman, I have
never cared for any one; and nothing I
have seen since I left home makes it probable
that I shall begin now."
"I am sorry to hear that," said Freeman,
slowly drawing another cigarette out of his
bundle, and beginning to re-roll it with a
"Yes: the fact is, I had hoped that you
had begun to have a little friendly feeling
for me. I am more than ready to reciprocate."
"I hope you will spare me any insults,
sir. I have no one to protect me, but----"
"I assure you, I mean no insult. You
cannot help knowing that I think you as
beautiful and fascinating a woman as I have
ever met; but of course you can't help being
beautiful and fascinating. Do I insult
you by having eyes? If so, I am sorry, but
you will have to make the best of it."
With this, he turned in his seat, and
calmly confronted her. Beautiful she
certainly was, at that moment; but it was the
beauty of an angry serpent. She had a
pencil in her hand, with which, a little
while before, she had been sketching heads
of some of the passengers in her little notebook.
She was now handling this inoffensive
object in such a way as to justify the
fancy that, had it been charged with a deadly
poison in its point, instead of with a bit of
plumbago of the HH quality, she would
have driven it into Freeman's heart then
"Is it no insult," said she, in a sibilant
voice, "to talk to me as you are doing, when
you have just told me that you love another
woman, and are going to meet her?"
Freeman's brows gradually knitted themselves
in a frown of apparent perplexity.
"I must say I don't understand you," he
observed, at length. "I am quite sure I
have said nothing of the sort. How could
"If you wish to quibble about words,
perhaps not. But was not that your meaning?"
"No, it wasn't. You are the only woman
who has been in my thoughts to-day."
"You have intimated very clearly that
you are engaged--married, for aught I know
--to a woman whom you are now on your
way to meet----"
At this point she stopped. Freeman had
interrupted her with a shout of laughter.
She had been very pale. She now flushed
all over her face, and jumped to her feet.
"Sit down," he said, laying a hand on
her dress and (aided by a lurch of the
vessel) pulling her into her seat again, "and
listen to me. And then I shall insist upon
an apology. This is too much!"
"I shall ask the captain----"
"You will not, I promise you. Look
here! When I was in Panama, I met there
a fellow I used to know in New York. He
told me that he had recently crossed the
continent with Professor Meschines, who
used to teach geology and botany at Yale
College, when he and I were students there.
The professor had come over partly for the
fun of the thing, and partly to look for
specimens in the line of his profession.
My friend parted from him at San Francisco:
the professor was going farther south."
"What has all this to do with the woman
"It has this to do with it,--that the
professor is the woman! He is over sixty
years old, and has always been a good friend
of mine; but I am not going to marry him.
I am not engaged to him, he is not beautiful,
nor even fascinating, except in the way
of an elderly man of science. And he is
the only human being, besides yourself, that
I know or have ever heard of on the Pacific
coast. Now for your apology!"
Grace emitted a long breath, and sank
back in her seat, with her hands clasped in
her lap. She raised her hands and covered
her face with them. She removed them,
sat erect, and bent an open-eyed, intent
gaze upon her companion.
After this pantomime, she exclaimed, in
the lowest and most musical of tones, "Oh!
how hateful you are!" Then she cried out
with animation, "I believe you did it on
purpose!" Finally, she sank back again,
with a soft laugh and sparkling eyes, at the
same time stretching out her right arm
towards him and placing her hand on his,
with a whispered, "There, then!"
Freeman, accepting the hand for the
apology, kissed it, and continued to hold it
"Am I not a little goose?" she murmured.
"You certainly are," replied Freeman.
"You mustn't hold my hand any more."
"Do you mean to withdraw your apology?"
"N--no; but it doesn't follow that----"
"Oh, yes, it does. Besides, when a man
receives such a delicate, refined, graceful,
exquisite apology as this,"--here he lifted
the hand, looked at it critically, and
bestowed another kiss upon it,--"he would
be a fool not to make the most of it."
"Ah, I'm afraid you're dangerous. You
are well named--Freeman!"
"My name is Harvey: won't you call
me by it?"
"Oh, I can't!"
"Try! Would it make it easier if I
were to call you by yours?"
"Mine is Miss Parsloe."
"Pooh! How can that be your name
which you are going to change so soon?
When I look at you, I see your name; when
I think of you, I say it to myself,--Grace!"
"How do you know I am going to change
my name soon--or ever?"
"Whom are you talking to?"
"To you,--Harvey! Oh!" She snatched
her hand away and pressed it over her lips.
"How do I know you are beautiful,
"But I'm not! You're making fun of
me! Besides, I'm twenty."
"How many times have you been engaged?"
"Never. Nobody wants to be engaged
to a poor girl. Oh me!"
"Do you know what you are made of,
Grace? Fire and flowers! Few men in
the world are men enough to be a match for
you. But what have you been doing with
yourself all this time? Why do you come
to a place like this?"
"Maybe I had a presentiment that . . .
What nonsense we are talking! But what
you said reminds me. It's the strangest
"What is it?"
"Your Professor Meschines----"
"On the contrary, he is a most matter-
of-fact old gentleman."
"Do be quiet, and listen to me! When
my mamma was a girl in school, there were
two boys there,--it was a boy-and-girls'
school,--and they were great friends. But
they both fell in love with my mamma----"
"I can understand that," put in Freeman.
"How do you know I am like my mamma?
Well, as I was saying, they both fell in love
with her, and quarrelled with each other,
and had a fight. The boy that won the
fight is the man to whose house I am going."
"Then he didn't marry your mamma?"
"Oh, no; that was only a childish affair,
and she married another man."
"The one who got thrashed?"
"Of course not. But the one who got
thrashed is your Professor Meschines."
"I see! The poor old professor! And
he has remained a bachelor all his life."
"Mamma has often told me the story, and
that the Trednoke boy went to West Point,
and distinguished himself in the Mexican
war, and married a Mexican woman, and the
Meschines boy became a professor in Yale
College. And now I am going to see one
of them, and you to see the other. Isn't
that a coincidence?"
"The first of a long series, I trust. Is
this West-Pointer a permanent settler here?"
"Yes, for ever so long,--twenty years.
He's a widower, but he has a daughter----
Oh, I know you'll fall in love with her!"
"Is she like you?"
"I don't know. I've never seen her, or
General Trednoke either."
"Come to think of it, though, nobody is
like you, Grace. Now, will you be so good
as to apologize again?"
"Don't you think you're rather exacting,
However, the apology was finally repeated,
and continued, more or less, during the rest
of the voyage; and Grace quite forgot that
she had never made Harvey tell what was
really the cause of his coming to California.
But she, on her side, had a secret.
She never allowed him to suspect that the
past eighteen months of her life had been
passed as employee in a New York dry-
General Trednoke's house was
built by Spanish missionaries in the
sixteenth century; and in its main features
it was little altered in three hundred years.
In a climate where there is no frost, walls of
adobe last as long as granite. The house
consisted, practically, of but one story; for
although there were rooms under the roof,
they were used only for storage; no one
slept in them. The plan of the building was
not unlike that of a train of railway-cars,--
or, it might be more appropriate to say, of
emigrant-wagons. There was a series of
rooms, ranged in a line, access to them being
had from a narrow corridor, which opened
on the rear veranda. Several of the rooms
also communicated directly with each other,
and, through low windows, gave on the
veranda in front; for the house was merely
a comparatively narrow array of apartments
between two broad verandas, where most of
the living, including much of the sleeping,
Logically, there can be nothing uglier
than a Spanish-American dwelling of this
type. But, as a matter of fact, they appear
seductively beautiful. The thick white walls
acquire a certain softness of tone; the surface
scales off here and there, and cracks and
crevices appear. In a damp country, like
England, they would soon become covered
with moss; but moss is not to be had in this
region, though one were to offer for it the
price of the silk velvet, triple ply, which so
much resembles it. Nevertheless, there are
compensations. The soil is inexhaustibly
fertile, and its fertility expresses itself in the
most inveterate beauty. Such colors and
varieties of flowers exist nowhere else, and
they continue all the year round. Climbing
vines storm the walls, and toss their green
ladders all over it, for beauty to walk up and
down. Huge jars, standing on the verandas,
emit volcanoes of lovely blossoms; and
vases swung from the roof drip and overflow
with others, as if water had turned to flowers.
In the garden, which extends over several
acres at the front of the house, and, as it
were, makes it an island in a gorgeous sea of
petals, there are roses, almonds, oranges,
vines, pomegranates, and a hundred rivals
whose names are unknown to the present
historian, marching joyfully and triumphantly
through the seasons, as the symphony
moves through changes along its central
Everything that is not an animal or a
mineral seems to be a flower. There are too
many flowers,--or, rather, there is not
enough of anything else. The faculty of
appreciation wearies, and at last ceases to
take note. It is like conversing with a
person whose every word is an epigram. The
senses have their limitations, and
imagination and expectation are half of beauty and
delight, and the better half; otherwise we
should have no souls. A single violet,
discovered by chance in the by-ways of an
April forest in New England, gives a pleasure
as poignant as, and more spiritual than,
the miles upon miles of Californian splendors.
Monotony is the ruling characteristic,--
monotony of beauty, monotony of desolation,
monotony even of variety. The glorious
blue overhead is monotonous: as for the
thermometer, it paces up and down within
the narrowest limits, like a prisoner in his
cell, or a meadow-lark hopping to and fro
in a seven-inch cage. The plan and aspect
of the buildings are monotonous, and so is
the way of life of those who inhabit them.
Fortunately, the sun does rise and set in
Southern California: otherwise life there
would be at an absolute stand-still, with no
past and no future. But, as it is, one can
look forward to morning, and remember the
Then, there are the not infrequent but
seldom very destructive earthquakes; the
occasional cloud-bursts and tornadoes,
sudden and violent as a gunpowder-explosion;
and, finally, the astounding contrast between
the fertile regions and the desert. There
are places where you can stand with one
foot planted in everlasting sterility and the
other in immortal verdure. In the midst of
an arid and hopeless waste, you come suddenly
upon the brink of a narrow ravine,
sharply defined as if cut out with an axe,
and packed to the brim with enchanting and
voluptuous fertility. Or you will come upon
mountains which sweep upward out of burning
death into sumptuous life. When the
monotony of life meets the monotony of
death, Southern California becomes a land
of contrasts; and the contrasts themselves
General Trednoke's ranch was very near
the borders of these two mighty forces. An
hour's easy ride would carry him to a region
as barren and apparently as irreclaimable as
that through which Childe Roland journeyed
in quest of the Dark Tower; lying,
too, in a temperature so fiery that it
coagulated the blood in the veins, and stopped
the beating of the heart. Underfoot were
fine dust, and whitened bones; the air was
prismatic and magical, ever conjuring up
phantom pictures, whose characteristic was
that they were at the farthest remove from
any possible reality. The azure sky
descended and became a lake; the pulsations
of the atmosphere translated themselves into
the rhythmic lapse of waves; spikes of sage-
brush and blades of cactus became sylvan
glades, and hamlets cheerful with inhabitants.
Only, all was silent; and as you
drew near, the scene trembled, altered, and
Hideous black lizards and horned toads
crawl and hop amid this desolation; and
the deadly little sidewinder rattlesnake lies
basking in the blaze of sunshine, which it
distils into venom. Sometimes the level
plain is broken up into savage ridges and
awful canons, along whose arid bottoms no
water streams. As you stagger through their
chaotic bottoms, you see vast boulders poised
overhead, tottering to a fall; a shiver of
earthquake, a breath of hurricane, and they
come crashing and splintering in destruction
down. Along the sides of these acclivities
extend long, level lines and furrows, marks
of where the ocean flowed ages ago. But sometimes
the hills are but accumulations of desert
dust, which shift slowly from place to place
under the action of the wind, melting away
here to be re-erected yonder; mounding
themselves, perhaps, above a living and
struggling human being, to move forward,
anon, leaving where he was a little heap
of withered bones. A fearful place is this
broad abyss, where once murmured the
waters of a prehistoric sea. Let us return
to the cool and fragrant security of the
At right angles to the main body of the
house extend two wings, thus forming three
sides of a square, the interior of which is
the court-yard. Here the business of the
establishment is conducted. It is the liveliest
spot on the premises; though it is liveliness
of a very indolent sort. The veranda
built around these sides is twenty feet in
breadth, paved with tiles that have been
worn into hollows by innumerable lazy footsteps,
mostly shoeless, for this side of the
house is frequented chiefly by the servants
of the place, who are Mexican Indians.
Ancient wooden settles are bolted to the
walls; from hooks hang Indian baskets of
bright colors; in one corner are stretched
raw hides, which serve as beds. Small
brown children, half naked, trot, clamber,
and crawl about. Black-haired, swarthy
women squat on the tiled floor, pursuing
their vocations, or, often, doing nothing at
all beyond continuing a placid organic
existence. Boys and men saunter in and out
of the court-yard, chatting or calling in
their musical patois; once in a while there
is a thud and clatter of hoofs, a rider arriving
or departing. It is an entertaining scene,
charming in its monotony of small changes
and evolutions; you can sit watching it in a
half-doze for twenty years at a stretch, and
it may seem only as many minutes, or vice
Most of the rooms in the wings are used
for the kitchens and other servants' quarters;
but one large chamber is devoted to a
special purpose of the general's own: it is a
museum; the Curiosity-Room, he calls it. It
is lighted by two windows opening on opposite
sides, one on the court-yard, the other
on an orange grove at the south end of the
house. Besides being, in itself, a cool and
pleasant spot, it is full of interest to any
one who cares about the relics and antiquities
of an ancient and vanishing race,
concerning whom little is or ever will be
known. There are two students in it at
this moment; though whether they are
studying antiquities is another matter. Let
us give ear to their discourse and be instructed.
"But this was made for you to wear, Miss
Trednoke. Try it. It fits you perfectly,
you see. There can be no doubt about your
being a princess, now!"
"I sometimes feel it,--here!" she said,
putting her hand on her bosom. She was looking
at him as she said it, but her eyes, instead of
any longer meeting his, seemed to turn their
regard inward, and to traverse strange regions,
not of this world. "I see some one
who is myself, though I can never have been
she: she is surrounded with brightness, and
people not like ours; she thinks of things
that I have never known. It is the memory
of a dream, I suppose," she added, in another
"Heredity is a queer thing. You may be
Aztecan over again, in mind and temperament;
and every one knows how impressions
are transmitted. If features and traits
of character, why not particular thoughts
"I think it is better not to try to explain
these things," said she, with the unconscious
haughtiness which maidens acquire who have
not seen the world and are adored by their
family. "They are great mysteries,--or
else nothing." She now removed from her
head the curious cap or helmet, ornamented
with gold and with the green feathers of
the humming-bird, which her companion
had crowned her with, and hung it on its
nail in the cabinet. "Perhaps the thoughts
came with the cap," she remarked, smiling
slightly. "I don't feel that way any more.
I ought not to have spoken of it."
"I hope the time will come when you
will feel that you may trust me."
"You seem easy to know, Mr. Freeman,"
she replied, looking at him contemplatively
as she spoke, "and yet you are not. There
is one of you that thinks, and another that
speaks. And you are not the same to my
father, or to Professor Meschines, that you
are to me."
"What is the use of human beings except
to take one out of one's self?"
"But it is not your real self that comes
out," said Miriam, after a little pause.
She never spoke hurriedly, or until after
the coming speech had passed into her
Freeman laughed. "Well," he said, "if
I'm a hypocrite, I'm one of those who are
made and not born. As a boy, I was frank
enough. But a good part of my life has
been spent with people who couldn't be
trusted; and perhaps the habit of protecting
myself against them has grown upon me. If
I could only live here for a while it would
be different.--Here's an odd-looking thing.
What do you call that?"
"We call it the Golden Fleece."
"The Golden Fleece! I can imagine a
Medea; but where is the Dragon?"
"If Jason came, the Dragon might appear."
"I remember reading somewhere that the
Dragon was less to be feared than Medea's
eyes. But this fleece seems to have lost
most of its gold. There is only a little gold
"It shows where the gold is hidden."
"It's you that are concealing something
now, Miss Trednoke. How can a woollen
garment be a talisman?"
"The secret might be woven into it,
perhaps," replied Miriam, passing her fingers
caressingly over the soft tunic. "Then, when
the right person puts it on, it would----But
you don't believe in these things."
"I don't know: you don't give me a
chance. But who is the right person? The
thing seems rather small. I'm sure I
couldn't get it on."
"It can fit only the one it was made for,"
said Miriam, gravely. "And if you wanted
to find the gold, you would trust to your
science, rather than to this."
"Well, gold-hunting is not in my line,
at present. Every nugget has been paid for
more than once, before it is found. Besides,
there is something better than gold in
Southern California,--something worth any
labor to get."
"What is it?" asked Miriam, turning her
tranquil regard upon him.
Harvey Freeman had never been deficient
in audacity. But, standing in the dark
radiance of this maiden's eyes, his self-
assurance dwindled, and he could not bring
himself to say to her what he would have
said to any other pretty woman he had ever
met. For he felt that great pride and
passion were concealed beneath that tranquil
surface: it was a nature that might give
everything to love, and would never pardon
any frivolous parody thereof. Freeman had
been acquainted with Miriam scarcely two
days, but he had already begun to perceive
the main indications of a character which a
lifetime might not be long enough wholly
to explore. Marriage had never been among
the enterprises he had, in the course of his
career, proposed to himself: he did not
propose it now: yet he dared not risk the
utterance of a word that would lead Miriam
to look at him with an offended or contemptuous
glance. It was not that she was, from
the merely physical point of view, transcendently
beautiful. His first impression
of her, indeed, had been that she was
merely an unusually good example of a type
by no means rare in that region. But ere
long he became sensible of a spiritual
quality in her which lifted her to a level far
above that which can be attained by mere
harmony of features and proportions.
Beneath the outward aspect lay a profound
depth of being, glimpses of which were
occasionally discernible through her eyes,
in the tones of her voice, in her smile, in
unconscious movements of her hands and
limbs. Demonstrative she could never be;
but she could, at will, feel with tropical
intensity, and act with the swiftness and
energy of a fanatic.
In Miriam's company, Freeman forgot
every one save her,--even himself,--though
she certainly made no effort to attract him
or (beyond the commonplaces of courtesy)
to interest him. Consequently he had become
entirely oblivious of the existence of
such a person as Grace Parsloe, when, much
to his irritation, he heard the voice of that
young lady, mingled with others, approaching
along the veranda. At the same moment
he experienced acute regret at the
whim of fortune which had made himself
and that sprightly young lady fellow-
passengers from Panama, and at the idle impulse
which had prompted him to flirt with her.
But the past was beyond remedy: it was
his concern to deal with the present. In a
few seconds, Grace entered the curiosity-
room, followed by Professor Meschines, and
by a dashing young Mexican senor, whom
Freeman had met the previous evening, and
who was called Don Miguel de Mendoza.
The senor, to judge from his manner, had
already fallen violently in love with Grace,
and was almost dislocating his organs of
speech in the effort to pay her romantic
compliments in English. Freeman observed
this with unalloyed satisfaction. But the
look which Grace bent upon him and
Miriam, on entering, and the ominous
change which passed over her mobile
countenance, went far to counteract this
One story is good until another is told.
Freeman had really thought Grace a
fascinating girl, until he saw Miriam. There
was no harm in that: the trouble was, he
had allowed Grace to perceive his admiration.
He had already remarked that she
was a creature of violent extremes,
tempered, but not improved, by a thin polish
of subtlety. She was now about to give an
illustration of the passion of jealousy. But
it was not her jealousy that Freeman minded:
it was the prospect of Miriam's scorn when
she should surmise that he had given Grace
cause to be jealous. Miriam was not the
sort of character to enter into a competition
with any other woman about a lover. He
would lose her before he had a chance to
try to win her.
But fortune proved rather more favorable
than Freeman expected, or, perhaps, than
he deserved. Grace's attack was too
impetuous. She stopped just inside the threshold,
and said, in an imperious tone, "Come
here, Mr. Freeman: I wish to speak to you."
"Thank you," he replied, resolving at
once to widen the breach to the utmost
extent possible, "I am otherwise engaged."
"Upon my word," observed the professor,
with a chuckle, "you're no diplomatist,
Harvey! What are you two about here?
"The remains of ancient Mexico are
more interesting than some of her recent
products," returned Freeman, who wished
to quarrel with somebody, and had promptly
decided that Senor Don Miguel de Mendoza
was the most available person. He bowed
to the latter as he spoke.
"You--a--spoken to me?" said the senor,
stepping forward with a polite grimace. "I
no to quite comprehend----"
"Pray don't exert yourself to converse
with me out of your own language, senor,"
interrupted Freeman, in Spanish. "I was
just remarking that the Spaniards seem to
have degenerated greatly since they colonized
"Senor!" exclaimed Don Miguel,
stiffening and staring.
"Of course," added Freeman, smiling
benevolently upon him, "I judge only from
such specimens of the modern Mexican as I
happen to meet with."
Don Miguel's sallow countenance turned
greenish white. But, before he could make
a reply, Meschines, who scented mischief
in the air, and divined that the gentler sex
must somehow be at the bottom of it, struck
"You may consider yourself lucky, Harvey,
in making the acquaintance of a gentleman
like Senor de Mendoza, who exemplifies
the undimmed virtues of Cortez and
Torquemada. For my part, I brought him
here in the hope that he might be able to
throw some light on the mystery of this
embroidered garment, which I see you've
been examining. What do you say, Don
Miguel? Have these designs any significance
beyond mere ornament? Anything
in the nature of hieroglyphics?"
The senor was obliged to examine, and to
enter into a discussion, though, of course,
his ignorance of the subject in dispute was
as the depths of that abyss which has no
bottom. Miriam, who was not fond of Don
Miguel, but who felt constrained to
exceptional courtesy in view of Freeman's
unwarrantable attack upon him, stood beside
him and the Professor; and Freeman and
Grace were thus left to fight it out with each
But Grace had drawn her own conclusions
from what had passed. Freeman had
insulted Don Miguel. Wherefore? Obviously,
it could only be because he thought
that she was flirting with him. In other
words, Freeman was jealous; and to be
jealous is to love. Now, Grace was so
constituted that, though she did not like to
play second fiddle herself, yet she had no
objection to monopolizing all the members
of the male species who might happen, at a
given moment, to be in sight.
She had, consequently, already forgiven
Freeman for his apparent unfaithfulness to
her, by reason of his manifest jealousy of
Don Miguel. As a matter of fact, he was
not jealous, and he was unfaithful; but fate
had decreed that there should be, for the
moment, a game of cross-purposes; and the
decrees of fate are incorrigible.
"I had no idea you were so savage," she
"I'm not savage," replied Freeman. "I
"Well, I don't know as I can blame you,"
said Grace, still more softly: she fancied he
was referring to Miriam. "I don't much
like Spanish mixtures myself."
"One has to take what one can get,"
said Freeman, referring to Don Miguel.
"But it's all right now," rejoined she,
meaning that Freeman and herself were
reconciled after their quarrel.
"If you are satisfied, I am," observed
Freeman, too indifferent to care what she
"Only, you mustn't take that poor young
man too seriously," she went on: "these
Mexicans are absurdly demonstrative, but
they don't mean anything."
"He won't, if he values his skin," said
Freeman, meaning that if Don Miguel
attempted to interfere between himself and
Miriam he would wring his neck.
"He won't, I promise you," said Grace,
sparkling with pleasure.
"I don't quite see how you can help it,"
"I should hope I could manage a creature
like that!" murmured she, smiling.
"Well," said Freeman, after a pause,--
for Grace's seeming change of attitude puzzled
him a little,--"I'm glad you look at it
that way. I don't wish to be meddled
with; that's all."
"You shan't be," she whispered; and
then, just when they were approaching the
point where their eyes might have been
opened, in came General Trednoke. The
group round the Golden Fleece broke
The general wore his riding-dress, and
his bearing was animated, though he was
covered with dust.
"I was wondering what had become of
you all," he said, as the others gathered
about him. "I have been taking a canter
to the eastward. Kamaiakan said this morning
that one of the boys had brought news
of a cloud-burst in that direction. I rode
far enough to ascertain that there has really
been something of the kind, and I think it
has affected the arroyo on the farther side
of the little sierra. Now, I don't know
how you gentlemen feel, but it occurred to
me that it might be interesting to make up
a little party of exploration to-morrow.
Would you like to try it, Meschines?"
"To be sure I should!" the professor
replied. "I imagine I can stand as much
of the desert as you can! And I want to
catch a sidewinder."
"Good! And you, Mr. Freeman?"
"It would suit me exactly," said the
latter. "In fact, I had been intending to
gratify my curiosity by making some such
expedition on my own account."
"Ah!" said the general, eying him with
some intentness. "Well, we may be able
to show you something more curious than
you anticipate.--And now, Senor de Mendoza,
there is only you left. May we count
on your company into the desert?"
But the Mexican, with a bow and a
grimace, excused himself. Scientific
curiosity was an unknown emotion to him; but
he foresaw an opportunity to have Grace all
to himself, and he meant to improve it. He
also wished leisure to think over some plan
for getting rid of Senor Freeman, in whom
he scented a rival, and who, whether a rival
or not, had behaved to him with a lack of
consideration in the presence of ladies.
General Trednoke's household
went early to bed. As there was
more accommodation in the old house than
sufficed for its present inhabitants, it
followed that each of them had a regal
allowance of rooms. And when Grace Parsloe
became one of the occupants, she was allotted
two commodious apartments at the extremity
of the left wing. They communicated,
through long windows, with the veranda in
front, and by means of doors with the passage,
or hall, traversing the house from end
to end. If, therefore, she happened to be
sleepless, she might issue forth into the
garden, and wander about there without let
or hinderance until she was ready to accept
the wooing of the god of dreams; or, if
supernatural terrors daunted her, she could
in a few seconds transfer herself and her
fears to Miriam's chamber, which occupied
the same position in the right wing that hers
did in the left.
The night, as is customary in that climate,
where the atmosphere is pure and evaporation
rapid, was cool and still. By ten
o'clock there was no sound to indicate that
any person was awake; though, to an acute
ear, the rise and fall of regular breathing,
or even an occasional snore, might have
given evidence of slumber. At the back of
the house, the Indian retainers were lapped
in silence. They were a harmless people,--
somewhat disposed, perhaps, to small pilferings,
in an amiable and loyal way, but
incapable of anything seriously criminal.
There were no locks on the doors, and most
of them stood ajar. Tramps and burglars
Miriam, having put on her night-dress,
stood a few minutes at her window, gazing
out on the soft darkness of the garden. All
there was peacefulness and fragrance. The
leaves of the plants hung motionless; the
blossoms seemed to hush themselves to the
enjoyment of their own sweetness. The sky
was clear, but there was no moon. A beautiful
planet, however, bright enough to cast
a shadow, hung in the southwestern sky, and
its mysterious light touched Miriam's face,
and cast a dim rectangle of radiance on the
white matting that carpeted the floor of her
room. It was the planet Venus,--the star of
love. Miriam thought it would be a pleasant
place to live in. But one need not journey
to Venus to find a world where love is the
ruling passion. Circumstances over which
she has no control may cause such a world
to come into existence in a girl's heart.
She left the window at last, and got into
bed, where she soon presented an image of
perfect repose. Meanwhile, in a dark corner
of the court-yard at the rear, a dark,
pyramidal object abode without motion. It
might have been taken for a heap of blankets
piled up there. But if you examined it
more narrowly you would have detected in
it the vague outlines of a human figure,
squatting on its haunches, with its head resting
on its knees, and its arms clasped round
them,--somewhat as figures sit in Egyptian
hieroglyphics, or like Aztecan mummies in
the tomb. So still was it, it might itself
have been a mummy. But ever and anon a
blinking of the narrow eyes in the bronze
countenance told that it was no mummy, but
a living creature. In fact, it was none other
than the aged and austere Kamaiakan, who,
for reasons best known to himself, chose to
spend the hours usually devoted to rest in an
attitude that no European or white American
could have maintained with comfort longer
than five minutes.
An hour--two hours--passed away. Then
Kamaiakan noiselessly arose, peered about
him cautiously for a few moments, and
passed out of the court-yard through the
open gate. He turned to the left, and,
stealing beneath Miriam's windows, paused
there for an instant and made certain
gestures with his arms. Anon he continued
his way to the garden, and was soon concealed
by the thick shrubbery.
History requires us to follow him. The
garden extended westward, and was quite a
spacious enclosure: one not familiar with its
winding paths might easily lose himself
there on a dark night. But Kamaiakan
knew where he was going, and the way
thither. He now stalked along more swiftly,
taking one turn after another, brushing aside
the low-hanging boughs, and passing the
loveliest flowers without a glance. He was
as one preoccupied with momentous business.
Presently he arrived at a small open space,
remote and secluded. It was completely
surrounded by tall shrubbery. In the centre
was a basin of stone, evidently very
ancient, filled to the brim with the clear
water of a spring, which bubbled up from
the bottom, and, overflowing by way of a
gap in the edge, became a small rivulet,
which stole away in the direction of the sea.
Across the slightly undulating surface of the
basin trembled the radiance of the star.
Kamaiakan knelt down beside it, and,
bending over, gazed intently into the water.
Presently he dipped his hands in it, and
sprinkled shining drops over his own gaunt
person, and over the ground in the vicinity
of the spring. He made strange movements
with his arms, bowed his head and erected it
again, and traced curious figures on the
ground with his finger. It appeared as if
the venerable Indian had solemnly lost his
senses and had sought out this lonely spot to
indulge the vagaries of his insanity. If so,
his silence and deliberation afforded an
example worthy of consideration by other
Suddenly he ceased his performance, and
held himself in a listening attitude. A light,
measured sound was audible, accompanied
by the rustling of leaves. It came nearer.
There was a glimpse of whiteness through
the interstices of the surrounding foliage,
and then a slender figure, clad in close-fitting
raiment, entered the little circle. It
wore a sort of tunic, reaching half-way to
the knees, and leggings of the same soft,
grayish-white material. The head was covered
with a sort of hood, which left only the
face exposed; and this too might be covered
by a species of veil or mask, which, however,
was now fastened back on the headpiece,
after the manner of a visor. The
front of the tunic was embroidered with
fantastic devices in gold thread, brightened
here and there with precious stones; and
other devices appeared on the hood. The
face of this figure was pale and calm, with
great dark eyes beneath black brows. The
stature was no greater than that of a lad of
fifteen, but the bearing was composed and
dignified. The contours of the figure,
however, even as seen by that dim light, were
those of neither a boy nor a man. The
wearer of the tunic was a girl, just rounding
into womanhood, and the face was the face
Yet it was not by this name that Kamaiakan
addressed her. After making a deep
obeisance, touching his hand to her foot and
then to his own forehead and breast, he said,
in a language that was neither Spanish nor
such as the modern Indians of Mexico use,--
"Welcome, Semitzin! May this night
be the beginning of high things!"
"I am ready," replied the other, in a
soft and low voice, but with a certain stateliness
of utterance unlike the usual manner
of General Trednoke's daughter: "I was
glad to hear you call, and to see again the
stars and the earth. Have you anything to
"There are events which may turn to our
harm, most revered princess. The master
of this house----"
"Why do you not call him my father,
Kamaiakan?" interposed the other. "He
is indeed the father of this mortal body
which I wear, which (as you tell me) bears
the name of Miriam. Besides, are not
Miriam and I united by the thread of
"Something of the spirit that is you
dwells in her also," said the Indian.
"And does she know of it?"
"At times, my princess; but only as one
remembers a dream."
"I wish I might converse with her and
instruct her in the truth," said the princess.
"And she, in turn, might speak to me of
things that perplex me. I live and move in
this mortal world, and yet (you tell me)
three centuries have passed since what is
called my death. To me it seems as if I
had but slept through a night, and were
awake again. Nor can I tell what has
happened--what my life and thoughts have
been--during this long lapse of time. Yet
it must be that I live another life: I cannot
rest in extinction. Three times you have
called me forth; yet whence I come hither,
or whither I return, is unknown to me."
"There is a memory of the spirit,"
replied Kamaiakan, "and a memory of the
body. They are separate, and cannot
communicate with each other. Such is the
"Yet I remember, as if it were yesterday,
the things that were done when Montezuma
was king. And well do I remember you,
"It is true I live again, princess, though
not in the flesh and bones that died with
you in the past. But in the old days I was
acquainted with mysteries, and learned the
secrets of the world of spirits; and this
science still remained with me after the
change, so that I was able to know that I
was I, and that you could be recalled to
speak with me through the tongue of Miriam.
But there are some things that I do not
know; and it is for that I have been bold
to summon you."
"What can I tell you that can be of use
to you in this present life, Kamaiakan, when
all whom we knew and loved are gone?"
"To you only, Semitzin, is known the
place of concealment of the treasure which,
in the old times, you and I hid in the
desert. I indeed remember the event, and
somewhat of the region of the hiding; but
I cannot put my hand upon the very spot.
I have tried to discover it; but when I
approach it my mind becomes confused
between the present and the past, and I am
"I remember it well," said Semitzin.
"We rode across the desert, carrying the
treasure on mules. The air was still, and
the heat very heavy. The desert descended
in a great hollow: you told me it was where,
in former days, the ocean had been. At
last there were rocky hills before us; we
rode towards a great rock shaped like the
pyramid on which the sacrifices were held
in Tenochtitlan. We passed round its base,
and entered a deep and narrow valley, that
seemed to have been ploughed out of the
heart of the earth and to descend into it.
Then---- But what is it you wish to do
with this treasure, Kamaiakan?"
"It belongs to your race, princess, and
was hidden that the murderers of Montezuma
might not seize it. I was bound by
an oath, after the peril was past, to restore
it to the rightful owners. But our country
remained under the rule of the conquerors;
and my life went out. But now the
conquerors have been conquered in their turn,
and Miriam is the last inheritor of your
blood. When I have delivered to her this
trust, my work will be done, and I can return
to the world which you inhabit. The
time is come; and only by your help can
the restitution be made."
"Was there, then, a time fixed?"
"The stars tell me so. And other events
make it certain that there must be no delay.
The general has it in mind to discover the
gates through which the waters under-ground
may arise and again form the sea which flowed
hereabouts in the ancient times. Now, this
sea will fill the ravine in which the treasure
lies, and make it forever unattainable. A
youth has also come here who is skilled in
the sciences, and whom the general will ask
to help him in the thing he is to attempt."
"Who is this youth?" asked Semitzin.
"He is of the new people who inherit
this land: his name is Freeman."
"There is something in me--I know not
what--that seems to tell me I have been
near such a one. Can it be so?"
"The other self, who now sleeps, knows
of him," replied the ancient Indian. "He
is a well-looking youth, and I think he
has a desire towards her we call Miriam."
"And does she love him?" inquired the
"A maiden's heart is a riddle, even to
herself," said Kamaiakan.
"But there is a sympathy that makes me
feel her heart in my own," rejoined Semitzin.
"Love is a thing that pierces through
time, and through barriers which separate
the mind and memory of the past from the
present. I--as you know, Kamaiakan--was
never wedded; the fate of our people, and
my early end, kept that from me. But the
thought of that youth is here,"--she put
her hand on her bosom,--"and it seems to
me that, were we to meet, I should know
him. Perhaps, were that to be, Miriam and
I might thus come to be aware of each
other, and live henceforth one life."
"Such matters are beyond my knowledge,"
said the Indian, shaking his head.
"The gods know what will be. It is for
us, now, to regain the treasure. Are you
willing, my princess, to accompany me
"I am ready. Shall it be now?"
"Not now, but soon. I will call you
when the moment comes. The place is but
a ride of two or three hours from here.
None must know of our departure, for there
are some here whom I do not trust. We
must go by night. You will wear the
garments you now have on, without which all
"How can the garments affect the result,
"A powerful spell is laid upon them,
princess. Moreover, the characters wrought
upon them, with gold thread and jewels, are
mystical, and the substance of the garment
itself has a virtue to preserve the wearer
from evil. It is the same that was worn by
you when the treasure was hidden; and it
may be, Semitzin, that without its magic aid
your spirit could not know itself in this
world as now it can."
As he spoke the last words, a low sound,
wandering and muttering with an inward
note, came palpitating on their ears through
the night air. It seemed to approach from
no direction that could be identified, yet it
was at first remote, and then came nearer,
and in a moment trembled around them,
and shivered in the solid earth beneath their
feet; and in another instant it had passed
on, and was subdued slowly into silence in
the shadowy distance. No one who has
once heard that sound can mistake it for
any other, or ever can forget it. The air
had suddenly become close and tense; and
now a long breeze swept like a sigh through
the garden, dying away in a long-drawn
wail; and out of the west came a hollow
murmur, like that of a mighty wave breaking
upon the shore of the ocean.
"The earthquake!" whispered Kamaiakan,
rising to his feet. And then he pointed
to the stone basin. "Look! the spring!"
"It is gone!" exclaimed Semitzin.
And, in truth, the water, with a strange,
sucking noise, disappeared through the
bottom of the basin, leaving the glistening
cavity which had held it, green with slimy
"The time is near, indeed!" muttered
the Indian. "The second shock may cause
the waters from which this spring came to
rise as no living man has seen them rise, and
make the sea return, and the treasure be
lost. In a few days all may be over. But
you, princess, must vanish: though the shock
was but slight, some one might be awakened;
and were you to be discovered, our plans
might go wrong."
"Must I depart so soon?" said Semitzin,
regretfully. "The earth is beautiful,
Kamaiakan: the smell of the flowers is sweet,
and the stars in the sky are bright. To feel
myself alive, to breathe, to walk, to see, are
sweet. Perhaps I have no other conscious life
than this. I would like to remain as I am: I
would like to see the sun shine, and to hear
the birds sing, and to see the men and
women who live in this age. Is there no
way of keeping me here?"
"I cannot tell; it may be,--but it must
not be now, Semitzin," the old man replied,
with a troubled look. "The ways of the
gods are not our ways. She whose body
you inhabit--she has her life to live."
"But is that girl more worthy to live than
I? You have called me into being again:
you have made me know how pleasant this
world is. Miriam sleeps: she need never
know; she need never awake again. You
were faithful to me in the old time: have
you more care for her than for me? I feel
all the power and thirst of youth in me: the
gods did not let me live out my life: may
they not intend that I shall take it up again
now? Besides, I wear Miriam's body:
could I not seem to others to be Miriam
indeed? How could they guess the truth?"
"I will think of what you say, princess,"
said Kamaiakan. "Something may perhaps
be done; but it must be done gradually:
you would need much instruction in the
ways of the new world before you could
safely enter into its life. Leave that to me.
I am loyal as ever: is it not to fulfil the
oath made to you that I am here? and what
would Miriam be to me, were she not your
inheritor? Be satisfied for the present: in
a few days we will meet and speak again."
"The power is yours, Kamaiakan: it is
well to argue, when with a word you can
banish me forever! Yet what if I were to
say that, unless you consent to the thing I
desire, I will not show you where the treasure
"Princess Semitzin!" exclaimed the
Indian, "remember that it is not against me,
but against the gods, that you would contend.
The gods know that I have no care for
treasure. But they will not forgive a broken
oath; and they will not hold that one guiltless
through whom it is brought to naught?"
"Well, we shall meet again," answered
Semitzin, after a pause. "But do you
remember that you, too, are not free from
responsibility in this matter. You have
called me back: see to it that you do me
justice." She waved her hands with a gesture
of adieu, turned, and left the enclosure.
Kamaiakan sank down again beside the
empty bowl of the fountain.
Semitzin returned along the path by which
she had come, towards the house. As she
turned round one of the corners, she saw a
man's figure before her, strolling slowly
along in the same direction in which she
was going. In a few moments he heard her
light footfall, and, facing about, confronted
her. She continued to advance until she
was within arm's reach of him: then she
paused, and gazed steadfastly in his face.
He was the first human being, save Kamaiakan,
that she had seen since her eyes closed
upon the world of Tenochtitlan, three hundred
The young man looked upon her with
manifest surprise. It was too dark to
distinguish anything clearly, but it did not take
him long to surmise that the figure was that
of a woman, and her countenance, though
changed in aspect by the head-dress she
were, yet had features which, he knew, he
had seen before. But could it be Miriam
Trednoke who was abroad at such an hour
and in such a costume? He did not recognize
the Golden Fleece, but it was evident
enough that she was clad as women are not.
Before he could think of anything to say
to her, she smiled, and uttered some words
in a soft, flowing language with which he
was entirely unacquainted. The next moment
she had glided past him, and was out
of sight round the curve of the path, leaving
him in a state of perplexity not altogether
"What the deuce can it mean?" he
muttered to himself. "I can't be mistaken
about its being Miriam. And yet she didn't
look at me as if she recognized me. What
can she be doing out here at midnight? I
suppose it's none of my business: in fact,
she might very reasonably ask the same question
of me. And if I were to tell her that
I had only ridden over to spend a
sentimental hour beneath her window, what
would she say? If she answered in the
same lingo she used just now, I should be
as wise as before. After all, it may have
been somebody else. The image in my
mind projected itself on her countenance.
I certainly must be in love! I almost wish
I'd never come here. This complication
about the general's irrigating scheme makes
it awkward. I'm bound not to explain
things to him; and yet, if I don't, and he
discovers (as he can't help doing) what I
am here for, nothing will persuade him that
I haven't been playing a double game; and
that would not be a promising preliminary
towards becoming a member of his family.
If Miriam were only Grace, now, it would
be plain sailing. Hello! who's this? Senor
Don Miguel, as I'm a sinner! What is he
up to, pray? Can this be the explanation
of Miriam's escapade? I have a strong
desire to blow a hole through that fellow!
--Buenas noches, Senor de Mendoza! I
am enchanted to have the unexpected honor
of meeting you."
Senor de Mendoza turned round,
disagreeably startled. It is only fair to explain
that he had not come hither with any lover-
like designs towards Miriam. Grace was
the magnet that had drawn his steps to the
Trednokes' garden, and the truth is that
that enterprising young lady was not without
a suspicion that he might turn up.
Could this information have been imparted
to Freeman, it would have saved much
trouble; but, as it was, not only did he
jump to the conclusion that Don Miguel
was his rival (and, seemingly, a not
unsuccessful one), but a similar misgiving as to
Freeman's purposes towards Grace found its
way into the heart of the Spaniard. It was
a most perverse trick of fate.
The two men contemplated each other,
each after his own fashion: Don Miguel
pale, glaring, bristling; Freeman smiling,
"Why are you here, senor?" demanded
the former, at length.
"Partly, senor, because such is my
pleasure. Partly, to inform you that your
presence here offends me, and to humbly request
you to be off."
"Senor, this is an impertinence."
"Senor, one is not impertinent to prowling
greasers. One admonishes them, and,
if they do not obey, one chastises them."
"Do you talk of chastising Don Miguel
de Mendoza? Senor, I will wash out that
insult with your blood!"
"Excellent! It is at your service for the
taking. But, lest we disturb the repose of
our friends yonder, let us seek a more
convenient spot. I noticed a very pretty little
glade on the right as I rode over here. You
are armed? Good! we will have this little
affair adjusted within half an hour. Yonder
star--the planet of love, senor--shall see
fair play. Andamos!"
Having mounted their steeds, the two
sanguinary young gentlemen rode onwards,
side by side, but in silence; for the
souls of those who have resolved to slay each
other find small delight in vain
conversation. Moreover, there is that in the
conscious proximity of death which stimulates
to thought much more than to speech. But
Freeman preserved an outward demeanor of
complacent calm, as one who doubts not,
nor dreads, the issue; and, indeed, this was
not the first time by many that he had taken
his life in his hand and brought it unscathed
through dangers. Don Miguel, on the other
hand, was troubled in spirit, and uneasy in
the flesh. He was one soon hot and soon
cold; and this long ride to the decisive
event went much against his stomach. If
the conflict had taken place there in the
garden, while the fire of the insult was yet
scorching him, he could have fought it out
with good will; but now the night air seemed
chiller and chiller, and its frigidity crept
into his nerves: he doubted of the steadiness
of his aim, bethought himself that the
darkness was detrimental to accurate shooting,
and wondered whether Senor Freeman
would think it necessary to fight across a
handkerchief. He could not help regretting,
too, that the quarrel had not been occasioned
by some more definite and satisfactory
provocation,--something which merely to think
of would steel the heart to irrevocable
murderousness. But no blow had passed; even
the words, though bitter to swallow, had
been wrapt in the phrases of courtesy; and
perhaps the whole affair was the result of
some misapprehension. He stole a look at
the face of his companion; and the latter's
air of confident and cheerful serenity made
him feel worse than ever. Was he being
brought out here to be butchered for
nothing,--he, Don Miguel de Mendoza, who
had looked forward to many pleasures in
this life? It was too bad. It was true, the
fortune of war might turn the other way;
but Don Miguel was aware of a sensation in
his bones which made this hope weak.
At length Freeman drew rein and glanced
around him. They were in a lonely and--
Don Miguel thought--a most desolate and
unattractive spot. An open space of about
half an acre was bounded on one side by a
growth of wild mustard, whose slender stalks
rose to more than the height of a man's
head. On the other side was a grove of
live-oak; and in front, the ground fell away
in a rugged, bush-grown declivity.
"It strikes me that this is just about what
we want," remarked Freeman, in his full,
cheerful tones. "We are half a mile from
the road; the ground is fairly level; and
there's no possibility of our being disturbed.
I was thinking, this afternoon, as I passed
through here, what an ideal spot it was for
just such a little affair as you and I are bent
on. But I didn't venture to anticipate
such speedy good fortune as your obliging
condescension has brought to pass, Don
"Caramba!" muttered the senor,
shivering. He might have said more, but was
unwilling to trust his voice, or to waste
Meanwhile, Freeman had dismounted,
and was tethering his horse. It occurred
to the senor that it would be easy to pull
his gun, send a bullet through his
companion, and gallop away. He did not
yield to this temptation, partly from
traditional feeling that it would not be suitable
conduct for a De Mendoza, partly because
he might miss the shot or only inflict a
wound, and partly because such deeds
demand a nerve which, at that moment, was
not altogether at his command. Instead,
he slowly dismounted himself, and wondered
whether it would ever be vouchsafed him to
sit in that saddle again.
Freeman now produced his revolver, a
handsome, silver-mounted weapon, that
looked business-like. "What sort of a
machine is yours?" he inquired, pleasantly.
"You can take your choice. I'm not
particular, but I can recommend this as a sure
thing, if you would like to try it. It never
misses at twenty paces."
"Twenty paces?" repeated Don Miguel,
with a faint gleam of hope.
"Of course we won't have any twenty
paces to-night, "added Freeman, with a
laugh. "I thought it might be a good
plan to start at, say, fifteen, and advance
firing. In that way, one or other of us
will be certain to do something sooner or
later. Would that arrangement be agreeable
to Senor de Mendoza?"
"Valga me Dios! I am content," said
the latter, fetching a deep breath, and setting
his teeth. "I will keep my weapon."
"Muy buen," returned the American.
"So now let us take our ground: that is, if
you are quite ready?"
Accordingly they selected their stations,
facing respectively about north and south,
with the planet of love between them, as it
were. "Oblige me by giving the word,
senor," said Freeman, cocking his weapon.
But Don Miguel was staring with perturbed
visage at something behind his antagonist.
"Santa Maria!" he faltered,
"what is yonder? It is a spirit!"
Freeman had his wits about him, and
perhaps entertained a not too high opinion
of Mexican fair play. So, before turning
round, he advanced till he was alongside
his companion. Then he looked, and saw
something which was certainly enigmatic.
Among the wild-mustard plants there
appeared a moving luminosity, having an
irregular, dancing motion, as of a will-o'-the-
wisp singularly agitated. Sometimes it
uplifted itself on high, then plunged
downwards, and again jerked itself from side to
side; occasionally it would quite vanish for
an instant. Accompanying this manifestation
there was a clawing and reaching of
shadowy arms: altogether, it was as if some
titanic spectral grasshopper, with a heart of
fire, were writhing and kicking in convulsions
of phantom agony. Such an apparition,
in an hour and a place so lonely,
might stagger a less superstitious soul than
that of Don Miguel de Mendoza.
Freeman gazed at it for a moment in
silence. It mystified him, and then irritated
him. When one is bent heart and soul upon
an important enterprise, any interruption is
an annoyance. Perhaps there was in the
young American's nature just enough remains
of belief in witches and hobgoblins
to make him feel warranted in resorting to
extreme measures. At any rate, he lifted
his revolver, and fired.
It was a long shot for a revolver:
nevertheless it took effect. The luminous object
disappeared with a faint explosive sound,
followed by a shout unmistakably human.
The long stems of the wild mustard swayed
and parted, and out sprang a figure, which
ran straight towards the two young men.
Hereupon, Don Miguel, hissing out an appeal
to the Virgin and the saints, turned and
Meanwhile, the mysterious figure
continued its onward career; and Freeman
once more levelled his weapon,--when a
voice, which gave him such a start of
surprise as well-nigh caused him to pull the
trigger for sheer lack of self-command,
called out, "Why, you abominable young
villain! What the mischief do you mean?
Do you want to be hanged?"
"Professor Meschines!" faltered Freeman.
It was indeed that worthy personage, and
he was on fire with wrath. He held in one
hand a shattered lantern mounted on the
end of a pole, and in the other a long-
handled net of gauze, such as entomologists
use to catch moths withal. Under his left
arm was slung a brown japanned case, in
which he presumably deposited the spoils
of his skill. Freeman's shot had not only
smashed and extinguished the lantern which
served as bait for the game, but had also
given the professor a disagreeable reminder
that the tenure of human life is as precarious
as that of the silly moth which allows itself
to be lured to destruction by shining promises
"Upon my soul, professor, I am very
sorry," said Freeman. "You have no idea
how formidable you looked; and you could
hardly expect me to imagine that you would
be abroad at such an hour----"
"And why not, I should like to know?"
shouted the professor, towering with
indignation. "Was I doing anything to be
ashamed of? And what are you doing here,
pray, with loaded revolvers in your hands?
--Hallo! who's this?" he exclaimed, as
Don Miguel advanced doubtfully out of the
gloom. "Senor de Mendoza, as I'm a
sinner! and armed, too! Well, really!
Are you two out on a murdering expedition?
--Oho!" he went on, in a changed tone,
glancing keenly from one to another:
"methinks I see the bottom of this mystery.
You have ridden forth, like the champions
of romance, to do doughty deeds upon each
other!--Is it not so, Don Miguel?" he
demanded, turning his fierce spectacles
suddenly on that young man.
Don Miguel, ignoring a secret gesture
from Freeman, admitted that he had been
on the point of expunging the latter from
this mortal sphere.
The professor chuckled sarcastically. "I
see! Blood! Wounded honor! The code!
--But, by the way, I don't see your seconds!
Where are your seconds?"
"My dear sir," said Freeman, "I assure
you it's all a mistake. We just happened
to meet at the gen--er--happened to meet,
and were riding home together----"
"Now, listen to me, Harvey," the
professor interrupted, holding up an expository
finger. "You have known me since some
ten years, I think; and I have known you.
You were a clever boy in your studies; but
it was your foible to fancy yourself cleverer
than you were. Acting under that delusion,
you pitted yourself against me on one or
two occasions; and I leave it to your candid
recollection whether you or I had the best
of the encounter. You call yourself a man,
now; but I make bold to say that the--
discrepancy, let us call it--between you and me
remains as conspicuous as ever it was. I see
through you, sir, much more clearly than, by
this light, I can see you. I am fond of you,
Harvey; but I feel nothing but contempt
for your present attitude. In the first place,
conscious as you are of your skill with that
weapon, you know that this affair--even had
seconds been present--would have been, not
a duel, but an assassination. You acted like
a coward!--I say it, sir, like a coward!--
and I hope you may live to be as much
ashamed of yourself as I am now ashamed
for you. Secondly, your conduct, considered
in its relations to--to certain persons
whom I will not name, is that of a boor and
a blackguard. Suppose you had accomplished
the cowardly murder--the cowardly
murder, I said, sir--that you were bent upon
to-night. Do you think that would be a
grateful and acceptable return for the courtesy
and confidence that have been shown
you in that house?--a house, sir, to which I
myself introduced you, under the mistaken
belief that you were a gentleman, or, at
least, could feign gentlemanly behavior!
But I won't--my feelings won't allow me to
enlarge further upon this point. But allow
me to add, in the third place, that you have
shown yourself a purblind donkey. Actually,
you haven't sense enough to know the difference
between those who pull with you and
those who pull against you. Now, I happen
to know--to know, do you hear?--that had
you succeeded in what you were just about
to attempt, you would have removed your
surest ally,--the surest, because his interests
prompt him to favor yours. You pick out
the one man who was doing his best to clear
the obstacle out of your path, and what do
you do?--Thank him?--Not you! You plot
to kill him! But even had he been, as you
in your stupidity imagined, your rival, do
you think the course you adopted would
have promoted your advantage? Let me
tell you, sir, that you don't know the kind
of people you are dealing with. You would
never have been permitted to cross their
threshold again. And you may take my
word for it, if ever you venture to recur to
any such folly, I will see to it that you
receive your deserts.--Well, I think we
understand each other, now?"
Freeman's emotions had undergone
several variations during the course of the
mighty professor's harangue. But he had
ended by admitting the force of the
argument; and the reminiscences of college
lecturings aroused by the incident had
tickled his sense of humor and quenched
his anger. He looked at the professor with
a sparkle of laughter in his eyes.
"I have done very wrong, sir," he said,
"and I'm very sorry for it. If you won't
give me any bad marks this time, I'll
promise to be good in future."
"Ah! very smooth! To begin with,
suppose you ask pardon of Senor Don
Miguel de Mendoza for the affront you
have put upon him."
To a soul really fearless, even an apology
has no terrors. Moreover, Freeman's night
ride with Don Miguel, though brief in time,
had sufficed to give him the measure of the
Mexican's character; and he respected it so
little that he could no longer take the man
seriously, or be sincerely angry with him.
The professor's assurance as to Don Miguel's
inoffensiveness had also its weight; and it
was therefore with a quite royal gesture
of amicable condescension that Freeman
turned upon his late antagonist and held out
"Senor Don Miguel de Mendoza," said
he, "I humbly tender you my apologies
and crave your pardon. My conduct has
been inexcusable; I beg you to excuse it.
I deserve your reprobation; I entreat the
favor of your friendship. Senor, between
men of honor, a misunderstanding is a
misunderstanding, and an apology is an
apology. I lament the existence of the
first; the professor, here, is witness that I
lay the second at your feet. May I hope
to receive your hand as a pledge that you
restore me to the privilege of your good
Now, Don Miguel's soul had been grievously
exercised that night: he had been
insulted, he had shivered beneath the shadow
of death, he had been a prey to superstitious
terrors, and he had been utterly perplexed
by the professor's eloquent address, whereof
(as it was delivered in good American, and
with a rapidity of utterance born of strong
feeling) he had comprehended not a word,
and the unexpected effect of which upon
his late adversary he was at a loss to
understand. Although, therefore, he had no
stomach for battle, he was oppressed by a
misgiving lest the whole transaction had
been in some way planned to expose him to
ridicule; and for this reason he was
disposed to treat Freeman's peaceful overtures
with suspicion. His heart did not respond
to those overtures, but neither was it stout
enough to enable him to reject them
explicitly. Accordingly, he adopted that
middle course which, in spite of the
proverb, is not seldom the least expedient.
He disregarded the proffered hand, bowed
very stiffly, and, saying, "Senor, I am
satisfied," stalked off with all the rigidity
of one in whose veins flows the sangre azul
of Old Castile. Freeman smiled superior
upon his retreat, and then, producing a
cigar-case, proceeded to light up with the
professor. In this fragrant and friendly
cloud we will leave them, and return for a
few minutes to the house of General Trednoke.
It will be remembered that something was
said of Grace being privy to the nocturnal
advances of Senor de Mendoza. We are
not to suppose that this implies in her
anything worse than an aptness to indulge in
romantic adventure: the young lady
enjoyed the mystery of romance, and knew
that serenades, and whisperings over star-lit
balconies, were proper to this latitude. It
may be open to question whether she really
was much interested in De Mendoza, save
as he was a type of the adoring Spaniard.
That the scene required: she could imagine
him (for the time-being) to be the Cid of
ancient legend, and she herself would enact
a role of corresponding elevation. Grace
would doubtless have prospered better had
she been content with one adorer at a time;
but, while turning to a new love, she was by
no means disposed to loosen the chains of a
former one; and, though herself as jealous
as is a tiger-cat of her young, she could
never recognize the propriety of a similar
passion on the part of her victims. She
had been indignant at Freeman's apparent
infidelity with Miriam; but when she had
(as she imagined) discovered her mistake,
she had listened with a heart at ease to
the protestations of Don Miguel. She had
parted from him that evening with a half
expressed understanding that he was to
reappear beneath her window before day-
light; and she had pictured to herself a
charming balcony-scene, such as she had
beheld in Italian opera. Accordingly, she
had attired herself in a becoming negligee,
and had spent the fore part of the night
somewhat restlessly, occasionally emerging
on the veranda and gazing down into the
perfumed gloom of the garden. At length she
fancied that she heard footsteps. Whose
could they be, unless Don Miguel's? Grace
retreated within her window to await
developments. Don Miguel did not appear;
but presently she descried a phantom-like
figure ascending the flight of steps to the
veranda. Could that be he? If so, he
was bolder in his wooing than Grace had
been prepared for. But surely that was a
strange costume that he wore; nor did the
unconscious harmony of the gait at all resemble
the senor's self-conscious strut. And
whither was he going?
It was but too evident that he was going
straight to the room occupied by Miriam!
This was too much for Grace's equanimity.
She stepped out of her window,
and flitted with noiseless step along the
veranda. The figure that she pursued
entered the door of the house, and passed into
the corridor traversing the wing. Grace
was in time to see it cross the threshold of
Miriam's door, which stood ajar. She stole
to the door, and peeped in. There was the
figure; but of Miriam there was no trace.
The figure slowly unfastened and threw
back the hood which covered its head, at
the same time turning round, so that its
countenance was revealed. A torrent of
black hair fell down over its shoulders.
Grace uttered an involuntary exclamation.
It was Miriam herself!
The two gazed at each other a moment in
silence. "Goodness me, dear!" said Grace
at last, in a faint voice, "how you have
frightened me! I saw you go in, in that
dress, and I thought you were a man!
How my heart beats! What is the matter?"
"This is strange!" murmured the other,
after a pause. "I never heard such words;
and yet I seem to understand, and even to
speak them. It must be a dream. What
"Why, Miriam, dear! don't you know
"Oh! you think me Miriam. No; not
yet!" She raised her hands, and pressed
her fingers against her temples. "But I
feel her--I feel her coming! Not yet,
Kamaiakan! not so soon!--Do you know
him?" she suddenly asked, throwing back
her hair, and fixing an eager gaze on
"Know who? Kamaiakan? Why,
"No, not him! The youth,--the blue-
eyed,--the fair beard above his lips----"
"What are you talking about? Not
"Harvey Freeman! Ah, how sweet a
name! Harvey Freeman! I shall know it
now!--Tell him," she went on, laying her
hand majestically upon Grace's shoulder,
and speaking with an impressive earnestness,
"that Semitzin loves him!"
"Semitzin?" repeated Grace, puzzled,
and beginning to feel scared.
"Semitzin!" the other said, pointing to
her own heart. "She loves him: not as
the child Miriam loves, but with the heart
and soul of a mighty princess. When he
knows Semitzin, he will think of Miriam no
"But who is Semitzin?" inquired Grace,
with a fearful curiosity.
"The Princess of Tenochtitlan, and the
guardian of the great treasure, "was the
"Good gracious! what treasure?"
"The treasure of gold and precious
stones hidden in the gorge of the desert
hills. None knows the place of it but I;
and I will give it to none but him I love."
"But you said that . . . Really, my
dear, I don't understand a bit! As for Mr.
Freeman, he may care for Semitzin, for
aught I know; but, I must confess, I think
you're mistaken in supposing he's in love
with you,--if that is what you mean. I
met him before you did, you know; and if
I were to tell you all that we----"
"What are you or Miriam to me?--Ah!
she comes!--The treasure--by the turning
of the white pyramid--six hundred paces--
on the right--the arch----" Her voice
died away. She covered her face with her
hands, and trembled violently. Slowly she
let them fall, and stared around her.
"Grace, is it you? Has anything happened?
How came I like this? What is
"Well, if you don't know, I'm afraid I
can't tell you. I had begun to think you
had gone mad. It must be either that or
somnambulism. Who is Semitzin?"
"Semitzin? I never heard of him."
"It isn't a man: it's a princess. And
"Am I asleep or awake? What are you
"The white pyramid, you know----"
"Don't make game of me, Grace. If
I have done anything----"
"My dear, don't ask me! I tell you
frankly, I'm nonplussed. You were somebody
else a minute ago. . . . The truth is,
of course, you've been dreaming awake.
Has any one else seen you beside me?"
"Have I been out of my room?" asked
Miriam, in dismay.
"You must have been, I should think, to
get that costume. Well, the best plan will
be, I suppose, to say nothing about it to
anybody. It shall be our secret, dear. If I
were you, I would have one of the women
sleep in your room, in case you got restless
again. It's just an attack of nervousness,
probably,--having so many strangers in the
house, all of a sudden. Now you must go
to bed and get to sleep: it's awfully late,
and there'll be ever so much going on to-
Grace herself slept little that night. She
could not decide what to make of this
adventure. Nowadays we are provided with
a name for the peculiar psychical state
which Miriam was undergoing, and with
abundant instances and illustrations; but
we perhaps know what it is no more than
we did twenty-five or thirty years ago.
Grace's first idea had been that Miriam was
demented; then she thought she was playing
a part; then she did not know what to
think; and finally she came to the conclusion
that it was best to quietly await further
developments. She would keep an eye
on Freeman as well as on Miriam; something,
too, might be gathered from Don
Miguel; and then there was that talk about
a treasure. Was that all the fabric of a
dream, or was there truth at the bottom of
it? She had heard something said about a
treasure in the course of the general
conversation the day before. If there really
was a treasure, why might not she have a
hand in the discovery of it? Miriam, in
her abnormal state, had let fall some
topographical hints that might prove useful.
Well, she would work out the problem,
sooner or later. To-morrow, when the
others had gone off on their expedition, she
would have ample leisure to sound Don
Miguel, and, if he proved communicative
and available, who could tell what might
happen? But how very odd it all was!
Who was Semitzin?
While asking herself this question, Grace
fell asleep; and by the time the summons
to breakfast came, she had passed through
thrilling adventures enough to occupy a new
Scheherazade at least three years in the
telling of them.
By nine o'clock in the morning,
Professor Meschines and Harvey Freeman
had ridden up to the general's ranch,
equipped for the expedition. The general's
preparations were not yet quite completed.
A couple of mules were being loaded with
the necessary outfit. It was proposed to be
out two days, camping in the open during
the intervening night. It was necessary to
take water as well as solid provisions.
Leaving their horses in the care of a couple
of stable-boys, Meschines and Freeman
mounted the veranda, and were there
greeted by General Trednoke.
"I'm afraid we'll have a hot ride of it,"
he observed. "The atmosphere is rather
oppressive. Kamaiakan tells me there was
a touch of earthquake last night."
"I thought I noticed some disturbance,----"
returned the professor, with a stealthy side-
glance at Freeman,--"something in the
nature of an explosion."
"Earthquakes are common in this region,
aren't they?" Freeman said.
"They have made it what it is, and may
unmake it again," replied the general.
"The earthquake is the father of the desert,
as the Indians say; and it may some day
become the father of a more genial offspring.
"How are the young ladies?" inquired
"Miriam has a little headache, I
believe; and I thought Miss Parsloe was
looking a trifle pale this morning. But
you must see for yourself. Here they
Grace, who was a little taller than
Miriam, had thrown one arm round that
young lady's waist, with a view, perhaps, to
forming a picture in which she should not
be the secondary figure. In fact, they were
both of them very pretty; but Freeman had
become blind to any beauty but Miriam's.
Moreover, he was resolved to have some
private conversation with her during the
few minutes that were available. A
conversation with the professor, and some
meditations of his own, had suggested to him a
line of attack upon Grace.
"I'm afraid you were disturbed by the
earthquake last night?" he said to her.
"An earthquake? Why should you
"You look as if you had passed a restless
night. I saw Senor de Mendoza this morning.
He seems to have had a restless time
of it, too. But he is a romantic person,
and probably, if an earthquake did not
make him sleepless, something else might."
He looked at her a moment, and then
added, with a smile, "But perhaps this is
not news to you?"
"He didn't come--I didn't see him,"
returned Grace, wishing, ere the words had
left her lips, that she had kept her mouth
shut. Freeman continued to smile. How
much did he know? She felt that it might
be inexpedient to continue the conversation.
Casting about for a pretext for
retreat, her eyes fell upon Meschines.
"Oh, there's the dear professor! I must
speak to him a moment," she exclaimed,
vivaciously; and she slipped her arm from
Miriam's waist, and was off, leaving Freeman
in possession of the field, and of the
monopoly of Miriam's society.
"Miss Trednoke," said he, gravely, "I
have something to tell you, in order to clear
myself from a possible misunderstanding.
It may happen that I shall need your
vindication with your father. Will you give
"What vindication do you need, that I
can give?" asked she, opening her dark
eyes upon him questioningly.
"That's what I wish to explain. I am
in a difficult position. Would you mind
stepping down into the garden? It won't
take a minute."
Curiosity, if not especially feminine, is
at least human. Miriam descended the
steps, Freeman beside her. They strolled
down the path, amidst the flowers.
"You said, yesterday," he began, "that
I would say one thing and be another.
Now I am going to tell you what I am.
And afterwards I'll tell you why I tell it.
In the first place, you know, I'm a civil
engineer, and that includes, in my case, a
good deal of knowledge about geology and
things of that sort. I have sometimes been
commissioned to make geological surveys
for Eastern capitalists. Lately I've been
canal-digging on the Isthmus; but the other
day I got a notification from some men in
Boston and New York to come out here on a
"Secret, Mr. Freeman?"
"Yes: you will understand directly.
These men had heard enough about the
desert valleys of this region to lead them to
think that it might be reclaimed and so be
made very valuable. Such lands can be
bought now for next to nothing; but, if the
theories that control these capitalists are
correct, they could afterwards be sold at a
profit of thousands per cent. So it's
indispensable that the object of my being
here should remain unknown; otherwise,
other persons might step in and anticipate
the designs of this company."
"If those are your orders, why do you
speak to me?"
"There's a reason for doing it that
outweighs the reasons against it. I trust you
with the secret: yet I don't mean to bind
you to secrecy. You will have a perfect
right to tell it: the only result would be
that I should be discredited with my
employers; and there is nothing to warrant me
in supposing that you would be deterred by
"I don't ask to know your secret: I
think you had better say no more."
Freeman shook his head. "I must
speak," said he. "I don't care what
becomes of me, so long as I stand right in
your opinion,--your father's and yours. I
am here to find out whether this desert can
be flooded,--irrigated,--whether it's possible,
by any means, to bring water upon it.
If my report is favorable, the company will
purchase hundreds, or thousands, of square
miles, and, incidentally, my own fortune
will be made."
"Why, that's the very thing----" She
"The very thing your father had thought
of! Yes, so I imagined, though he has not
told me so in so many words. So I'm in
the position of surreptitiously taking away
the prospective fortune of a man whom I
respect and honor, and who treats me as a
Miriam walked on some steps in silence.
"It is no fault of yours," she said at last.
"You owe us nothing. You must carry out
"Yes; but what is to prevent your father
from thinking that I stole his idea and then
used it against him?"
"You can tell him the truth: he could
not complain; and why should you care if
he did? I know that men separate business
from--from other things."
They had now come to the little enclosed
space where the fountain basin was; and by
tacit consent they seated themselves upon it.
Miriam gave an exclamation of surprise.
"The water is gone!" she said. "How
"Perhaps it has gone to meet us at our
rendezvous in the desert.--No: if I tell
your father, I should be unfaithful to my
employers. But there's another alternative:
I can resign my appointment, and let my
place be taken by another."
"And give up your chance of a fortune?
You mustn't do that."
"What is it to you what becomes of
"I wish nothing but good to come to
you," said she, in a low voice.
"I have never wanted to have a fortune
until now. And I must tell you the reason
of that, too. A man without a fortune does
very well by himself. He can knock about,
and live from hand to mouth. But when
he wants to live for somebody else,--even
if he has only a very faint hope of getting
the opportunity of doing it,--then he must
have some settled means of livelihood to
justify him. So I say I am in a difficult
position. For if I give this up, I must go
away; and if I go away, I must give up
even the little hope I have."
"Don't go away," said Miriam, after a
"Do you know what you are saying?"
He hesitated a moment, looking at her as
she looked down at the empty basin. "My
hope was that you might love me; for I
love you, to be my wife."
The color slowly rose in Miriam's face:
at length she hid it in her hands. "Oh,
what is it?" she said, almost in a whisper.
"I have known you only three days. But
it seems as if I must have known you before.
There is something in me that is not like
myself. But it is the deepest thing in me;
and it loves you: yes, I love you!"
Her hands left her face, and there was a
light in her eyes which made Freeman, in
the midst of his rejoicing, feel humble and
unworthy. He felt himself in contact with
something pure and sacred. At the same
moment, the recollection recurred to him
of the figure he had seen the night before,
with the features of Miriam. Was it she
indeed? Was this she? To doubt the
identity of the individual is to lose one's
footing on the solid earth. For the first
time it occurred to him that this doubt
might affect Miriam herself. Was she
obscurely conscious of two states of being in
herself, and did she therefore fear to trust
her own impulses? But, again, love is the
master-passion; its fire fuses all things, and
gives them unity. Would not this love that
they confessed for each other burn away all
that was abnormal and enigmatic, and leave
only the unerring human heart, that knows
its own and takes it? These reflections
passed through Freeman's mind in an
instant of time. But he was no metaphysician,
and he obeyed the sane and wholesome
instinct which has ever been man's
surest and safest guide through the
mysteries and bewilderments of existence. He
took the beautiful woman in his arms and
"This is real and right, if anything is,"
said he. "If there are ghosts about, you
and I, at any rate, are flesh and blood, and
where we belong. As to the irrigation
scrape, there must be some way out of it:
if not, no matter! You and I love each
other, and the world begins from this moment!"
"My father must know to-morrow," said
"No doubt we shall all know more to-
morrow than we do to-day," returned her
lover, not knowing how abundantly his
prophecy would be fulfilled: he was over-
flowing with the fearless and enormous joy
of a young man who has attained at one
bound the summit of his desire. "There!
they are calling for me. Good-by, my
darling. Be yourself, and think of nothing
A short ride brought the little cavalcade
to the borders of the desert. Here, by
common consent, a halt was made, to draw
breath, as it were, before taking the final
plunge into the fiery furnace.
"Before we go farther," said General
Trednoke, approaching Freeman, as he was
tightening his girths, "I must tell you what
is the object of this expedition."
"It is not necessary, general," replied
the young man, straightening himself and
looking the other in the face; "for from
this point our paths lie apart."
"Why so?" demanded the general, in
"What's that?" exclaimed Meschines,
coming up, and adjusting his spectacles.
"I'm not at liberty, at present, to
explain," Freeman answered. "All I can
say is that I don't feel justified in assisting
you in your affair, and I am not able to
confide my own to you. I wish you to put
the least uncharitable construction you can
on my conduct. To-morrow, if we all live,
I may say more; now, the most I can tell
you is that I am not entirely a free agent.
Against this unexpected resolve the
general cordially protested and the professor
scoffed and contended; but Freeman stayed
firm. He had with him provisions enough
to last him three days, and a supply of
water; and in a small case he carried a
compact assortment of instruments for
scientific observation. "Take your departure
in whatever direction you like," said he,
"and I will take mine at an angle of not
less than fifteen degrees from it. If I am
not back in three days, you may conclude
something has happened."
It was certainly very hot. Freeman had
been accustomed to torrid suns in the Isthmus;
but this was a sun indefinitely multiplied
by reflections from the dusty surface
underfoot. Nor was it the fine, ethereal fire
of the Sahara: the atmosphere was dead
and heavy; for the rider was already far
below the level of the Pacific, whose cool
blue waves rolled and rippled many leagues
to the westward, as, aeons ago, they had
rolled and rippled here. There was not a
breath of air. Freeman could hear his
heart beat, and the veins in his temples and
wrists throbbed. The sweat rose on the
surface of his body, but without cooling it.
The pony which he bestrode, a bony and
sinewy beast of the toughest description,
trod onwards doggedly, but with little
animation. Freeman had no desire to push
him. Were the little animal to overdo
itself, nothing in the future could be more
certain than that his master would never see
the Trednoke ranch again. It seemed
unusually hot, even for that region.
There was little in the way of outward
incident to relieve the monotony of the
journey. Now and then a short, thick
rattlesnake, with horns on its ugly head,
wriggled out of his path. Now and then his
horse's hoof almost trod upon a hideous,
flat lizard, also horned. Here and there
the uncouth projections of a cactus pushed
upwards out of the dust; some of these the
mustang nibbled at, for the sake of their
juice. Freeman wondered where the juice
came from. The floor of the desert seemed
for the most part level, though there was a
gradual dip towards the east and northeast,
and occasionally mounds and ridges of
wind-swept dust, sometimes upwards of fifty
feet in height, broke the uniformity. The
soil was largely composed of powdered feldspar;
but there were also tracts of gravel
shingle, of yellow loam, and of alkaline
dust. In some places there appeared a salt
efflorescence, sprouting up in a sort of
ghastly vegetation, as if death itself had
acquired a sinister life. Elsewhere, the
ground quaked and yielded underfoot, and
it became necessary to make detours to
avoid these arid bogs. Once or twice, too,
Freeman turned aside lest he should trample
upon some dry bones that protruded in his
path,--bones that were their own monument,
and told their own story of struggle,
agony, exhaustion, and despair.
None of these things had any depressing
effect on Freeman's spirit. His heart was
singing with joy. To a mind logically
disposed, there was nothing but trouble in
sight, whether he succeeded or failed in his
present mission. In the former case, he
would find himself in a hostile position as
regarded the man he most desired to
conciliate; in the latter, he would remain the
mere rolling stone that he was before, and
love itself would forbid him to ask the
woman he loved to share his uncertain
existence. But Freeman was not logical: he
was happy, and he could not help it. He
had kissed Miriam, and she loved him.
His course lay a few degrees north of
east. Far across the plain, dancing and
turning somersaults in the fantastic atmosphere,
were the summits of a range of abrupt
hills, the borders of a valley or ravine
which he wished to explore. Gradually, as
he rode, his shadow lengthened before him.
It was his only companion; and yet he felt
no sense of loneliness. Miriam was in his
heart, and kept it fresh and bold. Even
hunger and thirst he scarcely felt. Who
can estimate the therapeutic and hygienic
effects of love?
The mustang could not share his rider's
source of content, but he may have been
conscious, through animal instincts whereof
we know nothing, of an uplifting and
encouraging spirit. At all events, he kept up
his steady lope without faltering or apparent
effort, and seemed to require nothing more
than the occasional wetting which Freeman
administered to his nose. There would
probably be some vegetation, and perhaps
water, on the hills; and that prospect may
likewise have helped him along.
Nevertheless, man and beast may well
have welcomed the hour when the craggy
acclivities of that lonely range became so
near that they seemed to loom above their
heads. Freeman directed his steps towards
the southern extremity, where a huge, pallid
mass, of almost regular pyramidal form,
reared itself aloft like a monument. He
skirted the base of the pyramid, and there
opened on his view a narrow, winding valley,
scarcely half a mile in apparent breadth,
and of a very wild and savage aspect. Its
general direction was nearly north and
south, and it declined downwards, as if
seeking the interior of the earth. In fact,
it looked not unlike those imaginative
pictures of the road to the infernal regions
described by the ancient poets. One could
picture Pluto in his chariot, with Proserpine
beside him, thundering downwards behind
his black horses, on the way to those sombre
and magnificent regions which are hollowed
out beneath the surface of the planet.
Freeman, however, presently saw a sight
which, if less spectacularly impressive, was
far more agreeable to his eyes. On a shelf
or cup of the declivity was a little clump of
vegetation, and in the midst of it welled up
a thin stream of water. The mustang
scrambled eagerly towards it, and, before
Freeman had had time to throw himself out
of the saddle, he had plunged his muzzle
into the rivulet. He sucked it down with
such satisfaction that it was evident the
water was not salt. Freeman laid himself
prone upon the brink, and followed his
steed's example. The draught was cool
"I didn't know how much I wanted it!"
said he to himself. "It must come from a
good way down. If I could only bring the
parent stream to the surface, my mission
would be on a fair road to success."
An examination of the spring revealed the
fact that it could not have been long in
existence. Indeed, there were no traces
whatever of long continuance. The aperture in
the rock through which it trickled bore the
appearance of having been recently opened;
fragments were lying near it that seemed to
have been just broken off. The bed of the little
stream was entirely free from moss or weeds;
and after proceeding a short distance it
dwindled and disappeared, either sucked up in
vapor by the torrid air, or absorbed into
the dusty soil. Manifestly, it was a recent
"And, to be sure, why not?" ejaculated
Freeman. "There was an earthquake last
night, which swallowed up the spring in
the Trednokes' garden: probably that same
earthquake brought this stream to light. It
vanished there, to reappear here. Well, the
loss is not important to them, but the gain is
very important to me. It is as if Miriam
had come with a cup of water to refresh her
lover in the desert. God bless her! She
has refreshed me indeed, soul and body!"
He removed the saddle from the mustang,
and turned him loose to make the best of
such scanty herbage as he could find. Then
he unpacked his own provisions, and made a
comfortable meal; after which he rolled a
cigarette and reclined on the spot most available,
to rest and recuperate. The valley, or
gorge, lay before him in the afternoon light.
It was a strange and savage spectacle. Had
it been torn asunder by some stupendous
explosion, it could not have presented a rougher
or more chaotic aspect. To look at it was
like beholding the secret places of the earth.
The rocky walls were of different colors,
yellow, blue, and red, in many shades and
gradations. They towered ruggedly upwards,
sharply shadowed and brightly lighted,
mounting in regular pinnacles, parting in
black crevices; here and there vast masses
hung poised on bases seemingly insufficient,
ready to topple over on the unwary passer
beneath. A short distance to the northward
the ravine had a turn, and a projecting
promontory hid its further extreme from sight.
Freeman made up his mind to follow it up
on foot, after the descending sun should
have thrown a shadow over it. The indications,
in his judgment, were not without
promise that a system of judiciously-applied
blastings might open up a source of water
that would transform this dreadful barrenness
into something quite different.
The shade of the great pyramid fell upon
him as he lay, but the tumultuous wall opposite
was brilliantly illuminated: the sky, over
it, was of a peculiar brassy hue, but entirely
cloudless. The radiations from the baked
surface, ascending vertically, made the rocky
bastion seem to quiver, as if it were a reflection
cast on undulating water. The wreaths
of tobacco-smoke that emanated from Freeman's
mouth also ascended, until they touched
the slant of sunlight overhead. As the
young man's eyes followed these, something
happened that caused him to utter an
exclamation and raise himself on one arm.
All at once, in the vacant air diagonally
above him, a sort of shadowy shimmer
seemed to concentrate itself, which was
rapidly resolved into color and form. It was
much as if some unseen artist had swept a
mass of mingled hues on a canvas and then
had worked them with magical speed into a
picture. There appeared a breadth of rolling
country, covered with verdure, and in
the midst of it the white walls and long,
shadowed veranda of an adobe house. Freeman
saw the vines clambering over the eaves
and roof, the vases of earthenware suspended
between the pillars and overflowing with
flowers, the long windows, the steps descending
into the garden. Now a figure clad in
white emerged from the door and advanced
slowly to the end of the veranda. He
recognized the gait and bearing: he could almost
fancy he discerned the beloved features.
She stood there for a moment, gazing, as it
seemed, directly at him. She raised her
hands, and pressed them to her lips, then
threw them outwards, with a gesture eloquent
of innocent and tender passion. Freeman's
heart leaped: involuntarily he stretched out
his arms, and murmured, "Miriam!" The
next moment, a tall, dark figure, with white
hair, wrapped in a blanket, came stalking
behind her, and made a beckoning movement.
Miriam did not turn, but her bearing
changed; her hands fell to her sides;
she seemed bewildered. Freeman sprang
angrily to his feet: the picture became
blurred; it flowed into streaks of vague
color; it was gone. There were only the
brassy sky, and the painted crags quivering
in the heat.
"That was not a mirage: it was a miracle,"
muttered the young man to himself.
"Forty miles at least, and it seemed
scarcely three hundred yards! What does
The sun sank behind the hills, and a
transparent shadow filled the gorge. Freeman,
uneasy in mind, and unable to remain
inactive, filled his canteen at the spring, and
descended to the rugged trail at the bottom.
Clambering over boulders, leaping across
narrow chasms, letting himself down from
ledges, his preoccupation soon left him, and
physical exertion took the precedence. Half
an hour's work brought him to the out-
jutting promontory which had concealed
the further reaches of the valley. These
now lay before him, merging imperceptibly
"This atmosphere is unbearable," said
Freeman. "I must get a little higher up."
He turned to the right, and saw a natural
archway, of no great height, formed in the
rock. The arch itself was white; the super-
incumbent stone was of a dull red hue. On
the left flank of the arch were a series of
inscribed characters, which might have been
cut by a human hand, or might have been a
mere natural freak. They looked like some
rude system of hieroglyphics, and bore no
meaning to Freeman's mind.
A sort of crypt or deep recess was
hollowed out beneath the arch, the full extent
of which Freeman was unable to discern.
The floor of it descended in ridges, like a
rough staircase. He stood for a few moments
peering into the gloom, tempted by
curiosity to advance, but restrained partly
by the gathering darkness, and partly by the
oppressiveness of the atmosphere, which
produced a sensation of giddiness. Something
white gleamed on the threshold of the crypt.
He picked it up. It was a human skull;
but even as he lifted it it came apart in his
hands and crumbled into fragments. Freeman's
nerves were strong, but he shuddered
slightly. The loneliness, the silence, the
mystery, and the strange light-headedness
that was coming over him combined to make
him hesitate. "I'll come back to-morrow
morning early," he said to himself.
As if in answer, a deep, appalling roar
broke forth apparently under his feet, and
went rolling and reverberating up and down
the canon. It died away, but was
immediately followed by another yet more loud,
and the ground shook and swayed beneath
his feet. A gigantic boulder, poised high
up on the other side of the canon, was
unseated, and fell with a terrific crash. A hot
wind swept sighing through the valley, and
the air rapidly became dark. Again came
the sigh, rising to a shriek, with roarings
and thunderings that seemed to proceed
both from the heavens and from the earth.
A dazzling flash of lightning split the air,
bathing it for an instant in the brightness
of day: in that instant Freeman saw the
bolt strike the great white pyramid and
splinter its crest into fragments, while the
whole surface of the gorge heaved and
undulated like a stormy sea. He had been
staggering as best he might to a higher part
of the ravine; but now he felt a stunning
blow on his head: he fell, and knew no
Two horsemen, one of whom led a third
horse, carrying a pack-saddle, had
reached the borders of the desert just as the
earthquake began. When the first shock
came, they were riding past a grove of live-
oaks: they immediately dismounted, made
fast their horses, and lay down beside some
bushes that skirted the grove. Neither the
earthquake nor the storm was so severe as
was the case farther eastward. In an hour
all was over, and they remounted and
continued their journey, guiding their course
by the stars.
"It was thus that we rode before,
Kamaiakan," remarked the younger of the two
travellers. "Yonder bright star stood as it
does now, and the hour of the night was
the same. But this shaking of the earth
makes me fear for the safety of that youth.
The sands of the desert may have swept
over him; or he may have perished in the
"The purposes of the gods cannot be
altered, Semitzin," replied the old Indian,
who perhaps would not have much regretted
such a calamity as she suggested: it would
be a simple solution of difficulties which
might otherwise prove embarrassing. "It
is my prayer, at all events, that the entrance
to the treasure may not be closed."
"I care nothing for the treasure, unless
I may share it with him," she returned.
"Since we spoke together beside the fountain,
I have seen him. He looked upon me
doubtfully, being, perhaps, perplexed
because of these features of the child Miriam,
which I am compelled to wear."
"Truly, princess, what is he, that you
should think of him?" muttered Kamaiakan.
"He satisfies my heart," was the reply.
"And I am resolved never again to give up
this mortal habitation to her you call its
rightful owner. I will never again leave
this world, which I enjoy, for the unknown
darkness out of which you called me."
"Princess, the gods do not permit such
dealings. They may, indeed, suffer you to
live again; but you must return as an
infant, in flesh and bones of your own."
"The gods have permitted me to return
as I have returned; and you well know,
Kamaiakan, that, except you use your art
to banish me and restore Miriam, there is
nothing else that can work a change."
"Murder is not lawful, Semitzin; and to
do as you desire would be an act not different
"On my head be it, then!" exclaimed
the princess. "Would it be less a murder
to send me back to nothingness than to let
her remain there? Mine is the stronger
spirit, and has therefore the better right to
live. I ask of you only to do nothing.
None need ever know that Miriam has
vanished and that Semitzin lives in her place.
I wear her body and her features, and I am
content to wear her name also, if it must be
Kamaiakan was silent. He may well be
pardoned for feeling troubled in the presence
of a situation which had perhaps never
before confronted a human being. Two
women, both tenants of the same body,
both in love with the same man, and therefore
rivals of each other, and each claiming
a right to existence: it was a difficult
problem. The old Indian heartily wished that a
separate tenement might be provided for
each of these two souls, that they might
fight out their quarrel in the ordinary way.
But his magic arts did not extend to the
creation of flesh and blood. At the same
time, he could not but feel to blame for
having brought this strenuous spirit of
Semitzin once more into the world, and he
was fain to admit that her claim was not
without justification. His motives had been
excellent, but he had not foreseen the
consequences in which the act was to land him.
Yet he more shrank from wronging Miriam
than from disappointing Semitzin.
But the latter was not to be put off by
"There has been a change since you and
I last spoke together," she said. "I am
aware of it, though I know not how; but,
in some manner, the things which Miriam
has done are perceptible to me. When I
was here before, she did but lean towards
this youth; now she has given herself to
him. She means to be united to him; and,
if I again should vanish, I should never
again find my way back. But it shall not
be so; and there is a way, Kamaiakan, by
which I can surely prevent it, even though
you refuse to aid me."
"Indeed, princess, I think you mistake
regarding the love of Miriam for this young
man; they have seen little of each other;
and it may be, as you yourself said, that he
has perished in the wilderness."
"I believe he lives," she answered: "I
should know it, were it otherwise. But if I
cannot have him, neither shall she. I have
told you already that, unless you swear to
me not to put forth your power upon me to
dismiss me, I will not lead you to the treasure.
But that is not enough; for men deceive,
and you are a man. But if at any
time hereafter I feel within me those pangs
that tell me you are about to separate me
from this world, at that moment, Kamaiakan,
I will drive this knife through the
heart of Miriam! If I cannot keep her
body, at least it shall be but a corpse when
I leave it. You know Semitzin; and you
know that she will keep her word!"
She reined in her horse, as she spoke, and
sat gazing upon her companion with flashing
eyes. The Indian, after a pause, made a
gesture of gloomy resignation. "It shall be
as you say, then, Semitzin; and upon your
head be it! Henceforth, Miriam is no
more. But do you beware of the vengeance
of the gods, whose laws you have defied."
"Let the gods deal with me as they will,"
replied the Aztecan. "A day of happiness
with the man I love is worth an age of
Kamaiakan made no answer, and the two
rode forward in silence.
It was midnight, and a bright star, nearly
in the zenith, seemed to hang precisely above
the summit of the great white pyramid at
the mouth of the gorge.
"It was here that we stopped," observed
Semitzin. "We tied our horses among the
shrubbery round yonder point. Thence we
must go on foot. Follow me."
She struck her heels against her horse's
sides, and went forward. The long ride
seemed to have wearied her not a whit. The
lean and wiry Indian had already betrayed
symptoms of fatigue; but the young princess
appeared as fresh as when she started. Not
once had she even taken a draught from her
canteen; and yet she was closely clad, from
head to foot, in the doublet and leggings of
the Golden Fleece. One might have thought
it had some magic virtue to preserve its
wearer's vitality; and possibly, as is sometimes
seen in trance, the energy and concentration
of the spirit reacted upon the body.
She turned the corner of the pyramid, but
had not ridden far when an object lying in
her path caused her to halt and spring from
the saddle. Kamaiakan also dismounted and
The dead body of a mustang lay on the
ground, crushed beneath the weight of a
fragment of rock, which had evidently fallen
upon it from a height. He had apparently
been dead for some hours. He was without
either saddle or bridle.
"Do you know him?" demanded Semitzin.
"It is Diego," replied Kamaiakan. "I
know him by the white star on his muzzle.
He was ridden by the Senor Freeman. They
must have come here before the earthquake.
And there lie the saddle and the bridle.
But where is Senor Freeman?"
"He can be nowhere else than in this
valley," said Semitzin, confidently. "I
knew that I should find him here. Through
all the centuries, and across all spaces, we
were destined to meet. His horse was killed,
but he has escaped. I shall save him. Could
Miriam have done this? Is he not mine by
"It is at least certain, princess," responded
the old man rather dryly, "that had it not
been for Miriam you would never have met
the Senor Freeman at all."
"I thank her for so much; and some time,
perhaps, I will reward her by permitting her
to have a glimpse of him for an hour,--or,
at least, a minute. But not now, Kamaiakan,
--not till I am well assured that no thought
but of me can ever find its way into his
heart. Come, let us go forward. We will
find the treasure, and I will give it to my
lord and lover."
"Shall we bring the pack-horse with us?"
asked the Indian.
"Yes, if he can find his way among these
rocks. The earthquake has made changes
here. See how the water pours from this
spring! It has already made a stream down
the valley. It shall guide us whither we are
Leaving their own horses, they advanced
with the mule. But the trail, rough enough
at best, was now well-nigh impassable.
Masses of rock had fallen from above; large
fissures and crevasses had been formed in
the floor of the gorge, from some of which
steaming vapors escaped, while others gave
forth streams of water. The darkness added
to the difficulties of the way, for, although
the sky was now clear, the gloom was
deceptive, and things distant seemed near.
Occasionally a heavy, irregular sound would
break the stillness, as some projection of a
cliff became loosened and tumbled down the
Semitzin, however, held on her way
fearlessly and without hesitation, and the Indian,
with the pack-horse, followed as best he
might, now and then losing sight for a moment
of the slight, grayish figure in front of
him. At length she disappeared behind the
jutting profile of a great promontory which
formed a main angle of the gorge. When
he came up with her, she was kneeling
beside the prostrate form of a man, supporting
his head upon her knee.
Kamaiakan approached, and looked at the
face of the man, which was pale; the eyes
were closed. A streak of blood, from a
wound on the head, descended over the
right side of the forehead.
"Is he dead?" the Indian asked.
"He is not dead," replied Semitzin. "A
flying stone has struck him; but his heart
beats: he will be well again." She poured
some water from her canteen over his face,
and bent her ear over his lips. "He
breathes," she said. Slipping one arm
beneath his neck, she loosened the shirt at his
throat and then stooped and kissed him.
"Be alive for me, love," she murmured.
"My life is yours."
This exhortation seemed to have some
effect. The man stirred slightly, and emitted
a sigh. Presently he muttered, "I can--
"He will live, princess," remarked
Kamaiakan. "But where is the treasure?"
"My treasure is here!" was her reply;
and again she bent to kiss the half-conscious
man, who knew not of his good fortune.
After an interval she added, "It is in the
hollow beneath that archway. Go down
three paces: on the wall at the left you will
feel a ring. Pull it outwards, and the stone
will give way. Behind it lies the chest in
which the jewels are. But remember your
Kamaiakan peered into the hollow, shook
his head as one who loves not his errand,
and stepped in. The black shadow swallowed
him up. Semitzin paid no further
attention to him, but was absorbed in
ministering to her patient, whose strength was
every moment being augmented, though he
was not yet aware of his position. But all
at once a choking sound came from within
the cave, and in a few moments Kamaiakan
staggered up out of the shadow, and sank
down across the threshold of the arch.
"Semitzin," he gasped, in a faint voice,
"the curse of the gods is upon the spot!
The air within is poisonous. It withers the
limbs and stops the breath. No one may
touch the treasure and live. Let us
"The gods do not love those who fear,"
replied the princess, contemptuously. "But
the treasure is mine, and it may well be that
no other hand may touch it. Fold that
blanket, and lay it beneath his head. I will
bring the jewels."
"Do not attempt it: it will be death!"
exclaimed the old man.
"Shall a princess come to her lover
empty-handed? Do you watch beside him
while I go. Ah, if your Miriam were here,
I would not fear to have him choose between
With these words, Semitzin stepped across
the threshold of the crypt, and vanished in
its depths. The Indian, still dizzy and
faint, knelt on the rock without, bowed
down by sinister forebodings.
Several minutes passed. "She has
perished!" muttered Kamaiakan.
Freeman raised himself on one elbow,
and gazed giddily about him. "What the
deuce has happened?" he demanded, in a
sluggish voice. "Is that you, professor?"
Suddenly, a rending and rushing sound
burst from the cave. Following it, Semitzin
appeared at the entrance, dragging a heavy
metal box, which she grasped by a handle
at one end. Immediately in her steps broke
forth a great volume of water, boiling up as
if from a caldron. It filled the cave, and
poured like a cataract into the gorge. The
foundations of the great deep seemed to be
Semitzin lifted from her face the woollen
mask, or visor, which she had closed on
entering the cave. She was panting from
exertion, but neither her physical nor her
mental faculties were abated. She spoke
sharply and imperiously:
"Bring up the mule, and help me fasten
the chest upon him. We must reach higher
ground before the waters overtake us. And
now----" She turned to Freeman, who by
this time was sitting up and regarding her
"Miriam!" was all he could utter.
She shook her head, and smiled. "I am
she who loves you, and whom you will love.
I give you life, and fortune, and myself.
But come: can you mount and ride?"
"I can't make this out," he said,
struggling, with her assistance, to his feet. "I
have read fairy-tales, but this . . . Kamaiakan,
Semitzin, meanwhile, brought him to the
mule, and half mechanically he scrambled
into the saddle, the chest being made fast to
the crupper. Semitzin seized the bridle,
and started up the gorge, Kamaiakan bringing
up the rear. The lower levels were
already filling with water, which came
pouring out through the archway in a full flood,
"I see how it is," mumbled Freeman,
half to himself. "The earthquake--I
remember! I got hit somehow. They
came from the ranch to hunt me up. But
where are the general and Professor
Meschines? How long ago was it? And how
came Miriam . . . Could the mirage have
had anything to do with it?--Here, let me
walk," he called out to her, "and you get
up and ride."
She turned her head, smiling again, but
hurried on without speaking. The roar of
the torrent followed them. Once or twice
the mule came near losing his footing.
Freeman, whose head was swimming, and
his brains buzzing like a hive of bees, had
all he could do to maintain his equilibrium
in the saddle. He was excruciatingly
thirsty, and the gurgling of waters round
about made him wish he might dismount and
plunge into them. But he lacked power to
form a decided purpose, and permitted the
more energetic will to control him. It
might have been minutes, or it might have
been hours, for all he knew: at last they
halted, near the base of the white pyramid.
"Here we are safe," said Semitzin,
coming to his side. "Lean on me, my
love, and I will lift you down."
"Oh, I'm not quite so bad as that, you
know," said Freeman, with a feeble laugh;
and, to prove it, he blundered off the saddle,
and came down on the ground with a
thwack. He picked himself up, however,
and recollecting that he had a flask with
brandy in it, he felt for it, found it
intact, and, with an inarticulate murmur of
apology, raised it to his lips. It was like
the veritable elixir of life: never in his life
before had Freeman quaffed so deep a
draught of the fiery spirit. It was just what
But he felt oddly embarrassed. He did
not know what to make of Miriam. It was
not her strange costume merely, but she
seemed to have put on--or put off--something
with it that made a difference in her.
She was assertive, imperious; as loving,
certainly, as lover could wish, but not in the
manner of the Miriam he knew. He might
have liked the new Miriam better, had he
not previously fallen in love with the former
one. He could not make advances to her:
he had no opportunity to do so: she was
making advances to him!
"My love," she said, standing before
him, "I have come back to the world for
your sake. Before Semitzin first saw you,
her heart was yours. And I come to you,
not poor, but with the riches and power of
the princes of Tenochtitlan. You shall see
them: they are yours!--Kamaiakan, take
down the chest."
"What's that about Semitzin?" inquired
Freeman. "I'm not aware that I knew any
"Kamaiakan!" repeated the other, raising
her voice, and not hearing Freeman's last
words. Kamaiakan was nowhere to be seen.
Both Freeman and she had supposed that he
was following on behind the mule; but he
had either dropped behind, or had
withdrawn somewhere. "O Kamaiakan!"
shouted Freeman, as loud as he could.
A distant hail, from the direction of the
desert, seemed to reply.
"That can't be he," said Freeman. "It
was at least a quarter of a mile off, and the
wrong direction, too. He's in the gorge,
if he's anywhere."
"Hark!" said Semitzin.
They listened, and detected a low murmur,
this time from the gorge.
"He's fallen down and hurt himself,"
said Freeman. "Let's go after him."
In a few moments they stumbled upon the
old Indian, reclining with his shoulders
against a rock, and gasping heavily.
"My princess," he whispered, as she bent
over him, "I am dying. The poisonous
air in the cave was fatal to me, though the
spell that is upon the Golden Fleece
protected you. I have done what the gods
commanded. I am absolved of my vow.
The treasure is safe."
"Nonsense! you're all right!" exclaimed
Freeman. "Here, take a pull at this flask.
It did me all the good in the world!"
But the old man put it aside, with a feeble
gesture of the hand. "My time is come,----"
said he.--"Semitzin, I have been faithful."
"Semitzin, again!" muttered Freeman.
"What does it mean?"
"But what is this?" cried the girl,
suddenly starting to her feet. "I feel the sleep
coming on me again! I feel Miriam returning!
Kamaiakan, have you betrayed me at
"No, no, princess, I have done nothing,"
said he, in a voice scarcely audible. "But,
with death, the strength of my will goes
from me, and I can no longer keep you in
this world. The spirit of Miriam claims
her rightful body, and you must struggle
against her alone. The gods will not be
defied: it is the law!"
His voice sank away into nothing, and his
beard drooped upon his breast.
"He's dying, sure enough, poor old
chap," said Freeman. "But what is all
this about? I never heard anything like
this language you two talk together."
Semitzin turned towards him, and her eyes
"She shall not have you!" she cried. "I
have won you--I have saved you--you are
mine! What is Miriam? Can she be to
you what I could be?--You shall never have
him!" she continued, seeming to address
some presence invisible to all eyes but hers.
"If I must go, you shall go with me!"
She fumbled in her belt, caught the handle
of a knife there, and drew it. She lifted it
against her heart; but even then there was
an uncertainty in her movement, as if her
mind were divided against itself, or had
failed fully to retain the thread of its
purpose. But Freeman, who had passed rapidly
from one degree of bewilderment to another,
was actually relieved to see, at last,
something that he could understand. Miriam--
for some reason best known to herself--was
about to do herself a mischief. He leaped
forward, caught her in his arms, and snatched
the knife from her grasp.
For a few moments she struggled like a
young tiger. And it was marvellous and
appalling to hear two voices come from her,
in alternation, or confusedly mingled. One
said, "Let me kill her! I will not go!
Keep back, you pale-faced girl!" and then a
lower, troubled voice, "Do not let her come!
Her face is terrible! What are those strange
creatures with her? Harvey, where are
At last, with a fierce cry, that died away
in a shuddering sigh, the form of flesh and
blood, so mysteriously possessed, ceased
to struggle, and sank back in Freeman's
arms. His own strength was well-nigh at
an end. He laid her on the ground, and,
sitting beside her, drew her head on his
knee. He had been in the land of spirits,
contending with unknown powers, and he
was faint in mind and body.
Yet he was conscious of the approaching
tread of horses' feet, and recollected the
hail that had come from the desert. Soon
loomed up the shadowy figures of mounted
men, and they came so near that he was
constrained to call out, "Mind where you're
going! You'll be over us!"
"Who are you?" said a voice, which
sounded like that of General Trednoke, as
they reined up.
"There's Kamaiakan, who's dead; and
Miriam Trednoke, who has been out of her
mind, but she's got over it now, I guess;
and I,--Harvey Freeman."
"My daughter!" exclaimed General Trednoke.
"My boy!" cried Professor Meschines.
"Well, thank God we've found you, and
that some of you are alive, at any rate!"
As it was still some hours before dawn,
and Freeman was too weak to travel,
it was decided to encamp beside the pyramid
till the following evening, and then
make the trip across the desert in the
comparative coolness of starlight. Meanwhile,
there was something to be done, and much
to be explained.
The spirit of Kamaiakan had passed away,
apparently at the same moment that the
peculiar case of "possession" under which
Miriam had suffered came to an end. They
determined to bury him at the foot of the
great pyramid, which would form a fitting
monument of his antique character and virtues.
Miriam, after her struggle, had lapsed
into a state of partial lethargy, from which
she was aroused gradually. It was then
found that she could give no account what
ever of how or why she came there. The
last thing she distinctly remembered was
standing on the veranda at the ranch and
looking towards the east. She was under
the impression that Kamaiakan had approached
and spoken with her, but of that
she was not certain. The next fact in her
consciousness was that she was held in
Freeman's arms, with a feeling that she had
barely escaped from some great peril. She
could recall nothing of the journey down the
gorge, of the adventure at the bottom of it,
or of the return. It was only by degrees
that some partial light was thrown upon this
matter. Freeman knew that he was at the
entrance of the cave when the earthquake
began, and he remembered receiving a blow
on the head. Consequently it must have
been at that spot that Miriam and the Indian
found him. He had, too, a vague impression
of seeing Miriam coming out of the cave,
dragging the chest; and there, sure enough,
was a metal box, strapped to the saddle of
the pack-mule. But the mystery remained
very dense. And although the reader is in
a position to analyze events more closely
than the actors themselves could do, it may
be doubted whether the essential mystery
is much clearer to him than it was to
"We know that the ancient Aztecan
priests were adepts in magic," observed the
professor, "and it's natural that some of
their learning should have descended to
their posterity. We have been clever in
giving names to such phenomena, but we
know perhaps even less about their esoteric
meaning than the Aztecans did. I should
judge that Miriam would be what is called a
good 'subject.' Kamaiakan discovered that
fact; and as for what followed, we can only
infer it from the results. I was always an
admirer of Kamaiakan; but I must say I
am the better resigned to his departure,
from the reflection that Miriam will
henceforth be undisturbed in the possession
of her own individuality."
"As near as I could make out, she called
herself Semitzin," put in Freeman.
"Semitzin?" repeated the general.
"Why, if I'm not mistaken, there are
accounts of an Aztecan princess of that name,
an ancestress of my wife's family, in some
old documents that I have in a box, at
"That would only add the marvel of
heredity to the other marvels," said
Meschines. "Suppose we leave the things we
can't understand, and come to those we can?"
"I have something to say, General
Trednoke," said Freeman.
"I think I have already guessed what it
may be, Mr. Freeman," returned the general,
gravely. "Old people have eyes, and
hearts too, as well as young ones."
"Come, Trednoke," interposed the
professor, with a chuckle, "your eyes might
not have seen so much, if I hadn't held the
"I love your daughter, and I told her
so yesterday morning," went on Freeman,
after a pause. "I meant to tell you on my
return. I know I don't appear desirable as
a son-in-law. But I came here on a
"Meschines and I have talked it all
over," the general said. "When an old
West-Pointer and a professor of physics get
together, they are sometimes able to put two
and two together. And, to tell the truth, I
received a letter from a member of your
syndicate, who is also an acquaintance of mine,
which explained your position. Under the
circumstances, I consider your course to
have been honorable. You and I were
both in search of the same thing, and now,
as it appears, nature has sent an earthquake
to do our affair for us. No operations of
ours could have achieved such a result as
last night's disturbance did; and if that do
not prove effective, nothing else will."
"If it turns out well, I was promised a
share in the benefits," said Freeman, "and
that would put me in a rather better condition,
from a worldly point of view."
"After all," interrupted Meschines, "you
found your way to the spot from which the
waters broke forth, and may fairly be
entitled to the credit of the discovery.--Eh,
Trednoke? At any rate, we found nothing.
--Yes, I think they'll have to admit you
to partnership, Harvey: and Miriam too,--
who, by the way, seems to be the only one
who actually penetrated into this cave you
speak of. Maybe the removal of the chest
pulled the plug out of the bung-hole, as it
were: the escape of confined air through
such a vent would be apt to draw water
along with it. By the way, let's have a
look at this same chest: it looks solid
enough to hold something valuable."
"I would like, in the first place, to hear
what General Trednoke has to say about
what I have told him," said Freeman, clearing
"Miriam," said the general, "do you
wish to be married to this young man?"
The old soldier was sitting with her hand
in his, and he turned to her as he spoke.
She threw her arms round his neck, and
pressed her face against his shoulder. "He
is to me what you were to mamma," she
said, so that only he could hear.
"Then be to him what she was to me,"
answered the general, kissing her. "Ah
me, little girl! I am old, but perhaps this is
the right way for me to grow young again.
Well, if you are of the same mind six
"Worse; it will be much worse, then,"
murmured the professor. "Better make it
The chest was made of some alloy of steel
and nickel, impervious to rust, and very
hard. It resisted all gentle methods of
attack, and it was finally found necessary to
force the lock with a charge of powder.
Within was found another case, which was
pried open with the point of the general's
It was filled to the brim with precious
stones, most of them removed from their
settings. But such of the gold-work as
remained showed the jewels to be of ancient
Aztecan origin. There was value enough
in the box to buy and stock a dozen ranches
as big as the general's, and leave heirlooms
enough to decorate a family larger than that
of the most fruitful of the ancient patriarchs.
"I call that quite a respectable dowry,"
remarked Meschines. "Upon my soul,
Miriam, if I had known what you had up
your sleeve, I should have thought twice
before allowing a 'civil engineer'--do you
remember?--to run off with you so easily."
At dawn, they prepared the body of old
Kamaiakan for its interment. In doing
this, the professor noted the peculiar
appearance of the corpse.
"The flesh is absolutely withered," said
he, "especially those parts which were
uncovered. It must have been subjected to
the action of some destructive vapor or gas,
fatal not only to breathe, but to come in
contact with. I have heard of poisonous
emanations proceeding from the ground in
these regions, but I never saw an instance
of their effects before. That skull that you
say you found, Harvey, was probably that
of a victim of the same cause. But it is
strange that Miriam, who must have
remained some time in the very midst of it,
should have escaped without a mark, or
even any inconvenience."
"Kamaiakan ascribed it to the magic of
the Golden Fleece," said Freeman.
"Well," rejoined the other, "he may
have been right; but, for my part, the only
magic that I can find in it lies in the fact
that it is made of pure wool, which undoubtedly
possesses remarkable sanative properties;
or maybe the fiery soul of Semitzin was
powerful enough to repel all harmful
influences. The poor old fellow himself, being
clad in cotton, and with no soul but his
own, was destroyed. Let us wrap him in
his blanket, and bid him farewell--and
with him, I hope, to all that is uncanny
and abnormal in the lives of you young
The last rites having been paid to the
dead, the party mounted their horses and
rode out of the gorge on to the long levels
of the desert.
"Who come yonder?" said Freeman.
"A couple of Mexicans, I think," said
"One of them is a woman," said Meschines.
"They look very weary," remarked Freeman.
Miriam fixed her eyes on the approaching
pair for a moment, and then said, "They
are Senor de Mendoza and Grace Parsloe."
And so, indeed, they were; and thus, in
this lonely spot, all the dramatis personae of
this history found themselves united.
In answer to the obvious question, how
Grace and De Mendoza happened to be
there, it transpired that, left to their own
devices, they had undertaken no less an
enterprise than to discover the hidden treasure.
Grace had communicated to the Mexican
such bits of information as she had
picked up and such surmises as she had
formed, and he had been able to supplement
her knowledge to an extent that seemed to
justify them in attempting the adventure,--
not to mention the fact that Don Miguel
(such was the ardor of his sentiment for
Grace) would, had she desired it, have gone
with her into a fiery furnace or a den of
lions. Grace, who was ambitious as well as
romantic, and who longed for the power
and independence that wealth would give,
was all alight with the idea of capturing the
hoard of Montezuma: her social position
would be altered at a stroke, and the world
would be at her feet. Whether she would
then have rewarded Don Miguel for his
devotion, is possibly open to doubt: the
sudden acquisition of boundless wealth has been
known to turn larger heads than hers.
Fortunately, however, this temptation was
withheld from her: so far from finding the
treasure, she and Don Miguel very soon lost
themselves in the desert, and had been
wandering about ever since, dolely uncomfortable,
and in no small danger of losing
their lives. They were already at the end
of their last resource when they happened
to encounter the other party, as we have
seen; and immeasurable was their joy at the
unlooked-for deliverance. So there was
another halt, to enable them to rest and
recuperate; and it was not until the evening of
that day that the journey was finally resumed.
Meanwhile, Grace had time to think over
all that happened, and to arrive at certain
conclusions. She was at bottom a good
girl, though liable to be led away by her
imagination, her vanity, and her temperament.
Don Miguel's best qualities had revealed
themselves to her in the desert: he
had always thought of her before himself,
had done all that in him lay to save her
from fatigue and suffering, and had stuck to
her faithfully when he might perhaps have
increased his own chances of escape by
abandoning her. Did not such a man deserve to
be rewarded?--especially as he was a handsome
fellow, of good family, and possessed
of quite a respectable income. Moreover,
Harvey Freeman was now beyond her reach:
he was going to marry Miriam, and she had
realized that her own brief infatuation for
him had had no very deep root after all.
Accordingly, she smiled encouragingly upon
Don Miguel, and before they set out on
their homeward ride she had vouchsafed him
the bliss of knowing that he might call her
The general, as her guardian, did not
withhold his approval; but when Grace drew
him aside and besought him never to reveal
to her intended the fact that she had once
been a shop-girl, the old warrior smiled.
"You can depend upon me to keep your
secret, if you wish it, my dear," said he;
"but I warn you that such concealments
between husband and wife are not wise. He
loves you and would only love you the
more for your frankness in confessing what
you seem to consider a discreditable episode:
though I for my part am free to tell you that
you will be lucky if your future life affords
you the opportunity of doing anything else
so much to your credit. But the chances
are that he will find it out sooner or later;
and that may not be so agreeable, either to
him or to you. Better tell him all now."
But Grace pictured to herself the aristocratic
pride of an hidalgo shocked by the
suggestion of the plebeianism of trade; and
she would not consent to the revelation.
But the general's prediction was fulfilled
sooner than might have been expected.
For, after they were married, Don Miguel
decided to visit the Atlantic coast on the
wedding journey; and one of the first notable
places they reached was, of course, New
York. Don Miguel was delighted, and was
never weary of strolling up Fifth Avenue
and down Broadway, with his beautiful wife
on his arm. He marvelled at the vast white
pile of the Fifth Avenue Hotel; he frowned
at the Worth Monument; he stared inexhaustibly
into the shop-windows; he exclaimed
with admiration at the stupendous
piles of masonry which contained the goods
of New York's merchant princes. It seemed
to be his opinion that the possessors of so
much palpable wealth must be the true
aristocracy of the country.
And one afternoon it happened that as
they were strolling along Broadway, between
Twenty-third Street and Union Square, and
were crossing one of the side-streets, a horse
belonging to one of Lord and Taylor's delivery-
wagons became frightened, and bolted
round the corner. One of the hind wheels
of the vehicle came in contact with Grace's
shoulder, and knocked her down. The blow
and the fall stunned her. Don Miguel's
grief and indignation were expressed with
tropical energy; and a by-stander said,
"Better carry her into the store, mister; it's
their wagon run her down, and they can't
do less than look after her."
The counsel seemed reasonable, and Don
Miguel, with the assistance of a policeman,
lifted his wife and bore her into the stately
shop. One of the floor-walkers met them at
the door; he cast a glance at their burden,
and exclaimed, "Why, it's Miss Parsloe!"
And immediately a number of the employees
gathered round, all regarding her with
interest and sympathy, all anxious to help,
and--which was what mystified Don Miguel
--all calling her by name! How came they
to know Grace Parsloe? Nay, they even
glanced at Don Miguel, as if to ask what
was HIS business with the beautiful unconscious
"This lady are my wife," he said, with
dignity. "She not any more Miss Parsloe."
"Oh, Grace has got married!" exclaimed
the young ladies, one to another; and then
an elderly man, evidently in authority, came
forward and said, "I suppose you are aware,
sir, that Miss Parsloe was formerly one of
our girls here; and a very clever and useful
girl she was. I need not say how sorry we
are for this accident: I have sent for the
physician: but I cannot but be glad that
the misfortune has at least given me the
opportunity of telling you how highly your
wife was valued and respected here."
At this juncture, Grace opened her eyes:
she looked from one face to another, and
knew that fate had brought the truth to
light. But the physical shock tempered the
severity of the mental one: besides, she
could not help being pleased at the sight of
so many well-remembered and friendly faces;
and, finally, her husband did not look by
any means so angry and scandalized as she
had feared he would. Indeed, he appeared
almost gratified. The truth probably was,
he was flattered to see his wife the centre of
so much interest and attention, and at the
discovery that she had been in some way an
honored appanage of so imposing an
establishment. So, by the time Grace was well
enough to be driven back to her hotel, the
senor was prattling cheerfully and familiarly
with all and sundry, and was promising to
bring his wife back there the next day, to
talk over old times with her former associates.
Such was Grace's punishment: it was not
very severe; but then her fault had been a
venial one; and the episode was of much
moral benefit to her. She liked her husband
all the better for having nothing more
to conceal from him; her vanity was rebuked,
and her false pride chastened; and
when, in after-years, her pretty daughters
and black-haired sons gathered about her
knees, she was wont to warn them sagely
against the un-American absurdity of
fearing to work for their living, or being
ashamed to have it known.
But the married life of Miriam and
Harvey Freeman was characteristically American
in its happiness. The representatives of the
oldest and of the latest inhabitants of this
continent, their union seemed to produce
the flower of what was best in both. Their
wedding is still remembered in that region,
as being everything that a Southern Californian
wedding should be; and the bride, as
she stood at the altar, looked what she was,--
one of those women who, more than anything
else in this world, are fitted to bring back to
earth the gentle splendors of the Garden of
Eden. In her dark eyes, as she fixed them
upon Freeman, there was a mystic light,
telling of fathomless depths of tenderness
and intelligence: it seemed to her husband
that love had expanded and uplifted her;
or perhaps that other spirit in her, which
had battled with her own, had now become
reconciled, and therefore yielded up whatever
it had of good and noble to aggrandize
the gentle victory of its conqueror. Somehow,
somewhere, in Miriam's nature, Semitzin
lived; and, as a symbol of the peace
and atonement that were the issue of her
strange interior story, her husband preserves
with reverence and affection the mysterious
garment called the Golden Fleece.