Part 1 out of 3
This etext was prepared by Donald Lainson, firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Bret Harte
As Clarence Brant, President of the Robles Land Company, and
husband of the rich widow of John Peyton, of the Robles Ranche,
mingled with the outgoing audience of the Cosmopolitan Theatre, at
San Francisco, he elicited the usual smiling nods and recognition
due to his good looks and good fortune. But as he hurriedly
slipped through the still lingering winter's rain into the smart
coupe that was awaiting him, and gave the order "Home," the word
struck him with a peculiarly ironical significance. His home was a
handsome one, and lacked nothing in appointment and comfort, but he
had gone to the theatre to evade its hollow loneliness. Nor was it
because his wife was not there, for he had a miserable consciousness
that her temporary absence had nothing to do with his homelessness.
The distraction of the theatre over, that dull, vague, but aching
sense of loneliness which was daily growing upon him returned with
He leaned back in the coupe and gloomily reflected.
He had been married scarcely a year, yet even in the illusions of
the honeymoon the woman, older than himself, and the widow of his
old patron, had half unconsciously reasserted herself, and slipped
back into the domination of her old position. It was at first
pleasant enough,--this half-maternal protectorate which is apt to
mingle even with the affections of younger women,--and Clarence, in
his easy, half-feminine intuition of the sex, yielded, as the strong
are apt to yield, through the very consciousness of their own
superiority. But this is a quality the weaker are not apt to
recognize, and the woman who has once tasted equal power with her
husband not only does not easily relegate it, but even makes its
continuance a test of the affections. The usual triumphant feminine
conclusion, "Then you no longer love me," had in Clarence�s brief
experience gone even further and reached its inscrutable climax,
"Then I no longer love you," although shown only in a momentary
hardening of the eye and voice. And added to this was his sudden,
but confused remembrance that he had seen that eye and heard that
voice in marital altercation during Judge Peyton�s life, and that he
himself, her boy partisan, had sympathized with her. Yet, strange
to say, this had given him more pain than her occasional other
reversions to the past--to her old suspicious of him when he was a
youthful protege of her husband and a presumed suitor of her adopted
daughter Susy. High natures are more apt to forgive wrong done to
themselves than any abstract injustice. And her capricious tyranny
over her dependents and servants, or an unreasoning enmity to a
neighbor or friend, outraged his finer sense more than her own
misconception of himself. Nor did he dream that this was a thing
most women seldom understand, or, understanding, ever forgive.
The coupe rattled over the stones or swirled through the muddy
pools of the main thoroughfares. Newspaper and telegraphic offices
were still brilliantly lit, and crowds were gathered among the
bulletin boards. He knew that news had arrived from Washington
that evening of the first active outbreaks of secession, and that
the city was breathless with excitement. Had he not just come from
the theatre, where certain insignificant allusions in the play had
been suddenly caught up and cheered or hissed by hitherto unknown
partisans, to the dumb astonishment of a majority of the audience
comfortably settled to money-getting and their own affairs alone?
Had he not applauded, albeit half-scornfully, the pretty actress--
his old playmate Susy--who had audaciously and all incongruously
waved the American flag in their faces? Yes! he had known it; had
lived for the last few weeks in an atmosphere electrically
surcharged with it--and yet it had chiefly affected him in his
personal homelessness. For his wife was a Southerner, a born
slaveholder, and a secessionist, whose noted prejudices to the
North had even outrun her late husband's politics. At first the
piquancy and recklessness of her opinionative speech amused him as
part of her characteristic flavor, or as a lingering youthfulness
which the maturer intellect always pardons. He had never taken her
politics seriously--why should he? With her head on his shoulder
he had listened to her extravagant diatribes against the North. He
had forgiven her outrageous indictment of his caste and his
associates for the sake of the imperious but handsome lips that
uttered it. But when he was compelled to listen to her words
echoed and repeated by her friends and family; when he found that
with the clannishness of her race she had drawn closer to them in
this controversy,--that she depended upon them for her intelligence
and information rather than upon him,--he had awakened to the
reality of his situation. He had borne the allusions of her
brother, whose old scorn for his dependent childhood had been
embittered by his sister's marriage and was now scarcely concealed.
Yet, while he had never altered his own political faith and social
creed in this antagonistic atmosphere, he had often wondered, with
his old conscientiousness and characteristic self-abnegation,
whether his own political convictions were not merely a revulsion
from his domestic tyranny and alien surroundings.
In the midst of this gloomy retrospect the coupe stopped with a
jerk before his own house. The door was quickly opened by a
servant, who appeared to be awaiting him.
"Some one to see you in the library, sir," said the man, "and"--
He hesitated and looked towards the coupe.
"Well?" said Clarence impatiently.
"He said, sir, as how you were not to send away the carriage."
"Indeed, and who is it?" demanded Clarence sharply.
"Mr. Hooker. He said I was to say Jim Hooker."
The momentary annoyance in Clarence's face changed to a look of
"He said he knew you were at the theatre, and he would wait until
you came home," continued the man, dubiously watching his master's
face. "He don't know you've come in, sir, and--and I can easily
get rid of him."
"No matter now. I'll see him, and," added Clarence, with a faint
smile, "let the carriage wait."
Yet, as he turned towards the library he was by no means certain
that an interview with the old associate of his boyhood under Judge
Peyton's guardianship would divert his mind. Yet he let no trace
of his doubts nor of his past gloom show in his face as he entered
Mr. Hooker was apparently examining the elegant furniture and
luxurious accommodation with his usual resentful enviousness.
Clarence had got a "soft thing." That it was more or less the
result of his "artfulness," and that he was unduly "puffed up" by
it, was, in Hooker's characteristic reasoning, equally clear. As
his host smilingly advanced with outstretched hand, Mr. Hooker's
efforts to assume a proper abstraction of manner and contemptuous
indifference to Clarence's surroundings which should wound his
vanity ended in his lolling back at full length in the chair with
his eyes on the ceiling. But, remembering suddenly that he was
really the bearer of a message to Clarence, it struck him that his
supine position was, from a theatrical view-point, infelicitous.
In his experiences of the stage he had never delivered a message in
that way. He rose awkwardly to his feet.
"It was so good of you to wait," said Clarence courteously.
"Saw you in the theatre," said Hooker brusquely. "Third row in
parquet. Susy said it was you, and had suthin' to say to you.
Suthin' you ought to know," he continued, with a slight return of
his old mystery of manner which Clarence so well remembered. "You
saw HER--she fetched the house with that flag business, eh? She
knows which way the cat is going to jump, you bet. I tell you, for
all the blowing of these secessionists, the Union's goin' to pay!
Yes, sir!" He stopped, glanced round the handsome room, and added
darkly, "Mebbee better than this."
With the memory of Hooker's characteristic fondness for mystery
still in his mind, Clarence overlooked the innuendo, and said
"Why didn't you bring Mrs. Hooker here? I should have been honored
with her company."
Mr. Hooker frowned slightly at this seeming levity.
"Never goes out after a performance. Nervous exhaustion. Left her
at our rooms in Market Street. We can drive there in ten minutes.
That's why I asked to have the carriage wait."
Clarence hesitated. Without caring in the least to renew the
acquaintance of his old playmate and sweetheart, a meeting that
night in some vague way suggested to him a providential diversion.
Nor was he deceived by any gravity in the message. With his
remembrance of Susy's theatrical tendencies, he was quite prepared
for any capricious futile extravagance.
"You are sure we will not disturb her?" he said politely.
Clarence led the way to the carriage. If Mr. Hooker expected him
during the journey to try to divine the purport of Susy's message
he was disappointed. His companion did not allude to it. Possibly
looking upon it as a combined theatrical performance, Clarence
preferred to wait for Susy as the better actor. The carriage
rolled rapidly through the now deserted streets, and at last, under
the directions of Mr. Hooker, who was leaning half out of the
window, it drew up at a middle-class restaurant, above whose still
lit and steaming windows were some ostentatiously public apartments,
accessible from a side entrance. As they ascended the staircase
together, it became evident that Mr. Hooker was scarcely more at his
ease in the character of host than he had been as guest. He stared
gloomily at a descending visitor, grunted audibly at a waiter in the
passage, and stopped before a door, where a recently deposited tray
displayed the half-eaten carcase of a fowl, an empty champagne
bottle, two half-filled glasses, and a faded bouquet. The whole
passage was redolent with a singular blending of damp cooking, stale
cigarette smoke, and patchouli.
Putting the tray aside with his foot, Mr. Hooker opened the door
hesitatingly and peered into the room, muttered a few indistinct
words, which were followed by a rapid rustling of skirts, and then,
with his hand still on the door-knob, turning to Clarence, who had
discreetly halted on the threshold, flung the door open theatrically
and bade him enter.
"She is somewhere in the suite," he added, with a large wave of the
hand towards a door that was still oscillating. "Be here in a
Clarence took in the apartment with a quiet glance. Its furniture
had the frayed and discolored splendors of a public parlor which
had been privately used and maltreated; there were stains in the
large medallioned carpet; the gilded veneer had been chipped from a
heavy centre table, showing the rough, white deal beneath, which
gave it the appearance of a stage "property;" the walls, paneled
with gilt-framed mirrors, reflected every domestic detail or
private relaxation with shameless publicity. A damp waterproof,
shawl, and open newspaper were lying across the once brilliant
sofa; a powder-puff, a plate of fruit, and a play-book were on the
centre table, and on the marble-topped sideboard was Mr. Hooker's
second-best hat, with a soiled collar, evidently but lately
exchanged for the one he had on, peeping over its brim. The whole
apartment seemed to mingle the furtive disclosures of the dressing-
room with the open ostentations of the stage, with even a slight
suggestion of the auditorium in a few scattered programmes on the
floor and chairs.
The inner door opened again with a slight theatrical start, and
Susy, in an elaborate dressing-gown, moved languidly into the room.
She apparently had not had time to change her underskirt, for there
was the dust of the stage on its delicate lace edging, as she threw
herself into an armchair and crossed her pretty slippered feet
before her. Her face was pale, its pallor incautiously increased
by powder; and as Clarence looked at its still youthful, charming
outline, he was not perhaps sorry that the exquisite pink and white
skin beneath, which he had once kissed, was hidden from that
awakened recollection. Yet there was little trace of the girlish
Susy in the pretty, but prematurely jaded, actress before him, and
he felt momentarily relieved. It was her youth and freshness
appealing to his own youth and imagination that he had loved--not
HER. Yet as she greeted him with a slight exaggeration of glance,
voice, and manner, he remembered that even as a girl she was an
Nothing of this, however, was in his voice and manner as he gently
thanked her for the opportunity of meeting her again. And he was
frank, for the diversion he had expected he had found; he even was
conscious of thinking more kindly of his wife who had supplanted
"I told Jim he must fetch you if he had to carry you," she said,
striking the palm of her hand with her fan, and glancing at her
husband. "I reckon he guessed WHY, though I didn't tell him--I
don't tell Jim EVERYTHING."
Here Jim rose, and looking at his watch, "guessed he'd run over to
the Lick House and get some cigars." If he was acting upon some
hint from his wife, his simulation was so badly done that Clarence
felt his first sense of uneasiness. But as Hooker closed the door
awkwardly and unostentatiously behind him, Clarence smilingly said
he had waited to hear the message from her own lips.
"Jim only knows what he's heard outside: the talk of men, you
know,--and he hears a good deal of that--more, perhaps, than YOU
do. It was that which put me up to finding out the truth. And I
didn't rest till I did. I'm not to be fooled, Clarence,--you don't
mind my calling you Clarence now we're both married and done for,--
and I'm not the kind to be fooled by anybody from the Cow counties--
and that's the Robles Ranche. I'm a Southern woman myself from
Missouri, but I'm for the Union first, last, and all the time, and
I call myself a match for any lazy, dawdling, lash-swinging
slaveholder and slaveholderess--whether they're mixed blood, Heaven
only knows, or what--or their friends or relations, or the dirty
half-Spanish grandees and their mixed half-nigger peons who truckle
to them. You bet!"
His blood had stirred quickly at the mention of the Robles Ranche,
but the rest of Susy's speech was too much in the vein of her old
extravagance to touch him seriously. He found himself only
considering how strange it was that the old petulance and
impulsiveness of her girlhood were actually bringing back with them
her pink cheeks and brilliant eyes.
"You surely didn't ask Jim to bring me here," he said smilingly,
"to tell me that Mrs. Peyton"--he corrected himself hastily as a
malicious sparkle came into Susy's blue eyes--"that my wife was a
Southern woman, and probably sympathized with her class? Well, I
don't know that I should blame her for that any more than she
should blame me for being a Northern man and a Unionist."
"And she doesn't blame you?" asked Susy sneeringly.
The color came slightly to Clarence's cheek, but before he could
reply the actress added,--
"No, she prefers to use you!"
"I don't think I understand you," said Clarence, rising coldly.
"No, you don't understand HER!" retorted Susy sharply. "Look here,
Clarence Brant, you're right; I didn't ask you here to tell you--
what you and everybody knows--that your wife is a Southerner. I
didn't ask you here to tell you what everybody suspects--that she
turns you round her little finger. But I did ask you here to tell
you what nobody, not even you, suspects--but what I know!--and that
is that she's a TRAITOR--and more, a SPY!--and that I've only got
to say the word, or send that man Jim to say the word, to have her
dragged out of her Copperhead den at Robles Ranche and shut up in
Fort Alcatraz this very night!"
Still with the pink glowing in her rounding cheek, and eyes snapping
like splintered sapphires, she rose to her feet, with her pretty
shoulders lifted, her small hands and white teeth both tightly
clenched, and took a step towards him. Even in her attitude there
was a reminiscence of her willful childhood, although still blended
with the provincial actress whom he had seen on the stage only an
hour ago. Thoroughly alarmed at her threat, in his efforts to
conceal his feelings he was not above a weak retaliation. Stepping
back, he affected to regard her with a critical admiration that was
only half simulated, and said with a smile,--
"Very well done--but you have forgotten the flag."
She did not flinch. Rather accepting the sarcasm as a tribute to
her art, she went on with increasing exaggeration: "No, it is YOU
who have forgotten the flag--forgotten your country, your people,
your manhood--everything for that high-toned, double-dyed old spy
and traitress! For while you are standing here, your wife is
gathering under her roof at Robles a gang of spies and traitors like
herself--secession leaders and their bloated, drunken 'chivalry'!
Yes, you may smile your superior smile, but I tell you, Clarence
Brant, that with all your smartness and book learning you know no
more of what goes on around you than a child. But others do! This
conspiracy is known to the government, the Federal officers have
been warned; General Sumner has been sent out here-- and his first
act was to change the command at Fort Alcatraz, and send your wife's
Southern friend--Captain Pinckney--to the right about! Yes--
everything is known but ONE thing, and that is WHERE and HOW this
precious crew meet! That I alone know, and that I've told you!"
"And I suppose," said Clarence, with an unchanged smile, "that this
valuable information came from your husband--my old friend, Jim
"No," she answered sharply, "it comes from Cencho--one of your own
peons--who is more true to you and the old Rancho than YOU have
ever been. He saw what was going on, and came to me, to warn you!"
"But why not to me directly?" asked Clarence, with affected
"Ask him!" she said viciously. "Perhaps he didn't want to warn the
master against the mistress. Perhaps he thought WE are still
friends. Perhaps"--she hesitated with a lower voice and a forced
smile--"perhaps he used to see us together in the old times."
"Very likely," said Clarence quietly. "And for the sake of those
old times, Susy," he went on, with a singular gentleness that was
quite distinct from his paling face and set eyes, "I am going to
forget all that you have just said of me and mine, in all the old
willfulness and impatience that I see you still keep--with all your
old prettiness." He took his hat from the table and gravely held
out his hand.
She was frightened for a moment with his impassive abstraction. In
the old days she had known it--had believed it was his dogged
"obstinacy"--but she knew the hopelessness of opposing it. Yet
with feminine persistency she again threw herself against it, as
against a wall.
"You don't believe me! Well, go and see for yourself. They are at
Robles NOW. If you catch the early morning stage at Santa Clara
you will come upon them before they disperse. Dare you try it?"
"Whatever I do," he returned smilingly, "I shall always be grateful
to you for giving me this opportunity of seeing you again AS YOU
WERE. Make my excuses to your husband. Good-night."
But he had already closed the door behind him. His face did not
relax its expression nor change as he looked again at the tray with
its broken viands before the door, the worn, stained hall carpet, or
the waiter who shuffled past him. He was apparently as critically
conscious of them and of the close odors of the hall, and the
atmosphere of listless decay and faded extravagance around him, as
before the interview. But if the woman he had just parted from had
watched him she would have supposed he still utterly disbelieved her
story. Yet he was conscious that all that he saw was a part of his
degradation, for he had believed every word she had uttered.
Through all her extravagance, envy, and revengefulness he saw the
central truth--that he had been deceived--not by his wife, but by
himself! He had suspected all this before. This was what had been
really troubling him--this was what he had put aside, rather than
his faith, not in her, but in his ideal. He remembered letters that
had passed between her and Captain Pinckney--letters that she had
openly sent to notorious Southern leaders; her nervous anxiety to
remain at the Rancho; the innuendoes and significant glances of
friends which he had put aside--as he had this woman's message!
Susy had told him nothing new of his wife--but the truth of HIMSELF!
And the revelation came from people who he was conscious were the
inferiors of himself and his wife. To an independent, proud, and
self-made man it was the culminating stroke.
In the same abstracted voice he told the coachman to drive home.
The return seemed interminable--though he never shifted his
position. Yet when he drew up at his own door and looked at his
watch he found he had been absent only half an hour. Only half an
hour! As he entered the house he turned with the same abstraction
towards a mirror in the hall, as if he expected to see some outward
and visible change in himself in that time. Dismissing his servants
to bed, he went into his dressing-room, completely changed his
attire, put on a pair of long riding-boots, and throwing a serape
over his shoulders, paused a moment, took a pair of small "Derringer"
pistols from a box, put them in his pockets, and then slipped
cautiously down the staircase. A lack of confidence in his own
domestics had invaded him for the first time. The lights were out.
He silently opened the door and was in the street.
He walked hastily a few squares to a livery stable whose proprietor
he knew. His first inquiry was for one "Redskin," a particular
horse; the second for its proprietor. Happily both were in. The
proprietor asked no question of a customer of Clarence's condition.
The horse, half Spanish, powerful and irascible, was quickly
saddled. As Clarence mounted, the man in an impulse of sociability
"Saw you at the theatre to-night, sir."
"Ah," returned Clarence, quietly gathering up the reins.
"Rather a smart trick of that woman with the flag," he went on
tentatively. Then, with a possible doubt of his customer's
politics, he added with a forced smile, "I reckon it's all party
fuss, though; there ain't any real danger."
But fast as Clarence might ride the words lingered in his ears. He
saw through the man's hesitation; he, too, had probably heard that
Clarence Brant weakly sympathized with his wife's sentiments, and
dared not speak fully. And he understood the cowardly suggestion
that there was "no real danger." It had been Clarence's one
fallacy. He had believed the public excitement was only a
temporary outbreak of partisan feeling, soon to subside. Even now
he was conscious that he was less doubtful of the integrity of the
Union than of his own household. It was not the devotion of the
patriot, but the indignation of an outraged husband, that was
spurring him on.
He knew that if he reached Woodville by five o'clock he could get
ferried across the bay at the Embarcadero, and catch the down coach
to Fair Plains, whence he could ride to the Rancho. As the coach
did not connect directly with San Francisco, the chance of his
surprising them was greater. Once clear of the city outskirts, he
bullied Redskin into irascible speed, and plunged into the rainy
darkness of the highroad. The way was familiar. For a while he
was content to feel the buffeting, caused by his rapid pace, of
wind and rain against his depressed head and shoulders in a sheer
brutal sense of opposition and power, or to relieve his pent-up
excitement by dashing through overflowed gullies in the road or
across the quaggy, sodden edges of meadowland, until he had
controlled Redskin's rebellious extravagance into a long steady
stride. Then he raised his head and straightened himself on the
saddle, to think. But to no purpose. He had no plan; everything
would depend upon the situation; the thought of forestalling any
action of the conspirators, by warning or calling in the aid of the
authorities, for an instant crossed his mind, but was as instantly
dismissed. He had but an instinct--to see with his own eyes what
his reason told him was true. Day was breaking through drifting
scud and pewter-colored clouds as he reached Woodville ferry,
checkered with splashes of the soil and the spume of his horse,
from whose neck and flanks the sweat rolled like lather. Yet he
was not conscious how intent had been his purpose until he felt a
sudden instinctive shock on seeing that the ferryboat was gone.
For an instant his wonderful self-possession abandoned him; he
could only gaze vacantly at the leaden-colored bay, without a
thought or expedient. But in another moment he saw that the boat
was returning from the distance. Had he lost his only chance? He
glanced hurriedly at his watch; he had come more quickly than he
imagined; there would still be time. He beckoned impatiently to
the ferryman; the boat--a ship's pinnace, with two men in it--crept
in with exasperating slowness. At last the two rowers suddenly
"Ye might have come before, with the other passenger. We don't
reckon to run lightnin' trips on this ferry."
But Clarence was himself again. "Twenty dollars for two more oars
in that boat," he said quietly, "and fifty if you get me over in
time to catch the down stage."
The man glanced at Clarence's eyes. "Run up and rouse out Jake and
Sam," he said to the other boatman; then more leisurely, gazing at
his customer's travel-stained equipment, he said, "There must have
been a heap o' passengers got left by last night's boat. You're
the second man that took this route in a hurry."
At any other time the coincidence might have struck Clarence. But
he only answered curtly, "Unless we are under way in ten minutes
you will find I am NOT the second man, and that our bargain's off."
But here two men emerged from the shanty beside the ferryhouse, and
tumbled sleepily into the boat. Clarence seized an extra pair of
sculls that were standing against the shed, and threw them into the
stern. "I don't mind taking a hand myself for exercise," he said
The ferryman glanced again at Clarence's travel-worn figure and
determined eyes with mingled approval and surprise. He lingered a
moment with his oars lifted, looking at his passenger. "It ain't
no business o' mine, young man," he said deliberately, "but I
reckon you understand me when I say that I've just taken another
man over there."
"I do," said Clarence impatiently.
"And you still want to go?"
"Certainly," replied Clarence, with a cold stare, taking up his
The man shrugged his shoulders, bent himself for the stroke, and
the boat sprung forward. The others rowed strongly and rapidly,
the tough ashen blades springing like steel from the water, the
heavy boat seeming to leap in successive bounds until they were
fairly beyond the curving inshore current and clearing the placid,
misty surface of the bay. Clarence did not speak, but bent
abstractedly over his oar; the ferryman and his crew rowed in equal
panting silence; a few startled ducks whirred before them, but
dropped again to rest. In half an hour they were at the
Embarcadero. The time was fairly up. Clarence's eyes were eagerly
bent for the first appearance of the stage-coach around the little
promontory; the ferryman was as eagerly scanning the bare, empty
street of the still sleeping settlement.
"I don't see him anywhere," said the ferryman with a glance, half
of astonishment and half of curiosity, at his solitary passenger.
"See whom?" asked Clarence carelessly, as he handed the man his
"The other man I ferried over to catch the stage. He must have
gone on without waiting. You're in luck, young fellow!"
"I don't understand you," said Clarence impatiently. "What has
your previous passenger to do with me?"
"Well, I reckon you know best. He's the kind of man, gin'rally
speaking, that other men, in a pow'ful hurry, don't care to meet--
and, az a rule, don't FOLLER arter. It's gin'rally the other way."
"What do you mean?" inquired Clarence sternly. "Of whom are you
"The Chief of Police of San Francisco!"
The laugh that instinctively broke from Clarence's lips was so
sincere and unaffected that the man was disconcerted, and at last
joined in it, a little shamefacedly. The grotesque blunder of
being taken as a fugitive from justice relieved Clarence's mind
from its acute tension,--he was momentarily diverted,--and it was
not until the boatman had departed, and he was again alone, that it
seemed to have any collateral significance. Then an uneasy
recollection of Susy's threat that she had the power to put his
wife in Fort Alcatraz came across him. Could she have already
warned the municipal authorities and this man? But he quickly
remembered that any action from such a warning could only have been
taken by the United States Marshal, and not by a civic official,
and dismissed the idea.
Nevertheless, when the stage with its half-spent lamps still
burning dimly against the morning light swept round the curve and
rolled heavily up to the rude shanty which served as coach-office,
he became watchful. A single yawning individual in its doorway
received a few letters and parcels, but Clarence was evidently the
ONLY waiting passenger. Any hope that he might have entertained
that his mysterious predecessor would emerge from some seclusion at
that moment was disappointed. As he entered the coach he made a
rapid survey of his fellow-travelers, but satisfied himself that
the stranger was not among them. They were mainly small traders or
farmers, a miner or two, and apparently a Spanish-American of
better degree and personality. Possibly the circumstance that men
of this class usually preferred to travel on horseback and were
rarely seen in public conveyances attracted his attention, and
their eyes met more than once in mutual curiosity. Presently
Clarence addressed a remark to the stranger in Spanish; he replied
fluently and courteously, but at the next stopping-place he asked a
question of the expressman in an unmistakable Missouri accent.
Clarence's curiosity was satisfied; he was evidently one of those
early American settlers who had been so long domiciled in Southern
California as to adopt the speech as well as the habiliments of the
The conversation fell upon the political news of the previous
night, or rather seemed to be lazily continued from some previous,
more excited discussion, in which one of the contestants--a red-
bearded miner--had subsided into an occasional growl of surly
dissent. It struck Clarence that the Missourian had been an amused
auditor and even, judging from a twinkle in his eye, a mischievous
instigator of the controversy. He was not surprised, therefore,
when the man turned to him with a certain courtesy and said,--
"And what, sir, is the political feeling in YOUR district?"
But Clarence was in no mood to be drawn out, and replied, almost
curtly, that as he had come only from San Francisco, they were
probably as well informed on that subject as himself. A quick and
searching glance from the stranger's eye made him regret his
answer, but in the silence that ensued the red-bearded miner,
evidently still rankling at heart, saw his opportunity. Slapping
his huge hands on his knees, and leaning far forward until he
seemed to plunge his flaming beard, like a firebrand, into the
controversy, he said grimly,--
"Well, I kin tell you, gen'l'men, THIS. It ain't goin' to be no
matter wot's the POLITICAL FEELING here or thar--it ain't goin' to
be no matter wot's the State's rights and wot's Fed'ral rights--it
ain't goin' to be no question whether the gov'ment's got the right
to relieve its own soldiers that those Secesh is besieging in Fort
Sumter or whether they haven't--but the first gun that's fired at
the flag blows the chains off every d--n nigger south of Mason and
Dixon's line! You hear me! I'm shoutin'! And whether you call
yourselves 'Secesh' or 'Union' or 'Copperhead' or 'Peace men,'
you've got to face it!"
There was an angry start in one or two of the seats; one man caught
at the swinging side-strap and half rose, a husky voice began,
"It's a d----d"--and then all as suddenly subsided. Every eye was
turned to an insignificant figure in the back seat. It was a
woman, holding a child on her lap, and gazing out of the window
with her sex's profound unconcern in politics. Clarence understood
the rude chivalry of the road well enough to comprehend that this
unconscious but omnipotent figure had more than once that day
controlled the passions of the disputants. They dropped back
weakly to their seats, and their mutterings rolled off in the
rattle of the wheels. Clarence glanced at the Missourian; he was
regarding the red-bearded miner with a singular curiosity.
The rain had ceased, but the afternoon shadows were deepening when
they at last reached Fair Plains, where Clarence expected to take
horse to the Rancho. He was astonished, however, to learn that all
the horses in the stable were engaged, but remembering that some of
his own stock were in pasturage with a tenant at Fair Plains, and
that he should probably have a better selection, he turned his
steps thither. Passing out of the stable-yard he recognized the
Missourian's voice in whispered conversation with the proprietor,
but the two men withdrew into the shadow as he approached. An ill-
defined uneasiness came over him; he knew the proprietor, who also
seemed to know the Missourian, and this evident avoidance of him
was significant. Perhaps his reputation as a doubtful Unionist had
preceded him, but this would not account for their conduct in a
district so strongly Southern in sympathy as Fair Plains. More
impressed by the occurrence than he cared to admit, when at last,
after some delay, he had secured his horse, and was once more in
the saddle, he kept a sharp lookout for his quondam companion. But
here another circumstance added to his suspicions: there was a main
road leading to Santa Inez, the next town, and the Rancho, and this
Clarence had purposely taken in order to watch the Missourian; but
there was also a cutoff directly to the Rancho, known only to the
habitues of the Rancho. After a few moments' rapid riding on a
mustang much superior to any in the hotel stables, he was satisfied
that the stranger must have taken the cut-off. Putting spurs to
his horse he trusted still to precede him to the Rancho--if that
were his destination.
As he dashed along the familiar road, by a strange perversity of
fancy, instead of thinking of his purpose, he found himself
recalling the first time he had ridden that way in the flush of his
youth and hopefulness. The girl-sweetheart he was then going to
rejoin was now the wife of another; the woman who had been her
guardian was now his own wife. He had accepted without a pang the
young girl's dereliction, but it was through her revelation that he
was now about to confront the dereliction of his own wife. And
this was the reward of his youthful trust and loyalty! A bitter
laugh broke from his lips. It was part of his still youthful self-
delusion that he believed himself wiser and stronger for it.
It was quite dark when he reached the upper field or first terrace
of the Rancho. He could see the white walls of the casa rising
dimly out of the green sea of early wild grasses, like a phantom
island. It was here that the cut-off joined the main road--now the
only one that led to the casa. He was satisfied that no one could
have preceded him from Fair Plains; but it was true that he must
take precautions against his own discovery. Dismounting near a
clump of willows, he unsaddled and unbridled his horse, and with a
cut of the riata over its haunches sent it flying across the field
in the direction of a band of feeding mustangs, which it presently
joined. Then, keeping well in the shadow of a belt of shrub-oaks,
he skirted the long lesser terraces of the casa, intending to
approach the house by way of the old garden and corral. A drizzling
rain, occasionally driven by the wind into long, misty, curtain-like
waves, obscured the prospect and favored his design. He reached the
low adobe wall of the corral in safety; looking over he could
detect, in spite of the darkness, that a number of the horses were
of alien brands, and even recognized one or two from the Santa Inez
district. The vague outline of buggies and carryalls filled the
long shed beside the stables. There WAS company at the casa--so far
Susy was right!
Nevertheless, lingering still by the wall of the old garden for the
deepening of night, his nervous feverishness was again invaded and
benumbed by sullen memories. There was the opening left by the old
grille in the wall, behind which Mrs. Peyton stood on the morning
when he thought he was leaving the ranch forever; where he had
first clasped her in his arms, and stayed. A turn of the head, a
moment's indecision, a single glance of a languorous eye, had
brought this culmination. And now he stood again before that
ruined grille, his house and lands, even his NAME, misused by a
mad, scheming enthusiast, and himself a creeping spy of his own
dishonor! He turned with a bitter smile again to the garden. A
few dark red Castilian roses still leaned forward and swayed in the
wind with dripping leaves. It was here that the first morning of
his arrival he had kissed Susy; the perfume and color of her pink
skin came back to him with a sudden shock as he stood there; he
caught at a flower, drew it towards him, inhaled its odor in a long
breath that left him faint and leaning against the wall. Then
again he smiled, but this time more wickedly--in what he believed
his cynicism had sprung up the first instinct of revenge!
It was now dark enough for him to venture across the carriage road
and make his way to the rear of the house. His first characteristic
instinct had been to enter openly at his own front gate, but the
terrible temptation to overhear and watch the conspiracy unobserved--
that fascination common to deceived humanity to witness its own
shame--had now grown upon him. He knew that a word or gesture of
explanation, apology, appeal, or even terror from his wife would
check his rage and weaken his purpose. His perfect knowledge of the
house and the security of its inmates would enable him from some
obscure landing or gallery to participate in any secret conclave
they might hold in the patio--the only place suitable for so
numerous a rendezvous. The absence of light in the few external
windows pointed to this central gathering. And he had already
conceived his plan of entrance.
Gaining the rear wall of the casa he began cautiously to skirt its
brambly base until he had reached a long, oven-like window half
obliterated by a monstrous passion vine. It was the window of what
had once been Mrs. Peyton's boudoir; the window by which he had
once forced an entrance to the house when it was in the hands of
squatters, the window from which Susy had signaled her Spanish
lover, the window whose grating had broken the neck of Judge
Peyton's presumed assassin. But these recollections no longer
delayed him; the moment for action had arrived. He knew that since
the tragedy the boudoir had been dismantled and shunned; the
servants believed it to be haunted by the assassin's ghost. With
the aid of the passion vine the ingress was easy; the interior
window was open; the rustle of dead leaves on the bare floor as he
entered, and the whir of a frightened bird by his ear, told the
story of its desolation and the source of the strange noises that
had been heard there. The door leading to the corridor was lightly
bolted, merely to keep it from rattling in the wind. Slipping the
bolt with the blade of his pocket-knife he peered into the dark
passage. The light streaming under a door to the left, and the
sound of voices, convinced him that his conjecture was right, and
the meeting was gathered on the broad balconies around the patio.
He knew that a narrow gallery, faced with Venetian blinds to
exclude the sun, looked down upon them. He managed to gain it
without discovery; luckily the blinds were still down; between
their slats, himself invisible, he could hear and see everything
Yet even at this supreme moment the first thing that struck him was
the almost ludicrous contrast between the appearance of the meeting
and its tremendous object. Whether he was influenced by any
previous boyish conception of a clouded and gloomy conspiracy he
did not know, but he was for an instant almost disconcerted by the
apparent levity and festivity of the conclave. Decanters and
glasses stood on small tables before them; nearly all were drinking
and smoking. They comprised fifteen or twenty men, some of whose
faces were familiar to him elsewhere as Southern politicians; a
few, he was shocked to see, were well-known Northern Democrats.
Occupying a characteristically central position was the famous
Colonel Starbottle, of Virginia. Jaunty and youthful-looking in
his mask-like, beardless face, expansive and dignified in his
middle-aged port and carriage, he alone retained some of the
importance--albeit slightly theatrical and affected--of the
occasion. Clarence in his first hurried glance had not observed
his wife, and for a moment had felt relieved; but as Colonel
Starbottle arose at that moment, and with a studiously chivalrous
and courtly manner turned to his right, he saw that she was sitting
at the further end of the balcony, and that a man whom he recognized
as Captain Pinckney was standing beside her. The blood quickly
tightened around his heart, but left him cold and observant.
"It was seldom, indeed," remarked Colonel Starbottle, placing his
fat fingers in the frill of his shirt front, "that a movement like
this was graced with the actual presence of a lofty, inspiring, yet
delicate spirit--a Boadicea--indeed, he might say a Joan of Arc--in
the person of their charming hostess, Mrs. Brant. Not only were
they favored by her social and hospitable ministration, but by her
active and enthusiastic cooperation in the glorious work they had
in hand. It was through her correspondence and earnest advocacy
that they were to be favored to-night with the aid and counsel of
one of the most distinguished and powerful men in the Southern
district of California, Judge Beeswinger, of Los Angeles. He had
not the honor of that gentleman's personal acquaintance; he
believed he was not far wrong in saying that this was also the
misfortune of every gentleman present; but the name itself was a
tower of strength. He would go further, and say that Mrs. Brant
herself was personally unacquainted with him, but it was through
the fervor, poetry, grace, and genius of her correspondence with
that gentleman that they were to have the honor of his presence
that very evening. It was understood that advices had been
received of his departure, and that he might be expected at Robles
at any moment."
"But what proof have we of Judge Beeswinger's soundness?" said a
lazy Southern voice at the conclusion of Colonel Starbottle's
periods. "Nobody here seems to know him by sight: is it not risky
to admit a man to our meeting whom we are unable to identify?"
"I reckon nobody but a fool or some prying mudsill of a Yankee
would trust his skin here," returned another; "and if he did we'd
know what to do with him."
But Clarence's attention was riveted on his wife, and the
significant speech passed him as unheeded as had the colonel's
rhetoric. She was looking very handsome and slightly flushed, with
a proud light in her eyes that he had never seen before. Absorbed
in the discussion, she seemed to be paying little attention to
Captain Pinckney as she rose suddenly to her feet.
"Judge Beeswinger will be attended here by Mr. MacNiel, of the Fair
Plains Hotel, who will vouch for him and introduce him," she said
in a clear voice, which rang with an imperiousness that Clarence
well remembered. "The judge was to arrive by the coach from
Martinez to Fair Plains, and is due now."
"Is there no GENTLEMAN to introduce him? Must we take him on the
word of a common trader--by Jove! a whiskey-seller?" continued the
previous voice sneeringly.
"On the word of a lady, Mr. Brooks," said Captain Pinckney, with a
slight gesture towards Mrs. Brant--"who answers for both."
Clarence had started slightly at his wife's voice and the
information it conveyed. His fellow-passenger, and the confidant
of MacNiel, was the man they were expecting! If they had
recognized him, Clarence, would they not warn the company of his
proximity? He held his breath as the sound of voices came from the
outer gate of the courtyard. Mrs. Brant rose; at the same moment
the gate swung open, and a man entered. It WAS the Missourian.
He turned with old-fashioned courtesy to the single woman standing
on the balcony.
"My fair correspondent, I believe! I am Judge Beeswinger. Your
agent, MacNiel, passed me through your guards at the gate, but I
did not deem it advisable to bring him into this assembly of
gentlemen without your further consideration. I trust I was
The quiet dignity and self-possession, the quaint, old-fashioned
colonial precision of speech, modified by a soft Virginian
intonation, and, above all, some singular individuality of the man
himself, produced a profound sensation, and seemed to suddenly give
the gathering an impressiveness it had lacked before. For an
instant Clarence forgot himself and his personal wrongs in the
shock of indignation he felt at this potent addition to the ranks
of his enemies. He saw his wife's eyes sparkle with pride over her
acquisition, and noticed that Pinckney cast a disturbed glance at
The stranger ascended the few steps to the balcony and took Mrs.
Brant's hand with profound courtesy. "Introduce me to my
colleagues--distinctly and separately. It behooves a man at such a
moment to know to whom he entrusts his life and honor, and the life
and honor of his cause."
It was evidently no mere formal courtesy to the stranger. As he
stepped forward along the balcony, and under Mrs. Brant's graceful
guidance was introduced to each of the members, he not only
listened with scrupulous care and attention to the name and
profession of each man, but bent upon him a clear, searching glance
that seemed to photograph him in his memory. With two exceptions.
He passed Colonel Starbottle's expanding shirt frill with a bow of
elaborate precision, and said, "Colonel Starbottle's fame requires
neither introduction nor explanation." He stopped before Captain
Pinckney and paused.
"An officer of the United States army, I believe, sir?"
"Educated at West Point, I think, by the government, to whom you
have taken the oath of allegiance?"
"Very good, sir," said the stranger, turning away.
"You have forgotten one other fact, sir," said Pinckney, with a
slightly supercilious air.
"Indeed! What is it?"
"I am, first of all, a native of the State of South Carolina!"
A murmur of applause and approval ran round the balcony. Captain
Pinckney smiled and exchanged glances with Mrs. Brant, but the
stranger quietly returned to the central table beside Colonel
Starbottle. "I am not only an unexpected delegate to this august
assembly, gentlemen," he began gravely, "but I am the bearer of
perhaps equally unexpected news. By my position in the Southern
district I am in possession of dispatches received only this
morning by pony express. Fort Sumter has been besieged. The
United States flag, carrying relief to the beleaguered garrison,
has been fired upon by the State of South Carolina."
A burst of almost hysteric applause and enthusiasm broke from the
assembly, and made the dim, vault-like passages and corridors of
the casa ring. Cheer after cheer went up to the veiled gallery and
the misty sky beyond. Men mounted on the tables and waved their
hands frantically, and in the midst of this bewildering turbulence
of sound and motion Clarence saw his wife mounted on a chair, with
burning cheeks and flashing eyes, waving her handkerchief like an
inspired priestess. Only the stranger, still standing beside
Colonel Starbottle, remained unmoved and impassive. Then, with an
imperative gesture, he demanded a sudden silence.
"Convincing and unanimous as this demonstration is, gentlemen," he
began quietly, "it is my duty, nevertheless, to ask you if you have
seriously considered the meaning of the news I have brought. It is
my duty to tell you that it means civil war. It means the clash of
arms between two sections of a mighty country; it means the
disruption of friends, the breaking of family ties, the separation
of fathers and sons, of brothers and sisters--even, perhaps, to the
disseverment of husband and wife!"
"It means the sovereignty of the South--and the breaking of a
covenant with lowborn traders and abolitionists," said Captain
"If there are any gentlemen present," continued the stranger,
without heeding the interruption, "who have pledged this State to
the support of the South in this emergency, or to the establishment
of a Pacific republic in aid and sympathy with it, whose names are
on this paper"--he lifted a sheet of paper lying before Colonel
Starbottle--"but who now feel that the gravity of the news demands
a more serious consideration of the purpose, they are at liberty to
withdraw from the meeting, giving their honor, as Southern
gentlemen, to keep the secret intact."
"Not if I know it," interrupted a stalwart Kentuckian, as he rose
to his feet and strode down the steps to the patio. "For," he
added, placing his back against the gateway, "I'll shoot the first
coward that backs out now."
A roar of laughter and approval followed, but was silenced again by
the quiet, unimpassioned voice of the stranger. "If, on the other
hand," he went on calmly, "you all feel that this news is the
fitting culmination and consecration of the hopes, wishes, and
plans of this meeting, you will assert it again, over your own
signatures, to Colonel Starbottle at this table."
When the Kentuckian had risen, Clarence had started from his
concealment; when he now saw the eager figures pressing forward to
the table he hesitated no longer. Slipping along the passage, he
reached the staircase which led to the corridor in the rear of the
balcony. Descending this rapidly, he not only came upon the backs
of the excited crowd around the table, but even elbowed one of the
conspirators aside without being noticed. His wife, who had risen
from her chair at the end of the balcony, was already moving
towards the table. With a quick movement he seized her wrist, and
threw her back in the chair again. A cry broke from her lips as
she recognized him, but still holding her wrist, he stepped quickly
between her and the astonished crowd. There was a moment of
silence, then the cry of "Spy!" and "Seize him!" rose quickly, but
above all the voice and figure of the Missourian was heard
commanding them to stand back. Turning to Clarence, he said
"I should know your face, sir. Who are you?"
"The husband of this woman and the master of this house," said
Clarence as quietly, but in a voice he hardly recognized as his
"Stand aside from her, then--unless you are hoping that her danger
may protect YOU!" said the Kentuckian, significantly drawing his
But Mrs. Brant sprang suddenly to her feet beside Clarence.
"We are neither of us cowards, Mr. Brooks--though he speaks the
truth--and--more shame to me"--she added, with a look of savage
scorn at Clarence--"IS MY HUSBAND!"
"What is your purpose in coming here?" continued Judge Beeswinger,
with his eyes fixed on Clarence.
"I have given you all the information," said Clarence quietly,
"that is necessary to make you, as a gentleman, leave this house at
once--and that is my purpose. It is all the information you will
get from me as long as you and your friends insult my roof with
your uninvited presence. What I may have to say to you and each of
you hereafter--what I may choose to demand of you, according to
your own code of honor,"--he fixed his eyes on Captain Pinckney's,--
"is another question, and one not usually discussed before a lady."
"Pardon me. A moment--a single moment."
It was the voice of Colonel Starbottle; it was the frilled shirt
front, the lightly buttoned blue coat with its expanding lapels,
like bursting petals, and the smiling mask of that gentleman rising
above the table and bowing to Clarence Brant and his wife with
infinite courtesy. "The--er--humiliating situation in which we
find ourselves, gentlemen,--the reluctant witnesses of--er--what we
trust is only a temporary disagreement between our charming hostess
and the--er--gentleman whom she recognized under the highest title
to our consideration,--is distressing to us all, and would seem to
amply justify that gentleman's claims to a personal satisfaction,
which I know we would all delight to give. But that situation
rests upon the supposition that our gathering here was of a purely
social or festive nature! It may be," continued the colonel with a
blandly reflective air, "that the spectacle of these decanters and
glasses, and the nectar furnished us by our Hebe-like hostess" (he
lifted a glass of whiskey and water to his lips while he bowed to
Mrs. Brant gracefully), "has led the gentleman to such a deduction.
But when I suggest to him that our meeting was of a business, or
private nature, it strikes me that the question of intrusion may be
fairly divided between him and ourselves. We may be even justified,
in view of that privacy, in asking him if his--er--entrance to
this house was--er--coincident with his appearance among us."
"With my front door in possession of strangers," said Clarence,
more in reply to a sudden contemptuous glance from his wife than
Starbottle's insinuation, "I entered the house through the window."
"Of my boudoir, where another intruder once broke his neck,"
interrupted his wife with a mocking laugh.
"Where I once helped this lady to regain possession of her house
when it was held by another party of illegal trespassers, who,
however, were content to call themselves 'jumpers,' and did not
claim the privacy of gentlemen."
"Do you mean to imply, sir," began Colonel Starbottle haughtily,
"I mean to imply, sir," said Clarence with quiet scorn, "that I
have neither the wish to know nor the slightest concern in any
purpose that brought you here, and that when you quit the house you
take your secrets and your privacy with you intact, without let or
hindrance from me."
"Do you mean to say, Mr. Brant," said Judge Beeswinger, suppressing
the angry interruption of his fellows with a dominant wave of his
hand, as he fixed his eyes on Clarence keenly, "that you have no
sympathy with your wife's political sentiments?"
"I have already given you the information necessary to make you
quit this house, and that is all you have a right to know,"
returned Clarence with folded arms.
"But I can answer for him," said Mrs. Brant, rising, with a
quivering voice and curling lip. "There IS no sympathy between us.
We are as far apart as the poles. We have nothing in common but
this house and his name."
"But you are husband and wife, bound together by a sacred compact."
"A compact!" echoed Mrs. Brant, with a bitter laugh. "Yes, the
compact that binds South Carolina to the nigger-worshipping
Massachusetts. The compact that links together white and black,
the gentleman and the trader, the planter and the poor white--the
compact of those UNITED States. Bah! THAT has been broken, and so
Clarence's face paled. But before he could speak there was a rapid
clattering at the gate and a dismounted vaquero entered excitedly.
Turning to Mrs. Brant he said hurriedly, "Mother of God! the casa
is surrounded by a rabble of mounted men, and there is one among
them even now who demands admittance in the name of the Law."
"This is your work," said Brooks, facing Clarence furiously. "You
have brought them with you, but, by God, they shall not save you!"
He would have clutched Clarence, but the powerful arm of Judge
Beeswinger intervened. Nevertheless, he still struggled to reach
Clarence, appealing to the others: "Are you fools to stand there
and let him triumph! Don't you see the cowardly Yankee trick he's
played upon us?"
"He has not," said Mrs. Brant haughtily. "I have no reason to love
him or his friends; but I know he does not lie."
"Gentlemen!--gentlemen!" implored Colonel Starbottle with beaming
and unctuous persuasion, "may I--er--remark--that all this is far
from the question? Are we to be alarmed because an unknown rabble,
no matter whence they come, demand entrance here in the name of the
Law? I am not aware of any law of the State of California that we
are infringing. By all means admit them."
The gate was thrown open. A single thick-set man, apparently
unarmed and dressed like an ordinary traveler, followed by half a
dozen other equally unpretentious-looking men, entered. The leader
turned to the balcony.
"I am the Chief of Police of San Francisco. I have warrants for
the arrest of Colonel Culpepper Starbottle, Joshua Brooks, Captain
Pinckney, Clarence Brant and Alice his wife, and others charged
with inciting to riot and unlawful practice calculated to disturb
the peace of the State of California and its relations with the
Federal government," said the leader, in a dry official voice.
Clarence started. In spite of its monotonous utterance it was the
voice of the red-bearded controversialist of the stage-coach. But
where were his characteristic beard and hair? Involuntarily
Clarence glanced at Judge Beeswinger; that gentleman was quietly
regarding the stranger with an impassive face that betrayed no
"But the city of San Francisco has no jurisdiction here," said
Colonel Starbottle, turning a bland smile towards his fellow-
members. "I am--er--sorry to inform you that you are simply
"I am here also as deputy sheriff," returned the stranger coolly.
"We were unable to locate the precise place of this meeting,
although we knew of its existence. I was sworn in this morning at
Santa Inez by the judge of this district, and these gentlemen with
me are my posse."
There was a quick movement of resistance by the members, which was,
however, again waived blandly aside by Colonel Starbottle. Leaning
forward in a slightly forensic attitude, with his fingers on the
table and a shirt frill that seemed to have become of itself
erectile, he said, with pained but polite precision, "I grieve to
have to state, sir, that even that position is utterly untenable
here. I am a lawyer myself, as my friend here, Judge Beeswinger--
eh? I beg your pardon!"
The officer of the law had momentarily started, with his eyes fixed
on Judge Beeswinger, who, however, seemed to be quietly writing at
"As Judge Beeswinger," continued Colonel Starbottle, "will probably
tell you and as a jurist himself, he will also probably agree with
me when I also inform you that, as the United States government is
an aggrieved party, it is a matter for the Federal courts to
prosecute, and that the only officer we can recognize is the United
States Marshal for the district. When I add that the marshal,
Colonel Crackenthorpe, is one of my oldest friends, and an active
sympathizer with the South in the present struggle, you will
understand that any action from him in this matter is exceedingly
The general murmur of laughter, relief, and approval was broken by
the quiet voice of Judge Beeswinger.
"Let me see your warrant, Mr. Deputy Sheriff."
The officer approached him with a slightly perplexed and constrained
air, and exhibited the paper. Judge Beeswinger handed it back to
him. "Colonel Starbottle is quite right in his contention," he said
quietly; "the only officer that this assembly can recognize is the
United States Marshal or his legal deputy. But Colonel Starbottle is
wrong in his supposition that Colonel Crackenthorpe still retains
the functions of that office. He was removed by the President of
the United States, and his successor was appointed and sworn in by
the Federal judge early this morning." He paused, and folding up
the paper on which he had been writing, placed it in the hands of
the deputy. "And this," he continued in the same even voice,
"constitutes you his deputy, and will enable you to carry out your
duty in coming here."
"What the devil does this mean, sir? Who are you?" gasped Colonel
Starbottle, recoiling suddenly from the man at his side.
"I am the new United States Marshal for the Southern District of
Unsuspected and astounding as the revelation was to Clarence, its
strange reception by the conspirators seemed to him as astounding.
He had started forward, half expecting that the complacent and
self-confessed spy would be immolated by his infuriated dupes. But
to his surprise the shock seemed to have changed their natures, and
given them the dignity they had lacked. The excitability,
irritation, and recklessness which had previously characterized
them had disappeared. The deputy and his posse, who had advanced
to the assistance of their revealed chief, met with no resistance.
They had evidently, as if with one accord, drawn away from Judge
Beeswinger, leaving a cleared space around him, and regarded their
captors with sullen contemptuous silence. It was only broken by
"Your duty commands you, sir, to use all possible diligence in
bringing us before the Federal judge of this district--unless your
master in Washington has violated the Constitution so far as to
remove him, too!"
"I understand you perfectly," returned Judge Beeswinger, with
unchanged composure; "and as you know that Judge Wilson
unfortunately cannot be removed except through a regular course of
impeachment, I suppose you may still count upon his Southern
sympathies to befriend you. With that I have nothing to do; my
duty is complete when my deputy has brought you before him and I
have stated the circumstances of the arrest."
"I congratulate you, sir," said Captain Pinckney, with an ironical
salute, "on your prompt reward for your treachery to the South, and
your equally prompt adoption of the peculiar tactics of your
friends in the way in which you have entered this house."
"I am sorry I cannot congratulate YOU, sir," returned Judge
Beeswinger gravely, on breaking your oath to the government which
has educated and supported you and given you the epaulettes you
disgrace. Nor shall I discuss 'treachery' with the man who has not
only violated the trust of his country, but even the integrity of
his friend's household. It is for that reason that I withhold the
action of this warrant in so far as it affects the persons of the
master and mistress of this home. I am satisfied that Mr. Brant
has been as ignorant of what has been done here as I am that his
wife has been only the foolish dupe of a double traitor!"
The words broke simultaneously from the lips of Clarence and
Captain Pinckney. They stood staring at each other--the one pale,
the other crimson--as Mrs. Brant, apparently oblivious of the
significance of their united adjuration, turned to Judge Beeswinger
in the fury of her still stifled rage and mortification.
"Keep your mercy for your fellow-spy," she said, with a contemptuous
gesture towards her husband; "I go with these gentlemen!"
"You will not," said Clarence quietly, "until I have said a word to
you alone." He laid his hand firmly upon her wrist.
The deputy and his prisoners filed slowly out of the courtyard
together, the latter courteously saluting Mrs. Brant as they
passed, but turning from Judge Beeswinger in contemptuous silence.
The judge followed them to the gate, but there he paused. Turning
to Mrs. Brant, who was still half struggling in the strong grip of
her husband, he said,--
"Any compunction I may have had in misleading you by accepting your
invitation here I dismissed after I had entered this house. And I
trust," he added, turning to Clarence sternly, "I leave you the
master of it!"
As the gate closed behind him, Clarence locked it. When his wife
turned upon him angrily, he said quietly,--
"I have no intention of restraining your liberty a moment after our
interview is over, but until then I do not intend to be disturbed."
She threw herself disdainfully back in her chair, her hands clasped
in her lap in half-contemptuous resignation, with her eyes upon her
long slim arched feet crossed before her. Even in her attitude
there was something of her old fascination which, however, now
seemed to sting Clarence to the quick.
"I have nothing to say to you in regard to what has just passed in
this house, except that as long as I remain even nominally its
master it shall not be repeated. Although I shall no longer
attempt to influence or control your political sympathies, I shall
not allow you to indulge them where in any way they seem to imply
my sanction. But so little do I oppose your liberty, that you are
free to rejoin your political companions whenever you choose to do
so on your own responsibility. But I must first know from your own
lips whether your sympathies are purely political--or a name for
She had alternately flushed and paled, although still keeping her
scornful attitude as he went on, but there was no mistaking the
genuineness of her vague wonderment at his concluding words.
"I don't understand you," she said, lifting her eyes to his in a
moment of cold curiosity. "What do you mean?"
"What do I mean? What did Judge Beeswinger mean when he called
Captain Pinckney a double traitor?" he said roughly.
She sprang to her feet with flashing eyes. "And you--YOU! dare to
repeat the cowardly lie of a confessed spy. This, then, is what
you wished to tell me--this the insult for which you have kept me
here; because you are incapable of understanding unselfish
patriotism or devotion--even to your own cause--you dare to judge
me by your own base, Yankee-trading standards. Yes, it is worthy
of you!" She walked rapidly up and down, and then suddenly faced
him. "I understand it all; I appreciate your magnanimity now. You
are willing I should join the company of these chivalrous gentlemen
in order to give color to your calumnies! Say at once that it was
you who put up this spy to correspond with me--to come here--in
order to entrap me. Yes entrap me--I--who a moment ago stood up
for you before these gentlemen, and said you could not lie. Bah!"
Struck only by the wild extravagance of her speech and temper,
Clarence did not know that when women are most illogical they are
apt to be most sincere, and from a man's standpoint her unreasoning
deductions appeared to him only as an affectation to gain time for
thought, or a theatrical display, like Susy's. And he was turning
half contemptuously away, when she again faced him with flashing
"Well, hear me! I accept; I leave here at once, to join my own
people, my own friends--those who understand me--put what
construction on it that you choose. Do your worst; you cannot do
more to separate us than you have done just now."
She left him, and ran up the steps with a singular return of her
old occasional nymph-like nimbleness--the movement of a woman who
had never borne children--and a swish of her long skirts that he
remembered for many a day after, as she disappeared in the
corridor. He remained looking after her--indignant, outraged, and
unconvinced. There was a rattling at the gate.
He remembered he had locked it. He opened it to the flushed pink
cheeks and dancing eyes of Susy. The rain was still dripping from
her wet cloak as she swung it from her shoulders.
"I know it all!--all that's happened," she burst out with half-
girlish exuberance and half the actress's declamation. "We met
them all in the road--posse and prisoners. Chief Thompson knew me
and told me all. And so you've done it--and you're master in your
old house again. Clarence, old boy! Jim said you wouldn't do it--
said you'd weaken on account of her! But I said 'No.' I knew you
better, old Clarence, and I saw it in your face, for all your
stiffness! ha! But for all that I was mighty nervous and uneasy,
and I just made Jim send an excuse to the theatre and we rushed it
down here! Lordy! but it looks natural to see the old house again!
And she--you packed her off with the others--didn't you? Tell me,
Clarence," in her old appealing voice, "you shook her, too!"
Dazed and astounded, and yet experiencing a vague sense of relief
with something like his old tenderness towards the willful woman
before him, he had silently regarded her until her allusion to his
wife recalled him to himself.
"Hush!" he said quickly, with a glance towards the corridor.
"Ah!" said Susy, with a malicious smile, "then that's why Captain
Pinckney was lingering in the rear with the deputy."
"Silence!" repeated Clarence sternly. "Go in there," pointing to
the garden room below the balcony, "and wait there with your
He half led, half pushed her into the room which had been his
business office, and returned to the patio. A hesitating voice
from the balcony said, "Clarence!"
It was his wife's voice, but modified and gentler--more like her
voice as he had first heard it, or as if it had been chastened by
some reminiscence of those days. It was his wife's face, too, that
looked down on his--paler than he had seen it since he entered the
house. She was shawled and hooded, carrying a traveling-bag in her
"I am going, Clarence," she said, pausing before him, with gentle
gravity, "but not in anger. I even ask you to forgive me for the
foolish words that I think your still more foolish accusation"--she
smiled faintly--"dragged from me. I am going because I know that I
have brought--and that while I am here I shall always be bringing--
upon you the imputation and even the responsibility of my own
faith! While I am proud to own it,--and if needs be suffer for
it,--I have no right to ruin your prospects, or even make you the
victim of the slurs that others may cast upon me. Let us part as
friends--separated only by our different political faiths, but
keeping all other faiths together--until God shall settle the right
of this struggle. Perhaps it may be soon--I sometimes think it may
be years of agony for all; but until then, good-by."
She had slowly descended the steps to the patio, looking handsomer
than he had ever seen her, and as if sustained and upheld by the
enthusiasm of her cause. Her hand was outstretched towards his--
his heart beat violently--in another moment he might have forgotten
all and clasped her to his breast. Suddenly she stopped, her
outstretched arm stiffened, her finger pointed to the chair on
which Susy's cloak was hanging.
"What's that?" she said in a sharp, high, metallic voice. "Who is
"Susy," said Clarence.
She cast a scathing glance round the patio, and then settled her
piercing eyes on Clarence with a bitter smile.
Clarence felt the blood rush to his face as he stammered, "She knew
what was happening here, and came to give you warning."
"Stop!" said Clarence, with a white face. "She came to tell me
that Captain Pinckney was still lingering for you in the road."
He threw open the gate to let her pass. As she swept out she
lifted her hand. As he closed the gate there were the white marks
of her four fingers on his cheek.
For once Susy had not exaggerated. Captain Pinckney WAS lingering,
with the deputy who had charge of him, on the trail near the casa.
It had already been pretty well understood by both captives and
captors that the arrest was simply a legal demonstration; that the
sympathizing Federal judge would undoubtedly order the discharge of
the prisoners on their own recognizances, and it was probable that
the deputy saw no harm in granting Pinckney's request--which was
virtually only a delay in his liberation. It was also possible
that Pinckney had worked upon the chivalrous sympathies of the man
by professing his disinclination to leave their devoted colleague,
Mrs. Brant, at the mercy of her antagonistic and cold-blooded
husband at such a crisis, and it is to be feared also that
Clarence, as a reputed lukewarm partisan, excited no personal
sympathy, even from his own party. Howbeit, the deputy agreed to
delay Pinckney's journey for a parting interview with his fair
How far this expressed the real sentiments of Captain Pinckney was
never known. Whether his political association with Mrs. Brant had
developed into a warmer solicitude, understood or ignored by her,--
what were his hopes and aspirations regarding her future,--were by
the course of fate never disclosed. A man of easy ethics, but
rigid artificialities of honor, flattered and pampered by class
prejudice, a so-called "man of the world," with no experience
beyond his own limited circle, yet brave and devoted to that, it
were well perhaps to leave this last act of his inefficient life as
it was accepted by the deputy.
Dismounting he approached the house from the garden. He was
already familiar with the low arched doorway which led to the
business room, and from which he could gain admittance to the
patio, but it so chanced that he entered the dark passage at the
moment that Clarence had thrust Susy into the business room, and
heard its door shut sharply. For an instant he believed that Mrs.
Brant had taken refuge there, but as he cautiously moved forward he
heard her voice in the patio beyond. Its accents struck him as
pleading; an intense curiosity drew him further along the passage.
Suddenly her voice seemed to change to angry denunciation, and the
word "Liar" rang upon his ears. It was followed by his own name
uttered sardonically by Clarence, the swift rustle of a skirt, the
clash of the gate, and then--forgetting everything, he burst into
Clarence was just turning from the gate with the marks of his
wife's hand still red on his white cheek. He saw Captain
Pinckney's eyes upon it, and the faint, half-malicious, half-
hysteric smile upon his lips. But without a start or gesture of
surprise he locked the gate, and turning to him, said with frigid
"I thank you for returning so promptly, and for recognizing the
only thing I now require at your hand."
But Captain Pinckney had recovered his supercilious ease with the
"You seem to have had something already from another's hand, sir,
but I am at your service," he said lightly.
"You will consider that I have accepted it from you," said
Clarence, drawing closer to him with a rigid face. "I suppose it
will not be necessary for me to return it--to make you understand
"Go on," said Pinckney, flushing slightly. "Make your terms; I am
"But I'm not," said the unexpected voice of the deputy at the
grille of the gateway. "Excuse my interfering, gentlemen, but this
sort o' thing ain't down in my schedule. I've let this gentleman,"
pointing to Captain Pinckney, "off for a minit to say 'good-by' to
a lady, who I reckon has just ridden off in her buggy with her
servant without saying by your leave, but I didn't calkelate to let
him inter another business, which, like as not, may prevent me from
delivering his body safe and sound into court. You hear me!" As
Clarence opened the gate he added, "I don't want ter spoil sport
between gents, but it's got to come in after I've done my duty."
"I'll meet you, sir, anywhere, and with what weapons you choose,"
said Pinckney, turning angrily upon Clarence, "as soon as this
farce--for which you and your friends are responsible--is over."
He was furious at the intimation that Mrs. Brant had escaped him.
A different thought was in the husband's mind. "But what assurance
have I that you are going on with the deputy?" he said with
purposely insulting deliberation.
"My word, sir," said Captain Pinckney sharply.
"And if that ain't enuff, there's mine!" said the deputy. "For if
this gentleman swerves to the right or left betwixt this and Santa
Inez, I'll blow a hole through him myself. And that," he added
deprecatingly, "is saying a good deal for a man who doesn't want to
spoil sport, and for the matter of that is willing to stand by and
see fair play done at Santa Inez any time to-morrow before
"Then I can count on you," said Clarence, with a sudden impulse
extending his hand.
The man hesitated a moment and then grasped it.
"Well, I wasn't expecting that," he said slowly; "but you look as
if you meant business, and if you ain't got anybody else to see you
through, I'm thar! I suppose this gentleman will have his friends."
"I shall be there at six with my seconds," said Pinckney curtly.
The gate closed behind them. Clarence stood looking around the
empty patio and the silent house, from which it was now plain that
the servants had been withdrawn to insure the secrecy of the
conspiracy. Cool and collected as he knew he was, he remained for
a moment in hesitation. Then the sound of voices came to his ear
from the garden room, the light frivolity of Susy's laugh and
Hooker's huskier accents. He had forgotten they were there--he had
forgotten their existence!
Trusting still to his calmness, he called to Hooker in his usual
voice. That gentleman appeared with a face which his attempts to
make unconcerned and impassive had, however, only deepened into
"I have something to attend to," said Clarence, with a faint smile,
"and I must ask you and Susy to excuse me for a little while. She
knows the house perfectly, and will call the servants from the
annex to provide you both with refreshment until I join you a
little later." Satisfied from Hooker's manner that they knew
nothing of his later interview with Pinckney, he turned away and
ascended to his own room.
There he threw himself into an armchair by the dim light of a
single candle as if to reflect. But he was conscious, even then,
of his own calmness and want of excitement, and that no reflection
was necessary. What he had done and what he intended to do was
quite clear, there was no alternative suggested or to be even
sought after. He had that sense of relief which comes with the
climax of all great struggles, even of defeat.
He had never known before how hopeless and continuous had been that
struggle until now it was over. He had no fear of tomorrow, he
would meet it as he had to-day, with the same singular consciousness
of being equal to the occasion. There was even no necessity of
preparation for it; his will, leaving his fortune to his wife,--
which seemed a slight thing now in this greater separation,--was
already in his safe in San Francisco, his pistols were in the next
room. He was even slightly disturbed by his own insensibility, and
passed into his wife's bedroom partly in the hope of disturbing his
serenity by some memento of their past. There was no disorder of
flight--everything was in its place, except the drawer of her desk,
which was still open, as if she had taken something from it as an
afterthought. There were letters and papers there, some of his own
and some in Captain Pinckney's handwriting. It did not occur to him
to look at them--even to justify himself, or excuse her. He knew
that his hatred of Captain Pinckney was not so much that he believed
him her lover, as his sudden conviction that she was like him! He
was the male of her species--a being antagonistic to himself, whom
he could fight, and crush, and revenge himself upon. But most of
all he loathed his past, not on account of her, but of his own
weakness that had made him her dupe and a misunderstood man to his
friends. He had been derelict of duty in his unselfish devotion to
her; he had stifled his ambition, and underrated his own
possibilities. No wonder that others had accepted him at his own
valuation. Clarence Brant was a modest man, but the egotism of
modesty is more fatal than that of pretension, for it has the
haunting consciousness of superior virtue.
He re-entered his own room and again threw himself into his chair.
His calm was being succeeded by a physical weariness; he remembered
he had not slept the night before, and he ought to take some rest
to be fresh in the early morning. Yet he must also show himself
before his self-invited guests,--Susy and her husband,--or their
suspicions would be aroused. He would try to sleep for a little
while in the chair before he went downstairs again. He closed his
eyes oddly enough on a dim dreamy recollection of Susy in the old
days, in the little madrono hollow where she had once given him a
rendezvous. He forgot the maturer and critical uneasiness with
which he had then received her coquettish and willful advances,
which he now knew was the effect of the growing dominance of Mrs.
Peyton over him, and remembered only her bright, youthful eyes, and
the kisses he had pressed upon her soft fragrant cheek. The
faintness he had felt when waiting in the old rose garden, a few
hours ago, seemed to steal on him once more, and to lapse into a
pleasant drowsiness. He even seemed again to inhale the perfume of
He started. He had been sleeping, but the voice sounded strangely
A light, girlish laugh followed. He sprang to his feet. It was
Susy standing beside him--and Susy even as she looked in the old
For with a flash of her old audacity, aided by her familiar
knowledge of the house and the bunch of household keys she had
found, which dangled from her girdle, as in the old fashion, she
had disinterred one of her old frocks from a closet, slipped it on,
and unloosening her brown hair had let it fall in rippling waves
down her back. It was Susy in her old girlishness, with the
instinct of the grown actress in the arrangement of her short skirt
over her pretty ankles and the half-conscious pose she had taken.
"Poor dear old Clarence," she said, with dancing eyes; "I might
have won a dozen pairs of gloves from you while you slept there.
But you're tired, dear old boy, and you've had a hard time of it.
No matter; you've shown yourself a man at last, and I'm proud of
Half ashamed of the pleasure he felt even in his embarrassment,
Clarence stammered, "But this change--this dress."
Susy clapped her hands like a child. "I knew it would surprise
you! It's an old frock I wore the year I went away with auntie. I
knew where it was hidden, and fished it out again with these keys,
Clarence; it seemed so like old times. Lord! when I was with the
old servants again, and you didn't come down, I just felt as if I'd
never been away, and I just rampaged free. It seemed to me, don't
you know, not as if I'd just come, but as if I'd always been right
here, and it was you who'd just come. Don't you understand! Just
as you came when me and Mary Rogers were here; don't you remember
her, Clarence, and how she used to do 'gooseberry' for us? Well,
just like that. So I said to Jim, 'I don't know you any more--
get!' and I just slipped on this frock and ordered Manuela around
as I used to do--and she in fits of laughter; I reckon, Clarence,
she hasn't laughed as much since I left. And then I thought of
you--perhaps worried and flustered as yet over things, and the
change, and I just slipped into the kitchen and I told old fat
Conchita to make some of these tortillas you know,--with sugar and
cinnamon sprinkled on top,--and I tied on an apron and brought 'em
up to you on a tray with a glass of that old Catalan wine you used
to like. Then I sorter felt frightened when I got here, and I
didn't hear any noise, and I put the tray down in the hall and
peeped in and found you asleep. Sit still, I'll fetch em."
She tripped out into the passage, returning with the tray, which
she put on the table beside Clarence, and then standing back a
little and with her hands tucked soubrette fashion in the tiny
pockets of her apron, gazed at him with a mischievous smile.
It was impossible not to smile back as he nibbled the crisp Mexican
cake and drank the old mission wine. And Susy's tongue trilled an
accompaniment to his thanks.
"Lord! it seems so nice to be here--just you and me, Clarence--like
in the old days--with nobody naggin' and swoopin' round after you.
Don't be greedy, Clarence, but give me a cake." She took one and
finished the dregs of his glass.
Then sitting on the arm of his chair, she darted a violet ray of
half reproach and half mischievousness into his amused and
retrospective eyes. "There used to be room for two in that chair,
The use of the old childish diminutive for his name seemed to him
natural as her familiarity, and he moved a little sideways to make
room for her with an instinct of pleasure, but the same sense of
irresponsibility that had characterized his reflections.
Nevertheless, he looked critically into the mischievous eyes, and
"Where is your husband?"
There was no trace of embarrassment, apology, or even of
consciousness in her pretty face as she replied, passing her
hand lightly through his hair,--
"Oh, Jim? I've packed him off!"
"Packed him off!" echoed Clarence, slightly astonished.
"Yes, to Fair Plains, full tilt after your wife's buggy. You see,
Clarence, after the old cat--that's your wife, please--left, I
wanted to make sure she had gone, and wasn't hangin' round to lead
you off again with your leg tied to her apron string like a
chicken's! No! I said to Jim, 'Just you ride after her until you
see she's safe and sound in the down coach from Fair Plains without
her knowin' it, and if she's inclined to hang back or wobble any,
you post back here and let me know!' I told him I would stay and
look after you to see you didn't bolt too!" She laughed, and then
added, "But I didn't think I should fall into the old ways so soon,
and have such a nice time. Did you, Clarence?"
She looked so irresponsible, sitting there with her face near his,
and so childishly, or perhaps thoughtlessly, happy, that he could
only admire her levity, and even the slight shock that her flippant
allusion to his wife had given him seemed to him only a weakness of
his own. After all, was not hers the true philosophy? Why should
not these bright eyes see things more clearly than his own?
Nevertheless, with his eyes still fixed upon them, he continued,--
"And Jim was willing to go?"
She stopped, with her fingers still lifting a lock of his hair.
"Why, yes, you silly--why shouldn't he? I'd like to see him
refuse. Why, Lord! Jim will do anything I ask him." She put down
the lock of hair, and suddenly looking full into his eyes, said,
"That's just the difference between him and me, and you and--that
"Then you love him!"
"About as much as you love her," she said, with an unaffected
laugh; "only he don't wind me around his finger."
No doubt she was right for all her thoughtlessness, and yet he was
going to fight about that woman to-morrow! No--he forgot; he was
going to fight Captain Pinckney because he was like her!
Susy had put her finger on the crease between his brows which this
supposition had made, and tried to rub it out.
"You know it as well as I do, Clarence," she said, with a pretty
wrinkling of her own brows, which was her nearest approach to
thoughtfulness. "You know you never really liked her, only you
thought her ways were grander and more proper than mine, and you
know you were always a little bit of a snob and a prig too--dear
boy. And Mrs. Peyton was--bless my soul!--a Benham and a planter's
daughter, and I--I was only a picked-up orphan! That's where Jim
is better than you--now sit still, goosey!--even if I don't like
him as much. Oh, I know what you're always thinking, you're
thinking we're both exaggerated and theatrical, ain't you? But
don't you think it's a heap better to be exaggerated and theatrical
about things that are just sentimental and romantic than to be so
awfully possessed and overcome about things that are only real?
There, you needn't stare at me so! It's true. You've had your
fill of grandeur and propriety, and--here you are. And," she added
with a little chuckle, as she tucked up her feet and leaned a
little closer to him, "here's ME."
He did not speak, but his arm quite unconsciously passed round her
"You see, Clarence," she went on with equal unconsciousness of the
act, "you ought never to have let me go--never! You ought to have
kept me here--or run away with me. And you oughtn't to have tried
to make me proper. And you oughtn't to have driven me to flirt
with that horrid Spaniard, and you oughtn't to have been so
horribly cold and severe when I did. And you oughtn't to have made
me take up with Jim, who was the only one who thought me his equal.
I might have been very silly and capricious; I might have been very
vain, but my vanity isn't a bit worse than your pride; my love of
praise and applause in the theatre isn't a bit more horrid than
your fears of what people might think of you or me. That's gospel
truth, isn't it, Clarence? Tell me! Don't look that way and this--
look at ME! I ain't poisonous, Clarence. Why, one of your cheeks
is redder than the other, Clarence; that's the one that's turned
from me. Come," she went on, taking the lapels of his coat between
her hands and half shaking him, half drawing him nearer her bright
face. "Tell me--isn't it true?"
"I was thinking of you just now when I fell asleep, Susy," he said.
He did not know why he said it; he had not intended to tell her, he
had only meant to avoid a direct answer to her question; yet even
now he went on. "And I thought of you when I was out there in the
rose garden waiting to come in here."
"You did?" she said, drawing in her breath. A wave of delicate
pink color came up to her very eyes, it seemed to him as quickly
and as innocently as when she was a girl. "And what DID you think,
Klarns," she half whispered--"tell me."
He did not speak, but answered her blue eyes and then her lips, as
her arms slipped quite naturally around his neck.
. . . . . .
The dawn was breaking as Clarence and Jim Hooker emerged together
from the gate of the casa. Mr. Hooker looked sleepy. He had
found, after his return from Fair Plains, that his host had an
early engagement at Santa Inez, and he had insisted upon rising to
see him off. It was with difficulty, indeed, that Clarence could
prevent his accompanying him. Clarence had not revealed to Susy
the night before the real object of his journey, nor did Hooker
evidently suspect it, yet when the former had mounted his horse, he
hesitated for an instant, extending his hand.
"If I should happen to be detained," he began with a half smile.
But Jim was struggling with a yawn. "That's all right--don't mind
us," he said, stretching his arms. Clarence's hesitating hand
dropped to his side, and with a light reckless laugh and a half
sense of providential relief he galloped away.
What happened immediately thereafter during his solitary ride to
Santa Inez, looking back upon it in after years, seemed but a
confused recollection, more like a dream. The long stretches of
vague distance, gradually opening clearer with the rising sun in an
unclouded sky; the meeting with a few early or belated travelers
and his unconscious avoidance of them, as if they might know of his
object; the black shadows of foreshortened cattle rising before him
on the plain and arousing the same uneasy sensation of their being
waylaying men; the wondering recognition of houses and landmarks he
had long been familiar with; his purposeless attempts to recall the
circumstances in which he had known them--all these were like a
dream. So, too, were the recollections of the night before, the
episode with Susy, already mingled and blended with the memory of
their previous past; his futile attempts to look forward to the
future, always, however, abandoned with relief at the thought that
the next few hours might make them unnecessary. So also was the
sudden realization that Santa Inez was before him, when he had
thought he was not yet halfway there, and as he dismounted before
the Court House his singular feeling--followed, however, by no fear
or distress--was that he had come so early to the rendezvous that
he was not yet quite prepared for it.
This same sense of unreality pervaded his meeting with the deputy
sheriff, at the news that the Federal judge had, as was expected,
dismissed the prisoners on their own recognizances, and that
Captain Pinckney was at the hotel at breakfast. In the like
abstracted manner he replied to the one or two questions of the
deputy, exhibited the pistols he had brought with him, and finally
accompanied him to a little meadow hidden by trees, below the
hotel, where the other principal and his seconds were awaiting
them. And here he awoke--clear-eyed, keen, forceful, and intense!
So stimulated were his faculties that his sense of hearing in its
acuteness took in every word of the conversation between the
seconds, a few paces distant. He heard his adversary's seconds say
carelessly to the deputy sheriff, "I presume this is a case where
there will be no apology or mediation," and the deputy's reply, "I
reckon my man means business, but he seems a little queer." He
heard the other second laugh, and say lightly, "They're apt to be
so when it's their first time out," followed by the more anxious
aside of the other second as the deputy turned away,--"Yes, but by
G-d I don't like his looks!" His sense of sight was also so acute
that having lost the choice of position, when the coin was tossed,
and being turned with his face to the sun, even through the glare
he saw, with unerring distinctness of outline, the black-coated
figure of his opponent moved into range--saw the perfect outline of
his features, and how the easy, supercilious smile, as he threw
away his cigar, appeared to drop out of his face with a kind of
vacant awe as he faced him. He felt his nerves become as steel as
the counting began, and at the word "three," knew he had fired by
the recoil of the pistol in his leveled hand, simultaneously with
its utterance. And at the same moment, still standing like a rock,
he saw his adversary miserably collapse, his legs grotesquely
curving inwards under him,--without even the dignity of death in
his fall,--and so sink helplessly like a felled bull to the ground.
Still erect, and lowering only the muzzle of his pistol, as a thin
feather of smoke curled up its shining side, he saw the doctor and
seconds run quickly to the heap, try to lift its limp impotence
into shape, and let it drop again with the words, "Right through
the forehead, by G-d!"
"You've done for him," said the deputy, turning to Clarence with a
singular look of curiosity, "and I reckon you had better get out of
this mighty quick. They didn't expect it; they're just ragin';
they may round on you--and"--he added, more slowly, "they seem to
have just found out who you are."
Even while he was speaking, Clarence, with his quickened ear, heard
the words, "One of Hamilton Brant's pups" "Just like his father,"
from the group around the dead man. He did not hesitate, but
walked coolly towards them. Yet a certain fierce pride--which he
had never known before--stirred in his veins as their voices hushed
and they half recoiled before him.
"Am I to understand from my second, gentlemen," he said, looking
round the group, "that you are not satisfied?"
"The fight was square enough," said Pinckney's second in some
embarrassment, "but I reckon that he," pointing to the dead man,
"did not know who you were."
"Do you mean that he did not know that I was the son of a man
proficient in the use of arms?"
"I reckon that's about it," returned the second, glancing at the
"I am glad to say, sir, that I have a better opinion of his
courage," said Clarence, lifting his hat to the dead body as he
Yet he was conscious of no remorse, concern, or even pity in his
act. Perhaps this was visible in his face, for the group appeared
awed by this perfection of the duelist's coolness, and even
returned his formal parting salutation with a vague and timid
respect. He thanked the deputy, regained the hotel, saddled his
horse and galloped away.
But not towards the Rancho. Now that he could think of his future,
that had no place in his reflections; even the episode of Susy was
forgotten in the new and strange conception of himself and his
irresponsibility which had come upon him with the killing of
Pinckney and the words of his second. It was his dead father who
had stiffened his arm and directed the fatal shot! It was
hereditary influences--which others had been so quick to recognize--
that had brought about this completing climax of his trouble. How
else could he account for it that he--a conscientious, peaceful,
sensitive man, tender and forgiving as he had believed himself to
be--could now feel so little sorrow or compunction for his
culminating act? He had read of successful duelists who were
haunted by remorse for their first victim; who retained a terrible
consciousness of the appearance of the dead man; he had no such
feeling; he had only a grim contentment in the wiped-out
inefficient life, and contempt for the limp and helpless body. He
suddenly recalled his callousness as a boy when face to face with
the victims of the Indian massacre, his sense of fastidious
superciliousness in the discovery of the body of Susy's mother!--
surely it was the cold blood of his father influencing him ever
thus. What had he to do with affection, with domestic happiness,
with the ordinary ambitions of man's life--whose blood was frozen
at its source! Yet even with this very thought came once more the
old inconsistent tenderness he had as a boy lavished upon the
almost unknown and fugitive father who had forsaken his childish
companionship, and remembered him only by secret gifts. He
remembered how he had worshiped him even while the pious padres at
San Jose were endeavoring to eliminate this terrible poison from
his blood and combat his hereditary instinct in his conflicts with
his school-fellows. And it was a part of this inconsistency that,
riding away from the scene of his first bloodshed, his eyes were
dimmed with moisture, not for his victim, but for the one being who
he believed had impelled him to the act.
This and more was in his mind during his long ride to Fair Plains,
his journey by coach to the Embarcadero, his midnight passage
across the dark waters of the bay, and his re-entrance to San
Francisco, but what should be his future was still unsettled.
As he wound round the crest of Russian Hill and looked down again
upon the awakened city, he was startled to see that it was
fluttering and streaming with bunting. From every public building
and hotel, from the roofs of private houses, and even the windows
of lonely dwellings, flapped and waved the striped and starry
banner. The steady breath of the sea carried it out from masts and
yards of ships at their wharves, from the battlements of the forts
Alcatraz and Yerba Bueno. He remembered that the ferryman had told
him that the news from Fort Sumter had swept the city with a
revulsion of patriotic sentiment, and that there was no doubt that
the State was saved to the Union. He looked down upon it with
haggard, bewildered eyes, and then a strange gasp and fullness of
the throat! For afar a solitary bugle had blown the "reveille" at
Night at last, and the stir and tumult of a great fight over. Even
the excitement that had swept this portion of the battlefield--only
a small section of a vaster area of struggle--into which a brigade
had marched, held its own, been beaten back, recovered its ground,
and pursuing, had passed out of it forever, leaving only its dead
behind, and knowing nothing more of that struggle than its own
impact and momentum--even this wild excitement had long since
evaporated with the stinging smoke of gunpowder, the acrid smell of
burning rags from the clothing of a dead soldier fired by a
bursting shell, or the heated reek of sweat and leather. A cool
breath that seemed to bring back once more the odor of the upturned
earthworks along the now dumb line of battle began to move from the
suggestive darkness beyond.
But into that awful penetralia of death and silence there was no
invasion--there had been no retreat. A few of the wounded had been
brought out, under fire, but the others had been left with the dead
for the morning light and succor. For it was known that in that
horrible obscurity, riderless horses, frantic with the smell of
blood, galloped wildly here and there, or, maddened by wounds,
plunged furiously at the intruder; that the wounded soldier, still
armed, could not always distinguish friend from foe or from the
ghouls of camp followers who stripped the dead in the darkness and
struggled with the dying. A shot or two heard somewhere in that
obscurity counted as nothing with the long fusillade that had swept
it in the daytime; the passing of a single life, more or less,
amounted to little in the long roll-call of the day's slaughter.
But with the first beams of the morning sun--and the slowly moving
"relief detail" from the camp--came a weird half-resurrection of
that ghastly field. Then it was that the long rays of sunlight,
streaming away a mile beyond the battle line, pointed out the first