Puslapio vaizdai
[ocr errors]

“Tell Job that Long John may stop at the their weaknesses in the popular eye. The coscabin, and Job is to come for me with the buck- tumes are ridiculous, the wit is often coarse, board at nine to-morrow morning. We shall be the personal hits more than a little cruel. Yet back early. John may have his evening in town.” the drolling seldom fails, in one way or another, “ Will that be all, sir ?"

to make its point, and the whole exhibition is " That is all, thank you, Margaret.” not without a rude, poignant signification from

“Wad ye eat a bittie if I fetch it entil ye- the moral point of view. just a morsel, to tak’ the bluid from the head ? Dunsmuir and Job were making way slowly Will ye no ?” she pressed him, with motherly through the crowd. They were endeavoring anxiety.

to gain the corner near the office of Marshall “Shut the door, and don't stand there bleth- & Read, Dunsmuir's lawyers; but they were erin'!” Dunsmuir shouted.

too late. The Horniquebriniques had started, Nevertheless, an hour later the hand of Mar- the crowd backing down before them; there garet noiselessly obtruded a tray into the room; was nothing for it now but to haul up by the on it was a dish of iced tomatoes with a may- sidewalk until the fun had rolled by. Mock onnaise, a plate of thin bread and butter, a musicians, calling themselves the City Band, slice or two of cold boiled ham, and a bottle of marched ahead of the procession, performing beer. When the tray was brought away, Mar- with cow-bells, tinware, and Chinese instrugaret, who had stayed to do some ironing in ments of sound. The humor was here so overthe cool of the evening, saw with triumph that powering as fairly to drown its own applause. her offering had not been rejected.

Dunsmuir, who was chewing the cud of his “When he 's that way,” she said to Dolly, last and bitterest disappointment, was some“ he's just like a fashious wean; he disna want what grimly disposed toward the day's festivia thing named to him.”

ties. He took little notice of the mob, as it She repeated to no one her master's orders screeched and rattled and caracoled by; but for the morning; all that he wished said he as the nuisance seemed to abate, Job spoke to would prefer to say himself. And so it hap- him, calling his attention to a passing group pened that Alan went off at sunrise on his which the crowd was then cheering. He looked own scheme of pleasure for the day,- having up and smiled. He saw a broad, stout, florid helped himself to a cold breakfast in the pan- man, costumed as a river-nymph, in pseudotry, -- not knowing that his father was bound classic draperies, looped and girdled in such for the town, like himself. Alan had one or two a manner as to display without offense as acquaintances who were to take part in the pro- much as possible of his muscular proportions. cession of the “ Horniquebriniques.” He had He bore upon his shoulder a Chinese whiskybeen urged to choose a character and to join, jar, one of a wholesale size. The vase was but, in his usual way, it was at the last moment, labeled “Norrisson's Ditch.” The nymph's and without premeditation, that he decided girdle, which must have measured full fifty to do so. His arm was but just well. Except inches, was stuck full of "water-contracts.' for the stolen joy, now and then, of a wild moon- Bunches of the enormous native-grown vegelight gallop, life, according to his ideas, had tables, mingled with sage-brush torn up by the been a steady grind. He had never acknow- roots, decorated the processional car, which ledged his father's right to condition him as was drawn by four fat, patient oxen placarded to the use of his own horse. As a matter of “ Eastern Capital.” The supporting figures of principle, then, he was holding out, and cul- this symbolical group were an impecunious tivating meanwhile a sentiment of injury to ranchman hunting in his ragged pockets for strengthen his resolution.

the wherewithal to pay his water-rates, and It was in this mood that he stopped at Dut- an abject Chinese vegetable-gardener, upon ton's ranch and, assuming the owner's consent, whose head from time to time the goddess of borrowed an old mule of Job's called Susan. fertility tilted a small quantity of the sacred He also helped himself to one or two articles water of the ditch. found in the cabin, with which to piece out his Broad as was the joke, Dunsmuir found no costume for the part he had chosen in the Hor- fault with it. But now a burst of applause niquebriniques. As in the far West this humor- greeted a new actor, who silently paced down ous dramatization is not a common feature of the street at a respectful distance from the car the day we celebrate, a few words of descrip- of Irrigation. The little boys lining the gutters tion may help to explain its intense attractive- and packed into the backs of farmers' wagons ness to lads of Alan's age. It is a procession of screeched their comments, by way of explanamummers, masked or otherwise, on horseback, tion, to one another: “Hurrah for the Last afoot, or in floats, who burlesque in dumb-show Ditch!” shouted one precocious urchin. the prominent characters and institutions of “Says I to Sandy, 'Won't you lend me a mule?' the town, setting forth in a rough extravaganza . Of course I will,' says Sandy,"

VOL. XLIV.- 53-54.

[ocr errors]

sang another. Dunsmuir had taken these re- for the shouts of laughter which followed him. marks as personal to himself until he turned The crowd had “caught on " with a wild burst and saw the quixotic figure intended to por- of cheers to this last, most unintentional point tray in its popular aspect the spirit of his which Alan had supplied, with his father as well-known enterprise. Both he and Dutton witness. had recognized Susan by her ear-mark, though

VIII. she had been touched up anatomically with considerable skill and white paint to the like- It had been Alan's plan to remain for the ness of a skeleton. She carried a slender, masked fireworks on the evening of the Fourth, but his rider, dressed in pasteboard armor, relic of father's bitter face came between him and all some amateur theatricals in the town. His further thoughts of a “good time." By sunset crest was a sprig of sage united with the flow- he was at home. He went straight to his faers of the wild thistle, and for a spear he car- ther's room, and the two were shut in there ried, with some difficulty, it might be seen, an together. Dolly awaited anxiously the close engineer's measuring-rod, to which a banneret of the interview; but when the study door was attached displaying the legend:

opened at last, she kept away, allowing Alan

to escape without a question, even from her Don't tread on my Location !

eyes. At the usual hour she went to bid her

father good night. He detained her by the This was plain enough for all to understand. hand, leaning back in his chair and turning his The little boys pointed out to one another his face from the lamp. It was a close night, the big tin sword labeled “ For Jumpers," and dis- sky overcast, the atmosphere heavy with an cussed the meaning of the device displayed abortive effort to rain. The wind – what little upon his shield—a spread eagle perched on the there was- came up from the plains, a false,

. rock-gate of the cañon, with the united crosses baffling wind, reversing the currents of cool. of St. George and St. Andrew flaming in the ness. It smelled of dust and wild sage, and sky above it. This cognizance was a hasty in- in the pauses between the hot, prickly gusts spiration of Alan's tossed off in the fury of con- mosquitos and moths swarmed outside the winception, in red and white and black chalks. dows. All the screens were in; the lamp, lighted Any compunctions which the son of Dunsmuir since dusk, increased the heat, and devoured might have had at the last moment must have the air of the room. given way before the artist's hunger for appre- “Dolly, perhaps you will be wanting to speak ciation. To do Alan justice, he had not meant to your brother to-night,” said Dunsmuir, the impersonation for mockery, but merely as wearily. The lamp threw deep shadows over a good-natured acknowledgment of the well- his lowered eyelids as he lay back in his great known facts concerning his father's ditch. leather chair. It was some time since Dolly had Above all, he had not bargained for his father seen him in that strong, direct light, of an evenas a spectator. He trusted now to spare him ing; she thought him much worn, and thinner, the pain of a recognition ; but this was not even, since the spring. to be.

“ Has he gone out of the house ? ” he conSusan had one white and wicked eye, which tinued. “Say good night to him. We may not she turned back upon the crowd, now pressing see so much of him for a time.” He cleared noisily upon her sedate progress. Hitherto, his voice, which broke from nervousness or fawhatever culminating sense of indignity she tigue, and sat up, looking straight before him. may have been nursing she had kept to herself; “I shall not tell you his last ill-omened exploit.

; but now, without apparent premeditation, she Perhaps he will tell you himself; it would cost bucked her rider into the middle of the street him little, for I doubt if he sees what it signibolted past the ox-team which blocked the way fies. I do not know how to reach him, nor inahead, and was seen no more in town that day. deed if there be any depth in him to reach. I The knight's mask and helmet had tumbled have thought to try him now in earnest. Since awry with the jar of his fall; Alan was obliged he will not work, either for his love or his fear; to free his head before he could see about him. since, it seems, he neither understands nor reA dozen hands assisted him to rise, and all the spects what we are here to do, nor enters into town beheld his angry blushes and knew him it, except in a low, clownish spirit — let him for his father's son. Confused and bitterly mor- work now for his bread. To-morrow he goes tified, he took the first chance of escape which below. He will live at the cabin, get his meals occurred to him; he ran and jumped aboard with the men, and take orders from Job. I will the Norrisson Ditch car, and the Knight of the have no idle mockers at my table. Now, we'll Location made his exit in the tail-end of it, say no more about it. Show him all the kindamong the vegetables, waving his guidon and ness in your heart — but remember, you are smiling in the hope of seeming not to care not to go seeking him at the cabin. After to-night he is one of the force till he shall win are the ones who will miss me. If ever I come home by the right road."

back, it will be for your sakes. I was n't asleep Dolly blushed redder and redder till the when you kissed me last night. I did n't mind

Yours ever, smarting tears stood in her eyes. She could it, but I did n't want to talk.

ALAN. not speak, or she might have had occasion to repent her words; neither would she leave the he takes back some things he has said. So you

P. S. I shall not use my father's name until room while her heart was swelling with resent- need n't go through the papers looking for news ment of Alan's punishment. She looked up of one Alan Dunsmuir, for there 's “nae sic "a presently and smiled, with an effort at firmness, person. in the face of the judge, who was also the father. He thanked her with a speechless look. He With much hesitation, on account of its fliphad not thought that anything could have pant tone, Dolly showed her father this meseased him like that smile of his woman-child; sage. Dunsmuir devoured the words with but but at midnight, sitting by himself, his thoughts one thought; it was little to him now, the lad's went darkly back to Alan's offenses, which were truculence or the spirit in which he bore himall of a sort peculiarly offensive to himself. self under correction. The one agonized ques

The lad shows neither sense nor judgment, tion pierced through all that could wait: nor the conduct of a gentleman,” he said aloud, “My son, where is he?” in the silence, which he was accustomed to ad- They traced him to town, where he and Modress in moments of deep spiritual disturbance. doc were well known. He had borrowed a “ Let him go where plain lessons are to be small sum of money of Peter Kountze, whom learned of plain men. There is not a man in he had met at the Green Meadow, and had my employ but can set my son the example asked to be directed to the camp of engineers of all I have failed to teach him."

doing preliminary work on the Lower Snake; Dolly waited up for Alan as late as she dared, and thither, next day, they followed him. The for fear of disturbing her father, who liked the search-party were informed that on the previhouse to be quiet always at the same hour. It ous day a young stranger, light-haired, tallish, then occurred to her that he might already riding a pinto pony, had come down that way, have gone up to his bed. She went to his asking for Philip Norrisson, who had never been room and knocked, but got no answer. Her with that division at all. The transit-man had room was next to his, both opening by low, told him that Philip Norrisson's party was in casemated dormers upon the Hattish slope of the mountains a matter of two days' journey the roof. She leaned out and saw Alan asleep from the camp. The young stranger, who gave on the shingles outside his window, his head his name as Robert Allen, had slept in camp and arms resting upon the sill. His attitude and struck out early next morning for the mounkept the expression of she mood in which he tains, expecting to reach the stage-station at had Aung himself down. She crept out upon the Summit by nightfall. the roof and knelt beside him, whispering a When the question was asked, What had he little, choking prayer. The heavens were dark; talked about the evening before ? it was reas she listed her face one big drop of rain fell membered that he had said he was intending upon her forehead, the sole birth from that to try for a position on Philip Norrisson's party; night-long wrestling of wind and cloud. and when objection had been raised that the

Drought prevailed, and toward morning the reservoir party would soon be through work sky slowly cleared. The wind blew Dolly's cur- and back in town, he had replied that it was tains wide apart. A sunbeam, striking the mir- no matter; Norrisson was a good fellow, who ror propped up on her dressing-table, made would be sure to put him in the way of somequivering rainbow-patches on the walls. A thing he could do; he was ready for anything. stronger gust blew something off the window- Peter Kountze, being further questioned, reledge, and, opening her eyes, she saw on the ported that Alan's first plan had been to strike matting a huge, overblown giant-of-battles rose. for the coast, where he proposed to ship aboard Wrapped about the stem was a folded paper a sealer bound for the Bering Sea; else to which explained itself.

work his passage south on a San Francisco

steamer, and to take the chances in that diI am not going to the cabin to take orders rection. Peter modestly admitted that he had from my father's men. I'll pitch myself off the tried to dissuade Alan from these projects, and, bluffs first

. Father has been down on me this failing, had refused to lend him money more long while, so I may as well take myself off. They need not look for me in the river, nor in the low than sufficient to keep him a few days, if he places in town. I am not going to play the fool, so stayed near home. Alan had then endeavored no one need worry; and when I can show a decent to find a purchaser for Modoc, but without bit of a record maybe I will come home. Good- succeeding in getting anything like what he by, Dolly; say good-by to good old Peggie. You considered a fair price. So it appeared his


designs were somewhat vague and fluid as den watercourses, in pot-holes or crevices where yet.

the sluicings of ages had been collecting. No time was lost in following up the reser- Alan's eyes grew big at these tales. He asked voir party; but neither at the Summit nor from many questions; in particular why these exany of Norrisson’s men could a word be learned citing presumptions had never been put to the of Alan. No one had seen or heard of him proof. He was told that, in all probability, until since he turned his back on the tents and struck that region had been scientifically explored out across the sage-brush. At the engineers' they were incapable of proof. The few doors camp on the Lower Snake all news of him which opened into that mysterious cellarage ceased as if the plains had opened and swal- were dismal traps not easy to find; and those lowed him. In Alan's case a wild figure of best acquainted with the country were shy of speech had come literally true. The boy's meddling with its secrets. The river itself had brown cheeks were whitening in one of those a sinister reputation. The Indians never trusted oubliettes which occur as part of the black lava their naked bodies to its flood; no old plainsformation that is the floor of the Snake River man could be induced to pull off his shirt and plains; a floor continuous and solid for the plunge into the Snake, nor would he suffer a most part, but strangely cracked and riven, un- “tenderfoot” to do so in his presence without dermined in places, and pierced with holes re- earnest remonstrance and warning. sembling the bull's-eye of a vault. Into one of Another of the boys claimed to be the disthese traps Alan had descended; no one see- coverer of a cave which he compared to a vast ing him go down but Modoc, who stood long, sunken jug. He had come upon it accidenand waited, and tugged at his rope halter, and tally, riding as messenger from camp to camp; pawed the dirt and stones, and neighed to his had stopped only long enough to drop a stone master in vain.

down the pit-dark hole, where all was silence and airless night. The depth, from the sound,

had been something awesome. Later, with two The evening Alan camped with the engi- comrades, he had searched for the "jug "over neers some of the boys were telling stories every foot of the bare plain where he had tried around the fire in front of the office-tent. They to locate it by memory. They had ridden from spoke of the wonders and mysteries of the great town equipped with ropes and candles; but not lava desert, which mantles in dust and silence that day nor ever afterward had he found the all that region north of the Snake for four lost entrance to the cave. It had relapsed into hundred miles of its course between river and the mystery that broods over the desert, the mountains. Camp-fire gossip, in these arid silence which it keeps, though the ear of man lands, runs much upon discoveries of water, is ever at its lips. as in the mountains of the same region it runs The trend of the Great Snake River plains upon rich finds of gold. One of the boys who is distinctly toward the west. That way the had been a stock-herder told of a pool or well mountains open to welcome the warm winds in the heart of the Black Lava the water of from the coast, which temper the winters of all which was fresh, though defiled at the time of that inland region. As summer advances and his discovery by carcasses of dead cattle; the drought encamps upon the land, the visiting poor beasts, mad with thirst, had crowded upon winds are succeeded by local breezes which it when all the streams were frozen, and per- blow with the regularity of day and night. It ished through overweighting the ice which is then the great air-currents, rising from the covered the pool. The depth of it was un- burning face of the desert, beckon to the mounknown. It was said to go down to the level tain-winds, and as punctual as a sea-breeze of that fabled underground valley of the they come whooping down at night through Snake, where, beneath the lava crust, impris- cañons and passes of the foot-hills. No sleeper, oned streams, identical in source with the river upon the ground or under heated house-roofs, above, were tunneling their way to daylight. but is grateful for these night-winds; no sun

It was said that in certain places these subter- burned traveler, beneath the bright stars of the ranean waters gushed out from beneath the desert, but feels his strength renewed, bathed lava bluffs in fountains of white foam, bringing in that steady, balmy tide of coolness. fertility to some chosen valley, located, perhaps, Alan rode out of camp after such a night of by a refugee Mormon with a keen patriarchal solid sleep, very different from the same night scent for pasture, or a road-weary plainsman which his father had watched out in the cañon. who here unshipped his wagon-top, and turned It was the time of perfect equilibrium which loose his lean stock and his tribe of white- comes twice in the twenty-four hours, once headed children. It was loosely ventured round after sunrise and again about the setting of the the camp-fire that rich washings of fine gold sun. The silence of the desert was unbroken might be gathered from the beds of these hid- by bird or breeze or sound of footsteps, except

[ocr errors]


ing the steady clink and shuffle of Modoc's sticks for torches, small ones to light quickly hoofs getting over the ground in excellent and larger ones to burn longer. These he tied cayuse fashion. The little horse was at home; together into a fagot, which he dropped down his ears were pricked forward, his eye keen for the hole. To provide against accident to the the trackless way he knew so well. He kept precious bundle he fastened a torch-stick to his edging northward toward the pass between belt. Matches he had with him, but he felt the low, black buttes, standing apart like gate- in his pocket to make sure. He took pride in posts to the mountains ; between them lifted a these precautions, so sensible did they strike far, aërial vision of the blue Owyhees, and the him, so experienced and businesslike. His War Eagle, wearing his crest of snow. The face heart beat with expectation great and vague. of the plain was featureless and wan. There is Modoc watched his master restively; but withbut one color to this desert landscape — sage- out a glance at his pony, or a farewell pat, Alan green, slightly greener in spring, and grayer in put both feet into the hole, and his head was summer, with a sifting of chrome dust. In win- soon below the roots of the sage-brush. ter it is most impressive under a light fall of When he had lowered himself about ten feet, snow, not heavy enough to hide the slight but his body began to oscillate with a slow, irregusignificant configuration of the ground, yet lar, sickening motion. He felt himself miserwhite enough to throw into relief the strange ably detached. He struck out with his feet, markings of black lava, where it crops out, or hoping to touch the sides of the vault ; but he lies scattered, or confronts the traveler in those had now reached the bilge, and kicking did but low, fat-headed buttes, so human, so savage, aggravate the spiral movement, which became in their lone outlines, keeping watch upon the more pronounced and confusing as the rope encroachments of travel.

lengthened above him. In another moment Alan had been in the saddle since seven his toes touched the bundle of torch-sticks, his o'clock, and it was now noon. He was looking stretched muscles subsided, and he stepped about for a good spot where Modoc might pick free upon the floor of the cave. When a moa little grass while he ate his lunch. Nothing mentary dizziness had passed he looked up and more quickly catches the eye in an uncivilized saw the light of day above his head — a small, region than a bit of painted wood. Alan could white star which shed no rays, but rather innot have passed by without seeing a broken creased by contrast the palpable effect of the wagon-tongue abandoned in the sage-brush; darkness into which he had dropped as into and this one had the peculiarity of a new rope another element. cleverly knotted about the middle of it. The He made haste to light his torch. The flame end of the rope disappeared in the ground. spluttered and flared; he looked about him, Alan stopped to investigate this mystery. To and saw, to his horror, that he was not alone his inordinate delight he found that he was in the cave. The man who tied the knots had kneeling at the lip of one of those dry wells- been watching him from the moment his body perhaps the “jug” itself. No consideration had darkened the hole. Alan had seen Juan known to the mind of a boy could have de- Pacheco the homicide only once, by moonlight, terred him from attempting to go down. He at long rifle-range; he knew not a feature of took, however, a few simple precautions. He him, but he was certain that it was he, the yelmade fast his pony to a stout sage-stump. Mo- low Mexican, crouched upon the floor of the doc stood well as a rule, but his heart was travel- cave pointing a Winchester in his face. Paing northward, and his legs might be tempted checo, if he it were, seemed to recognize his visto follow. Alan then tried the rope; the knots itor. He smiled a cruel, half-breed smile, disheld. The thought did strike him, with a slight playing a bad set of wrinkles around the corners chill, What has become of the man who tied of his mouth. those knots? He leaned his face above the Ven aca ! ” he commanded quietly. Alan hole and shouted; he would have been sur- moved away from the hole. prised indeed had he received an answer. He “How many more come ?" gathered stones and tried the depth by the “No one,” said Alan. “I am alone." sound of their fall. It was deep, but not so Pacheco looked as if he did not believe him. appallingly deep, and the bottom, from the A moment passed in silence, Pacheco listening, sound, was perfectly dry. Of the shape or na- Alan breathing quick and hard. ture of the walls he could learn but little, because “ Hold up the light! Mas arriba !” of their size and the smallness of the orifice. Alan held up his torch in both hands as high He pulled up the rope; it was, at a guess, a as he could, and Pacheco went through his twenty-foot braided lariat, with a second longer clothes, taking from him his pistol, his cartridgerope spliced to the end of it: fifty feet, at the belt, and his precious matches. most, would cover the length of that swinging “ Sst! What is that ? ” tether. He now collected a bundle of sage- Modoc, stamping on the hard-baked ground,

[ocr errors]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »