Puslapio vaizdai

was calling to his master with a loud, cheerful whinny.

"It is my pony, poor brute; he wants me," Alan explained.

"It is a good brute. You have tied him? Bueno, muy bueno!"

Alan did not know then why Pacheco should have called it good; but afterward he knew. He explained how he had come upon the hole by chance on his way across the plains northward to the Summit, which he must reach before dark. Pacheco seemed to attend, but from his face Alan could gather nothing of the effect of his words.

"Miguel Salarsono-is he dead?" This was the man Pacheco had knifed. He was dead, but Alan hesitated at the truth, which Pacheco read in his eyes.

“Esta bien,” he said coolly. "They want me. Where now Peter Kountze ?"

"In town when I saw him last." "What day you see him?" "Long time ago." Alan lied, thinking it would be bad for him should he confess to having met Kountze the day before.

Again Pacheco read his face. He gave a dissatisfied grunt. "Put out your light," said he. "It smokes," said Alan, "but it is better than no light."

"You are with one who knows his way," said Pacheco in Spanish. Alan barely understood him; but he thought to flatter Pacheco by seeming to know his language.

"I want to look around, now I'm down here. Rum place, ain't it?" he said, pretending to a cheerful curiosity he was far from feeling.

"You shall have plenty time." "And plenty light, too, I hope." Pacheco cut him short, roughly assisting him to put out his torch. He undid from about his waist a greasy silk sash, gave Alan one end of it, and kept the other himself. "Anda!" he commanded. "Por aqui," and he led on, Alan following at the girdle's length as best he could. Whether they were traversing a series of chambers connected by passages, or one long gallery of varying width and height, Alan could surmise only by the sound of their footsteps on the rock floor, which sometimes rang as between lofty walls and again fell dull and flat. He concluded presently that he was getting his underground eyesight, else the darkness was no longer absolute. Pacheco called a halt, and changed the order of march by putting Alan before him. The roof here descended to within a few feet of the floor. Alan could make out the shape of a low opening like the entrance to a drift, defined against a faint light beyond. They went down upon hands and knees, and crawled forward along

a narrow incline which rose to the level of what by contrast seemed a fair chamber; round, like a congealed bubble in the rock; not lighted, yet something less than dark, owing to a crack in the roof; deep, but narrow as a spear, through which a gleam of white daylight stole into the cell.

"I make you welcome, Señor Caballero, to this your house," said Pacheco, as they stood upright, in the dim oubliette, facing each other.

Alan struggled to be calm and to take the words, spoken in Spanish, as the language of compliment, at the worst as a grim joke befitting the place.

"Muchas gracias, señor," he responded, with a smile as wan as the imprisoned ray of daylight that touched his face. "It is a very good house. You are living here secreto, retirado, I understand. I can keep dark. It shall be all the same, I promise you." He spoke slowly, with extreme emphasis, that Pacheco might lose no word of his meaning. "I swear, it shall be all the same as if I had never seen you here. The cave shall be forgotten. Understand?" Si, si. All the same-after you get out." Pacheco grinned significantly, and Alan's heart turned over in his breast.


Beyond the cur-like upward glance of his covert eye and his occasional cruel smile, Pacheco's face relapsed into impassiveness. The man had been villainous by torchlight; he was ghastly now by the faint, white daylight, like one on whom the sun had not shone for months.

"How long-how long," Alan gasped, "have you been down here?"

"The light come fourteen time since the night I skip," said Pacheco, glancing upward at the crack in his dungeon roof.


"A mis solas."


Why don't you clear out-vamose? The country is big."

"It is very big, señor; and I have no horse."

"Where is your own horse?"

"He play out, three miles; he drop in the sage-brush. I am here very safe; by and by pretty hungry." He grinned and shrugged expressively. His philosophy of suffering promised as little pity for another as he wasted upon himself.

"Good God, man! does no one know you are here?"

"One too many know I am here," said Pacheco, ominously, laying his dark forefinger on Alan's breast. "You make one little fool of you'self when you come down that hole."

"I can go up again. I must go, Pacheco. My horse is dry. No water since morning."


"Poco, poco tiempo. When it is dark, I go I give him water."

"But I've twenty-five miles to go before dark." Alan was shaking from head to foot.

"Sit down, hombrecito. Rest you'self. You have hunt me like jack-rabbit; now you have find me in my hole. What 's the matter with that?"

"God in heaven, Pacheco, my people will go mad!" the boy shouted, forgetting that no one would expect him that night or any night, that his absence was now a fact accepted by every one who knew him above ground. This last cold detail of his situation closed upon him like the silence that follows the echo of a dungeon door. He flung himself upon the Mexican with a captive's madness, throwing away every hope of pity, and grappling with him as his open enemy.

Pacheco carried a knife concealed at the back of his neck with which he might have finished the encounter, but murder was no part of his present intention toward his prisoner. He closed with the lad, hugging him in his arms, and the pair rocked to and fro and staggered about the dim place till Alan was thrown, dragging Pacheco with him, the back of Alan's head striking the floor of the cave with a sickening dunt. Pacheco freed himself, and Alan lay still.


DAYLIGHT had faded from the crevice when Alan came to himself. The cave was perfectly dark. He started up on his elbow, but fell back, giddy and sick and sore. It was some moments before he could summon courage to test the silence. No answer came to his first hoarse call; yet Pacheco might be in the outer cave. He called again, and listened, holding his breath, and hearing nothing but his heart beating like a clock. He shouted, he screamed, he sobbed, as a child awakened by a frightful dream that cannot make itself heard.

He lay all night at the mercy of hideous doubts and speculations which only the morning could set at rest. Had Pacheco gone? Had he left the rope? His flesh rose in chills, and again he burned and stifled with the torture of these questions. In his tossings on the floor of the cave his hand had struck against a pail heavy with a delicious weight of ice-cold water. He had splashed it over himself in his eagerness, dragging it toward him. In the morning he made a terrible discovery. All Pacheco's little store of food and candle had been set forth in plain sight for his successor's use; but the matches were ruined. Alan had drenched them in his transport of drinking in the night. For a moment he gave way again,

clasping his head, and sobbing, and rolling about on the floor.

He felt sick and bruised, and silly with weakness. His eyes ached, his throat and jaws were sore, his hair incrusted with blood from the cut on his scalp; but no bones were broken, and he knew that food would strengthen his heart. As he crawled about, gathering materials for a breakfast, he made a new and momentous discovery. Pacheco had left him a letter, of explanation, perhaps, or direction. But when Alan came to examine this sole link between him and the living, he found he could not decipher it. He had persuaded Pacheco too well of his linguistic acquirements; the letter was in Spanish, mongrel Spanish, brutally ill-writ ten with a pencil on a bit of greasy, wrinkled paper bag which had refused to take the marks distinctly. Alan could have crushed, torn it; he could have killed Pacheco for inventing this new torture. He groaned, and put it away, and struggled to swallow some food, for a greater test of his nerve was before him. If Pacheco had left the way of escape open, why had he written a letter?

He had been led into the cell by the righthand wall; he took the left going back. One hand he kept upon the rock, groping and shuffling forward, past angles and turns which he remembered, till he entered the great chamber with its one far bright star of blessed daylight set in the blackness of its roof. One instant he hung back; he dared not look: the next, suspense was past-the rope was gone.

All that day he sat in the twilight of the inner cell and pored over the letter. Sweat broke out upon his flesh, the agony of attention balked his memory, and his mind refused to act. The few words that he could read held aloof in maddening incoherency from those that were dark to him: "water-the white cross-the great cave-twenty days"-then something about mi amiga; the noun was feminine. And then the writer signed himself—“with the cheek of the devil!" groaned Alan, surveying the ghastly words of compliment to a doomed man—

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haunted his consciousness. He had counted his stock of food, and of candles, which were nothing without matches, yet might serve as food should he come to a rat-like desperation in the last stage of hunger; but he knew he should not starve to death. Every day while the wan light lasted he ranged round the walls of his cell; searching crannies and crevices and spots of shadow, listening, sounding for hollow places, stamping, and sometimes breaking out and howling like a trapped animal, all in an awful, breezeless silence, never altering from hour to hour, from day to day. By drinking sparely at night and morning only, he made his precious pail last a week. On the eighth day he ate little, fearing to increase the desire for water, which had taken already the form of a nervous demand. The food which remained to him was of a thirst-provoking quality-a sack of moldy pilot-bread, some pounds of dried salt beef, several cans of cooked beans, a few dusty, gritty raisins in a paper bag. He had heard that small, smooth pebbles held in the mouth promote moisture, and occupy the mind of one suffering from thirst. On the ninth day he collected such pebbles as he could find and tried the effect of them, but without much enthusiasm for the result.

On the tenth day he made a joyful discovery. A greasy waistcoat of Pacheco's lay bundled in one corner of the cell near his bunk; Alan had never touched it; it had for him that personal association which made the sight of it repulsive. But this morning he took it up and examined the pockets in the sudden hope that he might find a stray match or two left by chance; and he was not disappointed. He found a good bunch of California matches united on one thick stem, which had worked through a hole in the waistcoat side-pocket, and lay concealed between the stuff and the lining. That day he explored the dark passage by candle-light. His tongue was so swollen that he could no longer swallow food. He had fever, and could sleep but little, and then was beset by morbid dreams. His strength was fast going. On the eleventh day he dragged himself into the outer cavern, wondering at his fatal mistake of wasting a whole day in the passage when the letter had named only the caverna grande. His legs would not bear him up to make the round of the vast walls; but he sat himself down on the floor, and lighted all his candles, placing them a little way off on the floor in sockets of drip, that he might get their combined effect without the shock of it in his eyes, which were tender to the light.

His face was as white as the candles, his blood-shot eyes were sunken and wild. He had picked at a roughness on the side of one of his fingers till the place was raw; he was

picking at it now as he stared before him. He had a crazed, broken sensation in his head; his mind labored and drifted heavily. He thought his senses must be going when, on a space of wall above him, where the light struck upward at a new angle, appeared a sign chalked upon the rock in the form of a cross. Trembling he looked away at the reality about him, at the place of his living burial, and then fixed his eyes once more upon the spot where the cross had appeared. It was still there. And below, at the meeting of the wall with the floor of the cave, there rested an immovable spot of blackness. He shifted his lights; the shadow did not move. It was the opening of a passage or burrow beneath the rock. Hands. perhaps as weak as his had scooped it; and some doomed captive as desperate as himself had marked the spot with the symbol of suffering and of mercy in memory of his release from torment.

He crawled into the hole, keeping a lighted candle before him; only his panting breath stirred the flame in that lifeless air. Creeping forward on his elbows, guarding always his light, its soft ray fell upon a dark, sunken pool; on the brink of which he fell on his face and lapped like one of Gideon's three hundred.

The agony was over. Imprudence followed, and all the train of effects resulting from the nervous shock his system had suffered. He gained no strength; he lost, indeed, from day to day; and the twentieth day was at hand. He had made himself a calendar of matchsticks, which he dropped, one each time the light came and went, into an empty tin can, which thus became the repository of his great hope and his greater dread. When the matchsticks numbered nineteen, Alan laid himself down beneath the hole in the outer chamber, resolved to lie there till rescue came or death. On the back of Pacheco's letter he had scrawled a few words to his father, in case deliverance should come too late. Having eased himself of this last message, with a pail of water near, and such food as he could retain out of the little remaining of his poor stock, he lay and watched out the twentieth day and the night that followed, not daring to sleep. Another day passed, and the light faded from the hole, and he prayed that he might go before the morning watch, for the suspense was worse than death. He closed his eyes and went incontinently to sleep. The angels might waken him if help should come; he could watch no longer.

In the night a voice called him from above; it became part of his dreams, and turned them into nightmare; the call was repeated again and again, but he did not wake.

Then, with a prayer to Mary of the Mercies, a girl, kneeling by the hole, bound her long

black braids about her head, reefed her skirts, and, taking hold of the rope she had made fast, descended fearlessly into the cave. Pacheco's friend had come.

Alan crawled into the engineers' camp next morning as the boys were turning out of their tents for breakfast. They did not recognize in him the laughing, bright-haired stripling who had sat by their fire scarcely three weeks before. When they questioned him he fell to weeping like a baby, and said he had been in hell. And they remarked to one another that he looked it, every inch of him. And when he told them who he was, and where he had been, and how, while the bright days had passed unnoticed above ground, some of the broadshouldered fellows were not ashamed to wipe their own eyes, complaining audibly of the camp-fire smoke. He slept all that day and night and far into the next day, and was roused with difficulty when they forced him to take such nourishment as they judged he required. But they might have let him sleep; nature and youth were taking care of him.


PHILIP's return trip from the mountains was hastened by a letter from his father requesting his presence in town on a certain day of the month. He left his men to bring in the camp outfit, pressing on alone ahead of the wagons on horseback, and reaching town well within the stipulated time, tired as a hunter, but gay with the thought of the long mountain miles he had made at the word of command. He lingered over his toilet next morning, with a keen zest for the comforts of civilization after three weeks of gritty camp-life in boots, and corduroys, and crumpled flannels. It was luxury to put on a silk shirt and to brush his hair before a triple mirror. He trimmed the ends of his mustache, taking all the time which that delicate operation deserves; he examined critically the new barber's cut to which he had submitted himself the evening before at the Transcontinental. He perfected his outer man deliberately in every detail, and descended to breakfast in a brilliant humor of expectation for whatever new turn of the wheel had brought him back again to the affairs of men. Even the little new town, whose social note had struck him as so crude and stridulous, contrasted with the life of the hills, had gained quite a gay, civic, important air. He had amused himself with thinking of it the evening before, as he walked home by the white light of the electric lamps.

Philip had passed the ordeal, spiritual as well as physical, and was acclimated to the western movement. His father saw it in his glance, in

his bearing, as he walked into the room, and rejoiced that he could call the clean, highheaded young fellow his son. He would have liked to cuff him about a little and to clap him on the back, to take some of the starch out of him; yet the starch was well, so that there was "sand" underneath. Breakfast at Mr. Norrisson's was not a perfunctory matter of a roll and a cup of coffee, but a regular sitting in three courses, with conversation and good appetites. To the manner of this also Philip was acclimated; he needed no urging when the third course came upon the table, even when it included that ultra-Americanism, pancakes hot from the griddle. Mr. Norrisson's Mexican cook was a genius, at sixty dollars a month, and could turn his small dark hand to the cooking of any clime. (It must have been observed too often to be worth mentioning that men, when they keep house, will always have a cook, whether the closets be cleaned or not.) It was Enrique's pet grievance that Wong was allowed to make the coffee at breakfast. He listened at the window of the butler's pantry to hear his own praises when his creations were handed in, but when he heard praise of Wong's coffee instead, he swore strange oaths among his pots and pans, making the kitchen hideous with their clatter. Hearing echoes of the din, Wong would smile mysteriously, and pass Enrique's triumphs with sweet condescension. It was Enrique's revenge at breakfast to hasten out to the garden and to pick a bouquet for the table, well knowing that he alone of all in the house had the touch for flowers, and that Wong's efforts were simply insufferable. It was he who filled the lesser punch-bowl with roses or crisp nasturtiums dewy with their morning sprinkling; it was Wong who swore in the depths of his white, starched gabardine when he spied the insolent drops on his spotless cloth. He would have given a month's wages for courage to fling bowl and contents at the head of his fellow-craftsman. But out of these jealousies professional and racial came exceeding peace and perfection of service to Mr. Norrisson. It was his policy that the heathen should rage; that out of their dissensions he might make profit to himself.

"Has Alan Dunsmuir turned up yet?" Philip inquired.

His father was finishing his plate of California peaches. He paused and mopped himself before answering; he was a critical but not a dainty feeder. Moreover, he did not know at first to what the question referred; then he remembered.

"Why, of course, that must have been what Dunsmuir meant. He excused himself from the dinner we gave Westerhall; some family

matter; he did n't put it very plainly, but I saw there was trouble, so I did n't ask any questions. But I remember now. Young Dunsmuir was reported missing about a fortnight ago. What has he been up to?"

"I don't know at all," said Philip. "They sent a man after me to inquire if he had been with my party. I did not get a very clear idea what the trouble is, or what they are afraid of."

"Depend on it, if Dunsmuir has had trouble with his boy he's the one to blame. He'd be sure to buckle the curb too tight. You will have to remember his arbitrary temper when you come to work with him. However, you are cool enough, and you have a manner that will flatter the old sachem. But you must look out and not carry etiquette too far. We'll get through with Wongy Pongy before we begin on business."

When the last dishes were on the table, Wong was ordered to tell Simpson that the horses would not be wanted that morning. "Now," said Mr. Norrisson, "shall we smoke here or outside?"

"I am very comfortable," said Philip, helping himself to one of his father's cigars.

"Well, I must tell you the circus has begun. In fact it's pretty nearly over. We have had our season of wrath and bitterness. Dunsmuir is not so topping as he used to be; whether it's this break his boy has made, or what, he's not the man he was. Crotchets play the mischief with a man's powers. Westerhall arrived, as you know, last week," Mr. Norrisson went on. "We got together after a few preliminaries, and we offered Dunsmuir a slice of the stock. But we made it pretty plain that we proposed to dispense with his services as engineer. 'Gentlemen,' said he, 'this is a very fair offer you make me for my resignation. But I intend to build my own canal. I have staked my professional word on the verity and importance of this work, and I shall see it done, and honestly done,'-mark the point he always makes of his honesty as against our supposed want of it, if it be the last work of my life. This may not strike you as business,' said he, 'but it is where the business hits me.'

"At our next meeting I showed him that he had nothing to sell. He had shown his hand to Westerhall, and all he had was the opinion of Marshall & Read, his lawyers; and on that very opinion we based our claim. Now there were two clauses to it: Dunsmuir read his title by the first clause, and we took the second and read it just the other way; and yet it was a sound, well-considered judgment by two of the ablest men we have out here. It came about to this: Dunsmuir's claim was good to build on; it was good for nothing if it lay idle, and we

went ahead and built the canal. Water belongs to the man who uses it. We claimed his location, and shall hold it, on the ground that we are ready to build our canal now, while he is only pottering at a rate that will not see his finished in half a hundred years. He took occasion to remind me, right there, that our company's policy had been one of obstruction 'unscrupulous and persistent,' else his ditch might have gone through years ago. And I endeavored to show him that it was his policy of antagonism which had antagonized us; that he might have gone in with us had he chosen, and saved all this friction between us. Here he shut up and would say no more. He had got very pale, and his hands shook as he gathered up his papers. He looked as if he had n't slept for a week. I wish, confound it, I had known, or remembered, about this trouble with his boy. Handsome little rascal! I used to see him around town cutting up all manner of cowboy capers on that spotted pony of his. What did you say he 's been up to?"

Philip explained again what he knew of the circumstances.

"Well, I wish I had known. Dunsmuir 's badly strapped, I hear. I might have offered him some help in the way of his search. Or we might have waited a little-well, we could n't wait. Westerhall understood there would be trouble, but when we came to talk it over I could see he did n't want to leave Dunsmuir out in the cold; though, as I said to him, a man who won't accept any terms but his own, or any facts but his own as to his real position, is a difficult man to deal with.

"But we must give him something,' said Westerhall. He is too poor to get out of the country, you say, and he is too strong a man to be left in black dudgeon here, to head every movement against us in the future. He must be included in some way.'


"How are we going to include him?' said 'We tried him fifteen years ago, but he would n't be included on any reasonable basis. He stood off and called us swindlers. Now we are jumpers. It does n't make a happy family,' said I.

"Give him the work,' said Westerhall; and he showed me there was a feeling for him in London, where his Indian record is on the blue books, and it counts with them, of course, that he is an M. I. C. E. And then Westerhall and I had it for the rest of the day.

"But, as you may have observed, I am a man of compromises. This is the way I put it to myself: Suppose we make Dunsmuir our chief engineer, not at his demand, but as a point we yield out of generosity to a broken man. He knows I don't want him on the work, that I have refused to have him. Now if he takes that

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