In Exile: A Story in Two Parts. Part I
NICKY DYER and the school-mistress sat upon the slope of a hill, one of a low range overlooking an arid Californian valley. These sunburnt slopes were traversed by many narrow footpaths, descending, ascending, winding among the tangle of poison-oak and wild-rose bushes, leading from the miners’ cabins to the shaft-houses and tunnels of the mine which gave to the hills their only importance. Nicky was a stout Cornish lad of thirteen, with large light eyes that seemed mildly to protest against the comic tendency which a broad, freckled, turned-up nose gave to the rest of his countenance. Nicky was doing nothing in particular, and did it as if he were used to it. The schoolmistress sat with her skirts tucked round her ankles, the heels of her stout little boots driven well into the dry, gritty soil. There was in her attitude the tension of some slight habitual strain — perhaps of endurance — as she leaned forward, her arms stretched straight before her, with the delicate fingers interlocked. Whatever may be the type of Californian young womanhood, it was not her type. You felt sure, looking at her cool, clear tints and slight, straight outlines, that she had winter in her blood. She was gazing down into the valley, as one looks at a landscape who has not yet mastered all its phases of expression. All its details were blurred in the hot, dusty glare ; the mountains opposite had faded to a fiat outline against the indomitable sky. A light wind blew up the slope, flickering the pale leaves of a manzanita, whose burnished cinnamon-colored stems glowed in the sun. As the breeze strengthened, the young girl stood up, lifting her arms, and letting it blow on her bare wrists.
“ Nicky, why do the trees in that hollow between the hills look so green ?”
“ There’s water over there, miss ; that’s the Chilano’s spring. I ’m thinkin’ the old cow might ’a’ strayed over there somewheres. They mostly goes for the water, wherever it is.”
“Is it running water, Nicky, — not water in a tank ? ”
“ Why, no, miss; it cooms right out o’ the rock as pretty as yon ivir saw ! I often goes there myself for a drink, cos it seems to taste sort o’ different, coomin’ out o’ the ground like. We wos used to that kind o’ water at ’ome.”
“ Let us go, Nicky,” said the girl. “ I would like to taste that water, too. Do we cross the hill first, or is there a shorter way ? ”
“ Over the ’ill’s the shortest, miss. It’s quite a ways, but you’ve been longer ways nor they for less at th’ end on’t.”
They “ tacked ” down the steepest part of the hill, and waded through a shady hollow where ferns grew rank and tall, — crisp, faded ferns, with an aromatic smell which seemed to escape by friction, like the smell of warm amber. They reached at length the green trees, a clump of young cottonwoods at the entrance to a narrow cañon, and followed the dry bed of a stream for some distance, until water began to show among the stones. The principal outlet of the spring was on a small plantation at the head of the cañon, rented of the “company” by a Chilian, or “the Chilano,” as he was called ; he was not at all a pastoral-looking personage, but, with the aid of his good water, he earned a moderately respectable living by supplying the neighboring cabins and the miners’ boarding-house with green vegetables. After a temporary disappearance, as if to purge its memory of the Chilano’s water-buckets, the spring again revealed itself in a thin, clear trickle down the hollowed surface of a rock which closed the narrow passage of the cañon. Young sycamores and cottonwoods shut out the sun above ; their tangled roots, interlaced with vines still green and growing, trailed over the edge of the rock, where a mass of earth had fallen. Green moss lined the hollows of the rock, and water-plants grew in the dark pools below.
The strollers had left behind them the heat and glare; only the breeze followed them into this green stillness, stirring the boughs overhead and letting spots of sunlight flicker over the wet stones. Nicky, after enjoying for a few moments the school-mistress’ surprised delight, proposed that she should wait for him at the spring, while he went “ down along ” in search of his cow. Nicky was not without a certain awe of the school-mistress, as a part of creation he had not fathomed in all its bearings; but when they rambled on the hills together, he found himself less uneasily conscious of her personality, and more comfortably aware of the fact that, after all, she was “ nothin’ but a woman.” he was a little disappointed that she showed no fear at being left alone, but consoled himself with the reflection that she was “ a good un to ’old ’er tongue,” and probably felt more than she expressed.
The school-mistress did not look in the least disconsolate after Nicky’s departure. she gazed about her very contentedly for a while, and then prepared to get a drink of water. She made a cup of her two hands, and waited for it to fill, stooping below the rock, her lifted skirt held against her side by one elbow, while she watched with a childish eagerness the water trickle into her pink palms. Miss Frances Newell had never looked prettier in her life. A pretty girl is always prettier in the open air, with her head uncovered. Her cheeks were red; the sun just touched the roughened braids of dark brown hair, and intensified the glow of a little ear which showed beneath. She stooped to drink, but Miss Frances was destined never to taste that virgin cup of water. There was a trampling in the bushes overhead; a little shower of dust and pebbles scattered down upon her bent head, and soiled the water. She let her hands fall as she looked up with a startled “ Oh ! ” A pair of large boots were rapidly making their way down the bank, and the cause of all this disturbance stood before her, — a young man in a canvas jacket, with a. leathern case slung across his shoulder, and a small tin lamp fastened in front of the hat lie took off while he apologized to the girl for his intrusion.
“ Miss Newell ! Forgive me for dropping down on you like the Assyrian. You ’ve found the spring, I see.”
Miss Frances stood with her elbows still pressed to her sides, though her skirt had slipped down into the water, her wet palms helplessly extended. “ I was getting a drink,” she said, searching with the tips of her fingers among the folds of her dress for a handkerchief. “ You came just in time to remind me of the slip between the cup and the lip.”
“ I’m very sorry, but there is plenty of water left. I came for some myself. Let me help you.” He took from one of the many pockets stitched into the breast and sides of his jacket a covered flask, detached the cup, and after carefully rinsing, filled and handed it to the girl. “ I hope it does n’t taste of ‘store claret;’ the water underground is just a shade worse than that exalted beverage.”
“ It is delicious, thank you, and it does n't taste in the least of claret. Have you just come out of the mine ? ”
“Yes. It is ‘measuring-up day.' I have been toddling through the drifts and sliding down chiflons ” — he looked ruefully at his trousers’ legs — “ ever since seven o’clock this morning. Have n’t had time to eat any lunch yet, you see.” He took from another pocket a small package folded in a coarse napkin. “ I came here to satisfy the pangs of hunger and enjoy the beauties of nature at the same time, — such nature as we have here. Will yon excuse me, Miss Newell ? I ’ll promise to eat very fast.”
“ I ’ll excuse you if you will not ask me to share with you.”
“Oh, I have entirely too much consideration for myself to think of such a thing ; there is n’t enough for two.”
He seated himself, with a little sigh, and opened the napkin on the ground before him. Miss Newell stood leaning against a rock on the opposite side of the brook, regarding the young man with a shy and smiling curiosity. “ Meals,” he continued, “ are a penitential exercise we all engage in three times a day at the boarding-house. Have you ever tried any of Mrs. Bondy’s fare, Miss Newell ? ”
“ I’m sure Mrs. Bondy tries to have everything very nice,” the young girl replied, with some embarrassment.
“ Of course she does ; she is a very good old girl. I think a great deal of Mrs. Bondy ; but when she asks me if I have enjoyed my dinner, I always make a point of telling her the truth ; she respects me for it. This is her idea of sponge-cake, you see.” He held up admiringly a damp slab of some compact pale-yellow substance, with crumbs of bread adhering to one side. “ It is a little mashed, but otherwise a fair specimen.”
Miss Frances laughed. “ Mr. Arnold, I think you are too bad. How can she help it, with those dreadful Chinamen ? But I would really advise you not to eat that cake ; it does n’t look wholesome.”
“ Oh, as to that, I’ve never observed any difference; one tiling is about as wholesome as another. Did you ever eat bacon fried by a Chinaman, Miss Newell ? The sandwiches were made of that. You see, I still live.” The sponge-cake was rapidly disappearing. “ Miss Newell, you look at me as if I were committing hara-kiri. Will you appear at the inquest ? ”
“ No, I will not testify to anything so unromantic ; besides, it might be inconvenient for Mrs. Bondy’s cook.” She put on her hat, and stepped along the stones towards the entrance to the glen.
“ You are not going to refuse me the last offices ? ”
“ I am going to look for Nicky Dyer. He came with me to show me the spring, and now he has gone to hunt for his cow.”
“ And you are going to hunt for him ? I hope you won’t try it, Miss Frances. A boy on the track of a cow is a very uncertain object in life. Let me call him, if you really must have him.”
“ Oh, don’t trouble yourself. I suppose he will come after a while. I said I would wait for him here.”
“ Then permit me to say that I think you had better do as you promised.”
Miss Frances recrossed the stones, and seated herself with a faint smile.
“ I hope you don’t mind if I stay,” Arnold said, moving some loose stones to make her seat more comfortable. “ You have the prior right to-day, but this is an old haunt of mine. I feel as if I were doing the honors ; and to tell you the truth, I am rather used up. The new workings are very hot and the drifts are low. It’s a combination of steambath and hoeing corn.”
The girl’s face cleared, as she looked at him. His thin cheek was pale under the tan, and where his hat was pushed back the hair clung in damp points to his forehead and temples.
“ I should be very sorry to drive you away,” she said. “ I thought you looked tired. If you want to go to sleep, or anything, I will promise to be very quiet.”
Arnold laughed. “ Ob, I’m not such an utter wreck ; but I’m glad you can be very quiet. I was afraid you might be a little uproarious at times, you know.”
The girl gave a little shy laugh. It was really a giggle, but a very sweet, girlish giggle. It called up a look of keen pleasure to Arnold’s face.
“ Now I call this decidedly gay,” he remarked, stretching out his long legs slowly, and leaning against a slanting rock, with one arm behind his head. “ Miss Frances, will you be good enough to tell me that my face is n’t dirty ? ”
“ Truth compels me to admit that you have one little daub on your left eyebrow.”
“ Thank you,” said Arnold, rubbing it languidly with his handkerchief. His hat had dropped off, and he did not replace it; he did not look at the girl, but let his eyes rest on the thread of water that gleamed from the spring. Miss Frances, regarding him with some timidity, thought, How much younger he looks without his hat! He had that sensitive fairness which in itself gives a look of youth and purity. The sternness of his face lay in the curves which showed under his mustache, and in the silent, dominant eye.
“ You’ve no idea how good it sounds to a lonely fellow like me,” he said, “ to hear a girl’s laugh.”
“ But there are a great many women here,” Miss Frances observed.
“ Oh, yes, there are women everywhere, such as they are ; but it takes a real nice girl, a lady, to laugh ! ”
“ I don’t agree with you at all,” replied Miss Frances, coldly. “Some of those Mexican women have the sweetest voices, speaking or laughing, that I have ever heard; and the Cornish women, too, have very fresh, pure voices. I often listen to them in the evening when I sit alone in my room. Their voices sound so happy ” —
“Well, then it is the accent, — or I’m prejudiced. Don’t laugh again, please, Miss Frances; it has a very demoralizing effect upon me! ” He moved his head a little, and looked across at the girl to assure himself that her silence did not mean disapproval. “ I admit,” he went on, “ that I like our Eastern girls. I know you are from the East, Miss Newell.”
“ I am from what I used to think was East,” she said, smiling. “ But everything is East here. People from Indiana and Wisconsin say they are from the East.”
“ Ah, but you are from our old Atlantic coast. I was sure of it when I first saw you. If you will pardon me, I knew it by your way of dressing.”
The young girl flushed with pleasure ; then, with a reflective air. “ I confess myself, since you speak of clothes, to a feeling of relief when I saw your hat the first Sunday after I came. Western men wear such dreadful hats.”
“ Good ! ” he cried gayly. “ You mean my hat that I call a hat.” He reached for the one behind his head, and spun it lightly upward, where it settled on a projecting branch. “ I respect that hat myself, — my other hat, I mean ; I’m trying to live up to it. Now, let me guess your State, Miss Newell: is it Massachusetts ? ”
“ No, — Connecticut; hut at this distance it seems like the same thing.”
“ Oh, pardon me, there are very decided differences. I’m from Massachusetts myself. Perhaps they show more in the women, — the ones who stay at home, I mean, and become more local and idiomatic than the men. You are not one of the daughters of the soil, Miss Newell.”
She looked pained as she said, “ I wish I were ; but there is not room for us all, where there is so little soil.”
Arnold moved uneasily, extracted a stone from under the small of his back, and tossed it out of sight with some vehemence. “ You think it goes rather hard with women who are uprooted, then,” he said. “ I suppose it is something a man can hardly conceive of, — a woman’s attachment to places, and objects, and associations; they are like cats.”
Miss Newell was silent.
Arnold moved a little restlessly; then began again, with his eyes on the trickle of water: “ Miss Newell, do you remember a poem — I think it is Bryant’s — called The Hunter of the Prairies? It’s no disgrace not to remember it, and it may not be Bryant’s.”
“ I remember seeing it, but I never read it. I always skipped those Western things.”
Arnold gave a short laugh, and said, “ Well, you are punished, you see, by going West to hear me repeat it to you. I think I can give you the idea in a few lines : —
The sound of his voice in the stillness of the little glen, and a look of surprise in the young girl’s quiet eyes, reminded Arnold that eight years of hard experience in the world had not deprived him of all shyness. “ Hm-m-m,” he murmured to himself, “ it’s queer how rhymes slip away. Well, the last line ends in free. You see, it is a man’s idea of happiness,—a young man’s. Now, how do you suppose she liked it, — the girl, you know, who left the world, and all that? Did you ever, Miss Newell, happen to see a poem or a story, written by a woman, celebrating the joys of a solitary existence with the man of her heart ? ”
“ I suppose that many a woman has tried it,” Miss Newell said, evasively, “ but I ’m sure she ” —
“ Never lived to tell the tale ? ” cried Arnold.
“ She probably had something else to do while the hunter was riding round with his gun,” Miss Frances continued.
“ Well, give her the odds of the rifle and the steed; give the man some commonplace employment to take the swagger out of him; let him come home reasonably tired and cross at night,—do you suppose he would find the ‘kind’ eyes and the ‘ smile ’ ? I forgot to tell you that the Hunter of the Prairies is always welcomed by a smile at night.”
“ He must have been an uncommonly fortunate man,” she said.
“ Of course he was ; but the question is, Could any living man be so fortunate ? Come, Miss Frances, don’t prevaricate ! ”
“ Well, am I speaking for the average woman ? ”
“ Oh, not at all, — you are speaking for the very nicest of women. Any other kind would be intolerable on a prairie.”
“ I should think, if she were very healthy,” said Miss Newell, with a faint increase of color, “ and not too imaginative, and of a cheerful disposition ; and if he, the hunter, were really above the average,—supposing that she cared for him in the beginning, — I should think the smile might last a year or two.”
“ Heavens, what a cynic you are, Miss Newell ! I feel like a mere daub of sentiment beside you. There have been moments, even in this benighted mining camp, when I have believed in that hunter and his smile ! ”
He got up suddenly, and stood against the rock, facing her. Although he kept his cool, bantering tone, his color had risen perceptibly, and his eyes looked darker. " I hope you are not trifling with my ideals, Miss Newell; I want to keep the jewel I have left. You may consider me a representative man, if you please: I speak for hundreds of us scattered about in mining camps and on cattle ranches, in lighthouses and frontier farms and military posts, and all the God-forsaken holes you can conceive of where men are trying to earn a living, — or lose one, — we are all going to the dogs for the want of that smile ! What is to become of us if the women whose smiles we care for cannot support life in the places where we have to live ? Come, Miss Frances, can’t you make that smile last at least two years?” He gathered a handful of dry leaves from a broken branch above his head and crushed them in his long hands, sifting the yellow dust on the water below.
“ The conditions you speak of are very different,” the girl answered, with a shade of uneasiness in her manner.
“ A mining camp is anything but a solitude, and a military post may be very gay.”
“ Oh, the principle is the same. It is the absolute giving up of everything. You know most women require a background of family and friends and congenial surroundings ; the question is whether any woman can do without them.
The young girl moved in a constrained way, and flushed as she said, “ It must always be an experiment, I suppose, and its success would depend, as I said before, on the woman and on the man.”
“ An ‘ experiment ’ is good ! ” said Arnold, rather savagely. “ Well, Miss Newell, I see you won’t say anything you can’t swear to.”
“ I really do not see that I am called upon to say anything on the subject at all ! ” she said, rising and looking at him across the brook with indignant eyes and a hot glow on her cheek.
He did not appear to notice her annoyance.
“ Because you know something about it, and most women don’t, your testimony is worth something. How long have you been here, — a year ? I wonder how it seems to a woman to live in a place like this a year ! I hate it all, you know, — I’ve seen so much of it. But is there really any beauty here ? I suppose beauty, and all that sort of thing, is partly within us, is n’t it ? — at least, that’s what the goody little poems tell us.”
“I think it is very beautiful here,” said Miss Frances, softening, as he laid aside his light and somewhat strained manner, and spoke more quietly. “ It is the kind of place a happy woman might be very happy in ; but if she were sad — or — disappointed ” —
“ Well ? ” said Arnold, pulling at his mustache, and fixing a rather gloomy gaze upon her.
“ She would die of it! I really do not think there would be any hope for her in a place like this.”
“ But if she were happy, as you say,” persisted the young man, “ don’t you think her woman’s adaptability and quick imagination would help her immensely ? She would n’t see what I, for instance, know to be ugly and coarse ; her very ignorance of the world would help her.”
There was a vague, pleading look in his eyes. “ Arrange it to suit yourself,” she said. “ Only, I can assure you, if anything happens to her, it will be the — the hunter’s fault.”
“ All right,” said he, rousing himself. “ That hunter, if I know him, is a man wdio is used to taking risks ! Where are you going ? ”
“ I thought I heard Nicky.”
They were both silent, and as they listened footsteps, with a tinkling accompaniment, crackled among the bushes below the cañon. Miss Newell turned towards the spring again. “ I want one more drink before I go,” she said.
Arnold followed her. “ Let us drink to Our return. We will call this our fountain of Trevi.”
“ Oh, no,” said Miss Frances. “ Don’t you remember what your favorite Bryant says about bringing the ‘faded fancies of an elder world ’ into these ‘ virgin solitudes ’ ? ”
“ Faded fancies ! ” cried Arnold. “ Do you call that a faded fancy ? It is as fresh and graceful as youth itself, and as natural. I should have thought of it myself, if there had been no fountain of Trevi.”
“ Do you think so ? ” smiled the girl. “ Then imagination, it would seem, is not entirely' confined to homesick women.
“ Come, fill the cup, Miss Frances ! Nicky is almost here.”
The girl held her hands beneath the trickle again, until they were brimming with the clear sweet water.
“ Drink first,” said Arnold.
“ I ’m not sure that I want to return,” she replied, smiling, with her eyes on the space of sky between the tree-tops.
“ Nonsense, — you must be homesick. Drink, drink! ”
“ Drink yourself; the water is all running away ! ”
He bent his head, and took a vigorous sip of the water, holding his hands below hers, inclosing the small cup in the large one. The small cup trembled a little. He was laughing and wiping his mustache, when Nicky appeared, and Miss Frances, suddenly brightening and recovering her freedom of movement, exclaimed, “ Why, Nicky ! Yon have been forever! We must go at once, Mr. Arnold ; so good-by ! I hope ” —
She did not say what she hoped, and Arnold, after looking at her with an interrogative smile a moment, caught his hat from the branch overhead, and made her a great bow with it in his hand.
He did not follow her light figure, pushing its way through the swaying, rustling ferns, but he watched it out of sight. “ What an extraordinary ass I’ve been making of myself!” He confided this remark to the stillness of the little cañon, and then, with long strides, took his way over the hills in an opposite direction.
It was the middle of July when this little episode of the spring occurred. The summer had reached its climax. The dust did not grow perceptibly deeper, nor the fields browner, during the long brazen weeks that followed. One only wearied of it all more and more.
So thought Miss Newell, at least. It was her second summer in California, and the phenomenon of the dry season was not so impressive on its repetition. She had been surprised to observe how very brief had been the charm of strangeness in her experience of life in a new country. She began to wonder if a girl born and brought up among the hills of Connecticut could have the seeds of ennui subtly distributed through her frame, to reach a sudden development in the heat of a Californian summer. She longed for the rains to begin, that in their violence and the sound of the wind she might gain a sense of life in action by which to eke out her dull and expressionless days. She was, as Nicky Dyer had said, “ a good un to ’old ’er tongue,” and therein lay her greatest strength as well as her greatest danger.
Miss Newell boarded at Captain Dyer’s. The prosperous ex-mining captain was a good deal nearer to the primitive type than any man Miss Newell had ever sat at table with in her life before, but she had a thorough respect for him, and she soon felt the time might come when she would enjoy him — as a reminiscence. Mrs. Dyer was kindly, and not more of a gossip than her neighbors ; and there were no children, — only one grandchild, the inoffensive Nicky. The ways of the house were a little uncouth, but everything was clean and in a certain sense homelike. To Miss Newell’s homesick sensitiveness it seemed better than being stared at across the boarding-house table by Boker and Pratt, and pitied by the engineer. She had a little room at the Dyers’, which was a reflection of herself so far as a year’s occupancy and very moderate resources could make it. Perhaps for that very reason she often found her little room an intolerable prison. One night her homesickness had taken its worst form, a restlessness, which began in a nervous inward throbbing and extended to her cold and tremulous finger-tips. She went softly down-stairs and out on the piazza, where the moonlight lay in a brilliant square on the unpainted boards. The moonlight increased her restlessness, but she could not keep away from it. She dared not walk up and down the piazza, because the people in the street below would see her. She stood there perfectly still, holding her elbows with her hands, crouched into a little dark heap against the side of the house.
Lights were twinkling far and near over the hills, singly, and in clusters. Black figures moved across the moonlit spaces in the street. There were sounds of talking, laughing, and singing ; dogs barking ; occasionally a stir and tinkle in the scrub, as a cow wandered past. The engines throbbed from the distant shaft-houses. A miner’s wife was hushing her baby in the next house, and across the street a group of Mexicans were talking all at once in a loud, monotonous cadence.
In her early days at the mines there had been a certain piquancy in her sense of the contrast between herself and her circumstances, but that had long passed into a dreary recognition of the fact that she had no real part in the life of the place.
She recalled one afternoon when Arnold had passed the school-house, and found her sitting alone on the door-step, He stopped to ask if that " mongrel pack on the hill were worrying the life out of her,” and added with a laugh, in answer to her look of silent disapproval, “ Oh, I mean the dear lambs of your flock. I saw two of them just now on the trail fighting over a lame donkey. The clans were gathering on both sides ; there will be a pitched battle in a few minutes. The donkey was enjoying it. I think he was asleep ! ” The day had been an unusually hard one, and the patient little school-mistress was just then struggling with a distracted sense of unavailing effort. Arnold’s grim banter brought the tears as blood follows a blow. He got down from his horse, looking wretched at what he had done. “ I am a brute, I believe, — worse than any of the pack. You have so much patience with them, — please have a little with me. Trust me, I am not utterly blind to your sufferings. Indeed, Miss Newell, I see them, and they make me savage ! ” With the gentlest touch he lifted her hand, held it in his a moment, and then he mounted his horse and rode away.
Yes, he did understand, — she felt sure of that. What an unutterable rest it would be if she could go to some one with the small worries of her life ! But she could not yield to such impulses. It was different with men ! She had often thought of Arnold’s words that day at the spring, all the more that he had never before or since revealed so much of himself to her. Under an apparently careless frankness and extravagance of speech he was a reticent man, but lightly spoken as the words had been, were they not the sparks and ashes blown from a deep and smothered core of fire ? She seemed to feel its glow on her cheek as she recalled his singular persistence and the darkening of his imperious eyes. No, she would not permit herself to think of that day at the spring. No doubt he himself thought of it with disgust. . . .
There was a bright light in the engineer’s office across the street. She could see Arnold through the windows (for like a man he did not pull his shades down) at one of the long drawing-tables. He worked late, it seemed. He was writing. He wrote rapidly, page after page, tearing each sheet from what appeared to be a paper block, and tossing it on the table beside him. He covered only one side of the paper, she noticed, thinking with a smile of her own small economies. Presently he got up, swept the papers together in his hands, and stooped over them. He is numbering and folding them, she thought, and now he is directing the envelope, — to whom, I wonder ! He turned, and as he walked towards the window she saw him put something in the pocket of his coat. He lit a cigar, and began walking with long strides up and down the room, one hand in his pocket; the other he occasionally rubbed over his eyes and head, as if they hurt him. She remembered the engineer had headaches, and wished somebody would ask him to try valerian. Is he ever really lonely ? she thought. What can he, what can any man, know of loneliness ? He can go out and walk about on the hills ; he can go away altogether, and take the risks of life somewhere else. A woman must take no risks. There is not a house in the camp where he might not enter to-night, if he chose; he might come over here and talk to me. The East with all its memories and hopes and antecedents seemed so hopelessly far away. They two alone, in that strange, uncongenial new world which had crowded out the old, seemed to speak a common language. And yet how little she really knew of him !
Suddenly the lights disappeared from the windows of the office. She heard a door unlock, and presently the young man’s figure crossed the street and turned up the trail past the house.
Two other figures going up halted, and the taller one said, “ Will you go up on the hill, to-night, Mr. Arnold?”
What for ? ” said Arnold, slackening his pace without stopping.
“ Oh, nothing in particular, — to see the señoritas.”
“ Oh, thank you, Boker, I 've seen the señoritas.”
He walked quickly past the men, and the shorter one, who had not spoken, called after him rather huskily,—
“ W-what do you think of the schoolma’am ? ”
Arnold turned hack and confronted the speaker. “ Shall I tell you what I think of you, Pratt ? ”
“ You can do as you damn please ! ”
“ It would please me to strangle you, but I don’t think you ’re worth it! ” and flinging the man aside with one hand, Arnold strode on up the trail.
“ Confound him, — the cold-blooded Yankee ! They ’re all alike, — birds of a feather flock together. Hope she ’s thin enough to suit him.”
“ Shut up, Jack ! ” said his comrade. “ You ’re a little high now, you know.”
“ High ! ” The voices of the two men blended with the night chorus of the camp as they passed out of sight.
Miss Newell sat perfectly still for a while ; then she went to her room, and threw herself down on the bed, wondering if she could ever forget those words which the faithless night had brought to her ear. The moonlight had left the piazza, and crept round to the side of the house. It shone in at the window, touching the girl’s cold fingers pressed to her burning cheeks and temples. She got up, drew the curtain, and groped her way back to the bed, where she lay for hours trying to convince herself that her misery was out of all proportion to the cause, and that those coarse words could make no real difference in her life.
They did make a little difference. They loosened the slight, indefinite threads of intercourse which a year had woven between these two exiles. Miss Newell was prepared to withdraw from any further overtures of friendship from the engineer; but he made it unnecessary for her to do so, — he made no overtures. On the night of Pratt’s tipsy salutation, he had abruptly decided that a miningcamp was no place for a nice girl with no acknowledged masculine protector. In Miss Newell’s circumstances a girl must be left entirely alone, or exposed to the gossip of the camp. He knew very well which she would choose, and so he kept away, — though at considerable loss to himself, he felt. It made him cross to watch her pretty figure going up the trail every morning and to reflect that so much sweetness and refinement should not be having its amelorating influence on his own barren and somewhat defiant existence.
Mary Hallock Foote.