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made among the rude unlettered men with
whom he was forced by the conditions of
frontier democracy to associate on terms of
equality. And Philip, though young, was
accustomed to have his friends proud of
him. Indeed, he always felt some com-
placency with himself that he seldom took
advantage of this fact. Satisfied that he
might have confided to the Doctor the truth
Vol. XI— 16.



of his connection with the ill-fated party,
and his flight with Grace, and that the
Doctor would probably have regarded him
as a hero, he felt less compunction at his
suppression of the fact.

'nieir way lay by Monument Point and
the dismanUed cairn. Philip had already
passed it on his way to the canon, and had
felt a thankfulness for the unexpected trag-
edy that had, as he believed, conscientiously
relieved him of a duty to the departed nat-
uralist, yet he could not forego a question.

''Is there anything among these papers
and collections worth our preserving?"
he asked the surgeon.

The Doctor, who had not for many months
had an opportunity to air his general skep-
ticism, was nothing if not derogatory.

" No," he answered shordy. "If there were
any way that we might restore them to the
living Dr. Devarges, they might minister to
his vanity, and please the poor fellow. I see
nothing in them that should make them
worthy to survive him."

The tone was so like Dr. Devarges' own
manner as Philip remembered it, that he
smiled grimly and felt relieved. When they
reached the spot Nature seemed to have
already taken the same cynical view; the
metallic case was already deeply sunken in
the snow, the wind had scattered the papers
fisu: and wide, and even the cairn itself had
tumbled into a shapeless, meaningless ruin.

CHAPTER IX.

IN WHICH THE FOOT-PRINTS ARE LOST
FOREVER.

A FERVID May sun had been baking the
adobe walls of the Presidio of San Ramon,
firing the red tiles, scorching the black court-
yard, and driving the mules and vaqueros
of a train that had just arrived, into the
shade of the long galleries of the quadrangle,
when the ComandanUy who was taking his
noonday siesta in a low studded chamber
beside the guard-room, was gently awakened
by his secretary. For thirty years the noon-
day slumbers of the Commander had never
been broken; his first thought was the
heathen ! — his first impulse, to reach for his
trusty Toledo. But, as it so happened, the
cook had borrowed it that morning to rake
tortillas from the Presidio oven, and Don
Juan Salvatierra contented himself with
sternly demanding the reason for this un-
wonted intrusion.

"A senorita — an American— desires an
immediate audience."



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GABRTEL CONROY.



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Don Juan removed the black silk hand-
kerchief which he had tied around his griz-
zled brows, and sat up. Before he could
assume a more formal attitude, the door was
timidly opened, and a young giii entered.

For all the disfigurement of scant, coarse,
ill-fitting clothing, or the hoUowness of her
sweet eyes, and even the tears that dimmed
their long lashes; for all the sorrow that
had pinched her young cheek and straight-
ened the comers of her child-like mouth,
she was still so fair, so firank, so youthfiil,
so innocent and helpless, that the Coman-
dante stood erect and then bent forward in
a salutation that almost swept the floor.

Apparentiy the prepossession was mutual.
The young girl took a quick survey of the
gaunt but gentieman-like figure before her,
cast a rapid glance at the serious but kindly
eyes that shone above the Commander's
iron-gray mustachios, dropped her hesitating,
timid manner, and, with an impulsive gesture
and a little cry, ran forward and fell upon
her knees at his feet.

The Commander would have raised her
gendy, but she restrained his hand.

" No, no, listen ! I am only a poor, poor
girl, without fiiends or home. A month
ago I left my family starving in the mount-
ains, and came away to get them help. My
brother came with me. God was good to
us, Seftor, and after a weary tramp of many
days we found a trapper's hut, and food and
shelter. Philip, my brother, went back alone
to succor them. He has not returned. O
sir, he may be dead ; they all may be dead
—God only knows ! It is three weeks ago
since he left me, three weeks ! It is a long
time to be alone, Senor, a stranger in a
strange land. The trapper was kind and
sent me here to you for assistance. You
will help me ? I know you will. You will
find them, my friends, my little sister, my
brother 1"

The Commander waited until she had
finished, and then genUy lifted her to a seat
by his side. Then he turned to his secre-
tary, who, with a few hurried words in
Spanish, answered the mute inquiry of the
Commander's eyes. The young girl felt a
thrill of disappointment as she saw that her
personal appeal had been lost and unintelli-
gible ; it was with a slight touch of defiance
tiiat was new to her nature that she turned to
the secretary, who advanced as interpreter.

" You are an American ? "

"Yes," said the girl, curtly, who had
taken one of the strange, swift, instinctive
• of her sex, to the man.



" How many years ?"

" Fifteen."

The Commander, almost unconsciously,
laid his brown hand on her clusterings
curls.

"Name?"

She hesitated and looked at the Com-
mander.

" Grace," she said.

Then she hesitated ; and, with a defiant
glance at the secretary, added :

"Grace Ashley 1"

" Give to me the names of some of your
company, Mees Graziashly ? "

Grace hesitated.

"Philip Ashley, Gabriel Conroy, Peter
Dumphy, Mrs. Jane Dumphy," she said at
last.

The secretary opened a desk, took out a
printed document, unfolded it, and glanced
over its contents. Presentiy he handed it
to the Commander with the comment
''Bueno:* The Commander said '^Biuno**
also, and glanced kindly and re-assuringly
at Grace.

" An expedition firom the upper I^rsu&?
has found traces of a party of Americans in
the Sierra," said the secretary, monoto-
nously. " There are names like these."

"It is the same — it is our party!" said
Grace, joyously.

" You say so ? " said the secretary, cau-
tiously.

" Yes," said Grace, defiantly.

The secretary glanced at the paper again,
and then said, looking at Grace intently :

" There is no name of Mees Graziashly.'*

The hot blood suddenly dyed the cheek
of Grace and her eyelids dropped. She
raised her eyes imploringly to the Cona-
mander. If she could have reached him
directly, she would have thrown herself at
his feet and confessed her innocent deceit,
but she shrank firom a confidence that first
filtered through the consciousness of the
secretary. So she began to fence feebly
with the issue.

" It is a mistake," she said. " But the
name of Philip, my brother, is tiiere ?"

"The name of Philip Ashley is here,"
said the secretary, grimly.

" And he is alive and safe ! " cried Grace,
forgetting in her relief and joy, her previous
shame and mortification.

" He is not found," said the secretary.

"Not found?" said Grace, with widdy
opened eyes.

" He is not there."

" No, of course," said Grace, with a



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GABRIEL CONROY.



243



nervous, h3^erical laugh ; " he was with me ;
l>ut he came back — he returned."

" On the 30th of April there is no record
of the finding of Phihp Ashley,"

Grace groaned and clasped her hands.
In her greater anxiety now, all lesser fears
were forgotten. She turned and threw her-
self before the Commander.

**0, forgive me, Senor, but I swear to
you I meant no harm! Philip is not my
brother, but a friend, so kind, so good. He
asked me to take his name, poor boy, God
knows if he will ever^claim it again, and I
di<L My name is not Ashley. I know not
what is in that paper, but it must tell of my
brother Gabriel, my sister, of all I O, Senor,
are they living or dead ? Answer me you
must, for — I am — I am Grace Conroy !"

The secretary had refolded the paper.
He opened it again, glanced over it, fixed his
eyes upon Grace, and, pointing to a para-
graph, handed it to the Commander. The
two men exdianged glances, the Com-
mander coughed, rose, and averted his face
from the beseeching eyes of Grace. A sud-
den death-like chOl ran through her limbs
as, at a word from the Commander, the
secretary rose and placed the paper in her
hands.

Grace took it with trembling fingers. It
seemed to be a proclamation in Spanish.

'^I cannot read it," she said, stamping
her litde foot with passionate vehemence.
« Tell me what it says."

At a sign firom the Commander, the sec-
retary opened the paper and arose. The
Commander, with his face averted, looked
through the open window. The light,
streaming dirough its deep, tunnel-like em-
brasure, fell upon the central figure of
Grace, with her shapely head slightly bent
forward, her lips apart, and her eager, pas-
sionate eje& fixed upon the Commander.
The secretary cleared his throat in a per-
fimctory manner; and, with the conscious
pride of an irreproachable lingubt, began :

"NOTICE.

••TO HIS BXCELLBNCY THE COM ANDANTE OF THE
PRESIDIO OF SAN FELIPE.

•• I have the honor to report thai the ezpedidon
gent otu to relieve certain distressed emigrants in
the fieistnesses of the Sierra Nevadas, said expedicion
being sent on the information of Don Jose Bluent
of Sm Geronimo, found in a cafton east of the
Canada del Diablo the evidences of the recent exist-
ence of such emigrants buried in the snow» and the
melancholy and deeply to be deplored record of
their sufferings, abandonment, and death. A written
record preservni by these miserable and most infe-
lidtoas ones gives the names and history of their



organization, known as ' Captain Conroy's Party,' a
copy of which is annexed below.

** The remains of five of these unfortunates were
recovered from the snow, but it was impossible to
identify but two, who were buried with sacred and
reverential rites.

•* Our soldiers behaved with that gallantry, cool-
ness, patriotism, inflexible hardihood, and high prin-
cipled devotion which ever animate the sweilinsr
heart of the Mexican warrior. Nor can too much
praise be ^ven to the voluntary efforts of one Don
Arthur Pomsett, late Lieutenant of the Army of the
United States of America, who, though himself a
voyager and stranger, assisted our commander in
the efforts of humanity.

••The wretched dead appeared to have expired
from hunger, although one was evidently a victim—''

The tongue of the translator hesitated a
moment, and then with an air of proud
superiority to the difficulties of the English
language, he resumed —

•• A victim to fly poison. It is to be regretted
that among the victims was the £unous Doctor Paul
Devarges, a Natural, and collector of the stuffed
Bird and Beast, a name most illustrious in science."

The secretary paused, his voice dropped
its pretentious pitch, h/e lifted his eyes from
the paper, and fixing them on Grace, re-
peated deliberately :

••The bodies who were identified were those of
Paul Devarges and Grace Conroy."

'< Oh, no 1 no ! " said Grace, clasping her
hands wildly ; '* it is a mistake ! You are
trying to frighten me, a poor, helpless, friend-
less girl! You are punishing me, gentle-
men, because you know I have done wrong,
because you think I have Hed ! Oh, have
pity, gentlemen. My God — save me—
Philip!"

And with a loud, despairing cry, she rose
to her feet, caught at the clustering tendrils
of her hair, raised her little handis, palms
upward, high in air, and then sank perpen-
dicularly as if crushed and beaten flat, a
pale and senseless heap upon the floor.

The Commander stooped over the pros-
trate girl. " Send Manuela here," he said
quickly, waving aside the proflered aid of
tiie secretary, with an impatient gestiure
quite unlike his usual gravity, as he lifted
the imconscious Grace in his arms.

An Indian waiting woman hurriedly ap-
peared, and assisted the Commander to lay
the fainting girl upon a couch.

" Poor chUd I" said the Commander, as
Manuela, bending over Grace, unloosed her
garments with sympathetic feminine hands.
" Poor Httle one, and without a father ! "

" Poor woman ! " said Manuela to henelf,
half aloud; "and without a husband I"



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244



GABRIEL CONROY,



CHAPl'ER X.
ONE HORSE GULCH.

It was a season of unexampled prosperity
in One Horse Gulch. Even the despondent
original locator, who, in a fit of depressed
alcoholism, had given it that infelicitous
title, would have admitted its injustice but
that he fell a victim to the " craftily quali-
fied" cups of San Francisco long before the
Gulch had become prosperous. " Hed Jim
struck to straight whisky he might hev got
his pile outer the very ledge whar his cabin
stood," said a local critic. But Jim did
not; after taking a thousand dollars fi'om
his claim he had flown to San Francisco,
where, gorgeously arrayed, he had flitted
from champagne to cognac, and firom gin
to lager beer, until he brought his gilded
and ephemeral existence to a close in the
county hospital.

Howbeit, One Horse Gulch survived not
only its godfather, but the baleftil promise
of its unhallowed christening. It had its
Hotel and its Tempwance House, its Express
office, its saloons, its two squares of low
wooden buildings in the main street, its
clustering nests of cabins on the hill-sides,
its freshly hewn stumps and its lately cleared
lots. Young in years, it still had its memo-
ries, experiences, and antiquities. The first
tent pitched by Jim White was still standing,
the bullet holes were yet to be seen in the
shutters of the Cachucha saloon, where the
great fight took place between Boston Joe,
Harry Worth, and Thompson of Angel's;
fitjm the upper loft of Watson's " Emporium "
a beam still projected from which a year
ago a noted citizen had been suspended,
after an informal inquiry into the ownership
of some mules that he was found possessed
of. Near it was a small unpretentious
square shed, where the famous caucus had
met that had selected the delegates who
chose the celebrated and Honorable Blank
to represent California in the councils of the
nation.

It was raining. Not in the usual direct,
honest, perpendicular fashion of that mount-
ain region, but only suggestively, and in a
vague, uncertain sort of way, as if it might
at any time prove to be fog or mist, and
any money wagered upon it would be haz-
ardous. It was raining as much fix)m below
as above, and the lower limbs of the
loungers who gathered around the square
box stove that stood in Briggs's warehouse,
exhaled a cloud of steam. The loungers in
Briggs's were those who from deficiency of



taste or the requisite capital avoided the
gambling and drinking sadoons, and qu^dy
appropriated crackers firom the convenient
barrel of the generous Briggs, or fiDed their
pipes fix)m his open tobacco canisters, with
the general suggestion in their manner that
their company fiilly compensated for any
waste of his material.

They had been smoking silently — a sOenc^
only broken by the occasional hiss of expec-
toration against the hot stove, when the
door of a back room opened softly, and
Gabriel Conroy entered.

"How is he gettin* on, Gabe?" asked
one of the loungers.

" So, so," said Gabriel. " You'll want to
shift those bandages agin," he said, turning
to Briggs, "afore the doctor comes. Vd
come back in an hour, but I've got to drop
in and see how Steve's getdn' on, and ifs a
matter of two miles fix)m home."

" But he says he won't let anybody tech
him but you," said Mr. Briggs.

" I know he says so," said Gabriel sooth-
ingly, " but he'll get over that. That's what
Stimson sed when he was took worse, but
he got over that, and I never got to see him
except in time to lay him out."

The justice of this was admitted even by
Briggs, although evidently disappointed*
Gabriel was walking to the door, when
another voice from the stove stopped him.

"Oh, Gabe! you mind that emigrant
family with the sick baby camped down the
gulch? Well, the baby up and died last
night."

"I want to know," said Gabriel, with
thoughtful gravity.

"Yes, and that woman's in a heap of
trouble. Couldn't you kinder drop in in
passing and look after things ? "

" I will," said Gabriel thoughtftilly.

" I thought you'd like to know it, and I
thought she'd like me to tell you," said the
speaker, setding himself back again over the
stove with the air of a man who had just
fulfilled, at great personal sacrifice and labor,
a work of supererogation.

" You're always thoughtful of other folks,
Johnson," said Briggs admiringly.

" Well, yes," said Johnson, with a modest
serenity, " I allers allow that men in Cali-
fomy ought to think of others besides them
selves. A little keer and a little sabe on
my part, and there's that family in the gulch
made comfortable with Gabe around 'em."

Meanwhile this homely inciter of the
unselfish virtues of One Horse Gulch had
passed out into the rain and darkness. So



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GABRIEL CONROY,



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conscientiously did he fulfill his various obli-
gations, that it was nearly one o'clock before
he reached his rude hut on the hill-side, a
rough cabin of pine logs, so unpretentious
and wild in exterior as to be but a slight
improvement on nature. The vines clam-
bered unrestrainedly over the bark-thatched
roof; the birds occupied the crevices of the
walls, the squirrel ate his acorns on the ridge-
pole without fear and without reproach.

Sofdy drawing the wooden peg that
served as a bolt, Gabriel entered with that
noiselessness and caution that was habitual
to him. Lighting a candle by the embers
of a dying fire, he carefully looked around
hinu The cabin was divided into two com-
partments by the aid of a canvas stretched
between the walls, with a flap for the door-
way. On a pine table lay several garments
apparently belonging to a girl of seven or
eight — a frock grievously rent and torn, a
frayed petticoat of white flannel already
patched with material taken from a red
shirt, and a pair of stockings so excessively
and sincerely darned, as to have lost nearly
all of their original &bric in repeated bits
of relief that covered almost the entire struct-
ure. Gabriel looked at these articles rue-
fullv, and, slowly picking them up, examined
each with the greatest gravity and concern.
Then he took ofl* his coat and boots, and
having in this way settled himself into an
easy dishabille, he todc a box from the
shdf^ and proceeded to lay out thread and
needles, when he was interrupted by a
child's voice from behind the canvas screen.

**Is that you, Gabe?"

« Yes."

" Oh, Gabe, I got tired and went to*cd."

** I see you did," said Gabriel diyly, pick-
ing up a needle and thread that had appar-
ently been abandoned after a slight excur-
sion into the neighborhood of a rent and
left iH^>elessly sticking in the petticoat.

" Yes, Gabe; they're so awfully old 1 "

"Old!" repeated Gabe reproachfully.
"Old! Lcttin' on a little wear and tear,
diey're as good as they ever were. That
petticoat is stronger," said Gabriel, holding
up the garment and eying the patches with
a slight glow of artistic pride — "stronger.
Oily, than the first day you put it on."

•* But that's five years ago, Gabe."

" Well," said Gabriel, turning round and
addressing himself impatiently to the screen,
"Wot if it is— "

"And I've growed."

" Growed ! " said Gabriel scornfully. "And
haven't I let out the tucks, and didn't I put



three fingers of the best sacking around the
waist ? You'll just ruin me in clothes."

Oily laughed fix)m behind the screen.
Finding, however, no response from the
grim worker, presently there appeared a
curly head at the flap, and then a slim Uttle
girl, in the scantiest of nightgowns, ran, and
be^an to nesde at his side, and to endeavor
to mwrap herself in his waistcoat

"Oh, go 'way!" said Gabriel with a
severe voice and the most shameless signs
of relenting in his face. " Go away ! What
do you care ? Here I might slave myself
to death to dress you in silks and satins,
and you'd dip into the fiist ditch or waltz
through the first underbrush that you kem
across. You haven't got noi^^in dress,
Oily. It ain't ten days ago as I iron-bound
and copper-fastened that dress, so to speak,
and look at it now ! Oily, look at it now ! "
And he held it up indignandy before the
maiden.

OUy placed the top of her head against
the breast of her brother as di point d* appui^
and began to revolve around him, as if she
wished to bore a way into his inmost feelings.

"Oh, you ain't mad, Gabe!" she said,
leaping first over one knee and then over
the other without lifting her head. " You
ain't mad!"

Gabriel did not deign to reply, but con-
tinued mending the fiayed petticoat in dig-
nified silence.

"Who did you see down town?" said
Oily, not at all rebufied.

" No one," said Gabriel, shordy.

" You did ! You smell of linnyments and
popaermint," said Oily, with a positive shake
oTme head. " You've been to Briggs' and
the new family up the gulch."

** Yes," said Gabriel, "that Mexican's legs
is better, but the baby's dead. Jest remind
me, to-morrow, to look through mother's
things for suthin' for that poor woman."

"Gabe, do you know what Mrs. Markle
says of you?" said OUy, suddenly raising
her head.

" No," replied Gabriel, with an affectation
of indifference that, hke all his affectations,
was a perfect failure.

"She says," said OUy, "that you want to
be looked after yourself more'n all these
people. She says you're just throwing yoiu:-
self away on other folks. She says I ought
to have a woman to look after me."

Gabriel stopped his work, laid down the
petticoat, and taking the curly head of Oily
between his knees, with one hand beneath
her chin and the other on top of her head.



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246



GABRIEL CON ROY,



turned her mischievous face toward his.
"Oily, he said seriously, "when I got you
outer the snow at Starvation Camp; when I
toted you on my back for miles till we got
into the valley; when we lay by thar for two
weeks, and me a felling trees and picking
up provisions here and thar, in the wood or
the river, wharever thar was bird or fish, I
reckon you got along as well — I won't say
better — ez if you had a woman to look arter
you. When at last we kera here to this
camp, and I built this yer house, I don't
think any woman could hev done better. If
they could, I'm wrong, and Mrs. Markle's
right."

Oily began to be uncomfortable. Then
the quick instincts of her sex came to her
relief, and she archly assumed the aggressive.

" I think Mrs. Markle likes you, Gabe."

Gabriel looked down at the little figiure in
alarm. There are some subjects whereof
the youngest of womankind has an instinct-
ive knowledge that makes the wisest of us
tremble.

"Go to bed, OUy," said the cowardly
Gabriel.

But OUy wanted to sit up, so she changed
the subject.

"The Mexican you're tendin* isn't a
Mexican, he's a Chileno; Mrs. Markle
says so."

" Maybe; it's all the same, /call him a
Mexican. He talks too straight, anyway,"
said Gabriel, indifferently.

" Did he ask you any more questions
about — about old, times?" continued the
girl.

"Yes; he wanted to know everything
that happened in Starvation Camp. He
was reg'larly took with poor Gracey ; asked
a heap o' questions about her — ^how she
acted, and seemed to feel as bad as we did
about never hearing anything fh}m her. I
never met a man, Oily, afore, as seemed to
take such an interest in other folk's sorrers
as he did. You'd have tho't he'd been one
of the party. And he made me tell him all
about Dr. Devarges."

"And Philip?" queried Oily.

" No," said Gabriel, somewhat curtly.

"Gabriel," said Oily suddenly, "I wish
you didn't talk so to people about those
days."

" Why ? " asked Gabriel, wonderingly.

" Because it ain't good to talk about
Gabriel, dear," she continued, with a slight
quivering of the upper lip, "sometimes I
think the people round yer look upon us
sorter queer. That little boy that came



here with the emigrant family wouldn't j^j
with me, and Mrs. Markle's little giri said
that we did dreadful things up there in the
snow. He said I was a cannon-ball."

"A what?" asked Gabriel.

" A cannon-ball ! He said that you and
I"

" Hush," interrupted Gabriel, sternly, as
an angry flush came into his sunburned chedc,
" I'll jest bust that boy if I .see him round
yer agin."

" But,Gabriel," persisted OUy, " nobody"—



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 41 of 163)