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and change your clothes, or you'll get your
death, as sure as you're a bom sinner 1 "

The tone and manner in which this was
uttered was something unusual with OUy,
but Gabriel was too glad to escape further



questioning to criticise or rebuke it But
when he had re-appeared from behind the
screen with dry clothes, he was surprised to
observe by the light of the newly lit candle
that Oily herself had undergone since morn-
ing a decided change in her external appear-
ance. Not to speak alone of an unusual
cleanliness of face and hands, and a certain
attempt at confining her yellow curls with a
vivid pink ribbon, there was an unwonted
neatness in her attire, and some essay at
adornment in a faded thread-lace collar which
she had found among her mother's " things"
in the family bag, and a purple neck-ribbon.

"It seems to me," said the delighted
Gabriel, "that somebody else hez been
dressin' up and making a toylit, sence I've
been away. Hev you been in the ditches
agin, OUy?"

"No," said OUy with some dignity of
manner, as she busied herself in setting the
table for supper.

" But I recken I never seen ye look so
peart afore, OUy; who's been here?" he
added, with a sudden alarm.

" Nobody," said OUy; "I recken some
folks kin get along and look decent without
the help of other folks, leastways of Susan
Markle."

At this barbed arrow Gabriel winced
slightly.

" See yer, OUy," said Gabriel, " ye musn't
talk thet way about thet woman. You're
only a chUe — and ef your brother did let on
to ye, in confidence, certing things ez a
brother may say to his sister, ye oughtn't
say anythin' about it."

" Say anythin' I " echoed OUy, scornfully ;
" do you think I'd ever let on to thet woman
ennything ? Ketch me I "

Gabriel looked up at his sister in awful
admiration, and felt at the depths of his
conscience-stricken and self-depreciatory
nature that he didn't deserve so brave a
little defender. For a moment he resolved
to teU her the truth, but a fear of OUy's
scorn and a desire to bask in the sunshine
of her active sympathy withheld him.
" Besides," he added to himself, in a single
flash of self-satisfaction, " this yer thing may
be the makin' o' thet gal yet Look at thet
coUar, Gabriel ! look at thet hair, Gabriel 1
aU your truth-tellin' never fetched outer thet
puity chUd what thet one yam did."

Nevertheless, as Gabriel sat down to his
supper he was still haunted by the ominous
advice and counsel he had heard that day.
When OUy had finished her meal — ^he no-
ticed that she had forborne, evidently at



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GABRIEL CONROY.



371



great personal sacrifice, to sop the frying-
pan with her bread — he turned to her
gravely.

" Ef you wus ever asked, Oily, ef I had
been sweet upon Mrs. Markle, wot would
ye say ? "

" Say," said Oily, savagely, " I'd say that
if they ever was a woman ez had run arter
a man with less call to do it — ^it was Mrs.
Markle — that same old disgustin' Susan
Markle. Thet's wot I*d say, and l*d say
it — ^to her fiEu:e I Gabe-— see here ! "

" Well," said the delighted Gabriel.

"Ef that school-ma'am comes up here,
do you jest make up to her!"

" Oily !" ejaculated the alarmed Gabriel.

** You jest go for her ! You jest do for
her what you did for thet Susan Markle.
And jest you do- it, if you can, Gabe, — when
Mrs. Markle's around — or afore little Manty
— she'll go and tell her mother — she tells
her everything. I've heer'd, Gabe, that
some o' them school-ma'ams is nice."

In his desire to please Oily, Gabriel would
have imparted to her the story of his advent-
ure in the canon, but a vague fear that Oily
might demand from him an instant ofier of
his hand and heart to the woman he had
saved, checked the disclosure. And the
next moment there was a rap at the door
of the cabin.

" I forgot to say, Gabe, that Lawyer Max-
well was here to-day to see ye," said Oily,
"and I bet you thefs him. If he wants*
you to nuss anybody, Gabe, don't ye do it !
You got enough to do to look after me !"

Gabriel rose with a perplexed face and
opened the door. A tall dark man, with a
beard heavily streaked with gray, entered.
There was something in his manner and
dress, although both conformed to local
prejudices and customs, that denoted a t3rpe
of man a litde above the average social
condition of One Horse Gulch. Unlike
Gabriel's previous evening visitor, he did
not glance around him, but fixed a pair of
keen half-humorous, half interrogating gray
eyes upon his host's face, and kept them
there. The habitual expression of his feat-
ures was serious, except for a certain half-
nervous twitching at the left comer of his
mouth, which continued usually, until he
stopped and passed his hand ^ftly across
it The impression always left on the spec-
tator was, that he had wiped away a smile,
as some people do a tear.

"I don't think I ever before met you,
Gabriel," he said, advancing and offering
his hand. " My name is Maxwell. I think



you've heard of me. I have come for a
little talk on a matter of business."

The blank dismay of Gabriel's face did
not escape him, nor the gesture with which
he motioned to Oily to retire. " It's quite
evident," he said to himself, "that the child
knows nothing of this, or is unprepared. I
have taken him by surprise."

" If I mistake not, Gabriel," said Maxwell
aloud, "your little— er — girl — is as much
concerned in this matter as yourself. Why
not let her remain ?"

" No, no," said Gabriel, now feeling per-
fectly convinced in the depths of his con-
science-stricken soul that Maxwell was here
as the legal adviser of the indignant Mrs.
Markle. " No ! Oily, run out and get some
chips in the wood-house agin to-morrow
morning's fire. Run ! "

Oily ran. Maxwell cast a look after the
child, wiped his mouth, and, leaning his
elbow on the table, fixed his eyes on
Gabriel

" I have called to-night, Gabriel, to see
if we can arrange a certain matter without
trouble, and even — as I am employed
against you — with as little talk as possible.
To be frank, I am intrusted with the papeis
in a legal proceeding against you. Now,
see here ! is it necessary for me to say what
these proceedings are ? Is it even necessary
for me to give Ae name of my client ?"

Gabriel dropped his eyes, but even then
the fiunk honesty of his nature spoke for
him. He raised his head and said simply :

"No!"

Lawyer Maxwell was for a moment stag-
gered, but only for a moment "Good,"
he said, thoughtfully ; " you are firank. Let
me ask you now if, to avoid legal proceed-
ings, publicity, and scandal — and allow me
to add, the almost absolute certainty of los-
ing in any suit that might be brought
against you — would you be wilUng to aban-
don this house and daim at once, allowing
it to go for damages in the past ? If you
would, I think I could accept it for such.
I think I could promise that even this ques-
tion of a closer relationship would not come
up. Briefly, she might keep her name and
you might keep yours, and you would
remain to each other as strangers. What do
you say ? "

Gabriel rose quickly and took the law-
yer's hands with a tremulous grasp. " You're
a kind man, Mr. Maxwell," he said, shaking
the lawyer's hand vigorously ; " a good man.
It's a bad business, and you've made the
best of it. Ef you'd been my own lawyer



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372



GABRIEL CONROY.



instead o' hers, you couldn't hev treated
me better. I'll leave here at once. I've
been thinking o' doin' it ever since this yer
thing troubled me ; but I'll go to-morrow.
Ye kin hev the house and all it contains.
If I had an)rthing else in a way of a fee
to offer ye, I'd do it She kin hev the house
and all that they is of it And then nothing
will be said?"

" Not a word," said Maxwell, examining
Gabriel curiously.

"No talk — ^nothin' in the newspapers?"
continued Gabriel

" Your conduct toward her, and your atti-
tude in this whole afilair, will be kept a pro-
found secret, unless you happen to betray
it yourself; and that is my one reason for
advising you to leave here."

"I'll do it — to-morrow," said Gabriel,
rubbing his hands. " Wouldn't you like to
have me sign some bit o' paper?"

" No, no," said the lawyer, wiping his
mouth with his hand, and looking at Gabriel
as if he belonged to some entirely new spe-
cies. " Let me advise you, as a friend, to
sign no paper that might be brought against
you hereafter. Your simple abandonment
of the claim and bouse is sufficient for our
purposes. I will make out no papers in the
case until Thursday ; by that tmie I expect
to find no one to serve them on. You
understand ? "

Gabriel nodded, and wrung the lawyer's
hand warmly. Maxwell walked toward the
door, still keeping his glance fixed on
Gabriel's clear, honest eyes. On the thresh-
old he paused, and leanmg against it, wiped
his mouth with a slow gesture, and said :

" From all I can hear, Gabriel, you are a
simple, honest fellow, and I fiankly confess
to you, but for the admission you have
made to me, I would have thought you
incapable of attempting to wrong a woman.
I should have supposed it some mistake. I
am not a judge of the morives of men ; I
am too old a lawyer, and too familiar
with things of this kind, to be siuprised at
men's motives, or even to judge their rights
or wrongs by my own. But now that we
tmderstand each other, would you mind
telling me what was your motive for this
peculiar and monstrous form of deception ?
Understand me ; it will not alter my opinion
of you, which is, that you are not a bad
man. But I am curious to know how you
could deliberately set about to wrong this
woman; what was the motive?"

Gabriel's fiace flushed deeply. Then he
lifted his eyes and pointed to the screen.



The lawyer followed the direction of his fin-
ger, and saw OUy standing in the door- way.

Lawyer Maxwell smiled. " It is the sex,
anyway," he said to himself; "perhaps a
little younger than I supposed; of course,
his own child." He nodded again, smiled
at OUy, and with the consciousness of a
professional triumph, blent with a certain
moral satisfaction that did not always neces-
sarily accompany his professional success,
he passed out into the night

Gabriel avoided conversation with Oily
until late in the evening. When she had
taken her accustomed seat at his feet before
the fire, she came direcdy to the point

" What did he want, Gabe ?"

" Nothing partickler," said Gabriel, with
an affectadon of supreme indifierence. " I
was thinking, OU^, that I'd ^ell you a story.
It's a long time smce I told one."

It had been Gabriel's habit to improve
these precious moments by relating the
news of the camp or the current topics of
the day, artfully imparted as pure fiction,
but since his preoccupation with Mrs. Mar-
kle he had lately omitted it. OUy nodded
her head, and Gabriel went on.

" Once upon a time they lived a man ez
hed Uved and would live — for thet was wot
was so ang'ler about him — all alone, 'cept
for a Utde sister ez this man hed, wot he
loved very dearly. They was no one ez this
man woidd ever let ring in, so to speak,
between him and this Utde sister, and the
heaps o' private confidence, and the private
talks about this and thet, thet this yer man
hed with this Utde sister, was wonderful to
behold."

" Was it a real man — a pure man ?" que-
ried OUy.

" The man was a real man, but the Utde
sister, I oughter say, was a kind o' fairy,
you know, OUy, ez hed a heap o' power to
do good to this yer man, unbeknownst to
him and afore his fece. They Uved in a
sorter paliss in the woods, this yer man and
his sister. And one day this yer man hed
a heap o' troubil come upon him thet was
sich ez would make him leave this beautiful
paliss, and he didn't know how to let on to
his Utde sister about it ; and so he up, and
he sez to her, sez he, *Gloriana' — thet was
her name — ^* Gloriana,' sez he, ' we must quit
this beautifiil paliss and wander into furrin
parts, and the reason why is a secret' ez I
can't teU ye.' And this yer Utde sister jest
ups and sez, *Wot's agreeable to you,
brother, is agreeable to me, fur we is every-
thing to each other the wide world over,



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GABRIEL CONROY.



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and variety is the spice o* life, and I'll pack
my traps to-morrow.' And she did. For
why, Oily? Why, don't ye see — this yer
little sister was a fairy, and knowed it all
without bein' told. And they went away to
fiirrin parts and strange places, war they
built a more beautiful paliss than the other
was, and they Hved thar peaceful like and
happy all the days o' their life."

"And thar wasn't any old witch, of a Mrs.
Markle to bother them. When are ye goin',
Gabe?" asked the practical Oily.

"I thought to-morrow," said Gabriel,
helplessly abandoning all allegory and look-
ing at his sister in respectful awe, " thet ez,
I reckoned. Oily, to get to Casey's in time
to take the artemoon stage up to Marys-
ville."

"Well," said OUy, "then I'm goin' to
bed now."

" Oily," said Gabriel reproachfully, as he
watched the Uttle figure disappear behind the
canvas, ** ye didn't kiss me fiir good-night"

OUy came back. " You ole Gabe— you ! "
she said patronizingly, as she ran her fingers
throu^ his tangled curls, and stooped to
bestow a kiss on his forehead fix>m an appar-
endy immeasurable moral and intellectual
height — "you old, big Gabe, what would
you do witiiout me, I'd like to know ?"

The next morning Gabriel was somewhat
surprised at observing OUy immediately
after the morning meal proceed gravely to
array herself in the few more respectable
garments that belonged to her wardrobe.
Over a white muslin frock, yeUow and scant
with age, she had tied a scarf of glaring
cheap pink ribbon, and over this again she
had secured, by the aid of an enormous tor-
toise-shell brooch, a large black and white
check shawl of her mother's, that even
repeated folding could not reduce in size.
She then tied over her yellow curls a large
straw hat, trimmed with white and yeUow
daisies and pale green ribbon, and com-
pleted her toilet by unfurling over her shoul-
der a small yellow parasol.

Gabriel, who had been* watching these
preparations in great concern, at last ven-
tured to address the Hzarre but pretty litde
figure before him.

" War you goin', OUy ? "

" Down the gulch to say good-bye to the
Reed gals. 'Tain't the square thing to
vamose the ranch without lettin' on to
foUcs."

" Ye ain't goin' near Mrs. Markle's, are
ye?" queried Gabriel, in deprecatory alarm.

OUy turned a scornful &ish of her clear



blue eye upon her brother, and said
curdy:

"Ketch me!"

There was something so appalling in her
quickness, such a sudden revelation of quaint
determination in the lines of her mouth and
eyebrows, that Gabriel could say no more.
Without a word he watched the yellow sun-
shade and flapping straw hat, with its stream-
ing ribbons, slowly disappear down the wind-
ing descent of the hUl.

And then, a sudden and grotesque sense
of dependence upon the chUd; an appreci-
ation of some reserved quality in her nature
hitherto unsuspected by him — something
that separated them now, and in the years
to come would slowly widen the rift between
them, came upon him with such a desolating
sense of loneliness that it seemed unendur-
able. He did not dare to re-enter or look
back upon the cabin, but pushed on vaguely
toward his claim on the hUl-side. On his
way thither he had to pass a solitary red-
wood tree that he had often noticed, whose
enormous bulk beUttled the rest of the forest ;
yet, also, by reason of its very isolation, had
acquired a certain lonely pathos that was far
beyond the suggestion of Us heroic size. It
seemed so imbecile, so gratuitously large, so
unproductive of the good that might be
expected of its bulk, so unlike the smart
spruces and pert yoimg firs and larches that
stood beside it, that Gabriel instantly ac-
cepted it as a S3rmbol of himself, and could
not help wondering if there were not some
other locality where everything else might
be on its own plane of existence. " If I war
to go thar," said Gabriel to himself, "I
wonder if I might not suit better than I do
yer, and be of some sarvice to thet chUd."
He pushed his way through the underbrush,
and stood upon the ledge that he had first
claimed on his arrival at One Horse Gulch.
It was dreary — it was unpromising — a vast
stony field high up in air, covered with scat-
tered bowlders of dark iron-gray rock.
Gabriel smiled bitteriy. "Any other man
but me couldn't hev bin sich a fool as to
preempt sich a claim fiir gold. P'r'aps its
all for the best that I'm short of it now,"
said Gabriel, as he turned away, and
descended the hUl to his later claim in the
^Ich, which yielded him that pittance known
m the mining dialect as " grub."

It was neariy three o'clock before he
returned to the cabin with the few tools that
he had gathered. When he did so, he found
OUy awaiting him, with a slight flush of
excitement on her cheek, but no visible evi-



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374



GABRIEL CONROY,



dences of any late employment to be seen
in the cabin.

" Ye don't seem to have been doin* much
packin', Oily," said Gabriel—" tho* thar ain't,
so to speak, much to pack up."

"Thar ain't no use in packin', Gabe,"
replied Oily, looking directly into the giant's
bashful eyes.

" No use ? " echoed Gabriel.

"No sort o' use," said Oily decidedly.
" We ^in't goin*, Gabe, and that's the end
on't. I've been over to see Lawyer Maxwell,
and I've made it all right."

Gabriel dropped speechless into a chair,
and gazed open-mouthed at his sister.

" I've made it all right, Gabe," continued
Oily, coolly, " you'll see. I jest went over
thar this morning, and hed a little talk with
the lawyer, and gin him a piece o' my mind
about Mrs. Markle — and jest setded the
whole thing."

" Good Lord, Oily, whdt did you say ? "

" Say ? " echoed Oily. " I jest up and told
him everythin' I knew about thet woman,
and I never told you, Gabe, the half of it.
I jest sed ez how she'd been runnin' round
arter you ever sence she first set eyes on you,
when you was nussin' her husband wot died.
How you never ez much ez looked at her
ontil I set you up to it ! How she used to
come round yer and sit and sit and look at
you, Gabe, and kinder do this et ye over
her shoulder " — ^here Oily achieved an admi-
rable imitation of certain arch glances of
Mrs. Markle that would have (&iven that
estimable lady ftantic with rage, and even
at this moment caused the bashful blood of
Gabriel to fly into his very eyes — " and how
she used to let on all sorts of excuses to get
you over thar, and how you refoosed ! And
wot a deceitfid old mean disgustin' critter she
was enny way ! " and here Oily paused for
want of breath.

" And wot did he say ?" said the equally
breathless Gabriel.

" Nothin' at first ! Then he laughed, and
laughed and laughed till I thought he'd bust !
And then — let me see," reflected the consci-
entious OUy, " he said thar was some ' absurd
blunder and mistake' — ^that's jest what he
called thet Mrs. Markle, Gabe— hope Godll
kill me next minnit ef those wasn't his very
words ! And then he set up another yell o'
laughin', and somehow, Gabe, I got to
laughin', and she got to laughin' too," and
Oily laughed at the recollection.

" Who's sheV asked Gabriel, with a most
lugubrious face.

" Oh, Gabe ! you think everybody's Mrs.



Markle," said Oily, swiftly. ''She was a
lady ez was with thet Lawyer Maxwell, ez
heerd it all. Why, Lord, she seemed to take
ez much interest in it ez the lawyer. P'r'aps,"
said Oily, with a slight degree of conscious
pride as raconteur^ " p'r'aps it was the way I
told it. I was thet mad, Gabe, and sassy ! "

"And what did he say?" continued
Gabriel, still ruefully, for to him, as to most
simple, serious natures devoid of any sense
of humor, all this inconsequent hilarity looked
suspicious. •

" Why, he was fur puttin* right over here
*to explain,* ez he called it, but the lady
stopped him, and sed somethin' low I didn't
get to hear. Oh, she must be a partikler
friend o' his, Gabe — ^for he did everythin'
thet she said. And she said I was to go
back and say thet we needn't hurry ourselves
to git away at all. And thet's the end of it,
Gabe."

" But didn't he say anythin' more. Oily ? "
said Gabriel, anxiously.

" No ! He begin to ask me some ques-
tions about old times and Starvation Camp,
and I'd made up my mind to disremember
all them things ez I told you, Gabe, fur I'm
jest sick o' being called a cannon-ball, so I
jest disremembered everything ez fast ez he
asked it, until he sez, sez he to this lady,
* She evidently knows nothin' o' the whole
thing.' But die lady hed been tryin' to stop
his askin' questions, and hed been kinder
signin' to me not to answer, too. Oh, she's
cute, Gabe ; I could see thet ez soon ez I
set down."

"What did she look like, OUy?" said
Gabriel, with an affectation of carelessness,
but still by no means yet entirely relieved in
his mind.

" Oh, she didn't look like Mrs. Markle,
Gabe, or any o' thet kind. A kinder short
woman, with white teeth, and a small waist,
and good clo'es. I didn't sort o' take to
her much, Gabe, though she was very kind
to me. I don't know ez I coidd sayezackly
what she did look like ; I reckon thar ain't
anybody about yer ez looks like she.
Saints and goodness I Gabe, that's her now ;
thar she is." *

Something darkened the door-way. Ga-
briel, looking up, beheld the woman he
had saved in the canon. It was Madame
Devarges 1

CHAPTER XV.
AN OLD PIONEER OF '49.

A THICK fog, dense, impenetrable, bluish-
gray and raw, marked the advent of the



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gentle summer of 1854 on the California
coast. The brief immature spring was
scarcely yet over ; there were flowers still to
be seen on the outlying hills around San
Francisco, and the wild oats were yet green
on the Contra Costa mountains. But the
wild oats were hidden under a dim India-
inky vail, and the wild flowers accepted the
joyless embraces of the fog with a staring
waxen rigidity. In short, Ae weather was
so uncomfortable that the average Califomian
was more than ever inclined to impress the
stranger aggressively with the fact that fogs
were healthy, and that it was the ''finest
climate on the earth."

Perhaps no one was better calculated or
more accustomed to impress the stranger
vnth this belief than Mr. Peter Dumphy,
banker and capitalist. His outspoken faith
in the present and future of California was
unbounded. His sincere convictions that
no country or climate was ever before so
signally favored, his intoleration of any criti-
cism or belief to the contrary, made him a
representative man. So positive and unmis-
tjJcable was his habitual expression on these
subjects, that it was impossible to remain long
in his presence without becoming impressed
with the idea that anj other condition of
society, climate or civilization, than that
which obtained in California, was a mistake.
Strangers were brought early to imbibe from
this foimtain ; timid and weak Califomians
in danger of a relapse had their faith renewed
and their eyesight restored by bathing in this
pool that Mr. Dimiphy kept always replen-
ished. Unconsciously people at last got to
echoing Mr. Dumph/s views as their own,
and much of the lar^ praise that appeared
in newspapers, pubtic q>eeches, and coire-
spondence, was first voiced by Dumphy.

It must not besupposed that Mr. Dumph3r's
positiveness of statement and peremptory
manner were at all injurious to his social
reputation. Owing to that suspicion with
which most frontier^ communities regard
polite concession and suavity of method,
Mr. Dumphy's brusque frankness was always
accepted as genuine. " You always know
what Pete Dumphy means,"' was the average
criticism. «* He ain't goin' to lie to please
any man." To a conceit that was so out-
spoken as to be courageous, to an ignorance
that was so fireely and shamelessly expressed
as to make hesitating and cautious wisdom
appear weak and unmanly beside it, Mr.
Dumphy added the rare quality of perfect
unconscientiousness unmixed with any adul-
terating virtue.



It was with such rare combative qualities
as these that Mr. Dumphy sat that morning
in his private ofBce and generally opposed
the fog without, or rather its influence upon
his patrons and society at large. The &ce
he offered to it was a strong one, although



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 64 of 163)