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"Who is he?" his voice was ragged and uneven. "Not Flick, I'll bet my
hat. He's been your dog too long for you to fling him anything but a
bone. You'll never tell me, though."

"Not I," she answered indifferently.

"Then I'll just satisfy myself - to-night."

She started and frowned. "You're not staying for that," harshly. "It's
not safe."

"Oh, yes, I am staying for that, just to satisfy a little curiosity I've
got, and I guess I'll find it safe enough. I guess you've been playing
with kids so far in your career, Miss Pearl Gallito; but you'll find
that the old man's not quite so easy disposed of as you think. I've got
an idea that you'll be down on your knees trying to make terms with him
before we're precisely 'quit' as you've just said."

"Bah!" she said. "Wind, wind. You can't frighten me with threats. Stay
and watch me dance all you please. That's the only way you'll ever see
me again - from the audience." Without any appearance of haste, she
lifted her scarf from the pine branch on which she had thrown it and
twisted it slowly about her head, then picking up her crimson cape from
the ground, she shook the pine needles from it, wrapped it about her,
and without another word to him, without even a look, took her way down
the trail.

She did not believe that he meant what he said, she did not believe that
he meant to stay and see her dance that evening. The thought that he
would do so had annoyed her at first, but as she walked downward through
the wine-like amber air, she realized that she did not particularly
care. Her whole being seemed absorbed in the revelation which had come
to her in the first moment of her meeting with Hanson - her love for
Seagreave. In this new, exclusive emotion, the recent interview and all
that had led up to it became to her a mere unpleasant episode, upon
which her indifferent imagination refused to dwell. She wanted to be
alone, that she might fully realize this stupendous change in her
feelings and in her entire outlook upon life. As she thought upon it she
saw that it was no sudden miracle, wrought in the twinkling of an eye,
but an alteration of standards and emotion so gradual that she had not
been aware of it.

Back in the cabin she luxuriated, exulted in the fact that she would be
alone all day. She piled high the fire with logs, and threw herself in
an easy chair. Thus she could dream undisturbed, could lie watching the
leaping flames and vision for herself again that fair, regular, serene
face, that tall, strong, slender figure. She counted the hours until she
should see him again, until she should dance for him, for it was for
him, him alone, that she would dance.

Thus she passed the greater part of the day, and even resented the
intrusion upon her thoughts when her father returned a little earlier
than usual from the mine.

"I got a telegram from Bob to-day," he said. "All that was in it was,
'Coming up to see Pearl dance to-night.'"

"What!" she cried, showing her dismay. "What is he doing that for?"

"What he says, I suppose," returned Gallito, "to see you dance."

She frowned vexedly, but said nothing.

Her father spoke again. "How are you going down? You will not walk with
Bob and Hugh, Mrs. Nitschkan and Mrs. Thomas?"

"No," she answered carelessly, although a deeper crimson showed in her
cheek. "Mr. Seagreave said last night that he would take me down in his

Gallito nodded, apparently satisfied, and as José came in then to
prepare supper, the matter was dropped.

As for Pearl, her vexation of the moment was gone; it could have no
place in her mood of exaltation, and when, a few minutes later, she
greeted Bob Flick, he thought that he had never seen her more gay. All
through supper, too, her mood of gayety continued, but immediately after
that meal she drew Flick aside.

"Bob, I want to tell you something," she said. "No use Hughie, nor Pop,
nor any of the rest of them knowing anything about it," she hesitated a
moment, "but Hanson came up to-day."

There was no change in his impassive face, only a leap of hard light in
his eyes, and yet she knew that he was on guard in a moment. "Hanson?"

"Yes, and I saw him for a few moments," she lifted candid eyes to his,
"and, honest, Bob, it's all over. I never expect to see him again, and I
never want to."

He looked at her, as if trying to read her soul. "Say, Pearl, what is
this," he asked, "straight?"

"It's what I'm telling you," she looked back at him, nodding
emphatically, and then her face broke into a smile, her sweetest, her
most alluring smile. "Say, Bob, I got to thank you for a good many
things, not to speak of these," she touched the emeralds under her gown;
"but the biggest thing you've ever done for me yet was to keep me from
running away with Hanson."

Her sincerity was undoubted, and a flush of pleasure rose on his cheek,
and a light came into his eyes which only she could bring there. He
pressed her hands warmly, looking embarrassed and yet delighted. "You
never said anything in all your life, Pearl, that ever pleased me like

She patted his arm lightly and caressingly, and smiled at him again,
under her lashes. She couldn't help that with any man. "You're awful
good to me, Bob; I guess you're the best and onliest friend I've got."

"I'm what you want me to be," he spoke a little sadly but very tenderly.
"It'll never make any difference to me what you do or what you don't do;
there'll never be any change in me."

She let her fingers lie in his clasp, but her glance was absent now, her
thoughts had flown again to Seagreave. "Goodness!" she exclaimed,
rousing suddenly and glancing at the clock, "I've got to make a hustle
for it."

She was ready half an hour later when Seagreave stopped at the door.
Hugh and Bob Flick had already gone, her father and José had settled
themselves for the evening over the cards, and Pearl stood before the
fire, a long, dark cloak covering her from head to foot and a black
mantilla over her head. José's eyes were full of longing.

"Oh, that I might go, too," he cried. "The Black Pearl may dance, dance,
after the spirit that is in her; may express her art, but I, although I
grow mad to express mine, must stay mewed up in these mountains with
nothing to do but cook and play cards and talk to a half saint and a
stale, old sinner. If Nitschkan and the petite Thomas had not come, I
should have died. Look at those!" he twinkled his long, delicate fingers
in the air, "there is not such another pair of hands on a combination
lock in all this world."

Seagreave and Gallito laughed, but paid no further heed to him, and
Harry turned to Pearl with a pretense of disappointment.

"I thought I should see a butterfly," he said, "a butterfly that had
flown up from the land of eternal summer, and you're only a chrysalis."

"It's too cold for butterflies up here," she laughed. "Wait until I get
down to the warm hall." But although she returned his banter, she did
not look at him, her eyes were downcast, and on the drive down the hill
she scarcely spoke. Seagreave was one of those rare persons who respect
another's mood of silence, and consequently he did not notice this new
constraint which had overfallen her.

The hall, lighted with bull's-eye lanterns, was crowded with people,
every one of the chairs taken and every inch of standing room occupied.
There was no platform, but the space upon which Pearl was to dance was
screened off by red curtains.

But even before she entered the little dressing booth prepared for her,
she hastened to peep through the curtains, scanning the audience with an
eager eye. Her face fell as she saw that Hanson, true to his promise,
was there, and on one of the front seats, not far from Seagreave and Bob
Flick, who were sitting together. His eyes were dull, his face flushed,
and he lurched flaccidly in his chair; he had been drinking heavily all

He was wondering dully as he sat there if she would enter in the same
indifferent manner that she had adopted the first night he had seen her
down in the desert. Probably she would; it had been very effective.

But the time for conjecture was over. The curtains were drawn aside, and
Hugh sat down at the piano and began to play a seductive, sensuous
accompaniment. Then through a crimson curtain at the rear Pearl flashed
in as if blown by the mountain wind. The chrysalis had cast aside its
shell and this tropical butterfly had emerged. Her skirts were of yellow
satin, and from a black bodice her beautiful bare shoulders rose half
revealed and half concealed by her rose-wreathed, white _manton de
Manila_. In her black, shining hair, just over one ear, was a bunch of
scarlet, artificial blossoms.

She floated about the floor for a moment or two like a thistle-down
blown hither and thither by the caprice of the wind, scarcely seeming to
touch the ground, upborne by the music-tide. Throughout her career she
was always at her best when she took those first few moments about the
stage and waited for her inspiration.

Then she drifted nearer to Hughie and murmured, "The Tango." He changed
his tempo immediately, and almost without a pause of transition she
began that provocative measure - the dance of desire. Thrilling with the
joy of expressing her love, her beautiful new love for Seagreave,
through her art, she danced with a verve, an abandon, a more spontaneous
impulse than she had ever shown before. The Tango! She made it a thing
of alluring advances, of stinging repulses, of sudden, fascinating
withdrawals and exquisite ardors.

When the applause had finally died down, the hall was still noisy with a
babel of voices; those who could, moved about in the crowded space, and
little groups formed and broke up. Bob Flick, speaking to this or that
acquaintance, felt some one touch him lightly on the arm, and turned
suddenly to see Hanson standing beside him.

"Hello, Flick," with a sort of swaggering bravado, "our old friend, the
Black Pearl, is going some to-night, ain't she?"

"I don't know you," drawled Flick, the liquid Southern intonations of
his voice softened until they were almost silky, "and," his hand shot
back to his hip with an almost unbelievable rapidity, "I'll give you
just three minutes to apologize for mentioning Miss Gallito's name, for
speaking to me, and for being here at all."

Hanson's face had turned a sickly white, more with anger than fear.
"Considering the argument you stand ready to offer," he said, "there's
nothing to do but to apologize my humblest on all three counts. I had
hoped that you'd remember me and be willing to introduce me to your
friend." He turned a cynical and evil glance upon Seagreave, who was
talking to some one a few feet away. "But since you won't, I'll go, just
adding that you and your friend, there, are likely to meet me soon

There was a touch of scorn in Flick's faint smile. "The three minutes
are up," he said, and without a word Hanson turned and sought his seat.

The curtains parted now and Hugh again sat down to the piano, but his
music had changed; it was no longer sensuous and provocative, but
strange, and curiously disturbing, with a peculiar, recurring,
monotonous beat.

It was the voice of the desert full of a savage exultation in its own
loneliness and forsaken isolation, and through it rang a cry of deep,
disdainful triumph, as if it said: "All puny races of men, come to me;
embroider my vast surfaces with the green of your fields and gardens,
build your houses upon my quiescent sand and dream that you have
conquered and tamed me. And I abide, I abide. Silent, brooding,
unwitting of your noisy incursions, I lie absorbed in my dream under my
own illimitable skies. But soon or late, when the moment comes, I wake,
I rouse, I see my inviolate desolations invaded. Then I gather my
strength, I drown you with my torrential rivers, I torture you with my
burning sun, I obliterate you with my flying sand. So shall my cactus
bloom once more, my jeweled lizards crawl unmolested and the cry of the
coyote echo again through the vast, soundless spaces of my desolation.
Then to my looms, to my looms and out of emptiness and silence and
space and light to weave all mysteries of color and all illusions of

"Lord!" cried Bob Flick to Seagreave, "he's playing the desert. I've
seen her look just like the music sounds. That's a sand storm; there's
no other sound in the world like it." He turned his eyes full of a
puzzled wonder on Seagreave. "How can he play all that so that you and I
can see it, when he can't see it himself?"

"But he does see it," insisted Seagreave; "never think that he doesn't,
and sees it through finer avenues of sight than mere material organs of
vision. He sees the mountains, too. Why, he can play the very shadows on
the snow for me."

During the Spanish dances Seagreave had not shared the excitement of the
audience, and thus had maintained his usual serenity. He had been
intensely interested and appreciative and admiring; but emotionally
unmoved; but now, as this troubling music of Hughie's seemed to express
the dominion of unsuspected but potent earth-forces, primitive, savage
and forever irreclaimable, his calm became strangely disturbed. Dimly he
realized that should every desert on the globe finally be subdued by the
plow, the irrigating ditches and the pruning hook, they would still
remain as realities in the mind of man, forever clouding his aspirations
toward the mountain peaks and the stars. For the desert must ever remain
an unsolved enigma, never to be reduced to a formula, never to be
explained by any human standards; now whispering to man of the
mysteries of the soul and revealing to him more of the infinite than his
finite senses may grasp; and now mocking him with illusions, her
beautiful mirages wrought of airbeams and sunlight, and transforming him
into a beast of greed with her haunting intimations of hidden and
inexhaustible treasure.

Thus Hughie's music; and presently Pearl floated out. She had changed
her Spanish costume for the one of scarlet crêpe in which Hanson had
first seen her, a crown of scarlet flowers on her dark hair. Her very
expression, too, had changed, her eyes were elongated, her features
seemed delicately Egyptian; the brooding sphynx look was on her face.

"She's great, ain't she?" asked Bob Flick.

Seagreave nodded. He had never seen her superior in technique. It took
character, he appreciated that, to have endured the years of tiresome,
mechanical practice, and to have undertaken it so intelligently that she
had achieved her marvelous results; and she had, beside, youth and
beauty and magnetism. All this alone would have made her a great dancer,
but as he recognized, she had more, much more to bring to her art; a
complex nature which, in its unsounded depths ever held a vision of
beauty, and a sense of this vision which amounted to unity with it, and
therefore gave her the power of expressing it. Her mind, too, was
plastic to all primitive impulses and to Nature; she blended with it.
She was but little influenced by persons, her will was too dominating,
her intelligence too quick, and - but here his analysis ceased.

The Pearl was dancing to Hugh's strange music, she was dancing the
desert for him - Seagreave. He knew it was for him, although she never
glanced in his direction. And as she danced, he grew to realize that
this feat was not an intellectual one. She was not portraying the spirit
of the desert as gleaned from study and observation and melted in the
crucible of her poetic imagination and molded by her fancy until it was
a thing of form in her thought. The Black Pearl danced the desert
because in her was the power to be one with it and live in its life
through every cell of her being. It was a matter of feeling with her,
one phase of her affinity with the forces of earth; but because she had
the artist's constructive imagination, she could put it into form and
dance it, and by projecting her own feeling into it, convey it to

The world with its round of outworn, hackneyed appeals, its wearisome
repetitions of crude and commonplace joys, its tawdry and limited
temptations, had long ago fallen away from Seagreave - and left him
nothing, but to-night a voice that he had long ignored, the voice of
life, commanded him.

"If the desert seems forever to claim her own, what is that to you! Your
work is to reclaim and in the face of a thousand defeats and desolations
still to reclaim, with the eternal faith that for you the wastes shall
blossom like the rose. Work, no matter how brokenly, how futilely. To
build houses of sand is better than to sit in profitless dreams and live
in an animal content."

When later he drove Pearl up the mountainside, almost in silence, as
they had come, after his few words of admiration and appreciation of her
dancing, there was a shadow for the first time in Harry's clear eyes, a
shadow which did not pass.


Had Gallito but known it, his theory of the unexpected was never more
perfectly demonstrated than it was upon the night Pearl danced and in
the days which followed. Hanson had left early the next morning with the
firm determination of returning almost immediately accompanied by one or
more detectives and of securing that much coveted prize, José. Also, he
gloated over the prospect of seeing Gallito, Bob Flick and Seagreave
arrested for conniving at José's escape and for harboring him during all
these months.

But the unexpected did occur. As Seagreave had predicted, the snow began
to fall, and began the very night that Pearl danced in the town hall;
and fell so steadily and uninterruptedly that the progress of the train
which bore Hanson down the mountains was considerably impeded. Thus, the
very forces of the air conspired for José, and ably were they seconded
by other invisible and unknown agencies. Even before Hanson had reached
the coast he found himself powerless "in the fell clutch of
circumstance." He had taken cold in the mountains and for several weeks
was too seriously ill even to contemplate with much interest his plan of
revenge. And by the time that he had recovered sufficiently to give
consideration to the matter again, a very little investigation
convinced him of the necessity for patience. So thoroughly had the
season and the elements conspired, that Colina was effectually cut off
from the outer world, a camp beleaguered by snow, and José, for several
months at least, would be the prisoner of the mountains and not of man.

But Colina was used to this experience. It was one which she had
regularly undergone every winter of her existence. Therefore, her
inhabitants prepared for it and bore it with what equanimity they could
summon. It was but a small camp so far up in the mountains that the
mines were practically only worked during the late spring, the summer
and the early autumn months, for the water which ran the concentrating
and stamp mills was frozen early in the winter and the mines were
practically closed down. One or two, like the Mont d'Or, were kept open,
and worked a few hours a day, but no milling was done and the ore dumps
increased to vast size.

The railroad, a steep and tortuous way, was not, _per se_ a passenger
line, but existed to carry the ore down to the smelters, therefore, when
there was no ore to carry, it was a matter of indifference to the mine
owners who controlled the line whether trains ran or not; in fact, they
preferred not from a strictly business standpoint, and truly they had an
excellent excuse in the heavy drifts which completely obliterated the
narrow, shining, steel path which led to the world beyond the mountains.

The police officials whom Hanson consulted as soon as his returning
health permitted him to do so, realized that in spite of their anxiety
to secure the famous and slippery Crop-eared José, he was quite as
safely imprisoned by the mountains as if they themselves had secured
him. There was no possible escape for him. All trails were blocked long
before the railroad was, so there he was, caught as securely as a bird
in a cage, and they, his potential captors, might sit down to a
comfortable period of pleasant anticipation and await that thaw which
was bound to come sooner or later. So much for Gallito's unexpected.

As for those who would have been interested had they but known - the
little group held in compulsory inaction by those white, encircling
hills - they accepted it as a part of the year's toll, no more to be
murmured at than the changing seasons, and as inevitable as were they.
But it was an experience which Pearl had never known, and Seagreave
looked to see it wear upon her spirit, and daily experienced a new
surprise that there was no evidence of its doing so. Instead, she seemed
to glow hourly with a richer and fuller life, a softer beauty. But
although an intimacy greater than he and she had yet known, would seem
to be enforced by this winter of isolation and leisure, she did not, for
a time, see as much of him as before. A constraint, almost like a blight
upon their friendship, seemed to have fallen between them ever since the
night that she had danced. Seagreave did not come down to Gallito's
cabin quite so frequently in the evenings, and, according to José, spent
much time by his own fireside absorbed in reading and meditation; and
when he did come it was usually late and, instead of talking to Pearl,
he would listen in silence to Hugh's playing or else engage him in

But this attitude on his part failed to cloud Pearl's spirits. She had
seen men taken with this not inexplicable shyness before, and she made
no effort to rouse Harry from his abstraction or to lure him from his
meditations; femininely, intuitively wise, she left that to time.

But even in her moods of gayety the Black Pearl was never voluble, and
her habit of silence was a factor in maintaining the mystery with which
Seagreave's imagination was now beginning to invest her, and during
those winter evenings when she would often sit absolutely motionless for
an hour at a time, her narrow eyes dreaming on the fire, the sphynx look
on her face, more than once he felt impelled to murmur:

"'The Sphinx is drowsy,
Her wings are furled:
Her ear is heavy,
She broods on the world.
Who'll tell me my secret,
The ages have kept? -
I awaited the seer,
While they slumbered and slept.'"

Thus, more and more, he saw her as the image of beauty and of mystery,
and ever more frequently he pondered on the nature of the message of the
desert. But had he come down to Gallito's cabin earlier in the evening
he would not have found her brooding on the firelight. Usually, she
danced, keeping well in practice. She and Hughie would discuss by the
hour new movements and effects, and not only discuss, but try them, and
she and José, who had a light foot, often gave Gallito the benefit of
seeing them in many of the old Spanish dances.

But one evening when Seagreave came down, Pearl was not resting after
her exertions, but ran forward to greet him with unwonted vivacity, and
drew him toward a window in a dim corner of the room, out of earshot of
her father and José.

"Oh!" she cried. "Look, look at what they have sent me from the camp for
dancing for them. I had no idea it would be so much." She took a roll of
bills from her bosom and showed it to him. Her cheek was flushed, her
eyes were like stars. "Why, even here, even up here," she cried, "I can
make money."

"You look as if you enjoyed making money," he smiled.

She looked up at him as if surprised, and then laughed. "Of course, of
course I do. Who doesn't?" Her touch on the bills was a caress. She
seemed to find a joy in the very texture of them. He never dreamed for a
moment that she took a delight in those rather crumpled and dirty bills.
He merely took it for granted that she exulted in the visible expression
of appreciation of her art.

"And what will you do with it?" he asked.

"I will send it to my bank when I can get any letters through, and then
when this snowball is big enough I will invest it."

"In mines?" still idly interested and smiling.

She shook her head. "I leave that to my father, he is a good judge and
he is lucky at it, and my mother is always buying patches of land and
trading them off, usually to good advantage. But my specialty is unset
stones. I have some very good ones, really, I have. Oh," with a little
glance over her shoulder toward her father and José, "I will show them
to you some day when José is not around. If he knew I had them he would

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Online LibraryNancy Mann Waddel WoodrowThe Black Pearl → online text (page 12 of 20)