THE SPINNERS' BOOK OF FICTION
GERTRUDE ATHERTON, MARY AUSTIN GERALDINE BONNER, MARY HALLECK FOOTE ELEANOR GATES, JAMES HOPPER, JACK LONDON BAILEY MILLARD, MIRIAM MICHELSON, W. C. MORROW FRANK NORRIS, HENRY MILNER RIDEOUT CHARLES WARREN STODDARD, ISOBEL STRONG RICHARD WALTON TULLY AND HERMAN WHITAKER
WITH A DEDICATORY POEM BY GEORGE STERLING
COLLECTED BY THE BOOK COMMITTEE OF THE SPINNERS' CLUB
ILLUSTRATED BY LILLIE V. O'RYAN, MAYNARD DIXON ALBERTINE RANDALL WHEELAN, MERLE JOHNSON E. ALMOND WITHROW AND GORDON ROSS INITIALS AND DECORATIONS BY SPENCER WRIGHT
PAUL ELDER AND COMPANY SAN FRANCISCO AND NEW YORK
Published in behalf of The Spinners' Benefit Fund Ina D. Coolbrith First Beneficiary Copyright, 1907 by PAUL ELDER AND COMPANY
* * * * *
TO INA D. COOLBRITH
WITH WILDER SIGHING IN THE PINE THE WIND WENT BY, AND SO I DREAMED; AND IN THAT DUSK OF SLEEP IT SEEMED A CITY BY THE SEA WAS MINE.
TO STATELIER SPRANG THE WALLS OF TYRE FROM SEAWARD CLIFF OR STABLE HILL; AND LIGHT AND MUSIC MET TO FILL THE SPLENDID COURTS OF HER DESIRE—
(EXTOLLING CHORDS THAT CRIED HER PRAISE, AND GOLDEN REEDS WHOSE MELLOW MOAN WAS LIKE AN OCEAN'S UNDERTONE DYING AND LOST ON FOREST WAYS).
BUT SWEETER FAR THAN ANY SOUND THAT RANG OR RIPPLED IN HER HALLS, WAS ONE BEYOND HER EASTERN WALLS, BY SUMMER GARDENS GIRDLED ROUND.
TWAS FROM A NIGHTINGALE, AND OH! THE SONG IT SANG HATH NEVER WORD! SWEETER IT SEEMED THAN LOVE'S, FIRST-HEARD, OR LUTES IN AIDENN MURMURING LOW.
FAINT, AS WHEN DROWSY WINDS AWAKE A SISTERHOOD OF FAERY BELLS, IT WON REPLY FROM HIDDEN DELLS, LOYAL TO ECHO FOR ITS SAKE....
I DREAMT I SLEPT, BUT CANNOT SAY HOW MANY DREAMLAND SEASONS FLED, NOR WHAT HORIZON OF THE DEAD GAVE BACK MY DREAM'S UNCERTAIN DAY.
BUT STILL BESIDE THE TOILING SEA I LAY, AND SAW—FOR WALLS O'ERGROWN— THE CITY THAT WAS MINE HAD KNOWN TIME'S SURE AND ANCIENT TREACHERY.
ABOVE HER RAMPARTS, BROAD AS TYRE'S, THE GRASSES' MOUNTING ARMY BROKE; THE SHADOW OF THE SPRAWLING OAK USURPT THE SPLENDOR OF HER FIRES.
BUT O'ER THE FALLEN MARBLES PALE I HEARD, LIKE ELFIN MELODIES BLOWN OVER FROM ENCHANTED SEAS, THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHTINGALE.
CONCHA ARGUeELLO, SISTER DOMINICA by Gertrude Atherton
THE FORD OF CREVECOEUR by Mary Austin
A CALIFORNIAN by Geraldine Bonner
GIDEON'S KNOCK by Mary Halleck Foote
A YELLOW MAN AND A WHITE by Eleanor Gates
THE JUDGMENT OF MAN by James Hopper
THE LEAGUE OF THE OLD MEN by Jack London
DOWN THE FLUME WITH THE SNEATH PIANO by Bailey Millard
THE CONTUMACY OF SARAH L. WALKER by Miriam Michelson
BREAKING THROUGH by W. C. Morrow
A LOST STORY by Frank Norris
HANTU by Henry Milner Rideout
MISS. JUNO by Charles Warren Stoddard
A LITTLE SAVAGE GENTLEMAN by Isobel Strong
LOVE AND ADVERTISING by Richard Walton Tully
THE TEWANA by Herman Whitaker
"The devil sit in Filon's eyes and laugh—laugh—some time he go away like a man at a window, but he come again. M'siu, he live there!" from a painting by E. Almond Withrow
"She was always very sweet, our Concha, but there never was a time when you could take a liberty with her." from a painting by Lillie V. O'Ryan
"The petal of a plum blossom." from a painting by Albertine Randall Wheelan
"Not twenty feet from me Miller sat upright in his canoe as if petrified." Opp. Page from a painting by Merle Johnson
"All their ways lead to death." from a painting by Maynard Dixon
"Dawn was flooding the east, and still the boy lurched and floundered on and on." from a painting by Gordon Ross
Wherefore this book of fiction by Californian writers? And why its appeal otherwise than that of obvious esthetic and literary qualities? They who read what follows will know.
The fund, which the sale of this book is purposed to aid, was planned by The Spinners soon after the eighteenth of April, 1906, and was started with two hundred dollars from their treasury. To this, Mrs. Gertrude Atherton added another two hundred dollars. Several women's clubs and private individuals also generously responded, so that now there is a thousand dollars to the credit of the fund. A bond has been bought and the interest from it will be paid to Ina D. Coolbrith, the poet, and first chosen beneficiary of the fund. The Spinners feel assured that this book will meet with such a ready sale as to make possible the purchase of several bonds, and so render the accruing interest a steady source of aid to Miss. Coolbrith.
All who have read and fallen under the charm of her "Songs from the Golden Gate," or felt the beauty and tenderness of the verses "When the Grass Shall Cover Me," will, without question, unite in making "assurance doubly sure" to such end.
From the days of the old Overland Monthly, when she worked side by side with Bret Harte and Charles Warren Stoddard, to the present moment, Miss. Coolbrith's name has formed a part of the literary history of San Francisco.
The eighteenth of April, 1906, and the night which followed it, left her bereft of all literary, and other, treasures; but her poem bearing the refrain, "Lost city of my love and my desire," rings with the old genius, and expresses the feeling of many made desolate by the destruction of the city which held their most cherished memories.
When Miss. Coolbrith shall no longer need to be a beneficiary of the fund, it is intended that it shall serve to aid some other writer, artist or musician whose fortunes are at the ebb.
To the writers, artists and publishers who have so heartily and generously made this book possible, The Spinners return unmeasured thanks.
San Francisco, June 22, 1907.
CONCHA ARGUeELLO, SISTER DOMINICA
DEDICATED TO CAROLINA XIMENO
Written for THE SPINNERS' BOOK OF FICTION All Rights Reserved
SISTER TERESA had wept bitterly for two days. The vanity for which she did penance whenever her madonna loveliness, consummated by the white robe and veil of her novitiate, tempted her to one of the little mirrors in the pupil's dormitory, was powerless to check the blighting flow. There had been moments when she had argued that her vanity had its rights, for had it not played its part in weaning her from the world?—that wicked world of San Francisco, whose very breath, accompanying her family on their monthly visits to Benicia, made her cross herself and pray that all good girls whom fate had stranded there should find the peace and shelter of Saint Catherine of Siena. It was true that before Sister Dominica toiled up Rincon Hill on that wonderful day—here her sobs became so violent that Sister Maria Sal, praying beside her with a face as swollen as her own, gave her a sharp poke in the ribs, and she pressed her hands to her mouth lest she be marched away. But her thoughts flowed on; she could pray no more. Sister Dominica, with her romantic history and holy life, her halo of fame in the young country, and her unconquerable beauty—she had never seen such eyelashes, never, never!—what was she thinking of at such a time? She had never believed that such divine radiance could emanate from any mortal; never had dreamed that beauty and grace could be so enhanced by a white robe and a black veil——Oh, well! Her mind was in a rebellious mood; it had been in leash too long. And what of it for once in a way? No ball dress she had ever seen in the gay disreputable little city—where the good citizens hung the bad for want of law—was half as becoming as the habit of the Dominican nun, and if it played a part in weaning frivolous girls from the world, so much more to the credit of Rome. God knew she had never regretted her flight up the bays, and even had it not been for the perfidy of—she had forgotten his name; that at least was dead!—she would have realized her vocation the moment Sister Dominica sounded the call. When the famous nun, with that passionate humility all her own, had implored her to renounce the world, protested that her vocation was written in her face—she really looked like a juvenile mater dolorosa, particularly when she rolled up her eyes—eloquently demanded what alternative that hideous embryo of a city could give her—that rude and noisy city that looked as if it had been tossed together in a night after one of its periodical fires, where the ill-made sidewalks tripped the unwary foot, or the winter mud was like a swamp, where the alarm bell summoned the Vigilance Committee day and night to protect or avenge, where a coarse and impertinent set of adventurers stared at and followed an inoffensive nun who only left the holy calm of the convent at the command of the Bishop to rescue brands from the burning; then had Teresa, sick with the tragedy of youth, an enchanting vision of secluded paths, where nuns—in white—walked with downcast eyes and folded hands; of the daily ecstasy of prayer in the convent chapel misty with incense.
And in some inscrutable way Sister Dominica during that long conversation, while Mrs. Grace and her other daughters dispensed egg-nog in the parlor—it was New Year's Day—had made the young girl a part of her very self, until Teresa indulged the fancy that without and within she was a replica of that Concha Argueello of California's springtime; won her heart so completely that she would have followed her not only into the comfortable and incomparably situated convent of the saint of Siena, but barefooted into that wilderness of Soledad where the Indians still prayed for their lost "Beata." It was just eight months tonight since she had taken her first vows, and she had been honestly aware that there was no very clear line of demarcation in her fervent young mind between her love of Sister Dominica and her love of God. Tonight, almost prostrate before the coffin of the dead nun, she knew that so far at least all the real passion of her youth had flowed in an undeflected tide about the feet of that remote and exquisite being whose personal charm alone had made a convent possible in the chaos that followed the discovery of gold. All the novices, many of the older nuns, the pupils invariably, worshipped Sister Dominica; whose saintliness without austerity never chilled them, but whose tragic story and the impression she made of already dwelling in a heaven of her own, notwithstanding her sweet and consistent humanity, placed her on a pinnacle where any display of affection would have been unseemly. Only once, after the beautiful ceremony of taking the white veil was over, and Teresa's senses were faint from incense and hunger, ecstasy and a new and exquisite terror, Sister Dominica had led her to her cell and kissing her lightly on the brow, exclaimed that she had never been happier in a conquest for the Church against the vileness of the world. Then she had dropped the conventional speech of her calling, and said with an expression that made her look so young, so curiously virginal, that the novice had held her breath: "Remember that here there is nothing to interrupt the life of the imagination, nothing to change its course, like the thousand conflicting currents that batter memory and character to pieces in the world. In this monotonous round of duty and prayer the mind is free, the heart remains ever young, the soul unspotted; so that when——" She had paused, hesitated a moment, then abruptly left the room, and Teresa had wept a torrent in her disappointment that this first of California's heroines—whose place in history and romance was assured—had not broken her reserve and told her all that story of many versions. She had begged Sister Maria Sal—the sister of Luis Argueello's first wife—to tell it her, but the old nun had reproved her sharply for sinful curiosity and upon one occasion boxed her ears. But tonight she might be in a softer mood, and Teresa resolved that when the last rites were over she would make her talk of Concha Argueello.
A few moments later she was lifted to her feet by a shaking but still powerful arm.
"Come!" whispered Sister Maria. "It is time to prepare. The others have gone. It is singular that the oldest and the youngest should have loved her best. Ay! Dios de mi alma! I never thought that Concha Argueello would die. Grow old she never did, in spite of the faded husk. We will look at her once more."
The dead nun in her coffin lay in the little parlor where she had turned so many wavering souls from fleeting to eternal joys. Her features, wasted during years of delicate health, seemed to regain something of their youth in the soft light of the candles. Or was it the long black eyelashes that hid the hollows beneath the eyes?—or the faint mysterious almost mocking smile? Had the spirit in its eternal youth paused in its flight to stamp a last sharp impress upon the prostrate clay? Never had she looked so virginal, and that had been one of the most arresting qualities of her always remarkable appearance; but there was something more—Teresa held her breath. Somehow, dead and in her coffin, she looked less saintly than in life; although as pure and sweet, there was less of heavenly peace on those marble features than of some impassioned human hope. Teresa excitedly whispered her unruly thoughts to Sister Maria, but instead of the expected reproof the old nun lifted her shoulders.
"Perhaps," she said. "Who knows?"
* * * * *
It was Christmas eve and all the inmates of the convent paused in their sorrow to rejoice in the happy portent of the death and burial of one whom they loyally believed to be no less entitled to beatification than Catherine herself. Her miracles may not have been of the irreducible protoplastic order, but they had been miracles to the practical Californian mind, notwithstanding, and worthy of the attention of consistory and Pope. Moreover, this was the season when all the vivacity and gaiety of her youth had revived, and she made merry, not only for the children left at the convent by their nomadic parents, but for all the children of the town, whatever the faith of their somewhat anxious elders.
An hour after sundown they carried the bier on which her coffin rested into the chapel. It was a solemn procession that none, taking part, was likely to forget, and stirred the young hearts at least with an ecstatic desire for a life as saintly as this that hardly had needed the crown of death.
Following the bier was the cross-bearer, holding the emblem so high it was half lost in the shadows. Behind her were the young scholars dressed in black, then the novices in their white robes and veils, carrying lighted tapers to symbolize the eternal radiance that awaited the pure in spirit. The nuns finished the procession that wound its way slowly through the long ill-lighted corridors, chanting the litany of the dead. From the chapel, at first almost inaudible, but waxing louder every moment, came the same solemn monotonous chant; for the Bishop and his assistants were already at the altar....
Teresa, from the organ loft, looked eagerly down upon the beautiful scene, in spite of the exaltation that filled her: her artistic sense was the one individuality she possessed. The chapel was aglow with the soft radiance of many wax candles. They stood in high candelabra against the somber drapery on the walls, and there were at least a hundred about the coffin on its high catafalque before the altar; the Argueellos were as prodigal as of old. About the catafalque was an immense mound of roses from the garden of the convent, and palms and pampas from the ranch of Santiago Argueello in the south. The black-robed scholars knelt on one side of the dead, the novices on the other, the relatives and friends behind. But art had perfected itself in the gallery above the lower end of the chapel. This also was draped with black which seemed to absorb, then shed forth again the mystic brilliance of the candles; and kneeling, well apart, were the nuns in their ivory white robes and black veils, their banded softened features as composed and peaceful as if their own reward had come.
The Bishop and the priests read the Requiem Mass, the little organ pealed the De Profundis as if inspired; and when the imperious triumphant music of Handel followed, Teresa's fresh young soprano seemed, to her excited imagination, to soar to the gates of heaven itself. When she looked down again the lights were dim in the incense, her senses swam in the pungent odor of spices and gum. The Bishop was walking about the catafalque casting holy water with a brush against the coffin above. He walked about a second time swinging the heavy copper censer, then pronounced the Requiescat in pace, "dismissing," as we find inscribed in the convent records, "a tired soul out of all the storms of life into the divine tranquillity of death."
The bier was again shouldered, the procession reformed, and marched, still with lighted tapers and chanting softly, out into the cemetery of the convent. It was a magnificent, clear night and as mild as spring. Below the steep hill the little town of Benicia celebrated the eve of Christmas with lights and noise. Beyond, the water sparkled like running silver under the wide beams of the moon poised just above the peak of Monte Diablo, the old volcano that towered high above this romantic and beautiful country of water and tule lands, steep hillsides and canons, rocky bluffs overhanging the straits. In spite of the faint discords that rose from the town and the slow tolling of the convent bell, it was a scene of lofty and primeval grandeur, a fit setting for the last earthly scene of a woman whose lines had been cast in the wilderness, but yet had found the calm and the strength and the peace of the old mountain, with its dead and buried fires.
The grave closed, the mourners returned to the convent, but not in order. At the door Teresa felt her arm taken possession of by a strong hand with which she had had more than one disconcerting encounter.
"Let us walk," said Sister Maria Sal in her harsh but strong old voice. "I have permission. I must talk of Concha tonight or I should burst. It is not for nothing one keeps silent for years and years. I at least am still human. And you loved her the best and have spoiled your pretty face with weeping. You must not do that again, for the young love a pretty nun and will follow her into the one true life on earth far sooner than an ugly old phiz like mine."
Sister Maria, indeed, retained not an index of the beauty with which tradition accredited her youth. She was a stout unwieldy old woman with a very red face covered half over with black down, and in the bright moonlight Teresa could see the three long hairs that stood out straight from a mole above her mouth and scratched the girls when she kissed them. Tonight her nose was swollen and her eyes looked like appleseeds. Teresa hastily composed her features and registered a vow that in her old age she would look like Sister Dominica, not like that. She had heard that Concha, too, had been frivolous in her youth, and had not she herself a tragic bit of a story? True, her youthful love-tides had turned betimes from the grave beside the Mission Dolores to the lovely nun and the God of both, and she had heard that Dona Concha had proved her fidelity to a wonderful Russian throughout many years before she took the veil. Perhaps—who knew?—her more conformable pupil might have restored the worthless to her heart before he was knifed in the full light of day on Montgomery Street by one from whom he had won more than thousands the night before; perhaps have consoled herself with another less eccentric, had not Sister Dominica sought her at the right moment and removed her from the temptations of the world. Well, never mind, she could at least be a good nun and an amiable instructor of youth, and if she never looked like a living saint she would grow soberer and nobler with the years and take care that she grew not stout and red.
For a time Sister Maria did not speak, but walked rapidly and heavily up and down the path, dragging her companion with her and staring out at the beauty of the night. But suddenly she slackened her pace and burst into speech.
"Ay yi! Ay de mi! To think that it is nearly half a century—forty-two years to be precise—for will it not be 1858 in one more week?—since Rezanov sailed out through what Fremont has called 'The Golden Gate'! And forty-one in March since he died—not from the fall of a horse, as Sir George Simpson (who had not much regard for the truth anyway, for he gave a false picture of our Concha), and even Doctor Langsdorff, who should have known better, wrote it, but worn out, worn out, after terrible hardships, and a fever that devoured him inch by inch. And he was so handsome when he left us! Dios de mi alma! never have I seen a man like that. If I had I should not be here now, perhaps, so it is as well. But never was I even engaged, and when permission came from Madrid for the marriage of my sister Rafaella with Luis Argueello—he was an officer and could not marry without a special license from the King, and through some strange oversight he was six long years getting it—; well, I lived with them and took care of the children until Rafaella—Ay yi! what a good wife she made him, for he 'toed the mark,' as the Americans say—; well, she died, and one of those days he married another; for will not men be men? And Luis was a good man in spite of all, a fine loyal clever man, who deserves the finest monument in the cemetery of the Mission Dolores—as they call it now. The Americans have no respect for anything and will not say San Francisco de Assisi, for it is too long and they have time for nothing but the gold. Were it not a sin, how I should hate them, for they have stolen our country from us—but no, I will not; and, to be sure, if Rezanov had lived he would have had it first, so what difference? Luis, at least, was spared. He died in 1830—and was the first Governor of Alta California after Mexico threw off the yoke of Spain. He had power in full measure and went before these upstart conquerors came to humble the rest of us into the dust. Peace to his ashes—but perhaps you care nothing for this dear brother of my youth, never heard of him before—such a giddy thing you were; although at the last earthquake the point of his monument flew straight into the side of the church and struck there, so you may have heard the talk before they put it back in its place. It is of Sister Dominica you think, but I think not only of her but of those old days—Ay, Dios de mi! Who remembers that time but a few old women like myself?
"Concha's father, Don Jose Dario Argueello, was Commandante of the Presidio of San Francisco then; and there was nothing else to call San Francisco but the Mission. Down at Yerba Buena, where the Americans flaunt themselves, there was but a Battery that could not give even a dance. But we had dances at the Presidio; day and night the guitar tinkled and the fiddles scraped; for what did we know of care, or old age, or convents or death? I was many years younger than Rafaella and did not go to the grand balls, but to the little dances, yes, many and many. When the Russians came—it was in 1806—I saw them every day, and one night danced with Rezanov himself. He was so gay—ay de mi! I remember he swung me quite off my feet and made as if he would throw me in the air. I was angry that he should treat me like a baby, and then he begged me so humbly to forgive him, although his eyes laughed, that of course I did. He had come down from Sitka to try and arrange for a treaty with the Spanish government that the poor men in the employ of the Russian-American Company might have breadstuffs to eat and not die of scurvy, nor toil through the long winter with no flesh on their bones. He brought a cargo with him to exchange for our corn and flour meanwhile. We had never seen any one so handsome and so grand and he turned all our heads, but he had a hard time with the Governor and Don Jose—there are no such Californians now or the Americans would never have got us—and it took all his diplomacy and all the help Concha and the priests could give him before he got his way, for there was a law against trading with foreigners. It was only when he and Concha became engaged that Governor Arillaga gave in—how I pick up vulgar expressions from these American pupils, I who should reform them! And did I not stand Ellen O'Reilley in the corner yesterday for calling San Francisco 'Frisco'?—San Francisco de Assisi! But all the saints have fled from California.
"Where was I? Forgive an old woman's rambling, but I have not told stories since Rafaella's children grew up, and that was many years ago. What do I talk here? You know. And I that used to love to talk. Ay yi! But no one can say that I am not a good nun. Bishop Alemany has said it and no one knows better than he, the holy man. But for him I might be sitting all day on a corridor in the south sunning myself like an old crocodile, for we had no convent till he came eight years ago; and perhaps but for Concha, whom I always imitated, I might have a dozen brats of my own, for I was pretty and had my wooers and might have been persuaded. And God knows, since I must have the care of children, I prefer they should be mothered by some one else for then I have always the hope to be rid of them the sooner. Well, well! I am not a saint yet, and when I go to heaven I suppose Concha will still shake her finger at me with a smile. Not that she was ever self-righteous, our Concha. Not a bit of it. Only after that long and terrible waiting she just naturally became a saint. Some are made that way and some are not. That is all.
"Did I tell you about the two young lieutenants that came with Baron Rezanov? Davidov and Khostov their names were. Well, well, I shall tell all tonight. I was but fourteen, but what will you? Was I not, then, Spanish? It was Davidov. He always left the older people to romp with the children, although I think there was a flame in his heart for Concha. Perhaps had I been older—who knows? Do not look at my whiskers! That was forty-two years ago. Well, I dreamed of the fair kind young Russian for many a night after he left, and when my time came to marry I would look at none of the caballeros, but nursed Rafaella's babies and thought my thoughts. And then—in 1815 I think it was—the good—and ugly—Dr. Langsdorff sent Luis a copy of his book—he had been surgeon to his excellency—and alas! it told of the terrible end of both those gay kind young men. They were always too fond of brandy; we knew that, but we never—well, hear me! One night not so many years after they sailed away from California, they met Dr. Langsdorff and another friend of their American days, Captain D'Wolf, by appointment in St. Petersburg for a grand reunion. They were all so happy! Perhaps it was that made them too much 'celebrate,' as the Americans say in their dialect. Well, alas! they celebrated until four in the morning, and then my two dear young Russians—for I loved Khostov as a sister, so devoted he was to my friend—well, they started—on foot—for home, and that was on the other side of the Neva. They had almost crossed the bridge when they suddenly took it into their heads that they wanted to see their friends again, and started back. Alas, in the middle of the bridge was a section that opened to permit the passage of boats with tall masts. The night was dark and stormy. The bridge was open. They did not see it. The river was roaring and racing like a flood. A sailor saw them fall, and then strike back for the coming boat. Then he saw them no more. That was the last of my poor friends.
"And we had all been so gay, so gay! For how could we know? All the Russians said that never had they seen a people so light-hearted and frolicking as the Californians, so hospitable, so like one great family. And we were, we were. But you know of that time. Was not your mother Conchitita Castro, if she did marry an American and has not taught you ten words of Spanish? It is of Concha you would hear, and I ramble. Well, who knows? perhaps I hesitate. Rezanov was of the Greek Church. No priest in California would have married them even had Don Jose—el santo we called him—given his consent. It was for that reason Rezanov went to obtain a dispensation from His Holiness and a license from the King of Spain. Concha knew that he could not return for two years or nearly that, nor even send her a letter; for why should ships come down from Sitka until the treaty was signed? Only Rezanov could get what he wanted, law or no law. And then too our Governor had forbidden the British and Bostonians—so we called the Americans in those days—to enter our ports. This Concha knew, and when one knows one can think in storeys, as it were, and put the last at the top. It is not so bad as the hope that makes the heart thump every morning and the eyes turn into fountains at night. Dios! To think that I should ever have shed a tear over a man. Chinchosas, all of them. However—I think Concha, who was never quite as others, knew deep down in her heart that he would not come back, that it was all too good to be true. Never was a man seen as handsome as that one, and so clever—a touch of the devil in his cleverness, but that may have been because he was a Russian. I know not. And to be a great lady in St. Petersburg, and later—who can tell?—vice-Tsarina of all this part of the world! No, it could not be. It was a fairy tale. I only wonder that the bare possibility came into the life of any woman,—and that a maiden of New Spain, in an unknown corner, that might as well have been on Venus or Mars.
"But Concha had character. She was not one to go into a decline—although I am woman enough to know that her pillow was wet many nights; and besides she lost the freshness of her beauty. She was often as gay as ever, but she cared less and less for the dance, and found more to do at home. Don Jose was made Commandante of the Santa Barbara Company that same year, and it was well for her to be in a place where there were no memories of Rezanov. But late in the following year as the time approached for his return, or news of him, she could not contain her impatience. We all saw it—I was visiting the Pachecos in the Presidio of Santa Barbara. She grew so thin. Her eyes were never still. We knew. And then!—how many times she climbed to the fortress—it was on that high bluff beside the channel—and stared out to sea—when 1808 and the Spring had come—for hours together: Rezanov was to return by way of Mexico. Then, when I went back to San Francisco soon after, she went with me, and again she would watch the sea from the summit of Lone Mountain, as we call it now. In spite of her reason she hoped, I suppose; for that is the way of women. Or perhaps she only longed for the word from Sitka that would tell her the worst and have done with it. Who knows? She never said, and we dared not speak of it. She was always very sweet, our Concha, but there never was a time when you could take a liberty with her.
"No ship came, but something else did—an earthquake! Ay yi, what an earthquake that was! Not a temblor but a terremoto. The whole Presidio came down. I do not know now how we saved all the babies, but we always flew to the open with a baby under each arm the moment an earthquake began, and in the first seconds even this was not so bad. The wall about the Presidio was fourteen feet high and seven feet thick and there were solid trunks of trees crossed inside the adobe. It looked like a heap of dirt, nothing more. Luis was riding up from the Battery of Yerba Buena and his horse was flung down and he saw the sand-dunes heaving toward him like waves in a storm and shiver like quicksilver. And there was a roar as if the earth had dropped and the sea gone after. Ay California! And to think that when Luis wrote a bitter letter to Governor Arillaga in Monterey, the old Mexican wrote back that he had felt earthquakes himself and sent him a box of dates for consolation! Well—we slept on the ground for two months and cooked out-of-doors, for we would not go even into the Mission—which had not suffered—until the earthquakes were over; and if the worst comes first there are plenty after—and, somehow, harder to bear. Perhaps to Concha that terrible time was a God-send, for she thought no more of Rezanov for a while. If the earthquake does not swallow your body it swallows your little self. You are a flea. Just that and nothing more.
"But after a time all was quiet again; the houses were rebuilt and Concha went back to Santa Barbara. By that time she knew that Rezanov would never come, although it was several years before she had a word. Such stories have been told that she did not know of his death for thirty years! Did not Baranhov, Chief-manager of the Russian-Alaskan Company up there at Sitka, send Koskov—that name was so like!—to Bodega Bay in 1812, and would he fail to send such news with him? Was not Dr. Langsdorff's book published in 1814? Did not Kotzbue, who was on his excellency's staff during the embassy to Japan, come to us in 1816, and did we not talk with him every day for a month? Did not Rezanov's death spoil all Russia's plans in this part of the world—perhaps, who knows? alter the course of her history? It is likely we were long without hearing the talk of the North! Such nonsense! Yes, she knew it soon enough, but as that good Padre Abella once said to us, she had the making of the saint and the martyr in her, and even when she could hope no more she did not die, nor marry some one else, nor wither up and spit at the world. Long before the news came, indeed, she carried out a plan she had conceived, so Padre Abella told us, even while Rezanov was yet here. There were no convents in California in those days—you may know what a stranded handful we were—but she joined the Tertiary or Third Order of Franciscans, and wore always the grey habit, the girdle, and the cross. She went among the Indians christianizing them, remaining a long while at Soledad, a bleak and cheerless place, where she was also a great solace to the wives of the soldiers and settlers, whose children she taught. The Indians called her 'La Beata,' and by that name she was known in all California until she took the veil, and that was more than forty years later. And she was worshipped, no less. So beautiful she was, so humble, so sweet, and at the same time so practical; she had what the Americans call 'hard sense,' and something of Rezanov's own way of managing people. When she made up her mind to bring a sinner or a savage into the Church she did it. You know.
"But do not think she had her way in other things without a struggle. Don Jose and Dona Ignacia—her mother—permitted her to enter upon the religious life, for they understood; and Luis and Santiago made no protest either, for they understood also and had loved Rezanov. But the rest of her family, the relations, the friends, the young men—the caballeros! They went in a body you might say to Don Jose and demanded that Concha, the most beautiful and fascinating and clever girl in New Spain, should come back to the world where she belonged,—be given in marriage. But Concha had always ruled Don Jose, and all the protests went to the winds. And William Sturgis—the young Bostonian who lived with us for so many years? I have not told you of him, and your mother was too young to remember. Well, never mind. He would have taken Concha from California, given her just a little of what she would have had as the wife of Rezanov—not in himself; he was as ugly as my whiskers; but enough of the great world to satisfy many women, and no one could deny that he was good and very clever. But to Concha he was a brother—no more. Perhaps she did not even take the trouble to refuse him. It was a way she had. After a while he went home to Boston and died of the climate. I was very sorry. He was one of us.
"And her intellect? Concha put it to sleep forever. She never read another book of travel, of history, biography, memoirs, essays, poetry—romance she had never read, and although some novels came to California in time she never opened them. It was peace she wanted, not the growing mind and the roving imagination. She brought her conversation down to the level of the humblest, and perhaps—who knows?—her thoughts. At all events, although the time came when she smiled again, and was often gay when we were all together in the family—particularly with the children, who came very fast, of course—well, she was then another Concha, not that brilliant dissatisfied ambitious girl we had all known, who had thought the greatest gentleman from the Viceroy's court not good enough to throw gold at her feet when she danced El Son.
"There were changes in her life. In 1814 Don Jose was made Gobernador Propietario of Lower California. He took all of his unmarried children with him, and Concha thought it her duty to go. They lived in Loreto until 1821. But Concha never ceased to pray that she might return to California—we never looked upon that withered tongue of Mexico as California; and when Don Jose died soon after his resignation, and her mother went to live with her married daughters, Concha returned with the greatest happiness she had known, I think, since Rezanov went. Was not California all that was left her?
"She lived in Santa Barbara for many years, in the house of Don Jose de la Guerra—in that end room of the east wing. She had many relations, it is true, but Concha was always human and liked relations better when she was not surrounded by them. Although she never joined in any of the festivities of that gay time she was often with the Guerra family and seemed happy enough to take up her old position as Beata among the Indians and children, until they built a school for her in Monterey. How we used to wonder if she ever thought of Rezanov any more. From the day the two years were over she never mentioned his name, and everybody respected her reserve, even her parents. And she grew more and more reserved with the years, never speaking of herself at all, except just after her return from Mexico. But somehow we knew. And did not the very life she had chosen express it? Even the Church may not reach the secret places of the soul, and who knows what heaven she may have found in hers? And now? I think purgatory is not for Concha, and he was not bad as men go, and has had time to do his penance. It is true the Church tells us there is no marrying in heaven—but, well, perhaps there is a union for mated spirits of which the Church knows nothing. You saw her expression in her coffin.
"Well! The time arrived when we had a convent. Bishop Alemany came in 1850, and in the first sermon he preached in Santa Barbara—I think it was his first in California—he announced that he wished to found a convent. He was a Dominican, but one order was as another to Concha; she had never been narrow in anything. As soon as the service was over, before he had time to leave the church, she went to him and asked to be the first to join. He was glad enough, for he knew of her and that no one could fill his convent as rapidly as she. Therefore was she the first nun, the first to take holy vows, in our California. For a little, the convent was in the old Hartnell house in Monterey, but Don Manuel Ximeno had built a great hotel while believing, with all the rest, that Monterey would be the capital of the new California as of the old, and he was glad to sell it to the Bishop. We were delighted—of course I followed when Concha told me it was my vocation—that the Americans preferred Yerba Buena.
"Concha took her first vows in April, soon after the Bishop's arrival, choosing the name Sister Maria, Dominica. On the 13th of April 1852 she took the black veil and perpetual vows. Of course the convent had a school at once. Concha's school had been a convent of a sort and the Bishop merely took it over. All the flower of California have been educated by Concha Argueello, including Chonita Estenega who is so great a lady in Mexico today. Two years later we came here, and here we shall stay, no doubt. I think Concha loved Benicia better than any part of California she had known, for it was still California without too piercing reminders of the past: life at the other Presidios and Missions was but the counterpart of our San Francisco, and here the priests and military had never come. In this beautiful wild spot where the elk and the antelope and the deer run about like rabbits, and you meet a bear if you go too far—Holy Mary!—where she went sometimes in a boat among the tules on the river, and where one may believe the moon lives in a silver lake in the old crater of Monte Diablo—Ay, it was different enough and might bring peace to any heart. What she must have suffered for years in those familiar scenes! But she never told. And now she lies here under her little cross and he in Krasnoiarsk—under a stone shaped like an altar, they say. Well! who knows? That is all. I go in now; my old bones ache with the night damp. But my mind is lighter, although never I shall speak of this again. And do you not think of it any more. Curiosity and the world and such nonsense as love and romance are not for us. Go to bed at once and tie a stocking round your throat that you have not a frog in it tomorrow morning when you sing 'Glory be to God on High.' Buen Dias!"
THE FORD OF CREVECOEUR
Reprinted from Out West by permission.
YES. I understand; you are M'siu the Notary, M'siu the Sheriff has told me. You are come to hear how by the help of God I have killed Filon Geraud at the ford of Crevecoeur. By the help of God, yes. Think you if the devil had a hand in it, he would not have helped Filon? For he was the devil's own, was Filon. He was big, he was beautiful, he had a way—but always there was the devil's mark. I see that the first time ever I knew him at Agua Caliente. The devil sit in Filon's eyes and laugh—laugh—some time he go away like a man at a window, but he come again. M'siu, he live there! And Filon, he know that I see, so he make like he not care; but I think he care a little, else why he make for torment me all the time? Ever since I see him at that shearing at Agua Caliente eight, ten year gone, he not like for let me be. I have been the best shearer in that shed, snip—snip—quick, clean. Ah, it is beautiful! All the sheepmen like for have me shear their sheep. Filon is new man at that shearing, Lebecque is just hire him then; but yes, M'siu, to see him walk about that Agua Caliente you think he own all those sheep, all that range. Ah—he had a way! Pretty soon that day Filon is hearing all sheepmen say that Raoul is the best shearer; then he come lean on the rail by my shed and laugh softly like he talk with himself, and say, "See the little man; see him shear." But me, I can no more. The shears turn in my hand so I make my sheep all bleed same like one butcher. Then I look up and see the devil in Filon Geraud's eye. It is always so after that, all those years until I kill Filon. If I make a little game of poker with other shepherds then he walks along and say:
"Ah, you, Raoul, you is one sharp fellow. I not like for play with you." Then is my play all gone bad.
But if Filon play, then he say, "Come, you little man, and bring me the good luck."
It is so, M'siu! If I go stand by that game, Filon is win, win all the time. That is because of the devil. And if there are women—no, M'siu, there was never one woman. What would a shepherd, whose work is always toward the hills, do with a woman? Is it to plant a vineyard that others may drink wine? Ah, non! But me, at shearings and at Tres Pinos where we pay the tax, there I like to talk to pretty girl same as other shepherds, then Filon come make like he one gran' friend. All the time he make say the compliments, he make me one mock. His eyes they laugh always, that make women like to do what he say. But me, I have no chance.
It is so, M'siu, when I go out with my sheep. This is my trail—I go out after the shearing through the Canada de las Vinas, then across the Little Antelope, while the grass is quick. After that I go up toward the hills of Olancho, where I keep one month; there is much good feed and no man comes. Also then I wait at Tres Pinos for the sheriff that I pay the tax. Sacre! it is a hard one, that tax! After that I am free of the Sierras, what you call Nieve—snowy. Well I know that country. I go about with my sheep and seek my meadows—mine, M'siu, that I have climbed the great mountains to spy out among the pines, that I have found by the grace of God, and my own wit: La Crevasse, Moultrie, Bighorn, Angostura. Also, I go by other meadows where other shepherds feed one month with another; but these these are all mine. I go about and come again when the feed is grown.
M'siu, it is hard to believe, but it is so—Filon finds my meadows one by one. One year I come by La Crevasse—there is nothing there; I go on to Moultrie—here is the grass eaten to the roots, and the little pines have no tops; at Bighorn is the fresh litter of a flock. I think maybe my sheep go hungry that summer. So I come to Angostura. There is Filon. He laugh. Then it come into my mind that one day I goin' kill that Filon Geraud. By the help of God. Yes. For he is big that Filon, he is strong; and me, M'siu, I am as God made me.
So always, where I go on the range there is Filon; if I think to change my trail, he change also his. If I have good luck, Filon has better. If to him is the misfortune—ah—you shall hear.
One year Gabriel Lausanne tell me that Filon is lose all his lambs in the Santa Ana. You know that Santa Ana, M'siu? It is one mighty wind. It comes up small, very far away, one little dust like the clouds, creep, creep close by the land. It lies down along the sand; you think it is done? Eh, it is one liar, that Santa Ana. It rise up again, it is pale gold, it seek the sky. That sky is all wide, clean, no speck. Ah, it knows, that sky; it will have nothing lying about when the Santa Ana comes. It is hot then, you have the smell of the earth in your nostrils. That, M'siu, is the Santa Ana. It is pale dust and the great push of the wind. The sand bites, there is no seeing the flock's length. They huddle, and the lambs are smothered; they scatter, and the dogs can nothing make. If it blow one day, you thank God; if it blow two days, then is sheepman goin' to lose his sheep. When Gabriel tell me that about Filon, I think he deserve all that. What you think, M'siu? That same night the water of Tinpah rise in his banks afar off by the hills where there is rain. It comes roaring down the wash where I make my camp, for you understand at that time of year there should be no water in the wash of Tinpah, but it come in the night and carry away one-half of my sheep. Eh, how you make that, M'siu; is it the devil or no?
Well, it go like this eight, ten year; then it come last summer, and I meet Filon at the ford of Crevecoeur. That is the water that comes down eastward from Mineral Mountain between Olancho and Sentinel Rock. It is what you call Mineral Creek, but the French shepherds call it Crevecoeur. For why; it is a most swift and wide water; it goes darkly between earthy banks upon which it gnaws. It has hot springs which come up in it without reason, so that there is no safe crossing at any time. Its sands are quick; what they take, they take wholly with the life in it, and after a little they spew it out again. And, look you, it makes no singing, this water of Crevecoeur. Twenty years have I kept sheep between Red Butte and the Temblor Hills, and I say this. Make no fear of singing water, for it goes not too deeply but securely on a rocky bottom; such a one you may trust. But this silent one, that is hot or cold, deep or shallow, and has never its banks the same one season with another, this you may not trust, M'siu. And to get sheep across it—ah—it breaks the heart, this Crevecoeur.
Nevertheless, there is one place where a great rock runs slantwise of the stream, but under it, so that the water goes shallowly with a whisper, ah, so fast, and below it is a pool. Here on the rocks the shepherds make pine logs to lie with stones so that the sheep cross over. Every year the water carries the logs away and the shepherds build again, and there is no shepherd goes by that water but lose some sheep. Therefore, they call it the ford of Crevecoeur [Break-heart].
Well, I have been about by the meadow of Angostura when it come last July, and there I see Narcisse Duplin. He is tell me the feed is good about Sentinel Rock, so I think me to go back by the way of Crevecoeur. There is pine wood all about eastward from that place. It is all shadow there at midday and has a weary sound. Me, I like it not, that pine wood, so I push the flock and am very glad when I hear toward the ford the bark of dogs and the broken sound of bells. I think there is other shepherd that make talk with me. But me, M'siu, sacre! damn! when I come out by the ford there is Filon Geraud. He has come up one side Crevecoeur, with his flock, as I have come up the other. He laugh.
"Hillo, Raoul," say Filon, "will you cross?"
"I will cross," say I.
"After me," say Filon.
"Before," say I.
M'siu does not know about sheep? Ah, non. It is so that the sheep is most scare of all beasts about water. Never so little a stream will he cross, but if the dogs compel him. It is the great trouble of shepherds to get the flock across the waters that go in and about the Sierras. For that it is the custom to have two, three goats with the flocks to go first across the water, then they will follow. But here at Crevecoeur it is bad crossing any way you go; also that day it is already afternoon. Therefore I stand at one side that ford and make talk with Filon at the other about who goes first. Then my goat which leads my flock come push by me and I stand on that log while we talk. He is one smart goat.
"Eh, Raoul, let the goats decide," cries Filon, and to that I have agree. Filon push his goat on the log, he is one great black one that is call Diable—I ask you is that a name for a goat? I have call mine Noe. So they two walk on that log very still; for they see what they have to do. Then they push with the head, Diable and Noe, till that log it rock in the water; Filon is cry to his goat and I to mine. Then because of that water one goat slip on the log, and the other is push so hard that he cannot stop; over they go into the pool of swift water, over and over until they come to the shallows; then they find their feet and come up, each on his own side. They will not care to push with the heads again at that time. Filon he walk out on the log to me, and I walk to him.
"My goat have won the ford," says he.
"Your goat cannot keep what he wins."
"But I can," say Filon. Then he look at me with his eyes like—like I have told you, M'siu.
"Raoul," he say, "you is one little man."
With that I remember me all the wrong I have had from this one.
"Go you after your goat, Filon Geraud," say I.
With that I put my staff behind his foot, so, M'siu, and send him into the water, splash! He come to his feet presently in the pool with the water all in his hair and his eyes, and the stream run strong and dark against his middle.
"Hey, you, Raoul, what for you do that?" he say, but also he laugh. "Ah, ha, little man, you have the joke this time."
M'siu, that laugh stop on his face like it been freeze, his mouth is open, his eyes curl up. It is terrible, that dead laugh in the midst of the black water that run down from his hair.
"Raoul," he say, "the sand is quick!"
Then he take one step, and I hear the sand suck. I see Filon shiver like a reed in the swift water.
"My God," he say, "the sand is quick!"
M'siu, I do not know how it is with me. When I throw Filon in the pool, I have not known it is quick-sand; but when I hear that, I think I am glad. I kneel down by that log in the ford and watch Filon. He speak to me very quiet:
"You must get a rope and make fast to that pine and throw the end to me. There is a rope in my pack."
"Yes," say I, "there is a rope."
So I take my flocks across the ford, since Filon is in the water, and take all those silly ones toward La Crevasse, and after I think about that business. Three days after, I meet P'tee Pete. I tell him I find the sheep of Filon in the pine wood below Sentinel Rock. Pete, he say that therefore Filon is come to some hurt, and that he look for him. That make me scare lest he should look by the ford of Crevecoeur. So after that, five or six days, when Narcisse Duplin is come up with me, I tell him Filon is gone to Sacramento where his money is; therefore I keep care of his sheep. That is a better tale—eh, M'siu,—for I have to say something. Every shepherd in that range is know those sheep of Filon. All this time I think me to take the sheep to Pierre Jullien in the meadow of Black Mountain. He is not much, that Pierre. If I tell him it is one gift from Le bon Dieu, that is explain enough for Pierre Jullien. Then I will be quit of the trouble of Filon Geraud.
So, M'siu, would it have been, but for that dog Helene. That is Filon's she-dog that he raise from a pup. She is—she is une femme, that dog! All that first night when we come away from the ford, she cry, cry in her throat all through the dark, and in the light she look at me with her eyes, so to say:
"I know, Raoul! I know what is under the water of Crevecoeur." M'siu, is a man to stand that from a dog? So the next night I beat her, and in the morning she is gone. I think me the good luck to get rid of her. That Helene! M'siu, what you think she do? She have gone back to look in the water for Filon. There she stay, and all sheepmen when they pass that way see that she is a good sheepdog, and that she is much hungry; so they wonder that she will not leave off to look and go with them. After while all people in those parts is been talkin' about that dog of Filon's that look so keen in the water of Crevecoeur. Mebbe four, five weeks after that I have killed Filon, one goes riding by that place and sees Helene make mourn by the waterside over something that stick in the sand. It is Filon. Yes. That quick-sand have spit him out again. So you say; but me, I think it is the devil.
For the rest the sheriff has told you. Here they have brought me, and there is much talk. Of that I am weary, but for this I tell you all how it is about Filon; M'siu, I would not hang. Look you, so long as I stay in this life I am quit of that man, but if I die—there is Filon. So will he do unto me all that I did at the ford of Crevecoeur, and more; for he is a bad one, Filon. Therefore it is as I tell you, M'siu, I, Raoul. By the help of God. Yes.
From Harper's Magazine Copyright, 1905, by Harper and Brothers
IT WAS nearly ten o'clock when Jack Faraday ascended the steps of Madame Delmonti's bow-windowed mansion and pressed the electric bell. He was a little out of breath and nervous, for, being young and a stranger to San Francisco, and almost a stranger to Madame Delmonti, he did not exactly know at what hour his hostess's conversazione might begin, and had upon him the young man's violent dread of being conspicuously early or conspicuously late.
It did not seem that he was either. As he stood in the doorway and surveyed the field, he felt, with a little rising breath of relief, that no one appeared to take especial notice of him. Madame Delmonti's rooms were lit with a great blaze of gas, which, thrown back from many long mirrors and the gold mountings of a quantity of furniture and picture frames, made an effect of dazzling yellow brightness, as brilliantly glittering as the transformation scene of a pantomime.
In the middle of the glare Madame Delmonti's company had disposed themselves in a circle, which had some difficulty in accommodating itself to the long narrow shape of the drawing-room. Now and then an obstinate sofa or extra large plush-covered arm-chair broke the harmonious curve of the circle, and its occupant looked furtively ill at ease, as if she felt the embarrassment of her position in not conforming to the general harmony of the curving line.
The eyes of the circle were fixed on a figure at the piano, near the end of the room—a tall dark Jewess in a brown dress and wide hat, who was singing with that peculiar vibrant richness of tone that is so often heard in the voices of the Californian Jewesses. She was perfectly self-possessed, and her velvet eyes, as her impassioned voice rose a little, rested on Jack Faraday with a cheerful but not very lively interest. Then they swept past him to where on a sofa, quite out of the circle, two women sat listening.
One was a young girl, large, well-dressed, and exceedingly handsome; the other a peaked lady, passee and thin, with her hair bleached to a canary yellow. The Jewess, still singing, smiled at them, and the girl gave back a lazy smile in return. Then as the song came to a deep and mellow close, Madame Delmonti, with a delicate rustling of silk brushing against silk, swept across the room and greeted her guest.
Madame Delmonti was an American, very rich, a good deal made up, but still pretty, and extremely well preserved. Signor Delmonti, an Italian baritone, whom she had married, and supported ever since, was useful about the house, as he now proved by standing at a little table and ladling punch into small glasses, which were distributed among the guests by the two little Delmonti girls in green silk frocks. Madame Delmonti, with her rouged cheeks and merry grey eyes, as full of sparkle as they had been twenty years ago, was very cordial to her guest, asking him, as they stood in the doorway, whom he would best like to meet.
"Maud Levy, who has been singing," she said, "is one of the belles in Hebrew society. She has a fine voice. You have no objection, Mr. Faraday, to knowing Jews?"
Faraday hastily disclaimed all race prejudices, and she continued, discreetly designating the ladies on the sofa:
"There are two delightful girls. Mrs. Peck, the blonde, is the society writer for the Morning Trumpet. She is an elegant woman of a very fine Southern family, but she has had misfortunes. Her marriage was unhappy. She and Peck are separated now, and she supports herself and her two children. There was no hope of getting alimony out of that man."
"And that is Genevieve Ryan beside her," Madame Delmonti went on. "I think you'd like Genevieve. She's a grand girl. Her father, you know, is Barney Ryan, one of our millionaires. He made his money in a quick turn in Con. Virginia, but before that he used to drive the Marysville coach, and he was once a miner. He's crazy about Genevieve and gives her five hundred a month to dress on. I'm sure you'll get on very well together. She's such a refined, pleasant girl"——and Madame Delmonti, chattering her praises of Barney Ryan's handsome daughter, conducted the stranger to the shrine.
Miss. Genevieve smiled upon him, much as she had upon the singer, and brushing aside her skirts of changeable green and heliotrope silk, showed him a little golden-legged chair beside her. Mrs. Peck and Madame Delmonti conversed with unusual insight and knowledge on the singing of Maud Levy, and Faraday was left to conduct the conversation with the heiress of Barney Ryan.
She was a large, splendid-looking girl, very much corseted, with an ivory-tinted skin, eyes as clear as a young child's and smooth freshly red lips. She was a good deal powdered on the bridge of her nose, and her rich hair was slightly tinted with some reddish dye. She was a picture of health and material well being. Her perfectly fitting clothes sat with wrinkleless exactitude over a figure which in its generous breadth and finely curved outline might have compared with that of the Venus of Milo. She let her eyes, shadowed slightly by the white lace edge of her large hat, whereon two pink roses trembled on large stalks, dwell upon Faraday with a curious and frank interest entirely devoid of coquetry. Her manner, almost boyish in its simple directness, showed the same absence of this feminine trait. While she looked like a goddess dressed by Worth, she seemed merely a good-natured, phlegmatic girl just emerging from her teens.
Faraday had made the first commonplaces of conversation, when she asked, eyeing him closely, "Do you like it out here?"
"Oh, immensely," he responded, politely. "It's such a fine climate."
"It is a good climate," admitted Miss. Ryan, with unenthusiastic acquiescence; "but we are not so proud of that as we are of the good looks of the Californian women. Don't you think the women are handsome?"
Faraday looked into her clear and earnest eyes.
"Oh splendid," he answered, "especially their eyes."
Miss. Ryan appeared to demur to this commendation. "It's generally said by strangers that their figures are unusually handsome. Do you think they are?"
Faraday agreed to this too.
"The girls in the East," said Miss. Ryan, sitting upright with a creaking sound, and drawing her gloves through one satin-smooth, bejeweled hand, "are very thin, aren't they? Here, I sometimes think"—she raised her eyes to his in deep and somewhat anxious query—"that they are too fat?"
Faraday gallantly scouted the idea. He said the California woman was a goddess. For the first time in the interview Miss. Ryan gave a little laugh.
"That's what all you Eastern men say," she said. "They're always telling me I'm a goddess. Even the Englishmen say that."
"Well," answered Faraday, surprised at his own boldness, "what they say is true."
Miss. Ryan silently eyed him for a speculating moment; then, averting her glance, said, pensively: "Perhaps so; but I don't think it's so stylish to be a goddess as it is to be very slim. And then, you know——" Here she suddenly broke off, her eyes fixed upon the crowd of ladies that blocked an opposite doorway in exeunt. "There's mommer. I guess she must be going home, and I suppose I'd better go too, and not keep her waiting."
She rose as she spoke, and with a pat of her hand adjusted her glimmering skirts.
"Oh, Mr. Faraday," she said, as she peered down at them, "I hope you'll give yourself the pleasure of calling on me. I'm at home almost any afternoon after five, and Tuesday is my day. Come whenever you please. I'll be real glad to see you, and I guess popper'd like to talk to you about things in the East. He's been in Massachusetts too."
She held out her large white hand and gave Faraday a vigorous hand-shake.
"I'm glad I came here tonight," she said, smiling. "I wasn't quite decided, but I thought I'd better, as I had some things to tell Mrs. Peck for next Sunday's Trumpet. If I hadn't come, I wouldn't have met you. You needn't escort me to Madame Delmonti. I'd rather go by myself. I'm not a bit a ceremonious person. Good-by. Be sure and come and see me."
She rustled away, exchanged farewells with Madame Delmonti, and, by a movement of her head in his direction, appeared to be speaking of Faraday; then joining a fur-muffled female figure near the doorway, swept like a princess out of the room.
For a week after Faraday's meeting with Miss. Genevieve Ryan, he had no time to think of giving himself the pleasure of calling upon that fair and flattering young lady. The position which he had come out from Boston to fill was not an unusually exacting one, but Faraday, who was troubled with a New England conscience, and a certain slowness in adapting himself to new conditions of life, was too engrossed in mastering the duties of his clerkship to think of loitering about the chariot wheels of beauty.
By the second week, however, he had shaken down into the new rut, and a favorable opportunity presenting itself in a sunny Sunday afternoon, he donned his black coat and high hat and repaired to the mansion of Barney Ryan, on California Street.
When Faraday approached the house, he felt quite timid, so imposingly did this great structure loom up from the simpler dwellings which surrounded it. Barney Ryan had built himself a palace, and ever since the day he had first moved into it he had been anxious to move out. The ladies of his family would not allow this, and so Barney endured his grandeur as best he might. It was a great wooden house, with immense bay windows thrown out on every side, and veiled within by long curtains of heavy lace. The sweep of steps that spread so proudly from the portico was flanked by two sleeping lions in stone, both appearing, by the savage expressions which distorted their visages, to be suffering from terrifying dreams. In the garden the spiked foliage of the dark, slender dracaenas and the fringed fans of giant filamentosas grew luxuriantly with tropical effect.
The large drawing-room, long, and looking longer with its wide mirrors, was even more golden than Mrs. Delmonti's. There were gold moldings about the mirrors and gold mountings to the chairs. In deserts of gold frames appeared small oases of oil-painting. Faraday, hat in hand, stood some time in wavering indecision, wondering in which of the brocaded and gilded chairs he would look least like a king in an historical play. He was about to decide in favor of a pale blue satin settee, when a rustle behind him made him turn and behold Miss. Genevieve magnificent in a trailing robe of the faintest rose-pink and pearls, with diamond ear-rings in her ears, and the powder that she had hastily rubbed on her face still lying white on her long lashes. She smiled her rare smile as she greeted him, and sitting down in one of the golden chairs, leaned her head against the back, and said, looking at him from under lowered lids:
"Well, I thought you were never coming!"
Faraday, greatly encouraged by this friendly reception, made his excuses, and set the conversation going. After the weather had been exhausted, the topic of the Californian in his social aspect came up. Faraday, with some timidity, ventured a question on the fashionable life in San Francisco. A shade passed over Miss. Ryan's open countenance.
"You know, Mr. Faraday," she said, explanatorily, "I'm not exactly in society."
"No?" murmured Faraday, mightily surprised, and wondering what she was going to say next.
"Not exactly," continued Miss. Ryan, moistening her red under lip in a pondering moment—"not exactly in fash'nable society. Of course we have our friends. But gentlemen from the East that I've met have always been so surprised when I told them that I didn't go out in the most fash'nable circles. They always thought any one with money could get right in it here."
"Yes?" said Faraday, whose part of the conversation appeared to be deteriorating into monosyllables.
"Well, you know, that's not the case at all. With all popper's money, we've never been able to get a real good footing. It seems funny to outsiders, especially as popper and mommer have never been divorced or anything. We've just lived quietly right here in the city always. But," she said, looking tentatively at Faraday to see how he was going to take the statement, "my father's a Northerner. He went back and fought in the war."
"You must be very proud of that," said Faraday, feeling that he could now hazard a remark with safety.
This simple comment, however, appeared to surprise the enigmatic Miss. Ryan.
"Proud of it?" she queried, looking in suspended doubt at Faraday. "Oh, of course I'm proud that he was brave, and didn't run away or get wounded; but if he'd been a Southerner we would have been in society now." She looked pensively at Faraday. "All the fashionable people are Southerners, you know. We would have been, too, if we'd have been Southerners. It's being Northerners that really has been such a drawback."
"But your sympathies," urged Faraday, "aren't they with the North?"
Miss. Ryan ran the pearl fringe of her tea-gown through her large, handsome hands. "I guess so," she said, indifferently, as if she was considering the subject for the first time; "but you can't expect me to have any very violent sympathies about a war that was dead and buried before I was born."
"I don't believe you're a genuine Northerner, or Southerner either," said Faraday, laughing.
"I guess not," said the young lady, with the same placid indifference. "An English gentleman whom I knew real well last year said the sympathy of the English was all with the Southerners. He said they were the most refined people in this country. He said they were thought a great deal of in England?" She again looked at Faraday with her air of deprecating query, as if she half expected him to contradict her.
"Who was this extraordinarily enlightened being?" asked Faraday.
"Mr. Harold Courtney, an elegant Englishman. They said his grandfather was a Lord—Lord Hastings—but you never can be sure about those things. I saw quite a good deal of him, and I sort of liked him, but he was rather quiet. I think if he'd been an American we would have thought him dull. Here they just said it was reserve. We all thought——"
A footstep in the hall outside arrested her recital. The door of the room was opened, and a handsome bonneted head appeared in the aperture.
"Oh, Gen," said this apparition, hastily—"excuse me; I didn't know you had your company in there?"
"Come in, mommer," said Miss. Ryan, politely; "I want to make you acquainted with Mr. Faraday. He's the gentleman I met at Madame Delmonti's the other evening."
Mrs. Ryan, accompanied by a rich rustling of silk, pushed open the door, revealing herself to Faraday's admiring eyes as a fine-looking woman, fresh in tint, still young, of a stately figure and imposing presence. She was admirably dressed in a walking costume of dark green, and wore a little black jet bonnet on her slightly waved bright brown hair. She met the visitor with an extended hand and a frank smile of open pleasure.
"Genevieve spoke to me of you, Mr. Faraday," she said, settling down into a chair and removing her gloves. "I'm very glad you managed to get around here."
Faraday expressed his joy at having been able to accomplish the visit.
"We don't have so many agreeable gentlemen callers," said Mrs. Ryan, "that we can afford to overlook a new one. If you've been in society, you've perhaps noticed, Mr. Faraday, that gentlemen are somewhat scarce."
Faraday said he had not been in society, therefore had not observed the deficiency. Mrs. Ryan, barely allowing him time to complete his sentence, continued, vivaciously:
"Well, Mr. Faraday, you'll see it later. We entertainers don't know what we are going to do for the lack of gentlemen. When we give parties we ask the young gentlemen, and they all come; but they won't dance, they won't talk, they won't do anything but eat and drink and they never think of paying their party calls. It's disgraceful, Mr. Faraday," said Mrs. Ryan, smiling brightly—"disgraceful!"
Faraday said he had heard that in the East the hostess made the same complaint. Mrs. Ryan, with brilliant fixed eyes, gave him a breathing-space to reply in, and then started off again, with a confirmatory nod of her head:
"Precisely, Mr. Faraday—just the case here. At Genevieve's debut party—an elegant affair—Mrs. Peck said she'd never seen a finer entertainment in this city—canvas floors, four musicians, champagne flowing like water. My husband, Mr. Faraday believes in giving the best at his entertainments; there's not a mean bone in Barney Ryan's body. Why, the men all got into the smoking-room, lit their cigars, and smoked there, and in the ballroom were the girls sitting around the walls, and not more than half a dozen partners for them. I tell you, Mr. Ryan was mad. He just went up there, and told them to get up and dance or get up and go home——he didn't much care which. There's no fooling with Mr. Ryan when he's roused. You remember how mad popper was that night, Gen?"
Miss. Ryan nodded an assent, her eyes full of smiling reminiscence. She had listened to her mother's story with unmoved attention and evident appreciation. "Next time we have a party," she said, looking smilingly at Faraday, "Mr. Faraday can come and see for himself."
"I guess it'll be a long time before we have another like that," said Mrs. Ryan, somewhat grimly, rising as Faraday rose to take his leave. "Not but what," she added, hastily, fearing her remark had seemed ungracious, "we'll hope Mr. Faraday will come without waiting for parties."
"But we've had one since then," said Miss. Ryan, as she placed her hand in his in the pressure of farewell, "that laid all over that first one."
Having been pressed to call by both mother and daughter, and having told himself that Genevieve Ryan was "an interesting study," Faraday, after some hesitation, paid a second visit to the Ryan mansion. Upon this occasion the Chinese servant, murmuring unintelligibly, showed a rooted aversion to his entering. Faraday, greatly at sea, wondering vaguely if the terrible Barney Ryan had issued a mandate to his hireling to refuse him admittance, was about to turn and depart, when the voice of Mrs. Ryan in the hall beyond arrested him. Bidden to open the door, the Mongolian reluctantly did so and Faraday was admitted.
"Sing didn't want to let you in," said Mrs. Ryan when they had gained the long gold drawing-room, "because Genevieve was out. He never lets any gentlemen in when she's not at home. He thinks I'm too old to have them come to see me."
Then they sat down, and after a little preliminary chat on the Chinese character and the Californian climate, Mrs. Ryan launched forth into her favorite theme of discourse.
"Genevieve will be so sorry to miss you," she said; "she's always so taken by Eastern gentlemen. They admire her, too, immensely. I can't tell you of the compliments we've heard directly and indirectly that they've paid her. Of course I can see that she's an unusually fine-looking girl, and very accomplished. Mr. Ryan and I have spared nothing in her education—nothing. At Madame de Vivier's academy for young ladies—one of the most select in the State—Madame's husband's one of the French nobility, and she always had to support him—Genevieve took every extra—music, languages, and drawing. Professor Rodriguez, who taught her the guitar, said that never outside of Spain had he heard such a touch. 'Senora,' he says to me—that's his way of expressing himself, and it sounds real cute the way he says it—'Senora, is there not some Spanish blood in this child? No one without Spanish blood could touch the strings that way.' Afterwards when Demaroni taught her the mandolin, it was just the same. He could not believe she had not had teaching before. Then Madame Mezzenott gave her a term's lessons on the bandurria, and she said there never was such talent; she might have made a fortune on the concert stage."
"Yes, undoubtedly," Faraday squeezed in, as Mrs. Ryan drew a breath.
"Indeed, Mr. Faraday, everybody has remarked her talents. It isn't you alone. All the Eastern gentlemen we have met have said that the musical talents of the Californian young ladies were astonishing They all agree that Genevieve's musical genius is remarkable. Everybody declares that there is no one—not among the Spaniards themselves—who sings La Paloma as Gen does. Professor Spighetti instructed her in that. He was a wonderful teacher. I never saw such a method. But we had to give him up because he fell in love with Gen. That's the worst of it—the teachers are always falling in love with her; and with her prospects and position we naturally expect something better. Of course it's been very hard to keep her. I say to Mr. Ryan, as each winter comes to an end, 'Well, popper, another season's over and we've still got our Gen.' We feel that we can't be selfish and hope to keep her always, and, with so many admirers, we realize that we must soon lose her, and try to get accustomed to the idea."
"Of course, of course," murmured Faraday, sympathetically, mentally picturing Mrs. Ryan keeping away the suitors as Rizpah kept the eagles and vultures off her dead sons.
"There was a Mr. Courtney who was very attentive last year. His grandfather was an English lord. We had to buy a Peerage to find out if he was genuine, and, as he was, we had him quite often to the house. He paid Genevieve a good deal of attention, but toward the end of the season he said he had to go back to England and see his grandfather—his father was dead—and left without saying anything definite. He told me though, that he was coming back. I fully expect he will, though Mr. Ryan doesn't seem to think so. Genevieve felt rather put out about it for a time. She thought he hadn't been upright to see her so constantly and not say anything definite. But she doesn't understand the subserviency of Englishmen to their elders. You know, we have none of that in this country. If my son Eddie wanted to marry a typewriter, Mr. Ryan could never prevent it. I fully expect to see Mr. Courtney again. I'd like you to meet him, Mr. Faraday. I think you'd agree very well. He's just such a quiet, reserved young man as you."
When, after this interview, Faraday descended the broad steps between the sleeping lions, he did not feel so good-tempered as he had done after his first visit. He recalled to mind having heard that Mrs. Ryan, before her marriage, had been a schoolteacher, and he said to himself that if she had no more sense then than she had now, her pupils must have received a fearful and wonderful education.
At Madame Delmonti's conversazione, given a few evenings later, Faraday again saw Miss. Ryan. On the first of these occasions this independent young lady was dressed simply in a high-necked gown and a hat. This evening with her habitual disregard of custom and convention, some whim had caused her to array herself in full gala attire, and, habited in a gorgeous costume of white silk and yellow velvet, with a glimmer of diamonds round the low neck, she was startling in her large magnificence.
Jack Faraday approached her somewhat awe-stricken, but her gravely boyish manner immediately put him at his ease. Talking with her over commonplaces, he wondered what she would say if she knew of her mother's conversation with him. As if in answer to the unspoken thought, she suddenly said fixing him with intent eyes:
"Mommer said she told you of Mr. Courtney. Do you think he'll come back?"
Faraday, his breath taken away by the suddenness of the attack, felt the blood run to his hair, and stammered a reply.
"Well, you know," she said, leaning toward him confidentially, "I don't. Mommer is possessed with the idea that he will. But neither popper nor I think so. I got sort of annoyed with the way he acted—hanging about for a whole winter, and then running away to see his grandfather, like a little boy ten years old! I like men that are their own masters. But I suppose I would have married him. You see, he would have been a lord when his grandfather died. It was genuine—we saw it in the Peerage."
She looked into Faraday's eyes. Her own were as clear and deep as mountain springs. Was Miss. Genevieve Ryan the most absolutely honest and outspoken young woman that had ever lived, or was she some subtle and unusual form of Pacific Slope coquette?
"Popper was quite mad about it," she continued. "He thought Mr. Courtney was an ordinary sort of person, anyway. I didn't. I just thought him dull, and I suppose he couldn't help that. Mommer wanted to go over to England last summer. She thought we might stumble on him over there. But popper wouldn't let her do it. He sent us to Alaska instead." She paused, and gave a smiling bow to an acquaintance. "Doesn't Mrs. Peck look sweet tonight?" She designated the society editress of the Morning Trumpet, whose fragile figure was encased in a pale blue Empire costume. "And that lady over by the door, with the gold crown in her hair, the stout one in red, is Mrs. Wheatley, a professional Delsarte teacher. She's a great friend of mine and gives me Delsarte twice a week."
And Miss. Genevieve Ryan nodded to the dispenser of "Delsarte," a large and florid woman, who, taking her stand under a spreading palm tree, began to declaim "The Portrait" of Owen Meredith, and in the recital of the dead lady's iniquitous conduct the conversation was brought to a close.
From its auspicious opening, Faraday's acquaintance with the Ryans ripened and developed with a speed which characterizes the growth of friendship and of fruit in the genial Californian atmosphere. Almost before he felt that he had emerged from the position of a stranger he had slipped into that of an intimate. He fell into the habit of visiting the Ryan mansion on California Street on Sunday afternoons. It became a custom for him to dine there en famille at least once a week. The simplicity and light-hearted good-nature of these open-handed and kindly people touched and charmed him. There was not a trace of the snob in Faraday. He accepted the lavish and careless hospitality of Barney Ryan's "palatial residence," as the newspapers delighted to call it, with a spirit as frankly pleased as that in which it was offered.
He came of an older civilization than that which had given Barney Ryan's daughter her frankness and her force, and it did not cross his mind that the heiress of millions might cast tender eyes upon the penniless sons of New England farmers. He said to himself with impatient recklessness that he ought not to and would not fall in love with her. There was too great a distance between them. It would be King Cophetua and the beggar-maid reversed. Clerks at one hundred and fifty dollars a month were not supposed to aspire to only daughters of bonanza kings in the circle from which Faraday had come. So he visited the Ryans, assuring himself that he was a friend of the family, who would dance at Miss Genevieve's wedding with the lightest of hearts.
The Chinese butler had grown familiar with Faraday's attractive countenance and his unabbreviated English, when late one warm and sunny afternoon the young man pulled the bell of the great oaken door of the Ryans' lion-guarded home. In answer to his queries for the ladies, he learned that they were out; but the Mongolian functionary, after surveying him charily through the crack of the door, admitted that Mr. Ryan was within, and conducted the visitor into his presence.
Barney Ryan, suffering from a slight sprain in his ankle, sat at ease in a little sitting-room in the back of the house. Mr. Ryan, being irritable and in some pain, the women-folk had relaxed the severity of their dominion, and allowed him to sit unchecked in his favorite costume for the home circle—shirt sleeves and a tall beaver hat. Beside him on the table stood bare and undecorated array of bottles, a glass, and a silver water-pitcher.
Mr. Ryan was now some years beyond sixty, but had that tremendous vigor of frame and constitution that distinguished the pioneers—an attribute strangely lacking in their puny and degenerate sons. This short and chunky old man, with his round, thick head, bristling hair and beard, and huge red neck, had still a fiber as tough as oak. He looked coarse, uncouth, and stupid, but in his small gray eyes shone the alert and unconquerable spirit which marked the pioneers as the giants of the West, and which had carried him forward over every obstacle to the summit of his ambitions. Barney Ryan was restless in his confinement; for, despite his age and the completeness of his success, his life was still with the world of men where the bull-necked old miner was a king. At home the women rather domineered over him, and unconsciously made him feel his social deficiencies. At home, too, the sorrow and the pride of his life were always before him—his son, a weak and dissipated boy; and his daughter, who had inherited his vigor and his spirit with a beauty that had descended to her from some forgotten peasant girl of the Irish bogs.