Page images
[ocr errors]

before the blazing logs a girl sat, with her hands clasped above her head, slowly rocking herself and singing something that made my heart stand still with pleasure. I watched her ever so long, her slight figure swaying like a flower, till she heard me; then she turned and stood up. Christopher, I shall never forget her lovely face, her soft, shy eyes, her quick, bright blushes ! We looked at each other a minute before I could speak, and I don't know at all what I said. Her father is a Texan, but her mother was Spanish; I have found that out. And, Chris, she is the most beautiful woman in the world! Her name is Inez, Chris-I think Inez is the loveliest name in the world!”

Christopher looked sorrowfully at the youth, who went on joyfully—“I've been into Lavenburg's for these new things. Do I look well in them? Do they fit me? Chris, you know lots of poetry, and I want you to write something about love to send her. I'm so happy! I don't believe any man was ever so happy before !”

Christopher was still silent.

“Why don't you speak, Chris ? Are you not glad ?"

“I don't know. Is she a good girl ? Does she love you ? If not, go to the ends of the earth rather than marry her. I say, captain, I want some one to go to Scotland and make some inquiries for me. Go, and I will pay you well.”

“Not for millions! I could not do it, Chris. Why are you so depressing, old man? Never knew you to throw cold water on a fellow before.”

“I'll tell you, captain ; yes, I'll tell you. Perhaps it may spare you sorrow, and why should I spare myself? Thirty years ago, just whe he world was all bright and hopeful before me, I met Clarissa St. Clair; the most beautiful woman in the world I thought her. It was on a warm gloaming in August, and I was walking slowly home through the ripe wheat. There was only a narrow footpath, and when half way through the field I met in it a young girl, who seemed to me in the soft yellow light a creature too beautiful to be mortal. I remember that she was dressed in pink, and that her straw hat hung over her arm. There was a wreath of poppies in her bright, fair hair, and her white apron was full of ferns and wood-blossoms.

“ Of all the women far or near she was the one least fitted for me, but I was infatuated with her beauty, and I would listen to no one's advice. She was vain, frivolous, and extravagant. Looking forward to the holy profession to which my life was to be consecrated, my best friends reasonably urged such a marriage was a grave injustice to it. But I would not see a fault in Clarissa. Come what might, I was determined to marry her. I had my way, Nap. I hoped all would come right. Nothing came right. In less than a year I knew that I had blasted every honourable hope of my past life for a pretty woman who made my home wretched.

“ It is no use saying that you will not quarrel with a woman under any provocation.' I made that promise to myself over and over again, but she could always make me break it. What a

miserable man I was! My friends openly pitied me, and I hated their pity and shut myself up from it. And every day I cared less to fight against a sorrow I had lost all hope of turning into good.

“One day a friend called with a report that set me all on fire. I was angry with him, and what I said to Clarissa I do not remember. Bitter words I know they were. That night she took our child and went to her father's house. He was factor to the Earl of Glencairn, and a man of some influence in the countryside, and people generally blamed me. Things very hard to bear were said about me, and it mattered little that they were untrue in one respect—the public accepted them, and I was too proud to defend myself. I had been teaching, but my scholars left me, and when I shut my schoolhouse doors I knew that I had lost all hopes of that higher office for which I had so patiently and happily prepared myself.

Very soon after, I left my home and country, and came here. I bought cattle and land, and cast my old life behind me. Now can you understand that a foolish love may wreck a life that has begun well and is full of its own promise ? ”

« Oh, Chris! Inez is so different."

And who can reason a lover out of his convic. tion ? Captain Nap was every day more in love, even though the Doctor steadily opposed his suit. “I can give my girl twenty thousand head of cattle, and land enough to graze them,” he said to the handsome, eager captain, “and you have nothing but your horse and your pay.".

One morning when Nap was on the Concho Christopher took a sudden resolve. “Geranium," he said, “what do you think if we go and see Captain Nap's little girl? She won't fool Dick and you very far, will she?” So he yoked his oxen, and went leisurely up Orchard Creek. The doctor was delighted to see him, and as they talked over the new “ Branding Bill” then before the Legislature, and arranged

a trade in horses, Christopher watched Inez in all she said and did. Her beauty was indeed remarkable, and it pleased him that her eyes were pensive, and that her sweet oval face had much the expression of a child's, shy and innocent and eager. His own wife had been bright and witty. If Inez had been coquettish and mirthful he would have feared her by instinct.

The next morning he found her standing under the mulberry-trees feeding her pigeons. "Donna Inez,” he said, “I had a message from Captain Nap on Monday night. Buck Burnett had to come down after powder, and he brought it.”

The girl's eyes filled with terror. He is wounded-perhaps dead," she whispered. No, he

not. But I consider him the miserablest young man about a girl I ever knew. I came to see for myself whether vide girl was worth worrying about I think she is and whether she really loves him. I can't find that out. Tell an old man honest and square, do you love Nap as a woman ought to love the man who loves her?

"Why do you ask, Christopher ?”

“Because somehow or other I love Nap better than anything else in the world. Fact, I have nothing else to love."

[graphic][merged small]

“Then, Christopher, I love Nap just as truly as he loves me.

“That's a good girl. Now what's the diffi

culty ?"

[ocr errors]


“Cattle and land.”
That is all ?"
“ All.”

Well, I reckon I can settle that." Here the doctor joined them, and Christopher said, “Come, Doc, and walk a hundred yards with

I have something to say to you, and it's time I was going. I don't like to hurry my cattle, and they have all they can do between now and sunset." The doctor laughed, and, fanning himself with his big hat, strolled on beside the waggon.

“Doc, I want to tell you that I kind of favour a marriage between your daughter and the captain."

“I don't, sir.”
“Now, why, Doc?"

"He has no settled occupation; he has no money, and he is as passionate and ready to fight as a wild steer."

“Well, Doc, I don't know that my heir will need any steady occupation.”

"Your heir ?"

“Yes, I've adopted him, I reckon."
That alters things considerable.”
“I thought so.

What will you give your girl?" “Twenty thousand head, and grazing land on the San Gabriel.”

I'll give the captain ten thousand dollars and build a good house for him. I reckon that's square."

• I'm with you." Then good morning, Doc. Your girl loves the captain, and I'm for marrying him on that ticket. It's the safest, and a man is not apt to run on it more than once in his life.”

He watched anxiously now for the captain, but it was six weeks before he returned to the settlements. As it happened, the first persons he saw were the Doc and Inez. They were taking their morning gallop, and turning round a little clump of live oaks, they met Nap and his men. The doctor's greeting was frank and cordial. tain,” he said, "I'm glad to see you; come over to dinner;" but he left Inez to tell the story of Christopher's generosity,

Just before dark Christopher heard the quick strong tread he knew and loved. He was smoking


[ocr errors]

“Well, well, Nap, how do you spell your name? When I was in New York I knew a family of the same name. K-n-a-p-p, they spelt it.”

Why, Christopher, Nap is only a nickname the boys gave me. They fancied I looked like Napoleon, and somehow the name has stuck to me. My name is Robert Moray.”

Christopher did not answer for some minutes. His face showed white as a dying man's, and for a moment he reeled on his chair. But he speedily recovered himself. “Robert Moray," he said, faintly, and yet with an accent of suspicion. “Well, you must be married in your right name. It would be a sin and a shame else. Whatever that name is, take it."

The captain laughed pleasantly. “My name is Robert Moray. It is on the roll of my company Robert Moray, Don't you like the name ?"

“Yes, I like the name. I shall always call you Robert now. There has been no end of good Christians called Robert, but them Napoleons ! well, we won't judge them, Robert. Do you remember your mother's maiden name ?"

“No, I never heard it. The judge calls her Clara, but for a woman's name give me Inez,” said the lover, joyously.



quietly beside the hearth-log, but he stood up and waited, his small figure trembling with excitement. The captain came straight to him; he put a hand on each of Christopher's shoulders, and looked steadily into his face.

“ Chris, what made you do such a kindness to a scapegrace like me ?

“ Then you'll take it, captain ?".
“ You meant it, and I'll take it.
Thank you; sit down."
“You did it for Inez's sake.”

“No, I did it for you. I kind of took to you the first moment I saw you, and you seemed to like me.

Nobody has ever liked me before. I was an orphan brought up by strangers; you know what my wife was. I've lived alone here; I was not like the people around me. They got on in Indian fighting and cattle trading, but I've lived alone. I want some fellow creature to love, and I hope you'll excuse me choosing you, captain."

They had carried their chairs on to the verandah, and the captain sat looking at the man, asking with an almost pitiful anxiety for his regard. Never were two men more radically unlike each other. One, an elderly man, whose whole past had been a disappointment; the other, young and handsome, and in the full flush of a happy hope, and a future which crowned all his desires. One a gentleman and a scholar; the other a rough, unlettered soldier. But for all differences, some strong subtle link was between them, and when Christopher said "I hope you'll excuse me choosing you," the young man threw his arm across the old man's shoulder and stooped forward and kissed him. It was the most natural action in the world, and under the circumstances appeared so to both men.

How beautiful seemed all nature to them! The blue sky and the green earth; the vast, dark pecans; the wide-spreading live oaks; the softly dimpling pendulous leaves of the mesquite-trees; the cranes, with slow and measured tread, pacing their stately rounds; the swallows darting in the evening air, the song-birds twittering, "goodnights” above them. Two men never drew near to each other at a fairer hour. In soft, slow tones they began to speak about the captain's marriage.

“We must go to Judge Terry's for the ceremony,” said Nap. *My mother will expect it, and the doctor thinks it best.”

“Your mother! Judge Terry! What do you mean, Nap? Am I taking somebody's son from them?”

“No, you are not. I have no father; he died before I knew him. My mother never cared for me.

After she married the judge and had other children I was in every one's way. I joined a Ranger company when I was fourteen years old. I have not slept a night at home since.” “ Poor boy!

Are you Texan born ? " 'No; mother and I came from New York. She was a teacher in an officer's family in San Antonia. When I was twelve years old she married Judge Terry. We have no quarrel, but we don't get along, so I keep away. 'However, the doctor thinks my stepfather ought to marry us. I guess he wants his vote at the next election.”

"HAT night Christopher slept such a deep,

sound sleep that the sun was up, and Dick

and Geranium lowing for their corn, when he awoke. His first feeling was that of being a stranger in his own home; a sense of change was present, and he was too old to welcome change in those prosaic moments when we first look our daily life in the face. But a dash of cold water on his head, and a few words of prayer standing in the open door of his cabin, quite restored him to his usual serene cheerfulness. The cattle and pony, the pigeons and chickens, got their corn; the colony of squirrels that lived in the live oaks got their pecans before Christopher made his own breakfast. As he ate it he began to mutter to himself, “Robert Moray! Robert Moray! It is strange. But queer things do happen, and I'm glad the lad has a decent name of his own. There was Professor Moray, of Marischal, and the Rev. Robert Moray, of the Relief Kirk, and Robert Moray, the carpet-weaver in Kilmarnock, and there is—but that's just impossible. However, I'm glad the lad has a decent name.”

Then he began to think about the wedding he had done so much to forward. “ There's plenty of good limestone in the creek, and I'll build them a house of it. If that bed of stone had been in Scotland they would have quarried a city out of it ere this. Well, we'll begin it. And I must go to the marriage.” Then he went to an old trunk and opened it. It contained only some yellow manuscript—the first chapters of a book begun thirty years before—and a fine black suit. He lifted the latter carefully; it fell to pieces in his hands. He had worn it at his college, and he said, sadly, “ Poor old coat ! You shall not go to a foul decay," and he laid it on the coals and watched it pass into white ashes and impalpable vapour.

There was much to be done in the village, and he yoked up Dick and Geranium and went there. He was not inclined to talk, and the creatures never noticed his silence-"which shows their fine feelings," Christopher had often remarked. “If they had been dogs, now, they would have been bárking and whining out, What's the

• matter? Why don't you notice us ?'”

He went first to Lavenburg's to get a new suit of clothes, and the men lounging about the store were so differently and so picturesquely clad that, if he had wanted a suggestion, he could hardly have come to a better place.

There were half a dozen small, thin Mexicans in black velvet and silver bell-buttons, and silken sashes of the most brilliant colours. Their long, black hair and quivering nostrils and large, red mouths always affected Christopher unpleasantly, but he returned the courteous wave of their cigarettes with a slow, thoughtful “ Good morning, señors.” Leaning against a bale of cotton stood Marajilda, the mildest-mannered Apache that ever cut a throat or “ lifted” a white man's hair-a wily, cool rascal, brave as a game cock, with lustrous, pensive eyes and a sad, thoughtful face. But Christopher had seen him on the battlefield, and knew that the gentle-looking chief, in his fine trim suit of buckskin, was a human tiger. There were a score of Rangers dangling about in all kinds of picturesque garments, with their rifles in their hands, the great bell-spurs on their boots chiming softly as they stalked about to the ring of coins upon the counter. There were planters in white linen and cow-boys in leather, and Jewtraders in second-rate store clothes.” Some spoke Spanish, some German, some English; the languages were almost as various as the costumes. Christopher took an access of dislike that morning to "store clothes;" he renewed his blue flannel blouse, his dark tweed pantaloons, his knee-boots and big straw hat, and was satisfied.

Then he had to look for stonecutters and masons and carpenters, to order some furniture, and to see the factor through whom he banked his money in San Antonia.

It was near sunset on the second day of his visit when he stopped at Haney's Hotel on his way home to ask for a parcel he expected. As he came out Judge Terry spoke to him. He had never noticed the judge before, but he forced himself to do so now. He was a big, swarthy man, on whose scarred, prominent features the history of Texas was written. A man whose eyes flashed with a ready and dangerous fire, even while a smile was on his lips.

"Good evening, Christopher. Let me tell you, sir, I think you are a fine fellow."

Thank you, judge. I have done what I liked to do, that's all. Good night, judge.”

“ Here comes Robert's mother. speak to her? I am sure she would like to thank

who always runs away from trouble. What would you have done ? Faced the woman! yes, even if she had had a scarlet shawl on.

Of course you would, but men and steers are so different. Dear me! I'm almost sorry I took to liking that young fellow. Love seems to bring a power of sorrow with it."

When yet far from home, the young fellow came galloping to meet him. He was in trouble, and in a blazing passion. Snyder and he had had an open quarrel, and as he recapitulated the offence Christopher was at first amazed, and then angry, at the passionate and profane threats which Robert uttered. He stood still and looked at the young man, saying with a cool, determined emphasis, “Robert Moray, I have told you before that I won't hear my Maker's name brought into your quarrels about drink and dice and land and steers. The whole earth is His, and the cattle upon a thousand hills-look at the myriads going tramping through the grass towards the timber, marching like regiments. What for? He has told them that a storm is coming, and if we do not follow them it will be the worse for us."

The Captain was nonplussed. He was little used to being talked to in a way at once authoritative and kind, and there was something in Christopher's face, and in the coming storm, that sobered him. The white sky had turned to a dull red, and the red soon became slate-coloured, then dense and black up to the zenith. The whole heavens seemed about to plunge upon the prairie. The air grew so tenuous that both men and oxen sighed as if on a mountain top. Suddenly, a

. narrow brassy zone circled the horizon, widening rapidly upward, and then came the rushing wind, slinging hail-stones from the far heights, that smote the ground, and men and beasts, with terrific violence.

The men crept under the buffalo robes in the waggon; the beasts, mangled and bleeding, fled in terror before the storm. Then came the rain. It surged and swashed, it ran along the level prairie in a sheet, and, hurled by the mad wind, filled all space with its swaying, pelting, crushing masses. Fortunately, they were only a quarter of a mile from the timber, and within its shelter they outlived the wind and hail. But it was midnight when they reached Christopher's cabin, utterly worn out, and drenched to the skin. The hearthlog was burning, however, and they soon had a bright fire and a cup of hot coffee.

Then they could afford breath to talk, but both were strangely silent and solemn, and Christopher's first words showed that Robert Moray's temper was still troubling him.

“Robert,” he said, “where is your puny bluster amid His wind and storm ? Let Snyder alone. Suppose you do shoot him, what then ? You must hang or run. In either case you will have to give up Inez.”

"Right, Christopher. It won't pay to shoot him."

“It never pays to do wrong. Let us change the subject. I saw your stepfather to-day, and he spoke very handsomely."

. “The judge is always just; there's worse men

Won't you


“I reckon not. My respects, judge;" and he walked away without raising his eyes to the occupant of the open buggy, for he dreaded to hear a voice he knew. Then all the way home he blamed himself severely. “You have a coward for a master, Dick," he said, sadly; "a coward,

[ocr errors]

than Mike Terry—if you let him have his own way.”

· He asked me to speak to your mother, but I did not."


“I do not know exactly. I am a coward about women, I think.

But you are going to marry, Robert, and I think you ought to ask her about your father. If you have boys and girls, they should know who their forbears were."

That is your Scotch notion ; but I have very often asked her.” " What did she

say y?

Then they spoke of Inez and the marriage, and Christopher promised “to drop in some time during the evening," but said " he must be allowed to come and go when he chose."

“He only wanted to see Inez in her bridal robes, and he hoped no one would notice him.". In pursuance of this plan he would not go with the bridal party, but just at sunset quietly took a seat on the verandah. No one noticed him; he knew few of the people present. The rooms were full of ladies in white dresses, and soldiers, citizens, and Robert's Ranger companions. He placed himself in a position which would enable him to

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

That my

watch the changing crowd in the parlour; sooner or later he would see Inez—and the other


[ocr errors]

father had treated us very badlyrun away from us, in short-and that the scorn and ill-talk at last fell on her, and she had been compelled to leave

her home and go among strangers.”

“ He must have been a bad man."

“I don't believe it,” said Robert, warmly. “I don't believe he was to blame. I am sure he was a good fellow enough.”

Christopher's eyes filled, and he looked tenderly at the handsome youth so hotly defending his unknown father.

“Why do you think he was a good fellow, Robert?"

“Because whenever I did anything that was particularly kind, I got a whipping for being just like my father'!." “Yes, -as how, now?"

Well, I cried myself into a fever when she had my little dog Caper hung, and I took a flogging rather than tell where old Africa was hid when the traders were looking for him ; in fact, I never did a kindly thing that it was not laid to some special inheritance from that bad father of mine. But I'll bet he was a real good-hearted fellow.”

It seemed to Christopher that these were the sweetest words he had ever heard from any human lips, and he encouraged the young man to say them over and over again by a mild kind of contradiction.

He saw Inez first. Inez in some soft, flowing white dress, trimmed with knots of myrtle and white jasmine; and a wreath of the same starry flowers was on her black hair. Her shy beauty and childlike tenderness filled him with satisfaction. As he watched her listening with happy blushes to her young husband, Robert's mother crossed the room to speak to them. He heard some one point her out as the bridegroom's mother, and he straightened himself in his chair and looked intently at her. She was

a large fair woman, voluminously dressed in flowing white muslin and lace; on her round white arms were broad bands of gold; there was gold on her hands, and on her neck, and in her ears, and among her heavy braids of yellow hair. But he could not have a moment's doubt. She was the same woman he had last seen in a grey winsey dress in the cottage at Glencrieff

. She was Clarissa Moray. She was the woman h had married nearly twenty-eight years before.

Two handsome girls, evidently her daughters, were by her side, and he saw three boys, of ages between five and twelve, address her at intervals with a loving confidence, which met with a response she had never given to his poor unlover' little lad. As it happened, the two eldest of the

« PreviousContinue »