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- OF FROM SAND HILL TO PINE - 30/36 -
and the summit, except MYSELF! So I opened it, and this is what it read!" He held the paper sideways toward the leaping light of the still near camp-fire, and read slowly, with the emphasis of having read it many times before.
"'I want you to believe that I, at least, respect and honor your honest, manly calling, and when you strike it rich, as you surely will, I hope you will sometimes think of Jill.'"
In the thrill of joy, hope, and fear that came over Bray, he could see that Parkhurst had not only failed to detect his secret, but had not even connected the two names with their obvious suggestion. "But do you know anybody named Jill?" he asked breathlessly.
"It's no NAME," said Parkhurst in a sombre voice, "it's a THING!"
"A thing?" repeated Bray, bewildered.
"Yes, a measure--you know--two fingers of whiskey."
"Oh, a 'gill,'" said Bray.
"That's what I said, young man," returned Parkhurst gravely.
Bray choked back a hysterical laugh; spelling was notoriously not one of Parkhurst's strong points. "But what has a 'gill' got to do with it?" he asked quickly.
"It's one of them Sphinx things, don't you see? A sort of riddle or rebus, you know. You've got to study it out, as them old chaps did. But I fetched it. What comes after 'gills,' eh?"
"Pints, I suppose," said Bray.
"And after pints?"
"QUARTZ, and there you are. So I looked about me for quartz, and sure enough struck it the first pop."
Bray cast a quick look at Parkhurst's grave face. The man was evidently impressed and sincere. "Have you told this to any one?" he asked quickly.
"Then DON'T! or you'll spoil the charm, and bring us ill luck! That's the rule, you know. I really don't know that you ought to have told me," added the artful Bray, dissembling his intense joy at this proof of Eugenia's remembrance.
"But," said Parkhurst blankly, "you see, old man, you'd been the last man at the spring, and I kinder thought"--
"Don't think," said Bray promptly, "and above all, don't talk; not a word to the boys of this. Stay! Give me the paper and the sprig. I've got to go to San Francisco next week, and I'll take care of it and think it out!" He knew that Parkhurst might be tempted to talk, but without the paper his story would be treated lightly. Parkhurst handed him the paper, and the two men returned to the camp-fire.
That night Bray slept but little. The superstition of the lover is no less keen than that of the gambler, and Bray, while laughing at Parkhurst's extravagant fancy, I am afraid was equally inclined to believe that their good fortune came through Eugenia's influence. At least he should tell her so, and her precious note became now an invitation as well as an excuse for seeking her. The only fear that possessed him was that she might have expected some acknowledgment of her note before she left that afternoon; the only thing he could not understand was how she had managed to convey the note to the spring, for she could not have taken it herself. But this would doubtless be explained by her in San Francisco, whither he intended to seek her. His affairs, the purchasing of machinery for their new claim, would no doubt give him easy access to her father.
But it was one thing to imagine this while procuring a new and fashionable outfit in San Francisco, and quite another to stand before the "palatial" residence of the Neworths on Rincon Hill, with the consciousness of no other introduction than the memory of the Neworths' discourtesy on the mountain, and, even in his fine feathers, Bray hesitated. At this moment a carriage rolled up to the door, and Eugenia, an adorable vision of laces and silks, alighted.
Forgetting everything else, he advanced toward her with outstretched hand. He saw her start, a faint color come into her face; he knew he was recognized; but she stiffened quickly again, the color vanished, her beautiful gray eyes rested coldly on him for a moment, and then, with the faintest inclination of her proud head, she swept by him and entered the house.
But Bray, though shocked, was not daunted, and perhaps his own pride was awakened. He ran to his hotel, summoned a messenger, inclosed her note in an envelope, and added these lines:--
DEAR MISS NEWORTH,--I only wanted to thank you an hour ago, as I should like to have done before, for the kind note which I inclose, but which you have made me feel I have no right to treasure any longer, and to tell you that your most generous wish and prophecy has been more than fulfilled.
Yours, very gratefully,
Within the hour the messenger returned with the still briefer reply:--
"Miss Neworth has been fully aware of that preoccupation with his good fortune which prevented Mr. Bray from an earlier acknowledgment of her foolish note."
Cold as this response was, Bray's heart leaped. She HAD lingered on the summit, and HAD expected a reply. He seized his hat, and, jumping into the first cab at the hotel door, drove rapidly back to the house. He had but one idea, to see her at any cost, but one concern, to avoid a meeting with her father first, or a denial at her very door.
He dismissed the cab at the street corner and began to reconnoitre the house. It had a large garden in the rear, reclaimed from the adjacent "scrub oak" infested sand hill, and protected by a high wall. If he could scale that wall, he could command the premises. It was a bright morning; she might be tempted into the garden. A taller scrub oak grew near the wall; to the mountain-bred Bray it was an easy matter to swing himself from it to the wall, and he did. But his momentum was so great that he touched the wall only to be obliged to leap down into the garden to save himself from falling there. He heard a little cry, felt his feet strike some tin utensil, and rolled on the ground beside Eugenia and her overturned watering-pot.
They both struggled to their feet with an astonishment that turned to laughter in their eyes and the same thought in the minds of each.
"But we are not on the mountains now, Mr. Bray," said Eugenia, taking her handkerchief at last from her sobering face and straightening eyebrows.
"But we are quits," said Bray. "And you now know my real name. I only came here to tell you why I could not answer your letter the same day. I never got it--I mean," he added hurriedly, "another man got it first."
She threw up her head, and her face grew pale. "ANOTHER man got it," she repeated, "and YOU let another man"--
"No, no," interrupted Bray imploringly. "You don't understand. One of my partners went to the spring that afternoon, and found it; but he neither knows who sent it, nor for whom it was intended." He hastily recounted Parkhurst's story, his mysterious belief, and his interpretation of the note. The color came back to her face and the smile to her lips and eyes. "I had gone twice to the spring after I saw you, but I couldn't bear its deserted look without you," he added boldly. Here, seeing her face grew grave again, he added, "But how did you get the letter to the spring? and how did you know that it was found that day?"
It was her turn to look embarrassed and entreating, but the combination was charming in her proud face. "I got the little schoolboy at the summit," she said, with girlish hesitation, "to take the note. He knew the spring, but he didn't know YOU. I told him--it was very foolish, I know--to wait until you came for water, to be certain that you got the note, to wait until you came up, for I thought you might question him, or give him some word." Her face was quite rosy now. "But," she added, and her lip took a divine pout, "he said he waited TWO HOURS; that you never took the LEAST CONCERN of the letter or him, but went around the mountain side, peering and picking in every hole and corner of it, and then he got tired and ran away. Of course I understand it now, it wasn't YOU; but oh, please; I beg you, Mr. Bray, don't!"
Bray released the little hand which he had impulsively caught, and which had allowed itself to be detained for a blissful moment.
"And now, don't you think, Mr. Bray," she added demurely, "that you had better let me fill my pail again while you go round to the front door and call upon me properly?"
"But your father"--
"My father, as a well-known investor, regrets exceedingly that he did not make your acquaintance more thoroughly in his late brief interview. He is, as your foreman knows, exceedingly interested in the mines on Eureka ledge. He will be glad if you will call." She led him to a little door in the wall, which she unbolted. "And now 'Jill' must say good-by to 'Jack,' for she must make herself ready to receive a Mr. Bray who is expected."
And when Bray a little later called at the front door, he was respectfully announced. He called another day, and many days after. He came frequently to San Francisco, and one day did not return to his old partners. He had entered into a new partnership with one who he declared "had made the first strike on Eureka
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