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- A Protegee of Jack Hamlin's - 30/32 -


for"--

"For my fan," said Cissy with a timid truthfulness of accent.

"Found herself unable to cope with it, and it occurred to her to give the alarm you heard. I happened to be passing and was first to respond. Happily the flames had made but little headway, and were quickly beaten down. It is all over now. But let us hope that the speedy clearing out of the underbrush and the opening of the woods around the chapel will prevent any recurrence of the alarm of to-night."

. . . . . .

That the lesson thus reiterated by Brother Seabright was effective, the following extract, from the columns of the "Whale Point Gazette," may not only be offered as evidence, but may even give the cautious reader further light on the episode itself:--

STRANGE DISCOVERY AT WEST WOODLANDS.--THE TAMALPAIS MYSTERY AGAIN.

The improvements in the clearing around the Sidon Chapel at West Woodlands, undertaken by the Rev. James Seabright, have disclosed another link in the mystery which surrounded the loss of the Tamalpais some years ago at Whale Mouth Point. It will be remembered that the boat containing Adams & Co.'s treasure, the Tamalpais' first officer, and a crew of four men was lost on the rocks shortly after leaving the ill-fated vessel. None of the bodies were ever recovered, and the treasure itself completely baffled the search of divers and salvers. A lidless box bearing the mark of Adams & Co., of the kind in which their treasure was usually shipped, was yesterday found in the woods behind the chapel, half buried in brush, bark, and windfalls. There were no other indications, except the traces of a camp-fire at some remote period, probably long before the building of the chapel. But how and when the box was transported to the upland, and by whose agency, still remains a matter of conjecture. Our reporter who visited the Rev. Mr. Seabright, who has lately accepted the regular ministry of the chapel, was offered every facility for information, but it was evident that the early settlers who were cognizant of the fact--if there were any--are either dead or have left the vicinity.

THE HOME-COMING OF JIM WILKES.

I.

For many minutes there had been no sound but the monotonous drumming of the rain on the roof of the coach, the swishing of wheels through the gravelly mud, and the momentary clatter of hoofs upon some rocky outcrop in the road. Conversation had ceased; the light-hearted young editor in the front seat, more than suspected of dangerous levity, had relapsed into silence since the heavy man in the middle seat had taken to regarding the ceiling with ostentatious resignation, and the thin female beside him had averted her respectable bonnet. An occasional lurch of the coach brought down a fringe of raindrops from its eaves that filmed the windows and shut out the sodden prospect already darkening into night. There had been a momentary relief in their hurried dash through Summit Springs, and the spectacle of certain newly arrived County Delegates crowding the veranda of its one hotel; but that was now three miles behind. The young editor's sole resource was to occasionally steal a glance at the face of the one passenger who seemed to be in sympathy with him, but who was too far away for easy conversation. It was the half-amused, half-perplexed face of a young man who had been for some time regarding him from a remote corner of the coach with an odd mingling of admiring yet cogitating interest, which, however, had never extended to any further encouragement than a faint sad smile. Even this at last faded out in the growing darkness; the powerful coach lamps on either side that flashed on the wayside objects gave no light to the interior. Everybody was slowly falling asleep. Suddenly everybody woke up to find that the coach was apparently standing still! When it had stopped no one knew! The young editor lowered his window. The coach lamp on that side was missing, but nothing was to be seen. In the distance there appeared to be a faint splashing.

"Well," called out an impatient voice from the box above; "what do you make it?" It was the authoritative accents of Yuba Bill, the driver, and everybody listened eagerly for the reply.

It came faintly from the distance and the splashing. "Almost four feet here, and deepening as you go."

"Dead water?"

"No--back water from the Fork."

There was a general movement towards the doors and windows. The splashing came nearer. Then a light flashed on the trees, the windows, and--two feet of yellow water peacefully flowing beneath them! The thin female gave a slight scream.

"There's no danger," said the Expressman, now wading towards them with the coach lamp in his hand. "But we'll have to pull round out of it and go back to the Springs. There's no getting past this break to-night."

"Why didn't you let us know this before," said the heavy man indignantly from the window.

"Jim," said the driver with that slow deliberation which instantly enforced complete attention.

"Yes, Bill."

"Have you got a spare copy of that reg'lar bulletin that the Stage Kempany issoos every ten minutes to each passenger to tell 'em where we are, how far it is to the next place, and wots the state o' the weather gin'rally?"

"No!" said the Expressman grimly, as he climbed to the box, "there's not one left. Why?"

"Cos the Emperor of Chiny's inside wantin' one! Hoop! Keep your seats down there! G'lang!" the whip cracked, there was a desperate splashing, a backward and forward jolting of the coach, the glistening wet flanks and tossing heads of the leaders seen for a moment opposite the windows, a sickening swirl of the whole body of the vehicle as if parting from its axles, a long straight dragging pull, and--presently the welcome sound of hoofs once more beating the firmer ground.

"Hi! Hold up--driver!"

It was the editor's quiet friend who was leaning from the window.

"Isn't Wilkes's ranch just off here?"

"Yes, half a mile along the ridge, I reckon," returned the driver shortly.

"Well, if you're not going on to-night, I'd get off and stop there."

"I reckon your head's level, stranger," said Bill approvingly; "for they're about chock full at the Springs' House."

To descend, the passenger was obliged to pass out by the middle seat and before the young editor. As he did so he cast a shy look on him and, leaning over, said hesitatingly, in a lower voice: "I don't think you will be able to get in at the Springs Hotel. If-- if--you care to come with me to--to--the ranch, I can take care of you."

The young editor--a man of action--paused for an instant only. Then seizing his bag, he said promptly: "Thank you," and followed his newly-found friend to the ground. The whip cracked, the coach rolled away.

"You know Wilkes?" he said.

"Ye-ee-s. He's my father."

"Ah," said the editor cheerfully, "then you're going home?"

"Yes."

It was quite light in the open, and the stranger, after a moment's survey of the prospect,--a survey that, however, seemed to be characterized by his previous hesitation,--said: "This way," crossed the road, and began to follow a quite plain but long disused wagon track along the slope. His manner was still so embarrassed that the young editor, after gayly repeating his thanks for his companion's thoughtful courtesy, followed him in silence. At the end of ten minutes they had reached some cultivated fields and orchards; the stranger brightened, although still with a preoccupied air, quickened his pace, and then suddenly stopped. When the editor reached his side he was gazing with apparently still greater perplexity upon the level, half obliterated, and blackened foundations of what had been a large farmhouse.

"Why, it's been burnt down!" he said thoughtfully.

The editor stared at him! Burnt down it certainly had been, but by no means recently. Grasses were already springing up from the charred beams in the cellar, vines were trailing over the fallen chimneys, excavations, already old, had been made among the ruins. "When were you here last?" the editor asked abruptly.

"Five years ago," said the stranger abstractedly.

"Five years!--and you knew nothing of THIS?"

"No. I was in Tahiti, Australia, Japan, and China all the time."

"And you never heard from home?"

"No. You see I quo'led with the old man, and ran away."

"And you didn't write to tell them you were coming?"

"No." He hesitated, and then added: "Never thought o' coming till I saw YOU."


A Protegee of Jack Hamlin's - 30/32

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