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- The Twins of Table Mountain - 20/26 -
Mrs. Rightbody trifled with her next question.
"She was pretty, of course?"
The eyes of both men brightened.
"She was THAT!" said Seventy-Four emphatically.
"It would have done you good to see her!" added Seventy-Five.
Mrs. Rightbody inwardly doubted it; but, before she could ask another question, the two men again retired to the corner for consultation. When they came back, there was a shade more of kindliness and confidence in their manner; and Seventy-Four opened his mind more freely.
"We wish to say, ma'am, looking at the thing, by and large, in a far-minded way, that, ez YOU seem interested, and ez Mr. Rightbody was interested, and was, according to all accounts, deceived and led away by Silsbie, that we don't mind listening to any proposition YOU might make, as a lady--allowin' you was ekally interested."
"I understand," said Mrs. Rightbody quickly. "And you will furnish me with any papers?"
The two men again consulted.
"We wish to say, ma'am, that we think she's got papers, but--"
"I MUST have them, you understand," interrupted Mrs. Rightbody, "at any price.
"We was about to say, ma'am," said Seventy-Four slowly, "that, considerin' all things,--and you being a lady--you kin have HER, papers, pedigree, and guaranty, for twelve hundred dollars."
It has been alleged that Mrs. Rightbody asked only one question more, and then fainted. It is known, however, that by the next day it was understood in Deadwood that Mrs. Rightbody had confessed to the Vigilance Committee that her husband, a celebrated Boston millionaire, anxious to gain possession of Abner Springer's well- known sorrel mare, had incited the unfortunate Josh Silsbie to steal it; and that finally, failing in this, the widow of the deceased Boston millionaire was now in personal negotiation with the owners.
Howbeit, Miss Alice, returning home that afternoon, found her mother with a violent headache.
"We will leave here by the next steamer," said Mrs. Rightbody languidly. "Mr. Ryder has promised to accompany us."
"The climate, Alice, is over-rated. My nerves are already suffering from it. The associations are unfit for you, and Mr. Marvin is naturally impatient."
Miss Alice colored slightly.
"But your quest, mother?"
"I've abandoned it."
"But I have not," said Alice quietly. "Do you remember my guide at the Yo Semite,--Stanislaus Joe? Well, Stanislaus Joe is--who do you think?"
Mrs. Rightbody was languidly indifferent.
"Well, Stanislaus Joe is the son of Joshua Silsbie."
Mrs. Rightbody sat upright in astonishment
"Yes. But mother, he knows nothing of what we know. His father treated him shamefully, and set him cruelly adrift years ago; and, when he was hung, the poor fellow, in sheer disgrace, changed his name."
"But, if he knows nothing of his father's compact, of what interest is this?"
"Oh, nothing! Only I thought it might lead to something."
Mrs. Rightbody suspected that "something," and asked sharply, "And pray how did YOU find it out? You did not speak of it in the valley."
"Oh! I didn't find it out till to-day," said Miss Alice, walking to the window. "He happened to be here, and--told me."
If Mrs. Rightbody's friends had been astounded by her singular and unexpected pilgrimage to California so soon after her husband's decease, they were still more astounded by the information, a year later, that she was engaged to be married to a Mr. Ryder, of whom only the scant history was known, that he was a Californian, and former correspondent of her husband. It was undeniable that the man was wealthy, and evidently no mere adventurer; it was rumored that he was courageous and manly: but even those who delighted in his odd humor were shocked at his grammar and slang.
It was said that Mr. Marvin had but one interview with his father- in-law elect, and returned so supremely disgusted, that the match was broken off. The horse-stealing story, more or less garbled, found its way through lips that pretended to decry it, yet eagerly repeated it. Only one member of the Rightbody family--and a new one--saved them from utter ostracism. It was young Mr. Ryder, the adopted son of the prospective head of the household, whose culture, manners, and general elegance, fascinated and thrilled Boston with a new sensation. It seemed to many that Miss Alice should, in the vicinity of this rare exotic, forget her former enthusiasm for a professional life; but the young man was pitied by society, and various plans for diverting him from any mesalliance with the Rightbody family were concocted.
It was a wintry night, and the second anniversary of Mr. Rightbody's death, that a light was burning in his library. But the dead man's chair was occupied by young Mr. Ryder, adopted son of the new proprietor of the mansion; and before him stood Alice, with her dark eyes fixed on the table.
"There must have been something in it, Joe, believe me. Did you never hear your father speak of mine?"
"But you say he was college-bred, and born a gentleman, and in his youth he must have had many friends."
"Alice," said the young man gravely, "when I have done something to redeem my name, and wear it again before these people, before YOU, it would be well to revive the past. But till then--"
But Alice was not to be put down. "I remember," she went on, scarcely heeding him, "that, when I came in that night, papa was reading a letter, and seemed to be disconcerted."
"Yes; but," added Alice, with a sigh, "when we found him here insensible, there was no letter on his person. He must have destroyed it."
"Did you ever look among his papers? If found, it might be a clew."
The young man glanced toward the cabinet. Alice read his eyes, and answered,--
"Oh, dear, no! The cabinet contained only his papers, all perfectly arranged,--you know how methodical were his habits,--and some old business and private letters, all carefully put away."
"Let us see them," said the young man, rising.
They opened drawer after drawer; files upon files of letters and business papers, accurately folded and filed. Suddenly Alice uttered a little cry, and picked up a quaint ivory paper-knife lying at the bottom of a drawer.
"It was missing the next day, and never could be found: he must have mislaid it here. This is the drawer," said Alice eagerly.
Here was a clew. But the lower part of the drawer was filled with old letters, not labelled, yet neatly arranged in files. Suddenly he stopped, and said, "Put them back, Alice, at once."
"Some of these letters are in my father's handwriting."
"The more reason why I should see them," said the girl imperatively. "Here, you take part, and I'll take part, and we'll get through quicker."
There was a certain decision and independence in her manner which he had learned to respect. He took the letters, and in silence read them with her. They were old college letters, so filled with boyish dreams, ambitions, aspirations, and utopian theories, that I fear neither of these young people even recognized their parents in the dead ashes of the past. They were both grave, until Alice uttered a little hysterical cry, and dropped her face in her hands. Joe was instantly beside her.
"It's nothing, Joe, nothing. Don't read it, please; please, don't. It's so funny! it's so very queer!"
But Joe had, after a slight, half-playful struggle, taken the letter from the girl. Then he read aloud the words written by his father thirty years ago.
"I thank you, dear friend, for all you say about my wife and boy. I thank you for reminding me of our boyish compact. He will be ready to fulfil it, I know, if he loves those his father loves, even if you should marry years later. I am glad for your sake, for
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