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- The Twins of Table Mountain - 4/26 -
"Certainly!" continued Sol. "It's his misfortune. You weren't with me at Gold Hill.--Allow me," he said, turning to Rand, "to present Mrs. Sol Saunders, wife of the undersigned, and Miss Euphemia Neville, otherwise known as the 'Marysville Pet,' the best variety actress known on the provincial boards. Played Ophelia at Marysville, Friday; domestic drama at Gold Hill, Saturday; Sunday night, four songs in character, different dress each time, and a clog-dance. The best clog-dance on the Pacific Slope," he added in a stage aside. "The minstrels are crazy to get her in 'Frisco. But money can't buy her--prefers the legitimate drama to this sort of thing." Here he took a few steps of a jig, to which the "Marysville Pet" beat time with her feet, and concluded with a laugh and a wink--the combined expression of an artist's admiration for her ability, and a man of the world's scepticism of feminine ambition.
Miss Euphemia responded to the formal introduction by extending her hand frankly with a re-assuring smile to Rand, and an utter obliviousness of her former hauteur. Rand shook it warmly, and then dropped carelessly on a rock beside them.
"And you never told me you lived up here in the attic, you rascal!" continued Sol with a laugh.
"No," replied Rand simply. "How could I? I never saw you before, that I remember."
Miss Euphemia stared at Sol. Mrs. Sol looked up in her lord's face, and folded her arms in a resigned expression. Sol rose to his feet again, and shaded his eyes with his hand, but this time quite seriously, and gazed at Rand's smiling face.
"Good Lord! Do you mean to say your name isn't Pinkney?" he asked, with a half embarrassed laugh.
"It IS Pinkney," said Rand; "but I never met you before."
"Didn't you come to see a young lady that joined my troupe at Gold Hill last month, and say you'd meet me at Keeler's Ferry in a day or two?"
"No-o-o," said Rand, with a good-humored laugh. "I haven't left this mountain for two months."
He might have added more; but his attention was directed to Miss Euphemia, who during this short dialogue, having stuffed alternately her handkerchief, the corner of her mantle, and her gloves, into her mouth, restrained herself no longer, but gave way to an uncontrollable fit of laughter. "O Sol!" she gasped explanatorily, as she threw herself alternately against him, Mrs. Sol, and a bowlder, "you'll kill me yet! O Lord! first we take possession of this man's property, then we claim HIM." The contemplation of this humorous climax affected her so that she was fain at last to walk away, and confide the rest of her speech to space.
Sol joined in the laugh until his wife plucked his sleeve, and whispered something in his ear. In an instant his face became at once mysterious and demure. "I owe you an apology," he said, turning to Rand, but in a voice ostentatiously pitched high enough for Miss Euphemia to overhear: "I see I have made a mistake. A resemblance--only a mere resemblance, as I look at you now--led me astray. Of course you don't know any young lady in the profession?"
"Of course he doesn't, Sol," said Miss Euphemia. "I could have told you that. He didn't even know ME!"
The voice and mock-heroic attitude of the speaker was enough to relieve the general embarrassment with a laugh. Rand, now pleasantly conscious of only Miss Euphemia's presence, again offered the hospitality of his cabin, with the polite recognition of her friends in the sentence, "and you might as well come along too."
"But won't we incommode the lady of the house?" said Mrs. Sol politely.
"What lady of the house"? said Rand almost angrily.
"Why, Ruth, you know!"
It was Rand's turn to become hilarious. "Ruth," he said, "is short for Rutherford, my brother." His laugh, however, was echoed only by Euphemia.
"Then you have a brother?" said Mrs. Sol benignly.
"Yes," said Rand: "he will be here soon." A sudden thought dropped the color from his cheek. "Look here," he said, turning impulsively upon Sol. "I have a brother, a twin-brother. It couldn't be HIM--"
Sol was conscious of a significant feminine pressure on his right arm. He was equal to the emergency. "I think not," he said dubiously, "unless your brother's hair is much darker than yours. Yes! now I look at you, yours is brown. He has a mole on his right cheek hasn't he?"
The red came quickly back to Rand's boyish face. He laughed. "No, sir: my brother's hair is, if any thing, a shade lighter than mine, and nary mole. Come along!"
And leading the way, Rand disclosed the narrow steps winding down to the shelf on which the cabin hung. "Be careful," said Rand, taking the now unresisting hand of the "Marysville Pet" as they descended: "a step that way, and down you go two thousand feet on the top of a pine-tree."
But the girl's slight cry of alarm was presently changed to one of unaffected pleasure as they stood on the rocky platform. "It isn't a house: it's a NEST, and the loveliest!" said Euphemia breathlessly.
"It's a scene, a perfect scene, sir!" said Sol, enraptured. "I shall take the liberty of bringing my scene-painter to sketch it some day. It would do for 'The Mountaineer's Bride' superbly, or," continued the little man, warming through the blue-black border of his face with professional enthusiasm, "it's enough to make a play itself. 'The Cot on the Crags.' Last scene--moonlight--the struggle on the ledge! The Lady of the Crags throws herself from the beetling heights!--A shriek from the depths--a woman's wail!"
"Dry up!" sharply interrupted Rand, to whom this speech recalled his brother's half-forgotten strangeness. "Look at the prospect."
In the full noon of a cloudless day, beneath them a tumultuous sea of pines surged, heaved, rode in giant crests, stretched and lost itself in the ghostly, snow-peaked horizon. The thronging woods choked every defile, swept every crest, filled every valley with its dark-green tilting spears, and left only Table Mountain sunlit and bare. Here and there were profound olive depths, over which the gray hawk hung lazily, and into which blue jays dipped. A faint, dull yellowish streak marked an occasional watercourse; a deeper reddish ribbon, the mountain road and its overhanging murky cloud of dust.
"Is it quite safe here?" asked Mrs. Sol, eying the little cabin. "I mean from storms?"
"It never blows up here," replied Rand, "and nothing happens."
"It must be lovely," said Euphemia, clasping her hands.
"It IS that," said Rand proudly. "It's four years since Ruth and I took up this yer claim, and raised this shanty. In that four years we haven't left it alone a night, or cared to. It's only big enough for two, and them two must be brothers. It wouldn't do for mere pardners to live here alone,--they couldn't do it. It wouldn't be exactly the thing for man and wife to shut themselves up here alone. But Ruth and me know each other's ways, and here we'll stay until we've made a pile. We sometimes--one of us--takes a pasear to the Ferry to buy provisions; but we're glad to crawl up to the back of old 'Table' at night."
"You're quite out of the world here, then?" suggested Mrs. Sol.
"That's it, just it! We're out of the world,--out of rows, out of liquor, out of cards, out of bad company, out of temptation. Cussedness and foolishness hez got to follow us up here to find us, and there's too many ready to climb down to them things to tempt 'em to come up to us."
There was a little boyish conceit in his tone, as he stood there, not altogether unbecoming his fresh color and simplicity. Yet, when his eyes met those of Miss Euphemia, he colored, he hardly knew why, and the young lady herself blushed rosily.
When the neat cabin, with its decorated walls, and squirrel and wild-cat skins, was duly admired, the luncheon-basket of the Saunders party was re-enforced by provisions from Rand's larder, and spread upon the ledge; the dimensions of the cabin not admitting four. Under the potent influence of a bottle, Sol became hilarious and professional. The "Pet" was induced to favor the company with a recitation, and, under the plea of teaching Rand, to perform the clog-dance with both gentlemen. Then there was an interval, in which Rand and Euphemia wandered a little way down the mountain-side to gather laurel, leaving Mr. Sol to his siesta on a rock, and Mrs. Sol to take some knitting from the basket, and sit beside him.
When Rand and his companion had disappeared, Mrs. Sol nudged her sleeping partner. "Do you think that WAS the brother?"
Sol yawned. "Sure of it. They're as like as two peas, in looks."
"Why didn't you tell him so, then?"
"Will you tell me, my dear, why you stopped me when I began?"
"Because something was said about Ruth being here; and I supposed Ruth was a woman, and perhaps Pinkney's wife, and knew you'd be putting your foot in it by talking of that other woman. I supposed it was for fear of that he denied knowing you."
"Well, when HE--this Rand--told me he had a twin-brother, he looked so frightened that I knew he knew nothing of his brother's doings with that woman, and I threw him off the scent. He's a good fellow, but awfully green, and I didn't want to worry him with tales. I like him, and I think Phemie does too."
"Nonsense! He's a conceited prig! Did you hear his sermon on the
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