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Full text of "Three partners : or, The big strike on Heavy Tree Hill"



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Three Parine 



HARJZ 



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REESE LIBRARY 
IRSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

laesswns NoJ/fy-fyQ . Class No. 







THREE PARTNERS 



BRET HARTE'S BOOKS. 

BRET HARTE'S COLLECTED WORKS. Revised by the Author Library 
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London : CHATTO & WINDUS, in St. Martin's Lane, W.C. 




She leaned upon his guests arm, chatting confidentially. [p. 95. 



THREE PARTNERS 



OR 



THE BIG STRIKE ON HEAVY TREE HILL 



BY 



BRET J-IARTE 




WITH EIGHT ILLUS TRATIO NS BY J. GULICH 




LONDON 
CHAT TO & W INDUS 

1897 



7/4* fo 

PRINTED BY 

SP0TT1SW00DE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE 
LONDON 




Jvj, 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



SHE LEANED UPON HIS GUEST'S ARM, CHAT- 
TING confidentially .... Frontispiece 

WHISKEY DICK, LIFTING HIS TIN CUP WITH A 

DANGEROUSLY UNSTEADY HAND . . to face p. 1 8 

HE TOOK FROM A FOLD OF HIS SCARLET SASH 

A SMALL PARCET „ 55 

' where's the mo^ey?' he said . . . „ no 

THE ROOM REELED AROUND HER . . . ,, 135 

THEY WERE ALL STARTLED AT THE APPARI- 
TION OF MRS. BARKER . . . . „ 208 

THEY SAT, LOOKING DOWN UPON THE ROAD . „ 23 1 

THEY EMERGED, HOLDING EACH OTHER'S HAND „ 250 



114- *\0 




THREE PARTNERS 



PROLOGUE 

The sun was going down on the Black Spur 
Range. The red light it had kindled there was 
still eating its way along the serried crest, show- 
ing through gaps in the ranks of pines, etching 
out the interstices of broken boughs, fading away 
and then flashing suddenly out again like sparks 
in burnt-up paper. Then the night wind swept 
down the whole mountain side, and began its 
usual struggle with the shadows upclimbing from 
the valley, only to lose itself in the end and be 
absorbed in the all-conquering darkness. Yet 
for some time the pines on the long slope of 
Heavy Tree Hill murmured and protested with 
swaying arms ; but as the shadows stole upwards, 
and cabin after cabin and tunnel after tunnel were 
swallowed up, a complete silence followed. Only 
the sky remained visible— a vast concave mirror 



2 THREE PARTNERS 

of dull steel, in which the stars did not seem to 
be set, but only reflected. 

A single cabin door on the crest of Heavy 
Tree Hill had remained open to the wind and 
darkness. Then it was slowly shut by an in- 
visible figure, afterwards revealed by the embers 
of the fire it was stirring. At first only this 
figure brooding over the hearth was shown, but 
as the flames leaped up, two other figures could 
be seen sitting motionless before it. When the 
door was shut, they acknowledged that interrup- 
tion by slightly changing their position ; the one 
who had risen to shut the door sank back into 
an invisible seat, but the attitude of each man 
was one of profound reflection or reserve, and 
apparently upon some common subject which 
made them respect each other's silence. How- 
ever, this was at last broken by a laugh. It was 
a boyish laugh, and came from the youngest of 
the party. The two others turned their profiles 
and glanced inquiringly towards him, but did not 
speak. 

' I was thinking,' he began in apologetic 
explanation, ' how mighty queer it w r as that while 
we w r ere working like niggers on grub wages, 
without the ghost of a chance of making a strike, 
how w r e used to sit here, night after night, and 
flapdoodle and speculate about what we'd do if 



THREE PARTNERS 3 

we ever did make one ; and now, Great Scott ! 
that we have made it, and are just wallowing in 
gold, here we are sitting as glum and silent as if 
we'd had a wash out ! Why, Lord ! I remember 
one night — not so long ago, either — that you two 
quarrelled over the swell hotel you were going 
to stop at in 'Frisco, and w T hether you wouldn't 
strike straight out for London and Rome and 
Paris, or go away to Japan and China and round 
by India and the Red Sea.' 

* No, we didn't quarrel over it,' said one of 
the figures gently ; ' there was only a little 
discussion.' 

*. Yes, but you did, though,' returned the 
young fellow mischievously, ' and you told Stacy, 
there, that we'd better learn something of the 
world before we tried to buy it or even hire it, 
and that it was just as well to get the hayseed 
out of our hair and the slumgullion off our boots 
before we mixed in polite society.' 

4 Well, I don't see what's the matter With 
that sentiment now,' returned the second speaker 
good-humouredly, ' only,' he added gravely, ' we 
didn't quarrel — God forbid 1' 

There was something in the speaker's tone 
which seemed to touch a common chord in their 
natures, and this was voiced by Barker with 
sudden and almost pathetic earnestness. ' I tell 

b 2 



4 THREE PARTNERS 

i you what, boys, we ought to swear hereto-night 
to always stand by each other — i n luck and out of 
it ! We ought to hold ourselves always at each 
others call. We ought to have a kind of j>as£- 
wordor signal, you know, by which we could 
summon each other at any time from any quarter 
of the globe ! ' 

' Come off the roof, Barker,' murmured Stacy, 

without lifting his eyes from the fire. But 

Demorest 'smiled and glanced tolerantly at the 

younger man. 

[ ' Yes, but look here, Stacy,' continued Barker, 

I ' comrades like us, in the old days, used to do 
that in times of trouble and adventures. Why 
^shouldn't we do it in our luck ? ' 

' There's a good deal in that, Barker boy,' 
said Demorest, ' though, as a general thing, pass- 
words butter no parsnips, and the ordinary, every- 
day, single yelp from a wolf brings the whole 
pack together for business about as quick as a 
password. But you cling to that sentiment, and 
put it away with your gold dust in your belt.' 

' What I like about Barker is his com- 
modiousness,' said Stacy. ' Here he is, the only 
man among us that has his future fixed and his 
pre-emption lines laid out and registered. He's 
already got a girl that he's going to marry and 
settle down with on the strength of his luck. 



THREE PARTNERS 5 

And I'd like to know what Kitty Carter, when 
she's Mrs. Barker, would say to her husband 
being signalled for from Asia or Africa. I don't 
seem to see her tumbling to any password. And 
when he and she go into a new partnership I 
reckon she'll let the old one slide.' 

' That's just where you're wrong ! ' said 
Barker, with quickly rising colour, ' She's the 
sweetest girl in the world, and she'd be sure to 
understand our feelings. Why, she thinks every- 
thing of you two ; she was just eager for you to 
get this claim, which has put us where we are, 
when I held back, and if it hadn't been for her, by 
Jove ! we wouldn't have had it.' 

1 That was only because she cared for you, 1 
returned Stacy, with a half-yawn, ' and now that 
you've got your share she isn't going to take a 
breathless interest in us. And, by the way, I'd 
rather you'd remind us that we owe our luck to 
her than that she should ever remind you of it.' 

1 What do you mean ? ' said Barker quickly. 
But Demorest here rose lazily, and, throwing a 
gigantic shadow on the wall, stood between the 
two with his back to the fire. ' He means,' he 
said slowly, ' that you're talking rot, and so is he. 
However, as yours comes from the heart and his 
from the head, I prefer yours. But you're both 
making me tired. Let's have a fresh deal' 



6 THREE PARTNERS 

Nobody ever dreamed of contradicting De- 
morest. Nevertheless, Barker persisted eagerly : 
* But isn't it better for us to look at this cheerfully 
and happily all round ? There's nothing criminal 
in our having made a strike! It seems to me, 
boys, that of all ways of making money it's the 
squarest and most level ; nobody is the poorer for 
it ; our luck brings no misfortune to others. The 
gold was put there ages ago for anybody to find ; 
we found it. It hasn't been tarnished by man's 
touch before. I don't know how it strikes you, 
boys, but it seems to me that of all gifts that are 
going it is the straightest. For whether we 
deserve it or not, it comes to us first-hand — from 
God!' 

The two men glanced quickly at the speaker, 
whose face flushed and then smiled embarrassedly 
as if ashamed of the enthusiasm into which he 
had been betrayed. But Demorest did not smile, 
and Stacy's eyes shone in the firelight as he said 
languidly, \ I never heard that prospecting was 
a religious occupation before. But I shouldn't 
wonder if you're right, Barker boy. So let's 
liquor up.' 

Nevertheless he did not move, nor did the 
others. The fire leaped higher, bringing out the 
rude rafters and sternly economic details of the 
rough cabin, and making the occupants in their 
seats before the fire look gigantic by contrast. 



THREE PARTNERS 7 

* Who shut the door ? ' said Demorest after a 
pause. 

\ I did,' said Barker. \ I reckoned it was 
getting cold.' 

1 Better open it again, now that the fire's 
blazing. It will light the way if any of the men 
from below want to drop in this evening.' 

Stacy stared at his companion. ' I thought that 
it was understood that we were giving them that 
dinner at Boomville to-morrow night, so that we 
might have the last evening here by ourselves in 
peace and quietness.' 

' Yes, but if anyone did want to come it 
would seem churlish to shut him out,' said 
Demorest. 

* I reckon you're feeling very much as I am,' 
said Stacy, ' that this good-fortune is rather 
crowding to us three alone. For myself, I know,' 
he continued, with a backward glance towards a 
blanketed, covered pile in the corner of the cabin, 
1 that I feel rather oppressed by — by — its specific 
gravity, I calculate — and sort of crampy and 
twitchy in the legs, as if I ought to " lite " out and 
do something, and yet it holds me here. All the 
same, I doubt if anybody will come up — except 
from curiosity. Our luck has made them rather 
sore down the hill, for all they're coming to the 
dinner to-morrow.' 

1 That's only human nature/ said Demorest. 



8 THREE PARTNERS 

' But,' said Barker eagerly, ' what does it 
mean ? Why, only this afternoon, when I was 
passing the M Old Kentuck " tunnel, where those 
Marshalls have been grubbing along for four 
years without making a single strike, I felt 
ashamed to look at them, and as they barely 
nodded to me I slinked by as if I had done them 
an injury. I don't understand it.' 

• It somehow does not seem to square with 
this "Gift o' God" idea o' yours, does it?' said 
Stacy. ■ But we'll open the door and give them a 
show.' 

As he did so it seemed as if the night were 
their only guest, and had been waiting on the 
threshold to now enter bodily and pervade all 
things with its presence. With that cool, fragrant 
inflow of air they breathed freely. The red edge 
had gone from Black Spur, but it was even more 
clearly defined against the sky in its towering 
blackness. The sky itself had grown lighter, 
although the stars still seemed mere reflections 
of the solitary pin-points of light scattered along 
the concave valley below. Mingling with the 
cooler, restful air of the summit, yet penetratingly 
distinct from it, arose the stimulating breath of 
the pines below, still hot and panting from 
the daylong sun. The silence was intense. The 
far-off barking of a dog on the invisible river-bar 



THREE PARTNERS 9 

nearly a mile beneath them came to them like 
a sound in a dream. They had risen, and, stand- 
ing in the doorway, by common consent turned 
their faces to the east. It was the frequent^ 
attitude of the home-remembering miner, and it 
gave him the crowning glory of the view. For, 
beyond the pine-hearsed summits, rarely seen 
except against the evening sky, lay a thin, white 
cloud like a dropped portion of the milky way. 
Faint with an indescribable pallor, remote yet 
distinct enough to assert itself above and beyond 
all surrounding objects, it was always there. It 
was the snow-line of the Sierras. 

They turned away and silently reseated 
themselves, the same thought in the minds of 
each. Here was something they could not take 
away — something to be left for ever and irre- 
trievably behind — left with the healthy life they 
had been leading, the cheerful endeavour, the 
undying hopefulness which it had fostered and 
blessed. Was what they were taking away worth 
it ? And oddly enough, frank and outspoken as 
they had always been to each other, that common 
thought; remained unuttered. Even Barker was 
silent ; perhaps he was also thinking of Kitty. 

Suddenly two figures 'appeared in the very 
doorway of the cabin. The effect was startling 
upon the partners, who had only just reseated 



10 THREE PARTNERS 

themselves, and for a moment they had forgotten 
that the narrow band of light which shot forth 
from the open door rendered the darkness on 
either side of it more impenetrable, and that out 
of this darkness, although themselves guided by 
the light, the figures had just emerged. Yet one 
was familiar enough. It was the Hill drunkard, 
Dick Hall, or, as he was called, ■ Whiskey Dick,' 
or indicated still more succinctly by the Hill 
humourists, ' Alkey Hall.' 

Everybody had seen that sodden, puffy, but 
good-humoured face ; everybody had felt the fiery 
exhalations of that enormous red beard, which 
always seemed to be kept in a state of moist, un- 
kempt luxuriance by liquor ; everybody knew the 
absurd dignity of manner and attempted precision 
of statement with which he was wont to disguise 
his frequent excesses. Very few, however, knew* 
or cared to know, the pathetic weariness and 
chilling horror that sometimes looked out of those 
bloodshot eyes. 

He was evidently equally unprepared for the 
three silent seated figures before the door, and for 
a moment looked at them blankly with the doubts 
of a frequently deceived perception. Was he 
sure that they were quite real ? He had not dared 
to look at his companion for verification, but 
smiled vaguely. 



THREE PARTNERS n 

* Good-evening,' said Demorest pleasantly. 

Whiskey Dick's face brightened. ' Good- 
evenin', good-evenin' yourselves boys — and see 
how you like it ! Lemme interdrush my ole frien' 
William J. Steptoe, of Red Gulch. Stepsho — 

Steptoe — is shtay — ish stay " He stopped, 

hicupped, waved his hand gravely, and with an air 
of reproachful dignity concluded, ' sojourning for 
the present on the Bar. We wish to offer our 

congrashulashen and felish — felish ' he paused 

again and, leaning against the door-post, added 
severely, ■ itations.' 

II is companion, however, laughed coarsely, 
and, pushing past Dick, entered the cabin. He 
was a short, powerful man, with a closely cropped 
crust of beard and hair that seemed to adhere to 
his round head like moss or lichen. He cast a 
glance — furtive rather than curious — around the 
cabin, and said, with a familiarity that had not 
even good-humour to excuse it, ' So you're the gay 
galoots who've made the big strike ? Thought 
I'd meander up the Hill with this old bloat Alky, 
and drop in to see the show. And here you are, 
feeling your oats, eh ? and not caring any particu- 
lar G — d d — n if school keeps or not.' 

* Show Mr. Steptoe — the whiskey/ said 
Demorest to Stacy. Then quietly addressing 
Dick, but ignoring Steptoe as completely as 



12 THREE PARTNERS 

Steptoe had ignored his unfortunate companion, 
he said, ' You quite startled us at first. We did 
not see you come up the trail.' 

1 No. We came up the back trail to please 
Steptoe, who wanted to see round the cabin,' said 
Dick, glancing nervously yet with a forced indif- 
ference towards the whiskey which Stacy was 
offering to the stranger. 

' What yer gettin' off there ? ' said Steptoe, 
facing Dick almost brutally. ' You know your 
tangled legs wouldn't take you straight up the 
trail, and you had to make a circumbendibus. 
Gosh ! if you hadn't scented this licker at the top 
you'ld have never found it.' 

1 No matter ! I'm glad you did find it, Dick/ 
said Demorest, ' and I hope you'll find the liquor 
good enough to pay you for the trouble.' Barker 
stared at Demorest. This extraordinary toler- 
ance of the drunkard was something new in his 
partner. But at a glance from Demorest he led 
Dick to the demijohn and tin cup which stood on 
a table in the corner. And in another moment 
Dick had forgotten his companion's rudeness. 

Demorest remained by the door looking out 
into the darkness. 

'Well,' said Steptoe, putting down his emptied 
cup, ' trot out your strike. I reckon our eyes are 
strong enough to bear it now.' Stacy drew the 



THREE PARTNERS 13 

blanket from the vague pile that stood in the corner, 
and discovered a deep tin prospecting pan. It was 
heaped with several large fragments of quartz. 
At first the marble whiteness of the quartz and 
the glittering crystals of mica in its veins were the 
most noticeable, but as they drew closer they could 
see the dull yellow of gold filling the decomposed 
and honeycombed portion of the rock as if still 
liquid and molten. The eyes of the party sparkled 
like the mica — even those of Barker and Stacy, 
who were already familiar with the treasure. 

1 Which is the richest chunk ? ' asked Steptoe 
in a thickening voice. 

Stacy pointed it out. 

1 Why, it's smaller than the others.' 

1 Heft it in your hand,' said Barker with boyish 
enthusiasm. 

The short, thick fingers of Steptoe grasped 
it with a certain aquiline suggestion ; his whole 
arm strained over it until his face grew purple, 
but he could not lift it. 

1 Thar uster to be a little game in the 'Frisco 
Mint,' said Dick, restored to fluency by his liquor, 
1 when thar war ladies visiting it, and that was to 
offer to giv' 'em any of those little boxes of gold 
coin, that contained five thousand dollars, ef they 
would kindly lift it from the counter and take it 
away ! It wasn't no bigger than one of these 



14 THREE PARTNERS 

chunks; but, Jimminy ! you oughterhave seed them 
gals grip and heave on it, and then hev to give it 
up ! You see they didn't know anything about 

the paci — (hie) the speshif ' He stopped with 

great dignity, and added with painful precision, 
1 the specific gravity of gold.' 

1 Dry up ! ' said Steptoe roughly. Then turn- 
ing to Stacy he said abruptly : 'But where's the 
rest of it ? You've got more than that.' 

1 We sent it to Boomville this morning. You 
see we've sold out our claim to a company who 
take it up to-morrow, and put up a mill and 
stamps. In fact, it's under their charge now. 
They've got a gang of men on the claim already.' 

1 And what mout ye hev got for it, if it's a fair 
question ? ' said Steptoe with a forced smile. 

Stacy smiled also. ' I don't know that it's a 
business question,' he said. 

' Five hundred thousand dollars/ said De- 
morest abruptly from the doorway, 'and a treble 
interest.' 

The eyes of the two men met. There was no 
mistaking the dull fire of envy in Steptoe's glance, 
but Demorest received it with a certain cold 
curiosity, and turned away as the sound of arriving 
voices came from without. 

* Five hundred thousand's a big figger,' said 
Stacy with a coarse laugh, 'and I don't wonder 



THREE PARTNERS 15 

it makes you feel so d d sassy. But it was 

a fair question.' 

Unfortunately it here occurred to the whiskey- 
stimulated brain of Dick that the friend he had 
introduced was being treated with scant courtesy, 
and he forgot his own treatment by Steptoe. 
Leaning against the wall he waved a dignified 
rebuke. ' I'm sashified my ole frien' is akshuated 
by only businesh principles.' He paused, re- 
collected himself and added with great precision : 
i When I say he himself has a valuable claim in 
Red Gulch and to my shertain knowledge has 
received offers — I have said enough.' 

The laugh that broke from Stacy and Barker, 
to whom the infelicitous reputation of Red Gulch 
was notorious, did not allay Steptoe's irritation. 
He darted a vindictive glance at the unfortunate 
Dick, but joined in the laugh. ! And what was 
ye goin' to do with that?' he said, pointing to 
the treasure. 

' Oh, we're taking that with us. There's a 
chunk for each of us as a memento. We cast 
lots for the choice and Demorest won. That 
one which you couldn't lift with one hand, you 
know,' said Stacy. 

' Oh, couldn't I ? I reckon you ain't goin' 
to give me the same chance that they did at the 
Mint, eh?' 



i6 THREE PARTNERS 

Although the remark was accompanied with 
his usual coarse, familiar laugh, there was a look 
in his eye so inconsequent in its significance 
that Stacy would have made some reply, but at 
this moment Demorest re-entered the cabin, 
ushering in a half-dozen miners from the Bar 
below. They were, although youngish men, 
some of the older locaters in the vicinity, yet, 
through years of seclusion and uneventful labours, 
they had acquired a certain childish simplicity of 
thought and manner that was alternately amusing 
and pathetic. They had never intruded upon 
the reserve of the three partners of Heavy Tree 
Hill before; nothing but an infantine curiosity, 
a shy recognition of the partners' courtesy in 
inviting them with the whole population of 
1 Heavy Tree ' to the dinner the next day, 
and the never-to-be-resisted temptation of an 
evening of ' free liquor ' and forgetfulness of the 
past, had brought them there now. Among 
them, and yet not of them, was a young 
man who, although speaking English without 
accent, was distinctly of a different nationality 
and race. This, with a certain neatness of 
dress and artificial suavity of address, gained 
him the nickname of ' the Count ' and ' French y,' 
although he was really of Flemish extrac- 
tion. He was the Union Ditch Company's 



THREE PARTNERS 17 

agent on the Bar, by virtue of his knowledge of 
languages. 

Barker uttered an exclamation of pleasure 
when he saw him. Himself the incarnation of 
naturalness, he had always secretly admired this 
young foreigner, with his lacquered smoothness, 
although a vague consciousness that neither 
Stacy nor Demorest shared his feelings had 
restricted their acquaintance. Nevertheless, he 
was proud now to see the bow with which Paul 
Van Loo entered the cabin as if it were a 
drawing-room, and perhaps did not reflect upon 
that want of real feeling in an act which made 
the others uncomfortable. 

The slight awkwardness their entrance pro- 
duced, however, was quickly forgotten when the 
blanket was again lifted from the pan of treasure. 
Singularly enough, too, the same feverish light 
came into the eyes of each as they all gathered 
around this yellow shrine. Even the polite 
Paul rudely elbowed his way between the others, 
though his artificial ' Pardon ' seemed to Barker 
to condone this act of brutal instinct. But it was 
more instructive to observe the manner in which 
the older locators received this confirmation of 
the fickle Fortune that had overlooked their weary 
labours and years of waiting to lavish her favours 
on the new and inexperienced amateurs. Yet as they 

c 



lS THREE PARTNERS 

turned their dazzled eyes upon the three partners 
there was no envy or malice in their depths, no 
reproach on their lips, no insincerity in their 
wondering satisfaction. Rather there was a touch- 
ing, almost childlike resumption of hope as they 
gazed at this conclusive evidence of Nature's 
bounty. The gold had been there — they had 
only missed it ! And if there, more could be 
found ! Was it not a proof of the richness of 
Heavy Tree Hill ? So strongly was this reflected 
on their faces that a casual observer, contrasting 
them with the thoughful countenances of the real 
owners, would have thought them the lucky ones. 
It touched Barker's quick sympathies, it puzzled 
Stacy, it made Demorest more serious, it aroused 
Steptoe's active contempt. Whiskey Dick alone re- 
mained stolid and impassive in a desperate attempt 
to pull himself once more together. Eventually he 
succeeded, even to the ambitious achievement of 
mounting a chair and lifting his tin cup with a 
dangerously unsteady hand, which did not, how- 
ever, affect his precision of utterance, and said : 
1 Order, gentlemen ! We'll drink success to — 



to- 



4 The next strike ! ' said Barker, leaping im- 
petuously on another chair and beaming upon 
the old locators, ' and may it come to those who 
have so long deserved it ! ' 




Whiskey Dick, lijting his tin cup with a dangerously unsteady hand. 



THREE PARTNERS 19 

His sincere and generous enthusiasm seemed 
to break the spell of silence that had fallen upon 
them. Other toasts quickly followed. In the 
general good feeling Barker attached himself to 
Van Loo with his usual boyish effusion, and in 
a burst of confidence imparted the secret of his 
engagement to Kitty Carter. Van Loo listened 
with polite eittention, formal congratulations, but 
inscrutable eyes, that occasionally wandered to 
Stacy and again to the treasure. A slight chill 
of disappointment came over Barker's quick 
sensitiveness. Perhaps his enthusiasm had bored 
this superior man of the world. Perhaps his 
confidences were in bad taste ! With a new 
sense of his inexperience he turned sadly away. 
Van Loo took that opportunity to approach 
Stacy. 

1 What's all this I hear of Barker being 
engaged to Miss Carter ? ' he said, with a faintly 
superior smile. ' Is it really true ?' 

• 'Yes. Why shouldn't it be?' returned 
Stacy bluntly. 

Van Loo was instantly deprecating and smil- 
ing. ■ Why not, of course ? But isn't it sudden ? ' 

1 They have known each other ever since he's 
been on Heavy Tree Hill,' responded Stacy. 

' Ah, yes ! True,' said Van Loo. ' But 

now ' 

c 2 



20 THREE PARTNERS 

< Well— he's got money enough to marry, and 
he's going to marry.' 

' Rather young, isn't he ? ' said Van Loo, still 
deprecatingly. 'And she's got nothing. Used 
to wait on the table at her father's hotel in 
Boomville, didn't she ? ' 

4 Yes. What of that ? We all know it.' 

' Of course. It's an excellent thing for her — 
and her father. He'll have a rich son-in-law. 
About two hundred thousand is his share, isn't 
it ? I suppose old Carter is delighted ? ' 

Stacy had thought this before, but did not 
dare to have it corroborated by this superfine 
young foreigner. 'And I don't reckon that 
Barker is offended if he is,' he said curtly as he 
turned away. Nevertheless, he felt irritated that 
one of the three superior partners of Heavy Tree 
Hill should be thought a dupe. 

Suddenly the conversation dropped, the 
laughter ceased. Every one turned round, and, 
by a common instinct, looked towards the door. 
From the obscurity of the hill slope below came 
a wonderful tenor voice, modulated by distance 
and spiritualised by the darkness : 

* When at some future day 
I shall be far away, 
Thou wilt be weeping-, 
Thy lone watch keeping.' 



THREE PARTNERS 21 

The men looked at one another. ' That's 
Jack Hamlin,' they said. ' What's he doing 
here ? ' 

1 The wolves are gathering around fresh 
meat,' said Steptoe, with his coarse laugh and 
a glance at the treasure. ' Didn't ye know he 
came over from Red Dog yesterday ? ' 

'Well, give Jack a fair show and his own 
game,' said one of the old locators, 'and he'd 
clean out that pile afore sunrise.' 

1 And lose it next day,' added another. 

1 But never turn a hair or change a muscle 
in either case,' said a third. ' Lord ! I've heard 
him sing away just like that when he's been 
leaving the board with five thousand dollars in 
his pocket, or going away stripped of his last 
red cent.' 

Van Loo, who had been listening withapeculiar 
smile, here said in his most deprecating manner, 
1 Yes, but did you never consider the influence 
that such a man has on the hard-working tunnel 
men, who are ready to gamble their whole week's 
earnings to him ? Perhaps not. But I know 
the difficulties of getting the Ditch rates from 
these men when he has been in camp.' 

He glanced around him with some importance, 
but only a laugh followed his speech. ' Come 
Frenchy,' said an old locator, ' you only say that 



^cciE LI BP. 



22 THREE PARTNERS 

because your little brother wanted to play with 
Jack like a grown man, and when Jack ordered 
him off the board and he became sassy, Jack 
scooted him outer the saloon.' 

Van Loo's face reddened with an anger that 
had the apparent effect of removing every trace 
of his former polished repose, and leaving only 
a hard outline beneath. At which Demorest 
interfered : 

4 1 can't say that I see much difference in 
gambling by putting money into a hole in the 
ground and expecting to take more from it, than 
by putting it on a card for the same purpose.' 

Here the ravishing tenor voice, which had 
been approaching, ceased, and was succeeded by 
a heart-breaking and equally melodious whistling 
to finish the bar of the singer's song. And 
the next moment Jack Hamlin appeared in the 
doorway. 

Whatever was his present financial condition, 
in perfect self-possession and charming sang-froid 
he fully bore out his previous description. He 
was as clean and refreshing looking as a Madrono 
tree in the dust-blown forest. An odour of 
scented soap and freshly ironed linen was wafted 
from him ; there was scarcely a crease in his white 
waistcoat, nor a speck upon his varnished shoes. 
He might have been an auditor of the previous 



THREE PARTNERS 23 

conversation, so quickly and completely did he 
seem to take in the whole situation at a glance. 
Perhaps there was an extra tilt to his black- 
ribboned Panama hat, and a certain dancing devilry 
in his brown eyes — which might also have been 
an answer to adverse criticism. 

■ When I, his truth to prove, would trifle with 
my love,' he warbled in gentle continuance from 
the doorway. Then dropping cheerfully into 
speech, he added, ' Well, boys, I am here to wel- 
come the little stranger, and to trust that the 
family are doing as well as can be expected. Ah ! 
there it is ! Bless it ! ' he went on, walking 
leisurely to the treasure. ' Triplets, too ! — and 
plump at that. Have you had 'em weighed ? ' 

Frankness was an essential quality of Heavy 
Tree Hill. 'We were just saying, Jack,' said an 
old locator, ' that, giving you a fair show and your 
own game, you could manage to get away with 
that pile before daybreak.' 

'And I'm just thinking,' said Jack cheerfully, 
' that there were some of you here that could do 
that without any such useless preliminary.' His 
brown eyes rested for a moment on Steptoe, but 
turning quite abruptly to Van Loo, he held out 
his hand. Startled and embarrassed before the 
others, the young man at last advanced his, when 
Jack coolly put his own, as if forgetfully, in his 



24 THREE PARTNERS 

pocket. ' I thought you might like to know what 
that little brother of yours is doing,' he said to Van 
Loo, yet looking at Steptoe. ' I found him wan- 
dering about the Hill here quite drunk.' 

1 I have repeatedly warned him ' began 

Van Loo reddening. 

1 Against bad company — I know,' suggested 
Jack gaily ; ' yet, in spite of all that, I think he 
owes some of his liquor to Steptoe yonder.' 

1 I never supposed the fool would get drunk 
over a glass of whiskey offered in fun,' said 
Steptoe harshly, yet evidently quite as much dis- 
concerted as angry. 

* The trouble with Steptoe,' said Hamlin, 
thoughtfully spanning his slim waist with both 
hands as he looked down at his polished shoes, 
1 is that he has such a soft-hearted liking for all 
weaknesses. Always wanting to protect chaps 
that can't look after themselves, whether it's 
Whiskey Dick there when he has a pull on, or 
some nigger when he's made a little strike, or 
that straying lamb of Van Loo's when he's 
puppy drunk. But you're wrong about me, 
boys. You can't draw me in any game to-night. 
This is one of my nights off, which I devote 
exclusively to contemplation and song. But,' 
he added, suddenly turning to his three hosts 
with a bewildering and fascinating change of 



THREE PARTNERS 25 

expression, ' I couldn't resist coming up here to 
see you and your pile, even if I never saw the 
one or the other before, and am not likely to 
see either again. I believe in luck! And it 
comes a mighty sight oftener than a fellow 
thinks it does. But it doesn't come to stay. 
So I'd advise you to keep your eyes skinned and 
hang on to it while it's with you, like grim death. 
So-long ! ' 

Resisting all attempts of his hosts— who had 
apparently fallen as suddenly and unaccountably 
under the magic of his manner — to detain him 
longer, he stepped lightly away, his voice pre- 
sently rising again in melody as he descended the 
hill. Nor was it at all remarkable that the 
others, apparently drawn by the same inevitable 
magnetism, were impelled to follow him, naturally 
joining their voices with his, leaving Steptoe 
and Van Loo so markedly behind them alone that 
they were compelled at last in sheer embarrass- 
ment to close up the rear of the procession. In 
another moment the cabin and the three partners 
again relapsed into the peace and quiet of the 
night. With the dying away of the last voices on 
the hillside the old solitude reasserted itself. 

But since the irruption of the strangers they 
had lost their former sluggish contemplation, and 
now busied themselves in preparation for their 



2G THREE PARTNERS 

early departure from the cabin the next morning. 
They had arranged to spend the following day 
and night at Boomville and Carter's Hotel, where 
they were to give their farewell dinner to Heavy 
Tree Hill. They talked but little together; 
since the rebuff his enthusiastic confidences had 
received from Van Loo, Barker had been grave 
and thoughtful, and Stacy, with the irritating 
recollection of Van Loo's criticisms in his mind, 
had refrained from his usual rallying of Barker. 
Oddly enough, they spoke chiefly of Jack Ham- 
lin — till then personally a stranger to them, on 
account of his infelix reputation — and even the 
critical Demorest expressed a wish they had 
known him before. ' But you never know the 
real value of anything until you're quittin' it or 
it's quittin you,' he added sententiously. 

Barker and Stacy both stared at their com- 
panion, It was unlike Demorest to regret any- 
thing—particularly a mere social diversion. 

' They say,' remarked Stacy, 'that if you had 
known Jack Hamlin earlier and professionally, 
a great deal of real value would have quitted 
you before he did.' 

1 Don't repeat that rot flung out by men 
who have played Jack's game and lost,' returned 
Demorest derisively. ' I'd rather trust him than 
' He stopped, glanced at the meditative 



THREE PARTNERS 27 

Barker, and then concluded abruptly, ' the whole 
caboodle of his critics.' 

They were silent for a few moments, and then 
seemed to have fallen into their former dreamy 
mood as they relapsed into their old seats again. 
At last Stacy drew a long breath. ' I wish we had 
sent those nuggets off with the others this morning.' 

? Why ? ' said Demorest suddenly. 

'Why? Well, d m it all! they kind o' 

oppress me, don't you see. I seem to feel 'em 
here, on my chest — all the three,' returned Stacy 

only half-jocularly. \ It's their d -d specific 

gravity, I suppose. I don't like the idea of sleep- 
ing in the same room with 'em. They're alto- 
gether too much for us three men to be left alone 
with.' 

4 You don't mean that you think that anybody 
would attempt- ' said Demorest. 

Stacy curled a fighting lip rather superciliously. 
'No; I don't think that—\ rather wish" I did. 
It's the blessed chunks of solid gold that seem to 
have got ?is fast, don't you know, and are going 
to stick to us for good or ill. A sort of Franken- 
stein monster that we've picked out of a hole 
from below.' 

1 1 know just what Stacy means,' said Barker 
breathlessly, rounding his grey eyes. • I've felt 
it, too. Couldn't we make a sort of cache of it 



28 THREE PARTNERS 

— bury it just outside the cabin for to-night? It 
would be sort of putting it back into its old place, 
you know, for the time being. It might like it.' 

The two others laughed. ' Rather rough on 
Providence, Barker boy,' said Stacy, ' handing- 
back the Heaven-sent gift so soon ! Besides, 
what's to keep any prospector from coming along 
and making a strike of it ? You know that's 
mining law — if you haven't pre-empted the spot 
as a claim.' 

But Barker was too staggered by this material 
statement to make any reply, and Demorest 
arose. ■ And I feel that you'ld both better be 
turning in, as we've got to get up early.' He 
went to the corner of the cabin and threw the 
blanket back over the pan and its treasure. 
1 There ! that'll keep the chunks from getting up 
to ride astride of you like a nightmare.' He 
shut the door and gave a momentary glance at its 
cheap hinges and the absence of bolt or bar. 
Stacy caught his eye. ' We'll miss this security 
in San Francisco — perhaps even in Boomville,'he 
sighed. 

It was scarcely ten o'clock, but Stacy and 
Barker had begun to undress themselves, with 
intervals of yawning and desultory talk, Barker 
continuing an amusing story with one stocking off 
and his trousers hanging on his arm, until at last 



THREE PARTNERS 29 

both men were snugly curled up in their respective 
bunks. Presently Stacy's voice came from under 
the blankets : 

1 Hallo ! aren't you going to turn in, too ? ' 

* Not yet,' said Demorest from his chair before 
the fire. ' You see, it's the last night in the old 
shanty, and I reckon I'll see the rest of it out.' 

' That's so,' said the impulsive Barker, 
struggling violently with his blanket. ' I tell 
you what, boys. We just ought to make a 
Watch Night of it — a regular vigil, you know — 
until twelve at least. Hold on ! I'll get up, too ! ' 
But here Demorest arose, caught his youthful 
partner's bare foot which went searching painfully 
for the ground in one hand, tucked it back under 
the blankets, and heaping them on the top of him, 
patted the bulk with an authoritative, paternal air. 

1 You'll just say your prayers and go to sleep, 
sonny. You'll want to be fresh as a daisy to 
appear before Miss Kitty to-morrow early, and ,. 
you can keep your vigils for to-morrow night, r 1 
after dinner, in the back drawing-room, I said 
" Good-night," and I mean it!' 

Protesting feebly, Barker finally yielded in a 
nestling shiver and a sudden silence. Demorest 
walked back to his chair ; a prolonged snore came 
from Stacy's bunk. Then everything w as quiet ; 
Demorest stirred up the fire, cast a huge root 



3 o THREE PARTNERS 

upon it, and leaning back in his chair, sat with 
half-closed eyes and dreamed. 

It was an old dream that for the past three 
years had come to him daily, sometimes even 
overtaking him under the shade of a buckeye in 
his noontide rest on his claim— a dream that had 
never yet failed to wait for him at night by the 
fireside when his partners were at rest. A dream 
of the past, but so real that it always made the 
present seem the dream through which he was 
moving towards some sure awakening. 

It was not strange that it should come to him 
to-night, as it had often come before, slowly- 
shaping itself out of the obscurity as the vision 
of a fair young girl seated in one of the empty- 
chairs before him. Always the same pretty, 
childlike face, fraught with a half-frightened, half- 
wondering trouble; always the same slender, 
graceful figure, but always glimmering in diamonds 
and satin, or spiritual in lace and pearls, against 
his own rude and sordid surroundings. Always 
silent with parted lips, until the night wind smote 
some chord of recollection, and then mingled a 
remembered voice with his own. For at those 
times he seemed to speak also, albeit with closed 
lips, and an utterance inaudible to all but 
her. 

' Well ? ! he said sadly. 



THREE PARTNERS 3 t 

' Weil ? ' the voice repeated, like a gentle 
echo blending with his own. 

'You know it all now,' he went on. 'You 
know that it has come at last — all that I had 
worked for, prayed for. All that would have 
made us happy here ; all that would have saved 
you to me has come at last, and all too late ! ' 

! Too late ! ' echoed the voice with his. 

'You remember,' he went on, 'the last day 
we were together. You remember your friends 
and family would have you give me up — a penni- 
less man. You remember when they reproached 
you with my poverty, and told you that it was only 
your wealth that I was seeking, that I then 
determined to go away and never to return to 
claim you until that reproach could be removed. 
You remember, dearest, how you clung to me 
and bade me stay with you, even fly with you, 
but not to leave you alone with them. You wore 
the same dress that day, darling ; your eyes had 
the same wondering childlike fear and trouble in 
them ; your jewels glittered on you as you 
trembled, and I refused. In my pride, or rather 
in my weakness and cowardice, I refused. I came 
away and broke my heart among these rocks and 
ledges, yet grew strong ; and you, my love, you 
sheltered and guarded by those you loved, 
you ! He stopped and buried his face in his 



32 THREE PARTNERS 

hands. The night wind breathed down the 
chimney and from the stirred ashes on the hearth 
came the soft whisper : ' I died.' 

* And then,' he went on, ' I cared for nothing. 
Sometimes my heart awoke for this young partner 
of mine in his innocent, trustful love for a girl 
that even in her humble station was far beyond 
his hopes, and I pitied myself in him. Home, 
fortune, friends, I no longer cared for — all were 
forgotten. And now they are returning to me — 
only that I may see the hollowness and vanity of 
them, and taste the bitterness for which I have 
sacrificed you. And here, on this last night of 
my exile, I am confronted with only the jealousy, 
the doubt, the meanness and selfishness that is to 
come. Too late ! Too late ! ' 

The wondering, troubled eyes that had looked 
into his here appeared to clear and brighten with 
a sweet prescience. Was it the wind moaning in 
the chimney that seemed to whisper to him : ' Too 
late, beloved, for me, but not for you ? / died, 
but Love still lives. Be happy, Philip. And in 
your happiness I too may live again.' 

He started. In the flickering firelight the 
chair was empty. The wind that had swept 
down the chimney had stirred the ashes with a 
sound like the passage of a rustling skirt. There 
was a chill in the air and a smell like that of 



THREE PARTNERS 33 

opened earth. A nervous shiver passed over him. 
Then he sat upright. There was no mistake ; it 
was no superstitious fancy, but a faint, damp 
current of air was actually flowing across his feet 
towards the fireplace. He was about to rise when 
he stopped suddenly and became motionless. 

He was actively conscious now of a strange 
sound which had affected him even in the pre- 
occupation of his vision. It was a gentle brush- 
ing of some yielding substance like that made by 
a soft broom on sand, or the sweep of a gown. 
But to his mountain ears, attuned to every wood- 
land sound, it was not like the gnawing of gopher 
or squirrel, the scratching of wild cat, nor the 
hairy rubbing of bear. Nor was it human ; the 
long, deep respirations of his sleeping companions 
were distinct from that monotonous sound. He 
could not even tell if it were in the cabin or 
without. Suddenly his eye fell upon the pile in 
the corner. The blanket that covered the treasure 
was actually moving ! 

He rose quickly, but silently — alert, self- 
contained, and menacing. For this dreamer, this 
bereaved man, this scornful philosopher of riches 
had disappeared with that midnight trespass upon 
the sacred treasure. The movement of the 
blanket ceased ; the soft, swishing sound recom- 
menced. He drew a glittering bowie-knife from his 

D 



34 THREE PARTNERS 

boot-leg, and in three noiseless strides was beside 
the pile. There he saw what he fully expected to 
see — a narrow, horizontal gap between the log 
walls of the cabin and the adobe floor, slowly widen- 
ing and deepening by the burrowing of unseen 
hands from without. The cold outer air which he 
had felt before was now plainly flowing into the 
heated cabin through the opening. The swishing 
sound recommenced and stopped. Then the four 
fingers of a hand, palm downwards, were cautiously 
introduced between the bottom log and the 
denuded floor. Upon that intruding hand the 
bowie-knife of Demorest descended like a flash of 
lightning. There was no outcry. Even in that 
supreme moment Demorest felt a pang of admira- 
tion for the stoicism of the unseen trespasser — 
but the maimed hand was quickly withdrawn, 
and as quickly Demorest rushed to the door and 
dashed into the outer darkness. 

For an instant he was dazed and bewildered by 
the sudden change. But the next moment he saw 
a dodging, doubling figure running before him, and 
threw himself upon it. In the shock both men 
fell, but even in that contact Demorest felt the 
tangled beard and alcoholic fumes of Whiskey 
Dick, and felt also that the hands which were 
thrown up against his breast, the palms turned 
outward with the instinctive movement of a timid, 



THREE PARTNERS 



33 



defenceless man, were unstained with soil or blood. 
With an oath he threw the drunkard from him 
and dashed to the rear of the cabin. But too 
late ! There, indeed, was the scattered earth, 
there the widened burrow as it had been ex- 
cavated apparently by that mutilated hand — but 
nothing else ! 

He turned back to Whiskey Dick. But the 
miserable man, although still retaining a look of 
dazed terror in his eyes, had recovered his feet in 
a kind of angry confidence and a forced sense of 
injury. What did Demorest mean by attacking 
'innoshent' gentlemen on the trail outside his 
cabin ? Yes ! outside his cabin, he would swear 
it! 

'What were you doing here at midnight?' 
demanded Demorest. 

What was he doing ? What was any gentle- 
man doing? He wasn't any mollycoddle to go 
to bed at - ten o'clock ! What was he doing ? 
Well — he'd been with men who didn't shut their 
doors and turn the boys out just in the shank of 
the evening. He wasn't any Barker to be wet- 
nursed by Demorest. 

• Some one else was here ! ' said Demorest 
sternly, with his eyes fixed on Whiskey Dick, 
The dull glaze which seemed to veil the outer 
world from the drunkard's pupils shifted suddenly 



D 2 



36 THREE PARTNERS 

with such a look of direct horror that Demorest 
was fain to turn away his own. But the veil 
mercifully returned, and with it Dick's worked- 
up sense of injury. Nobody was there — not ' a 
shole.' Did Demorest think if there had been 
any of his friends there they would have stood by 
like ' dogsh ' and seen him insulted ? 

Demorest turned away and re-entered the 
cabin as Dick lurched heavily forward, still 
muttering, down the trail. The excitement over, 
a sickening repugnance to the whole incident 
took the place of Demorest's resentment and 
indignation. There had been a cowardly attempt 
to rob them of their miserable treasure. He had 
met it and frustrated it in almost as brutal a 
fashion ; the gold was already tarnished with 
blood. To his surprise, yet relief, he found his 
partners unconscious of the outrage, still sleeping 
with the physical immobility of over-excited and 
tired men. Should he awaken them ? No ! 
He should have to awaken also their suspicions 
and desire for revenge. There was no danger of 
a further attack ; there was no fear that the 
culprit would disclose himself, and to-morrow 
they would be far away. Let oblivion rest upon 
that night's stain on the honour of Heavy Tree 
Hill. 

He rolled a small barrel before the opening, 



THREE PARTNERS 37 

smoothed the dislodged earth, replaced the pan 
with its treasure, and trusted that in the bustle of 
the early morning departure his partners might 
not notice any change. Stopping before the 
bunk of Stacy he glanced at the sleeping man. 
He was lying on his back, but breathing heavily, 
and his hands were moving towards his chest as 
if, indeed, his strange fancy of the golden incubus 
were being realised. Demorest would have 
wakened him, but presently, with a sigh of relief, 
the sleeper turned over on his side. It was 
pleasanter to look at Barker, whose damp curls 
were matted over his smooth, boyish forehead, 
and whose lips were parted in a smile under the 
silken wings of his brown moustache. He, too, 
seemed to be trying to speak, and remembering 
some previous revelations which had amused 
them, Demorest leaned over him fraternally with 
an answering smile, waiting for the beloved one's 
name to pass the young man's lips. But he 
only murmured, ■ Three — hundred — thousand 
dollars ! ' The elder man turned away with a 
grave face. The influence of the treasure was 
paramount. 

When he had placed one of the chairs 
against the unprotected door at an angle which 
would prevent any easy or noiseless intrusion, 
Demorest threw himself without undressing on 



3 8 THREE PARTNERS 

his bunk and turned his face towards the single 
window of the cabin that looked towards the east. 
He did not apprehend another covert attempt 
against the gold. He did not fear a robbery with 
force and arms, although he was satisfied that 
there was more than one concerned in it, but 
this he attributed only to the encumbering weight 
of their expected booty. He simply waited for 
the dawn. It was some time before his eyes 
were greeted with the vague opaline brightness 
of the firmament which meant the vanishing of the 
pallid snow-line before the coming day. A bird 
twittered on the roof. The air was chill ; he 
drew his blanket around him. Then he closed 
his eyes, he fancied only for a moment, but when 
he opened them the door was standing open in 
the strong daylight. He sprang to his feet, but 
the next moment he saw it was only Stacy who 
had passed out, and was returning fully dressed 
bringing water from the spring to fill the kettle. 
But Stacy's face was so grave that, recalling his 
disturbed sleep, Demorest laughingly inquired if 
he had been haunted by the treasure. But to his 
surprise Stacy put down the kettle and with a 
hurried glance at the still sleeping Barker, said in 
a low voice : 

1 1 want you to do something for me without 
asking why. Later I will tell you.' 



THREE PARTNERS 39 

Demorest looked at him fixedly. ( What is it ?' 
he said. 

' The pack mules will be here in a few 
moments. Don't wait to close up or put away 
anything here, but clap that gold in the saddle 
bags and take Barker with you and lite out for 
Boomville at once. I will overtake you later.' 

1 Is there no time to discuss this ? ' asked 
Demorest. 

1 No,' said Stacy bluntly. ■ Call me a crank ! 
Say I'm in a blue funk' — his compressed lips and 
sharp black eyes did not lend themselves much 
to that hypothesis — ' only get out of this with 
that stuff and take Barker with you ! I'm not 
responsible for myself while it's here.' 

Demorest knew Stacy to be combative but 
practical. If he had not been assured of his 
partner's last night slumbers he might have 
thought he knew of the attempt. Or if he had 
discovered the turned-up ground in the rear of 
the cabin his curiosity would have demanded an 
explanation. Demorest paused only for a 
moment, and said, \ Very well, I will go.' 

'Good ! I'll rouse out Barker, but not a word 
to him — except that he must go.' 

The routing out of Barker consisted of Stacy's 
lifting that young gentleman bodily from his bunk 
and standing him upright in the open doorway. 



40 THREE PARTNERS 

But Barker was accustomed to this Spartan 
process, and after a moment's balancing with 
closed lids like an unwrapped mummy, he sat 
down in the doorway and began to dress. He 
at first demurred to their departure except all 
together ; it was so unfraternal ; but eventually 
he allowed himself to be persuaded out of it and 
into his clothes. For Barker had also had his 
visions in the night, one of which was that they 
should build a beautiful villa on the site of the 
old cabin and solemnly agree to come every year 
and pass a week in it toget her. * I thought at 
first,' he said, sliding along the floor in search of 
different articles of his dress, or stopping gravely 
to catch them as they were thrown to him by 
his partners, ' that we'd have it at Boomville, as 
being handier to get there ; but I've concluded 
we'd better have it here, a little higher up the 
hill, where it could be seen over the whole Black 
Spur Range. When we weren't here we could 
use it as a Hut of Refuge for broken-down or 
washed-out miners or weary travellers, like those 
hospices in the Alps, you know, and have some- 
body to keep it for us. You see I've thought 
even of that, and Van Loo is the very man to 
take charge of it for us. You see he's got such 
good manners and speaks two languages. Lord ! 
if a German or Frenchman came along, poor and 



THfc 

THREE PARTNERS 41 

distressed, Van Loo would just chip in his own 
language. See ? You've got to think of all 
these details, you see, boys. And we might call 
it " The Rest of the Three Partners," or " Three 
Partners' Rest." ' 

' And you might begin by giving us one,' said 
Stacy. ' Dry up and drink your coffee.' 

1 I'll draw out the plans. I've got it all in my 
head,' continued the enthusiastic Barker, unheed- 
ing the interruption. ' I'll just run out and take 
a look at the site, it's only right back of the 
cabin.' But here Stacy caught him by his 
dangling belt as he was flying out of the door 
with one boot on, and thrust him down in a chair 
with a tin cup of coffee in his hand. 

* Keep the plans in your head, Barker boy,' 
said Demorest, * for here are the pack mules and 
packer.' This was quite enough to divert the 
impressionable young man, who speedily finished 
his dressing, as a mule bearing a large pack-saddle 
and two enormous saddle-bags or pouches drove 
up before the door, led by a muleteer on a small 
horse. The transfer of the treasure to the 
saddle-bags was quickly made by their united 
efforts, as the first rays of the sun were beginning 
to paint the hill-side. Shading his keen eyes with 
his hand, Stacy stood in the doorway and handed 
Demorest the two rifles. Demorest hesitated. 



42 THREE PARTNERS 

' Hadn't J4?tt better keep one?' he said, looking in his 
partner's eyes with his first challenge of curiosity. 
The sun seemed to put a humorous twinkle into 
Stacy's glance as he returned, ' Not much ! And 
you'd better take my revolver with you, too. I'm 
feeling a little better now,' he said, looking at the 
saddle-bags, 'but I'm not fit to be trusted yet with 
carnal weapons. When the other mule comes 
and is packed I'll overtake you on the horse.' 

A little more satisfied, although still wondering 
and perplexed, Demorest shouldered one rifle, 
and with Barker, who was carrying the other, 
followed the muleteer and his equipage down the 
trail. For a while he was a little ashamed of 
his part in this unusual spectacle of two armed 
men convoying a laden mule in broad daylight, 
but, luckily, it was too early for the Bar miners to 
be going to work, and as the tunnel men were 
now at breakfast the trail was free of wayfarers. 
At the point where it crossed the main road 
Demorest, however, saw Steptoe and Whiskey 
Dick emerge from the thicket, apparently in 
earnest conversation. Demorest felt his re- 
pugnance and half-restrained suspicions suddenly 
return. Yet he did not wish to betray them 
before Barker, nor was he willing, in case of an 
emergency, to allow the young man to be entirely 
unprepared. Calling him to follow, he ran quickly 



THREE PARTNERS 43 

ahead of the laden mule, and was relieved to find 
that, looking back, his companion had brought 
his rifle to a ' ready,' through some instinctive 
feeling of defence. As Steptoe and Whiskey 
Dick, a moment later discovering them, were 
evidently surprised, there seemed, however, to be 
no reason for fearing an outbreak. Suddenly, at 
a whisper from Steptoe, he and Whiskey Dick 
both threw up their hands, and stood still on the 
trail a few yards from them in a burlesque of the 
usual recognised attitude of helplessness, while a 
hoarse laugh broke from Steptoe. 

* D d if we didn't think you were road 

agents ! But we see you're only guarding your 
treasure. Rather fancy style for Heavy Tree Hill, 
ain't it ? Things must begettin' rough up thar to 
hev to take out your guns like that ! ' 

Demorest had looked keenly at the four hands 
thus exhibited, and was more concerned that 
they bore no trace of wounds or mutilation than 
at the insult of the speech — particularly as he 
had a distinct impression that the action was 
intended to show him the futility of his suspicions. 

1 I am glad to see that if you haven't any 
arms in your hands you're not incapable of 
handling them,' said Demorest coolly, as he 
passed by them and again fell into the rear 
of the muleteer. But Barker had thought the 



44 THREE PARTNERS 

incident very funny, and laughed effusively at 
Whiskey Dick. ' I didn't know that Steptoe 
was up to that kind o' fun,' he said, 'and I 
suppose we did look rather rough with these guns 
as we ran on ahead of the mule. But then you 
know that when you called to me I really thought 
you were in for a shindy. All the same, Whiskey 
Dick did that u hands up " to perfection ; how 
he managed it I don't know, but his knees 
seemed to knock together as if he was in a real 
funk.' 

Demorest had thought so too, but he made 
no reply. How far that miserable drunkard was 
a forced or willing accomplice of the events of last 
night, was part of a question that had become more 
and more repugnant to him as he was leaving 
the scene of it for ever. It had come upon him, 
desecrating the dream he had dreamt that last 
night, and turning its hopeful climax to bitterness. 
Small wonder that Barker, walking by his side, 
had his quick sympathies aroused, and as he saw 
that shadow, which they were all familiar with, 
but had never sought to penetrate, fall upon his 
companion's handsome face, even his youthful 
spirits yielded to it. They were both relieved 
when the clatter of hoofs behind them, as they 
reached the valley, announced the approach oi 
Stacy. ' I started with the second mule and the 



THREE PARTNERS 45 

last load soon after you left,' he explained, ' and 
have just passed them. I thought it better to join 
you and let the other load follow. Nobody will 
interfere with that! 

* Then you are satisfied ? ' said Demorest, re- 
garding him steadfastly. 

' You bet ! Look ! ' 

He turned in his saddle and pointed to the 
crest of the hill they had just descended. Above 
the pines circling the lower slope, above the bare 
ledges of rock and outcrop, a column of thick 
black smoke was rising straight as a spire in the 
windless air. 

* That's the old shanty passing away,' said 
Stacy complacently. ' I reckon there won't be 
much left of it before we get to Boomville.' 

Demorest and Barker stared. ' You fired 
it ? ' said Barker, trembling with excitement. 

1 Yes,' said Stacy. ' I couldn't bear to leave 
the old rookery for coyotes and wild cats to 
gather in, so I touched her off before I left' 

< But ' said Barker. 

1 But,' repeated Stacy composedly. * Hallo ! 
what's the matter with that new plan of " The 
Rest " that you're going to build, eh ? You don't 
want them both! 

1 And you did this rather than leave the dear 
old cabin to strangers ? ' said Barker with kindling 



4 6 THREE PARTNERS 

eyes. ' Stacy, I didn't think you had that poetry 

in you ! ' 

1 There's heaps in me, Barker boy, that you 
don't know, and I don't exactly sabe myself.' 

1 Only,' continued the young fellow eagerly, 
' we ought to have all been there ! We ought to 
have made a solemn rite of it, you know— a kind 
of sacrifice. We ought to have poured a kind of 
libation on the ground ! ' 

1 I did sprinkle a little kerosene over it, I 
think,' returned Stacy, 'just to help things along. 
But if you want to see her flaming, Barker, you 
just run back to that last corner on the road 
beyond the big red wood. That's the spot for a 

view.' 

As Barker — always devoted to a spectacle — 
swiftly disappeared the two men faced each other. 
* Well, what does it all mean ? ' said Demorest 
gravely. 

'It means, old man,' said Stacy suddenly, 
1 that if we hadn't had nigger luck, the same blind 
luck that sent us that strike, you and I and that 
Barker over there would have been swirling in 
that smoke up to the sky about two hours ago ! ' 
He stopped and added in a lower, but earnest 
voice, ' Look here, Phil ! When I went out to 
fetch water this morning I smelt something queer. 
I went round to the back of the cabin and found 



THREE PARTNERS 47 

a hole dug under the floor, and piled against the 
corner wall a lot of brushwood and a can of kero- 
sene. Some of the kerosene had been already 
poured on the brush. Everything was ready to 
light, and only my coming out an hour earlier had 
frightened the devils away. The idea was to set 
the place on fire, suffocate us in the smoke of the 
kerosene poured into the hole, and then to rush 
in and grab the treasure. It was a systematic 
plan ! ' 

' No ! ' said Demorest quietly. 

' No ? ' repeated Stacy. ' I told you I saw 
the whole thing and took away the kerosene, 
which I hid, and after you had gone used it to 
fire the cabin with, to see if the ones I suspected 
would gather to watch their work.' 

■ It was no part of their first plan,' said 
Demorest, ' which was only robbery. Listen ! ' 
He hurriedly recounted his experience of the 
preceding night to the astonished Stacy. ' No, 
the fire was an afterthought and revenge,' he 
added sternly. 

1 But you say you cut the robber in the hand ; 
there would be no difficulty in identifying him by 
that.' 

* I wounded only a handy said Demorest. 
' But there was a head in that attempt that I 
never saw.' He then revealed his own half 



4 8 THREE PARTNERS 

suspicions, but how they were apparently refuted 
by the bravado of Steptoe and Whiskey Dick. 

1 Then that was the reason they didn't gather 
at the fire/ said Stacy quickly. 

* Ah ! ' said Demorest, ' then you too sus- 
pected them ? ' 

Stacy hesitated, and then said abruptly, 
'Yes.' 

Demorest was silent for a moment. ' Why 
didn't you tell me this this morning ? ' he said 
gently. 

Stacy pointed to the distant Barker. ' I 
didn't want you to tell him. I thought it better 
for one partner to keep a secret from two than for 
the two to keep it from one. Why didn't you tell 
me of your experience last night ? ' 

' I am afraid it was for the same reason,' said 
Demorest with a faint smile. ' And it sometimes 
seems to me, Jim, that we ought to imitate 
Barker's frankness. In our dread of tainting him 
with our own knowledge of evil we are sending 
him out into the world very poorly equipped, for 
all his three hundred thousand dollars.' 

1 I reckon you're right,' said Stacy briefly, 
extending his hand. ■ Shake on that ! ' 

The two men grasped each other's hands. 

* And he's no fool either,' continued Demorest ; 
'when we met Steptoe on the road, without a 



THREE PARTNERS 49 

Word from me, he closed up alongside, with his 
hand on the lock of his rifle. And I hadn't the 
heart to praise him or laugh it off.' 

Nevertheless they were both silent as the 
object of their criticism bounded down the trail 
towards them. He had seen the funeral pyre. 
It was awfully sad, it was awfully lovely, but 
there was something grand in it ! Who could 
have thought Stacy could be so poetic ? But he 
wanted to tell them something else that was 
mighty pretty. 

' What was it ? ' said Demorest. 

'Well,' said Barker, 'don't laugh! But you 
know that Jack Hamlin ? Well, boys, he's been 
hovering around us on his mustang, keeping us 
and that pack mule in sight ever since we left. 
Sometimes he's on a side trail off the right, some- 
times off to the left, but always at the same dis- 
tance. I didn't like to tell you, boys, for I thought 
you'd laugh at me ; but I think, you know, he's 
taken a sort of shine to us since he dropped in 
last night. And I fancy, you see, he's sort of 
hanging round to see that we get along all right. 
I'd have pointed him out before only I reckoned 
you and Stacy would say he was making up to us 
for our money.' 

'And we'd have been wrong, Barker boy,' 
said Stacy, with a heartiness that surprised 

E 



5 o THREE PARTNERS 

Demorest, ' for I reckon your instinct's the right 



on> 



' There he is now,' said the gratified Barker, 
1 just abreast of us on the cut-off. He started 
just after we did, and he's got a horse that could 
have brought him into Boomville hours ago. It's 
just his kindness.' 

He pointed to a distant fringe of buckeye 
from which Jack Hamlin had just emerged. 
Although evidently holding in a powerful 
mustang, nothing could be more unconscious and 
utterly indifferent than his attitude. He did not 
seem to know of the proximity of any other 
traveller, and to care less. His handsome head 
was slightly thrown back, as if he was carolling 
after his usual fashion, but the distance was too 
great to make his melody audible to them, or to 
allow Barker's shout of invitation to reach him. 
Suddenly he lowered his tightened rein, the 
mustang sprang forward, and with a flash of 
silver spurs and bridle fripperies he had dis- 
appeared. But as the trail he was pursuing 
crossed theirs a mile beyond, it seemed quite 
possible that they should again meet him. 

They were now fairly into the Boomville 
valley, and were entering a narrow arroyo 
bordered with dusky willows which effectually 
excluded the view on either side. It was the bed 



THREE PARTNERS 



5i 



of a mountain torrent that in winter descended 
the hill-side over the trail by which they had just 
come, but was now sunk into the thirsty plain 
between banks that varied from two to five feet 
in height. The muleteer had advanced into the 
narrow channel when he suddenly cast a hurried 
glance behind him, uttered a ' Madre de Dios ! ' 
and backed his mule and his precious freight 
against the bank. The sound of hoofs on the 
trail in their rear had caught his quicker ear, and 
as the three partners turned they beheld three 
horsemen thundering down the hill towards them. 
They were apparently Mexican vaqneros of the 
usual common, swarthy type, their faces made 
still darker by the black silk handkerchief tied 
round their heads under their stiff sombreros. 
Either they were unable or unwilling to restrain 
their horses in their headlong speed and a collision 
in that narrow passage was imminent, but suddenly 
before reaching its entrance they diverged with a 
volley of oaths, and dashing along the left bank 
of the- a?vvyo, disappeared in the intervening 
willows. Divided between relief at their escape 
and indignation at what seemed to be a drunken 
feast-day freak of these roystering vaqueros, the 
little party re-formed, when a cry from Barker 
arrested them. He had just perceived a horse- 
man motionless in the arroyo who, although un- 

e 2 



;| THREE PARTNERS 

noticed by them, had evidently been seen by the 
Mexicans. He had apparently leaped into it 
from the bank, and had halted as if to witness 
this singular incident. As the clatter of the 
vaqueros hoofs died away he lightly leaped the 
bank again and disappeared. But in that single 
glimpse of him they recognised Jack Hamlin. 
When they reached the spot where he had 
halted, they could see that he must have 
approached it from the trail where they had 
previously seen him, but which they now found 
crossed it at right angles. Barker was right. 
He had really kept them at easy distance the 
whole length of the journey. 

But they were now reaching its end. When 
they issued at last from the arroyo they came 
upon the outskirts of Boomville and the great 
stage road. Indeed, the six horses of the Pioneer 
coach were just panting along the last half-mile 
of the steep up grade as they approached. They 
halted mechanically as the heavy vehicle swayed 
and creaked by them. In their ordinary working 
dress, sunburnt with exposure, covered with dust, 
and carrying their rifles still in their hands, they, 
perhaps, presented a sufficiently characteristic 
appearance to draw a few faces — some of them 
pretty and intelligent — to the windows of the 
coach as it passed. The sensitive Barker was 



THREE PARTNERS 53 

quickest to feel that resentment with which 
the Pioneer usually met the wide-eyed criticism 
of the Eastern tourist or 'greenhorn,' and 
reddened under the bold scrutiny of a pair of 
black inquisitive eyes behind an eye-glass. 
That annoyance was communicated, though in 
a lesser degree, even to the bearded Demorest 
and Stacy. It was an unexpected contact with 
that great world in which they were so soon to 
enter. They felt ashamed of their appearance, 
and yet ashamed of that feeling. They felt a 
secret satisfaction when Barker said, ' They'd 
open their eyes wider if they knew what was in 
that pack-saddle,' and yet they corrected him for 
what they were pleased to call ' his snobbishness.' 
They hurried a little faster as the road became 
more frequented, as if eager to shorten their 
distance to clean clothes and civilisation. 

Only Demorest began to linger in the rear. 
This contact with the stage coach had again 
brought him face to face with his buried past. 
He felt his old dream revive, and occasionally 
turned to look back upon the dark outlines of 
Black Spur, under whose shadow it had returned 
so often, and wondered if he had left it there for 
ever, and it were now slowly exhaling with the 
thinned and dying smoke of their burning cabin. 

His companions, knowing his silent moods, 



54 



} RTNER$ 



had preceded him at some distance when he 
heard the soft sound of ambling hoofs on the 
thick dust, and suddenly the light touch of Jack 
Hamlin's gauntlet on his shoulder. The mustang- 
Jack bestrode was reeking with grime and sweat, 
but Jack himself was as immaculate and fresh as 
ever. With a delightful affectation of embarrass- 
ment and timidity he began flicking the side 
buttons of his velvet vaquero trousers with the 
thong of his riala. ' I reckoned to sling a word 
along with you before you went,' he said, looking 
down, 'but I'm so shy that I couldn't do it in 
company. So I thought I'd get it off on you 
while you were alone.' 

'We've seen you once or twice before this 
morning,' said Demorest pleasantly, 'and we were 
sorry you didn't join us.' 

' I reckon I might have,' said Jack gaily, 'if 
my horse had only made up his mind whether he 
was a bird or a squirrel, and hadn't been so various 
and promiscuous about whether he wanted to 
climb a tree or fly. He's not a bad horse for a 
Mexican plug, only when he thinks there is any 
devilment around he wants to wade in and take 
a hand. However, I reckoned to see the last of 
you and your pile into Boomville. And I did. 
When I meet three fellows like you that are clean 
white all through I sort of cotton to 'em, even if 




"S 



THREE PARTNERS 55 

/';;/ a little of a brunette myself. And I've got 
something to give you.' 

He took from a fold of his scarlet sash a small 
parcel neatly folded in white paper as fresh and 
spotless as himself. Holding it in his fingers, he 
went on : ■ I happened to be at Heavy Tree Hill 
early this morning before sun up. In. the darkness 
I struck your cabin, and I reckon — I struck some- 
body else ! At first I thought it was one of you 
chaps down on your knees praying at the rear of 
the cabin, but the way the fellow lit out when he 
smelt me coming made me think it wasn't entirely 
fasting and prayer. However, I went to the rear 
of the cabin, and then I reckoned some kind 
friend had been bringing you kindlings and fire- 
wood for your early breakfast. But that didn't 
satisfy me, so I knelt down as he had knelt, and 
then I saw — well, Mr. Demorest, I reckon I saw 
just iv hat you have seen I But even then I wasn't 
quite satisfied, for that man had been grubbing 
round as if searching for something. So I 
searched too — and I found it. I've got it here. 
I'm going to give it to you, for it may some day 
come in handy, and you won't find anything like 
it among the folks where you're going. It's 
something unique, as those fine art collecting 
sharps in 'Frisco say — something quite matchless, 
unless you try to match it one day yourself! 



5 6 THREE PARTNERS 

Don't open the paper until I run on and say " So 
long " to your partners. Good-bye.' 

He grasped Demorest's hand and then dropped 
the little packet into his palm, and ambled away 
towards Stacy and Barker. Holding the packet 
in his hand with an amused yet puzzled smile, 
Demorest watched the gambler give Stacy's hand 
a hearty farewell shake and a supplementary slap 
on the back to the delighted Barker, and then 
vanish in a flash of red sash and silver buttons. 
At which Demorest, walking slowly towards his 
partners, opened the packet, and stood suddenly 
still. It contained the dried and bloodless second 
finger of a human hand, cut off at the first joint ! 

For an instant he held it at arm's length, as 
if about to cast it away. Then he grimly re- 
placed it in the paper, put it carefully in his 
pocket, and silently walked after his companions. 



END OF PROLOGUE 



THREE PARTNERS 57 



CHAPTER I 

AFTER THREE YEARS 

A strong south-wester was beating against the 
windows and doors of * Stacy's Bank ' in San 
Francisco, and spreading a film of rain between 
the regular splendours of its mahogany counters 
and sprucely dressed clerks and the usual passing 
pedestrian. For Stacy's new banking house had 
long since received the epithet of ' palatial ' from an 
enthusiastic local press fresh from the ' opening ' 
luncheon in its richly decorated directors' rooms, 
and it was said that once a homely would-be 
depositor from One Horse Gulch was so cowed 
by its magnificence that his heart failed him at 
the last moment, and mumbling an apology to 
the elegant receiving teller, fled with his greasy 
chamois pouch of gold-dust to deposit his 
treasure in the dingy Mint around the corner. 
Perhaps there was something of this feeling, 
mingled with a certain simple-minded fascination, 
in the hesitation of a stranger of a higher class 



^esE us/OS* 



53 THREE PARTNERS 

who entered the bank that rainy morning and 
finally tendered his card to the important negro 
messenger. 

The card preceded him through noiselessly 
swinging doors and across heavily carpeted 
passages until it reached the inner core of Mr. 
James Stacy's private offices, and was respectfully 
laid before him. He was not alone. At his side, 
in an attitude of polite and studied expectancy, 
stood a correct- looking young man, for whom 
Mr. Stacy was evidently writing a memorandum. 
The stranger glanced furtively at the card with a 
curiosity hardly in keeping with his suggested 
good-breeding ; but Stacy did not look at it until 
he had finished his memorandum. 

* There,' he said, with business decision, ' you 
can tell your people that if we carry their new 
debentures over our limit we will expect a larger 
margin. Ditches are not what they were three 
years ago when miners were willing to waste 
their money over your rates. They don't gamble 
thai way any more, and your company ought to 
know it, and not gamble themselves over that 
prospect.' He handed the paper to the stranger, 
who bowed over it with studied politeness, and 
backed towards the door. Stacy took up the 
waiting card, read it, said to the messenger, 
4 Show him in,' and in the same breath turned to 



THREE PARTNERS 59 

his guest : ' I say, Van Loo, it's George Barker ! 
You know him.' 

\ Yes,' said Van Loo with a polite hesitation 
as he halted at the door. ■ He was — I think — er 
■ — in your employ at Heavy Tree Hill.' 

'Nonsense! He was my/^r/^r. And you 
must have known him since at Boomville. 
Come ! He got forty shares of Ditch stock 
—through you — at no, which were worth about 
80 ! Somebody must have made money enough 
by it to remember him.' 

1 I was only speaking of him socially,' said 
Van Loo, with a deprecating smile. ' You 
know he married a young woman — the hotel- 
keeper's daughter, who used to wait at the table 
— and after my mother and sister came out to 
keep house for me at Boomville it was quite 
impossible for me to see much of him, for he 
seldom went out without his wife, you know.' 

4 Yes,' said Stacy drily, 'I think you didn't 
like his marriage. But I'm glad your disinclina- 
tion to see him isn't on account of that deal in 
stocks.' 

% Oh, no,' said Van Loo. 'Good-bye.' 

But, unfortunately, in the next passage he 
came upon Barker, who with a cry of unfeigned 
pleasure, none the less sincere that he was feel- 
ing a little alien in these impressive surroundings, 



60 THREE PARTNERS 

recognised him. Nothing could exceed Van 
Loo's protest of delight at the meeting ; nothing 
his equal desolation at the fact that he was has- 
tening to another engagement. ' But your old 
partner,' he added with a smile, ' is waiting for 
you ; he has just received your card, and I 
should be only keeping you from him. So glad 
to see you ; you're looking so well. Good-bye ! 
Good-bye ! ' 

Reassured, Barker no longer hesitated, but 
dashed with his old impetuousness into his former 
partner's room. Stacy, already deeply absorbed 
in other business, was sitting with his back towards 
him, and Barker's arms were actually encircling 
his neck before the astonished and half-angry man 
looked up. But when his eyes met the laughing 
grey ones of Barker above him he gently disen- 
gaged himself with a quick return of the caress, 
rose, shut the door of an inner office, and return- 
ing pushed Barker into an arm-chair in quite the 
old suppressive fashion of former days. Yes ; 
it was the same Stacy that Barker looked at, 
albeit his brown beard was now closely cropped 
around his determined mouth and jaw in a kind 
of grave decorum, and his energetic limbs already 
attuned to the rigour of clothes of fashionable 
cut and still more rigorous sombreness of colour. 

1 Barker boy,' he began, with the familiar 



THREE PARTNERS 61 

twinkle in his keen eyes which the younger 
partner remembered, ' I don't encourage stag 
dancing among my young men during bank hours, 
and you'll please to remember that we are not on 
Heavy Tree Hill.' 

1 Where,' broke in Barker enthusiastically, 
* we were only overlooked by the Black Spur 
Range and the sierran snow-line ; where the 
nearest voice that came to you was quarter of a 
mile away as the crow flies and nearly a mile by 
the trail.' 

1 And was generally an oath ! ' said Stacy. 
' But you're in San Francisco now. Where are 
you stopping ?' He took up a pencil and held it 
over a memorandum pad awaitingly. 

1 At the Brook House. It's ' 

1 Hold on! Brook House/ he repeated as he 
jotted it down. ■ And for how long ? ' 

' Oh, a day or two. You see, Kitty ' 

Stacy checked him with a movement of his 
pencil in the air, and then wrote down, ' Day or 
two. Wife with you ? ' 

1 Yes ; and oh, Stacy, our boy ! Ah ! ' he 
went on with a laugh, knocking aside the re- 
monstrating pencil, 'you must listen! He's just 
the sweetest, knowingest little chap living. Do 
you know what we're going to christen him ? 
Well, he'll be Stacy Demorest Barker. Good 



6 2 THREE PARTNERS 

names, aren't they ? And then it perpetuates the 
clear old friendship.' 

Stacy picked up the pencil again, wrote 
1 Wife and child S. D. B.,' and leaned back in 
his chair. ' Now, Barker,' he said briefly, ' I'm 
coming to dine with you to-night at 7.30 sharp. 
Then we'll talk Heavy Tree Hill, wife, baby, and 
S. D. B. But here I'm all for business. Have 
you any with me ? ' 

Barker, who was easily amused, had extracted 
a certain entertainment out of Stacy's memo- 
randum, but he straightened himself with a look 
of eager confidence and said, ' Certainly ; that's 
just what it is— business. Lord ! Stacy, I'm all 
business now. I'm in everything. And I bank 
with you, though perhaps you don't know it ; it's 
in your branch at Marysville. I didn't want to 
say anything about it to you before. But Lord ! 
you don't suppose that I'd bank anywhere else 
while you are in the business— cheques, dividends, 
and all that ; but in this matter I felt you knew, 
old chap. I didn't want to talk to a banker nor 
to a bank, but to Jim Stacy, my old partner.' 

4 Barker,' said Stacy curtly, ( how much money 
are you short of ? ' 

At this direct question Barker's always quick 
colour rose, but, with an equally quick smile, 
he said, ' I don't know yet that I'm short at all.' 



THREE PARTNERS ( ?} 

'But/do!' 

1 Look here, Jim, why I'm just overloaded 
with shares and stocks,' said Barker smiling. 

1 Not one of which you could realise on with- 
out sacrifice. Barker, three years ago you had 
three hundred thousand dollars put to your 
account at San Francisco.' 

1 Yes,' said Barker with a quiet reminiscent 
laugh. ' I remember I wanted to draw it out in 
one cheque to see how it would look.' 

' And you've drawn out all in three years, and 
it looks d d bad.' 

'How did you know it?' asked Barker, his 
face beaming only with admiration of his com- 
panion's omniscience. 

* How did I know it?' retorted Stacy. 'I 
know you, and I know the kind of people who 
have unloaded to you.' 

'Come, Stacy,' said Barker, 'I've only in- 
vested in shares and stocks like everybody else, 
and then only on the best advice I could get. 
Like Van Loo's, for instance— that man who was 
here just now, the new manager of the Empire 
Ditch Company. And Carter, my own Kitty's 
father. And when I was offered fifty thousand 
West Extensions, and was hesitating over it, he 
told me you were in it too — and that was enough 
for me to buy it.' 



64 THREE PARTNERS 

i Yes, but we didn't go into it at his figures.' 
1 No,' said Barker with an eager smile, ' but 
you sold at his figures, for I knew that when I 
found that yon, my old partner, was in it ; don't 
you see, I preferred to buy it through your bank, 
and did at no. Of course, you wouldn't have 
sold it at that figure if it wasn't worth it then, 
and neither I nor you are to blame if it dropped 
the next week to 60, don't you see ? ' 

Stacy's eyes hardened for a moment as he 
looked keenly into his former partner's bright 
grey ones, but there was no trace of irony in 
Barker's. On the contrary, a slight shade of 
sadness came over them. ' No,' he said re- 
flectively, 'I don't think I've ever been foolish 
or followed out my own ideas, except once, and 
that was extravagant, I admit. That was my 
idea of building a kind of refuge, you know, on 
the site of our old cabin, where poor miners and 
played-out prospectors waiting for a strike could 
stay without paying anything. Well, I sunk 
twenty thousand dollars in that, and might have 
lost more, only Carter — Kitty's father — persuaded 
me — he's an awful clever old fellow — into turning 
it into a kind of branch hotel of Boomville, while 
using it as an hotel to take poor chaps who 
couldn't pay at half prices, or quarter prices, 
privately, don't you see, so as to spare their pride ; 



THREE PARTNERS 65 

awfully pretty, wasn't it ? and make the hotel 
profit by it.' 

' Well ? ' said Stacy as Barker paused. 

'They didn't come,' said Barker. 'But,' he 
added eagerly, ' it shows that things were better 
than I had imagined. Only the others did not 
come either.' 

4 And you lost your twenty thousand dollars/ 
said Stacy curtly. 

1 Fifty thousand,' said Barker, 'for, of course, 
it had to be a larger hotel than the other. And 
I think that Carter wouldn't have gone into it 
except to save me from losing money.' 

* And yet made you lose fifty thousand instead 
of twenty. For I don't suppose he advanced 
anything.' 

4 He gave his time and experience,' said 
Barker simply. 

' I dcn't think it worth thirty thousand 
dollars,' said Stacy drily. ' But all this doesn't 
tell me what your business is with me to-day.' 

1 No,' said Barker brightening up, ' but it is \ 
business, you know. Something in the old style 
- — as between partner and partner — and that's why 
I came to you, and not to the "banker." And it 
all comes out of something that Demorest once 
told us ; so you see it's all us three again ! Well, 
you know, of course, that the Excelsior Ditch 

F 



66 THREE PARTNERS 

Company have abandoned the Bar and Heavy 
Tree Hill. It didn't pay.' 

1 Yes ; nor does the company pay any 
dividends now. You ought to know, with fifty 
thousand of their stock on your hands.' 

Barker laughed. \ But listen. I found that I 
could buy up their whole plant and all the ditching 
along the Black Spur Range for ten thousand 
dollars.' 

1 And, Great Scott ! you don't think of taking 
up their business ?' said Stacy aghast. 

Barker laughed more heartily. \ No. Not 
their business. But I remember that once 
Demorest told us, in the dear old days, that it 
cost nearly as much to make a water ditch as a 
railroad, in the way of surveying and engineering 
and levels, you know. And here's the plant for a 
railroad. Don't you see ? ' 

' But a railroad from Black Spur to Heavy 
Tree Hill— what's the good of that ? ' 

\ Why, Black Spur will be in the line of the 
new " Divide " Railway they're trying to get a 
Bill for in the Legislation.' 

1 An infamous piece of wild-cat jobbing that 
will never pass,' said Stacy decisively. 

■ They said becatise it was that it would pass,' 
said Barker simply. ' They say that Watson's 
Bank is in it, and was bound to get it through. 



THREE PARTNERS 67 

And as that is a rival bank of yours, don't you 
see, I thought that if ive could get something 
real good or valuable out of it- — something that 
would do the Black Spur good — it would be all 
right.' 

' And was your business to consult me about 
it ? ' said Stacy bluntly. 

\ No/ said Barker, \ it's too late to consult you 
now, though I wish I had. I've given my word 
to take it, and I can't back out. But I haven't 
the ten thousand dollars, and I came to you.' 

Stacy slowly settled himself back in his chair 
and put both hands in his pockets. ' Not a cent, 
Barker; not a cent' 

' I'm not asking it of the bank,' said Barker, 
with a smile, ' for I could have gone to the bank 
for it. But as this was something between us, I 
am asking you, Stacy, as my old partner.' 

■ And I am answering you, Barker, as your 
old partner, but also as the partner of a hundred 
other men, who have even a greater right to ask 
me. And my answer is— not a cent ! ' 

Barker looked at him with a pale, astonished 
face and slightly parted lips. Stacy rose, thrust 
his hands deeper in his pockets and standing 
before him went on. 

' Now look here ! It's time you should under- 
stand me and yourself. Three years ago, when 

f 2 



THREE PARTNERS 

our partnership was dissolved by accident, Or 
mutual consent, we will say, we started afresh, 
each on our own hook. Through foolishness 
and bad advice you have in those three years 
hopelessly involved yourself as you never would 
have done had we been partners, and yet in your 
difficulty you ask me and my new partners to help 
you out of a difficulty in which they have no 
concern.' 

1 Your new partners ? ' stammered Barker. 

1 Yes. My new partners ; for every man who 
has a share, or a deposit, or an interest, or a 
dollar in this bank is my partite >r — even you, with 
your securities at the Branch are one ; and you 
may say that in this I am protecting you against 
yourself.' 

1 But you have money — you have private 
means.' 

* None to speculate with as you wish me to — 
on account of my position ; none to give away 
foolishly as you expect me to — on account of 
precedent and example. I am a soulless machine 
taking care of capital entrusted to me and my 
brains, but decidedly n oi to, my he art nor my 
sgmiment. So my ans wer is, nnt- a_ronf j ' 

BarCer T s~face had changed ; his colour had 
come back, but with an older expression. 
Presently, however, his beaming smile returned, 



THREE PARTNERS 69 

with the additional suggestion of an affectionate 
toleration which puzzled Stacy. 

1 1 believe you're right, old chap,' he said, ex- 
tending his hand to the banker, ■ and I wish I had 
talked to you before. But it's too late now and 
I've given my word.' 

1 Your word, 1 said Stacy. ' Have you no 
written agreement ? ' 

' No. My word was accepted.' He blushed 
slightly as if conscious of a great weakness. 

1 But that isn't legal nor business. And you 
couldn't even hold the Ditch Company to it if they 
chose to back out.' 

\ But I don't think they will,' said Barker 
simply. 4 And you see my word wasn't given 
entirely to them. I bought the thing through 
my wife's cousin, Henry Spring, a broker, and he 
makes something by it, from the company on 
commission. And I can't go back on him. 
What did you say ? ' 

Stacy had only groaned through his set teeth. 
1 Nothing,' he said briefly, 'except that I'm coming, 
as I said before, to dine with you to-night ; but 
no more business. I've enough of that with 
others, and there are some waiting for me in the 
outer office now.' 

Barker rose at once, but with the same 
affectionate smile and tender gravity of counte- 



7 o THREE PARTNERS 

nance, and laid his hand caressingly on Stacy's 
shoulder. ' It's like you to give up so much of 
your time to me and my foolishness and be so 
frank with me. And I know it's mighty rough 
on you to have to be a mere machine instead of 
Jim Stacy. Don't you bother about me. I'll sell 
some of my Wide West Extension and pull the 
thing through myself. It's all right, but I'm 
sorry for you, old chap.' He glanced around the 
I , room at the walls and rich panelling, and added, 
* I suppose that's what you have to pay for all this 
sort of thing ? ' 

Before Stacy could reply, a waiting visitor 
was announced for the second time, and Barker 
with another hand-shake and a reassuring smile 
to his old partner passed into the hall, as if the 
onus of any infelicity in the interview was upon 
himself alone. But Stacy did not seem to be in 
a particularly accessible mood to the new caller, 
who in his turn appeared to be slightly irritated 
by having been kept waiting over some irksome 
business. ' You don't seem to follow me,' he said 
to Stacy after reciting his business perplexity. 
1 Can't you suggest something ? ! 

1 Well, why don't you get hold of one of your 
Board of Directors?' said Stacy abstractedly. 
c There's Captain Drummond ; you and he are 
old friends. You were comrades in the Mexican 
War, weren't you ? ' 



THREE PARTNERS 71 

1 That be d d ! ' said his visitor bitterly-. 

* All his interests are the other way, and in a 
trade of this kind, you know, Stacy, tha t a man 
would sacrifice his own brother. Do you suppose 
that he'd let up on a sure thing that he's got just 
because he and I fought side by side at Cerro 
Gordo f m Come ! what are you giving us ? You're 
the last man I ever expected to hear that kind of 
flapdoodle from. If it's because your bank has 
got some other interest and you can't advise me, 
why don't you say so ? ' Nevertheless, in spite 
of Stacy's abrupt disclaimer, he left a few minutes 
later, half-convinced that Stacy's lukewarmness 
was due to some adverse influence. Other 
callers were almost as quickly disposed of, and 
at the end of an hour Stacy found himself again 
alone. 

But not apparently in a very satisfied mood. 
After a few moments of purely mechanical memo- 
randa making, he rose abruptly and opened a 
small drawer in a cabinet, from which he took a 
letter still in its envelope. It bore a foreign post- 
mark. Glancing over it hastily, his eyes at last 
became fixed on a concluding paragraph. ' I 
hope,' wrote his correspondent, ' that even in the 
rush of your big business you will sometimes look 
after Barker. Not that I think the dear old chap 
will ever go wrong — indeed, I often wish I was 
as certain of myself as of him and his insight ; but 



72 THREE PARTNERS 

I am afraid we were more inclined to be merely 
amused and tolerant of his wonderful trust and 
simplicity than to really understand it for his own 
good and ours. I know you did not like his 
marriage, and were inclined to believe he was the 
victim of a rather unscrupulous father and a foolish, 
unequal girl, but are you satisfied that he would 
have been the happier without it or lived his 
perfect life under other and what you may think 
wiser conditions ? If he wrote the poetry that he 
lives everybody would think him wonderful ; for 
being what he is we never give him sufficient 
credit.' Stacy smiled grimly and pencilled on 
his memorandum, ■ He wants it to the amount 
of ten thousand dollars.' 'Anyhow,' continued 
the writer, 'look after him, Jim, for his sake, 
your sake, and the sake of — Phil Demorest.' 

Stacy put the letter back in its envelope, and 
tossing it grimly aside went on with his calculations. 
Presently he stopped, restored the letter to his 
cabinet, and rang a bell on his table. ' Send Mr. 
North here,' he said to the negro messenger. In 
a few moments his chief book-keeper appeared in 
the doorway. 

1 Turn to the Branch ledger and bring me a 
statement of Mr. George Barker's account' 

' He was here a moment ago,' said North, 
essaying a confidential look towards his chief. 



THREE PARTNERS 

1 I know it,' said Stacy coolly, without looking 
up. 

• He's been running a good deed on wild cat 
lately,' suggested North. 

' I asked for his account, and not your opinion 
of it,' said Stacy shortly. 

The subordinate withdrew somewhat abashed 
but still curious, and returned presently with a 
ledger which he laid before his chief. Stacy ran 
his eyes over the list of Barker's securities ; it 
seemed to him that all the wildest schemes of the 
past year stared him in the face. His finger, 
however, stopped on the Wide West Extension. 
- Mr. Barker will be wanting to sell some of this 
stock. What is it quoted at now ? ' 

' Sixty.' 

4 But I would prefer that Mr. Barker should 
not offer in the open market at present. Give 
him seventy for it — private sale ; that will be ten 
thousand dollars paid to his credit. Advise the 
Branch of this at once, and to keep the transac- 
tion quiet.' 

1 Yes, sir,' responded the clerk as he moved 
towards the door. But he hesitated, and with 
another essay at confidence said insinuatingly, 
' I always thought, sir, that Wide West would 
recover.' 

Stacy, perhaps not displeased to find what 



74. THREE PARTNERS 

had evidently passed in his subordinate's mind, 
looked at him and said drily, ' Then I would 
advise you also to keep that opinion to yourself.' 
But, clever as he was, he had not anticipated the 
result. Mr. North, though a trusted employ^ 
was human. On arriving in the outer office he 
beckoned to one of the lounging brokers, and in 
a low voice said, ' I'll take two shares of Wide 
West, if you can get it cheap.' 

The broker's face became alert and eager. 
{ Yes, but I say, is anything up ? ' 

1 I'm not here to give the business of the bank 
away,' retorted North severely ; ' take the order 
or leave it.' 

The man hurried away. Having thus vindi- 
cated his humanity by also passing the snub he 
had received from Stacy to an inferior, he turned 
away to carry out his master's instructions, yet 
secure in the belief that he had profited by his 
superior discernment of the real reason of that 
master's singular conduct. But when he returned 
to the private room, in hopes of further revelations, 
Mr. Stacy was closeted with another financial 
magnate, and had apparently divested his mind of 
the whole affair. 



THREE PARTNERS 75 



CHAPTER II 

When George Barker returned to the outer 
ward of the financial stronghold he had pene- 
trated, with its curving sweep of counters, brass 
railings, and wire work screens defended by the 
spruce clerks behind them, he was again impressed 
with the position of the man he had just quitted, 
and for a moment hesitated, with an inclination to 
go back. It was with no idea of making a further 
appeal to his old comrade, but — what would have 
been odd in any other nature but his — he was 
affected by a sense that he might have been un- 
fair and selfish in his manner to the man panoplied 
by these defences, and who was in a measure 
forced to be a part of them. He would like to 
have returned and condoled with him. The 
clerks, who were heartlessly familiar with the 
anxious bearing of the men who sought inter- 
views with their chief, both before and after, 
smiled with the whispered conviction that the 
fresh and ingenious young stranger had been 
1 chucked ' like others until they met his kindly, 



76 THREE PARTNERS 

tolerant, and even superior eyes, and were 
puzzled. Meanwhile Barker, who had that 
sublime, natural quality of abstraction over small 
impertinences which is more exasperating than 
studied indifference, after his brief hesitation 
passed out unconcernedly through the swinging 
mahogany doors into the blowy street. Here 
the wind and rain revived him ; the bank and its 
curt refusal was forgotten ; he walked onward 
with only a smiling memory of his partner as in 
the old days. He remembered how Stacy had 
burned down their old cabin rather than it should 
fall into sordid or unworthy hands — this Stacy 
who was now condemned to sink his impulses 
and become a mere machine. He had never 
known Stacy's real motive for that act ; both 
Demorest and Stacy had kept their knowledge of 
the attempted robbery from their younger partner ; 
it always seemed to him to be a precious revela- 
tion of Stacy's inner nature. Facing the wind 
and rain, he recalled how Stacy, though never so 
enthusiastic about his marriage as Demorest, had 
taken up Van Loo sharply for some foolish sneer 
about his own youthfulness. II e was affectionately 
tolerant of even Stacy's dislike to his wife's rela- 
tions, for Stacy did not know them as he did. 
Indeed, Barker, whose own father and mother 
had died in his infancy, had accepted his wife's 



THREE PARTNERS yy 

relations with a loving trust and confidence that 
was supreme, from the fact that he had never 
known any other. 

At last he reached his hotel. It was a new 
one, the latest creation of a feverish progress in 
hotel building which had covered five years and 
as many squares with large sh^a^-ei^cjUon^s, 
utterly beyond the needs of the community, yet 
each superior in size and adornment to its pre- 
decessor. It struck him as being the one 
evidence of an abiding faith in the future of the 
metropolis that he had seen in nothing else. As 
he entered its frescoed hall that afternoon he was 
suddenly reminded, by its challenging opulency, 
of the bank he had just quitted, without knowing 
that the bank had really furnished its capital and 
its original design. The gilded bar-rooms, flash- 
ing with mirrors and cut glass ; the saloons, with 
their desert expanse of Turkey carpet and oasis 
of clustered divans and gilded tables ; the great 
dining-room, with porphyry columns, and walls 
and ceilings shining with allegory — all these 
things which had attracted his youthful wonder 
without distracting his correct simplicity of taste 
he now began to comprehend. It was the bank's 
money ' at work.' In the clatter of dishes in the 
dining-room he even seemed to hear again the 
chinking of coin. 



7 8 THREE PARTNERS 

It was a short cut to his apartments to pass 
through a smaller public sitting-room popularly 
known as ' Flirtation Camp,' where eight or ten 
couples generally found refuge on chairs and 
settees by the windows, half concealed by heavy 
curtains. But the occupants were by no means 
youthful spinsters or bachelors ; they were 
generally married women, guests of the hotel, 
receiving other people's husbands whose wives 
were ! in the States,' or responsible middle-aged 
leaders of the town. In the elaborate toilettes of 
the women, as compared w T ith the less formal 
business suits of the men, there was an odd 
mingling of the social attitude with perhaps more 
mysterious confidences. The idle gossip about 
them had never affected Barker ; rather he had 
that innate respect for the secrets of others which 
is as inseparable from simplicity as it is from high 
breeding, and he scarcely glanced. at the different 
couples in his progress through the room.- He 
did not .even, notice a rather striking and hand- 
some woman who, surrounded by two or three 
admirers, yet looked up at Barker as he passed 
with self-conscious lids, as if seeking a return of 
her glance. But he moved on abstractedly, and 
only stopped when he suddenly saw the familiar 
skirt of his wife at a further window and halted 
before it. 



THREE PARTNERS 79 

1 Oh, it's you' said Mrs. Barker, with a half- 
nervous, half-impatient laugh. * Why, I thought 
you'ld certainly stay half the afternoon with your 
old partner, considering that you haven't met for 
three years.' 

There was no doubt she had thought so ; 
there was equally no doubt that the conversation 
she was carrying on with her companion — a good- 
looking, portly business man — was effectually in- 
terrupted. But Barker did not notice it. * Cap- 
tain Heath, my husband,' she went on, carelessly 
rising and smoothing her skirts. The Captain, 
who had risen too, bowed vaguely at the intro- 
duction, but Barker extended his hand frankly. 
! I found Stacy busy,' he said in answer to his 
wife, ' but he is coming to dine with us to-night.' 

1 If you mean Jim Stacy, the banker,' said 
Captain Heath, brightening into greater ease, 
.-he's the busiest man in California. I've seen 
men standing in a queue outside his door as in 
the old days at the Post Office. And he only 
gives you five minutes and no extension. So you 
and he were partners once ? ' he said, looking 
curiously at the still youthful Barker. 

But it was Mrs. Barker who answered, ' Oh, 
yes ! and always such good friends. I was 
awfully jealous of him.' Nevertheless, she did 
not respond to the affectionate protest in Barker's 



80 THREE PARTNERS 

eyes nor to the laugh of Captain Heath, but 
glanced indifferently around the room as if to 
leave further conversation to the two men. It 
was possible that she was beginning to feel that 
Captain Heath was as de trop now as her husband 
had been a moment before. Standing there, 
however, between them both, idly tracing a 
pattern on the carpet with the toe of her slipper, 
she looked prettier than she had ever looked as 
Kitty Carter. Her slight figure was more fully 
developed. That artificial severity covering a 
natural virgin coyness with which she used to 
wait at table in her father's hotel at Boomville 
had gone, and was replaced by a satisfied con- 
sciousness of her power to please. Her glance 
was freer, but not as frank as in those days. 
Her dress was undoubtedly richer and more 
stylish ; yet Barker's loyal heart often reverted 
fondly to the chintz gown, coquettishly frilled 
apron, and spotless cuffs and collar in which she 
had handed him his coffee with a faint colour 
that left his own face crimson. 

Captain Heath's tact being equal to her in- 
difference, he had excused himself, although he 
was becoming interested in this youthful husband. 
But Mrs. Barker, after having asserted her hus- 
band's distinction as the equal friend of the 
millionaire, was by no means willing that the 



THREE PARTNERS 81 

Captain should be further interested in Barker 
for himself alone, and did not urge him to stay. 
As he departed she turned to her husband and, 
indicating the group he had passed the moment 
before, said : 

1 That horrid woman has been staring at us 
all the time. I don't see what you see in her to 
admire.' 

Poor Barker's admiration had been limited to 
a few words of civility in the enforced contact of 
that huge caravansery and in his quiet, youthful 
recognition of her striking personality. But he 
was just then too preoccupied with his interview 
with Stacy to reply, and perhaps he did not quite 
understand his wife. It was odd how many 
things he did not quite understand now about 
Kitty, but that he knew must be his fault. But 
Mrs. Barker apparently did not require, after the 
fashion of her sex, a reply. For the next moment, 
as they moved towards their rooms, she said im- 
patiently : ' Well, you don't tell what Stacy said. 
Did you get the money ? ' 

I grieve to say that this soul of truth and 
frankness lied, only to his wife. Perhaps he con- 
sidered it only lying to himself, a thing of which 
he was at times miserably conscious. ' It wasn't 
necessary, dear,' he said ; ' he advised me to sell 

G 



82 THREE PARTNERS 

my securities in the bank ; and if you only knew 
how dreadfully busy he is.' 

Mrs. Barker curled her pretty lip. ' It don't 
take very long to lend ten thousand dollars ! ' she 
said. ' But that's what I always tell you. You 
have about made me sick by singing the praises 
of those wonderful partners of yours, and here 
you ask a favour of one of them and he tells you 
to sell your securities ! And you know, and he 
knows, they're worth next to nothing.' 

1 You don't understand, dear ' began 

Barker. 

4 1 understand that you've given your word to 
poor Harry,' said Mrs. Barker in pretty indigna- 
tion, ' who's responsible for the Ditch purchase.' 

'And I shall keep it. I always do,' said 
Barker very quietly, but with that same singular 
expression of face that had puzzled Stacy. But 
Mrs. Barker, who, perhaps, knew her husband 
better, said in an altered voice : 

1 But hozv can you, dear ? ' 

1 If I'm short a thousand or two I'll ask your 
father.' 

Mrs. Barker was silent. ' Father's so very 
much harried now, George. Why don't you 
simply throw the whole thing up ? ' 

* But I've given my word to your cousin 
Henry.' 



THREE PARTNERS 83 

' Yes, but only your word. There was no 
written agreement. And you couldn't even hold 
him to it.' 

Barker opened his frank eyes in astonishment. 
Her own cousin, too ! And they were Stacy's 
very words. 

1 Besides,' added Mrs. Barker audaciously, 
1 he could get rid of it elsewhere. He had an- 
other offer, but he thought yours the best. So 
don't be silly.' 

By this time they had reached their rooms. 
Barker, apparently dismissing the subject from 
his mind with characteristic buoyancy, turned 
into the bedroom and walked smilingly towards 
a small crib which stood in the corner. * Why, 
he's gone ! ' he said in some dismay. 

'Well,' said Mrs. Barker a little impatiently, 
* you didn't expect me to take him into the public 
parlour, where I was seeing visitors, did vou ? 
I sent him out with the nurse into the lower ball 
to play with the other children.' 

A shade momentarily passed over Barker's 
face. He always looked forward to meeting the 
child when he came back. He had a belief, based 
on no grounds whatever, that the little creature 
understood him. And he had a father's doubt of 
the wholesomeness of other people's children who 
were born into the world indiscriminately and not 

G 2 



8 4 THREE PARTNERS 

under the exceptional conditions of his own. ' I'll 
go and fetch him,' he said. 

1 You haven't told me anything about your 
interview ; what you did and what your good 
friend Stacy said,' said Mrs. Barker, dropping 
languidly into a chair. ' And really if you are 
simply running away again after that child, I 
might just as well have asked Captain Heath to 
stay longer.' 

< Oh, as to Stacy,' said Barker dropping beside 
her and taking her hand, 'well, dear, he was 
awfully busy you know, and shut up in the inner- 
most office like the agate in one of the Japanese 
nests of boxes. But,' he continued brightening 
up, 'just the same dear old Jim Stacy of Heavy 
Tree Hill, when I first knew you. Lord! dear, 
how it all came back to me ! That day I pro- 
posed to you in the belief that I was unexpectedly 
rich and even bought a claim for the boys on the 
strength of it, and how I came back to them to 
find that they had made a big strike on the 
very claim. Lord! I remember how I was so 
afraid to tell them about you — and how they 
guessed it — that dear old Stacy one of the 
first' 

' Yes,' said Mrs. Barker, ' and I hope your 
friend Stacy remembered that but for me, when 
you found out that you were not rich, you'ld have 



THREE PARTNERS 85 

given up the claim, but that I really deceived my 
own father to make you keep it. I've often 
worried over that, George,' she said pensively, 
turning a diamond bracelet around her pretty 
wrist, ' although I never said anything about it.' 

' But Kitty, darling,' said Barker, grasping his 
wife's hand, ' I gave my note for it ; you know you 
said that was bargain enough, and I had better 
wait until the note was due, and until I found I 
couldn't pay, before I gave up the claim. It was 
very clever of you, and the boys all said so, too. 
But you never deceived your father, dear,' he said, 
looking at her gravely, 'for I should have told 
him everything.' 

' Of course, if you look at it in that way,' said 
his wife languidly, ' it's nothing, only I think it 
ought to be remembered when people go about 
saying papa ruined you with his hotel schemes.' 

' Who dares say that ? ' said Barker in- 
dignantly. 

4 Well, if they don't say it they look it,' said 
Mrs. Barker, with a toss of her pretty head, 
'and I believe that's at the bottom of Stacy's 
refusal,' 

1 But he never said a word, Kitty,' said 
Barker flushing. 

'There, don't excite yourself, George,' said 
Mrs. Barker resignedly, ' but go for the baby. I 



S6 THREE PARTNERS 

know you're dying to go, and I suppose it's time 
Norah brought it upstairs.' 

At any other time Barker would have lingered 
with explanations, but just then a deeper sense 
than usual of some misunderstanding made him 
anxious to shorten this domestic colloquy. He 
rose, pressed his wife's hand, and went out. But 
yet he was not entirely satisfied with himself for 
leaving her. ' I suppose it isn't right my going off 
as soon as I come in,' he murmured reproachfully 
to himself, ' but I think she wants the baby back 
as much as I ; only, woman-like, she didn't care 
to let me know it.' 

He reached the lower hall, which he knew 
was a favourite promenade for the nurses who 
were gathered at the farther end, where a large 
window looked upon Montgomery Street. But 
Norah, the Irish nurse, was not among them ; he 
passed through several corridors in his search, but 
in vain. At last, worried and a little anxious, he 
turned to regain his rooms through the long 
saloon where he had found his wife previously. 
It was deserted now ; the last caller had left — 
even frivolity had its prescribed limits. He was 
consequently startled by a gentle murmur from 
one of the heavily curtained window recesses. It 
was a woman's voice — low, sweet, caressing, and 
filled with an almost pathetic tenderness. And 



THREE PARTNERS 87 

it was followed by a distinct gurgling, satisfied 
crow. 

Barker turned instantly in that direction. A 
step brought him to the curtain, where a singular 
spectacle presented itself. 

Seated on a lounge, completely absorbed and 
possessed by her treasure, was the ' horrid 
woman ' whom his wife had indicated only a little 
while ago, holding a baby — Kitty's sacred baby — 
in her wanton lap ! The child was feebly grasp- 
ing the end of the slender jewelled necklace 
which the woman held temptingly dangling from 
a thin, white, jewelled finger above it. But its 
eyes were beaming with an intense delight, as if 
trying to respond to the deep, concentrated love 
in the handsome face that was bent above it. 

At the sudden intrusion of Barker she looked 
up. There was a faint rise in her colour, but no 
loss of self-possession. 

' Please don't scold the nurse,' she said, 'nor 
say anything to Mrs. Barker. It is all my fault. 
I thought that both the nurse and child looked 
dreadfully bored with each other, and I borrowed 
the little fellow for a while to try and amuse him. 
At least I haven't made him cry, have I, dear ? ' 
The last epithet, it is needless to say, was 
addressed to the little creature in her lap, but 
in its tender modulation it touched the father's 



83 THREE PARTNERS 

quick sympathies as if he had shared it with the 
child. ' You see,' she said softly, disengaging 
the baby fingers from her necklace, ' that our sex 
is not the only one tempted by jewellery and 
glitter.' 

Barker hesitated ; the madonna-like devotion 
of a moment ago was gone ; it was only the 
woman of the world who laughingly looked up 
at him. Nevertheless he was touched. ' Have 
you — ever — had a child, Mrs. Horncastle?' he 
asked gently and hesitatingly. He had a vague 
recollection that she passed for a widow, and in 
his simple eyes all women w r ere virgins or married 
saints. 

4 No,' she said abruptly. Then she added 
with a laugh, \ Or perhaps I should not admire 
them so much. I suppose it's the same feeling 
bachelors have for other people's wives. But I 
know you're dying to take that boy from me. 
Take him, then, and don't be ashamed to carry 
him yourself just because I'm here ; you know you 
would delight to do it if I weren't' 

Barker bent over the silken lap in which the 
child was comfortably nestling, and in that attitude 
had a faint consciousness that Mrs. Horncastle 
was mischievously breathing into his curls a silent 
laugh. Barker lifted his first-born with proud 
skilfulness, but that sagacious infant evidently 



THREE PARTNERS 89 

knew when he was comfortable, and in a 
paroxysm of objection caught his father's curls 
with one fist while with the other he grasped 
Mrs. Horncastle's brown braids and brought their 
heads into contact. Upon which humorous situa- 
tion Norah, the nurse, entered. 

' It's all right, Norah,' said Mrs. Horncastle 
laughing, as she disengaged herself from the link- 
ing child. ' Mr. Barker has claimed the baby, 
and has agreed to forgive you and me and say 
nothing to Mrs. Barker.' Norah, with the in- 
scrutable criticism of her sex on her sex, thought 
it extremely probable, and halted with exasper- 
ating discretion. * There,' continued Mrs. Horn- 
castle, playfully evading the child's further 
advances, ' go with papa, that's a dear. Mr. 
Barker prefers to carry him back, Norah.' 

1 But,' said the ingenuous and persistent 
Barker, still lingering in hopes of recalling the 
woman's previous expression, ' you do love 
children, and you think him a bright little chap 
for his age ? ' 

1 Yes,' said Mrs. Horncastle, putting back her 
loosened braid, ' so round and fat and soft. And 
such a discriminating eye for jewellery. Really 
you ought to get a necklace like mine for Mrs. 
Barker — it would please both, you know.' She 
moved slowly away, the united efforts of Norah 



rise ubr2 



9 o THREE PARTNERS 

and Barker scarcely sufficing to restrain the 
struggling child from leaping after her as she 
turned at the door and blew him a kiss. 

When Barker regained his room he found 
that Mrs. Barker had dismissed Stacy from her 
mind, except so far as to invoke Norah's aid in 
laying out her smartest gown for dinner. ' But 
why take all this trouble, dear ? ' said her simple- 
minded husband ; ' we are going to dine in a 
private room so that we can talk over old times 
all by ourselves, and any dress would suit him. 
And, Lord, dear ! ' he added, with a ' quick 
brightening at the fancy, ' if you could only just 
rig yourself up in that pretty lilac gown you used 
to wear at Boomville — it would be too killing, 
and just like old times. I put it away myself 
in one of our trunks — I couldn't bear to leave 

it behind — I know just where it is. Ill ' 

But Mrs. Barker's restraining scorn withheld 
him. 

1 George Barker, if you think I am going to 
let you throw away and utterly waste Mr. Stacy 
on us, alone, in a private room with closed doors 
— and I dare say you'd like to sit in your dressing- 
gown and slippers — you are entirely mistaken. I 
know what is due, not to your old partner, but to 
the great Mr. Stacy, the financier, and I know 
what is due from him to us ! No ! We dine in 



THREE PARTNERS 91 

the great dining-room, publicly, and, if possible, 
at the very next table to those stuck-up Peter- 
burys and their Eastern friends, including that 
horrid woman, which, I'm sure, ought to satisfy 
you. Then you can talk as much as you like, 
and as loud as you like about old times — and the 
louder and the more the better — but I don't think 
he'f/\\ke it.' 

' But the baby ! ' expostulated Barker. ' Stacy's 
just wild to see him — and we can't bring him 
down to the table — though we might J he added, 
momentarily brightening. 

' After dinner,' said Mrs. Barker severely, 'we 
will walk through the big drawing-rooms, and 
then Mr. Stacy may come upstairs and see him 
in his crib. But not before. And now, George, 
I do wish that to-night, for once, you would not 
wear a turn-down collar, and that you would go 
to the barber's and have him cut your hair and 
smooth out the curls. And, for Heaven's sake! 
let him put some wax or gum or something on 
your moustache and twist it up on your cheek 
like Captain Heath's, for it positively droops over 
your mouth like a girl's ringlet. It's quite enough 
for me to hear people talk of your inexperience, 
but really I don't want you to look as if I had run 
away with a pretty schoolboy. And, considering 
the size of that child, it's positively disgraceful. 



92 THREE PARTNERS 

And one thing more, George. When I'm talk- 
ing to anybody, please don't sit opposite to me, 
beaming with delight and your mouth open. 
And don't roar if by chance I say something 
funny. And — whatever you do — don't make 
eyes at me in company whenever I happen to 
allude to you, as I did before Captain Heath. It 
is positively too ridiculous.' 

Nothing could exceed the laughing good- 
humour with which her husband received these 
cautions, nor the evident sincerity with which he 
promised amendment. Equally sincere was he, 
though a little more thoughtful, in his severe self- 
examination of his deficiencies, when, later, he 
seated himself at the window with one hand 
softly encompassing his child's chubby fist in the 
crib beside him, and, in the instinctive fashion of 
all loneliness, looked out of the window. The 
Southern Trades were whipping the waves of 
the distant bay and harbour into yeasty crests. 
Sheets of rain swept the side walks with the 
regularity of a fusilade, against which a few 
pedestrians struggled with flapping waterproofs 
and slanting umbrellas. He could look along the 
deserted length of Montgomery Street to the 
heights of Telegraph Hill and its long-disused 
semaphore. It seemed lonelier to him than the 
mile-long sweep of Heavy Tree Hill, writhing 



THREE PARTNERS 93 

against the mountain wind and its yEolian song. 
He ha d never felt so lonely there.^ Ax\ his rigid 
selF-examination he thought Kitty right in pro- 
testing against the effect of his youthfulness and 
optimism. Yet he was also right in being him- 
self. There is an egoism in the highest simplicity ; 
and Barker, while willing to believe in others' 
methods, never abandoned his own aims. He 
was right in loving Kitty as he did ; he knew 
that she was better and more lovable than she 
could believe herself to be ; but he was willing 
to believe it pained and discomposed her if he 
showed it before company. He would not have 
her change even this peculiarity — it was part of 
herself — no more than he would have changed 
himself. And behind what he had conceived was 
her clear, practical common sense, all this time 
had been her belief that she had deceived her 
father! Poor dear, dear Kitty! And she had 
suffered because stupid people had conceived 
that her father had led him away in selfish 
speculations. As <if he — Barker — would not have 
first discovered it, and as if anybody — even dear 
Kitty herself — was responsible for his convictions 
and actions but himself. Nevertheless, this 
gentle egotist was unusually serious, and when 
the child awoke at last, and with a fretful start 
and vacant eyes pushed his caressing hand away, 



94 THREE PARTNERS 

he felt lonelier than before. It was with a slight 
sense of humiliation, too, that he saw it stretch its 
hands to the mere hireling, Norah, who had never 
mven it the love that he had seen even in the 
frivolous Mrs. Horncastle's eyes. Later, when 
his wife came in looking very pretty in her 
elaborate dinner toilette, he had the same con- 
flicting emotions. He knew that they had 
already passed that phase of their married life 
when she no longer dressed to please him, and 
that the dictates of fashion or the rivalry of an- 
other woman she held superior to his tastes ; yet 
he did not blame her. But he was a little sur- 
prised to see that her dress was copied from one 
of Mrs. Horncastle's most striking ones, and 
that it did not suit her. That which adorned 
the maturer woman did not agree with the 
demure and slightly austere prettiness of the 
young wife. 

But Barker forgot all this when Stacy — 
reserved and somewhat severe looking in evening 
dress — arrived with business punctuality. He 
fancied that his old partner received the announce- 
ment that they would dine in the public room 
with something of surprise, and he saw him 
glance keenly at Kitty in her fine array, as if he 
had suspected it was her choice, and understood 
her motives. Indeed, the young husband had 



THREE PARTNERS 95 

found himself somewhat nervous in regard to 
Stacy's estimate of Kitty ; he was conscious that 
she was not looking and acting like the old Kitty 
that Stacy had known ; it did not enter his 
honest heart that Stacy had, perhaps, not appre- 
ciated her then, and that her present quality 
might accord more with his worldly tastes and 
experience. It was, therefore, with a kind of 
timid delight that he saw Stacy apparently enter 
into her mood, and with a still more timorous 
amusement to notice that he seemed to sympathy 
not only with her, but with her half-rallying, half- 
serious attitude towards his (Barker's) in experience • 
and simplicity. He was glad that she had made 
a friend of Stacy, even in this way. Stacy would 
understand, as he did, her pretty wilfulness at 
last ; she would understand what a true friend 
Stacy was to him. It was with unfeigned satis- 
faction that he followed them in to dinner as she 
leaned upon his guest's arm chatting confidentially. 
He was only uneasy because her manner had a 
slight ostentation. 

The entrance of the little party produced a 
quick sensation throughout the dining-room. 
Whispers passed from table to table ; all heads 
were turned towards the great financier as 
towards a magnet ; a few guests even shamelessly 
faced round in their chairs as he passed. Mrs. 



96 THREE PARTNERS 

Barker was pink, pretty, and voluble with ex- 
citement ; Stacy had a slight mask of reserve ; 
Barker was the only one natural and unconscious. 

As the dinner progressed Barker found that 
there was little chance for him to invoke his old 
partner's memories of the past. He found, how- 
ever, that Stacy had received a letter from 
Demorest, and that he was coming home from 
Europe. His letters were still sad ; they both 
agreed upon that. And then for the first time 
that day Stacy looked intently at Barker with 
the look that he had often worn on Heavy Tree 
Hill. 

' Then you think it is the same old trouble 
that worries him ? ' said Barker in an awed and 
sympathetic voice. 

1 1 believe it is,' said Stacy with an equal feel- 
ing. Mrs. Barker pricked up her pretty ears ; 
her husband's ready sympathy was familiar 
enough ; but that this cold practical Stacy should 
be moved at anything, piqued her curiosity. 

' And you believe that he has never got over 
it ? ' continued Barker. 

1 He had one chance, but he threw it away,' 
said Stacy energetically. ' If, instead of going 
off to Europe by himself to brood over it, he 
had joined me in business, he'd have been another 
man.' 



THREE PARTNERS 97 

' But not Demorest,' said Barker quickly. 

* What dreadful secret is this about 
Demorest ? ' said Mrs. Barker petulantly. ' Is 
he ill ? ' 

Both men were silent by their old common 
instinct. But it was Stacy who said 'No' in a 
way that put any further questioning at an end, 
and Barker was grateful and for the moment dis- 
loyal to his Kitty. 

It was with delight that Mrs. Barker had 
seen that the attention of the next table was 
directed to them, and that even Mrs. Horncastle 
had glanced from time to time at Stacy. But 
she was not prepared for the evident equal effect 
that Mrs. Horncastle had created upon Stacy. 
His cold face warmed, his critical eye softened ; 
he asked her name. Mrs. Barker was voluble, 
prejudiced, and, it seemed, misinformed. 

' 1 know it all,' said Stacy with didactic 
emphasis. ' Her husband was as bad as they 
make them. When her life had become in- 
tolerable with him, he tried to make it shameful 
without him by abandoning her. She could get 
a divorce a dozen times over, but she won't.' 

' I suppose that's what makes her so very 
attractive to gentlemen,' said Mrs. Barker 
ironically. 

11 



98 THREE PARTNERS 

1 I have never seen her before,' continued 
Stacy with business precision, 'although I and 
two other men are guardians of her property 
and have saved it from the clutches of her hus- 
band. They told me she was handsome — and so 
she is.' 

Pleased with the sudden human weakness of 
Stacy, Barker glanced at his wife for sympathy. 
But she was looking studiously another way, and 
the young husband's eyes, still full of his grati- 
fication, fell upon Mrs. Horncastle's. She looked 
away with a bright colour. Whereupon the 
sanguine Barker — perfectly convinced that she 
returned Stacy's admiration — was seized with one 
of his old boyish dreams of the future, and saw 
Stacy happily united to her, and was only re- 
called to the dinner before him by its end. Then 
Stacy duly promenaded the great saloon with 
Mrs. Barker on his arm, visited the baby in their 
apartments, and took an easy leave. But he 
grasped Barker's hand before parting in quite his 
old fashion, and said : ' Come to lunch with me 
at the bank any day, and we'll talk of Phil 
Demorest,' and left Barker as happy as if the 
appointment were to confer the favour he had that 
morning refused. But Mrs. Barker, who had 
overheard, was more dubious. 

1 You don't suppose he asks you to talk with 



THREE PARTNERS 99 

you about Demorest and his stupid secret, do 
you ? ' she said scornfully. 

' Perhaps not only about that,' said Barker, 
glad that she had not demanded the secret. 

'Well,' returned Mrs. Barker as she turned 
away, ' he might just as well lunch here and talk 
about her — and see her, too.' 

Meantime Stacy had dropped into his club, 
only a few squares distant. His appearance 
created the same interest that it had produced at 
the hotel, but with less reserve among his fellow- 
members. 

1 Have you heard the news ? ' said a dozen 
voices. Stacy had not ; he had been dining out. 

'That infernal swindle of a "Divide" Rail- 
road has passed the Legislature.' 

Stacy instantly remembered Barker's absurd 
belief in it and his reasons. He smiled and 
said carelessly, 'Are you quite sure it's a 
swindle ? ' 

There was a dead silence at the coolness of 
the man who had been most outspoken against 
it. 

' But,' said a voice hesitatingly, ' you know it 

goes nowhere and to no purpose.' 

- ' But that does not prevent it, now that it's a 

fact, from going anywhere and to some purpose,' 

said Stacy, turning away. He passed into the 



ioo THREE PARTNERS 

reading-room quietly, but in an instant turned and 
quickly descended by another staircase into the 
hall, hurriedly put on his overcoat, and slipping 
out was a moment later re-entering the hotel. 
Here he hastily summoned Barker, who came 
down flushed and excited. Laying his hand 
on Barker's arm in his old dominant way, he 
said : 

1 Don't delay a single hour, but get a written 
agreement for that Ditch property.' 

Barker smiled. ' But I have. Got it this 
afternoon.' 

1 Then you know?' ejaculated Stacy in sur- 
prise. 

' I only know,' said Barker colouring, ' that 
you said I could back out of it if it wasn't signed, 
and that's what Kitty said, too. And I thought 
it looked awfully mean for me to hold a man to 
that kind of a bargain. And so — you won't be 
mad, old fellow, will you ? — I thought I'd put it 
beyond any question of my own good faith by 
having it in black and white.' He stopped, 
laughing and blushing, but still earnest and 
sincere. ' You don't think me a fool, do you ? ' 
he said pathetically. 

Stacy smiled grimly. ' I think, Barker boy, 
that if you go to the Branch you'll have no diffi- 



THREE PARTNERS lot 

culty in paying for the Ditch property. Good- 
night. ' 

In a few moments he was back at the club 
again before anyone knew he had even left the 
building. As he again re-entered the smoking- 
room he found the members still in eager dis- 
cussion about the new railway. One was saying, 
1 If they could get an extension and carry the road 
through Heavy Tree Hill to Boomville they'd be 
all right.' 

1 1 quite agree with you,' said Stacy. 



io2 THREE PARTNERS 



CHAPTER III 

The swaying, creaking Boomville coach had at 
last reached the level ridge, and sank forward upon 
its springs with a sigh of relief and the slow 
precipitation of the red dust which had hung in 
clouds around it. The whole coach, inside and 
out, was covered with this impalpable powder ; it 
had poured into the windows that gaped widely 
in the insufferable heat ; it lay thick upon the 
novel read by the passenger who had for the third 
or fourth time during the ascent made a gutter of 
the half-opened book and blown the dust away in 
a single puff, like the smoke from a pistol. It lay 
in folds and creases over the yellow silk duster of 
the handsome woman on the back seat, and when 
she endeavoured to shake it off enveloped her in 
a reddish nimbus. It grimed the handkerchiefs 
of others, and left sanguinary streaks on their 
mopped foreheads. But as the coach had slowly 
climbed the summit the sun was also sinking 
behind the Black Spur Range, and with its 



THREE PARTNERS 103 

ultimate disappearance a delicious coolness spread 
itself like a wave across the ridge. The passen- 
gers drew a long breath, the reader closed his 
book, the lady lifted the edge of the veil and 
delicately wiped her forehead, over which a few 
damp tendrils of hair were clinging. Even a 
distinguished-looking man who had sat as impene- 
trable and remote as a statue in one of the front 
seats moved and turned his abstracted face to the 
window. His deeply tanned cheek and clearly 
cut features harmonised with the red dust that lay 
in the curves of his brown linen dust-cloak, and 
completed his resemblance to a bronze figure. 
Yet it was Demorest, changed only in colouring. 
Now, as five years ago, his abstraction had a 
certain quality which the most familiar stranger 
shrank from disturbing. But in the general 
relaxation of relief the novel-reader addressed him. 

'Well, we ain't far from Boomville now, and 
it's all down grade the rest of the way. I reckon 
you'll be as glad to get a "wash up" and a 
" shake " as the rest of us. ! 

' 1 am afraid I won't have so early an oppor- 
tunity,' said Demorest with a faint, grave smile, 
! for I get off at the cross-road to Heavy Tree 
Hill,- 

'Heavy Tree Hill!' repeated the other in 
surprise. 'You ain't goin' to Heavy Tree Hill? 



104 THREE PARTNERS 

Why, you might have gone there direct by railroad, 
and have been there four hours ago. You know 
there's a branch from the " Divide " Railroad goes 
there straight to the hotel at Hymettus.' 

' Where ? ' said Demorest with a puzzled smile. 

1 Hymettus. That's the fancy name they've 
given to the watering-place on the slope. But I 
reckon you're a stranger here ? ' 

1 For five years,' said Demorest. ' I fancy I've 
heard of the railroad, although I prefer to go to 
Heavy Tree this way. But I never heard of a 
watering-place there before.' 

1 Why, it's the biggest boom of the year. Folks 
that are tired of the fogs of 'Frisco and the heat 
of Sacramento all go there. It's four thousand 
feet up, with a hotel like Saratoga, dancing, and a 
band plays every night. And it all sprang out of 
the " Divide " Railway and a crank named George 
Barker, who bought up some old Ditch property 
and ran a branch line along its levels, and made 
a junction with the " Divide." You can come all 
the way from 'Frisco or Sacramento by rail. It's 
a mighty big thing ! ' 

1 Yet,' said Demorest, with some animation, 
' you call the man who originated this success a 
crank. I should say he was a genius.' 

The other passenger shook his head. 'All 
sheer nigger luck. He bought the Ditch plant 



THREE PARTNERS 105 



afore there was the o-host of a chance for the 
"Divide" Railroad, just out o' pure d — — d 
foolishness. He expected so little from it that he 
hadn't even got the agreement done in writin', 
and hadn't paid for it, when the " Divide " Railroad 
passed the Legislature, as it never oughter done ! 
For, you see, the blamedest cur'ous thing about 
the whole affair was that this "straw" road of a 
"Divide," all pure "wild cat," was only gotten 
up to frighten the Pacific Railroad sharps into 
buying it up. And the road that nobody ever 
calculated would ever have a rail of it laid was 
pushed on as soon as folks knew that the Ditch 
plant had been bought up, for they thought there 
was a big thing behind it. Even the hotel was, 
at first, simply a kind of genteel almshouse that 
this yer Barker had built for broken-down miners ! ' 

1 Nevertheless,' continued Demorest smiling, 
1 you admit that it is a great success.' 

1 Yes,' said the other, a little irritated by some 
complacency in Demorest's smile, ' but the success 
isn't his 71. Fools has ideas, and wise men profit 
by them, for that hotel now has Jim Stacy's bank 
behind it, and is even a kind of country branch of 
the Brook House in 'Frisco. Barker's out of it, 
I reckon. Anyhow, he couldn't run a hotel, for 
all that his wife — she that's one of the big 'Frisco 
swells now — used to help serve in her father's. 



106 THREE PARTNERS 

No, sir, it's just a fool's luck, gettin' the first taste 
and leavin the rest to others.' 

1 I'm not sure that it's the worst kind of luck/ 
returned Demorest, with persistent gravity ; ' and 
I suppose he's satisfied with it.' But so heterodox 
an opinion only irritated his antagonist the more, 
especially as he noticed that the handsome woman 
in the back seat appeared to be interested in the 
conversation, and even sympathetic with Demorest. 
The man was in the main a good-natured fellow 
and loyal to his friends ; but this did not preclude 
any virulent criticism of others, and for a moment 
he hated this bronze-faced stranger, and even 
saw blemishes in the handsome woman's beauty. 
' That may be your idea of an Eastern man,' he 
said bluntly, ' but I kin tell ye that Californy ain't 
run on those lines. No, sir.' Nevertheless, his 
curiosity got the better of his ill-humour, and as 
the coach at last pulled up at the cross-road for 
Demorest to descend he smiled affably at his 
departing companion. 

'You allowed just now that you'ld bin five 
years away. Whar mout ye have bin ? ' 

' In Europe,' said Demorest pleasantly. 

' 1 reckoned ez much,' returned his inter- 
rogator, smiling significantly at the other passen- 
gers. ' But in what place ? ' 

4 Oh, many,' said Demorest, smiling also. 



THREE PARTNERS 

' But what place war ye last livin' at ? ! 

' Well,' said Demorest, descending the steps, 
but lingering for a moment with his hand on the 
door of the coach, ' oddly enough, now you remind 
me of it — at Hymettus ! ' 

He closed the door and the coach rolled on. 
The passenger reddened, glanced indignantly 
after the departing figure of Demorest and 
suspiciously at the others. The lady was look- 
ing from the window with a faint smile on her 
face. 

1 He might hev given me a civil answer/ 
muttered the passenger and resumed his novel. 

When the coach drew up before Carter's 
Hotel the lady got down, and the curiosity of her 
susceptible companions was gratified to the extent 
of learning from the register that her name was 
Horncastle. 

She was shown to a private sitting-room, 
which chanced to be the one which had belonged 
to Mrs. Barker in the days of her maidenhood, 
and was the secret, impenetrable bower to which 
she retired when her daily duties of waiting upon 
her father's guests were over. But the breath of 
custom had passed through it since then, and but 
little remained of its former maiden glories, ex- 
cept a few schoolgirl crayon drawings on the wall 
and an unrecognisable portrait of herself in oil, 



io8 THREE PARTNERS 

done by a wandering artist and still preserved as 
a receipt for his unpaid bill. Of these facts Mrs. 
Horncastle knew nothing ; she was evidently 
preoccupied, and after she had removed her outer 
duster and entered the room, she glanced at the 
clock on the mantelshelf and threw herself with 
an air of resigned abstraction in an arm-chair in 
the corner. Her travelling dress, although un- 
ostentatious, was tasteful and well-fitting ; a slight 
pallor from her fatiguing journey, and, perhaps, 
from some absorbing thought, made her beauty 
still more striking. She gave even an air of 
elegance to the faded, worn adornments of the 
room, which it is to be feared it never possessed 
in Miss Kitty's occupancy. Again she glanced 
at the clock. There was a tap at the door. 

1 Come in.' 

The door opened to a Chinese servant bearing 
a piece of torn paper with a name written on it in 
lieu of a card. 

Mrs. Horncastle took it, glanced at the name 
and handed the paper back. 

'There must be some mistake,' she said. ' I 
do not know Mr. Steptoe.' 

■ No, but you know me all the same,' said a 
voice from the doorway as a man entered, coolly 
took the Chinese servant by the elbows and 
thrust him into the passage, closing the door 



THREE PARTNERS 109 

upon him. ' Steptoe and Horncastle are the 
same man, only I prefer to call myself Steptoe 
here. And I see you' re down on the register as 
" Horncastle." Well, it's plucky of you, and it's 
not a bad name to keep ; you might be thankful 
that I have always left it to you. And if I call 
myself Steptoe here it's a good blind against any 
of your swell friends knowing you met your hus- 
band here.' 

In the half-scornful, half-resigned look she 
had given him when he entered there was no 
doubt that she recognised him as the man she 
had come to see. He had changed little in the 
five years that had elapsed since he entered the 
three partners' cabin at Heavy Tree Hill. His 
short hair and beard still clung to his head like 
curled moss or the crisp flocculence of Astrakhan. 
He was dressed more pretentiously, but still gave 
the same idea of vulgar strength. She listened 
to him without emotion, but said, with even a 
deepening of scorn in her manner : 

1 What new shame is this ? ' 

' Nothing new,' he replied. ' Only five years 
ago I was livin' over on the bar at Heavy Tree 
Hill under the name of Steptoe, and folks here 
might recognise me. I was here when your 
particular friend, Jim Stacy — who only knew me 
as Steptoe, and doesn't know me as Horncastle, 



no THREE PARTNERS 

your husband — for all he's bound up my property 
for you — made his big strike with his two partners. 
I was in his cabin that very night, and drank his 
whiskey. Oh, I'm all right there ! I left every- 
thing all right behind me — only it's just as well as 
he doesn't know I'm Horncastle. And as the boy 

happened to be there with me ' He stopped 

and looked at her significantly. 

The expression of her face changed. Eager- 
ness, anxiety, and even fear came into it in turn, 
but always mingling with some scorn that 
dominated her. ' The boy ! ' she said in a voice 
that had changed too, ' well, what about him ? 
You promised to tell me all. All ! ' 

' Where's the money?' he said. ' Husband 
and wife are one, I know,' he went on with a 
coarse laugh, ' but I don't trust myself in these 
matters.' 

She took from a travelling reticule that lay 
beside her a roll of notes and a chamois leather 
bag of coin and laid them on the table before 
him. He examined both carefully. 

1 All right,' he said. ' I see you've got the 
checks made out "to bearear." Your head's 
level, Conny. Pity you and me can't agree.' 

* I went to the bank across the way as soon as 
I arrived,' she said with contemptuous directness. 




Where's the money ? ' he said. 



^ OF THK J 

UNIVERSITY 



^l 



iH CALIFOR^L 



THREE PARTNERS in 

* I told them I was going over to Hymettus and 
might want money.' 

He dropped into a chair before her with his 
broad, heavy hands upon his knees, and looked at 
her with an equal, though baser, contempt. For 
his was mingled with a certain pride of mastery 
and possession. 

1 And, of course, you'll go to Hymettus and cut 
a splurge as you always do. The beautiful Mrs. 
Horncastle ! The helpless victim of a wretched, 
dissipated, disgraced, gambling husband. So 
dreadfully sad, you know, and so interesting ! 
Could get a divorce from the brute if she wanted, 
but won't, on account of her religious scruples. 
And so while the brute is gambling, swindling, 
disgracing himself, and dodging a shot here and a 
lynch committee there, two or three hundred miles 
away, you're splurging round in first-class hotels 
and watering-places, doing the injured and abused, 
and run after by a lot of men who are ready to 
take my place, and, maybe, some of my reputation 
along with it.' 

' Stop ! ' she said suddenly, in a voice that 
made the glass chandelier ring. He had risen too, 
with a quick, uneasy glance towards the door. 
But her outbreak passed as suddenly, and sinking 
back into her chair, she said, with her previous 



112 



THREE PARTNERS 



scornful resignation, ' Never mind. Go on. You 
know you're lying ! ' 

He sat down again and looked at her critically. 
1 Yes, as far as you're concerned I was lying ! 
I know your style. But as you know, too, that 
I'd kill you and the first man I suspected, and 
there ain't a judge or a jury in all Californy that 
wouldn't let me go free for it, and even consider, 
too, that it had wiped off the whole slate agin me 
— it's to my credit ! ' 

1 I know what you men call chivalry,' she said 
coldly, ' but I did not come here to buy a know- 
ledge of that. So now about the child ? ' she 
ended abruptly, leaning forward again with the 
same look of eager solicitude in her eyes. 

1 Well, about the child — our child — though, 
perhaps, I prefer to say my child? he began, with 
a certain brutal frankness. ' I'll tell you. But 
first, I don't want you to talk about buying your 
information of me. If I haven't told you anything 
before, it's because I didn't think you oughter 
know. If I didn't trust the child to you, it's 
because I didn't think you could go shashsaying 
about with a child that was three years old when 
I' — he stopped and wiped his mouth with the back 
of his hand — ' made an honest woman of you — I 
think that's what they call it.' 

1 But,' she said eagerly, ignoring the insult, ' I 



THREE PARTNERS 113 

could have hidden it where no one but myself 
would have known it. I could have sent it to 
school and visited it as a relation.' 

1 Yes,' he said curtly, ' like all women, and then 
blurted it out some day and made it worse.' 

'But,' she said desperately, 'even then, sup- 
pose I had been willing to take the shame of it ! 
I have taken more ! ' 

' But I didn't intend that you should,' he said 
roughly. 

4 You are very careful of my reputation,' she 
returned scornfully. 

1 Not by a d d sight,' he burst out ; ' but I 

care for his\ I'm not goin' to let any man call 
him a bastard ! ' 

Callous as she had become even under this last 
cruel blow, she could not but see something in his 
coarse eyes she had never seen before ; could not 
but hear something in his brutal voice she had 
never heard before ! Was it possible that some- 
where in the depths of his sordid nature he had 
his own contemptible sense of honour ? A hysteri- 
cal feeling came over her hitherto passive disgust 
and scorn, but it disappeared with his next sen- 
tence in a haze of anxiety. ' No ! ' he said 
hoarsely, ' he had enough wrong done him 
already.' 

• What do you mean ? ' she said imploringly. 

I 



H4 THREE PARTNERS 

i Or are you again lying ? You said, four years 
ago, that he had " got into trouble " ; that was your 
excuse for keeping him from me. Or was that a 
lie, too ? ' 

His manner changed and softened, but not for 
any pity for his companion, but rather from some 
change in his own feelings. ' Oh, that,' he said 
with a rough laugh, ' that was only a kind o' 
trouble any sassy kid like him was likely to get 
into. You ain't got no call to hear that, nor,' he 
added, with a momentary return to his previous 
manner, ' the wrong that was done him is my look 
out! You want to know what I did with him, 
how he's been looked arter, and where he is ? 
You want the worth of your money. That's 
square enough. But first I want you to know, 
though you mayn't believe it, that every red cent 
you've given me to-night goes to him. And don't 
you forget it.' 

For all his vulgar frankness she knew he had 
lied to her many times before — maliciously, 
wantonly, complacently, but never evasively ; yet 
there was again that something in his manner 
which told her he was now telling the truth. 

1 Well,' he began, settling himself back in his 
chair, ' I told you I brought him to Heavy Tree 
Hill. After I left you I wasn't going to trust 
him to no school ; he knew enough for me ; but 



THREE PARTNERS 115 

when I left those parts where nobody knew you, 
and got a little nearer 'Frisco, where people might 
have known us both, I thought it better not to 
travel round with a kid o' that size as his father. 
So I got a young fellow here to pass him off as 
his little brother, and look after him and board 
him ; and I paid him a big price for it, too, you 
bet ! You wouldn't think it was a man who's 
now swelling round here, the top o' the pile, that 
ever took money from a brute like me, and for 
such schoolmaster work, too ; but he did, and his 
name was Van Loo, a clerk of the Ditch 
Company.' 

1 Van Loo ! ' said the woman, with a move- 
ment of disgust — ' that man ! ' 

* What's the matter with Van Loo ? ' he said 
with a coarse laugh, enjoying his wife's dis- 
comfiture. * He speaks French and Spanish, 
and you oughter hear the kid roll off the lingo 
he's got from him. He's got style, and knows 
how to dress, and you ought to see the kid bow 
and scrape, and how he carried himself. Now, 
Van Loo wasn't exactly my style, and I reckon I 
don't hanker after him much, but he served my 
purpose.' 

'And this man knows ■ she said with a 

shudder. 

! He knows Steptoe and the boy, but he don't 

1 2 



n6 THREE PARTNERS 

know Horncastle nor you. Don't you be skeert. 
He's the last man in the world who would hanker 
to see me or the kid again, or would dare to say 
that he ever had! Lord! I'd like to see his 
fastidious mug if me and Eddy walked in upon 
him and his high-toned mother and sister some 
arternoon.' He threw himself back and laughed 
a derisive, spasmodic, choking laugh, which was 
so far from being genial that it even seemed to 
indicate a lively appreciation of pain in others 
rather than of pleasure in himself. He had often 
laughed at her in the same way. 

1 And where is he now ? ' she said with a 
compressed lip. 

'At school. Where, I don't tell you. You 
know why. But he's looked after by me, and 
d d well looked after, too.' 

She hesitated, composed her face with an 
effort, parted her lips, and looked out of the 
window into the gathering darkness. Then after 
a moment she said slowly, yet with a certain 
precision : 

1 And his mother ? Do you ever talk to him 
of her ? Does — does he ever speak of me ? ' 

1 What do you think ? ' he said comfortably, 
changing his position in the chair, and trying to 
read her face in the shadow. ' Come, now. You 
don't know, eh ? Well — no ! No ! You under- 



THREE PARTNERS 117 

stand. No! He's my friend — mine] He's 
stood by me through thick and thin. Run at 
my heels when everybody else fled me. Dodged 
vigilance committees with me, laid out in the 

o ■ 

brush with me with his hand in mine when the 
Sheriff's deputies were huntin' me ; shut his jaw 
close when, if he squealed, he'd have been called 
another victim of the brute Horncastle, and been 
as petted and canoodled as you.' 

It would have been difficult for any one but 
the woman who knew the man before her to have 
separated his brutish delight in paining her from 
another feeling she had never dreamt him capable 
of — an intense and fierce pride in his affection 
for his child. And it was the more hopeless to 
her that it was not the mere sentiment of re- 
ciprocation, but the material instinct of paternity 
in its most animal form. And it seemed horrible 
to her that the only outcome of what had been 
her own wild, youthful passion for this brute was 
this love for the flesh of her flesh, for she was 
more and more conscious as he spoke that her 
yearning for the boy was the yearning of an 
equally dumb and unreasoning maternity. They 
had met again as animals — in fear, contempt, and 
anger of each other ; but the animal had triumphed 
in both. 

When she spoke again it was as the woman 



n8 THREE PARTNERS 

of the world — the woman who had laughed two 
years ago at the irrepressible Barker. * It's a 
new thing,' she said, languidly turning her rings 
on her fingers, ■ to see you in the role of a doting 
father. And may I ask how long you have had 
this amiable weakness, and how long it is to 
last?' 

To her surprise and the keen retaliating 
delight of her sex, a conscious flush covered his 
face to the crisp edges of his black and matted 
beard. For a moment she hoped that he had 
lied. But, to her greater surprise, he stammered 
in equal frankness : ' It's growed upon me for the 
last five years — ever since I was alone with him.' 
He stopped, cleared his throat, and then, standing 
up before her, said in his former voice, but with 
a more settled and intense deliberation : ' You 
wanter know how long it will last, do ye ? 
Well, you know your special friend, Jim Stacy — 
the big millionaire — the great Jim of the Stock 
Exchange — the man that pinches the money 
market of Californy between his finger and 
thumb and makes it squeal in New York — the 
man who shakes the stock market when he 
sneezes ? Well, it will go on until that man is a 
beggar ; until he has to borrow a dime for his 
breakfast and slump out of his lunch with a cent's 
worth of rat poison, or a bullet in his head ! It'll 



THREE PARTNERS 119 

go on until his old partner — that softy George 

Barker — comes to the bottom of his d d fool 

luck and is a penny-a-liner for the papers and a 
hanger round at free lunches, and his scatter- 
brained wife runs away with another man! It'll 
go on until the high-toned Demorest, the last of 
those three little tin gods of Heavy Tree Hill, 
will have to climb down, and will know what / 
feel and what he's made me feel, and will wish 
himself in Hell before he ever made the big 
strike on Heavy Tree ! That's me ! You hear 
me! I'm shoutin'! It'll last till then! It may 
be next week, next month, next year. But it'll 
come. And when it does come you'll see me 
and Eddy just waltzin' in and takin' the chief 
seats in the synagogue ! And you'll have a free 
pass to the show ! ' 

Either he was too intoxicated with his vengeful 
vision, or the shadows of the room had deepened, 
but he did not see the quick flush that had risen 
to his wife's face with this allusion to Barker, nor 
the after-settling of her handsome features into 
a dogged determination equal to his own. His 
blind fury against the three partners did not 
touch her curiosity ; she was only struck with the 
evident depth of his emotion. He had never 
been a braggart ; his hostility had always been 
lazy and cynical. Remembering this, she had a 



no THREE PARTNERS 

faint stirring of respect for the undoubted courage 
and consciousness of strength shown in this wild, 
but single-handed crusade against wealth and 
power ; rather, perhaps, it seemed to her to 
condone her own weakness in her youthful and 
inexplicable passion for him. No wonder she 
had submitted. 

' Then you have nothing more to tell me ? ' 
she said after a pause, rising and going towards 
the mantel. 

'You needn't light up for me,' he returned, 
rising also. ' I am going. Unless,' he added, 
with his coarse laugh, ' you think it wouldn't look 
well for Mrs. Horncastle to have been sitting in 
the dark with — a stranger ! ' He paused as she 
contemptuously put down the candlestick and 
threw the unlit match into the grate. ' No, I've 
nothing more to tell. He's a fancy-looking pup. 
You'd take him for twenty-one, though he's only 
sixteen — clean-limbed and perfect — but for one 
thing — — ' He stopped, He met her quick 
look of interrogation, however, with a lowering 
silence that, nevertheless, changed again as he 
surveyed her erect figure by the faint light of the 
window with a sardonic smile. ' He favours you, 
I think, and in all but one thing, too.' 

' And that ? ' she queried coldly, as he seemed 
to hesitate. 



THREE PARTNERS 121 

1 He ain't ashamed of me? he returned with a 
laugh. 

The door closed behind him ; she heard his 
heavy step descend the creaking stairs ; he was 
gone. She went to the window and threw it 
open, as if to get rid of the atmosphere charged 
with his presence — a presence still so potent that 
she now knew that for the last five minutes she 
had been, to her horror, struggling against its 
magnetism. She even recoiled now at the 
thought of her child, as if, in these new confidences 
over it, it had revived the old intimacy in this 
link of their common flesh. She looked down 
from her window on the square shoulders, thick 
throat, and crisp matted hair of her husband as 
he vanished in the darkness, and drew a breath 
of freedom — a freedom not so much from him as 
from her own weakness that he was bearing away 
with him into the exonerating night. 

She shut the window and sank down in her 
chair again, but in the encompassing and com- 
passionate obscurity of the room. And this was 
the man she had loved and for whom she had 
wrecked her young life ! Or was it love ? and, 
if not, how was she better than he ? Worse ; for 
he was more loyal to that passion that had 
brought them together and its responsibilities 
than she was. She had suffered the perils and 



122 THREE PARTNERS 

pangs of maternity, and yet had only the mere 
animal yearning for her offspring, while he had 
taken over the toil and duty, and even the de- 
votion, of parentage himself. But then she 
remembered also how he had fascinated her — a 
simple school-girl — by his sheer domineering 
strength, and how the objections of her parents 
to this coarse and common man had forced her 
into a clandestine intimacy that ended in her 
complete subjection to him. She remembered 
the birth of an infant whose concealment from 
her parents and friends was compassed by his low 
cunning ; she remembered the late atonement of 
marriage preferred by the man she had already 
begun to loathe and fear, and whom she now 
believed was eager only for her inheritance. She 
remembered her abject compliance through the 
greater fear of the world, of the stormy scenes 
that followed their ill-omened union, of her final 
abandonment of her husband, and the efforts of 
her friends and family who had rescued the last 
of her property from him. She was glad she 
remembered it ; she dwelt upon it, upon his 
cruelty, his coarseness and vulgarity, until she 
saw, as she honestly believed, the hidden springs 
of his affection for their child. It was his child 
in nature, however it might have favoured her in 
looks ; it was his own brutal selfhz was worship- 



THREE PARTNERS 123 

ping ill his brutal progeny. How else could it 
have ignored her — its own mother ? She never 
doubted the truth of what he had told her — she 
had seen it in his own triumphant eyes. And 
yet she would have made a kind mother ; she 
remembered with a smile and a slight rising of 
colour the affection of Barker's baby for her ; 
she remembered with a deepening of that colour 
the thrill of satisfaction she had felt in her hus- 
band's fulmination against Mrs. Barker, and, more 
than all, she felt in his blind and foolish hatred of 
Barker himself a delicious condonation of the 
strange feeling that had sprung up in her heart 
for Barker's simple, straightforward nature. How 
could he understand ; how could they understand 
(by the plural she meant Mrs. Barker and Horn- 
castle) a character so innately noble? In her 
strange attraction towards him she had felt a 
charming sense of what she believed was 
a superior and even matronly protection ; in the 
utter isolation of her life now— and with her 
husband's foolish abuse of him ring-ino- i n her 
ears — it seemed a sacred duty. She had lost a 
son. Providence had sent her an ideal friend to 
replace it. And this was quite consistent, too, 
with a faint smile that began to play about her 
mouth as she recalled some instances of Barker's 
delightful and irresistible youthfulness. 



124 THREE PARTNERS 

There was a clatter of hoofs and the sound of 
many voices from the street. Mrs. Barker knew 
it was the ' down coach ' changing horses ; it 
would be off again in a few moments, and, no 
doubt, bearing her husband away with it. A 
new feeling of relief came over her as she at last 
heard the warning ' All aboard ! ' and the great 
vehicle clattered and rolled into the darkness, 
trailing its burning lights across her walls and 
ceiling. But now she heard steps on the stair- 
case, a pause before her room, a whisper of voices, 
the opening of the door, the rustle of a skirt, and 
a little feminine cry of protest as a man apparently 
tried to follow the figure into the room. ' No, 
no ! I tell you no ! ' remonstrated the woman's 
voice in a hurried whisper. ' It won't do. Every- 
body knows me here. You must not come in 
now. You must wait to be announced by the 
servant. Hush ! Go ! ' 

There was a slight struggle, the sound of a 
kiss, and the woman succeeded in finally shutting 
the door. Then she walked slowly, but with a 
certain familiarity towards the mantel, struck 
a match and lit the candle. The light shone 
upon the bright eyes and slightly flushed face of 
Mrs. Barker. But the motionless woman in the 
chair had recognised her voice and the voice of 
her companion at once. And then their eyes met, 



THREE PARTNERS 125 

Mrs. Barker drew back, but did not utter a 
cry. Mrs. Horncastle, with eyes even brighter 
than her companion's, smiled. The red suddenly 
returned to Mrs. Barker's cheek. 

' This is my room ! ' she said indignantly, 
with a sweeping gesture around the walls. 

' I should judge so,' said Mrs. Horncastle 
following the gesture, ' but,' she added quietly, 
'they put me into it. It appears, however, they 
did not expect you.' 

Mrs. Barker saw her mistake. ' No, no,' she 
said apologetically, ' of course not.' Then she 
added, with nervous volubility, sitting down and 
tugging at her gloves, ' You see, I just ran down 
from Marysville to take a look at my father's old 
house on my way to Hymettus. I hope I 
haven't disturbed you. Perhaps,' she said with 
sudden eagerness, ' you w 7 ere asleep when I came 
in!' 

I No,' said Mrs. Horncastle, ' I was not 
sleeping nor dreaming. I heard you come in.' 

'Some of these men are such idiots,' said 
Mrs. Barker with a half hysterical laugh. ' They 
seem to think if a woman accepts the least 
courtesy from them they've a right to be familiar. 
But I fancy that fellow was a little astonished 
when I shut the door in his face.' 

I I fancy he was J returned Mrs. Horncastle 



T26 THREE PARTNERS 

drily. ' But I shouldn't call Mr. Van Loo an 
idiot. He has the reputation of being a cautious 
business man.' 

Mrs. Barker bit her lip. Her companion had 
been recognised. She rose with a slight flirt of 
her skirt. ' I suppose I must go and get a room ; 
there was nobody in the office when I came. 
Everything is badly managed here since my 
father took away the best servants to Hymettus.' 
She moved with affected carelessness towards the 
door, when Mrs. Horncastle, without rising from 
her seat, said : 

' Why not stay here ? ' 

Mrs. Barker brightened for a moment. 'Oh,' 
she said with polite deprecation, ' I couldn't think 
of turning you out.' 

' I don't intend you shall,' said Mrs. Horn- 
castle. ' We will stay here together until you go 
with me to Hymettus, or until Mr. Van Loo 
leaves the hotel. He. will hardly attempt to come 
in here again if I remain.' 

Mrs. Barker, with a half-laugh, sat down 
irresolutely. Mrs. Horncastle gazed at her 
curiously ; she was evidently a novice in this 
sort of thing. But, strange to say — and I leave 
the ethics of this for the sex to settle — the fact 
did not soften Mrs. Horncas tie's heart, nor in the 
least qualify her attitude towards the younger 



THREE PARTNERS 127 

woman. After an awkward pause Mrs. Barker 
rose again. ' Well, it's very good of you, and — 
and — I'll just run out and wash my hands and 
get the dust off me and come back.' 

1 No, Mrs. Barker,' said Mrs. Horncastle, 
rising and approaching her, ' you will first wash 
your hands of this Mr. Van Loo, and get some of 
the dust of the rendezvous off you before you do 
anything else. You can do it by simply telling him, 
should you meet him in the hall, that I was sitting 
here when he came in, and heard everything^. 
Depend upon it he won't trouble you again.' 

But Mrs. Barker, though inexperienced in 
love, was a good fighter. The best of the sex 
are. She dropped into the rocking-chair, and 
began rocking backwards and forwards while still 
tugging at her gloves, and said, in a gradually 
warming voice, ■ I certainly shall not magnify 
Mr. Van Loo's silliness to that importance. And 
I have yet to learn what you mean by talking 
about a rendezvousX And I want to know,' she 
continued, suddenly stopping her rocking and 
tilting the rockers impertinently behind her, as, 
with her elbows squared on the chair arms, she 
tilted her own face defiantly up into Mrs. Horn- 
castle's, ' how a woman in your position — who 
don't live with her husband — dares to talk to me\ ' 

There was a lull before the storm. Mrs. 



i 2 8 THREE PARTNERS 

Horncastle approached nearer, and, laying her 
hand on the back of the chair, leaned over her, 
and, with a white face and a metallic ring in 
her voice, said : ' It Is just because I am a 
woman in my position that I do ! It is because 
I don't live with my husband that I can tell you 
what it will be when you no longer live with 
yours — which will be the inevitable result of what 
you are now doing. It is because I was in this 
position that the very man who is pursuing you 
because he thinks you are discontented with your 
husband once thought he could pursue me because 
I had left mine. You are here with him alone, 
without the knowledge of your husband ; call it 
folly, caprice, vanity, or what you like, it can 
have but one end — to put you in my place at last, 
to be considered the fair game afterwards for any 
man who may succeed him. You can test him 
and the truth of what I say by telling him now 
that I heard all.' 

4 Suppose he doesn't care what you have heard! ' 
said Mrs. Barker sharply. ' Suppose he says 
nobody would believe you, if ''telling" is your 
game ! Suppose he is a friend of my husband 
and he thinks him a much better guardian of my 
reputation than a woman like you ! Suppose he 
should be the first one to tell my husband of the 
foul slander invented by you ! ' 



THREE PARTNERS 129 

For an instant Mrs. Horncastle was taken 
aback by the audacity of the woman before her. 
She knew the simple confidence and boyish trust 
of Barker in his wife in spite of their sometimes 
strained relations, and she knew how difficult it 
would be to shake it. And she had no idea of 
betraying Mrs. Barker's secret to him, though 
she had made this scene in his interest. She 
had wished to save Mrs. Barker from a com- 
promising situation, even if there was a certain 
vindictiveness in her exposing her to herself. 
Yet she knew it was quite possible now, if Mrs. 
Barker had immediate access to her husband, 
that she would convince him of her perfect 
innocence. Nevertheless, she had still great con- 
fidence in Van Loo's fear of scandal and his utter 
unmanliness. She knew he was not in love with 
Mrs. Barker, and this puzzled her when she con- 
sidered the evident risk he was running now. 
Her face, however, betrayed nothing. She drew 
back from Mrs. Barker, and with an indifferent 
and graceful gesture towards the door, said, as 
she leaned against the mantel, ' Go, then, and see 
this much-abused gentleman, and then go together 
with him and make peace with your husband — 
even on those terms. If I have saved you from 
the consequences of your folly I shall be willing 
to bear even his blame/ 

K 



i 3 o THREE PARTNERS 

1 Whatever I do,' said Mrs. Barker, rising 
hotly, ■ I shall not stay here any longer to be 
insulted.' She flounced out of the room and 
swept down the staircase into the office. Here 
she found an overworked clerk, and with crimson 
cheeks and flashing eyes wanted to know why in 
her own fathers hotel she had found her own 
sitting-room engaged, and had been obliged to 
wait half an hour before she could be shown into 
a decent apartment to remove her hat and cloak 
in ; and how it was that even the gentleman who 
had kindly escorted her had evidently been un- 
able to procure her any assistance ? She said this 
in a somewhat high voice, which might have 
reached the ears of that gentleman had he been 
in the vicinity. But he was not, and she was 
forced to meet the somewhat dazed apologies of 
the clerk alone, and to accompany the chamber- 
maid to. -a room only a few paces distant from the 
one she had quitted. - Here -she- hastily removed 
her outer duster and hat, and washed her hands 
and consulted her excited face in the mirror, with 
the door ajar and an ear sensitively attuned to 
any step in the corridor. But all this was effected 
so. rapidly, that she was at last obliged to sit down 
in a chair near the half-opened door and wait. 
She waited five minutes — ten — but still no foot- 
step. Then she went out into the corridor and 



THREE PARTNERS 131 

listened, and then, smoothing her face, she slipped 
downstairs, past the door of that hateful room, and 
reappeared before the clerk with a smiling but 
somewhat pale and languid face. She had found 
the room very comfortable, but it was doubtful 
whether she would stay over night or go on to 
Hymettus. Had anybody been inquiring for her ? 
She expected to meet friends. No ! And her 
escort — the gentleman who came with her — was 
possibly in the billiard-room or the bar ? 

* Oh, no ! He was gone,' said the clerk. 

1 Gone ! ' echoed Mrs. Barker. ' Impossible ! 
He was — he was here only a moment ago.' 

The clerk rang a bell sharply. The stableman 
appeared. 

1 That tall, smooth-faced man, in a high hat, 
who came with the lady,' said the clerk severely 
and concisely, 'didn't you tell me he was gone ?' 

' Yes, sir,' said the stableman. 

'Are you sure ?' interrupted Mrs. Barker with 
a dazzling smile that, however, masked a sudden 
tightening round her heart. 

* Quite sure, miss,' said the stableman, 'for he 
was in the yard when Steptoe came after missing 
the coach. He wanted a buggy to take him over 
to the Divide. We hadn't one, so he went over 
to the other stables, and he didn't come back, 

k 2 



132 THREE PARTNERS 

so I reckon he's gone. I remember it because 
Steptoe came by a minute after he'd gone, in an- 
other buggy, and as he was going to the Divide, 
too, I wondered why the gentleman hadn't gone 
with him.' 

' And he left no message for me ? He said 
nothing ? ' asked Mrs. Barker quite breathless, 
but still smiling. 

' He said nothin' to me but " Isn't that Steptoe 
over there ? " when Steptoe came in. And I 
remember he said it kinder suddent — as if he was 
reminded o' suthin' he'd forgot ; and then he 
asked for a buggy. Ye see, miss,' added the 
man, with a certain rough consideration for her 
disappointment, ' that's mebbee why he clean 
forgot to leave a message.' 

Mrs. Barker turned away and ascended the 
stairs. Selfishness is quick to recognise selfish- 
ness, and she saw in a flash the reason of Van 
Loo's abandonment of her. Some fear of dis- 
covery had alarmed him ; perhaps Steptoe knew her 
husband ; perhaps he had heard of Mrs. Horn- 
castle's possession of the sitting-room ; perhaps 
— for she had not seen him since their playful 
struggle at the door — he had recognised the 
woman who was there, and the selfish coward had 
run away. Yes ; Mrs. Horncastle was right ; she 
had been only a miserable dupe. 



THREE PARTNERS 133 

Her cheeks blazed as she entered the room 
she had just quitted and threw herself in a chair 
by the window. She bit her lip as she remembered 
how for the last three months she had been slowly- 
yielding to Van Loo's cautious but insinuating 
solicitation, from a flirtation in the San Francisco 
hotel to a clandestine meeting in the street ; from 
a ride in the suburbs to a supper in a fast restaurant 
after the theatre. Other women did it who were 
fashionable and rich, as Van Loo had pointed out 
to her. Other fashionable women also gambled 
in stocks, and had their private broker in a 
'Charley' or a 'Jack.' Why should not Mrs. 
Barker have business with a ' Paul ' Van Loo, 
particularly as this fast craze permitted secret 
meetings ? — for business of this kind could not be 
conducted in public, and permitted the fair gambler 
to call at private offices without fear and without 
reproach. Mrs. Barker's vanity, Mrs. Barker's 
love of ceremony and form, Mrs. Barker's snob- 
bishness were flattered by the attentions of this 
polished gentleman with a foreign name, which 
even had the flavour of nobility, who never picked 
up her fan and handed it to her without bowing, 
and always rose when she entered the room. 
Mrs. Barker's scant school-girl knowledge was 
touched by this gentleman, who spoke French 
fluently, and delicately explained to her the librette 



134 THREE PARTNERS 

of a risky opera bouffe. And now she had finally 
yielded to a meeting out of San Francisco — and 
an ostensible visit — still as a speculator — to one 
or two mining districts — with her broker. This 
was the boldest of her steps — an original idea of 
the fashionable Van Loo — which, no doubt, in 
time would become a craze, too. But it was a 
long step — and there was a streak of rustic 
decorum in Mrs. Barker's nature — the instinct 
that made Kitty Carter keep a perfectly secluded 
and distinct sitting-room in the days when she 
served her father's guests — that now had impelled 
her to make it a proviso that the first step of her 
journey should be from her old home in her father's 
hotel. It was this instinct of the proprieties that 
had revived in her suddenly at the door of the old 
sitting-room. 

Then a new phase of the situation flashed upon 
her. It was hard for her vanity to accept Van 
Loo's desertion as voluntary and final. What if 
that hateful woman had lured him away by some 
trick or artfully designed message ? She was 
capable of such meanness to insure the fulfilment 
of her prophecy. Or, more dreadful thought, 
what if she had some hold on his affections — she 
had said that he had pursued her — or, more 
infamous still, there was some secret understanding 
between them, and that she — Mrs. Barker — were 




The room reeled arouna her. 



THREE PAR1WERS i\ 



33 



the dupe of them both ! What was she doing in 
the hotel at such a moment ? What was her story 
of going to Hymettus but a lie as transparent as 
her own ? The tortures of jealousy, which is as 
often the incentive as it is the result of passion, 
began to rack her. She had probably yet known 
no real passion for this man ; but with the thought 
of his abandoning her, and the conception of his 
faithlessness, came the wish to hold and keep him 
that was dangerously near it. What if he was 
even then in that room, the room where she had 
said she would not stay to be insulted, and they, 
thus secured against her intrusion, were laughing 
at her now ? She half rose at the thought, but a 
sound of horses' hoofs in the stable yard arrested 
her. She ran to the window which gave upon it, 
and, crouching down beside it, listened eagerly. 
The clatter of hoofs ceased ; the stableman was 
talking to some one ; suddenly she heard the 
stableman say, ' Mrs. Barker is here.' Her heart 
leaped, Van Loo had returned. 

But here the voice of the other man which she 
had not yet heard arose for the first time clear and 
distinct. ' Are you quite sure ? I didn't know 
she left San Francisco.' 

The room reeled around her. The voice was 
George Barker's, her husband ! * Very well,' he 
continued. ' You needn't put up my horse for the 



1 36 THREE PARTNERS 

night. I may take her back a little later in the 
buggy.' 

In another moment she had swept down the 
passage and burst into the other room. Mrs. 
Horncastle was sitting by the table with a book in 
her hand. She started as the half-maddened 
woman closed the door, locked it behind her, and 
cast herself on her knees at her feet. 

'My husband is here,' she gasped. 'What 
shall I do ? In Heaven's name help me ! ' 

' Is Van Loo still here ? ' said Mrs. Horncastle 
quickly. 

' No ; gone. He went when I came.' 

Mrs. Horncastle caught her hand and looked 
intently into her frightened face. ' Then what 
have you to fear from your husband ? ' she said 
abruptly. 

1 You don't understand. He didn't know I 
was here. He thought me in San Francisco.' 

' Does he know it now ? ' 

1 Yes. I heard the stableman tell him. 
Couldn't you say I came here with you ; that we 
were here together ; that it was just a little freak 
of ours ? Oh, do ! ' 

Mrs. Horncastle thought a moment. 'Yes,' 
she said, 'we'll see him here together.' 

1 Oh, no ! no ! ' said Mrs. Barker suddenly, 
clinging to her dress and looking fearfully towards 



THREE PARTNERS 137 

the door. ' I couldn't, couldrit see him now. 
Say I'm sick, tired out, gone to my room.' 

' But you'll have to see him later,' said Mrs. 
Horncastle wonderingly. 

1 Yes, but he may go first. I heard him tell 
them not to put up his horse.' 

' Good ! ' said Mrs. Horncastle suddenly. l Go 
to your room and lock the door and I'll come to 
you later. Stop! Would Mr. Barker be likely 
to disturb you if I told him you would like to be 
alone ! ' 

' No, he never does. I often tell him that.' 

Mrs. Horncastle smiled faintly, ' Come, quick, 
then,' she said, 'for he may come here first' 

Opening the door she passed into the half-dark 
and empty hall. ' Now run ! ' She heard the 
quick rustle of Mrs. Barker's skirt die away in the 
distance, the opening and shutting of a door, 
silence, and then turned back into her own 
room. 

She was none too soon. Presently she heard 
Barker's voice saying, ' Thank you, I can find the 
way,' his still buoyant step on the staircase, and 
then saw his brown curls rising above the railing. 
The light streaming through the open door of the 
sitting-room into the half-lit hall had partially 
dazzled him, and, already bewildered, he was still 
more dazzled at the unexpected apparition of the 



t& THREE PARTNERS 

smiling face and bright eyes of Mrs. Horncastle 
standing in the doorway. 

' You have fairly caught us,' she said, with 
charming composure ; ' but I had half a mind to 
let you wander round the hotel a little longer. 
Come in.' Barker followed her in mechanically, 
and she closed the door. 'Now sit down,' she 
said gaily, 'and tell me how you knew we were 
here, and what you mean by surprising us at this 
hour.' 

Barker's ready colour always rose on meeting 
Mrs. Horncastle, for whom he entertained a re- 
spectful admiration, not without some fear of her 
worldly superiority. He flushed, bowed, and 
stared somewhat blankly around the room, at the 
familiar walls, at the chair from which Mrs. Horn- 
castle had just risen, and finally at his wife's glove, 
which Mrs. Horncastle had a moment before 
ostentatiously thrown on the table. Seeing which 
she pounced upon it with assumed archness, and 
pretended to conceal it. 

1 1 had no idea my wife was here,' he said at 
last, ' and I was quite surprised when the man 
told me, for she had not written to me about it.' 
As his face was brightening, she for the first time 
noticed that his frank grey eyes had an abstracted 
look, and there was a faint line of contraction on 
his youthful forehead. 'Still less,' he added, 'did 



THREE PARTNERS 1 39 

I look for the pleasure of meeting you. For I 
only came here to inquire about my old partner, 
Demorest, who arrived from Europe a few days 
ago, and who should have reached Hymettus early 
this afternoon. But now I hear he came all the 
way by coach instead of by rail, and got off at the 
cross road, and we must have passed each other 
on the different trails. So my journey would have 
gone for nothing, only that I now shall have the 
pleasure of going back with you and Kitty. It 
will be a lovely drive by moonlight.' 

Relieved by this revelation, it was easy work 
for Mrs. Horncastle to launch out into a playful, 
tantalising, witty — but, I grieve to say, entirely 
imaginative — account of her escapade with Mrs. 
Barker. How, left alone at the San Francisco 
hotel while their gentlemen friends were enjoying 
themselves at Hymettus, they resolved upon a 
little trip, partly for the purpose of looking into 
some small investments of their own and partly 
for the fun of the thing. What funny experiences 
they had ! How, in particular, one horrid inquisi- 
tive, vulgar wretch had been boring a European 
fellow-passenger who was going to Hymettus, 
finally asking him where he had come from last, 
and when he answered ' Hymettus,' thought the 
man was insulting him ■ 

■ But,' interrupted the laughing Barker, 'that 



i4o THREE PARTNERS 



passenger may have been Demorest, who has just 
come from Greece, and surely Kitty would have 
recognised him.' 

Mrs. Horncastle instantly saw her blunder, 
and not only retrieved it, but turned it to account. 
Ah, yes ! but by that time poor Kitty, unused to 
long journeys and the heat, was utterly fagged 
out, was asleep, and perfectly unrecognisable in 
veils and dusters on the back seat of the coach. 
And this brought her to the point — which was, 
that she was sorry to say, on arriving, the poor 
child was nearly wild with a headache from fatigue 
and had gone to bed, and she had promised not to 
disturb her. 

The undisguised amusement, mingled with 
relief, that had overspread Barkers face during 
this lively recital might have pricked the con- 
science of Mrs. Horncastle, but for some reason 
I fear it didn't. But it emboldened her to go on. 
1 I said I promised her that I would see she wasn't 
disturbed ; but, of course, now that you, her hus- 
band, have come, if ' 

1 Not for worlds,' interrupted Barker earnestly. 
' I know poor Kitty's headaches, and I never 
disturb her, poor child, except when I'm thought- 
less.' And here one of the most thoughtful men 
in the world in his sensitive consideration of 
others beamed at her with such frank and won- 



THREE PARTNERS 141 

derful eyes that the arch hypocrite before him 
with difficulty suppressed a hysterical desire to 
laugh, and felt the conscious blood flush her to the 
roots of her hair. ' You know,' he went on, with 
a sigh, half of relief and half of reminiscence, ' that 
I often think I'm a great bother to a clear-headed, 
sensible girl like Kitty. She knows people so 
much better than I do. She's wonderfully 
equipped for the world, and, you see, I'm only 
" lucky," as everybody says, and I dare say part 
of my luck was to have got her. I'm very glad 
she's a friend of yours, you know, for somehow I 
fancied always that you were not interested in 
her, or that you didn't understand each other 
until now. It's odd that nice women don't always 
like nice women, isn't it ? I'm glad she was with 
you, for I was quite startled to hear she was here, 
and couldn't make it out. I thought at first she 
might have got anxious about our little " Sta," 
who is with me and the nurse at Hymettus. But 
I'm glad it was only a lark. I shouldn't wonder,' 
he added with a laugh, 'although she always 
declares she isn't one of those " doting idiotic 
mothers," that she found it a little dull without 
the boy, for all she thought it was better for me 
to take him somewhere for a change of air.' 

The situation was becoming more difficult for 
Mrs. Horncastle than she had conceived. There 



i 4 2 THREE PARTNERS 

had been a certain excitement in its first direct 
appeal to her tact and courage, and even, she 
believed, an unselfish desire to save the relations 
between husband and wife if she could. But she 
had not calculated upon his unconscious revela- 
tions, nor upon their effect upon herself. She 
had concluded to believe that Kitty had, in a 
moment of folly, lent herself to this hare-brained 
escapade, but it now might be possible that it had 
been deliberately planned. Kitty had sent her 
husband and child away three weeks before. 
Had she told the whole truth ? How long had 
this been going on ? And if the soulless Van Loo 
had deserted her now, was it not, perhaps, the 
miserable ending of an intrigue rather than its 
beginning ? Had she been as great a dupe of 
this woman as the husband before her ? A new 
and double consciousness came over her that for 
a moment prevented her from meeting his 
honest eyes. She felt the shame of being an 
accomplice mingled with a fierce joy at the idea 
of a climax that might separate him from his wife 
for ever. 

Luckily he did not notice it, but with a con- 
tinued sense of relief threw himself back in his 
chair, and glancing familiarly round the walls 
broke into his youthful laugh. ■ Lord ! how I 
remember this room in the old days. It was 



THREE PARTNERS 143 

Kitty's own private sitting-room, you know, and 
I used to think it looked just as fresh and pretty 
as she. I used to think her crayon drawing 
wonderful, and still more wonderful that she 
should have that unnecessary talent when it was 
quite enough for her to be just " Kitty." You 
know, don't you, how you feel at those times 

when you're quite happy in being inferior ' 

He stopped a moment with a sudden recollec- 
tion that Mrs. Horncastle's marriage had been 
notoriously unhappy. ' I mean,' he went on with 
a shy little laugh and an innocent attempt at 
gallantry which the very directness of his simple 
nature made atrociously obvious, ' I mean what 
you've made lots of young fellows feel. There 
used to be a picture of Colonel Brigg on the 
mantelpiece, in full uniform, and signed by him- 
self " For Kitty " ; and Lord! how jealous I was 
of it, for Kitty never took presents from gentle- 
men, and nobody even. was allowed in here, though 
she helped her father all over the hotel. She was 
awfully strict in those days/. he interpolated, w r ith 
a thoughtful look and a half sigh, 'but then she 
wasn't married. I proposed to her in this very 
room ! Lord ! I remember how frightened I 
was.' He stopped for an instant, and then said 
with a certain timidity, [ Do you mind my telling 
you something about it ? ! 



144 THREE PARTNERS 

Mrs. Horncastle was hardly prepared to hear 
these ingenuous domestic details, but she smiled 
vaguely, although she could not suppress a some- 
what impatient movement with her hands. Even 
Barker noticed it, but to her surprise moved a 
little nearer to her, and in a half entreating way 
said, ' I hope I don't bore you, but it's something 
confidential. Do you know that she first refused 
me?' 

Mrs. Horncastle smiled, but could not resist a 
slight toss of her head. ' I believe they all do 
when they are sure of a man.' 

1 No ! ' said Barker eagerly, ' you don't under- 
stand. I proposed to her because I thought I 
was rich. In a foolish moment I thought I had 
discovered that some old stocks I had had ac- 
quired a fabulous value. She believed it, too, but 
because she thought I was now a rich man and 
she only a poor girl — a mere servant to her 
father's guests — she refused me. Refused me 
because she thought I might regret it in the 
future, because she would not have it said that 
she had taken advantage of my proposal only 
when I was rich enough to make it.' 

' Well ? ' said Mrs. Horncastle incredulously, 
gazing straight before her, * and then ? ' 

1 In about an hour I discovered my error, that 
my stocks were worthless, that I was still a poor 



THREE PARTNERS 145 

man. I thought it only honest to return to her 
and tell her, even though I had no hope. And 
then she pitied me, and cried, and accepted me. 
I tell it to you as her friend.' He drew a little 
nearer and quite fraternally laid his hand upon 
her own. ' I know you won't betray me, though 
you may think it wrong for me to have told it ; 
but I wanted you to know how good she was and 
true.' 

For a moment Mrs. Horncastle was amazed 
and discomfited, although she saw, with the in- 
scrutable instinct of her sex, no inconsistency 
between the Kitty of those days and the Kitty 
now shamefully hiding from her husband in the 
same hotel. No doubt Kitty had some good 
reason for her chivalrous act. But she could see 
the unmistakable effect of that act upon the more 
logically reasoning husband, and that it might 
lead him to be more merciful to the later wrong. 
And there was a keener irony that his first 
movement of unconscious kindliness towards her 
was the outcome of his affection for his undeserving 
wife. 

1 You said just now she was more practical 
than you,' she said drily. ' Apart from this 
evidence of it, what other reasons have you for 
thinking so ? Do you refer to her independence 

L 



I4 5 THREE PARTNERS 

or her dealings in the stock market ? ' she added 
with a laugh. 

1 No,' said Barker seriously, ' for I do not 
think her quite practical there — indeed, I'm afraid 
she is about as bad as I am. But I'm glad you 
have spoken, for I can now talk confidentially 
with you, and as you and she are both in the same 
ventures, perhaps she will feel less compunction 
in hearing from you— as your own opinion— what 
I have to tell you than if I spoke to her myself. 
I am afraid she trusts implicitly to Van Loo's 
judgment as her broker. I believe he is strictly 
honourable, but the general opinion of his 
business insight is not high. They— perhaps 
I ought to say he— have been at least so un- 
lucky that they might have learned prudence. 
The loss of twenty thousand dollars in three 

months ' 

< Twenty thousand ! ' echoed Mrs. Horn- 
castle. 

' Yes. Why you knew that ; it was in the 
mine you and she visited ; or, perhaps,' he added 
hastily, as he flushed at his indiscretion, 'she 
didn't tell you that.' 

But Mrs. Horncastle as hastily said, 'Yes — 
yes — of course, only I had forgotten the amount,' 
and he continued : 

1 That loss would have frightened any man ; 



THREE PARTNERS 147 

but you women are more daring. Only Van Loo 
ought to have withdrawn. Don't you think so ? 
Of course I couldn't say anything to him without 
seeming to condemn my own wife ; I couldn't 
say anything to her because it's her own money.' 

1 I didn't know that Mrs. Barker had any 
money of her own,' said Mrs. Horncastle. 

'Well, I gave it to her,' said Barker, with 
sublime simplicity, ' and that would make it all the 
worse for me to speak about it.' 

Mrs. Horncastle was silent. A new theory 
flashed upon her which seemed to reconcile all 
the previous inconsistencies of the situation. Van 
Loo, under the guise of a lover, was really pos- 
sessing himself of Mrs. Barker's money. This 
accounted for the risks he was running in this 
escapade, which were so incongruous to the 
rascal's nature. He was calculating that the 
scandal of an intrigue would relieve him of 
the perils of criminal defalcation. It was com- 
patible with Kitty's innocence, though it did not 
relieve her vanity of the part it played in this 
despicable comedy of passion. All that Mrs. 
Horncastle thought of now was the effect of its 
eventual revelation upon the man before her. 
Of course, he would overlook his wife's trustful- 
ness and business ignorance — it would seem so 
like his own unselfish faith ! That was the fault 

L 2 



I 4 8 THREE PARTNERS 

of all unselfish goodness ; it even took the colour 
of adjacent evil, without altering the nature of 
either. Mrs. Horncastle set her teeth tightly 
together, but her beautiful mouth smiled upon 
Barker though her eyes were bent upon the table- 
cloth before her. 

1 1 shall do all I can to impress your views 
upon her,' she said at last, ' though I fear they will 
have little weight if given as my own. And you 
overrate my general influence with her.' 

Her handsome head drooped in such a 
thoughtful humility that Barker instinctively drew 
nearer to her. Besides, she had not lifted her dark 
lashes for some moments, and he had the still 
youthful habit of looking frankly into the eyes of 
those he addressed. 

1 No,' he said eagerly ; 4 how could I ? She 
could not help but love you and do as you would 
wish. I can't tell you how glad and relieved I 
am to find that you and she have become such 
friends. You know I always thought you beauti- 
ful, I always thought you so clever — I was even 
a little frightened of you ; but I never until now 
knew you were so good. No, stop! Yes, I did 
know it. Do you remember once in San 
Francisco, when I found you with "Sta" in your 
lap in the drawing-room ? I knew it then. You 
tried to make me think it was a whim — the fancy 



THREE PARTNERS 149 

of a bored and worried woman. But I knew better. 
And I knew what you were thinking then. Shall 
I tell you ? ' 

As her eyes were still cast down, although 
her mouth was still smiling, in his endeavour 
to look into them his face was quite near hers. 
He fancied that it bore the look she had worn 
once before. 

1 You were thinking,' he said in a voice which 
had grown suddenly quite hesitating and tremulous 
— he did not know why — ' that the poor little 
baby was quite friendless and alone. You were 
pitying it — you know you were — because there 
was no one to give it the loving care that was its 
due, and because it was entrusted to that hired 
nurse in that great hotel. You were thinking 
how you would love it if it were yours, and how 
cruel it was that Love was sent without an object 
to waste itself upon. You were ; I saw it in your 
face.' 

She suddenly lifted her eyes and looked full 
into his with a look that held and possessed him. 
For a moment his whole soul seemed to tremble 
on the verge of their lustrous depths, and he drew 
back dizzy and frightened. What he saw there 
he never clearly knew ; but, whatever it was, it 
seemed to suddenly change his relations to her, 
to the room, to his wife, to the world without. It 



150 THREE PARTNERS 

was a glimpse of a world of which he knew nothing. 
He had looked frankly and admiringly into the 
eyes of other pretty women ; he had even gazed 
into her own before, but never with this feeling. A 
sudden sense that what he had seen there he had 
himself evoked, that it was an answer to some 
question he had scarcely yet formulated, and that 
they were both now linked by an understanding 
and consciousness that was irretrievable, came 
over him. He rose awkwardly and went to the 
window. She rose also, but more leisurely and 
easily, moved one of the books on the table, 
smoothed out her skirts, and changed her seat to 
a little sofa. It is the woman who always comes 
out of these crucial moments unruffled. 

\ I suppose you will be glad to see your friend 
Mr. Demorest when you go back/ she said plea- 
santly. 'For, of course, he will be at Hymettus 
awaiting you.' 

He turned eagerly, as he always did at the 
name. But even then he felt that Demorest was 
no longer of such importance to him. He felt, 
too, that he was not yet quite sure of his voice or 
even what to say. As he hesitated she went on 
half playfully: 'It seems hard that you had to 
come all the way here on such a bootless errand. 
You haven't even seen your wife yet.' 

The mention of his wife recalled him to him- 



THREE PARTNERS 151 

self, oddly enough, when Demorest's name had 
failed. But very differently. Out of his whirling 
consciousness came the instinctive feeling that he 
could not see her now. He turned, crossed the 
room, sat down on the sofa beside Mrs. Horncastle, 
and — without, however, looking at her — said, with 
his eyes on the floor, ■ No ; and I've been thinking 
that it's hardly worth while to disturb her so early 
to-morrow as I should have to go. So I think it's 
a good deal better to let her have a good night's 
rest, remain here quietly with you to-morrow until 
the stage leaves, and that both of you come over 
together. My horse is still saddled, and I will be 
back at Hymettus before Demorest has gone to 
bed.' 

He was obliged to look up at her as he rose. 
Mrs. Horncastle was sitting erect, beautiful and 
dazzling as even he had never seen her before. 
For his resolution had suddenly lifted a great 
weight from her shoulders — the dangerous meeting 
of husband and wife the next morning and its 
results, whatever they might be, had been quietly 
averted. She felt, too, a half-frightened joy even 
in the constrained manner in which he had im- 
parted his determination. That frankness which 
even she had sometimes found so crushing was 



2fone. 



* I really think you are quite right,' she said, 



152 THREE PARTNERS 

rising also, ' and, besides, you see, it will give me 
a chance to talk to her as you wished.' 

\ To talk to her as I wished,' echoed Barker 
abstractedly. 

1 Yes — about Van Loo, you know,' said Mrs. 
Horncastle smiling. 

S Oh, certainly, about Van Loo, of course,' he 
returned hurriedly. 

'And then,' said Mrs. Horncastle brightly, 
'I'll tell her. Stay!' she interrupted herself 
hurriedly. ! Why need I say anything about 
your having been here at a//? It might only 
annoy her, as you yourself suggest.' She stopped 
breathlessly with parted lips. 

' Why indeed ? ' said Barker vaguely. Yet all 
this was so unlike his usual truthfulness that he 
slightly hesitated. 

1 Besides,' continued Mrs. Horncastle, noticing 
it, ! you know you can always tell her later, if 
necessary.' And she added with a charming 
mischievousness, ' As she didn't tell you she was 
coming, I really don't see why you are bound to 
tell her that you were here.' 

The sophistry pleased Barker, even though it 
put him into a certain retaliating attitude towards 
his wife which he was not aware of feeling. But, 
as Mrs. Horncastle put it, it was only a playful 
attitude. 



THREE PARTNERS .153 

'Certainly,' he said. 'Don't say anything 
about it.' 

He moved to the door with his soft, broad- 
brimmed hat swinging between his fingers. She 
noticed for the first time that he looked taller in 
his long black serape and riding-boots, and oddly 
enough, much more like the hero of an amorous 
tryst than Van Loo. ' I know,' she said brightly, 
1 you are eager to get back to your old friend, and 
it would be selfish for me to try to keep you 
longer. You have had a stupid evening, but you 
have made it pleasant to me by telling me what 
you thought of me. And before you go I want 
you to believe that I shall try to keep that good 
opinion.' She spoke frankly in contrast to the 
slight w r orldly constraint of Barker's manner ; it 
seemed as if they had changed characters. And 
then she extended her hand. 

With a low bow, and without looking up, he 
took it. Again their pulses seemed to leap to- 
gether with one accord and the same mysterious 
understanding. He could not tell if he had uncon- 
sciously pressed her hand or if she had returned 
the pressure. But when their hands unclasped it 
seemed as if it were the division of one flesh and 
spirit. 

She remained standing by the open door until 
his footsteps passed down the staircase. Then 



i 5 4 THREE PARTNERS 

she suddenly closed and locked the door with an 
instinct that Mrs. Barker might at once return now 
that he was gone, and she wished to be a moment 
alone to recover herself. But she presently 
opened it again and listened. There was a noise 
in the courtyard, but it sounded like the rattle of 
wheels more than the clatter of a horseman. 
Then she was overcome — a sudden sense of pity 
for the unfortunate woman still hiding from her 
husband, and felt a momentary chivalrous exalta- 
tion of spirit. Certainly she had done 'good' to 
that wretched 'Kitty ' ; perhaps she had earned 
the epithet that Barker had applied to her. 
Perhaps that was the meaning of all this happiness 
to her, and the result was to be only the happiness 
and reconciliation of the wife and husband. This 
was to be her reward. I grieve to say that the 
tears had come into her beautiful eyes at this 
satisfactory conclusion, but she dashed them away 
and ran out into the hall. It was quite dark, but 
there was a faint glimmer on the opposite wall as 
if the door of Mrs. Barker's bedroom were ajar to 
an eager listener. She flew towards the glimmer 
and pushed the door open ; the room was empty. 
Empty of Mrs. Barker, empty of her dressing-box, 
her reticule and shawl. She was gone. 

Still, Mrs. Horncastle lingered ; the woman 
might have got frightened and retreated to some 



THREE PARTNERS J 5 5 

further room at the opening of the door and the 
coming out of her husband. She walked along the 
passage, calling her name softly. She even pene- 
trated the dreary, half-lit public parlour expecting 
to find her crouching there. Then a sudden wild 
idea took possession of her ; the miserable wife 
had repented of her act and of her concealment, 
and had crept downstairs to await her husband in 
the office. She had told him some new lie, had 
begged him to take her with him, and Barker, of 
course, had assented. Yes ! she now knew why 
she had heard the rattling wheels instead of the 
clattering hoofs she had listened for. They had 
gone together, as he first proposed, in the buggy. 

She ran swiftly down the stairs and entered 
the office. The overworked clerk was busy and 
querulously curt. These women were always 
asking such idiotic questions. Yes, Mr. Barker 
had just gone. 

1 With Mrs. Barker in the buggy ?' asked Mrs. 
Horncastle. 

1 No, as he came — on horseback. Mrs. Bar- 
ker left half an hour ago! 

1 Alone ? ' 

This was apparently too much for the long- 
suffering clerk. He lifted his eyes to the ceiling, 
and then, with painful precision, and accenting 
every word with his pencil on the desk before 



156 THREE PARTNERS 

him, said deliberately, ' Mrs. George Barker — left 
— here — with her — escort — the — man she — was 
— always — asking — for — in — the — buggy — at 
exactly — 9*3 5/ And he plunged into his work 
again. 

Mrs. Horncastle turned, ran up the staircase, 
re entered the sitting-room, and slamming the door 
behind her, halted in the centre of the room, 
panting, erect, beautiful, and menacing. And she 
was alone in this empty room — this deserted hotel. 
From this very room her husband had left her 
with a brutality on his lips. From this room the 
fool and liar she had tried to warn had gone to 
her ruin with a swindling hypocrite. And from 
this room the only man in the world she ever cared 
for had goneforth bewildered, wronged, and abused, 
and she knew now she could have kept and com- 
forted him. 



THREE PARTNERS 157 



CHAPTER IV 

When Philip Demorest left the stage coach at the 
cross roads he turned into the only wayside 
house, the blacksmith's shop, and, declaring his 
intention of walking over to Hymettus, asked 
permission to leave his handbag and wraps until 
they could be sent after him. The blacksmith 
was surprised that this ' likely-mannered,' distin- 
guished-looking ' city man ' should walk eight 
miles when he could ride, and tried to dissuade 
him, offering his own buggy. But he was still 
more surprised when Demorest, laying aside his 
duster, took off his coat and, slinging it on his arm, 
prepared to set forth with the good-humoured 
assurance that he would do the distance in a 
couple of hours and get in in time for supper. 
1 1 wouldn't be too sure of that,' said the blacksmith 
grimly, ' or even of getting a room. They're a 
stuck-up lot over there, and they ain't goin' to 
hump themselves over a chap who comes trapesin' 
along the road like any tramp, with nary baggage.' 
But Demorest laughingly accepted the risk, and 



158 THREE PARTNERS 

taking his stout stick in one hand, pressed a gold 
coin into the blacksmith's palm, which was, how- 
ever, declined with such reddening promptness 
that Demorest as promptly reddened and apolo- 
gised. The habits of European travel had been 
still strong on him, and he felt a slight patriotic 
thrill as he said, with a grave smile, ■ Thank you, 
then ; and thank you still more for reminding me 
that I am among my own " people,'" and stepped 
lightly out into the road. 

The air was still deliciously cool, but warmer 
currents from the heated pines began to alternate 
with the wind from the summit. He found him- 
self sometimes walking through a stratum of hot 
air which seemed to exhale from the wood itself, 
while his head and breast were swept by the 
mountain breeze. He felt the old intoxication of 
the balmy scented air again, and the five years of 
care and hopelessness laid upon his shoulders 
since he had last breathed its fragrance slipped 
from them like a burden. There had been but 
little change here ; perhaps the road was wider 
and the dust lay thicker, but the great pines still 
mounted in serried ranks on the slopes as before, 
with no gaps in their unending files. Here was 
the spot where the stage coach had passed them 
that eventful morning when they were coming out 
of their camp life into the world of civilisation ; a 



THREE PARTNERS 159 

little further back the spot where Jack Hamlin 
had forced upon him that grim memento of the 
attempted robbery of their cabin, which he had 
kept ever since. He half smiled again at the 
superstitious interest that had made him keep it, 
with the intention of some day returning to bury 
it, with all recollections of the deed, under the site 
of the old cabin. As he went on in the vivifying 
influence of the air and scene, new life seemed to 
course through his veins ; his step seemed to grow 
as elastic as in the old days of their bitter but 
hopeful struggle for fortune, when he had gaily 
returned from his weekly tramp to Boomville 
laden with the scant provision procured by their 
scant earnings and dying credit. Those were the 
days when her living image still inspired his heart 
with faith and hope ; when everything was yet 
possible to youth and love, and before the irony of 
fate had given him fortune with one hand only to 
withdraw her with the other. It was strange and 
cruel that coming back from his quest of rest and 
forgetfulness he should find only these youthful 
and sanguine dreams revive with his reviving 
vigour. He walked on more hurriedly as if to 
escape them, and was glad to be diverted by one 
or two passing carryalls and char a bancs filled 
with gaily dressed pleasure parties — evidently 
visitors to Hymettus — which passed him on the 



160 THREE PARTNERS 

road. Here were the first signs of change. He 
recalled the train of packed mules of the old days, 
the file of pole-and-basket carrying Chinese, the 
squaw with the papoose strapped to her shoulder, 
or the wandering and footsore prospector who 
were the only wayfarers he used to meet. He 
contrasted their halts and friendly greetings with 
the insolent curiosity or undisguised contempt of 
the carriage folk, and smiled as he thought of the 
warning of the blacksmith. But this did not long 
divert him ; he found himself again returning to 
his previous thought. Indeed, the face of a young 
girl in one of the carriages had quite startled him 
with its resemblance to an old memory of his lost 
love, as he saw her — her frail, pale elegance 
encompassed in laces as she leaned back in her 
drive through Fifth Avenue, with eyes that lit up 
and became transfigured only as he passed. He 
tried to think of his useless quest in search of her 
last resting-place abroad ; how he had been baffled 
by the opposition of her surviving relations, already 
incensed by the thought that her decline had been 
the effect of her hopeless passion. He tried to re- 
call the few frigid lines that reconveyed to him the 
last letter he had sent her, with the announcement 
of her death and the hope that ' his persecutions ' 
would now cease. A wild idea had sometimes 
come to him out of the very insufficiency of his 



THREE PARTNERS 161 

knowledge of this climax, but he had always put 
it aside as a precursor of that madness which 
might end his ceaseless thought. And now it was 
returning to him, here, thousands of miles away 
from where she was peacefully sleeping, and even 
filling him with the vigour of youthful hope. 

The brief mountain twilight was giving way 
now to the radiance of the rising moon. He 
endeavoured to fix his thoughts upon his partners 
who were to meet him at Hymettus after these 
long years of separation. 

Hymettus ! He recalled now the odd coinci- 
dence that he had mischievously used as a gag to 
his questioning fellow-traveller ; but now he had 
really come from a villa near Athens to find his 
old house thus classically rechristened after it, 
and thought of it with a gravity he had not felt 
before. He wondered who had named it. There 
was no suggestion of the soft, sensuous elegance 
of the land he had left in those great heroics of 
nature before him. Those enormous trees were 
no woods for fauns or dryads ; they had their own 
godlike majesty of bulk and height, and as he at last 
climbed the summit and saw the dark-helmeted 
head of Black Spur before him, and beyond it the 
pallid, spiritual cloud of the Sierras, he did not 
think of Olympus. Yet for a moment he was 
startled as he turned to the right by the Doric- 

M 



i62 THREE PARTNERS 

columned facade of a temple painted by the 
moonbeams and framed in an opening of the dark 
woods before him. It was not until he had 
reached it that he saw that it was the new wooden 
post-office of Heavy Tree Hill. 

And now the buildings of the new settlement 
began to faintly appear. But the obscurity of the 
shadow and the equally disturbing unreality of the 
moonlight confused him in his attempts to recog- 
nise the old landmarks. A broad and well-kept 
winding road had taken the place of the old steep, 
but direct, trail to his cabin. He had walked for 
some moments in uncertainty, when a sudden 
sweep of the road brought the full crest of the 
hill above and before him, crowned with a tiara 
of lights, overtopping a long base of flashing 
windows. That was all that was left of Heavy 
Tree Hill. The old foreground of ' buckeye ' and 
odorous ceanothus was gone. Even the great 
grove of pines behind it had vanished. 

There was already a stir of life in the road, 
and he could see figures moving slowly along a 
kind of sterile, formal terrace spread with a few 
dreary marble vases and plaster statues which had 
replaced the natural slope and the great quartz 
buttresses of outcrop that supported it. Presently 
he entered a gate and soon found himself in the 
carriage drive leading to the hotel verandah. A 



THREE PARTNERS 163 

number of fair promenaders were facing the keen 
mountain night wind in wraps and furs. Demo- 
rest had replaced his coat, but his boots were red 
with dust, and as he ascended the steps he could 
see that he was eyed with some superciliousness 
by the guests and considerable suspicion by the 
servants.' One of the latter was approaching- him 
with an insolent smile when a figure darted from 
the vestibule and, brushing the waiter aside, 
seized Demorest's two hands in his and held him 
at arm's length. 

\ Demorest, old man ! ' 

1 Stacy, old chap ! ' 

* But where's your team? I've had all the 
spare ostlers and hall boys listening for you at the 
gate. And where's Barker? When he found 
you'd given the dead cut to the railroad — his 
railroad, you know — he loped over to Boomville 
after you.' 

Demorest briefly explained that he had walked 
by the old road and probably missed him. But by 
this time the waiters, crushed by the spectacle of 
this travel-worn stranger's affectionate reception 
by the great financial magnate, were wildly 
applying their brushes and handkerchiefs to his 
trousers and boots until Stacy again swept them 
away. 

1 Get off, all of you ! Now, Phil, you come 



164 THREE PARTNERS 

with me. The house is full, but I've made the 
manager give you a lady's drawing-room suite. 
When you telegraphed you'd meet us here there 
was no chance to get anything else. It's really 
Mrs. Van Loo's family suite ; but they were sent 
for to go to Marysville yesterday, and so we'll run 
you in for the night.' 

■ But ' protested Demorest. 

1 Nonsense ! ' said Stacy, dragging him away. 
1 We'll pay for it ; and I reckon the old lady won't 
object to taking her share of the damage either, 
or she isn't Van Loo's mother. Come!' 

Demorest felt himself hurried forward by the 
energetic Stacy, preceded by the obsequious 
manager, through a corridor to a handsomely 
furnished suite, into whose bathroom Stacy incon- 
tinently thrust him. 

1 There ! Wash up ; and by the time you're 
ready Barker ought to be back, and we'll have sup- 
per. It's waiting for us in the other room.' 

' But how about Barker, the dear boy ? ' per- 
sisted Demorest, holding open the door. ' Tell 
me, is he well and happy ? ' 

' About as well as we all are,' said Stacy 
quickly, yet with a certain dry significance. 
/ Never mind now ; wait until you see him.' 

The door closed. W T hen Demorest had fin- 



THREE PARTNERS 165 

ished washing, and wiped away the last red stain 
of the mountain road, he found Stacy seated by 
the window of the larger sitting-room. In the 
centre a table was spread for supper. A bright 
fire of hickory logs burnt in a marble hearth 
between two large windows that gave upon the 
distant outline of Black Spur. As Stacy turned 
towards him, by the light of the shaded lamp and 
Hickering fire, Demorest had a good look at the 
face of his old friend and partner. It was as keen 
and energetic as ever, with perhaps an even more 
hawk-like activity visible in the eye and nostril ; 
but it was more thoughful and reticent in the lines 
of the mouth under the closely clipped beard and 
moustache, and when he looked up at first there 
were two deep lines or furrows across his low broad 
forehead. He fancied, too, that there was a little 
of the old fighting look in his eye, but it softened 
quickly as Demorest approached, and he burst out 
with his curt but honest single-syllabled laugh. 
' Ha ! You look a little less like a roving Apache 
than you did when you came. I really thought 
the waiters were going to chuck you. And you 
are tanned ! Darned if you don't look like the 
profile stamped on a Continental penny! But 
here's luck and a welcome back, old man ! ' 

Demorest passed his arm around the neck of 



166 THREE PARTNERS 

his seated partner, and grasping his upraised hand 
said, looking down with a smile, 'And now about 
Barker.' 

\ Oh, Barker, d m him ! He's the same un- 
shakable, unchangeable, ungrow-up-able Barker! 
With the devil's own luck, too! Waltzing into 
risks and waltzing out of em. With fads enough 
to put him in the insane asylum if people did not 
prefer to keep him out of it to help 'em. Always 
believing in everybody, until they actually believe 
in themselves, and — shake him ! And he's got 
a wife that's making a fool of herself, and I 
shouldn't wonder in time — of him ! ' 

Demorest pressed his hand over his partner's 
mouth. 'Come, Jim! You know you never 
really liked that marriage, simply because you 
thought that old man Carter made a good thing 
of it. And you never seem to have taken into 
consideration the happiness Barker got out of it. 
For he did love the girl. And he still is happy, 
is he not ? ' he added quickly, as Stacy uttered a 
grunt. 

1 As happy as a man can be who has his child 
here with a nurse while his wife is gallivanting in 
San Francisco, and throwing her money — and 
Lord knows what else — away at the bidding of a 
smooth-tongued, shady operator/ 

1 Does he complain of it ? ' asked Demorest 



THREE PARTNERS 167 

* Not he ; the fool trusts her!' said Stacy 
curtly. 

Demorest laughed. * That is happiness ! 
Come, Jim ! don't let us begrudge him that. But 
I've heard that his affairs have again prospered.' 

' He built this railroad and this hotel. The 
bank owns both now. He didn't care keeping- 
money in them after they were a success ; said he 
wasn't an engineer nor a hotelkeeper, and drew it 
out to find something new. But here he comes,' 
he added, as a horseman dashed into the drive 
before the hotel. * Question him yourself. You 
know you and he always get along best without 
me.' 

In another moment Barker had burst into the 
room, and in his first tempestuous greeting of 
Demorest the latter saw little change in his 
younger partner as he held him at arm's length 
to look at him. 'Why, Barker boy, you haven't 
got a bit older since the day when — you remember 
— you went over to Boomville to cash your bonds, 
and then came back and burst upon us like this 
to tell us you were a beggar. 1 

• * Yes/ laughed Barker, f and all the -while you 
fellows were holding four aces up your sldfeve in 
the shape of the big strike.' 

j And you, Georgy, old boy/ returned 
Demorest, swinging Barker's two hands back- 



168 THREE PARTNERS 

wards and forwards, ' were holding a royal flush 
up yours in the shape of your engagement to 
Kitty.' 

The fresh colour died out of Barker's cheek 
even while the frank laugh was still on his mouth. 
He turned his face for a moment towards the 
window, and a swift and almost involuntary 
glance passed between the others. But he almost 
as quickly turned his glistening eyes back to 
Demorest again and said eagerly, ' Yes, dear 
Kitty! You shall see her and the baby to- 
morrow.' 

Then they fell upon the supper with the 
appetites of the Past, and for some moments they 
all talked eagerly and even noisily together, all at 
the same time, with even the spirits of the Past. 
They recalled every detail of their old life ; 
eagerly and impetuously recounted the old 
struggles, hopes, and disappointments, gave the 
strange importance of schoolboys to unimportant 
events, and a mystic meaning to a shibboleth of 
their own ; roared over old jokes with a delight 
they had never since given to new ; reawakened 
idiotic nicknames and by-words with intense 
enjoyment ; grew grave, anxious, and agonised 
over forgotten names, trifling dates, useless dis- 
tances, ineffective records, and feeble chronicles 
of their domestic economy. It was the thought- 



THREE PARTNERS 169 

ful and melancholy Demorest who remembered 
the exact colour and price paid for a certain shirt 
bought from a Greaser pedlar amidst the envy of 
his companions ; it was the financial magnate, 
Stacy, who could inform them what were the 
exact days they had salaratus bread and when 
flapjacks ; it was the thoughtless and mercurial 
Barker who recalled with unheard-of accuracy, 
amidst the applause of the others, the full name 
of the Indian squaw who assisted at their wash- 
ing. Even then they were almost feverishly 
loth to leave the subject, as if the Past, at least, 
was secure to them still, and they were even 
doubtful of their own free and full accord in the 
Present. Then they slipped rather reluctantly 
into their later experiences, but with scarcely the 
same freedom or spontaneity ; and it was notice- 
able that these records were elicited from Barker 
by Stacy or from Stacy by Barker for the infor- 
mation of Demorest, often with chaffing and only 
under good-humoured protest. ' Tell Demorest 
how you broke the " Copper Ring," ' from the 
admiring Barker, or ■ Tell Demorest how your 

d d foolishness in buying up the right and 

plant of the Ditch Company got you control of 
the railroad,' from the mischievous Stacy were 
challenges in point. Presently they left the 
table, and, to the astonishment of the waiters 



170 THREE PARTNERS 

who removed the cloth, common briarwood pipes, 
thoughtfully provided by Barker in commemora- 
tion of the Past, were lit, and they ranged them- 
selves in arm-chairs before the fire quite uncon- 
sciously in their old attitudes. The two windows 
on either side of the hearth gave them the same 
view that the open door of the old cabin had 
made familiar to them, the league-long valley 
below the shadowy bulk of the Black Spur rising 
in the distance, and, still more remote, the pallid 
snow-line that soared even beyond its crest. 

As in the old time, they were for many 
moments silent ; and then, as in the old time, 
it was the irrepressible Barker who broke the 
silence. \ But Stacy does not tell you anything 
about his friend, the beautiful Mrs. Horncastle. 
You know he's the guardian of one of the finest 
women in California — a woman as noble and 
generous as she is handsome. And think of it ! 
lie's protecting her from her brute of a husband, 
and looking after her property. Isn't it good and 
chivalrous of him ? ' 

The irrepressible laughter of the two men 
brought only wonder and reproachful indignation 
into the widely opened eyes of Barker. He was 
perfectly sincere. He had been thinking of 
Stacy's admiration for Mrs. Horncastle in his 
ride from Boomville, and, strange to say, yet 



THREE PARTNERS 171 

characteristic of his nature, it was equally the 
natural outcome of his interview with her and the 
singular effect she had upon him. That he 
(Barker) thoroughly sympathised with her only 
convinced him that Stacy must feel the same for 
her, and that, no doubt, she must respond to him 
equally. And how noble it was in his old partner, 
with his advantages of position in the world and 
his protecting relations to her, not to avail himself 
of this influence upon her generous nature. If he 
himself — a married man and the husband of Kitty 
— was so conscious of her charm, how much 
greater it must be to the free and inexperienced 
Stacy. 

The italics were in Barker's thought ; for in 
those matters he felt that Stacy and even 
Demorest, occupied in other things, had not. his 
knowledge. There was no idea of consciousness 
or heroically sacrificing himself or Mrs. Horn- 
castle in this. I am afraid there was not even an 
idea of a superior morality in himself in giving up 
the possibility of loving her. Ever since Stacy 
had first seen her he had fancied that Stacy 
liked her — indeed, Kitty fancied it too — and it 
seemed almost providential now that he should 
know how to assist his old partner to happiness. 
For it was inconceivable that Stacy should not be 
able to rescue this woman from her shameful 



i/2 THREE PARTNERS 

bonds, or that she should not consent to it 
through his (Barker's) arguments and entreaties. 
To a ' champion of dames ' this seemed only 
right and proper. In his unfailing optimism he 
translated Stacy's laugh as embarrassment and 
Demorest's as only ignorance of the real question. 
But Demorest had noticed, if he had not, that 
Stacy's laugh was a little nervously prolonged for 
a man of his temperament, and that he had cast 
a very keen glance at Barker. A messenger 
arriving with a telegram brought from Boomville 
called Stacy momentarily away, and Barker was 
not slow to take advantage of his absence. 

1 1 wish, Phil,' he said, hitching his chair 
closer to Demorest, ' that you would think 
seriously of this matter, and try to persuade 
Stacy — who, I believe, is more interested in Mrs. 
Horncastle than he cares to show — to put a little 
of that determination in love that he has shown 
in business. She's an awfully fine woman, and 
in every way suited to him, and he is letting an 
absurd sense of pride and honour keep him from 
influencing her to get rid of her impossible 
husband. There's no reason,' continued Barker 
in a burst of enthusiastic simplicity, ' that because 
she has found some one she likes better, and who 
would treat her better, that she should continue 
to stick to that beast whom all California would 



THREE PARTNERS 173 

gladly see her divorced from. I never could 
understand that kind of argument, could you ? ' 
Demorest looked at his companion's glowing 
cheek and kindling eye with a smile. 

1 A good deal depends upon the side from which 
you argue. But, frankly, Barker boy, though I 
think I know you in all your phases, I am not 
prepared yet to accept you as a matchmaker ! 
However, I'll think it over, and find out some- 
thing more of this from your goddess, who seems 
to have bewitched you both. But what does 
Mistress Kitty say to your admiration?' 

Barker's face clouded but instantly brightened. 
* Oh, they're the best of friends ; they're quite 
like us, you know, even to larks they have 
together.' He stopped and coloured at his slip. 
But Demorest, who had noticed his change of 
expression, was more concerned at the look of 
half incredulity and half suspicion with which 
Stacy, who had re-entered the room in time to hear 
Barker's speech, was regarding his unconscious 
younger partner. 

1 I didn't know that Mrs. Horncastle and 
Mrs. Barker were such friends,' he said drily as 
he sat down again. But his face presently 
became so abstracted that Demorest said gaily: 

'Well, Jim, I'm glad I'm not a Napoleon of 
Finance ! I couldn't stand it to have my privacy 



174 THREE PARTNERS 

or my relaxation broken in upon at any moment, 
as yours was just now. What confounded somer- 
sault in stocks has put that face on you ? ' 

Stacy looked up quickly with his brief laugh. 
1 I'm afraid you'll be none the wiser if I told you. 
That was a pony express messenger from New 
York. You remember how Barker, that night of 
the strike when we were sitting here, or very 
near here, together, proposed that we ought to 
have a password or a symbol to call us together in 
case of emergency for each other's help. Well, let 
us say I have two partners, one in Europe and 
one in New York. That was my password.' 

1 And, I hope, no more serious than ours,* 
added Demorest. 

Stacy laughed his short laugh. Nevertheless, 
the conversation dragged again. The feverish 
gaiety of the early part of the evening was gone, 
and they seemed to be suffering from the reaction. 
They fell into their old attitudes, looking from 
the firelight to the distant bulk of Black Spur 
without a word. The occasional sound of the 
voices of promenaders on the verandah at last 
ceased ; there was the noise of the shutting of 
heavy doors below, and Barker rose. 

i You'll excuse me, boys ; but I must go and 
say " Good-night" to little " Sta," and see he's 
all right. I haven't seen him since I got back, 



THREE PARTNERS 175 

But ' — to Demorest — ' you'll see him to-morrow, 
when Kitty comes. It is as much as my life is 
worth to show him before she certifies him as 
being presentable.' He paused, and then added : 
* Don't wait up, you fellows, for me ; sometimes 
the little chap won't let me go. It's as if he 
thought, now Kitty's away, I was all he had. 
But I'll be up early in the morning and see you. 
I dare say you and Stacy have a heap to say to 
each other on business, and you won't miss me. 
So I'll say " Good-night." He laughed lightly, 
pressed the hands of his partners in his usual 
hearty fashion, and went out of the room, leaving 
the gloom a little deeper than before. It was so 
unusual for Barker to be the first to leave any- 
body or anything in trouble that they both noticed 
it. ' But for that,' said Demorest, turning to 
Stacy as the door closed, ' I should say the dear 
fellow was absolutely unchanged. But he seemed 
a little anxious to-night.' 

' I shouldn't wonder. He's got two women 
on his mind, as if one was not enough.' 

1 I don't understand. You say his wife is 
foolish, and this other ' 

' Never mind that now,' interrupted Stacy, 
getting up and putting down his pipe. ' Let's 
talk a little business. That other stuff will keep.' 

* By all means,' said Demorest with a smile, 



i;6 THREE PARTNERS 

settling down into his chair a little wearily, how- 
ever. ' I forgot business. And I forgot, my 
dear Jim, to congratulate you. I've heard all 
about you even in New York. You're the man 
who, according to everybody, now holds the 
finances of the Pacific Slope in his hands. And,' 
he added, leaning affectionately towards his old 
partner, ' I don't know anyone better equipped in 
honesty, straightforwardness and courage for such 
a responsibility than you.' 

' I only wish,' said Stacy, looking thought- 
fully at Demorest, ' that I didn't hold nearly a 
million of your money included in the finances of 
the Pacific Slope.' 

' Why ? ' said the smiling Demorest, ' as long 
as I am satisfied ? ' 

1 Because / am not. If you're satisfied, I'm a 
wretched idiot and not fit for my position. Now, 
look here, Phil. When you wrote me to sell 
out your shares in the Wheat Trust I was a 
little staggered. I knew your gait, my boy, and 
I knew, too, that, while you didn't know enough 
to trust your own opinions or feeling, you knew 
too much to trust anyone's opinion that wasn't 
first-class. So I reckoned you had the straight 
tip ; but / didn't see it. Now, I ought not to 
have been staggered if I was fit for your con- 
fidence, or, if I was staggered, I ought to have 



Three partners i 77 

had enough confidence in myself not to mind you. 
See?' 

( I admit your logic, old man,' said Demorest, 
with an amused face, ■ but I don't see your 
premises. When did I tell you to sell out ? ' 

1 Two days ago. You wrote just after you 
arrived.' 

' I have never written to you since I arrived 
I only telegraphed to you to know where we 
should meet, and received your message to come 
here.' 

' You never wrote me from San Francisco ? ' 

1 Never.' 

Stacy looked concernedly at his friend. Was 
he in his right mind? He had heard of cases 
where melancholy brooding on a fixed idea had 
affected the memory. He took from his pocket 
a letter case, and selecting a letter handed it to 
Demorest without speaking. 

He glanced at it, turned it over, read its con- 
tents, and in a grave voice said, ' There is some- 
thing wrong here. It is like my handwriting, but 
I never wrote the letter, nor has it been in my 
hand before.' 

Stacy sprang to his side. 'Then it's a 
forgery ! ' 

1 Wait a moment' Demorest, who although 
Very grave was the most collected of the two, 

N 



i 7 3 THREE PARTNERS 

went to the writing desk, selected a sheet of 
paper and took up a pen. ' Now/ he said, 'dic- 
tate that letter to me.' 

Stacy began, Demorest's pen rapidly following 
him : 

* " Dear Jim, — 

1 " On receipt of this get rid of my Wheat 
Trust shares at whatever figure you can. From 
the way things pointed in New York '" 

'Stop!' interrupted Demprest, ._..-, , 

' Well ? ' said Stacy impatiently. 

' Now, my dear Jim,' said Demorest plain- 
tively, ' when did you ever know me to write such 
a sentence as " the way things pointed " ? ' 

' Let me finish reading,' said Stacy. This 
literary sensitiveness at such a moment seemed 
little short of puerility to the man of business. 

' " From the way things pointed in New 
York,"' continued Stacy, \ " and from private 
advices received, this seems to be the only 
prudent course before the feathers begin to fly. 
Longing to see you again and the dear old 
stamping ground at Heavy Tree. Love to 
Barker. Has the dear old boy been at any fresh 
crank lately ? — Yours, 

' " Phil Demorest,'" 

The dictation and copy finished together. 



THREE PARTNERS 179 

Demorest laid the freshly written sheet beside 
the letter Stacy had produced. They were very 
much alike and yet quite distinct from each other. 
Only the signature seemed identical. 

' That's the invariable mistake with the forger, 
said Demorest ; ' he always forgets that signatures 
ou^ht to be identical with the text rather than 
with each other.' 

But Stacy did not seem to hear this or require 
further proof. His face was quite grey and his 
lips compressed until lost in his closely set beard 
as he gazed fixedly out of the window. For the 
first time, really concerned and touched, Demorest 
laid his hand gently on his shoulder. 

* Tell me, Jim, how much does this mean to 
you— apart from me ? Don't think of me.' 

4 I don't know yet,' said Stacy slowly. ' That's 
the trouble. And I won't know until I know 
who's at the bottom of it. Does anybody know 
of your affairs with me ? ' 

1 No one.' 

* No confidential friend, eh ? ' 
< None.' 

f No one who has access to your secrets ? 
No — no — woman? Excuse me, Phil,' he said, 
as a peculiar look passed over Demorest's face, 
' but this is business.' 

■N2 



186 THREE PARTNERS 

{ No,' he returned, with that gentleness that 
used to frighten them in the old days, ' it's 
ignorance. You fellows always say " Cherchez la 
femme " when you can't say anything else. Come 
now,' he went on more brightly, ' look at the 
letter. Here's a man, commercially educated, for 
he has used the usual business formulas, " on 
receipt of this," and "advices received," which I 
won't merely say / don't use, but which few but 
commercial men use. Next, here's a man who 
uses slang, not only ineptly, but artificially, to 
give the letter the easy, familiar turn it hasn't 
from beginning to end. I need only say, my dear 
Stacy, that I don't write slang to you, but that 
nobody who understands slang ever writes it in 
that way. And then the knowledge of my 
opinion of Barker is such as might be gained from 
the reading of my letters by a person who couldn't 
comprehend my feelings. Now, let me play 
inquisitor for a few moments. Has anybody 
access to my letters to you ? ' 

* No one. I keep them locked up in a 
cabinet. I only make memorandums of your 
instructions, which I give to my clerks, but never 
your letters.' 

4 But your clerks sometimes see you make 
memorandums from them.' 

4 Yes, but none of them have the ability to do 



THREE PARTNERS 1S1 

this sort of thing, nor the opportunity of profiting 
by it.' 

4 Has any woman — now this is not retaliation, 
my dear Jim, for I fancy I detect a woman's 
cleverness and a woman's stupidity in this forgery 
— any access to your secrets or my letters ? A 
woman's villainy is always effective for the 
moment, but always defective when probed.' 

The look of scorn which passed over Stacy's 
face was quite as distinct as Demorest's previous 
protest as he said contemptuously, ' I'm not such 
a fool as to mix up petticoats with my business, 
whatever I do.' 

; Well, one thing more. I have told you that 
in my opinion the forger has a commercial educa- 
tion or style, that he doesn't know me nor Barker 
and don't understand slang. Now, I have to add 
what must have occurred to you, Jim, that the 
forger is either a coward or his object is not 
altogether mercenary, for the same ability dis- 
played in this letter would on the signature alone 
— had it been on a cheque or draft — drawn from 
your bank twenty times the amount concerned. 
Now, what is the actual loss by this forgery ? ' 

4 Very little ; for you've got a good price for 
your stocks, considering the depreciation in 
realising suddenly on so large an amount. I told 
my broker to sell slowly and in small quantities 



i8'a THREE PARTNERS 

to avoid a panic. But the real loss is the control 
of the stock.' 

1 But the amount I had was not enough to 
affect that,' said Demorest. 

' No, but I was carrying myself a large amount 
and together we controlled the market, and now 
I have unloaded, too.' 

' You sold out ! and with your doubts ? ' said 
Demorest. 

' That's just it,' said Stacy, looking steadily at 
his companion's face, • because I had doubts, and 
it won't do for me to have them. I ought either 
to have disobeyed your letter and kept your stock 
and my own, or have done just what I did. I 
might have hedged on my own stock, but I don't 
believe in hedging. There is no middle course 
to a man in my business if he wants to keep at the 
top. No great success, no great power was ever 
created by it.' 

Demorest smiled. ' Yet you accept the alter- 
native also, which is ruin ? ' 

' Precisely,' said Stacy. ' When you returned 
the other day you were bound to find me what I 
was or a beggar. But nothing between. How- 
ever,' he added, 'this has nothing to do with the 
forgery, or,' he smiled grimly, 'everything to do 
with it. Hush ! Barker is coming.' 

There was a quick step along the corridor 



THREE PARTNERS 153 

approaching the room. The next moment the 
door flew open to the bounding step and laughing 
face of Barker. Whatever of thoughtfulness or 
despondency he had carried from the room with 
him was completely gone. With his amazing 
buoyancy and power of reaction he was there 
again in his usual frank, cheerful simplicity. 

*I thought I'd come in and say " Good- 
night," ' he began with a laugh. 'I got "Sta" 
asleep after some high jinks we had together, and 
then I reckoned it wasn't the square thing to 
leave just you two together the first night you 
came. And I remembered I had some business 
to talk over, too, so I thought I'd chip in again 
and take a hand. It's only the shank of the 
evening yet,' he continued gaily, 'and we ought 
to sit up at least long enough to see the old 
snowline vanish, as we did in old times. But I 
say,' he added suddenly, as he glanced from the 
one to the other, ' you've been having it pretty 
strong already* Why, you both look as you did 
that night the back-water of the South Fork came 
into our cabin. What's up ? ' 

1 Nothing,' said Demorest hastily, as he caught 
a glance of Stacy's impatient face. ■ Only all 
business is serious, Barker boy, though you don't 
seem to feel it so.' 

1 I reckon vou're ri^ht there,' said Barker with 

Y* or trk 



184 THREE PARTNERS, 

a chuckle. ' People always laugh, of course, when 
I talk business, so it might make it a little live- 
lier for you and more of a change if I chipped in 
now. Only I don't know which you'll do. Hand 
me a pipe. Well,' he continued, filling the pipe 
Demorest shoved towards him, ■ you see, I was in 
Sacramento yesterday, and I went into Van Loo's 
branch office, as I heard he was there, and I 
wanted to find out something about Kitty's invest- 
ments, which I don't think he's managing exactly 
right. He wasn't there, however, but as I was 
waiting I heard his clerks talk about a drop in the 
Wheat Trust, and that there was a lot of it put 
upon the market. They seemed to think that 
something had happened, and it was going down 
still further. Now I knew it was your pet 
scheme, and that Phil had a lot of shares in it, 
too, so I just slipped out and went to a broker's 
and told him to buy all he could of it. And, by 
Jove ! I was a little taken aback when I found 
what I was in for, for everybody seemed to have 
unloaded, and I found I hadn't money enough to 
pay margins, but I knew that Demorest was here, 
and I reckoned on his seeing me through.' He 
stopped and coloured, but added hopefully, ' I 
reckon I'm safe, anyway, for just as the thing was 
over those same clerks of Van Loo's came 
bounding into the office to buy up everything. 



THREE PARTNERS %£$ 

And offered to take it off my hands and pay the 
margins.' 

' And you ? ' said both men eagerly, and in a 
breath. 

Barker stared at them and reddened and paled 
by turns. ' I held on,' he stammered. ' You see, 
boys ' 

Both men had caught him by the arms. ' How 
much have you got ? ' they said, shaking him, as 
if to precipitate the answer. 

'It's a heap!' said Barker. 'It's a ghastly 
lot now I think of it. I'm afraid I'm in for fifty 
thousand, if a cent.' 

To his infinite astonishment and delight he 
was alternately hugged and tossed backwards and 
forwards between the two men quite in the fashion 
of the old days. Breathless but laughing, he at 
length gasped out, ' What does it all mean ? ' 

4 Tell him everything, Jim — everything} said 
Demorest quickly. 

Stacy briefly related the story of the forgery, 
and then laid the letter and its copy before him. 
But Barker only read the forgery. 

1 How could you, Stacy — one of the three 
partners of Heavy Tree — be deceived ? Don't 
you see it's Phils handwriting — but it isn't Pkil\ ' 

' But have you any idea who it is ? ' said Stacy. 

f Not me,' said Barker with widely-opened 



186 THREE PARTNERS 

eyes. ' You see it must be somebody whom 
we are familiar with. I can't imagine such a 
scoundrel.' 

1 How did you know that Demorest had stock ? ' 
asked Stacy. 

' He told me in one of his letters and advised 
me to go into it. But just then Kitty wanted 
money, I think, and I didn't go in.' 

' I remember it,' struck in Demorest. * But 
surely it was no secret. My name would be on 
the transfer books for any one to see.' 

1 Not so,' said Stacy quickly. * You were one 
of the original shareholders ; there was no transfer, 
and the books as w r ell as the shares of the company 
were in my hands.' 

' And your clerks ? ' added Demorest. 

Stacy was silent. After a pause he asked, 
* Did anybody ever see that letter, Barker ? ' 

' No one but myself and Kitty.' 

* And would she be likely to talk of it?' con- 
tinued Stacv. 

- Of course not. Why should she ? Whom 
could she talk to ? ' Yet he stopped suddenly, 
and then with his characteristic reaction added 
with a laugh, ' Why, no, certainly not.' 

1 Of course, everybody knew that you had 
bought the shares at Sacramento ? ' 

1 Yes. Why, you know I told you the Van 



THREE PARTNERS 1S7 

Loo clerks came to me and wanted to take it off 
my hands.' 

1 Yes, I remember ; the Van Loo clerks ; they 
knew it, of course,' said Stacy with a grim smile. 
' Well, boys,' he said, w 7 ith sudden alacrity, ' I'm 
going to turn in, for by sun-up to-morrow I must 
be on my way to catch the first train at • ■ The Divide " 
for 'Frisco. We'll hunt this thing down together, 
for I reckon we're all concerned in it,' he added, 
looking at the others, 'and once more we're 
partners as in the old times. Let us even say 
that I've given Barker's signal or " password," ' 
he added, with a laugh, ■ and we'll stick together. 
Barker boy,' he went on, grasping his younger 
partner's hand, 'your instinct has saved us this 

time ; d d if I don't sometimes think it better 

than any other man's sabe ; only,' he dropped his 
voice slightly, ' I wish you had it in other things 
than finance. Phil, I've a word to say to you 
alone before I go. I may want you to follow 
me.' 

1 But what can I do ? ' said Barker eagerly. 
' You're not going to leave me out.' 

1 You've done quite enough for us, old man/ 
said Stacy, laying his hands on Barker's shoulder. 
( And it may be for us to do something for you. 
Trot off to bed now, like a good boy. I'll keep 
you posted when the time comes.' 



1 88. THREE PARTNERS 

Shoving the protesting and leave-taking Barker 
with paternal familiarity from the room, he closed 
the door and faced Demorest. 

1 He's the best fellow in the world,' said Stacy 
quietly, ' and has saved the situation, but we 
mustn't trust too much to him for the present. 
Not even seem to.' 

1 Nonsense, man ! ' said Demorest impatiently. 
' You're letting your prejudices go too far. Do 
you mean to say that you suspect his wife.' 

< D his wife ! ' said Stacy almost savagely. 

1 Leave her out of this. It's Van Loo that I 
suspect. It was Van Loo whom I knew was 
behind it, who expected to profit by it, and now 
we have lost him.' 

* But how ? ' said Demorest astonished. 

'How?' repeated Stacy impatiently. 'You 
know what Barker said ? Van Loo, either 
through stupidity, fright, or the wish to get the 
lowest prices, was too late to buy up the market. 
If he had, we might have openly declared the 
forgery, and if it was known that he or his friends 
had profited by it, even if we could not have 
proven his actual complicity, we could at least 
have made it too hot for him in California. But,' 
said Stacy, looking intently at his friend, ■ do you 
know how the case stands now ? ' 

' Well,' said Demorest, a little uneasily under 



THREE PARTNERS 189 

his friends keen eyes, ' we've lost that chance, 
but we've kept control of the stock.' 

1 You think so ? Well, let me tell you how 
the case stands and the price we pay for it,' said 
Stacy deliberately as he folded his arms and gazed 
at Demorest. ■ You and I, well known as old 
friends and for mer partners, for no appa"renf 
reason— for we cannot prove the forgery now — 
have thrown upon the market all our stock, with 
the usual effect of depreciating it. Another old 
friend and former partner has bought it in and 
sent up the price. A common trick, a vulgar 
trick, but not a trick worthy of James Stacy or 
Stacy's Bank ! ' 

' But why not simply declare the forgery 
without making any specific charge against Van 
Loo?' 

' Do you imagine, Phil, that any man would 
believe it, and the story of a providentially ap- 
pointed friend like Barker who saved us from 
loss ? Why all California, from Cape Mendicino 
to Los Angelos, would roar with laughter over 
it ! No ! We must swallow it and the reputation 
of " jockeying " with the Wheat Trust, too. That 
Trust's as good as done for, for the present ! 
Now you know why I didn't want poor Barker to 
know it, nor have much to do with our search for 
the forger.' 



1 90 THREE PARTNERS 

' It would break the dear fellow's heart if he 
knew it,' said Demorest. 

'Well, it's to save hitn from having his heart 
broken further that I intend to find out this forger,' 
said Stacy grimly. ' Good-night, Phil ! I'll 
telegraph to you when I want you, and then 
come ! ' 

With another grip of the hand he left Demorest 
to his thoughts. I n the first excitement of meeting 
his old partners, and in the later discovery of the 
forgery, Demorest had been diverted from his 
old sorrow, and for the time had forgotten it in 
sympathetic interest w T ith the present. But, to 
his horror, when alone again, he found that 
interest growing as remote and vapid as the stories 
they had laughed over at the table, and even the 
excitement of the forged letter and its conse- 
quences began to be as unreal, as impotent, as 
shadowy as the memory of the attempted robbery 
in the old cabin on that very spot. He was 
ashamed of that selfishness w r hich still made him 
cling to this past, so much his own, that he knew 
it debarred him from the human sympathy of his 
comrades. And even Barker, in whose courtship 
and marriage he had tried to resuscitate his 
youthful emotions and condone his selfish errors, 
even the suggestion of his unhappiness only 
touched him vaguely. He would no longer be a 



THREE PARTNERS i 9 r 

slave to the Past, or the memory that had deluded 
him a few hours acm. He walked to the window ; 
alas ! there was the same prospect that had looked 
upon his dreams, had lent itself to his old visions. 
There was the eternal outline of the hills ; there 
rose the steadfast pines ; there was no change in 
them* It was this surrounding constancy of 
Nature that had affected him. He turned away 
and entered the bedroom. Here he suddenly re- 
membered that the mother of this vague enemy, 
Van Loo — for his feeling towards him was still 
vague, as few men really hate the personality they 
don't know — had only momentarily vacated it, 
and to his distaste of his own intrusion was now 
added the profound irony of his sleeping in the 
same bed lately occupied by the mother of the 
man who was suspected of having forged his 
name. He smiled faintly and looked around the 
apartment. It was handsomely furnished, and 
although it. still had much of the characterlessness 
of the hotel room, it was distinctly flavoured by 
its last occupant, and still brightened by that 
mysterious instinct of the sex which is inevitable. 
Where a man would have simply left his forgotten 
slippers or collars there was a glass of still unfaded 
flowers ; the cold marble top of the dressing-table 
was littered by a few linen and silk toilet covers ; 
and on the mantel-shelf was a sheaf of photo- 



i92 THREE PARTNERS 

graphs. He walked towards them mechanically, 
glanced at them abstractedly, and then stopped 
suddenly with a beating heart. Before him was 
the picture of his past, the photograph of the one 
woman who had filled his life ! 

He cast a hurried glance around the room as 
if he half expected to see the original start up 
before him, and then eagerly seized it and hurried 
with it to the light. Yes! Yes! It was she — 
she as she had lived in his actual memory ; she 
as she had lived in his dream. He saw her sweet 
eyes, but the frightened, innocent trouble had 
passed from them ; there was the sensitive 
elegance of her graceful figure in evening dress ; 
but the figure was fuller and maturer. Could he 
be mistaken by some wonderful resemblance 
acting upon his too-willing brain ? He turned 
the photograph over. No ; there on the other 
side, written in her own childlike hand, endeared 
and familiar to his recollection, was her own name, 
and the date ! It was surely she ! 

How did it come there ? Did the Van Loos 
know her? It was taken in Venice; there was 
the address of the photographers. The Van 
Loos were foreigners, he remembered ; they had 
travelled; perhaps had met her there in 1858; 
that was the date in her handwriting ; that was 
the date on the photographer's address — 1858. 



THREE PARTNERS 193 

Suddenly he laid the photograph down, took with 
trembling fingers a letter-case from his pocket, 
opened it, and laid his last letter to her, endorsed 
with the cruel announcement of her death, before 
him on the table. He passed his hand across 
his forehead and opened the letter. It was dated 
1856! The photograph must have been taken 
two years after her alleged death ! 

He examined it again eagerly, fixedly, 
tremblingly. A wild impulse to summon Barker 
or Stacy on the spot was restrained with difficulty 
and only when he remembered that they could 
not help him. Then he began to oscillate 
between a joy and a new fear, which now, for the 
first time, began to dawn upon him. If the news 
of her death had been a fiendish trick of her rela- 
tions, why had she never sought him ? It was 
not ill-health, restraint, nor fear; there was no- 
thing but happiness and the strength of youth and 
beauty in that face and figure. He had not dis- 
appeared from the world ; he was known of men ; 
more, his memorable good fortune must have 
reached her ears. Had he wasted all these 
miserable years to find himself abandoned, for- 
gotten, perhaps even a dupe ? For the first time 
the sting of jealousy entered his soul. Perhaps, 
unconsciously to himself, his strange and varying 
feelings that afternoon had been the gathering 

o 



194 THREE PARTNERS 

climax of his mental condition ; at all events, in 
the sudden revulsion there was a shaking off of 
his apathetic thought ; there was activity, even if 
it was the activity of pain. Here was a mystery 
to be solved, a secret to be discovered, a past 
wrong to be exposed, an enemy or, perhaps, even 
a faithless love to be punished. Perhaps he had 
even saved his reason at the expense of his love. 
He quickly replaced the photograph on the 
mantel-shelf, returned the letter carefully to his 
pocket-book — no longer a souvenir of the past, 
but a proof of treachery — and began to mechani- 
cally undress himself. He was quite calm now, 
and went to bed with a strange sense of relief, 
and slept as he had not slept since he was a boy. 
The whole hotel had sunk to rest by this time, 
and then began the usual slow, nightly invasion 
and investment of it by Nature. For all its 
broad verandahs and glaring terraces, its long 
ranges of windows and glittering crest of cupola 
and tower, it gradually succumbed to the more 
potent influences around it, and became their sport 
and playground. The mountain breezes from the 
distant summit swept down upon its flimsy struc- 
ture, shook the great glass windows as with a 
strong hand, and sent the balm of bay and spruce 
through every chink and cranny. In the great 
hall and corridors the carpets billowed with the 



THREE PARTNERS 195 

intruding blast along the floors ; there was the 
murmur of the pines in the passages, and the 
damp odour of leaves in the dining-room. There 
was the cry of night birds in the creaking cupola, 
and the swift rush of dark wings past bedroom 
windows. Lissome shapes crept along the terraces 
between the stolid wooden statues, or, bolder, 
scampered the whole length of the great verandah. 
In the lulling of the wind the breath of the woods 
was everywhere ; even the aroma of swelling sap 
— as if the ghastly stumps on the deforested slope 
behind the hotel were bleeding afresh in the dew- 
less nio-ht — stung the eves and nostrils of the 
sleepers. 

It was, perhaps, from such cause as this that 
Barker was awakened suddenly by the voice of 
the boy from the crib beside him, crying 
1 Mamma ! Mamma ! ' Taking the child in his 
arms, he comforted him, saying she would come 
that morning, and showed him the faint dawn 
already veiling with colour the ghostly pallor of 
the Sierras. As they looked at it a great star 
shot forth from its brethren and fell. It did not 
fall perpendicularly, but seemed for some seconds 
to slip along the slopes of Black Spur, gleaming 
through the trees like a chariot of fire. It pleased 
the child to say that it w T as the light of Mamma's 
buggy that was fetching her home, and it pleased 

03 



196 THREE PARTNERS 

the father to encourage the boy's fancy. And 
talking thus in confidential whispers they fell 
asleep once more, the father— himself a child in so 
many things — holding the smaller and frailer hand 
in his. 

They did not know that on the other side of 
1 The Divide ' the wife and mother, scared, doubt- 
ing, and desperate, by the side of her scared, 
doubting, and desperate accomplice, was flying 
down the slope on her night-long road to ruin. 
Still less did they know that, with the early sing- 
ing birds a careless horseman, emerging from the 
trail as the dust- stained buggy dashed past 
him, glanced at it with a puzzled air, uttered a 
quiet whistle of surprise, and then, wheeling his 
horse, gaily cantered after it. 



THREE PARTNERS w 



CHAPTER V 

In the exercise of his arduous profession, Jack 
Hamlin had sat up all night in the magnolia 
saloon of ' The Divide,' and as it was rather 
early to go to bed, he had, after his usual habit, 
shaken off the sedentary attitude and prepared 
himself for sleep by a fierce preliminary gallop in 
the woods. Besides, he had been a large winner, 
and on those occasions he generally isolated him- 
self from his companions to avoid foolish alterca- 
tions with inexperienced players. Even in fight- 
ing Jack was fastidious, and did not like to have 
his stomach for a real difficulty distended and 
vitiated by small preliminary indulgences. 

He was just emerging from the wood into the 
high road when a buggy dashed past him contain- 
ing a man and a woman. The woman wore a 
thick veil ; the man was almost undistinguishable 
from dust. The glimpse was momentary, but 
dislike has a keen eye, and in that glimpse Mr. 
Hamlin recognised Van Loo. The situation was 
equally clear. The bent heads and averted faces, 
the dust collected in the heedlessness of haste, 



iy3 THREE PARTNERS 

the early hour — indicating a night-long flight — all 
made it plain to him that Van Loo was running 
away with some woman. Mr. Hamlin had no 
moral scruples, but he had the ethics of a sports- 
man, which he knew Mr. Van Loo was not. 
Whether the woman was an innocent schoolgirl 
or an actress, he was satisfied that Van Loo was 
doing a mean thing meanly. Mr. Hamlin also 
had a taste for mischief, and whether the woman 
was or was not fair game, he knew that for his 
purposes Van Loo was. With the greatest 
cheerfulness in the world he wheeled his horse 
and cantered after them. 

They were evidently making for ' The Divide , 
and a fresh horse, or to take the coach due an 
hour later. It was Mr. Hamlin's present object 
to circumvent this, and, therefore, it was quite in 
his way to return. Incidentally, however, the 
superior speed of his horse gave him the oppor- 
tunity of frequently lunging towards them at a 
furious pace, which had the effect of frantically 
increasing their own speed, when he would pull 
up with a silent laugh before he was fairly dis- 
covered, and allow the sound of his rapid horse's 
hoofs to die out. In this way he amused himself 
until the straggling town of ' The Divide ' came in 
sight, when, putting his spurs to his horse again, 
he managed, under pretence of the animal be- 



THREE PARTNERS 199 

coming ungovernable, to twice ' cross the bows ' 
of the fugitives, compelling them to slacken speed. 
At the second of these passages Van Loo ap- 
parently lost prudence, and slashing out with his 
whip, the lash caught slightly on the counter of 
Hamlin's horse. Mr. Hamlin instantly acknow- 
ledged it by lifting his hat gravely, and speeded 
on to the hotel, arriving at the steps and throwing 
himself from the saddle exactly as the buggy drove 
up. With characteristic audacity, he actually as- 
sisted the frightened and eager woman to alight 
and run into the hotel. But in this action her 
veil was accidentally lifted. Mr. Hamlin instantly 
recognised the pretty woman who had been pointed 
out to him in San Francisco as Mrs. Barker, the 
wife of one of the partners whose fortunes had 
interested him five years ago. It struck him that 
this was an additional reason for his interference 
on Barker's account, although personally he could 
not conceive why a man should ever try to prevent 
a woman from running away from him. But then 
Mr. Hamlin's personal experiences had been quite 
the other way. 

It was enough, however, to cause him to lay 
his hand lightly on Van Loo's arm as the latter, 
leaping down, was about to follow Mrs. Barker 
into the hotel. • You'll have time enough now,' 
said Hamlin. 



2oo THREE PARTNERS 

1 Time for what ? ' said Van Loo savagely. 

' Time to apologise for having cut my horse 
with your whip,' said Jack sweetly. 'We don't 
want to quarrel before a woman.' 

'I've no time for fooling!' said Van Loo, 
endeavouring to pass. 

But Jack's hand had slipped to Van Loo's 
wrist, although he still smiled cheerfully. ' Ah ! 
Then you did mean it, and you propose to give 
me satisfaction.' 

Van Loo paled slightly ; he knew Jack's 
reputation as a duellist. But he was desperate. 
4 You see my position,' he said hurriedly. ' I'm 
in a hurry ; I have a lady with me. No man of 
honour ' 

• You do me wrong,' interrupted Jack with a 
pained expression. * You do, indeed. You are 
in a hurry ; well, I have plenty of time. If you 
cannot attend to me now, why I will be glad to 
accompany you and the lady to the next station. 
Of course,' he added with a smile, 'at a proper 
distance, and without interfering with the lady, 
whom I am pleased to recognise as the wife of an 
old friend. It would be more sociable, perhaps, 
if we had some general conversation on the road ; 
it would prevent her being alarmed. I might 
even be of some use to you. If we are overtaken 
by her husband on the road, for instance, I should 




THREE PARTNERS 



certainly claim the right to have the first shot at 
you. Boy! ' he called to the ostler, 'just sponge 
out Pancho's mouth, will you, to be ready when 
the buggy goes?' And, loosening his grip of 
Van Loo's wrist, he turned away as the other 
quickly entered the hotel. 

But Mr. Van Loo did not immediately seek 
Mrs. Barker. He had already some experience 
of that lady's nerves and irascibility on the drive, 
and had begun to see his error in taking so 
dangerous an impediment to his flight from the 
country. And another idea had come to him. 
He had already effected his purpose of com- 
promising her with him in that flight, but it was 
still known only to few. If he left her behind 
for the foolish, doting husband, would not that 
devoted man take her back to avoid a scandal, 
and even forbear to pursue him for his financial 
irregularities ? What were twenty thousand 
dollars of Mrs. Barker's money to the scandal of 
Mrs. Barker's elopement ? Again, the failure to 
realise the forgery had left him safe, and Barker 
was sufficiently potent with the bank and Demorest 
to hush up that also. Hamlin was now the only 
obstacle to his flight ; but even he would scarcely 
pursue him if Mrs. Barker were left behind. And 
it would be easier to elude him if he did. 

In his preoccupation Van Loo did not see that 



2U2 THREE PARTNERS 

he had entered the bar-room, but, finding himself 
there, he moved towards the bar ; a glass of 
spirits would revive him. As he drank it he saw 
that the room was full of rough men, apparently 
miners or packers — some of them Mexican, with 
here and there a Kanaka or Australian. Two 
men more ostentatiously clad, though apparently 
on equal terms with the others, were standing 
ill the corner with their backs towards him. 
From the general silence as he entered he 
imagined that he had been the subject of con- 
versation, and that his altercation with Hamlin 
had been overheard. Suddenly one of the two 
men turned and approached him. To his con- 
sternation he recognised Steptoe — Steptoe, whom 
he had not seen for five years until last night, 
when he had avoided him in the courtyard of 
the Boomville Hotel. His first instinct was to 
retreat, but it was too late. And the spirits had 
warmed him into temporary recklessness. 

\ You ain't goin to be backed down by a 
short-card gambler, are yer ? ' said Steptoe, with 
coarse familiarity. 

' I have a lady with me, and am pressed for 
time,' said Van Loo quickly. ' He knows it, 
otherwise he would not have dared ' 

4 Well, look here,' said Steptoe roughly, ' I 
ain't particularly sweet on you, as you know, but 



THREE PARTNERS 20,5 

I and these gentlemen,' he added, glancing around 
the room, 'ain't particularly sweet on Mr. Jack 
Hamlin neither, and we kalkilate to stand by you 
if you say so. Nov/, I reckon you want to get 
away with the woman, and the quicker the better, 
as you're afraid there'll be somebody after you 
afore long. That's the way it pans out, don't it ? 
Well, when you're ready to go, and you just tip 
us the wink, we'll get in a circle round Jack and 
cover him, and if he starts after you we'll send 
him on a little longer journey ! Eh, boys ? ! 

The men muttered their approval, and one or 
two drew their revolvers from their belts. Van 
Loo's heart, which had leaped at first at this pro- 
posal of help, sank at this failure of his little plan 
of abandoning Mrs. Barker. He hesitated and 
then stammered, ' Thank you ! Haste is every- 
thing with us now ; but I shouldn't mind leaving 
the lady among chivalrous gentlemen like your- 
selves for a few hours only, until I could com- 
municate with my friends and return to properly 
chastise this scoundrel.' 

Steptoe drew in his breath with a slight 
whistle and gazed at Van Loo. He instantly 
understood him. But the plea did not suit 
Steptoe, who, for purposes of his own, wished to 
put Mrs. Barker beyond her husbands possible 
reach. He smiled grimly. ' I think you'd better 



204 THREE PARTNERS 

take the woman with you,' he said. ' I don't 
think,' he added in a lower voice, ' that the boys 
would like your leaving her. They're very high- 
toned, they are ! ' he concluded ironically. 

1 Then,' said Van Loo with another desperate 
idea, ' could you not let us have saddle horses 
instead of the buggy ? We could travel faster, 
and in the event of pursuit and anything happen- 
ing to me,' he added loftily, l she at least could 
escape her pursuer's vengeance.' 

This suited Steptoe equally well, as long as 
the guilty couple fled together, and in the presence 
of witnesses. But he was not deceived by Van 
Loo's heroic suggestion of self-sacrifice. ' Quite 
right,' he said sarcastically, ' it shall be done, and 
I've no doubt one of you will escape. I'll send 
the horses round to the back door and keep the 
buggy in front. That will keep Jack there, too, 
— with the boys handy.' 

But Mr. Hamlin had quite as accurate an idea 
of Mr. Van Loo's methods and of his own stand- 
ing with Steptoe's gang of roughs as Mr. Steptoe 
himself. More than that, he also had a hold on 
a smaller but more devoted and loyal following 
than Steptoe's. The employe's and ostlers of the 
hotel worshipped him. A single word of inquiry 
revealed to him the fact that the buggy was not 
going on, but that Mr. Van Loo and Mrs. Barker 



THREE PARTNERS 205 

were — on two horses, a temporary side-saddle 
having been constructed out of a mule's pack- 
tree. At which Mr. Hamlin, with his usual 
audacity, walked into the bar-room, and going to 
the bar leaned carelessly against it. Then turn- 
ing to the lowering faces around him, he said with 
a flash of his white teeth, 'Well, boys, I'm cal- 
culating to leave " The Divide" in a few minutes 
to follow some friends in the buggy, and it seems 
to me only the square thing to stand the liquor for 
the crowd, without prejudice to any feeling or 
roughness there may be agin' me. Everybody 
who knows me knows that I'm generally there 
when the band plays, and I'm pretty sure to turn 
up for that sort of thing. So you'll just consider 
that I've had a good game on " The Divide," and 
I'm reckoning it's only fair to leave a little of it 
behind me here, to " sweeten the pot " until I call 
again. I only ask you, gentlemen, to drink 
success to my friends in the buggy as early and 
as often as you can.' He flung two gold pieces 
on the counter and paused smilingly. 

He was right in his conjecture. Even the 
men who would have willingly ' held him up ' a 
moment after, at the bidding of Steptoe, saw no 
reason for declining a free drink ' without pre- 
judice.' And it was a part of the irony of the 
situation that Steptoe and Van Loo were also 



2o6 THREE PARTNERS 

obliged to participate to keep in with their 
partisans. It was, however, an opportune diver- 
sion to Van Loo, who managed to get nearer the 
door leading to the back entrance of the hotel, and 
to Mr. Jack Hamlin, who was watching him, as 
the men closed up to the bar. 

The toast was drunk with acclamation, 
followed by another and yet another. Step toe 
and Van Loo, who had kept their heads cool, 
were both wondering if Hamlin's intention were 
to intoxicate and incapacitate the crowd at the 
crucial moment, and Steptoe smiled grimly over 
his superior knowledge of their alcoholic capacity. 
But suddenly there was the greater diversion of a 
shout from the road, the oncoming of a cloud of 
red dust, and the halt of another vehicle before 
the door. This time it was no jaded single horse 
and dust-stained buggy, but a double team of four 
spirited trotters, whose coats were scarcely turned 
with foam, before a light station waggon contain- 
ing- a single man. But that man was instantly 
recognised by every one of the outside loungers 
and stable-boys as well as the staring crowd within 
the saloon. It was James Stacy, the millionaire 
and banker. No one but himself knew that he 
had covered half the distance of a night-long ride 
from Boomville in two hours. But before they 
could voice their astonishment Stacy had thrown 



THREE PARTNERS 207 

a letter to the obsequious landlord, and then 
gathering up the reins had sped away to the rail- 
way station half a mile distant. 

i Looks as if the Boss of Creation was in a 
hurry,' said one of the eager gazers in the door- 
way. ' Somebody goin' to get smashed, sure.' 

1 More like as if he was just humpin' himself 
to keep from getting smashed,' said Steptoe. 
' The bank hasn't got over the effect of their 
smart deal in the Wheat Trust. Everything 
they had in their hands tumbled yesterday in 
Sacramento. Men like me and you ain't goin' 
to trust their money to be "jockeyed" with in 
that style. Nobody but a man with a swelled 
head like Stacy would have even dared to try 
it on. And now, by G — d ! he's got to pay for it.' 

The harsh, exultant tone of the speaker 
showed that he had quite forgotten Van Loo and 
Hamlin in his superior hatred of the millionaire, 
and both men noticed it. Van Loo edged still 
nearer to the door, as Steptoe continued, ' Ever 
since he made that big strike on Heavy Tree five 
years ago, the country hasn't been big enough 
to hold him. But mark my words, gentlemen, 
the time ain't far off when he'll find a two-foot 
ditch again and a pick and grub wages room 
enough and to spare for him and his kind of 
cattle.' 



208 THREE PARTNERS 

i You're not drinking,' said Jack Hamlin 
cheerfully. 

Steptoe turned towards the bar, and then 
started. ' Where's Van Loo ? ' he demanded of 
Jack sharply. 

Jack jerked his thumb over his shoulder. 
' Gone to hurry up his girl, I reckon. I calculate 
he ain't got much time to fool away here.' 

. Steptoe glanced suspiciously at Jack. But at 
the same moment they were all startled — even 
Jack himself — at the apparition of Mrs. Barker 
passing hurriedly along the verandah before the 
windows in the direction of the still-waiting buggy. 

• D n it ! ' said Steptoe in a fierce whisper to 

the man next him. ' Tell her not there — at the 
back door ! ' But before the messenger reached 
the door there was a sudden rattle of wheels, and 
with one accord all except Hamlin rushed to the 
verandah only to see Mrs. Barker driving 
rapidly away alone. Steptoe turned back into 
the room, but Jack also had disappeared. 

For in the confusion created at the sight of 
Mrs. Barker, he had slipped to the back door and 
found, as he suspected, only one horse, and that 
with a side-saddle on. His intuitions were right. 
Van Loo, when he disappeared from the saloon, 
had instantly fled, taking the other horse and 
abandoning the woman to her fate. Jack as 



w*. 






\ 



. 



«f^^ mm- 



.JBflL 




THREE PARTNERS 209 

instantly leaped upon the remaining saddle and 
dashed after him. Presently he caught a glimpse 
of the fugitive in the distance, heard the half- 
angry, half-ironical shouts of the crowd at the 
back door, and as he reached the hill-top saw, 
with a mingling of satisfaction and perplexity, 
Mrs. Barker on the other road, still driving 
frantically in the direction of the railway station. 
At which Mr. Hamlin halted, threw away his 
encumbering saddle and, good rider that he was, 
remounted the horse, barebacked but for his 
blanket-pad, and thrusting his knees in the loose 
girths, again dashed forwards. With such 
good results that, as Van Loo galloped up to 
the stage-coach office at the next station, and 
was about to enter the waiting coach for Marys- 
ville, the soft hand of Mr. Hamlin was laid on 
his shoulder. 

1 1 told you,' said Jack blandly, * that I had 
plenty of time. I would have been here before 
and even overtaken you, only you had the better 
horse and the only saddle.' 

Van Loo recoiled. But he was now desperate 
and reckless. Beckoning Jack out of earshot of 
the other passengers, he said with tightened lips, 
1 Why do you follow me ? What is your purpose 
in coming here ? ' 

1 I thought,' said Hamlin drily, ' that I was to 

p 



210 THREE PARTNERS 

have the pleasure of getting satisfaction from you 
for the insult you gave me.' 

* Well, and if I apologise for it, what then ? ' 
he said quickly. 

Hamlin looked at him quietly. ' Well, I think 
I also said something about the lady being the 
wife of a friend of mine.' 

1 And I have left her behind. Her husband 
can take her back without disgrace, for no one 
knows of her flight but you and I. Do you think 
your shooting me will save her? It will spread 
the scandal far and wide. For I warn you, that 
as I have apologised for what you choose to call 
my personal insult, unless you murder me in cold 
blood without witness, I shall let them know the 
reason of your quarrel. And I can tell you more ; 
if you only succeed in stopping me here, and make 
me lose my chance of getting away, the scandal 
to your friend will be greater still.' 

Mr. Hamlin looked at Van Loo curiously. 
There was a certain amount of conviction in what 
he said. He had never met this kind of creature 
before. He had surpassed even Hamlin's first 
intuition of his character. He amused and inter- 
ested him. But Mr. Hamlin was also a man of the 
world, and knew that Van Loo's reasoning might 
be good. He put his hands in his pockets 
and said gravely, ' What is your little game ? ' 



THREE PARTNERS 211 

Van Loo had been seized with another inspi- 
ration of desperation. Steptoe had been partly 
responsible for this situation. He knew that Jack 
and he were not friends. He had certain secrets 
of Steptoe's that might be of importance to Jack. 
Why should he not try to make friends with this 
powerful free-lance and half-outlaw ? 

' It's a game,' he said significantly, ' that might 
be of interest to your friends to hear.' 

Hamlin took his hands out of his pockets, 
turned on his heel and said, ' Come with me.' 

1 But I must go by that coach now,' said Van 
Loo desperately, 'or — I've told you what would 
happen.' 

'Come with me,' said Jack coolly. * If I'm 
satisfied with what you tell me, I'll put you down 
at the next station an hour before that coach gets 
there.' 

' You swear it ? ' said Van Loo hesitatingly. 

'I've said it,' returned Jack. 'Come!' and 
Van Loo followed Mr. Hamlin into the station 
hotel. 



212 THREE PARTNERS 



CHAPTER VI 

The abrupt disappearance of Jack Hamlin and 
the strange lady and gentleman visitor was 
scarcely noticed by the other guests of ' The Divide 
House/ and beyond the circle of Steptoe and his 
friends, who were a distinct party and strangers 
to the town, there was no excitement. Indeed, 
the hotel proprietor might have confounded them 
together, and, perhaps, Van Loo was not far 
wrong in his belief that their identity had not 
been suspected. Nor were Steptoe's followers 
very much concerned in an episode in which they 
had taken part only at the suggestion of their 
leader, and which had terminated so tamely. 
That they would have liked a ' row,' in which Jack 
Hamlin would have been incidentally forced to 
disgorge his winnings, there was no doubt, but 
that their interference was asked solely to gratify 
some personal spite of Steptoe's against Van Loo 
was equally plain to them. There was some 
grumbling and outspoken criticism of his methods. 
This was later made more obvious by the arrival 



THREE PARTNERS 213 

of another guest for whom Steptoe and his party 
were evidently waiting. He was a short, stout 
man, whose heavy red beard was trimmed a little 
more carefully than when he was first known to 
Steptoe as 'Alky Hall,' the drunkard of Heavy 
Tree Hill. His dress, too, exhibited a marked 
improvement in quality and style, although still 
characterised in the waist and chest by the 
unbuttoned freedom of portly and slovenly middle 
age. Civilisation had restricted his potations or 
limited them to certain festivals known as ' sprees,' 
and his face was less puffy and sodden. But with 
the accession of sobriety he had lost his good- 
humour, and had the irritability and intolerance of 
virtuous restraint. 

1 Ye needn't ladle out any of your forty-rod 
whiskey to me,' he said querulously to Steptoe, as 
he filed out with the rest of the party through 
the bar-room into the adjacent apartment. ' I 
want to keep my head level till our business is 
over, and I reckon it wouldn't hurt you and your 
gang to do the same. They're less likely to blab ; 
and there are few doors that whiskey won't unlock,' 
he added, as Steptoe turned the key in the door 
after the party had entered. 

The room had evidently been used for meet- 
ings of directors or political caucuses, and was 
roughly furnished with notched and whittled arm- 



214 THREE PARTNERS 



chairs and a single long deal tabic, on which were 
ink and pens. The men sat down around it with 
a half-embarrassed, half-contemptuous attitude of 
formality, their bent brows and isolated looks 
showing little community of sentiment and scarcely 
an attempt to veil that individual selfishness that 
•was prominent. Still less was there any essay of 
companionship or sympathy in the manner of 
Steptoe as he suddenly rapped on the table with 
his knuckles. ' Gentlemen,' he said with a certain 
deliberation of utterance, as if he enjoyed his own 
coarse directness, ' I reckon you all have a sort of 
general idea what you were picked up for, or you 
wouldn't be here. But you may or may not know 
that for the present you are honest, hard-working 
miners — the backbone of the State of Californy — 
and that you have formed yourselves into a com- 
pany called the " Blue Jay," and you've settled 
yourselves on the Bar below Heavy Tree Hill, on 
a deserted claim of the Marshall Brothers, not 
half a mile from where the big strike was made five 
years ago. That's what you are, gentlemen ; 
that's what you'll continue to be until the job's 
finished ; and,' he added with a sudden domi- 
nance that they all felt, ' the man who forgets it 
will have to reckon with me. Now,' he continued, 
resuming his former ironical manner, ' now, what 
are the cold facts of the case ? The Marshalls 



THREE PARTNERS 215 

worked this claim ever since '49, and never got 
anything out of it ; then they dropped off or died 
out, leaving only one brother, Tom Marshall, to 
work what was left of it. Well, a few days ago 
he found " indications" of a big lead in the rock, 
and instead of rushin' out and yellin' like an honest 
man, and callin' in the boys to drink, he sneaks 
off to 'Frisco, and goes to the bank to get 'em to 
take a hand in it. Well, you know, when Jim 
Stacy takes a hand in anything, its both hands, 
and the bank wouldn't see it until he promised to 
guarantee possession of the whole abandoned 
claim — "dips, spurs, and angles" — and let them 

work the whole thing, which the d d fool did, 

and the bank agreed to send an expert down there 
to-morrow to report. But while he was away 
some one on our side, who was an expert also, got 
wind of it and made an examination all by him- 
self, and found it was a vein sure enough and a 
big thing, and some one else on our side found out, 
too, all that Marshall had promised the bank and 
what the bank had promised him. Now, gentle- 
men, when the bank sends down that expert to- 
morrow I expect that he will find you in possession 
of every part of the deserted claim except the spot 
where Tom is still working.' 

' And what good is that to us ? ' asked one of 
the men contemptuously. 



2i6 THREE PARTNERS 

' Good ? ' repeated Steptoe harshly. ' Well, 

if you're not as d d a fool as Marshall you'll 

see that if he has struck a " lead " or vein it's bound 
to run across our claims, and what's to keep us 
from "sinking" for it as long as Marshall hasn't 
worked the other claims for years nor pre-empted 
them for this lead ? ' 

' What'll keep him from pre-empting now ? ' 

1 Our possession.' 

1 But if he can prove that the brothers left their 
claims to him to keep, he'll just send the sheriff and 
his posse down upon us,' persisted the first speaker. 

1 It will take him three months to do that by 
law, and the sheriff and his posse can't do it 
before as long as we're in peaceable possession of 
it. And by the time that expert and Marshall 
return they'll find us in peaceful possession. Un- 
less we're such blasted fools as to stay talking 
about it here ! ' 

1 But what's to prevent Marshall from getting 
a gang of his own to drive us off ? ' 

1 Now your talkin' and not yelpin',' said Step- 
toe, with slow insolence. ( D d if I didn't 

begin to think you kalkilated I was goin' to employ 
you as lawyers ! Nothing is to prevent him from 
gettin' up his gang, and we hope he'll do it, for you 
see it puts us both on the same level before the 
law, for we're both breakiri it. And we kalkilate 



THREE PARTNERS 2l? 

that we're as good as any roughs they can pick up 
at Heavy Tree.' 

1 I reckon ! ' ' Ye can count us in ! ' said half 
a dozen voices eagerly. 

1 But what's the job goin' to pay us ? p persisted 
a Sydney man. ' An' arter we've beat off this 
other gang, are we going to scrub along on grub 
wages until we're yanked out by process-sarvers 
three months later? If that's the ticket I'm not 
in it. I arn't no b y quartz miner.' 

1 We ain't going to do no more mining there 
than the bank,' said Steptoe fiercely. ' And the 
bank ain't going to wait no three months for the 
end of the law suit. They'll float the stock of 
that mine for a couple of millions, and get out of 
it with a million before a month. And they'll 
have to buy us off to do that. What they'll pay 
will depend upon the lead ; but we don't move off 
those claims for less than five thousand dollars, 
which will be two hundred and fifty dollars to 
each man. But,' said Steptoe, in a lower but 
perfectly distinct voice, ' if there should be a row 
— and they begin it — and in the scuffle Tom 
Marshall, their only witness, should happen to 
get in the way of a revolver or have his head 
caved in, there might be some difficulty in their 
holdin' any of the mine against honest, hard- 
working miners in possession. You hear me ? ' _ 



V* OF THF 

UNIVEBSTH 



2i 3 THREE PARTNERS 

There was a breathless silence for the moment, 
and a slight movement of the men in their chairs. 
But never in fear or protest. Everyone had heard 
the speaker distinctly, and every man distinctly 
understood him. Some of them were criminals, 
one or two had already the stain of blood on 
their hands ; but even the most timid, who at 
other times might have shrunk from suggested 
assassination, saw in the speakers words only 
the fair removal of a natural enemy. 

'All right, boys! I'm ready to wade in at 
once. Why ain't we on the road now ? We 
might have been but for foolin' our time away on 
that man Van Loo.' 

'Van Loo !' repeated Mall eagerly. 4 Van Loo ! 
Was he here ? ' 

1 Yes,' said Steptoe shortly, administering a 
kick under the table to. Hall, as he had no wish to 
revive the previous irritability of his comrades. 
' He's gone, but,' turning to the others, ' you'd have 
had to wait for Mr. Hall's arrival, anyhow. And 
now you've got your order you can start. Go in 
two parties by different roads, and meet on the 
other side of the hotel at Hymettus. I'll be there 
before you. Pick up some shovels and drills as 
you go ; remember you're honest miners, but don't 
forget your shootin'-irons for all that. Now 
scatter.' 



THREE PARTNERS 219 

It was well that they did, vacating the room 
more cheerfully and sympathetically than they had 
entered it, or Hall's manifest disturbance over 
Van Loo's visit would have been noticed. When 
the last man had disappeared Hall turned quickly 
to Steptoe. 'Weil, what did he say? Where 
has he gone ? ! 

4 Don't know,' said Steptoe with uneasy curt- 
ness. ' He was running away with a woman — 
well, Mrs. Barker, if you want to know,' he added 
with rising anger, ' the wife of one of those cursed 
partners. Jack Hamlin was here, and was jockey- 
ing to stop him, and interfered. But what the 
devil has that job to do with our job ?' He was 
losing his temper ; everything seemed to turn 
upon this infernal Van Loo ! 

1 He wasn't running away with Mrs. Barker,' 
gasped Hall. ' It was with her money \ and the 
fear of being connected with the Wheat ' Trust 
swindle which he organised, and with our money 
which I lent him for the same purpose. And he 
knows all about that job, for I wanted to get him 
to go into it with us. Your name and mine ain't any 
too sweet -smelling for the bank, and we ought to 
have a middle-man who knows business to arrange 
with them. The bank darn't object to him, for 
they've employed him in even shadier transactions 
than this when they didn't wish to appear. / 



220 THREE PARTNERS 

knew he was in difficulties along with Mrs. 
Barker's speculations, but I never thought him 
up to this. And,' he added, with sudden despera- 
tion, ' you trusted him, too.' 

In an instant Steptoe caught the frightened 
man by the shoulders and was bearing him down 
on the table. ' Are you a traitor, a liar, or a 
besotted fool ? ' he said hoarsely. ' Speak. When 
and where did I trust him ? ' 

1 You said in your note — I was — to — help 
him,' gasped Hall. 

1 My note,' repeated Steptoe, releasing Hall 
with astonished eyes. 

'Yes,' said Hall, tremblingly searching in his 
vest pocket. ' I brought it with me. It isn't 
much of a note, but there's your signature plain 
enough.' 

He handed Steptoe a torn piece of paper 
folded in a three-cornered shape. Steptoe opened 
it. He instantly recognised the paper on which 
he had written his name and sent up to his wife 
at the Boomville Hotel. But, added to it, in 
apparently the same hand, in smaller characters, 
were the words, ' Help Van Loo all you can.' 

The blood rushed into his face. But he quickly 
collected himself, and said hurriedly, ' All right, 

I had forgotten it. Let the d d sneak go. 

We've got what's a thousand times better in this 



THREE PARTNERS 221 

claim at Marshall's, and it's well that he isn't in it to 
scoop the lion's share. Only we must not waste 
time getting there now. You go there first, and 
at once, and set those rascals to work. I'll follow 
you before Marshall comes up. Get! I'll settle 
up here.' 

His face darkened once more as Hall hurried 
away, leaving him alone. He drew out the piece 
of paper from his pocket and stared at it again. 
Yes ; it was the one he had sent to his wife. How 
did Van Loo get hold of it ? Was he at the 
hotel that night ? Had he picked it up in the 
hall or passage when the servant dropped it ? 
When Hall handed him the paper and he first 
recognised it a fiendish thought, followed by a 
spasm of more fiendish rage, had sent the blood 
to his face. But his crude common sense quickly 
dismissed that suggestion of his wife's complicity 
with Van Loo. But had she seen him passing- 
through the hotel that night, and had sought to 
draw from him some knowledge of his early 
intercourse with the child, and confessed every- 
thing, and even produced the paper with his 
signature as a proof of identity ? Women had 
been known to do such desperate things. Perhaps 
she disbelieved her son's aversion to her, and was 
trying to sound Van Loo. As for the forged 
words by Van Loo, and the use he had put them 



222 THREE PARTNERS 

to, he cared little. He believed the man was 
capable of forgery ; indeed, he suddenly re- 
membered that in the old days his son had spoken 
innocently, but admiringly, of Van Loo's wonderful 
chirographical powers and his faculty of imitating 
the writings of others, and how he had even 
offered to teach him. A new and exasperating 
thought came into his feverish consciousness. 
What if Van Loo, in teaching the boy, had even 
made use of him as an innocent accomplice to 
cover up his own tricks ! The suggestion was no 
question of moral ethics to Steptoe, nor of his 
son's possible contamination, although since the 
night of the big strike he had held different 
views ; it was simply a fierce, selfish jealousy that 
another might have profited by the lad's helpless- 
ness and inexperience. He had been tormented 
by this jealousy before in his son's liking for 
Van Loo. He had at first encouraged his 
admiration and imitative regard for this smooth 
Swindler's graces and accomplishments, which, 
though he scorned them himself, he was, after 
the common parental infatuation, willing that the 
boy should profit by. Unable, through his own 
consciousness, of distinguishing between Van 
Loo's superficial polish and the true breeding of 
a gentleman, he had only looked upon it as art 
equipment for his son which might be serviceable 



THREE PARTNERS 223 

to himself. He had told his wife the truth when 
he informed her of Van Loo's fears of being 
reminded of their former intimacy ; but he had 
not told her how its discontinuance after they had 
left Heavy Tree Hill had affected her son, and 
how he still cherished his old admiration for that 
specious rascal. Nor had he told her how this 
had stung him, through his own selfish greed of 
the boy's affection. Yet now that it was possible 
that she had met Van Loo that evening, she 
might have become aware of Van Loo's power 
over her child. How she would exult, for all her 
pretended hatred of Van Loo ! How, perhaps, 
they had plotted together ! How Van Loo might 
have become aware of the place where his son 
was kept, and had been bribed by the mother to 
tell her! He stopped in a whirl of giddy fancies. 
His strong common sense in all other things had 
been hitherto proof against such idle dreams or 
suggestions ; but the very strength of his parental 
love and jealousy had awakened in him at last the 
terrors of imagination. 

His first impulse had been to seek his wife, 
regardless of discovery or consequences, at 
Hymettus, where she had said she was going. 
It was on his way to the rendezvous at Marshall's 
claim. But this he as instantly set aside ; it was 
his son he must find ; she might not confess, or 



224 THREE PARTNERS 

might deceive him ; the boy would not, and, if 
his fears were correct, she could be arraigned 
afterwards. It was possible for him to reach the 
little mission church and school, secluded in a 
remote valley by the old Franciscan fathers, 
where he had placed the boy for the last few years 
unknown to his wife. It would be a long ride, 
but he could still reach Heavy Tree Hill after- 
wards before Marshall and the expert arrived. 
And he had a feeling he had never felt before 
on the eve of a desperate adventure — that he 
must see the boy first. He remembered how the 
child had often accompanied him in his flight, and 
how he had gained strength and, it seemed to 
him, a kind of luck, from the touch of that small 
hand in his. Surely it was necessary now that at 
least his mind should be at rest regarding him on 
the eve of an affair of this moment. Perhaps he 
might never see him again. At any other time, 
and under the influence of any other emotion, he 
would have scorned such a sentimentalism — he 
who had never troubled himself either with 
preparation for the future or consideration for the 
past. But at that moment he felt both. He drew 
a long breath. He could catch the next train to 
4 The Three Boulders ' and ride thence to San 
Felipe. He hurriedly left the room, settled with 
the landlord, and galloped to the station. By the 



THREE PARTNERS 225 

irony of circumstances, the only horse available 
for that purpose was Mr. Hamlin's own. 

By two o'clock he was at ' The Three 
Boulders/ where he got a fast horse and galloped 
into San Felipe by four. As he descended the 
last slope through the fastnesses of pines towards 
the little valley overlooked in its remoteness and 
purely pastoral simplicity by the gold-seeking 
immigrants — its seclusion as one of the furthest 
Northern Californian missions still preserved 
through its insignificance and the efforts of the 
remaining Brotherhood, who used it as an in- 
firmary and a school for the few remaining Spanish 
families — he remembered how he once blundered 
upon it with the boy while hotly pursued by a hue 
and cry from one of the larger towns, and how he 
found sanctuary there. He remembered how, 
when the pursuit was over, he had placed the 
boy there under the padre 's charge. He had lied 
to his wife regarding the whereabouts of her son, 
but he had spoken truly regarding his free ex- 
penditure for the boy's maintenance, and the good 
fathers had accepted, equally for the child's sake 
as for the Church's sake, the generous ' restitution ' 
which this coarse, powerful, ruffianly-looking 
father was apparently seeking to make. He was 
quite aware of it at the time, and had equally 
accepted it with grim cynicism ; but it now came 

Q 



226 THREE PARTNERS 

back to him with a new and smarting significance. 
Might they, too, not succeed in weaning the boy's 
affection from him, or if the mother had interfered, 
would they not side with her in claiming an equal 
right ? He had sometimes laughed to himself 
over the security of this hiding-place, so unknown 
and so unlikely to be discovered by her, yet 
within easy reach of her friends and his enemies ; 
he now ground his teeth over the mistake which 
his doting desire to keep his son accessible to him 
had caused him to make. He put spurs to his 
horse, dashed down the little, narrow, ill-paved 
street, through the deserted plaza, and pulled up 
in a cloud of dust before the only remaining 
tower, with its cracked belfry, of the half-ruined 
mission church. A new dormitory and school 
building had been extended from its walls, but in 
a subdued, harmonious, modest way, quite unlike 
the usual glaring ' white-pine ' glories of provincial 
towns. Steptoe laughed to himself bitterly. 
Some of his money had gone in it. 

He seized the horse-hair rope dangling from a 
bell by the wall and rang it sharply. A soft-footed 
priest appeared — Father Dominico. ' Eddy Horn- 
castle. Ah ! yes. Eddy, dear child, was gone.' 

'Gone!' shouted Steptoe in a voice that 
startled the padre. ' Where ? When ? With 
whom ? ' 



THREE PARTNERS 227 

1 Pardon, sefior, but for a time — only a pasear 
to the next village. It is his saint's day — he has 
half holiday. He is a good boy. It is a little 
pleasure for him and for us.' 

'Oh!' said Steptoe, softened into a rough 
apology. * I forgot. All right. Has he had any 
visitors lately — lady, for instance ? ' 

Father Dominico cast a look half of fright 
half of reproval upon his guest. 

■ A lady here ! ' 

In his relief Steptoe burst into a coarse laugh. 
' Of course ; you see I forgot that, too. I was 
thinking of one of his woman folks — you know, 
relatives — aunts. Was there any other visitor?' 

' Only one. Ah ! we know the sefior's rules 
regarding his son.' 

' One ? ' repeated Steptoe. ' Who was it ? ' 

■ Oh, quite a hidalgo — an old friend of the 
child's — most polite, most accomplished, fluent in 
Spanish, perfect in deportment. The Seiior 
Horncastle surely could find nothing to object to. 
Father Pedro was charmed with him. A man of 
affairs, and yet a good Catholic, too. It was a 
Sefior Van Loo — Don Paul the boy called him, 
and they talked of the boy's studies in the old 
days as if— indeed, but for the stranger being a 
caballero and man of the world— as if he had 
been his teacher.' 

Q 3 



228 THREE PARTNERS 

It was a proof of the intensity of the fathers 
feelings that they had passed beyond the power 
of his usual coarse, brutal expression, and he 
only stared at the priest with a dull red face in 
which the blood seemed to have stagnated. 
Presently he said thickly, ' When did he come ? ' 

1 A few days ago.' 

' Which way did Eddy go ? ' 

' To Brown's Mills, scarcely a league away. 
He will be here — even now — on the instant. 
But the seiior will come into the refectory and 
take some of the old mission wine from the 
Catalan grape, planted one hundred and fifty years 
ago, until the dear child returns. He will be so 
happy.' 

' No ! I'm in a hurry. I will go on and meet 
him.' He took off his hat, mopped his crisp, wet 
hair with his handkerchief, and in a thick, slow, 
impeded voice, more suggestive than the out- 
burst he restrained, said, ' And as long as my son 
remains here that man, Van Loo, must not pass 
this gate, speak to him, or even see him. You 
hear me ? See to it, you and all the others. See 

to it, I say, or ' He stopped abruptly, 

clapped his hat on the swollen veins of his fore- 
head, turned quickly, passed out without another 
word through the archway into the road, and 
before the good priest could cross himself or re- 



THREE PARTNERS 229 

cover from his astonishment the thud of his 
horse's hoofs came from the dusty road. 

It was ten minutes before his face resumed its 
usual colour. But in that ten minutes, as if some 
of the struggle of his rider had passed into him, 
his horse was sweating with exhaustion and fear. 
For in that ten minutes, in this new imagination 
with which he was cursed, he had killed both Van 
Loo and his son, and burned the refectory over 
the heads of the treacherous priests. Then, quite 
himself again, a voice came to him from the 
rocky trail above the road with the hail of 
' Father! ' He started quickly as a lad of fifteen 
or sixteen came bounding down the hillside and 
ran towards him. 

' You passed me and I called to you, but you 
did not seem to hear,' said the boy breathlessly. 
' Then I ran after you. Have you been to the 
mission ? ' 

Steptoe looked at him quite as breathlessly, 
but from a deeper emotion. He was, even at 
first sight, a handsome lad, glowing with youth 
and the excitement of his run, and, as the father 
looked at him, he could see the likeness to his 
mother in his clear-cut features, and even a 
resemblance to himself in his square, compact 
chest and shoulders, and crisp, black curls. A 
thrill of purely animal paternity passed over him, 



230 THREE PARTNERS 

the fierce joy of his flesh over his own flesh! 
His own son, by God! They could not take 
that from him ; they might plot, swindle, fawn, 
cheat, lie, and steal away his affections, but there he 
was, plain to all eyes, his own son, his very son! 

' Come here,' he said in a singular, half- 
weary and half-protesting voice, which the boy 
instantly recognised as his father's accents of 
affection. 

The boy hesitated as he stood on the edge of 
the road and pointed with mingled mischief and 
fastidiousness to the depths of impalpable red 
dust that lay between him and the horseman. 
Steptoe saw r that he was very smartly attired in 
holiday guise, with white-duck trousers and patent 
leather shoes, and, after the Spanish fashion, wore 
black kid gloves. He certainly was a bit of a 
dandy, as he had said. The father's whole face 
changed as he wheeled and came before the lad, 
who lifted up his arms expectantly. They had 
often ridden together on the same horse. 

1 No rides to-day in that toggery, Eddy,' he 
said in the same voice. * But I'll get down and 
we'll go and sit somewhere under a tree and have 
some talk. I've got a bit of a job that's hurrying 
me, and I can't waste time.' 

* Not one of your old jobs, father ? I thought 
you had quite given that up ? ' 




They sa/, looking down upon the road. 



THREE PARTNERS 231 

The boy spoke more carelessly than reproach- 
fully, or even wonderingly, yet, as he dismounted 
and tethered his horse, Steptoe answered 
evasively, ' It's a big thing, sonny ; maybe we'll 
make our eternal fortune, and then we'll light out 
from this hole and have a gay time elsewhere. 
Come along.' 

He took the boy's gloved right hand in his 
own powerful grasp, and together they clambered 
up the steep hillside to a rocky ledge on which a 
fallen pine from above had crashed, snapped itself 
in twain, and then left its withered crown to hang- 
half down the slope, while the other half rested 
on the ledge. On this they sat, looking down 
upon the road and the tethered horse. A gentle 
breeze moved the treetops above their heads, and 
the westering sun played hide and seek with the 
shifting shadows. The boy's face was quick 
and alert with all that moved round him, but 
without thought ; the father's face was heavy, 
except for the eyes that were fixed upon his son. 

1 Van Loo came to the mission,' he said 
suddenly. 

The boy's eyes glittered quickly, like a steel 
that pierced the father's heart. ' Oh,' he said 
simply, 'then it was the padre told you?' 

'How did he know you were here?' asked 
Steptoe. 



232 THREE PARTNERS 

' I don't know,' said the boy quietly. ' I think 
he said something, but I've forgotten it. But it 
was mighty good of him to come, for I thought, 
you know, that he did not care to see me after 
Heavy Tree, and that he'd gone back on us.' 

' What did he tell you ? ' continued Steptoe. 
' Did he talk of me or of your mother ? ' 

' No,' said the boy, but without any show of 
interest or sympathy, ' we talked mostly about old 
times.' 

1 Tell me about those old times, Eddy. You 
never told me anything about them.' 

The boy, momentarily arrested more by some- 
thing in the tone of his father's voice — a weakness 
he had never noticed before — than by any sugges- 
tion of his words, said with a laugh, ' Oh, only 
about what we used to do when I was very little 
and used to call myself his "little brother," don't 
you remember, long before the big strike on 
Heavy Tree ? They were gay times we had 
then.' 

'And how he used to teach you to imitate 
other people's handwriting ? ' said Steptoe. 

'What made you think of that, Pop?' said 
the boy, with a slight wonder in his eyes. 
' Why, that's the very thing we did talk about.' 

' But you didn't do it again ; you ain't done it 
since ?' said Steptoe quickly. 




THREE PARTNERS 

' Lord ! no,' said the boy contemptuously. 
• There ain't no chance now, and there wouldn't 
be any fun in it. It isn't like the old times when 
him and me were all alone, and we used to write 
letters as coming from other people to all the boys 
round Heavy Tree and the Bar, and sometimes 
as far as Boomville, to get them to do things, and 
they'd think the letters were real, and they'd do 
'em. And there'd be the biggest kind of a row, 
and nobody ever knew who did it.' 

Steptoe stared at this flesh of his own flesh 
half in relief, half in frightened admiration. 
Sitting astride the log, his elbows on his knees 
and his gloved hands supporting his round cheeks, 
the boy's handsome face became illuminated with 
an impish devilry which the father had never seen 
before. With dancing eyes he went on. ' It 
was one of those very games we played so long 
ago that he wanted to see me about and wanted 
me to keep mum about, for some of the folks that 
he played it on were around here now. It was a 
game we got off on one of the big strike partners 
long before the strike. I'll tell you, dad, for you 
know what happened afterwards, and you'll be 
glad. Well, that partner — Demorest — was a kind 
of silly, you remember — a sort of Miss Nancyish 
fellow — always gloomy and lovesick after his girl 
in the States. Well, we'd written lots of letters 



234 THREE PARTNERS 

to girls from their chaps before, and got lots of 
fun out of it, but we had even a better show for a 
game here, for it happened that Van Loo knew 
all about the girl — things that even the man's 
own partners didn't, for Van Loo's mother was a 
sort of a friend of the girl's family, and travelled 
about with her, and knew that the girl was spoony 
over this Demorest, and that they corresponded. 
So, knowing that Van Loo was employed at 
Heavy Tree, she wrote to him to find out all 
about Demorest and how to stop their foolish 
nonsense, for the girl's parents didn't want her to 
marry a broken-down miner like him. So we 
thought we'd do it our own way, and write a 
letter to her as if it was from him, don't you see ? 
I wanted to make him call her awful names, and 
say that he hated her, that he was a murderer and 
a horse thief, and that he had killed a policeman, 
and that he was thinking of becoming a digger 
Injin, and having a digger squaw for a wife, 
which he liked better than her. Lord ! dad, you 
ought to have seen what stuff I made up.' The 
boy burst into a shrill, half-feminine laugh, and 
Steptoe, catching the infection, laughed loudly in 
his own coarse, brutal fashion. 

For some moments they sat there looking in 
each other's faces, shaking with sympathetic 
emotion, the father forgetting the purpose of his 



THREE PARTNERS 235 

coming there, his rage over Van Loo's visit, and 
even the rendezvous to which his horse in the 
road below was waiting to bring him ; the son 
forgetting their retreat from Heavy Tree Hill and 
his shameful vagabond wanderings with that father 
in the years that followed. The sinking sun 
stared blankly in their faces ; the protecting pines 
above them moved by a stronger gust shook 
a few cones upon them ; an enormous crow 
mockingly repeated the father s coarse laugh, and 
a squirrel scampered away from the strangely 
assorted pair as Steptoe, wiping his eyes and 
forehead with his pocket-handkerchief, said : 
1 And did you send it ? ' 

' Oh ! Van Loo thought it too strong. Said 
that those sort of love-sick fools made more fuss 
over little things than they did over big things, 
and he sort of toned it down, and fixed it up him- 
self. But it told. For there were never any 
more letters in the post office in her handwriting, 
and there wasn't any posted to her in his.' 

They both laughed again, and then Steptoe 
rose. ' I must be getting along,' he said, looking 
curiously at the boy. ' I've got to catch a train 
at Three Boulders Station.' 

'Three Boulders?' repeated the boy. 'I'm 
going there, too, on Friday, to meet Father 
Cipriano/ 



236 THREE PARTNERS 

' I reckon my work will be all done by Friday/ 
said Steptoe musingly. Standing thus, holding 
his boy's hand, he was thinking that the real 
fight at Marshall's would not take place at once, 
for it might take a day or two for Marshall to 
gather forces. But he only pressed his son's hand 
gently. 

1 1 wish you would sometimes take me with 
you as you used to,' said the boy curiously. ' I'm 
bigger now, and wouldn't be in your way.' 

Steptoe looked at the boy w T ith a choking 
sense of satisfaction and pride. But he said, 
' No,' and then suddenly, with stimulated 
humour, ' don't you be taken in by any letters 
from me, such as you and Van Loo used to write. 
You hear ? ' 

The boy laughed. 

1 And,' continued Steptoe, 'if anybody says I 
sent for you, don't you believe them.' 

1 No,' said the boy smiling. 

1 And don't you even believe I'm dead till 
you see me so. You understand. By the 
way, Father Pedro has some money of mine kept 
for you. Now, hurry back to school and say you 
met me, but that I was in a great hurry. I 
reckon I may have been rather rough to the 
priests.' 

They had reached the lower road again, and 



THREE PARTNERS 237 

Steptoe silently unhitched his horse. ' Good-bye,' 
he said, as he laid his hand on the boy's arm. 

1 Good-bye, dad.' 

He mounted his horse slowly. 'Well,' he 
said smilingly, looking down the road, ' you ain't 
got anything more to say to me, have you ?' 

' No, dad.' 

1 Nothin' you want ? ' 

1 Nothin', dad.' 

' All right. Good-bye.' 

He put spurs to his horse and cantered down 
the road without looking back. The boy watched 
him until out of sight with idle curiosity, and then 
went on his way whistling and striking off the 
heads of the wayside weeds with his walking- 
stick. 



=33 THREE PARTNERS 



CHAPTER VII 

The sun arose so brightly over Hymettus on the 
morning after the meeting of the three partners 
that it was small wonder that Barker's impres- 
sionable nature quickly responded to it, and, 
without awakening the still sleeping child, he 
dressed hurriedly, and was the first to greet it in 
the keen air of the slope behind the hotel. To 
his pantheistic spirit it had always seemed as 
natural for him to early welcome his returning 
brothers of the woods and hills as to say ' Good- 
morning ' to his fellow mortals. And, in the joy 
of seeing Black Spur rising again to his level in 
the distance before him, he doffed his hat to it 
with a return of his old boyish habit, laid his arm 
caressingly around the great girth of the nearest 
pine, clapped his hands to the scampering squirrels 
in his path, and whistled to the dipping jays. In 
this way he quite forgot the more serious affairs 
of the preceding night, or, rather, saw them only 
in the gilding of the morning, until, looking up, 
he perceived the tall figure of Demorest approach- 



THREE PARTNERS S39 

ing him ; and then it struck him with his first 
glance at his old partner's face that his usual suave, 
gentle melancholy had been succeeded by a critical 
cynicism of look and a restrained bitterness of 
accent. Barker's loyal heart smote him for his 
own selfishness ; Demorest had been hard hit by 
the discovery of the forgery and Stacy's concern 
in it, and had doubtless passed a restless night, 
while he (Barker) had forgotten all about it. ' I 
thought of knocking at your door as I passed,' he 
said, with sympathetic apology, ' but I was afraid 
I might disturb you. Isn't it glorious here? 
Quite like the old hill. Look at that lizard, he 
hasn't moved since he first saw me. Do you 
remember the one who used to steal our sugar and 
then stiffen himself into stone on the edge of the 
bowl until he looked like an ornamental handle 
to it ? ' he continued, rebounding again into spirits. 

' Barker,' said Demorest abruptly, ' what sort 
of woman is this Mrs. Van Loo, whose rooms I 
occupy ? ' 

' Oh,' said Barker, with optimistic innocence, 
'a most proper woman, old chap. White-haired, 
well-dressed, with a little foreign accent and a 
still more foreign courtesy. Why, you don't sup- 
pose we'd •' 

1 But what is she like ? ' said Demorest im- 
patiently. 



240 1 THREE PARTNERS 

'Well,' said Barker thoughtfully, 'she's the 
kind of woman who might be Van Loo's mother, 
I suppose.' 

' You mean the mother of a forger and a 
swindler ? ' asked Demorest sharply. 

1 There are no mothers of swindlers and for- 
gers,' said Barker gravely, ' in the way you mean. 
It's only those poor devils,' he said, pointing, 
nevertheless, with a certain admiration to a circling 
sparrow-hawk above him, ' who have inherited 
instincts. What I mean is that she might be Van 
Loo's mother, because he didn't select her.' 

' Where did she come from ? and how loner 
has she been here ? ' asked Demorest. 

1 She came from abroad I believe. And she 
came here just after you left. Van Loo, after he 
became Secretary of the Ditch Company, sent for 
her and her daughters to keep house for him. 
But you'll see her to-day or to-morrow probably, 
when she returns. I'll introduce you; she'll be 
rather glad to meet some one from abroad, and 
all the more if he happens to be rich and distin- 
guished, and eligible for her daughters.' He 
stopped suddenly in his smile, remembering De- 
morest's life-long secret. But to his surprise his 
companion's face, instead of darkening as it was 
wont to do at any such allusion, brightened sud- 
denly with a singular excitement as he answered 
drily, ' Ah well, if the girls are pretty, who knows ! ' 



THREE PARTNERS 241 

Indeed, his spirits seemed to have returned 
with strange vivacity as they walked back to the 
hotel, and he asked many other questions regard- 
ing Mrs. Van Loo and her daughters, and parti- 
cularly if the daughters had also been abroad. 
When they reached the verandah they found a 
few early risers eagerly reading the Sacramento 
papers, which had just arrived, or, in little knots, 
discussing the news. Indeed, they would probably 
have stopped Barker and his companion had not 
Barker, anxious to relieve his friend's curiosity, 
hurried with him at once to the manager's 
office. 

* Can you tell me exactly when you expect 
Mrs. Van Loo to return?' asked Barker quickly. 

The manager with difficulty detached himself 
from the newspaper which he, too, was anxiously 
perusing, and said with a peculiar smile, ' Well no ! 
she was to return to-day, but if you're wanting to 
keep her rooms, I should say there wouldn't be 
any trouble about it, as she'll hardly be coming 
back here now. She's rather high and mighty in 
style, I know, and a determined sort of critter, but 
I reckon she and her daughter wouldn't care much 
to be waltzing round in public after what has 
happened.' 

' 1 don't understand you,' said Demorest im- 
patiently. ' What has happened ? ' 



2.p THREE PARTNERS 

'Haven't you heard the news?' said the 
manager in surprise. ' It's in all the Sacramento 
papers. Van Loo is a defaulter — has hypothecated 
everything he had and skedaddled.' 

Barker started. He was not thinking of the 
loss of his wife's money — only of her disappoint- 
ment and mortification over it. Poor girl ! 
Perhaps she was also worrying over his resent- 
ment, as if she did not know him ! He would 
go to her at once at Boomville. Then he 
remembered that she was coming with Mrs. 
Horncastle, and might be already on her way 
here by rail or coach, and he would miss her. 
Demorest in the meantime had seized a paper, 
and was intently reading it. 

' There's bad news, too, for your friend, your 
old partner,' said the manager half sympathetically, 
half interrogatively. ■ There has been a drop out 
in everything the bank is carrying, and every- 
body is unloading. Two firms failed in "Frisco 
yesterday that were carrying things for the bank, 
and have thrown everything back on it. There 
was an awful panic last night, and they say none 
of the big speculators know where they stand. 
Three of our best customers in the hotel rushed 
off to the Bay this morning, but Stacy himself 
started before daylight, and got the through night 
express to stop for him on " The Divide " on signal. 



THREE PARTNERS 243 

Shall I send any telegrams that may come to 
your room ? ' 

Demorest knew that the manager suspected 
him of being interested in the bank, and under- 
stood the purport of the question. He answered, 
with calm surprise, that he was expecting no tele- 
grams, and added, ' But if Mrs. Van Loo returns 
I beg you to at once let me know,' and taking 
Barker's arm he went in to breakfast. Seated by 
themselves, Demorest looked at his companion. 
* I'm afraid, Barker boy, that this thing is 
more serious to Jim than we expected last 
night, or than he cared to tell us. And you, 
old man, I fear are hurt a little by Van Loo's 
flight. He had some money of your wife's, hadn't 
he? 

Barker, who knew that the bulk of Demorest's 

fortune was in Stacy's hands, was touched at this 

proof of his unselfish thought, and answered with 

equal unselfishness that he was concerned only by 

the fear of Mrs. Barker's disappointment. -• Why, 

Lord ! Phil, whether she's lost or saved her 

money it's nothing to me. I gave it to her to do 

what she liked with it, but I'm afraid she'll be 

worrying over what / think of it, as if she did 

not know me! And I'm half a mind, if it were 

not for missing her, to go over to Boomville, 

where she's stopping.' 

R 2 



244 THREE PARTNERS 

' I thought you said she was in San Francisco,' 
said Demorest abstractedly, 

Barker coloured. * Yes,' he answered quickly. 
1 But I've heard since that she stopped at Boom- 
ville on the way.' 

' Then don't let me keep you here,' returned 
Demorest. ' For if Jim telegraphs to me I shall 
start for San Francisco at once, and I rather think 
he will. I did not like to say so before those 
panic-mongers outside who are stampeding every- 
thing ; so run along, Barker boy, and ease your 
mind about the wife. We may have other 
things to think about soon.' 

Thus adjured, Barker rose from his half- 
finished breakfast and slipped away. Yet he was 
not quite certain what to do ; his wife must have 
heard the news at Boomville as quickly as he had, 
and, if so, would be on her way with Mrs. Horn- 
castle ; or she might be waiting for him, knowing, 
too, that he had heard the news, in fear and 
trembling. For it was Barker's custom to endow 
all those he cared for with his own sensitiveness, 
and it was not like him to reflect that the 
woman who had so recklessly speculated against 
his opinion would scarcely fear his reproaches 
in her defeat. In the fulness of his heart he 
telegraphed to her in case she had not yet 
left Boomville : ■ All right. Have heard news. 



THREE PARTNERS 245 

Understand perfectly. Don't worry. Come to 
me.' Then he left the hotel by the stable 
entrance in order to evade the guests who had 
congregated on the verandah, and made his way 
to a little wooded crest which he knew com- 
manded a view of the two roads from Boom- 
ville. Here he determined to wait and inter- 
cept her before she reached the hotel. He knew 
that many of the guests were aware of his wife's 
speculations with Van Loo, and that he was her 
broker. He wished to spare her running the 
gauntlet of their curious stares and comments as 
she drove up alone. As he was climbing the 
slope the coach from Sacramento dashed past 
him on the road below, but he knew that it had 
changed horses at Boomville at four o'clock, and 
that his tired wife would not have availed herself 
of it at that hour, particularly as she could not 
have yet received the fateful news. He threw 
himself under a large pine, and watched the stage 
coach disappear as it swept round into the court- 
yard of the hotel. 

He sat there for some moments with his eyes 
bent upon the two forks of the red road that 
diverged below him, but which appeared to become 
whiter and more dazzling as he searched their 
distance. There was nothing to be seen except an 
occasional puff of dust which eventually revealed a 



246 THREE PARTNERS 

horseman or a long trailing cloud out of which a 
solitary mule, one of a pack-train of six or eight, 
would momentarily emerge and be lost again. 
Then he suddenly heard his name called, and, 
looking up, saw Mrs. Horncastle, who had halted 
a few paces from him between two "columns of 
the long-drawn aisle of pines. 

In that mysterious half-light she seemed such 
a beautiful and goddess-like figure that his 
consciousness at first was unable to grasp any- 
thing else. She was always wonderfully well 
dressed, but the warmth and seclusion of this 
mountain morning had enabled her to wear a 
licrht £own of some delicate fabric which set off 
the grace of her figure, and even pardoned the 
rural coquetry of a silken sash around her still 
slender waist. An open white parasol thrown 
over her shoulder made a nimbus for her charm- 
ing head and the thick coils of hair under her 
lace-edged hat. He had never seen her look so 
beautiful before. And that thought was so 
plainly in his frank face and eyes as he sprang to 
his feet that it brought a slight rise of colour to 
her own cheek. 

i I saw you climbing up here as I passed in 
the coach a few minutes ago,' she said with a 
smile, ' and as soon as I had shaken the dust off 
I followed you.' 



THREE PARTNERS 247 

i Where's Kitty?' he stammered. 

The colour faded from her face as it had 
come, and a shade of something like reproach 
crept into her dark eyes. And whatever it had 
been her purpose to say, or however carefully she 
might have prepared herself for this interview, 
she was evidently taken aback by the sudden 
directness of the inquiry. Barker saw this as 
quickly, and as quickly referred it to his own 
rudeness. His whole soul rushed in apology to 
his face as he said, ' Oh, forgive me ! I was 
anxious about Kitty ; indeed, I had thought 
of coming again to Boomville, for you've 
heard the news, of course ? Van Loo is a 
defaulter, and has run away with the poor child's 
money.' 

Mrs. Horncastle had heard the news at the 
hotel. She paused a moment to collect herself, 
and then said slowly and tentatively, with a 
watchful intensity in her eyes, * Mrs. Barker 
went, I think, to " The Divide " ' 

But she was instantly interrupted by the eager 
Barker. *■ I see. I thought of that at once. 
She went directly to the company's offices to see 
if she could save anything from the wreck before 
she saw me. It was like her, poor girl! And 
you — you,' he went on eagerly, his whole face 
beaming with gratitude, ' you, out of your goodness, 



24$ THREE PARTNERS 

came here to tell me.' He held out both hands 
and took hers in his. 

For a moment Mrs. Horncastle was speechless 
and vacillating. She had often noticed before 
that it was part of the irony of the creation of 
such a simple nature as Barker's that he was 
not only open to deceit, but absolutely seemed 
to invite it. Instead of making others franker, 
people were inclined to rebuke his credulity by 
restraint and equivocation on their own part. 
But the evasion thus offered to her, although 
only temporary, was a temptation she could 
not resist. And it prolonged an interview that 
a ruthless revelation of the truth might have 
shortened. 

' She did not tell me she was going there/ 
she replied still evasively, ' and, indeed,' she 
added, with a burst of candour still more 
dangerous, ■ I only learned it from the hotel 
clerk after she was gone. But I want to talk 
to you about her relations to Van Loo,' she said, 
with a return of her former intensity of gaze, 
' and I thought we would be less subject to 
interruption here than at the hotel. Only I 
suppose everybody knows this place, and any of 
those flirting couples are likely to come here. 
Besides,' she added, with a little half-hysterical 
laugh and a slight shiver, as she looked up at the 



THREE PARTNERS 



249 



high interlacing of the boughs above her head, 
1 it's as public as the aisles of a church, and really 
one feels as if one was " speaking out " in meeting. 
Isn't there some other spot a little more secluded, 
where we could sit down,' she went on, as she 
poked her parasol into the usual black gunpowdery 
deposit of earth which mingled with the carpet of 
pine needles beneath her feet, ' and not get all 
sticky and dirty ? ' 

Barker's eyes sparkled. ' I know every foot 
of this hill, Mrs. Horncastle,' he said, 'and if you 
will follow me I'll take you to one of the loveliest 
nooks you ever dreamed of. It's an old Indian 
spring now forgotten, and I think known only to 
me and the birds. It's not more than ten 
minutes from here ; only ' — he hesitated as he 
caught sight of the smart French-bronze buckled 
shoe and silken ankle which Mrs. Horncastle's 
gathering up of her dainty skirts around her had 
disclosed — ' it may be a little rough and dusty- 
going to your feet.' 

But Mrs. Horncastle pointed out that she had 
already irretrievably ruined her shoes and stock- 
ings in climbing up to him — although Barker 
could really distinguish no diminution of their 
freshness — and that she might as well go on. 
Whereat they both passed down the long aisle of 
slope to a little hollow of manzanito, which again 

V 4 OF It, 



250 THREE PARTNERS 

opened to a view of Black Spur, but left the 
hotel hidden. 

• What time did Kitty go ? ' began Barker 
eagerly, when they were half down the slope. 

But here Mrs. Horncastle's foot slipped upon 
the glassy pine needles, and not only stopped an 
answer, but obliged Barker to give all his attention 
to keep his companion from falling again until 
they reached the open. Then came the plunge 
through the manzanito thicket, then a cool wade 
through waist-deep ferns, and then they emerged, 
holding each other's hand, breathless and panting 
before the spring. 

It did not belie his enthusiastic description. 
A triangular hollow, niched in a shelf of the 
mountain-side, narrowed to a point from which 
the overflow of the spring percolated through 
a fringe of alder, to fall in what seemed from 
the valley to be a green furrow down the 
whole length of the mountain side. Overhung 
by pines above, which met and mingled with 
the willows that everywhere fringed it, it made 
the one cooling shade in the whole basking 
expanse of the mountain, and yet was pene- 
trated throughout by the intoxicating spice of 
the heated pines. Flowering reeds and long 
lush grasses drew a magic circle round an open 
bowl-like pool in the centre, that was always 




They emerged, holding each other's hand. 



THREE PARTNERS 051 

replenished to the slow murmur of an unseen 
rivulet that trickled from a white-quartz cavern in 
the mountain-side like a vein opened in its flank. 
Shadows of timid wings crossed it, quick rustlings 
disturbed the reeds, but nothing more. It was 
silent, but breathing ; it was hidden to everything 
but the sky and the illimitable distance. 

They threaded their way around it on the 
spongy carpet, covered by delicate lace-like 
vines that seemed to caress rather than trammel 
their moving feet, until they reached an open 
space before the pool. It was cushioned and 
matted with disintegrated pine bark, and here 
they sat down. Mrs. Horncastle furled her 
parasol and laid it aside ; raised both hands to 
the back of her head and took two hairpins out, 
which she placed in her smiling mouth, removed 
her hat, stuck the hairpins in it, and handed it to 
Barker, who gently placed it on the top of a tall 
reed, where during the rest of that momentous 
meeting it swung and drooped like a flower, 
removed her gloves slowly, drank still smilingly 
and gratefully nearly a wineglass full of the water 
which Barker brought her in the green twisted 
chalice of a lily leaf, looked the picture of 
happiness, and then burst into tears. 

Barker was astounded, dismayed, even terror- 
stricken. Mrs. Horncastle crying! Mrs. I lorn-. 



252 THREE PARTNERS 

castle, the imperious, the collected, the coldly 
critical, the cynical smiling woman of the world, 
actually crying ! Other women might cry — Kitty 
had cried often — but Mrs. Horncastle ! Yet, 
there she was, sobbing ; actually sobbing like 
a school-girl, her beautiful shoulders rising and 
falling with her grief; crying unmistakably 
through her long white fingers, through a lace 
pocket-handkerchief which she had hurriedly 
produced and shaken from behind her like a 
conjurer's trick ; crying through her beautiful 
eyes, a thousand times more lustrous for the 
sparkling beads that brimmed her lashes and 
welled over like the pool before her. 

1 Don't mind me,' she murmured behind her 
handkerchief. ■ It's very foolish, I know. I 
was nervous — worried, I suppose ; I'll be better 
in a moment. Don't notice me, please.' 

But Barker had drawn beside her and was 
trying, after the fashion of his sex, to take her 
handkerchief away, in apparently the firm belief 
that this action would stop her tears. ' But tell 
me what it is. Do, Mrs. Horncastle, please,' he 
pleaded in his boyish fashion. ' Is it anything I 
can do ? Only say the word ; only tell me some- 
thing ! ' 

But he had succeeded in partially removing 
the handkerchief, and so caught a glimpse of 



THREE PARTNERS 253 

her wet eyes, in which a faint smile struggled 
out like sunshine through rain. But they clouded 
again, although she didn't cry, and her breath 
came and went with the action of a sob, and her 
hands still remained against her flushed face. 

1 I was only going to talk to you of Kitty ' 
— (sob) — 'but I suppose I'm weak' — (sob) — 'and 
such a fool ' — (sob) — ' and I got to thinking of 
myself and my own sorrows when I ought to be 
thinking only of you and Kitty.' 

* Never mind Kitty,' said Barker impulsively. 
1 Tell me about yourself — your own sorrows. I 
am a brute to have bothered you about her at 
such a moment ; and now/ until you have told 
me what is paining you so I shall not let you 
speak of her.' He was perfectly sincere. What 
were Kitty's possible and easy tears over the loss 
of her money to the unknown agony that could 
wrench a sob from a woman like this ? ' Dear 
Mrs. Horncastle,' he went on as breathlessly, 
1 think of me now not as Kitty's husband, but as 
your true friend. Yes, as your best and truest 
friend, and speak to me as you would speak to 
him.' 

1 You will be my friend ? ' she said suddenly 
and passionately, grasping his hand, ' my best and 
truest friend ? and if I tell you all — everything, 
you will not cast me from you and hate me ? ' 



2_;4 THREE PARTNERS 

Barker felt the same thrill from her warm 
hand slowly possess his whole being as it had 
the evening before, but this time he was prepared 
and answered the grasp and her eyes together as 
he said breathlessly, ' I will be — I am your friend.' 

She withdrew her hand and passed it over her 
eyes. After a moment she caught his hand again, 
and, holding it tightly as if she feared he might 
fly from her, bit her lip, and then slowly, without 
looking at him, said, ' I lied to you about myself 
and Kitty that night; I did not come with her. 
I came alone and secretly to Boomville to see — to 
see the man who is my husband.' 

' Your husband ! ' said Barker in surprise. 
He had believed, with the rest of the world, that 
there had been no communication between them 
for years. Yet so intense was his interest in her 
that he did not notice that this revelation was 
leaving now no excuse for his wife's presence at 
Boomville. Mrs. Horn castle went : on' ■with dogged 
bitterness, ' Yes, my husband. I went to him to 
beg and bribe him to let me see my child. Yes, 
my child,' she said frantically, tightening her hold 
upon his hand, ' for I lied to you when I once 
told you I had none. I had a child, and, more 
than that, a child who at his birth I did not dare 
to openly claim.' 

She stopped breathlessly, stared at his face 



THREE PARTNERS 255 

with her former intensity, as if she would pluck the 
thought that followed from his brain. But he 
only moved closer to her, passed his arm over her 
shoulders with a movement so natural and protec- 
ting that it had a certain dignity in it, and looking 
down upon her bent head with eyes brimming 
with sympathy, whispered, ' Poor, poor child ! 

Whereat Mrs. Horncastle again burst into 
tears. And then, with her head half-drawn to- 
wards his shoulder, she told him all — all that had 
passed between her husband — even all that they 
had then but hinted at. It was as if she felt she 
could now, for the first time, voice all these terrible 
memories of the past which had come back to her 
last night when her husband had left her. She 
concealed nothing, she veiled nothing ; there were 
intervals when her tears no longer flowed, and a 
cruel hardness and return of her old imperiousness 
of voice and manner took their place, as if she 
was doing a rigid penance and took a bitter satis- 
faction in laying bare her whole soul to him. ' I 
never had a friend,' she whispered ; 'there were 
women who persecuted me with their jealous 
sneers ; there were men who persecuted me 
with their selfish affections. When I first saw 
you, you seemed something so apart and different 
from all other men that, although I scarcely knew 
you, I wanted to tell you, even then, all that I 



256 THREE PARTNERS 

have told you now. I wanted you to be my 
friend ; something told me that you could — that 
you could separate me from my past ; that you 
could tell me what to do ; that you could make 
me. think as you thought, see life as you saw it, 
and trust always to some goodness in people as you 
did. And in this faith I thought that you would 
understand me now, and even forgive me all.' 

She made a slight movement as if to disengage 
her arm, and, possibly, to look into his eyes, which 
she knew instinctively were bent upon her down- 
cast head. But he only held her the more tightly 
until her cheek was close against his breast. 
1 What could I do ? ' she murmured. ' A man in 
sorrow and trouble may go to a woman for sym- 
pathy and support and the world will not gainsay 
or misunderstand him. But a woman — weaker, 
more helpless, credulous, ignorant, and craving 
for light — must not in her agony go to a man for 
succour and sympathy.' 

1 Why should she not ? ' burst out Barker 
passionately, releasing her in his attempt to gaze 
into her face. ' What man dare refuse her ? ' 

' Not that,' she said slowly, but with still averted 
eyes, ' but because the world would say she loved 
him.' 

' And what should she care for the opinion of 
a world that stands aside and lets her suffer? 



THREE PARTNERS 257 

Why should she heed its wretched babble?' he 
went on in flashing indignation. 

4 Because,' she said faintly, lifting her moist 
eyes and moist and parted lips towards him, 
1 because it would be true ! ' 

There was a silence so profound that even the 
spring seemed to withhold its song, as their 
eyes and lips met. When the spring recommenced 
its murmur, and they could hear the droning of a 
bee above them and the rustling of the reed, she 
was murmuring, too, with her face against his 
breast : ' You did not think it strange that I should 
follow you — that I should risk everything to tell 
you what I have told you before I told you any- 
thing else ? You will never hate me for it, 
George ? ' 

There was another silence still more prolonged, 
and when he looked again into the flushed face and 
glistening eyes he was saying, ' I have always loved 
you. I know now I loved you from the first, 
from the day when I leaned over you to take little 
11 Sta " from your lap and saw your tenderness for 
him in your eyes. I could have kissed you then, 
dearest, as I do now.' 

'And,' she said, when she had gained her 
smiling breath again, ' you will always remember, 
George, that you told me this before I told you 
anything of her/ 



258 THREE PARTNERS 

' Her ? Of whom, dearest ? ' he asked, lean- 
ing over her tenderly. 

' Of Kitty, of your wife,' she said impatiently, 
as she drew back shyly with her former intense 
gaze. 

He did not seem to grasp her meaning, but 
said gravely, ' Let us not talk of her now. Later 
we shall have much to say of her. For,' he added 
quietly, 'you know I must tell her all' 

The colour faded from her cheek. ■ Tell her 
all ! ' she repeated vacantly ; then suddenly she 
turned upon him eagerly and said, ' But what if 
she is gone ? ' 

* Gone ? ' he repeated. 

' Yes ; gone. What if she has run away with 
Van Loo ? What if she has disgraced you and 
her child ? ' 

' What do you mean ? ' he said, seizing both 
her hands and gazing at her fixedly. 

' 1 mean,' she said with a half-frightened 
eagerness, ' that she has already gone with Van 
Loo. George! George!' she burst out suddenly 
and passionately, falling upon her knees before him, 
'do you think that I would have followed you 
here and told you what I did if I thought that she 
had now the slightest claim upon your love or 
honour ? Don't you understand me ? I came to 
tell you of her flight to Boomville with that man ; 



THREE PARTNERS 



259 



how I accidentally intercepted them there ; how I 
tried to save her from him, and even lied to you 
to try to save her from your indignation ; but 
how she deceived me as she has you, and even 
escaped and joined her lover while you were with 
me. I came to tell you that and nothing more, 
George, I swear it. But when you were kind to 
me and pitied me, I was mad — wild! I wanted 
to win you first out of your own love. I wanted 
you to respond to mine before you knew your wife 
was faithless. Yet I would have saved her if I 
could. Listen, George ! A moment more before 
you speak ! ' 

Then she hurriedly told him all ; the whole 
story of his wife's dishonour, from her entrance 
into the sitting-room with Van Loo, her later 
appeal for concealment from her husband's unex- 
pected presence, to the use she made of that con- 
cealment to fly with her lover. She spared no 
detail, and even repeated the insult Mrs. Barker 
had cast upon her with the triumphant reproach 
that her husband would not believe her. ' Per- 
haps,' she added bitterly, i you may not believe me 
now. I could even stand that from you, George, 
if it could make you happier ; but you would still 
have to believe it from others. The people at the 
Boomville Hotel saw them leave it together.' 

1 I do believe you,' he said slowly but with 

s 2 



260 THREE PARTNERS 

downcast eyes, ' and if I did not love you before 
you told me this I could love you now for the 
part you have taken ; but ' He stopped. 

' You love her still/ she burst out, ' and I 
might have known it. Perhaps,' she went on, 
distractedly, ' you love her the more that you 
have lost her. It is the way of men — and women.' 

' If I had loved her truly,' said Barker, lifting 
his frank eyes to hers, ' I could not have touched 
your lips. I could not even have wished to — 
as I did three years ago — as I did last night. 
Then I feared it was my weakness, now I know 
it was my love. I have thought of it ever since, 
- even while waiting my wife's return here, knowing 
that I did not and never could have loved her. 
But for that very reason I must try to save her 
for her own sake, if I cannot save her for mine ; 
and if I fail, dearest, it shall not be said that we 
climbed to happiness over her back bent with the 
burden of her shame. If I loved you and told 
you so, thinking her still guiltless and innocent, 
how could I profit now by her fault ? ' 

Mrs. Horncastle saw too late her mistake. 
* Then you would take her back ? ' she said 
frenziedly. 

' To my home — which is hers — yes. To my 
heart — no. She never was there.' 

'And /,' said Mrs. Horncastle, with a quivering 



THREE PARTNERS 261 

lip, 'where do I go when you have settled this? 
Back to my past again ? Back to my husbandless, 
childless life ? ' 

She was turning away, but Barker caught her 
in his arms again. ' No,' he said, his whole face 
suddenly radiating w T ith hope and youthful en- 
thusiasm. ' No ! Kitty will help us ; we will 
tell her all. You do not know her, dearest, as I 
do — how good and kind she is, in spite of all. 
We will appeal to her ; she will devise some 
means by which, without the scandal of a divorce, 
she and I may be separated. She will take dear 
little " Sta " with her — it is only right, poor girl ; 
but she will let me come and see him. She will 
be a sister to us, dearest. Courage ! All will 
come right yet. Trust to me.' 

A hysterical laugh came to Mrs. Horncastle's 
lips and then stopped. For as she looked up at 
him in his supreme hopefulness, his divine con- 
fidence in himself and others — at his handsome face 
beaming with love and happiness, and his clear 
grey eyes, glittering with an almost spiritual 
prescience — she, woman of the world and bitter 
experience, and perfectly cognisant of her own 
and Kitty's possibilities, was, nevertheless, com- 
pletely carried away by her lover's optimism. For 
of all optimism that of love is the most con- 
vincing. Dear boy ! — for he was but a boy in 



262 THREE PARTNERS 

experience — only his love for her could work this 
magic. So she gave him kiss for kiss, largely- 
believing, largely hoping that Mrs. Barker was in 
love with Van Loo and would not return. And 
in this hope an invincible belief in the folly of her 
own sex soothed and sustained her. 

'We must go now, dearest,' said Barker, 
pointing to the sun already near the meridian. 
Three hours had fled, they knew not how. ' I 
will bring you back to the hill again, but there we 
had better separate, you taking your way alone 
to the hotel as you came, and I will go a little 
way on the road to " The Divide " and return later. 
Keep your own counsel about Kitty for her sake 
and ours ; perhaps no one else may know the 
truth yet.' With a farewell kiss they plunged 
again hand in hand through the cool bracken and 
again through the hot manzanito bushes, and 
so parted on the hill-top, as they had never parted 
before, leaving their whole world behind them. 

Barker walked slowly along the road under 
the flickering shade of wayside sycamore, his 
sensitive face also alternating with his thought 
in lights and shadows. Presently there crept 
towards him out of the distance a halting, 
vacillating, deviating buggy, trailing a cloud of 
dust after it like a broken wing. As it came 
nearer he could see that the horse was spent and 



THREE PARTNERS 263 

exhausted, and that the buggy's sole occupant — a 
woman — was equally exhausted in her monotonous 
attempt to urge it forward with whip and reins 
that rose and fell at intervals with feeble reiteration. 
Then he stepped out of the shadow and stood in 
the middle of the sunlit road to await it. For he 
recognised his wife. 

The buggy came nearer. And then the most 
exquisite pang he had ever felt before at his wife's 
hands shot through him. For as she recognised 
him she made a wild but impotent attempt to dash 
past him, and then as suddenly pulled up in the 
ditch. 

He went up to her. She was dirty, she was 
dishevelled, she was haggard, she was plain. 
There were rings of dust round her tear-sw r ept 
eyes and smudges of dust-dried perspiration over 
her fair cheek. He thought of the beauty, fresh- 
ness, and elegance of the woman he had just left, 
and an infinite pity swept the soul of this weak- 
minded gentleman. He ran towards her, and 
tenderly lifting her in her shame-stained garments 
from the buggy, said hurriedly, ' I know it all, 
poor Kitty ! You heard the news of Van Loo's 
flight, and you ran over to M The Divide " to try 
and save some of your money. Why didn't you 
wait ? Why didn't you tell me ? ' 

There was no mistaking the reality of his 



264 THREE PARTNERS 

words, the genuine pity and tenderness of his 
action ; but the woman saw before her only 
the familiar dupe of her life, and felt an infinite 
relief mingled with a certain contempt for his 
weakness, and anger at her previous fears of him. 

' You might have driven over, then, yourself,' 
she said in a high, querulous voice, ' if you knew 
it so well, and have spared me this horrid, dirty, 
filthy, hopeless expedition, for I have not saved 
anything — there ! And I have had all this dis- 
gusting bother ! ' 

For an instant he was sorely tempted to lift 
his eyes to her face, but he checked himself; then 
he gently took her dust coat from her shoulders 
and shook it out, wiped the dust from her face 
and eyes with his own handkerchief, held her hat 
and blew the dust from it with a vivid memory of 
performing the same service for Mrs. Horncastle 
only an hour before, while she arranged her hair ; 
and then, lifting her again into the buggy, said 
quietly, as he took his seat beside her and grasped 
the reins : 

1 1 will drive you to the hotel by way of the 
stables, and you can go at once to your room 
and change your clothes. You are tired, you 
are nervous and worried, and want rest. Don't 
tell me anything now until you feel quite yourself 
again.' 



THREE PARTNERS 

He whipped up the horse, who, recognising 
another hand at the reins, lunged forward in a 
final effort, and in a few minutes they were at the 
hotel. 

As Mrs. Horncastle sat at luncheon in the 
great dining-room, a little pale and abstracted, 
she saw Mrs. Barker sweep confidently into the 
room, fresh, rosy, and in a new and ravishing 
toilette. With a swift glance of conscious power 
towards the other guests she walked towards Mrs. 
Horncastle. 'Ah, here you are, dear,' she said 
in a voice that could easily reach all ears, 'and 
you've arrived only a little before me, after all ! 
And I've had such an awful drive to "The 
Divide ! " And only think ! poor George tele- 
graphed to me at Boomville not to worry, and 
his despatch has only just come back here.' 

And with a glance of complacency she laid 
Barker's gentle and forgiving despatch before the 
astonished Mrs. Horncastle. 



266 THREE PARTNERS 



CHAPTER VIII 

As the day advanced the excitement over the 
financial crisis increased at Hymettus until, in 
spite of its remote and peaceful isolation, it seemed 
to throb through all its verandahs and corridors 
with some pulsation from the outer world. 
Besides the letters and despatches brought by 
hurried messengers and by coach from ' The 
Divide,' there was a crowd of guests and 
servants around the branch telegraph at the new 
Heavy Tree post office which was constantly 
augmenting. Added to the natural anxiety of the 
deeply interested was the stimulated fever of the 
few who wished to be ' in the fashion.' It was 
early rumoured that a heavy operator, a guest of 
the hotel, who was also a director in the Tele- 
graph Company, had bought up the wires for his 
sole use, that the despatches were doctored in his 
interests as a bear, and there was wild talk of 
' lynching ' by the indignant mob. Passengers 
from Sacramento, San Francisco, and Marysville 
brought incredible news and the wildest sensations. 



THREE PARTNERS 267 

Firm after firm had failed in the great cities. 
Old-established houses that dated back to the 
'spring of 49/ and had weathered the fires and 
inundations of their perilous Californian infancy, 
collapsed before this mysterious, invisible, im- 
palpable breath of panic. Companies rooted in 
respectability and sneered at for old-fashioned 
ways were discovered to have shamelessly specu- 
lated with Trusts ! An eminent deacon and 
pillar of the Church was found dead in his room 
with a bullet in his heart and a damning con- 
fession on the desk before him ! Foreign bankers 
were sending their gold out of the country ; 
Government would be appealed to to open the 
vaults of the Mint ; there would be an embargo 
on all bullion shipment ! Nothing was too wild 
or preposterous to be repeated or credited. 

And with this fever of sordid passion the 
snmmer temperature had increased. For the last 
two weeks the thermometer had stood abnormally 
high during the day-long sunshine ; and the 
metallic dust in the roads over mineral ranges 
pricked the skin like red-hot needles. In the 
deepest woods the aromatic sap stood in beads 
on felled logs and splintered tree-shafts ; even 
the mountain night breeze failed to cool these 
baked and heated fastnesses. There were ominous 
clouds of smoke by day that were pillars of fire by 



268 THREE PARTNERS 

night along the distant valleys. Some of the 
nearer crests were etched against the midnight 
sky by dull red creeping lines like a dying fire- 
work. The great hotel itself creaked and 
crackled and warped through all its painted, 
blistered, and veneered expanse, and was filled 
with the stifling breath of desiccation. The 
stucco cracked and crumbled away from the 
cornices ; there were yawning gaps in the boarded 
floors beneath the Turkey carpets. Plate-glass 
windows became hopelessly fixed in their warped 
and twisted sashes, and added to the heat ; there 
was a warm incense of pine sap in the dining-room 
that flavoured all the cuisine. And yet the babble 
of stocks and shares went on, and people pricked 
their ears over their soup to catch the gossip of 
the last arrival. 

Demorest, loathing it all in his new-found 
bitterness, was nevertheless impatient in his in- 
action, and was eagerly awaiting a telegram from 
Stacy ; Barker had disappeared since luncheon. 
Suddenly there was a commotion on the verandah 
as a carriage drove up with a handsome, grey- 
haired woman. In the buzzing of voices around 
him Demorest heard the name of Mrs. Van Loo. 
In further comments, made in more smothered 
accents, he heard that Van Loo had been stopped 
at Canon Station, but that no warrant had yet 



THREE PARTNERS 269 

been issued against him ; that it was generally- 
believed that the bank dared not hold him ; that 
others openly averred that he had been used as a 
scapegoat to avert suspicion from higher guilt. 
And certainly Mrs. Van Loo's calm, confident air 
seemed to corroborate these assertions. 

He was still wondering if the strange coinci- 
dence which had brought both mother and son 
into his own life was not merely a fancy, as far as 
she was concerned, when a waiter brought a 
message from Mrs. Van Loo that she would be 
glad to see him for a few moments in her room. 
Last night he could scarcely have restrained his 
eagerness to meet her and elucidate the mystery 
of the photograph ; now he was conscious of an 
equally strong revulsion of feeling, and a dull pre- 
monition of evil. However, it was no doubt 
possible that the man had told her of his previous 
inquiries, and she had merely acknowledged them 
by that message. 

Demorest found Mrs. Van Loo in the private 
sitting-room where he and his old partner had 
supped on the preceding night. She received 
him with unmistakable courtesy and even a 
certain dignity that might or might not have been 
assumed. He had no difficulty in recognising the 
son's mechanical politeness in the first, but he was 
puzzled at the second. 



270 THREE PARTNERS 

' The manager of this hotel,' she began, with 
a foreigner's precision of English, ' has just told 
me that you were at present occupying my rooms 
at his invitation, but that you wished to see me at 
once on my return, and I believe that I was not 
wrong in apprehending that you preferred to 
hear my wishes from my own lips rather than 
from an innkeeper. I had intended to keep these 
rooms for some weeks, but, unfortunately for me, 
though fortunately for you, the present terrible 
financial crisis, which has most unjustly brought 
my son into such scandalous prominence, will 
oblige me to return to San Francisco until his 
reputation is fully cleared of these foul asper- 
sions. I shall only ask you to allow me the 
undisturbed possession of these rooms for a 
couple of hours until I can pack my trunks and 
gather up a few souvenirs that I almost always 
keep with me.' 

' Pray consider that your wishes are my own 
in respect to that, my dear madam,' returned 
Demorest gravely, * and that, indeed, I protested 
against even this temporary intrusion upon your 
apartments ; but I confess that now that you 
have spoken of your souvenirs I have the greatest 
curiosity about one of them, and that even my 
object in seeking this interview was to gratify 
it. It is in regard to a photograph which I saw 



THREE PARTNERS 271 

on the chimney-piece in your bedroom, which I 
think I recognised as that of someone whom I 
formerly knew.' 

There was a sudden look of sharp suspicion 
and even hard aggressiveness that quite changed 
the lady's face as he mentioned the word 
1 souvenir,' but it quickly changed to a smile as 
she put up her fan with a gesture of arch deprecia- 
tion, and said : 

' Ah ! I see. Of course, a lady's photograph.' 

The reply irritated Demorest. More than 
that, he felt a sudden sense of the absolute 
sentimentality of his request, and the conscious- 
ness that he was about to invite the familiar 
confidence of this strange woman — whose son 
had forged his name — in regard to her ! 

' It was a Venetian picture,' he began, and 
stopped, a singular disgust keeping him from 
voicing the name. 

But Mrs. Van Loo was less reticent. 'Oh, 
you mean my dearest friend — a lovely picture, 
and you know her ? Why, yes, surely. You are 

the Mr. Demorest who Of course, that 

old love affair. Well, you are a marvel ! Five 
years ago, at least, and you have not forgotten ! 
I really must write and tell her.' 

* Write and tell her ! ' Then it was all a lie 
about her death ! He felt not only his faith, his 



272 THREE PARTNERS 

hope, his future leaving him, but even his self- 
control. With an effort he said : 

1 1 think you have already satisfied my 
curiosity. I was told five years ago that she was 
dead. It was because of the date of the photo- 
graph — two years later — that I ventured to 
intrude upon you. I was anxious only to know 
the truth.' 

' She certainly was very much living and of 
the world when I saw her last, two years ago,' 
said Mrs. Van Loo with an easy smile. ■ I dare 
say that was a ruse of her relatives — a very 
stupid one — to break off the affair, for I think 
they had other plans. But, dear me ! now I 
remember, was there not some little quarrel 
between you before ? Some letter from you that 
was not very kind ? My impression is that there 
was something of the sort, and that the young 
lady was indignant. But only for a time, you 
know. She very soon forgot it. I dare say if 
you wrote something very charming to her it 
might not be too late. We women are very 
forgiving, Mr. Demorest, and although she is 
very much sought after, as are all young American 
girls whose fathers can give them a comfortable 
dot, her parents might be persuaded to throw 
over a poor Prince for a rich countryman in the end. 
Of course, you know, to you Republicans there 



THREE PARTNERS 



273 



is always something fascinating in titles and 
blood, and our dear friend is like other girls. 
Still, it is worth the risk. And five years of 
waiting and devotion really ought to tell. It's 
quite a romance ! Shall I write to her and tell 
her I have seen you, looking well and prosperous ? 
Nothing more. Do let me! I should be 
delighted.' 

' I think it hardly worth while for you to give 
yourself that trouble,' said Demorest quietly, 
looking in Mrs. Van Loo's smiling eyes, ' now 
that I know the story of the young lady's death 
was a forgery. And I will not intrude further on 
your time. Pray give yourself no needless hurry 
over your packing. I may go to San Francisco 
this afternoon, and not even require the rooms 
to-night.' 

1 At least, let me make you a present of the 
souvenir as an acknowledgment of your courtesy,' 
said Mrs. Van Loo, passing into her bedroom 
and returning with the photograph. ' I feel that 
with your five years of constancy it is more yours 
than mine.' As a gentleman Demorest knew 
he could not refuse, and taking the photograph 
from her with a low bow, with another final 
salutation he withdrew. 

Alone by himself in a corner of the verandah, 
he was surprised that the interview had made 

T 



274 THREE PARTNERS 

so little impression on him, and had so little 
altered his conviction. His discovery that the 
announcement of his betrothed's death was a 
fiction did not affect the fact that though living 
she was yet dead to him, and apparently by 
her own consent. The contrast between her 
life and his during those five years had been 
covertly accented by Mrs. Van Loo, whether 
intentionally or not, and he saw again as last 
night the full extent of his sentimental folly. 
He could not even condole with himself that he 
was the victim of miserable falsehoods that others 
had invented. She had accepted them, and had 
even excused her desertion of him by that last 
deceit of the letter. 

He drew >out her photograph and again 
examined it, but not as a lover. Had she really 
grown stouter and more self-complacent ? Was 
the spirituality and delicacy he had worshipped 
in her purely his own idiotic fancy ? Had she 
always been like this ? Yes. There was the 
girl who could weakly strive, weakly revenge 
herself, and weakly forget. There was the figure 
that he had expected to find carved upon the 
tomb that] he had long sought that he might 
weep over. He laughed aloud. 

It was very hot, and he was stifling with 
inaction. What was Barker doing, and why had 



THREE PARTNERS 275 

not Stacy telegraphed to him ? And what were 
those people in the courtyard doing ? Were 
they discussing news of further disaster and ruin ? 
Perhaps he was even now a beggar. Well, his 
fortune might go with his faith. 

But the crowd was simply looking at the roof 
of the hotel, and he now saw that a black smoke 
was drifting across the courtyard, and was conscious 
of a smell of soot and burning. He stepped 
down from the verandah among the mingled 
guests and servants, and saw that the smoke was 
only pouring from a chimney. He heard, too, 
that the chimney had been on fire, and that it was 
Mrs. Van Loo's bedroom chimney, and that when 
the startled servants had knocked at the locked 
door she told them that she was only burning some 
old letters and newspapers, the refuse of her trunks. 
There was naturally some indignation that the 
hotel had been so foolishly endangered, in such 
scorching weather, and the manager had had a 
scene with her which resulted in her leaving the 
hotel indignantly with her half-packed boxes. But 
even after the smoke had died away and the fire 
been extinguished in the chimney and hearth, 
there was an acrid smell of smouldering pine 
penetrating the upper floors of the hotel all that 
afternoon. 

When Mrs. Van Loo drove away the manager 

t 2 



276 THREE PARTNERS 

returned with Demorest to the rooms. The 
marble hearth was smoked and discoloured and 
still littered with charred ashes of burnt paper. 
1 My belief is,' said the manager darkly, ' that the 
old hag came here just to burn up a lot of in- 
criminating papers that her son had entrusted to 
her keeping. It looks mighty suspicious. You 
see she got up an awful lot of side when I told 
her I didn't reckon to run a smelting furnace in 
a wooden hotel with the thermometer at one 
hundred in the office, and I reckon it was just an 
excuse for getting off in a hurry.' 

But the continued delay in Stacy's promised 
telegram had begun to work upon Demorest's 
usual equanimity, and he scarcely listened in his 
anxiety for his old partner. He knew that Stacy 
should have arrived in San Francisco by noon. 
He had almost determined to take the next 
train from ' The Divide ' when two horsemen 
dashed into the courtyard. There was the usual 
stir on the verandah and rush for news, but the 
two new arrivals turned out to be Barker, on 
a horse covered with foam, and a dashing, 
elegantly dressed stranger on a mustang as 
carefully groomed and as spotless as himself. 
Demorest instantly recognised Jack Hamlin. 

He had not seen him since that day, four years 
before, when he had accompanied the three 



THREE PARTNERS 277 

partners with their treasure to Boomville, and 
when he had handed him the mysterious packet. 
As he and Barker dismounted hurriedly and 
moved towards him, he felt a premonition of 
something as fateful and important as then. In 
obedience to a sign from Barker he led them to a 
more secluded angle of the verandah. He could 
not help noticing that his younger partner's face 
was mobile as ever, but more thoughtful and 
older ; yet his voice rang with the old freemasonry 
of the camp, as he said, with a laugh, ' The 
signal has been given, and it's boot and saddle 
and away.' 

'But I have had no despatch from Stacy,' 
said Demorest in surprise. ' He was to tele- 
graph to me from San Francisco in any 
emergency.' 

' He never got there at all,' said Barker. 
1 Jack ran slap into Van Loo at " The Divide," and 
sent a despatch to Jim, which stopped him half- 
way, until Jack could reach him, which he nearly 
broke his neck to do ; and then Jack finished up 
by bringing a message from Stacy to us that we 
should all meet together on the slope of Heavy 
Tree, near the Bar. I met Jack just as I was 
riding into " The Divide," and came back with 
him. He will tell you the rest, and you can 
swear by what Jack says, for he's white all 



278 THREE PARTNERS 

through,' he added, laying his hand affectionately 
on Hamlin's shoulder. 

Hamlin winced slightly. For he had not 
told Barker that his wife was with Van Loo, nor 
his first reason for interfering. But he related 
how he had finally overtaken Van Loo at Canon 
Station, and how the fugitive had disclosed 
Steptoe and Hall's conspiracy against the bank 
and Marshall as the price of his own release. 
On this news, remembering that Stacy had 
passed \ The Divide ' on his way to the station, he 
had first sent a despatch to him, and then met 
him at the first station on the road. ' I reckon, 
gentlemen,' said Hamlin, with an unusual earnest- 
ness in his voice, ' that he'd not only got my 
telegram, but all the news that had been flying 
around this morning, for he looked like a man to 
whom it was just a " toss up " whether he took his 
own life then and there or was willing to have 
somebody else take it for him, for he said, M I'll 
go myself," and telegraphed to have the surveyor 
stopped from coming. Then he told me to tell 
you fellows, and ask you to come too.' Jack 
paused, and added half mischievously, ' He sort 
of asked me what I would take to stand by him 
in the row, if there was one, and I told him I'd 
take — whiskey ! You see, boys, it's a kind of off- 
night with me, and I wouldn't mind for the sake 



THREE PARTNERS 279 

of old times to finish the game with old Steptoe 
that I began a matter of five years ago.' 

* All right,' said Demorest with a kindling 
eye ; ' I suppose we'd better start at once. One 
moment,' he added. ' Barker boy, will you excuse 
me if I speak a word to Hamlin ? ' As Barker 
nodded and walked to the rails of the verandah, 
Demorest took Hamlin aside. ' You and I,' he 
said hurriedly, ' are single men ; Barker has a 
wife and child. This is likely to be no child's 
play.' 

But Jack Hamlin was no fool, and from 
certain leading questions which Barker had 
already put, but which he had skilfully evaded, 
he surmised that Barker knew something of his 
wife's escapade. He answered a little more 
seriously than his wont, ' I don't think as regards 
his wife that would make much difference to him 
or her how stiff the v/ork was.' 

Demorest turned away with his last pang of 
bitterness. It needed only this confirmation of 
all that Stacy had hinted, of what he himself had 
seen in his brief interview with Mrs. Barker since 
his return, to shake his last remaining faith . 
1 We'll all go together, then,' he said with a laugh > 
* as in the old times, and perhaps it's as well that 
we have no woman in our confidence.' 

An hour later the three men passed quietly ou t 



280 THREE PARTNERS 

of the hotel, scarcely noticed by the other guests, 
who were also oblivious of their absence during 
the evening. For Mrs. Barker, quite recovered 
from her fatiguing ride, was in high spirits and 
the most beautiful and spotless of summer gowns, 
and was considered quite a heroine by the other 
ladies as she dwelt upon the terrible heat of her 
return journey. ' Only I knew Mr. Barker 
would be worried — and the poor man actually 
walked a mile down " The Divide " road to meet 
me — I believe I should have stayed there all day.' 
She glanced round the other groups for Mrs. 
Horncastle, but that lady had early retired. 
Possibly she alone had noticed the absence of the 
two partners. 

They sat up until quite late, for the heat 
appeared to grow still more oppressive, and the 
strange smell of burning wood revived the gossip 
about Mrs. Van Loo and her stupidity in setting 
fire to her chimney. Some averred that it would 
be days before the smell could be got out of the 
house ; others referred it to the fires in the woods 
which were now dangerously near. One spoke of 
the isolated position of the hotel as affording the 
greatest security, but was met by the assertion of 
a famous mountaineer that the forest fires were 
wont to leap from crest to crest mysteriously with- 
out any apparent continuous contact. This led 



THREE PARTNERS 281 

to more or less light-hearted conjecture of pre- 
sent danger and some amusing stories of hotel 
fires and their ludicrous revelations. There were 
also some entertaining speculations as to what they 
would do and what they would try to save in such 
an emergency. 

1 For myself,' said Mrs. Barker audaciously, ' I 
should certainly let Mr. Barker look after " Sta ' 
and confine myself entirely to getting away with 
my diamonds. I know the wretch would never 
think of them.' 

It was still later when, exhausted by the heat 
and some reaction from the excitement of the day, 
they at last deserted the verandah for their 
rooms, and for a while the shadowy bulk of the 
whole building was picked out with regularly 
spaced lights from its open windows, until now 
these finally faded and went out one by one. An 
hour later the whole building had sunk to rest. 
It was said that it was only four in the morning 
when a yawning porter, having put out the light 
in a dark, upper corridor, was amazed by a dull 
glow from the top of the wall, and awoke to the 
fact that a red fire, as yet smokeless and flameless, 
was creeping along the cornice. He ran to the 
office and gave the alarm ; but on returning with 
assistance, was stopped in the corridor by an 
impenetrable wall of smoke veined with murky 



282 THREE PARTNERS 

flashes. The alarm was given in all the lower 
floors, and the occupants rushed from their beds 
half-dressed to the courtyard, only to see, as they 
afterwards averred, the flames burst like cannon 
discharges from the upper windows and unite 
above the crackling roof. So sudden and complete 
was the catastrophe, although slowly prepared by 
a leak in the overheated chimney between the 
floors, that even the excitement of fear and exertion 
were spared the survivors. There was bewilder- 
ment and stupor, but neither uproar nor confusion. 
People found themselves wandering in the woods, 
half-awake and half-dressed, from the balconies 
they had descended and the windows they had 
leaped they knew not how. Others on the upper 
floor neither awoke nor moved from their beds, 
but were suffocated without a cry. From the first 
an instinctive idea of the hopelessness of combating 
the conflagration possessed them all ; to a blind, 
automatic feeling to flee the building was added 
the slow mechanism of the somnambulist ; deli- 
cate women walked speechlessly, but securely, 
along ledges and roofs from which they would 
have fallen by the mere light of reason and of day. 
There was no crowding or impeding haste in 
their dumb exodus. It was only when Mrs. 
Barker awoke dishevelled in the courtyard, and 
with a hysterical outcry rushed back into the hotel, 



THREE PARTNERS 283 

that there was any sign of panic. For Mrs. Horn- 
castle, who was standing near her, fully dressed as 
from some night-long vigil, quickly followed her. 
The half-frantic woman was making directly for 
her own apartments again, whose windows those 
in the courtyard could see were already belching 
smoke. Suddenly Mrs. Horncastle stopped with 
a bitter cry and clasped her forehead. It had 
just flashed upon her that Mrs. Barker had told 
her only a few hours before that ■ Sta ' had been 
removed with the nurse to the upper floor \ It 
was not the forgotten child that Mrs. Barker was 
returning for, but her diamonds ! Mrs. Horncastle 
called her ; she did not reply. The smoke was 
already pouring down the staircase. Mrs. Horn- 
castle hesitated for a moment only, and then, 
drawing a long breath, dashed up the stairs. On 
the first landing she stumbled over something — 
the prostrate figure of the nurse. But this saved 
her, for she found that near the floor she could 
breathe more freely. Before her appeared to be 
an open door. She crept along towards it on her 
hands and knees. The frightened cry of a child, 
awakened from its sleep in the dark, gave her 
nerve to rise, enter the room and dash open 
the window. By the flashing light she could see 
a little figure rising from a bed. It was 'Sta.' 
There was not a moment to be lost, for the open 



2«4 THREE PARTNERS 

window was beginning to draw the smoke from the 
passage. Luckily, the boy, by some childish 
instinct, threw his arms round her neck and left 
her hands free. Whispering him to hold tight, 
she clambered out of the window. A narrow ledge 
of cornice scarcely wide enough for her feet ran 
along the house to a distant balcony. With her 
back to the house she zigzagged her feet along 
the cornice to get away from the smoke, which 
now poured directly from the window. Then she 
grew dizzy ; the weight of the child on her bosom 
seemed to be toppling her forward towards the abyss 
below. She closed her eyes, frantically grasp- 
ing the child with crossed arms on her breast 
as she stood on the ledge until, as seen from 
below through the twisting smoke, she might have 
seemed a figure of the Madonna and Child niched 
in the wall Then a voice from above called to 
her, ' Courage ! ' and she felt the flap of a twisted 
sheet lowered from an upper window against her 
face. She grasped it eagerly ; it held firmly. 
Then she heard a cry from below, saw them 
carrying a ladder, and at last was lifted with her 
burden from the ledge by powerful hands. Then 
only did she raise her eyes to the upper window 
whence had come her help. Smoke and flame 
were pouring from it. The unknown hero who 



THREE PARTNERS 2S5 

had sacrificed his only chance of escape to her 
remained for ever unknown. 



Only four miles away that night a group of 
men were waiting for the dawn in the shadow of 
a pine near Heavy Tree Bar. As the sky glowed 
redly over the crest between them and Hymettus, 
Hamlin said : 

' Another one of those forest fires. It's this 
side of Black Spur, and a big one, I reckon.' 

' Do you know,' said Barker thoughtfully, ■ I 
was thinking of the time the old cabin burnt 
up on Heavy Tree. It looks to be about in the 
same place.' 

' Hush ! ' said Stacy sharply. 



286 THREE PARTNERS 



CHAPTER IX 

An abandoned tunnel — an irregular orifice in the 
mountain flank which looked like a dried-up sewer 
that had disgorged through its opening the refuge 
of the mountain in red slime, gravel, and a pecu- 
liar clay known as ' cement ' in a foul streak down 
its side— a narrow ledge on either side, broken up 
by heaps of quartz, tailings, and rock, and half 
hidden in scrub, oak, and myrtle ; a decaying 
cabin of logs, bark and cobble stones — these 
made up the exterior of the Marshall claim. To 
this defacement of the mountain, the rude clearing 
of thicket and underbrush by fire or blasting, the 
lopping of tree-boughs and the decapitation of 
saplings, might be added the debris and ruins of 
half-civilised occupancy. The ground before the 
cabin was covered with broken boxes, tin cans, 
the staves and broken hoops of casks, and the 
cast-off rags of blankets and clothing. The whole 
claim in its unsavoury, unpicturesque details, and 
its vulgar story of sordid, reckless and selfish 



THREE PARTNERS 287 

occupancy and abandonment, was a foul blot on 
the landscape, which the first rosy dawn only 
made the more offending. Surely the last spot 
in the world that men should quarrel and fight for ! 
So thought George Barker, as with his com- 
panions they moved in single file slowly towards 
it. The little party consisted only of himself, 
Demorest, and Stacy ; Marshall and Hamlin — 
according to a pre-arranged plan — were still in 
ambush to join them at the first appearance of 
Steptoe and his gang. The claim was yet un- 
occupied ; they had secured their first success. 
Steptoe's followers, unaware that his design had 
been discovered, and confident that they could 
easily reach the claim before Marshall and the 
surveyor, had lingered. Some of them had held 
a drunken carouse at their rendezvous at Heavy 
Tree. Others were still engaged in procuring 
shovels and picks and pans for their mock equip- 
ment as miners, and this, again, gave Marshall's 
adherents the advantage. They knew that their 
opponents would probably first approach the 
empty claim encumbered only with their peaceful 
implements, while they themselves had brought 
their rifles with th em 

Stacy, who, by tacit consent, led the party, on 
reaching the claim at once posted Demorest and 
Barker each behind a separate heap of quartz 



288 THREE PARTNERS 

tailings on the ledge, which afforded them a 
capital breastwork, and stationed himself at the 
mouth of the tunnel which was nearest the trail. 
It had already been arranged what each man was 
to do. They were in possession. For the rest 
they must wait. What they thought at that 
moment no one knew. Their characteristic ap- 
pearance had slightly changed. The melancholy 
and philosophic Demorest was alert and bitter. 
Barker's changeful face had become fixed and 
steadfast. Stacy alone wore his ' fighting look,' 
which the others had remembered. 

They had not long to wait. The sounds of 
rude laughter, coarse skylarking, and voices more 
or less still confused with half-spent liquor came 
from the rocky trail. And then Steptoe appeared 
with part of his straggling followers, who were 
celebrating their easy invasion by clattering their 
picks and shovels and beating loudly upon their 
tins and prospecting pans. The three partners 
quickly recognised the stamp of the strangers, in 
spite of their peaceful implements. They were 
the waifs and strays of San Francisco wharves, of 
Sacramento dens, of dissolute mountain towns ; 
and there was not, probably, a single actual miner 
among them. A raging scorn and contempt took 
possession of Barker and Demorest, but Stacy 
knew their exact value. As Steptoe passed before 



THREE PARTNERS 2 8 9 

the opening of the tunnel he heard the cry of 
■ Halt ! ' 

He looked up. He saw Stacy not thirty yards 
before him with his rifle at half-cock. He saw 
Barker and Demorest, fully armed, rise from 
behind their breastworks of rock along the ledge 
and thus fully occupy the claim. But he saw 
more. He saw that his plot was known. Out- 
law and desperado as he was, he saw that he 
had lost his moral power in this actual possession, 
and that from that moment he must be the ag- 
gressor. He saw he was fighting no irresponsible 
hirelings like his own, but men of position and im- 
portance, whose loss would make a stir. Against 
their rifles the few revolvers that his men chanced 
to have slung to them were of little avail. But 
he was not cowed, although his few followers 
stumbled together at this momentary check, half 
angrily, half timorously, like wolves without a 
leader. ' Bring up the other men and their 
guns,' he whispered fiercely to the nearest. Then 
he faced Stacy. 

' Who are you to stop peaceful miners going 
to work on their own claim ? ' he said coarsely. 
• I'll tell you wAo, boys,' he added, suddenly turn- 
ing to his men with a hoarse laugh. ' It ain't even 
the bank! It's only Jim Stacy that the bank 
kicked out yesterday to save itself — Jim Stacy 

u 



290 THREE PARTNERS 

and his broken-down pals. And what's the thief 
doing here — in Marshall's tunnel — the only spot 
that Marshall can claim ? We ain't no particular 
friends o' Marshall's, though we're neighbours 
on the same claim ; but we ain't going to see 
Marshall ousted by tramps. Are we, boys ? ' 

1 No, by G — d ! ' said his followers, dropping 
the pans and seizing their picks and revolvers. 
They understood the appeal to arms if not to 
their reason. For an instant the fight seemed im- 
minent. Then a voice from behind them said : 

' You needn't trouble yourselves about that ! 
Fm Marshall! I sent these gentlemen to occupy 
the claim until I came here with the surveyor,' 
and two men stepped from a thicket of myrtle in 
the rear of Steptoe and his followers. The 
speaker, Marshall, was a thin, slight, overworked, 
over-aged man ; his companion, the surveyor, 
was equally slight, but red bearded, spectacled 
and professional-looking, with a long travelling- 
duster that made him appear even clerical. They 
were scarcely a physical addition to Stacy's party, 
whatever might have been their moral and legal 
support. 

But it was just this support that Steptoe 
strangely clung to in his designs for the future, 
and a wild idea seized him. The surveyor was 
really the only disinterested witness between 



THREE PARTNERS 



291 



the two parties. If Steptoe could confuse his 
mind before the actual fighting — from which he 
would, of course, escape as a non-combatant — it 
would go far afterwards to rehabilitate Steptoe's 
party. ' Very well, then,' he said to Marshall, ' I 
shall call this gentleman to witness that we have 
been attacked here in peaceable possession of our 
part of the claim by these armed strangers, and 
whether they are acting on your order or not, 
their blood will be on your head.' 

' Then I reckon,' said the surveyor, as he tore 
away his beard, wig, spectacles, and moustache, 
and revealed the figure of Jack Hamlin, 'that I'm 
about the last witness that Mr. Steptoe- Horncastle 
ought to call, and about the last witness that he 
ever will call ! ' 

But he had not calculated upon the desperation 
of Steptoe over the failure of this last hope. For 
there sprang up in the outlaw's brain the same 
hideous idea that he voiced to his companions at 
1 The Divide.' With a hoarse cry to his followers, 
he crashed his pickaxe into the brain of Marshall, 
who stood near him, and sprang forward. Three 
or four shots were exchanged. Two of his men 
fell, a bullet from Stacy's rifle pierced his leg, and 
he dropped forward on one knee. He heard the 
steps of his reinforcements with their weapons 
coming close behind him, and rolled aside on the 



292 THREE PARTNERS 

sloping ledge to let them pass. But he rolled 
too far. He felt himself slipping down the 
mountain-side in the slimy shoot of the tunnel. 
He made a desperate attempt to recover himself, 
but the treacherous drift of the loose ddbris rolled 
with him, as if he were part of its refuse, and, 
carrying him down, left him unconscious, but 
otherwise uninjured, in the bushes of the second 
ledge five hundred feet below. 

When he recovered his senses the shouts and 
outcries above him had ceased. He knew he was 
safe. The ledge could only be reached by a 
circuitous route three miles away. He knew, too, 
that if he could only reach a point of outcrop a 
hundred yards away he could easily descend to 
the stage road, down the gentle slope of the 
mountain hidden in a growth of hazelbrush. He 
bound up his wounded leg and dragged himself 
on his hands and knees laboriously to the outcrop. 
He did not look up ; since his pick had crashed 
into Marshall's brain he had but one blind thought 
before him — to escape at once ! That his revenge 
and compensation would come later he never 
doubted. He limped and crept, rolled and fell, 
from bush to bush through the sloping thickets 
until he saw the red road a few feet below him. 

If he only had a horse he could put miles 
between him and any present pursuit ! Why 



THREE PARTNERS 293 

should he not have one ? The road was frequented 
by solitary horsemen — miners and Mexicans. 
He had his revolver with him ; what mattered the 
life of another man if he escaped from the conse- 
quences of the one he had just taken ? He heard 
the clatter of hoofs ; two priests on mules rode 
slowly by ; he ground his teeth with disappoint- 
ment. But they had scarcely passed before 
another and more rapid clatter came from their 
rear. It was a lad on horseback. He started. 
It was his own son ! 

He remembered in a flash how the boy had 
said he was coming to meet the padre at the 
station on that day. His first impulse was to 
hide himself, his wound, and his defeat from the 
lad, but the blind idea of escape was still para- 
mount. He leaned over the bank and called to 
him. The astonished lad cantered eagerly to his 
side. 

1 Give me your horse, Eddy,' said the father ; 
1 I'm in bad luck, and must get.' 

The boy glanced at his father's face, at his 
tattered garments and bandaged leg, and read 
the whole story. It was a familiar page to him. 
He paled first and then flushed, and then, with 
an odd glitter in his- eyes, said, ' Take me with 
you, father. Do! You always did before. I'll 
bring you luck.' 



294 THREE PARTNERS 

Desperation is superstitious. Why not take 
him ! They had been lucky before, and the two 
together might confound any description of their 
identity to the pursuers. ' Help me up, Eddy, 
and then get up before me.' 

'Behind, you mean,' said the boy with a 
laugh, as he helped his father into the saddle. 

'No,' said Steptoe harshly, 'Before me, do 
you hear ? And if anything happens behind you, 
don't look! If I drop off, don't stop ! Don't get 
down, but go on and leave me. Do you under- 
stand ? ' he repeated almost savagely. 

* Yes,' said the boy tremulously. 

'All right,' said the father with a softer voice 
as he passed his one arm round the boy's body 
and lifted the reins. ' Hold tight when we come 
to the cross roads, for we'll take the first turn, for 
old luck's sake, to the Mission.' 

They were the last words exchanged between 
them, for as they wheeled rapidly to the left at 
the cross roads, Jack Hamlin and Demorest 
swung as quickly out of another road to the right 
immediately behind them. Jack's challenge to 
'Halt!' was only answered by Steptoe's horse 
springing forward under the sharp lash of the riata. 

' Hold up ! ' said Jack suddenly, laying his 
hand upon the rifle which Demorest had lifted 
to his shoulder. ' He's carrying someone. A 



THREE PARTNERS 295 

wounded comrade, I reckon. We don't want 
him. Swing out and go for the horse ; well 
forward, in the neck or shoulder.' 

Demorest swung far out to the right of the road 
and raised his rifle. As it cracked, Steptoe's horse 
seemed to have suddenly struck some obstacle 
ahead of him rather than to have been hit himself, 
for his head went down with his fore feet under 
him, and he turned a half-summersault on the 
road, flinging his two riders a dozen feet away. 

Steptoe scrambled to his knees, revolver in 
hand, but the other figure never moved. ' Hands 
up ! ' said Jack, sighting his own weapon. The 
reports seemed simultaneous, but Jack's bullet 
had pierced Steptoe's brain even before the out- 
law's pistol exploded harmlessly in the air. 

The two men dismounted, but by a common 
instinct they both ran to the prostrate figure that 
had never moved. 

' By God ! it's a boy ! ' said Jack, leaning over 
the body and lifting the shoulders from which the 
head hung loosely. 'Neck broken and dead as 
his pal.' Suddenly he started, and, to Demorest's 
astonishment, began hurriedly pulling off the glove 
from the boy's limp right hand. 

' What are you doing ? ' demanded Demorest 
in creeping horror. 

' Look ! ' said Jack, as he laid bare the small 



296 THREE PARTNERS 

white hand. The two first fingers were merely- 
unsightly stumps that had been hidden in the 
padded glove. 

1 Good God ! Van Loo's brother ! ' said 
Demorest recoiling. 

' No ! ' said Jack, with a grim face, ' it's what 
I have long suspected — it's Steptoe's son ! ' 

' His son ?' repeated Demorest. 

' Yes,' said Jack ; and he added, after looking 
at the two bodies with a long drawn whistle of 
concern, 'and I wouldn't, if I were you, say 
anything of this to Barker.' 

1 Why ? ' said Demorest. 

' Well,' returned Jack ; * when our scrimmage 
was over down there, and they brought the news 
to Barker that his wife and her diamonds were 
burnt up at the hotel, you remember that they 
said that Mrs. Horncastle had saved his boy.' 

1 Yes,' said Demorest ; ' but what has that to 
do with it ? ' 

' Nothing, I reckon,' said Jack, with a slight 
shrug of his shoulders, ' only Mrs. Horncastle 
was the mother of the boy that's lying there.' 

Two years later as Demorest and Stacy sat 
before the fire in the old cabin on Marshall's 
claim — now legally their own — they looked from 
the door beyond the great bulk of Black Spur to 



THREE PARTNERS 297 

the pallid snow line of the Sierras, still as 
remote and unchanged to them as when they had 
gazed upon it from Heavy Tree Hill. And, for 
the matter of that, they themselves seemed to 
have been left so unchanged that, even now, as 
in the old days, it was Barker's voice as he greeted 
them from the darkening trail that alone broke 
their reverie. 

' Well,' said Demorest cheerfully, ' your usual 
luck, Barker boy ! ' for they already saw in his face 
the happy light they had once seen there on an 
eventful night seven years ago. 

( I'm to be married to Mrs. Horncastle next 
month,' he said breathlessly, 'and little " Sta " 
loves her already as if she was his own mother. 
Wish me joy.' 

A slight shadow passed over Stacy's face. 
But his hand was the first to grasp Barker's and 
his voice the first to say ■ Amen ! ' 



THE END. 



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Uncle Jack. 
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Well Then. 
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Herr Paulus. 
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A Living Lie. 

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S.Katherines bv Tower 
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Love Me for Ever. 

Annan Water. 

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ROB. BUCHANAN & HY. MURRAY 

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Rie's Diary. 

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The Red Sultnn. | The Burden of Isabel. 

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No Name. | Antonina 
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Queen of Hearts. 
My Miscellanies. 
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Man and Wife. 
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• I Say No." 
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You Play me FalS8. 
COOPER. 



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Blacksmith & Scholar. 
The Village Comedy. 

By E. H 

Geoffory Hamilton. 

By V. CECIL COTES. 

Two Girls on a Barge. 

By C. EGBERT CRADDOCK. 

His Vanished Star. 

By H. N. CRELLIN. 

Romances of tho Old Seraglio. 

By MATT CRIM. 

The Adventures of a Fair Rebel. 

By S. R. CROCKETT and others 

Tales of Our Coast. 

By B. M. CROKER. 



The Real Lady Hilda. 
Married or Single ? 
Two Masters. 
IntheKingdom of Kerry 
Interference. 
A Third Person, 



Diana Barrington. 
Proper Pride. 
A Family Likeness. 
Pretty Miss Neville. 
A Bird of Passage. 
'To Let.' I Mr. Jervls. 
Village Tales & Jungle 
Tragedies. 

By WILLIAM CYPLES. 
Hearts of Gold. 

By ALPHONSE DAUDET. 

The Evangelist j or, Tort Salvation. 

By H. COLEMAN DAVIDSON. 

Mr. Sadler's Daughters. 

By ERASMUS DAWSON. 

The Fountain of Youth. 

By JAMES DE MILLE. 

A Castle in Spain. 

By. J. LEITH DERWENT. 

Our Lady of Tears. | Circe's Lovers. 

By DICK DONOVAN. 
Tracked to Doom. I The Mystery of Jamaica 

Man from Manchester. | Terrace. 
The Chronicles of Michael Danevitch. 

By RICHARD DOWLING. 
Old Corcoran's Money. 

By A. CONAN DOYLE. 
The Firm of Gird'estone. 

By S. JEANNETTE DUNCAN. 
A Daughter of Today. | Vernon s Aunt. 
By G. MANVILLE FENN. 
The New Mistress. I The Tiger Lily. 

Witness to the Deed. | The White Virgin. 

By PERCY FITZGERALD. 
Fatal Zero. 

By R. E. FRANCILLON. 
One by One. j Ropes of Sand. 

A Dog and his Shadow. Jack Doyle s Daughter. 
A Real Queen. 

Prefaced by Sir BARTLE FRERE. 
Panduiang Hari. 

BY EDWARD GARRETT. 
The Capel Girls. 

By PAUL GAULOT. 
The Red Shirts. 

By CHARLES GIBBON. 
Robin Gray. I Of High Degree. 

Loving a Dream. | The Golden Shaft. 

By E. GLANVILLE. 
The Lost Heiress. I The Golden Rock. 

A Fair Colonist. Tales from the Veld* 

The Fossicker. I 

By E. J. GOODMAN. 
The Fate of Herbert Wayne. 

By Rev. S. BARING GOULD. 
Red Spider. | Eve. 

By CECIL GRIFFITH. 

Corinthla Marazion, 



38 



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By SYDNEY GRUNDY. 
The Days of his Vanity. 

By OWEN HALL. 

The Track of a Storm. | Jetsam. 

By THOMAS HARDY. 

Under the Greenwood Tree. 

By BRET HARTE. 

A Waif of the Plains. 
A Ward of the Golden 
Gate. [Springs. 

A Sappho of Green 
Col. Starbottle's Client 
Susy. I Sally Dows 
Bell Ringer of Angel's, 



A Protegee of Jack 

Hamlin s. 
Clarence. 
Barker's Luck. 
Devil's Ford, [cels'or. 1 
The Crusade of the ' Ex- 
Three Partners. 



By JULIAN HAWTHORNE. 



Beatrix Randolph. 

David Poindexters Dis- 
appearance. 

The Spectre of the 
Camera. 



Garth 

Ellice Quentin. 

Sebastian Stroma 

Dust. 

Fortune's Fool. 

By Sir A. HELPS. 
Ivan de Biron. 

By I. HENDERSON. 
Agatha Page. 

By G. A. HENTY. 
Rujub the Juggler. I The Queen's Cup. 

Dorothy's Double. 

By JOHN HILL. 
The Common Ancestor. 

By Mrs. HUNGERFORD. 
I.ady Verner's Flight. | Nora Creina. 
The Red House Mystery An Anxious Moment. 
The Three Graces. | April s Lady. 

Professor s Experiment. I Peter's Wife. 
A Point of Conscience. I 

By Mrs. ALFRED HUNT. 
The Leaden Casket. I Self Condemned. 
That Other Person. | Mrs. Juliet. 

By C. J. CUTCLIFFE HYNE. 
Honour of Thieves. 

By R. ASHE KING. 
A Drawn Game. 

By EDMOND LEPELLETIER. 
Madame Sans Gi ne. 

By HARRY LINDSAY. 
Rhoda Roberts. 

By HENRY W. LUCY. 
Gideon Flevce 

By E. LYNN LINTON. 



Patricia Kemball. 
Under which Lord ? 
' Mv Love I ' I lone. 
Paston Carew. 
Sowing the Wind. 



The Atonement of Learn 

Dundas. 
The World Well Lost. 
The One Too Many. 
Dulcie Everton. 



By justin McCarthy. 



A Fair Saxon. 

Linley Rochford. 

Dear Lady Disdain. 

Camiola. 

Waterdale Neighbours. 

My Enemy's Daughter. 

Miss Misanthrope. 



Donna Quixote. 

Maid of Athens. 

The Comet of a Season. 

The Dictator. 

Red Diamonds. 

The Riddle Ring. 

The Three Disgraces. 



By JUSTIN H. MCCARTHY. 

A London Legend. | The Royal Christopher. 

By GEORGE MACDONALD. 
Heather and Snow. | Phantaste3. 

By L. T. MEADE. 
A Soldier of Fortune. I The Voice of the 
In an Iron Grip | Charmer. 

By L. T. MEADE and CLIFFORD 
HALIFAX, M.D. 
Dr. Ramsey's Patient. 

By LEONARD MERRICK. 
This Stage of Fools. | Cynthia. 

By BERTRAM M1TFORD. 
The Gun Runner. | The King's Assegai. 

The Luck of Gerard Renahaw Fanning 's 
Ridgeley. I Quest. 

By J. E. MUDDOCK. 
Maid Marian and Robin Hood. 
Basile the Jester. 1 Young Lochin var. 



By D. CHRISTIE MURRAY. 



A Life's Atonement. 
Joseph's Coat. 
Coals of Fire. 
Old Blazer's Hero. 
Val Strange. | Hearts. 
A Model Father. 
By the Gate of the Sea. 
A Bit of Human Nature. 
First Person Singular. 



Cynic Fortune. 
The Way of the World. 
BobMartin s Little GirL 
Time's Revenues. 
A Wasted Crime. 
In Direst Peril. 
Mount Despair. 
A Capful o Nails. 
Tales and Poems. 



By MURRAY and HERMAN. 

The Bishops' Bible. I Paul Jones's Alias. 

One Traveller Returns. | 

By HUME NISBET. 
' Bail Up ! ' 

By W. E. NORRIS. 
Saint Ann's. | Billy Belle w. 

By G. OHNET. 
A Weird Gift. 

By Mrs. OLIPMANT. 
The Sorceiess. 

By OUIDA. 



Held in Bondage. 

Strathmore. 

Chandos. 

Under Two Flags. 

Idalia. [Gage. 

Cecil Castlemaine 1 

Tricotrin. | Puck. 

Folle Farine. 

A Dog of Flanden. 

Pascarel. | Signa. 

Princess Napraxine. 

Ariadne. 



Two Little Wooden 

In & Winter City. Bhoei 

Friendship. 

Moths. I Ruffino. 

Pipistrello. 

A Village Commune. 

Bimbi. I Wandj.. 

Frescoes. | Othmar. 

In Maremma. 

8yrlin. | Gulldoroy. 

Santa Barbara. 

Two Offenders. 



By MARGARET A. PAUL. 

Gentle and Simple. 

Bv JAMES PAYN. 



Lost Sir Massingberd. 
Less Black than We're 

Painted. 
A Confidential Agent. 
A Grape from a Thorn. 
In Peril and Privation. 
The Mystery of Mir- 
Bv Proxy. [bridge. 

The Canon's Ward. 
Walter's Word. 



High Spirits. 
Under One ROof. 
Glow worm Tales. 
The Talk of the Town. 
Holiday Tasks. 
For Cash Only. 
The Burnt Million. 
The Word and the WilL 
Sunny Stories. 
A Trying Patient. 

By WILL PAYNE. - 

Jerry the Dreamer. 

By Mrs. CAMPBELL PRAED. 

Outlaw and Lawmaker. I Mrs. Tregaskiss. 
Christina Chard. 

By E. C. PRICE. 

Valentina. | Foreigners. | Mrs. Lancaster s Rival 
By RICHARD PRYCE. 

Miss Maxwell's Affections. 

By CHARLES READE. 



Peg Wofflngton ; and 
Christie Johnstone. 

Hard Cash. 

Cloister & the Hearth. 

Never Too Late to Mend 

The Course of True 
Love Never Did Run 
Smooth ; and Single- 
heart andDoubleface. 

Autobiography of a 
Thief; Jack of all 
Tiades; A Hero and 
a Martyr ; and The 
Wandering Heir. 

Griffith Gaunt. 



Love Me Little, Love 
Me Long. 

The Double Marriage. 

Foul Play. 

Put Yourself in His 
Place. 

A Terrible Temptation. 

A Simpleton. 

A Woman Hater. 

The Jilt & others- ories; 
& Good Stories of Man 
and other Animate. 

A Perilous Secret. 

Readiana ; and Bibla 
Characters. 



By Mrs. J. H. RIDDELL. 

Weird Stories. 

By AMELIE RIVES. 

Barbara Dering. 

By F. W. ROBINSON. 

The Hands of Justice. | Woman in the Dirk. 
By DORA RUSSELL. 

▲ Country Sweetheart. | The Drift of fate. 



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29 



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By VV. CLARK RUSSELL. 



My Shipmate Louise. 
Alone onWideWide Sea. 
The Phantom Heath. 
Is He the Man ? 
Good Ship 'Mohock.' 
The Convict Ship. 
Heart of Oak. 
The Tale of the Ten. 
The Last Entry. 
5T. JOHN. 



Round the Galley-Fire. 
In the Middle Watch. 
On the Fo'k'sle Head. 
A Voyage to the Cape. 
Book for the Hammock. 
Mysteryof 'Ocean Star' 
The Romance of Jenny 

Harlowe. 
An Ocean Tragedy. 

By BAYLE 
A Levantine Family. 

By JOHN SAUNDERS. 
Guy Waterman. I The Two Dreamers. 

Bound to the Wheel. | The Lion in the Path. 
. By KATHARINE SAUNDERS. 
Margaretand Elizabeth I Heart Salvage. 
Gideon's Rock. Sebastian. 

The Hi?h Mills. 

^ By ADELINE SERGEANT. 
Dr. Endicott s Experiment. 
m By HAWLEY SMART. 

Without Love or Licence. | The Outsider. 
The Master of Rathkelly. Beatrice & Benedick 
Long Odds. | A Racing Rubber. 

By T. W. SPEIGHT. 
A Secret of the Sea. 
The Grey Monk. 

By ALAN ST. AUBYN. 

In Face of the World. 



I The Master of Trenance. 
I A Minion of the Moon. 



Orchard Damerel. 

The Tremlett Diamonds. 



A Fellow of Trinity 
The Junior Dean. 
Master of St. Benedict's, 
To his Own Master. 

By JOHN STAFFORD. 
Doris and I. 

By RICCARDO STEPHENS. 
The Cruciform Mark. 
m By R. A. STERNDALE. 

The Afghan Knife. 

i By R. L0UI5 STEVENSON. 
Tne Suicide Club. 

By BERTHA THOMAS. 
Proud Maisie. | Th<j Violin Player. 

n.u J 5 * ANTHOrJV TROLLOPE. 
The Way we Live Now. 1 GcarLoroagh's Family, 
Frau Frob.Kg.an. |The Land Leaguers. 



, By FRANCES E. TROLLOPE. 

Like Ships upon the I Anne Furness. 

Sea. I Mabel's Progress. 

m By IVAN TURGENIEFF, &c. 
Stones from Foreign Novelists. 

By MARK TWAIN. 



Choice 



Tom Sawyer, Detective 
Pudd'nhead Wilson. 
The Gilded Age. 
Prince and the Pauper. 
Life on the Mississippi. 
The Adventures of 

Huckleberry Finn. 
A Yankee at the Court 

of King Arthur. 
Stolen White Elephant. 
£1,000,0C0 Banknote. 



Mark Twains 

Works 
Mark Twain's Library 

of Humour. 
The Innocents Abroad. 
Roughing It ; and The 

Innocents at Home. 
A Tramp Abroad. 
The American Claimant. 
AdventuresTomSawyer 
Tom Sawyer Abroad. 

By C. C. FRASER-TYTLER. 

Mistress Judith. 

By SARAH TYTLER. 

Lady Bell. | The Macdonald Lass. 

Buried Diamonds. The Witch- Wife. 

The Blackball &\->sts. | 

By ALXEN UPWARD. 

The Queen against Owen I The Prince of Balkistan, 
By E. A. VIZETELLY. 

The Scorpion : A Romance of Spain. 

By WILLIAM WESTALL. 

Sons of Belial. 

By ATHA WESTBURY. 

The Shadow of Hilton Fernbrook. 

By C. J. WILLS. 
An Easy-going Fellow. 

By JOHN STRANGE WINTER. 

Cavalry Life and Regimental Legends. 
A Soldier's Children. 

By MARGARET WYNMAN. 
My Flirtations. 

By E. 

The Downfall. 
The Dream. 
Dr. Pascal. 

Money. | Lourdes. 
By 



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ZOLA. 

The Fat and the Thin. 
His Excellency. 
The Dram-Shop. 
Rome. I Paris. 
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By EDMOND ABOUT. 

The Fellah. 

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Carr of Carrlyon. | Confidences. 

By MARY ALBERT. 
Brooke Finchley's Daughter. 

By Mrs. ALEXANDER. 
Maid, Wife or Widow'/ | Valerie's Fate. 
Blind Fate. 

By GRANT ALLEN. 



Philistia 

Strange Stories. 

Babvlon. 

For Maimie'i Sike. 

In r.ll 3hides. 

The Beckoning Hand. 

The Devils D:e. 

The Tents of Shem. 

By E. LESTER ARNOLD. 
Phrathe Phoenician. 

BY FRANK BARRETT. 



The Great Taboo. 
Dumaresq's Daughter. 
Duchess (if Powysland. 
Blood Royal. [piece 
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Tui 5 Mortal Coil. 
At Market Value. 



Fettered for Life. 
Little Lady Linton. 
Between Life <t Death. 
The Sin of Olga Zassou 

lich. 
Folly Morrison. 
Lieut. Barnabas. 
Honest Davie. 



A Prodigal's Prosress. 
Found Guilty. 
A Recoiling Vengeance. 
For Love and Honour. 
John Ford; and Hi3 

Helpmate. 
The Woman of the Iron 

Bracelets. 



By SHELSLEY BEAUCHAMP. 

Grantley Grange. 
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Ready Money Mortiboy 
My Little Girl. 
With Harp and Crown 
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The Golden Butterfly. 
The Monks of Thelema 



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Chaplain of the Fleet. 
The Seamy Side. 
The Case of Mr. Lucraft. 
In Trafalgar's Bay. 
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All Sorts and Condi 

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The Captains' Room. 
All in a Garden Fair. 
Dorothy Forster. 
Uncle Jack. 
The World Went Very 

Well Then. 
Children of Gibeon. 
Herr Paulus. 
For Faith and Freedom. 



To Call Her Mine. 
The Bell of St. Paul's. 
The Holy Rose. 
Armorel of Lyonesse. 
S.Katherine's by Tower. 
Verbena Cameilia Ste- 

phanotis. 
The Ivoi-y Gate. 
The Rebel Queen. 
Bey or d the Dreams of 

Avarice. 



By AMBROSE B1ERCE. 

In the Midst of Life. 

By FREDERICK BOYLE. 
Camp Notes. | Chronicles of No man's 

Savage Life. | Land. 

BY BRET HARTE. 



Californian Stories. 

Gabriel Conroy. 

The Luck of Roaring 

Camp. 
An Heiress of Red Dog. 



Flip. I Maruja. 

A Phyllis of the Sierraj. 
A Waif of the Plains. 
A Ward of the Golden 
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Uncle Sam at Home. 

By ROBERT BUCHANAN. 

Shadow of the Sword. The Martyrdom of Ma- 

A Child of Nature. 

God and the Man. 

Lcve Me for Ever. 

Foxglove Manor. 

The Master of the Mine 

Annan Water. 

By BUCHANAN and MURRAY. 

The Charlatan. 

By HALL CAINE. 
The Shadow of a Crime. I The Deemster. 
A Son of Hagar. 

By Commander CAMERON. 
The Cruise of the 'Black Prince.' 

By Mrs. LOVETT CAMERON. 
Deceivers Ever. | Juliet's Guardian. 

By HAYDEN CARRUTH. 
The Adventures of Jones. 

By AUSTIN CLARE. 
For the Love of a Lass. 

By Mrs. ARCHER CLIVE. 

Paul Ferroll. 

Why Paul Ferroll Killed his Wife. 

By MACLAREN COBBAN. 
The Cure of Souls. | The Red Sultan. 

By C. ALLSTON COLLINS. 
The Bar Sinister. 
By MORT. & FRANCES COLLINS. 



Sweet Anne Page 
Transmigration. 
From Midnight to Mid 

night. 
A Fight with Fortune. I Frances. 

By WILKIE COLLINS 



Sweet and Twenty. 
The Village Comedy. 
You Play me Falsa. 
Blacksmith and Scholar 



My Miscellanies. 
The Woman in White. 
The Moonstone. 
Man and Wife. 
Poor Miss Finch. 
The Fallen Leaves. 
Jezebel's Daughter. 
The Black Robe. 
Heart and Science. 
' I Say No ! ' 
The Evil Genius. 
Little Novels. 
Legacy of Cain. 
Blind Love. 



Armidale. | AfterDark. 

No Name. 

Antonina. 

Basil. 

Hide and Seek. 

The Dead Secret. 

Queen of Hearts. 

Miss or Mrs. ? 

The New Magdalen. 

The Frozen Deep. 

The Law and the Lady 

The Two Destinies. 

The Haunted Hotel. 

A Rogue's Life. 

By M. J. COLQUHOUN. 
Et»ry Inch a Soldier. 

By DUTTON COOK. 
Leo. I Paul Foster's Daughter. 

By C. EGBERT CRADDOCK. 
The Prophet of the Great Smoky Mountains. 

By MATT CRIM. 
The Adventures of a Fair Rebel. 

By B. M. CROKER. 
Pretty Miss Neville. A Family Likeness. 

Diana Barring ton. Village Tales and Jungle 

•To Let.' Tragedies. 

A Bird of Passage. Two Masters. 

Proper Pride. | Mr. Jervi3. 

By W. CYPLES. 
Hearts of Gold. 

By ALPHONSE DAUDET. 

The Evangelist: or, Port Salvation. 

By ERASMUS DAWSON. 

The Fountain of Youth. 

By JAMES DE MILLE. 
A Castle in Spain. 

By J. LEITH DERVVENT. 

Oar Lady of Tears. I Circe's Lov«rs. 
By CHARLES DICKENS. 

rk.tches by Boz. 



By DICK DONOVAN. 



In the Grip of the Law. 
From Lnlormation Re- 
ceived. 
Tracked to Doom. 
Link by Link 
Suspicion Aroused. 
DarkT)eeds. 
Riddles Read. 



The Man-Hunter. 
Tracked and Taken. 
Caught at Last 1 
Wanted I 
Who Poisoned Hetty 

Duncan ? 
Man from Manchester. 
A Detective's Triumphs 
The Mystery of Jamaica Terrace 

By Mrs. ANNIE EDWARDES. 
A Point of Honour. | Archie Lovell. 

By M. BETHAM-EDWARDS. 
Felicia. | Kitty. 

By EDWARD EGGLESTON. 
Ror.y. 

By G. MANVILLE FENN. 
The New Mistress. I The Tiger Lily. 

Witness to the Deed. | The White Virgin. 

By PERCY FITZGERALD. 
Bella Donna. Second Mrs. Tillotson. 

Never Forgotten. Seventy - five Brooke 

Polly. Street. 

Fatal Zero. The Lady of Brantome 

By P. FITZGERALD and others. 
Strange Secrets. 

By ALBANY DE FONBLANQUE. 
Filthy Lucre. 

FRANCILLON. 
King or Knave? 



By R. E. 

Olympia. 
One by One. 
A Real Queen. 
Queen Cophetua. 



Romantes of the Law. 

Ropes of Sand. 

A Dog and hi3 Shadow. 



By HAROLD FREDERIC. 

Seth's Brother's Wife. | The Lawton Girl. 
Prefaced by Sir BARTLE FRERE. 
Pandurang Hari. 

By HAIN FRISWELL. 
One of Two. 

By EDWARD GARRETT. 
The Capel Girls. 

By GILBERT GAUL. 
A Strange Manuscript. 

By CHARLES GIBBON. 



In Honour Bound. 
Flower of the Forest 
The Braes of Yarrow. 
The GoJden Shaft. 
Of High Degree. 
By Mead and Stream. 
Loving a Dream. 
A Hard Knot. 
Heart's Delight. 
Blood-Money. 



Robin Gray. 

Fancy Free. 

For Lack of Gold. 

What will World Say 

In Love and War. 

For the King. 

In Pastures Green. 

Queen of the Meadow. 

A Heart's Problem. 

The Dead Heart. 

By WILLIAM GILBERT. 
Dr. Austin's Guests. 1 The Wizard of 
James Duke. | Mountain. 

By ERNEST GLANVILLE. 

The Lost Heiress. I The Fossicker. 

A Fair Colonist. 

By Rev. S. BARING GOULD 

Red Spider. | Eve. 

By HENRY GREVILLE. 

A Noble Woman. | Nikanor. 

By CECIL GRIFFITH. 
Corinthia Marazion. 

By SYDNEY GRUNDY. 
The Days of his Vanity. 

By JOHN HABBERTON. 
Brueton s Bayou. | Country Luck. 

By ANDREW HALLIDAY. 
Every day Papers. 

By Lady DUFFUS HARDY. 
Paul Wynter's Sacrifice. 

By THOMAS HARDY. 
Under the Greenwood Tree. 

By J. BERWICK HARWOOD, 
The Tenth ilari. 



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Two-Shilling Novels— continued. 

By JULIAN HAWTHORNE. 

Beatrix Randolph. 



Garth. 

Eilice Qtientin. 

Fortune s Foci. 

Miss Cadogna. 

Sebastian Stroma. 

Dust. 



Love— or a Name. 
David Poindexter's Dis- 
appearance. 
The Spectre of the 
Camera. 

By Sir ARTHUR HELPS. 
Ivan de Biron. 

By G. A. HENTY. 

Rujub the Juggler. 

By HENRY HERMAN. 

A Leading Lady. 

By HEADON HILL. 

Zambra the Detective. 

By JOHN HILL. 

Treason Felony. 

By Mrs. CASHEL HOEY. 

The Lover's Creed. 

m By Mrs. GEORGE HOOPER. 

The House of Raby. 

By TIGHE HOPKINS. 

Twixt Love and Duty. 

By Mrs. HUNGERFORD. 

A Maiden all Forlorn. I Lady Verner's Flight 
In Durance Vile. | The Red House Mystei y 

Marvel. I The Three Graces 

A Mental Struggle. Unsatisfactory Lover, 

A Modern Circe. | Lady Patty. 

By Mrs. ALFRED HUNT. 
Thornicroft's Model. 1 Self Condemned. 
That Other Person. | The Leaden Casket. 

By JEAN INGELOVV. 

Fated to be Free. 

By VVM. JAMESON. 

My Dead Self. 

^ By HARRIETT JAY. 

The Dark Colleen. | Queen of Connaught. 

By MARK KERSHAW. 
Colonial Facts and Fictions. 

By R. ASHE KING. 

A Drawn Game. | Pasiion s Slave. 

•The Weaiing of the Bell Earry. 
Green.' . 

By EDMOND LEPELLETIER. 

Madame Sans Gene. 

By JOHN LEYS. 

The Lindsays. 

By E. LYNN LINTON. 



Patricia Kemball. 
The World Well Lost. 
Under which Lord ? 
Paston Carew. 
' My Love I ' 
lone. 

By HENRY W. LUCY.' 
Gideon Fieyce. 



The Atonement of Learn 

Dundas. 
With a Silken Thread. 
Rebel of the Family. 
Sowing the Wind. 
The One Too Many. 



By justin McCarthy. 



Camiola. 
Donna Quixote. 
Maid of Athens. 
The Comet of a Season. 
The Dictator. 
Red Diamonds. 
MACCOLL. 



Dear Lady Disdain. 
Waterdale Neishbours 
My Enemy's Daughter 
A Fair Saxon. 
Linley Rochford. 
Miss Misanthrope. 

By HUGH 

Mr. Stranger's Sealed Packet. 

By GEORGE MACDONALD. 
Heather and Snow. 

By AGNES MACDONELL. 
Quaker Cousins. 

By KATHARINE S. MACQUOID 
The Evil Eye. | Lost liose. 

By W. H. MALLOCK. 
A Romance of the Nine- I The New R*uublic. 
teenth Century. 1 



By FLORENCE MARRYAT. 

Open I Sesame ! I A Harvest of Wild Oats. 

Fighting the Air. | Written in Fire. 

By J. MASTERMAN. 

Half-a-dozen Daughters. 

By BRANDER MATTHEWS. 

A Secret of the Sea. 

By L. T. MEADE. 

A Soldier of Fortune. 

By LEONARD MERRICK. 

The Man who was Good. 

By JEAN MIDDLEMASS. 

Touch and Go. | Mr. Dorillion. 

By Mrs. MOLESWORTH. 

Hathercourt Rectory. 

By J. E. MUDDOCK. 

Stories Weird and Won- I From the Bosom of the 

deriul. Deep. 

The Dead Man's Secret. | 

By_D, CHRISTIE MURRAY. 



A Model Father. 

Joseph's Coat. 

Coals of Fire. 

Val Strange. | Hearts. 

Old Blazer s Hero. 

The Way of the World. 

Cynic Fortune. 

A Life's Atonement. 



By the Gate of the Sea. 
A Bit of Human Nature. 
First Person Singular. 
Bob Martin's Little Girl 
Time's Revenges. 
A Wasted Crime. 
In Direst Peril. 
I Mount Despair. 



By MURRAY and HERA1AN. 

One Traveller Returns. I The Bishops' Bible. 
Paul Jones's Alias. | 

By HENRY MURRAY. 

A Game of Bluff. | A Song of Sixpence. 

By HUME NISBET. 
' Bail Up I " | Dr.Bernard St. Vincent. 

By W. E. NORRIS. 
Saint Anns. 

By ALICE O'HANLON. 
The Unforeseen. | Chance ? or Fate T 

By GEORGES OHNET. 
Dr. Rameau. I A Weird Gift. 

A Last Love. 

By Mrs. OLIPHANT. 
Whiteladies. | The Greatest Heiress in 

Tne Primrose Path. | England. 

By Mrs. ROBERT O'REILLY. 
Phoebe s Fortunes. 

By OUIDA. 



Held in Bondage. 

Strathmore. 

Chandos. 

Idalia. 

Under Two Flags. 

Cecil Castlemaine sGage 

Tricotrin. 

Puck. 

Folle Farine. 

A Dog of Flanders. 

Pascarel. 

Signa. 

Princess Napraxine. 

In a Winter City. 

Ariadne. 

Friendship. 



Two Lit. Wooden Shoes. 

Moths. 

Bimbi. 

Pipistrello. 

A Village Commune. 

Wanda. 

Othmar 

Frescoes. 

In Maremma. 

Guilderoy. 

Ruffino. 

Syrlin. 

Santa Barbara. 

Two Offenders. 

Ouida's Wisdom, Wit 
and Pathos. 
By MARGARET AGNES PAUL. 
Gentle and Simple. 

By C. L. PIRKIS. 
Lady Lovelace. 

_ By EDGAR A. POE. 

The Mystery of Marie Roget. 

By Mrs. CAMPBELL PRAED. 
The Romance of a Station. 
The Soul of Countess Adrian. 
Out 1 aw and Lawmaker. 
Christina Chard. 

By E. C. PRICE. 
Valentina. i Mrs. Lancaster's Rival. 

The Foreigners. (Gerald. ■»«•»■ 

By RICHARD PRYC8. 
Viss Maxwell's Affections. ^ 



33 



CHATTO & WiNDUS, in St. Martin's Lane, London, W-.C. 



Two-Shilling Novels— continued. 
By JAMES PAYN. 

Bentinck'a Tutor. 

Murphy's Master. 

A County Family. 

At Her Mercy. 

Cecil's Tryst. 

The Clyffards of C'yffe. 

The Foster Brothers. 

Found Dead. 

The Best of Husbands. 

Walter's Word 

Halves. 

Fallen Fortunes. 

Humorous Stories. 

£200 Reward. 

A Marine Residence. 

Mirk Abbey 

By Proxy. 

Under One Roof. 

High Spirits. 

Carlyon's Year. 

From Exile. 

For Cash Only. 

Kit. 

The Canon's Ward. 



The Talk of the Town. 
Holiday Tasks. 
A Perfect Treasure. 
What He Cost Her. 
A Confidential Agent. 
Glow-worm Tales. 
The Burnt Million. 
Sunny Stories. 
Lost Sir Massingberd. 
A Woman's Vengeance. 
The Family Scapegrace. 
Gwendoline s Harvest. 
Like Father. Like Son. 
Married Beneath Him. 
Not Wooed, but Won. 
Less Black than We're 

Painted. 
Some Private Views. 
A Grape from a Thorn. 
The Mystery of Mir- 

bridge. 
The Word and the Will. 
A Prince of the Blood. 
A Trying Patient. 
By CHARLES READE. 
It is Never Too Late to A Terrible Temptation. 



Foul Play. 

The Wandering Heir. 

Hard Cash. 

Singleheart and Double- 
face. 

Good Stories of Man and 
.other Animals. 

Peg Woffington. 

Griffith Gaunt. 

A Perilous Secret. 

A Simpleton. 

Readiana. 

A Woman-Hater. 



Mend 
Christie Johnstone. 
The Double Marriage. 
Put Yourself in His 

Place 
Love Me Little, Love 

Me Long. 
The Cloister and the 

Hearth. 
The Course of True 

Love. 
The Jilt. 
The Autobiography of ; 

a Thief. I 

By Mrs. J. H. RIDDELL. 
Weird Stories. The Uninhabited House. 

Fairy Water. The Mystery in Palace 

Her Mother's Darling. Gardens. 

The Prince of Wales s The Nun s Curse. 

Garden Party. Idle Talcs. 

By AMELIE RIVES. 
Barbara Dering. 

By F. W. ROBINSON. 
Women are Strange. | The Hands of Justice. 

By JAMES RUNC1MAN. 
Skippers and Shellbacks. | Schools and Scholars. 
Grace Balmaign s Sweetheart. 

By W. CLARK RUSSELL 
Round the Galley Fire. ' 
On the Fo'k'sle Head 



The Romance of Jenny 
Hariowe. 

An Ocean Tragedy. 

My Shipmate Louise. 

Alone onWideWide Sea. 

The Good Ship 'Mo- 
hock.' 

The Phantom Death. 



In the Middle Watch. 
A Voyage to the Cape. 
A Book for the Ham- 
mock. 
The Mystery of the 
' Ocean Star.' 

By DORA RUSSELL. 
A Country Sweetheart. 

By GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA. 
Gaslight and Daylight. 

By JOHN SAUNDERS. 
Guy Waterman. I The Lion in the Path. 

The Two Dreamers. | 

By KATHARINE SAUNDERS. 
Joan Merrvweather. I Sebastian. 
The High Mills. Margaret and Eliza- 

Heart Salvage. beth. 

By GEORGE R. SIMS. 
The Ring o Bells. My Two Wives. 

Mary Jane's Memoirs. Zeph. 
Mary Jane Married. Memoirs of a Landlady. 

Tales of To day. Scenes from the Show. 

Dramas of Life. The 10 Commandments. 

Tinkletop's Crime. Dagonet Abroad. 

By ARTHUR SKETCHLEY. 
A Match in the Dark. 



By HAWLEY SA1ART. 

Without Love or Licence. 

The Plunger. 

Beatrice and Benedick. 

By T. \V. SPEIGHT. 

The Mysteries of Heron i Back to Life. 

Dyke. I The LoudwaterTragedy. 

The Golden Hoop. Burgo s Romance. 

Hoodwinked. Quittance in Full. 

By Devious Ways. ' A Husband from the Sea 

By ALAN ST. AUBYN. 
A Fellow of Trinity. I To His Own Master. 
The Junior Dean. Orchard Damerel. 

Master of St.Beuedlct's i In the Face of the Wo rid. 

By R. A. STERNDALE. 

The Afghan Knife. 

By R. LOUIS STEVENSON. 
New Arabian Nights. 

By BERTHA THOMAS. 
Cressida. I The Violin- Player. 

Proud Maisie. 

By WALTER THORNBURY. 
Tales for the Marines. | Old Stories Retold. 

By T. ADOLPHUS TROLLOPE. 
Diamond Cut Diamond. 

By F. ELEANOR TROLLOPE. 
Like Ships upon the I Anne Furness. 
Sea. I Mabel's Progress. 

By ANTHONY TROLLOPE 



The Land-Leaguers. 
The American Senator. 
Mr. Scarborough's 

Family. 
GoldenLion of Granpera 



Frau Frohmann 
Marion Fay. % 
Kept in the Dark. 
John Caldigate. 
The Way We Live Now 

By J. T. TROWBRIDGE. 
Farnells Folly. 

By IVAN TURGENIEFF, &c 
Stories from Foreign Novelists. 

By MARK TWAIN. 



A Pleasure Trip on the 

Continent. 
The Gilded Age. 
Huckleberry Finn. 
MavkTwaih s Sketches. 
Tom Sawyer. 
A Tramp Abroad. 
Stolen White Elephant. 

By C. C. FRASER-TYTLER 
Mistress Judith. 

By SARAH TYTLER 



Life on the Mississippi. 
The Prince and the 

Pauper. 
A Yankee at the Court 

of King Arthur. 
The £1,000,000 Bank- 

Note. 



The Huguenot Family. 
The Blackhall Ghosts. 
What SheCameThrough 
Beauty and the Beast, 
Citoyenne Jaqueline. 



The Bride s Pass 
Buried Diamonds 
St. Munso's City. 
Lady Bell. 
Noblesse Oblige. 
Disappeared. 

By ALLEN UPWARD. 
The Queen against Owen. | Prince of Balkistan. 
'God Save the Queen !' 
By AARON WATSON and LILLIAS 

WASSERMANN. 
The Marquis of Carabas. 

By WILLIAM WESTALL. 
Trust-Money. 

By Mrs. F. H. WILLIAMSON. 
A Child Widow. 

By J. S. WINTER. 
Cavalry Life. | Regimental Legends., 

By H. F. WOOD. 
The Passenger from Scotland Yard. 
The Englishman of the Rue Cain. 
By Lady WOOD. 
Sabina. 

By CELIA PARKER WOOLLEY:. 
Rachel Armstrong ; or, I.ove ami Theology. 

By EDMUND YATES. 
The Forlorn Hope. I Castaway. 

Land at Last. 

By I. ZANGWILL. 
Ghetto Tragedies. 



OGDEN, SMALE AN] 



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