TWO MEN OF SANDY BAR
by Bret Harte
"SANDY".. Son of Alexander Morton, sen.
JOHN OAKHURST.. His former partner, personating the prodigal son, Sandy.
COL. STARBOTTLE.. Alexander Morton, sen.'s, legal adviser.
OLD MORTON.. Alexander Morton, sen.
DON JOSE.. Father of Jovita Castro.
CAPPER.. A detective.
CONCHO.. Major-domo of Don Jose's rancho.
YORK.. An old friend of Oakhurst.
PRITCHARD.. An Australian convict.
SOAPY & SILKY.. His pals.
JACKSON.. Confidential clerk of Alexander Morton, jun., and confederate of Pritchard.
HOP SING.. A Chinese laundryman.
SERVANT of Alexander Morton, sen.—POLICEMEN.
MISS MARY MORRIS.. The schoolmistress of Red Gulch, in love with Sandy, and cousin of Alexander Morton, sen.
DONA JOVITA CASTRO.. In love with John Oakhurst, and daughter of Don Jose.
THE DUCHESS.. Wife of Pritchard, illegally married to Sandy, and former "flame" of John Oakhurst.
MANUELA.. Servant of Castro, and maid to Dona Jovita.
The Rancho of the Blessed Innocents, and House of Don Jose Castro.
The Banking-House of Morton & Son, San Francisco.
The Villa of Alexander Morton, sen., San Francisco.
ALEXANDER MORTON ("SANDY").—First dress: Mexican vaquero; black velvet trousers open from knee, over white trousers; laced black velvet jacket, and broad white sombrero; large silver spurs. Second dress: miner's white duck jumper, and white duck trousers; (sailor's) straw hat. Third dress: fashionable morning costume. Fourth dress: full evening dress.
JOHN OAKHURST.—First dress: riding-dress, black, elegantly fitting. Second and third dress: fashionable. Fourth dress: full evening dress.
COL. STARBOTTLE.—First dress: blue double-breasted frock, and white "strapped" trousers; white hat. Second dress: same coat, blue trousers, and black broad-brimmed felt hat; cane, semper; ruffles, semper. Third dress: the same. Fourth dress: the same, with pumps.
YORK.—Fashionable morning dress.
CONCHO.—First dress: vaquero's dress. Second dress: citizen's dress.
HOP SING.—Dress of Chinese coolie: dark-blue blouse, and dark-blue drawers gathered at ankles; straw conical hat, and wooden sabots.
DON JOSE.—First dress: serape, black, with gold embroidery. Second class: fashionable black suit, with broad-brimmed black stiff sombrero.
OLD MORTON.—First, second, third, and fourth dress: black, stiff, with white cravat.
CAPPER.—Ordinary dress of period.
MISS MARY.—First dress: tasteful calico morning dress. Second and third dress: lady's walking costume—fashionable. Fourth dress: full dress.
DONA JOVITA.—First dress: handsome Spanish dress, with manta. Second dress: more elaborate, same quality.
THE DUCHESS.—First dress: elaborate but extravagant fashionable costume. Second dress: traveling dress.
MANUELA.—The saya y manta; white waist, and white or black skirt, with flowers.
TWO MEN OF SANDY BAR
SCENE 1.—Courtyard and Corridors of the Rancho.
MANUELA (arranging supper-table in corridor L., solus). There! Tortillas, chocolate, olives, and—the whiskey of the Americans! And supper's ready. But why Don Jose chooses to-night, of all nights, with this heretic fog lying over the Mission Hills like a wet serape, to take his supper out here, the saints only know. Perhaps it's some distrust of his madcap daughter, the Dona Jovita; perhaps to watch her—who knows? And now to find Diego. Ah, here he comes. So! The old story. He is getting Dona Jovita's horse ready for another madcap journey. Ah! (Retires to table.)
Enter cautiously from corridor, L., SANDY MORTON, carrying lady's saddle and blanket; starts on observing MANUELA, and hastily hides saddle and blanket in recess.
Sandy (aside). She's alone. I reckon the old man's at his siesta yet. Ef he'll only hang onto that snooze ten minutes longer, I'll manage to let that gal Jovita slip out to that yer fandango, and no questions asked.
Manuela (calling SANDY). Diego!
Sandy (aside, without heeding her). That's a sweet voice for a serenade. Round, full, high-shouldered, and calkilated to fetch a man every time. Only thar ain't, to my sartain knowledge, one o' them chaps within a mile of the rancho. (Laughs.)
Sandy (aside). Oh, go on! That's the style o' them Greasers. They'll stand rooted in their tracks, and yell for a chap without knowin' whether he's in sight or sound.
Manuela (approaching SANDY impatiently). Diego!
Sandy (starting, aside). The devil! Why, that's ME she's after. (Laughs.) I clean disremembered that when I kem yer I tole those chaps my name was James,—James Smith (laughs), and thet they might call me "Jim." And De-a-go's their lingo for Jim. (Aloud.) Well, my beauty, De-a-go it is. Now, wot's up?
Manuela. Eh? no sabe!
Sandy. Wot's your little game. (Embraces her.)
Manuela (aside, and recoiling coquettishly). Mother of God! He must be drunk again. These Americans have no time for love when they are sober. (Aloud and coquettishly.) Let me go, Diego. Don Jose is coming. He has sent for you. He takes his supper to-night on the corridor. Listen, Diego. He must not see you thus. You have been drinking again. I will keep you from him. I will say you are not well.
Sandy. Couldn't you, my darling, keep him from ME? Couldn't you make him think HE was sick? Couldn't you say he's exposin' his precious health by sittin' out thar to-night; thet ther's chills and fever in every breath? (Aside.) Ef the old Don plants himself in that chair, that gal's chances for goin' out to-night is gone up.
Manuela. Never. He would suspect at once. Listen, Diego. If Don Jose does not know that his daughter steals away with you to meet some caballero, some LOVER,—you understand, Diego,—it is because he does not know, or would not SEEM to know, what every one else in the rancho knows. Have a care, foolish Diego! If Don Jose is old and blind, look you, friend, we are NOT. You understand?
Sandy (aside). What the devil does she expect?—money? No! (Aloud.) Look yer, Manuela, you ain't goin' to blow on that young gal! (Putting his arm around her waist.) Allowin' that she hez a lover, thar ain't nothin' onnateral in thet, bein' a purty sort o' gal. Why, suppose somebody should see you and me together like this, and should just let on to the old man.
Manuela. Hush! (Disengaging herself.) Hush! He is coming. Let me go, Diego. It is Don Jose!
Enter Don Jose, who walks gravely to the table, and seats himself. MANUELA retires to table.
Sandy (aside). I wonder if he saw us. I hope he did: it would shut that Manuela's mouth for a month of Sundays. (Laughs.) God forgive me for it! I've done a heap of things for that young gal Dona Jovita; but this yer gittin' soft on the Greaser maid-servant to help out the misses is a little more than Sandy Morton bargained fur.
Don Jose (to MANUELA). You can retire. Diego will attend me. (Looks at DIEGO attentively.) [Exit MANUELA.
Sandy (aside). Diego will attend him! Why, blast his yeller skin, does he allow that Sandy Morton hired out as a purty waiter-gal? Because I calkilated to feed his horses, it ain't no reason thet my dooty to animals don't stop thar. Pass his hash! (Turns to follow MANUELA, but stops.) Hello, Sandy! wot are ye doin', eh? You ain't going back on Miss Jovita, and jest spile that gal's chances to git out to-night, on'y to teach that God-forsaken old gov'ment mule manners? No! I'll humor the old man, and keep one eye out for the gal. (Comes to table, and leans familiarly over the back of DON JOSE'S chair.)
Don Jose (aside). He seems insulted and annoyed. His manner strengthens my worst suspicions. He has not expected this. (Aloud.) Chocolate, Diego.
Sandy (leaning over table carelessly). Yes, I reckon it's somewhar thar.
Don Jose (aside). He is unused to menial labor. If I should be right in my suspicions! if he really were Dona Jovita's secret lover! This gallantry with the servants only a deceit! Bueno! I will watch him. (Aloud.) Chocolate, Diego!
Sandy (aside). I wonder if the old fool reckons I'll pour it out. Well, seein's he's the oldest. (Pours chocolate awkwardly, and spills it on the table and DON JOSE.)
Don Jose (aside). He IS embarrassed. I am right. (Aloud.) Diego!
Sandy (leaning confidentially over DON JOSE'S chair). Well, old man!
Don Jose. Three months ago my daughter the Dona Jovita picked you up, a wandering vagabond, in the streets of the Mission. (Aside.) He does not seem ashamed. (Aloud.) She—she—ahem! The aguardiente, Diego.
Sandy (aside). That means the whiskey. It's wonderful how quick a man learns Spanish. (Passes the bottle, fills DON JOSE'S glass, and then his own. DON JOSE recoils in astonishment.) I looks toward ye, ole man. (Tosses off liquor.)
Don Jose (aside). This familiarity! He IS a gentleman. Bueno! (Aloud.) She was thrown from her horse; her skirt caught in the stirrup; she was dragged; you saved her life. You—
Sandy (interrupting, confidentially drawing a chair to the table, and seating himself). Look yer! I'll tell you all about it. It wasn't that gal's fault, ole man. The hoss shied at me, lying drunk in a ditch, you see; the hoss backed, the surcle broke; it warn't in human natur for her to keep her seat, and that gal rides like an angel; but the mustang throwed her. Well, I sorter got in the way o' thet hoss, and it stopped. Hevin' bin the cause o' the hoss shyin', for I reckon I didn't look much like an angel lyin' in that ditch, it was about the only squar thing for me to waltz in and help the gal. Thar, thet's about the way the thing pints. Now, don't you go and hold that agin her!
Don Jose. Well, well! She was grateful. She has a strange fondness for you Americans; and at her solicitation I gave you—YOU, an unknown vagrant—employment here as groom. You comprehend, Diego. I, Don Jose Castro, proprietor of this rancho, with an hundred idle vaqueros on my hands,—I made a place for you.
Sandy (meditatively). Umph.
Don Jose. You said you would reform. How have you kept your word? You were drunk last Wednesday.
Sandy. Thet's so.
Don Jose. And again last Saturday.
Sandy (slowly). Look yer, ole man, don't ye be too hard on me: that was the same old drunk.
Don Jose. I am in no mood for trifling. Hark ye, friend Diego. You have seen, perhaps,—who has not?—that I am a fond, an indulgent father. But even my consideration for my daughter's strange tastes and follies has its limit. Your conduct is a disgrace to the rancho. You must go.
Sandy (meditatively). Well, I reckon, perhaps I'd better.
Don Jose (aside). His coolness is suspicious. Can it be that he expects the girl will follow him? Mother of God! perhaps it has been already planned between them. Good! Thank Heaven I can end it here. (Aloud.) Diego!
Sandy. Old man.
Don Jose. For my daughter's sake, you understand,—for her sake,—I am willing to try you once more. Hark ye! My daughter is young, foolish, and romantic. I have reason to believe, from her conduct lately, that she has contracted an intimacy with some Americano, and that in her ignorance, her foolishness, she has allowed that man to believe that he might aspire to her hand. Good! Now listen to me. You shall stay in her service. You shall find out,—you are in her confidence,—you shall find out this American, this adventurer, this lover if you please, of the Dona Jovita my daughter; and you will tell him this,—you will tell him that a union with him is impossible, forbidden; that the hour she attempts it, without my consent, she is PENNILESS; that this estate, this rancho, passes into the hands of the Holy Church, where even your laws cannot reach it.
Sandy (leaning familiarly over the table). But suppose that he sees that little bluff, and calls ye.
Don Jose. I do not comprehend you (coldly).
Sandy. Suppose he loves that gal, and will take her as she stands, without a cent, or hide or hair of yer old cattle.
Don Jose (scornfully). Suppose—a miracle! Hark ye, Diego! It is now five years since I have known your countrymen, these smart Americanos. I have yet to know when love, sentiment, friendship, was worth any more than a money value in your market.
Sandy (truculently and drunkenly). You hev, hev ye? Well, look yar, ole man. Suppose I REFUSE. Suppose I'd rather go than act as a spy on that young gal your darter! Suppose that—hic—allowin' she's my friend, I'd rather starve in the gutters of the Mission than stand between her and the man she fancies. Hey? Suppose I would—damn me! Suppose I'd see you and your derned old rancho in—t'other place—hic—damn me. You hear me, ole man! That's the kind o' man I am—damn me.
Don Jose (aside, rising contemptuously). It is as I suspected. Traitor. Ingrate! Satisfied that his scheme has failed, he is ready to abandon her. And this—THIS is the man for whom she has been ready to sacrifice everything,—her home, her father! (Aloud, coldly.) Be it so, Diego: you shall go.
Sandy (soberly and seriously, after a pause.) Well, I reckon I had better. (Rising.) I've a few duds, old man, to put up. It won't take me long. (Goes to L., and pauses.)
Don Jose (aside). Ah! he hesitates! He is changing his mind. (SANDY returns slowly to table, pours out glass of liquor, nods to DON JOSE, and drinks.) I looks towards ye, ole man. Adios!
Don Jose. His coolness is perfect. If these Americans are cayotes in their advances, they are lions in retreat! Bueno! I begin to respect him. But it will be just as well to set Concho to track him to the Mission; and I will see that he leaves the rancho alone.
Enter hurriedly JOVITA CASTRO, in riding habit, with whip.
So! Chiquita not yet saddled, and that spy Concho haunting the plains for the last half-hour. What an air of mystery! Something awful, something deliciously dreadful, has happened! Either my amiable drunkard has forgotten to despatch Concho on his usual fool's errand, or he is himself lying helpless in some ditch. Was there ever a girl so persecuted? With a father wrapped in mystery, a lover nameless and shrouded in the obscurity of some Olympian height, and her only confidant and messenger a Bacchus instead of a Mercury! Heigh ho! And in another hour Don Juan—he told me I might call him John—will be waiting for me outside the convent wall! What if Diego fails me? To go there alone would be madness! Who else would be as charmingly unconscious and inattentive as this American vagabond! (Goes to L.) Ah, my saddle and blanket hidden! He HAS been interrupted. Some one has been watching. This freak of my father's means something. And to-night, of all nights, the night that Oakhurst was to disclose himself, and tell me all! What is to be done? Hark! (DIEGO, without, singing.)
"Oh, here's your aguardiente, Drink it down!"
Jovita. It is Diego; and, Mother of God! drunk again!
Enter SANDY, carrying pack, intoxicated; staggers to centre, and, observing JOVITA, takes off his hat respectfully.
Jovita (shaking him by the shoulders passionately). Diego! How dare you! And at such a time!
Sandy (with drunken solemnity). Miss Jovita, did ye ever know me to be drunk afore at such a time?
Sandy. Zachy so. It's abnormal. And it means—the game's up.
Jovita. I do not understand. For the love of God, Diego, be plain!
Sandy (solemnly and drunkenly). When I say your game's up, I mean the old man knows it all. You're blowed upon. Hearken, miss. (Seriously and soberly.) Your father knows all that I know; but, as it wasn't my business to interfere with, I hev sorter helped along. He knows that you meet a stranger, an American, in these rides with me.
Jovita (passionately). Ingrate! You have not dared to tell him! (Seizing him by the collar, and threatening him with the horsewhip.)
Sandy (rising with half-drunken, half-sober solemnity). One minit, miss! one minit! Don't ye! don't ye do that! Ef ye forget (and I don't blame ye for it), ef ye forget that I'm a man, don't ye, don't ye forget that you're a woman! Sit ye down, sit ye down, so! Now, ef ye'll kindly remember, miss, I never saw this yer man, yer lover. Ef ye'll recollect, miss, whenever you met him, I allers hung back and waited round in the mission or in the fields beyond for ye, and allowed ye to hev your own way, it bein' no business o' mine. Thar isn't a man on the ranch, who, ef he'd had a mind to watch ye, wouldn't hev known more about yer lover than I do.
Jovita (aside). He speaks truly. He always kept in the background. Even Don Juan never knew that I had an attendant until I told him. (Aloud.) I made a mistake, Diego. I was hasty. What am I to do? He is waiting for me even now.
Sandy. Well (with drunken gravity), ef ye can't go to him, I reckon it's the squar thing for him to come to ye.
Jovita. Recollect yourself, Diego. Be a man!
Sandy. Fash jus war I say. Let him be a man, and come to ye here. Let him ride up to this ranch like a man, and call out to yer father that he'll take ye jist as ye are, without the land. And if the old man allows, rather than hev ye marry that stranger, he'll give this yer place to the church, why, let him do it, and be damned.
Jovita (recoiling, aside). So! That is their plan. Don Jose has worked on the fears or the cupidity of this drunken ingrate.
Sandy (with drunken submission). Ye was speaking to me, miss. Ef ye'll take my advice,—a drunken man's advice, miss,—ye'll say to that lover of yours, ef he's afeard to come for ye here, to take ye as ye stand, he ain't no man for ye. And, ontil he does, ye'll do as the ole man says. Fur ef I do say it, miss,—and thar ain't no love lost between us,—he's a good father to ye. It ain't every day that a gal kin afford to swap a father like that, as she DOES KNOW, fur the husband that she DON'T! He's a proud old fool, miss; but to ye, to ye, he's clar grit all through.
Jovita (passionately, aside). Tricked, fooled, like a child! and through the means of this treacherous, drunken tool. (Stamping her foot.) Ah! we shall see! You are wise, you are wise, Don Jose; but your daughter is not a novice, nor a helpless creature of the Holy Church. (Passionately.) I'll—I'll become a Protestant to-morrow!
Sandy (unheeding her passion, and becoming more earnest and self-possessed). Ef ye hed a father, miss, ez instead o' harkinin' to your slightest wish, and surroundin' ye with luxury, hed made your infancy a struggle for life among strangers, and your childhood a disgrace and a temptation; ef he had left ye with no company but want, with no companions but guilt, with no mother but suffering; ef he had made your home, this home, so unhappy, so vile, so terrible, so awful, that the crowded streets and gutters of a great city was something to fly to for relief; ef he had made his presence, his very name,—your name, miss, allowin' it was your father,—ef he had made that presence so hateful, that name so infamous, that exile, that flyin' to furrin' parts, that wanderin' among strange folks ez didn't know ye, was the only way to make life endurable; and ef he'd given ye,—I mean this good old man Don Jose, miss,—ef he'd given ye as part of yer heritage a taint, a weakness in yer very blood, a fondness for a poison, a poison that soothed ye like a vampire bat and sucked yer life-blood (seizing her arm) ez it soothed ye; ef this curse that hung over ye dragged ye down day by day, till hating him, loathing him, ye saw yerself day by day becoming more and more like him, till ye knew that his fate was yours, and yours his,—why then, Miss Jovita (rising with an hysterical, drunken laugh), why then, I'd run away with ye myself,—I would, damn me!
Jovita (who has been withdrawing from him scornfully). Well acted, Diego. Don Jose should have seen his pupil. Trust me, my father will reward you. (Aside.) And yet there were tears in his drunken eyes. Bah! it is the liquor: he is no longer sane. And, either hypocrite or imbecile, he is to be trusted no longer. But where and why is he going? (Aloud.) You are leaving us, Diego.
Sandy (quietly). Well, the old man and me don't get on together.
Jovita (scornfully). Bueno! I see. Then you abandon me.
Sandy (quickly). To the old man, miss,—not the young one. (Walks to the table, and begins to pour out liquor.)
Jovita (angrily). You would not dare to talk to me thus if John Oakhurst—ah! (Checking herself.)
Sandy (drops glass on table, hurries to centre, and seizes DONA JOVITA). Eh! Wot name did you say? (Looks at her amazed and bewildered.)
Jovita (terrified, aside). Mother of God! What have I done? Broken my sacred pledge to keep his name secret. No! No! Diego did not hear me! Surely this wretched drunkard does not know him. (Aloud.) Nothing. I said nothing: I mentioned no name.
Sandy (still amazed, frightened, and bewildered, passing his hand over his forehead slowly). Ye mentioned no name? Surely. I am wild, crazed. Tell me, miss—ye didn't,—I know ye didn't, but I thought it sounded like it,—ye didn't mention the name of—of—of—John Oakhurst?
Jovita (hurriedly). No, of course not! You terrify me, Diego. You are wild.
Sandy (dropping her hand with a sigh of relief). No, no! In course ye didn't. I was wild, miss, wild; this drink has confused me yer. (Pointing to his head.) There are times when I hear that name, miss,—times when I see his face. (Sadly.) But it's when I've took too much—too much. I'll drink no more—no more!—to-night—to-night! (Drops his head slowly in his hands.)
Jovita (looking at DIEGO—aside). Really, I'm feeling very uncomfortable. I'd like to ask a question of this maniac. But nonsense! Don Juan gave me to understand Oakhurst wasn't his real name; that is, he intimated there was something dreadful and mysterious about it that mustn't be told,—something that would frighten people. HOLY VIRGIN! it has! Why, this reckless vagabond here is pale and agitated. Don Juan shall explain this mystery to-night. But then, how shall I see him? Ah, I have it. The night of the last festa, when I could not leave the rancho, he begged me to show a light from the flat roof of the upper corridor, that he might know I was thinking of him,—dear fellow! He will linger to-night at the Mission; he will see the light; he will know that I have not forgotten. He will approach the rancho; I shall manage to slip away at midnight to the ruined Mission. I shall—ah, it is my father! Holy Virgin, befriend me now with self-possession. (Stands quietly at L., looking toward SANDY, who still remains buried in thought, as)—
Enter DON JOSE; regards his daughter and DIEGO with a sarcastic smile.
Don Jose (aside). Bueno! It is as I expected,—an explanation, an explosion, a lover's quarrel, an end to romance. From his looks I should say she has been teaching the adventurer a lesson. Good! I could embrace her. (Crosses to SANDY—aloud.) You still here!
Sandy (rising with a start). Yes! I—a—I was only taking leave of Miss Jovita that hez bin kind to me. She's a good gal, ole man, and won't be any the worse when I'm gone.—Good-by, Miss Jovita (extending his hand): I wish ye luck.
Jovita (coldly). Adios, friend Diego. (Aside, hurriedly.) You will not expose my secret?
Sandy (aside). It ain't in me, miss. (To DON JOSE, going.) Adios, ole man. (Shouldering his pack.)
Don Jose. Adios, friend Diego. (Formally.) May good luck attend you! (Aside.) You understand, on your word as—as—as—A GENTLEMAN!—you have no further communication with this rancho, or aught that it contains.
Sandy (gravely). I hear ye, ole man. Adios. (Goes to gateway, but pauses at table, and begins to fill a glass of aguardiente.)
Don Jose (aside, looking at his daughter). I could embrace her now. She is truly a Castro. (Aloud to JOVITA.) Hark ye, little one! I have news that will please you, and—who knows? perhaps break up the monotony of the dull life of the rancho. To-night come to me two famous caballeros, Americanos, you understand: they will be here soon, even now. Retire, and make ready to receive them. [Exit JOVITA.
Don Jose (aside, looking at SANDY). He lingers. I shall not be satisfied until Concho has seen him safely beyond the Mission wall.
Concho. Two caballeros have dismounted in the corral, and seek the honor of Don Jose's presence.
Don Jose. Bueno! (Aside.) Follow that fellow beyond the Mission. (Aloud.) Admit the strangers. Did they give their names?
Concho. They did, Don Jose,—Col. Culpepper Starbottle and the Don Alexandro Morton.
Sandy (dropping glass of aguardiente, and staggering stupidly to the centre, confronting DON JOSE and CONCHO, still holding bottle). Eh! Wot? Wot name did you say? (Looks stupidly and amazedly at CONCHO and DON JOSE, and then slowly passes his hand over his forehead. Then slowly and apologetically.) I axes your pardon, Don Jose, and yours, sir (to CONCHO), but I thought ye called me. No!—that ez—I mean—I mean—I'm a little off color here (pointing to his head). I don't follow suit—I—eh—eh! Oh!—ye'll pardon me, sir, but thar's names—perhaps yer darter will remember that I was took a bit ago on a name—thar's names sorter hangin' round me yer (pointing to his head), that I thinks I hear—but bein' drunk—I hopes ye'll excoos me. Adios. (Staggers to gateway, CONCHO following.)
Concho (aside). There is something more in this than Don Jose would have known. I'll watch Diego, and keep an eye on Miss Jovita too.
Exit, following SANDY, who, in exit, jostles against COL. STARBOTTLE entering, who stops and leans exhaustedly at the wall to get his breath; following him closely, and oblivious of SANDY MORTON, ALEXANDER MORTON, sen. Enter COL. STARBOTTLE and ALEXANDER MORTON, sen.
SCENE 2.—The Same.
Col. Starbottle (entering, to DON JOSE). Overlooking the insult of—er—inebriated individual, whose menial position in this—er—er—household precludes a demand for personal satisfaction, sir, I believe I have the honor of addressing Don Jose Castro. Very good, sir. Permit me, sir, to introduce myself as Col. Culpepper Starbottle—demn me! the legal adviser of Mr. Alexander Morton, sen., and I may add, sir, the friend of that gentleman, and as such, sir—er—er—personally—personally responsible.
Alexander Morton (puritanically and lugubriously). As a God-fearing man and forgiving Christian, Mr. Castro, I trust you will overlook the habitual profanity of the erring but well-meaning man, who, by the necessities of my situation, accompanies me. I am the person—a helpless sinner—mentioned in the letters which I believe have preceded me. As a professing member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, I have ventured, in the interest of works rather than faith, to overlook the plain doctrines of the church in claiming sympathy of a superstitious Papist.
Starbottle (interrupting, aside to ALEXANDER MORTON). Ahem! ahem! (Aloud to DON JOSE.) My friend's manner, sir, reminds me of—er—er—Ram Bootgum Sing, first secretary of Turkish legation at Washington in '45; most remarkable man—demn me—most remarkable—and warm personal friend. Challenged Tod Robinson for putting him next to Hebrew banker at dinner, with remark—demn me—that they were both believers in the profit! he, he! Amusing, perhaps; irreverent, certainly. Fought with cimeters. Second pass, Ram divided Tod in two pieces—fact, sir—just here (pointing) in—er—er—regions of moral emotions. Upper half called to me,—said to me warningly—last words—never forget it,—"Star,"—always called me Star,—"Respect man's religious convictions." Legs dead; emotion confined to upper part of body—pathetic picture. Ged, sir, something to be remembered!
Don Jose (with grave Spanish courtesy). You are welcome, gentlemen, to the rancho of the Blessed Fisherman. Your letters, with their honorable report, are here. Believe me, senores, in your modesty you have forgotten to mention your strongest claim to the hospitality of my house,—the royal right of strangers.
Morton. Angels before this have been entertained as strangers, says the Good Book; and that, I take it, is your authority for this ceremoniousness which else were but lip-service and Papist airs. But I am here in the performance of a duty, Mr. Castro,—the duty of a Christian father. I am seeking a prodigal son. I am seeking him in his wine-husks and among his harl—
Starbottle (interrupting). A single moment. (To DON JOSE.) Permit me to—er—er—explain. As my friend Mr. Morton states, we are, in fact, at present engaged in—er—er—quest—er—pilgrimage that possibly to some, unless deterred by considerations of responsibility—personal responsibility—sir—Ged, sir, might be looked upon as visionary, enthusiastic, sentimental, fanatical. We are seeking a son, or, as my friend tersely and scripturally expresses it—er—er—prodigal son. I say scripturally, sir, and tersely, but not, you understand it, literally, nor I may add, sir, legally. Ged, sir, as a precedent, I admit we are wrong. To the best of my knowledge, sir, the—er—Prodigal Son sought his own father. To be frank, sir,—and Ged, sir, if Culpepper Starbottle has a fault, it is frankness, sir. As Nelse Buckthorne said to me in Nashville, in '47, "You would infer, Col. Starbottle, that I equivocate." I replied, "I do, sir; and permit me to add that equivocation has all the guilt of a lie, with cowardice superadded." The next morning at nine o'clock, Ged, sir, he gasped to me—he was lying on the ground, hole through his left lung just here (illustrating with DON JOSE'S coat),—he gasped, "If you have a merit, Star, above others, it is frankness!" his last words, sir,—demn me.... To be frank, sir, years ago, in the wild exuberance of youth, the son of this gentleman left his—er—er—er—boyhood's home, owing to an innocent but natural misunderstanding with the legal protector of his youth—
Morton (interrupting gravely and demurely). Driven from home by my own sinful and then unregenerate hand—
Starbottle (quickly). One moment, a simple moment. We will not weary you with—er—er—history, or the vagaries of youth. He—er—came to California in '49. A year ago, touched by—er—er—parental emotion and solicitude, my friend resolved to seek him here. Believing that the—er—er—lawlessness of—er—er—untrammelled youth and boyish inexperience might have led him into some trifling indiscretion, we have sought him successively in hospitals, alms-houses, reformatories, State's prisons, lunatic and inebriate asylums, and—er—er—even on the monumental inscriptions of the—er—er—country churchyards. We have thus far, I grieve to say, although acquiring much and valuable information of a varied character and interest, as far as the direct matter of our search,—we have been, I think I may say, unsuccessful. Our search has been attended with the—er—disbursement of some capital under my—er—er—direction, which, though large, represents quite inadequately the—er—er—earnestness of our endeavors.
Manuela (to DON JOSE). The Dona Jovita is waiting to receive you.
Don Jose (to MORTON). You shall tell me further of your interesting pilgrimage hereafter. At present my daughter awaits us to place this humble roof at your disposal. I am a widower, Don Alexandro, like yourself. When I say that, like you, I have an only child, and that I love her, you will understand how earnest is my sympathy. This way, gentlemen. (Leading to door in corridor, and awaiting them.)
Starbottle (aside). Umph! an interview with lovely woman means—er—intoxication, but—er—er—no liquor. It's evident that the Don doesn't drink. Eh! (Catches sight of table in corridor, and bottle.) Oh, he does, but some absurd Spanish formality prevents his doing the polite thing before dinner. (Aloud, to DON JOSE.) One moment, sir, one moment. If you will—er—er—pardon the—er—seeming discourtesy, for which I am, I admit—or—personally responsible, I will for a few moments enjoy the—er—er—delicious air of the courtyard, and the beauties of Nature as displayed in the—er—sunset. I will—er—rejoin you and the—er—er—ladies a moment later.
Don Jose. The house is your own, senor: do as you will. This way, Don Alexandro. [Exit, in door L., DON JOSE and MORTON, sen.
Starbottle. "Do as you will." Well, I don't understand Spanish ceremony, but that's certainly good English. (Going to table.) Eh! (Smelling decanter.) Robinson County whiskey! Umph! I have observed that the spirit of American institutions, sir, are already penetrating the—er—er—superstitions of—er—foreign and effete civilizations. (Pours out glass of whiskey, and drinks; pours again, and observes MANUELA watching him respectfully.) What the Devil is that girl looking at? Eh! (Puts down glass.)
Manuela (aside). He is fierce and warlike. Mother of God! But he is not so awful as that gray-haired caballero, who looks like a fasting St. Anthony. And he loves aguardiente: he will pity poor Diego the more. (Aloud.) Ahem! Senor. (Courtesies coquettishly.)
Col. Starbottle (aside). Oh, I see. Ged! not a bad-looking girl,—a trifle dark, but Southern, and—er—tropical. Ged, Star, Star, this won't do, sir; no, sir. The filial affections of Aeneas are not to be sacrificed through the blandishments of—er—Dodo—I mean a Dido.
Manuela. O senor, you are kind, you are good. You are an Americano, one of a great nation. You will feel sympathy for a poor young man,—a mere muchacho,—one of your own race, who was a vaquero here, senor. He has been sent away from us here disgraced, alone, hungry, perhaps penniless. (Wipes her eyes.)
Col. Starbottle. The Devil! Another prodigal. (Aloud.) My dear, the case you have just stated would appear to be the—er—er—normal condition of the—er—youth of America. But why was he discharged? (Pouring out liquor.)
Manuela (demurely glancing at the colonel). He was drunk, senor.
Starbottle (potently). Drunkenness, my child, which is—er—weakness in the—er—er—gentleman, in the subordinate is a crime. What—er—excites the social impulse and exhilarates the fancy of the—er—master of the house, in the performance of his duty, renders the servant unfit for his. Legally it is a breach of contract. I should give it as my opinion,—for which I am personally responsible,—that your friend Diego could not recover. Ged! (Aside.) I wonder if this scapegoat could be our black sheep.
Manuela. But that was not all, senor. It was an excuse only. He was sent away for helping our young lady to a cavalier. He was discharged because he would not be a traitor to her. He was sent away because he was too good, too honorable,—too— (Bursts out crying.)
Starbottle (aside). Oh, the Devil! THIS is no Sandy Morton. (Coming forward gravely.) I have never yet analyzed the—er—er—character of the young gentleman I have the honor to assist in restoring to his family and society; but judging—er—calmly—er—dispassionately, my knowledge of his own father—from what the old gentleman must have been in his unregenerate state, and knowing what he is now in his present reformed Christian condition, I should say calmly and deliberately that the son must be the most infernal and accomplished villain unhung. Ged, I have a thought, an inspiration. (To MANUELA, tapping her under the chin.) I see, my dear; a lover, ha, ha! Ah, you rogue! Well, well, we will talk of this again. I will—er—er—interest myself in this Diego. [Exit MANUELA.
Starbottle (solus). How would it do to get up a prodigal? Umph. Something must be done soon: the old man grows languid in his search. My position as a sinecure is—er—in peril. A prodigal ready made! But could I get a scoundrel bad enough to satisfy the old man? Ged, that's serious. Let me see: he admits that he is unable to recognize his own son in face, features, manner, or speech. Good! If I could pick up some rascal whose—er—irregularities didn't quite fill the bill, and could say—Ged!—that he was reforming. Reforming! Ged, Star! That very defect would show the hereditary taint, demn me! I must think of this seriously. Ged, Star! the idea is—an inspiration of humanity and virtue. Who knows? it might be the saving of the vagabond,—a crown of glory to the old man's age. Inspiration, did I say? Ged, Star, it's a DUTY,—a sacred, solemn duty, for which you are responsible,—personally responsible.
Lights down half. Enter from corridor L., MORTON, DON JOSE, the DONA JOVITA, and MANUELA.
Dona Jovita (stepping forward with exaggerated Spanish courtesy). A thousand graces await your Excellency, Commander Don—Don—
Starbottle (bowing to the ground with equal delight and exaggerated courtesy). Er—Coolpepero!
Dona Jovita. Don Culpepero! If we throw ourselves unasked at your Excellency's feet (courtesy), if we appear unsought before the light of your Excellency's eyes (courtesy), if we err in maidenly decorum in thus seeking unbidden your Excellency's presence (courtesy), believe us, it is the fear of some greater, some graver indecorum in our conduct that has withdrawn your Excellency's person from us since you have graced our roof with your company. We know, Senor Commander, how superior are the charms of the American ladies. It is in no spirit of rivalry with them, but to show—Mother of God!—that we are not absolutely ugly, that we intrude upon your Excellency's solitude. (Aside.) I shall need the old fool, and shall use him.
Col. Starbottle (who has been bowing and saluting with equal extravagance, during this speech—aside). Ged! she IS beautiful! (Aloud.) Permit me er—er—Dona Jovita, to correct—Ged, I must say it, correct erroneous statements. The man who should—er—utter in my presence remarks disparaging those—er—charms it is my privilege to behold, I should hold responsible,—Ged! personally responsible. You—er—remind me of er—incident, trifling perhaps, but pleasing, Charleston in '52,—a reception at John C. Calhoun's. A lady, one of the demnedest beautiful women you ever saw, said to me, "Star!"—she always called me Star,—"you've avoided me, you have, Star! I fear you are no longer my friend."—"Your friend, madam," I said. "No, I've avoided you because I am your lover." Ged, Miss Jovita, a fact—demn me. Sensation. Husband heard garbled report. He was old friend, but jealous, rash, indiscreet. Fell at first fire—umph—January 5th. Lady—beautiful woman—never forgave: went into convent. Sad affair. And all a mistake—demn me,—all a mistake, through perhaps extravagant gallantry and compliment. I lingered here, oblivious perhaps of—er—beauty, in the enjoyment of Nature.
Dona Jovita. Is there enough for your Excellency to share with me, since it must be my rival? See, the fog is clearing away: we shall have moonlight. (DON JOSE and MORTON seat themselves at table.) Shall we not let these venerable caballeros enjoy their confidences and experiences together? (Aside.) Don Jose watches me like a fox, does not intend to lose sight of me. How shall I show the light three times from the courtyard roof? I have it! (Takes STARBOTTLE'S arm.) It is too pleasant to withdraw. There is a view from the courtyard wall your Excellency should see. Will you accompany me? The ascent is easy.
Starbottle (bowing). I will ascend, although, permit me to say, Dona Jovita, it would be—er—impossible for me to be nearer—er—heaven, than—er—at present.
Dona Jovita. FLATTERER! Come, you shall tell me about this sad lady who died. Ah, Don Culpepero, let me hope all your experiences will not be so fatal to us!
[Exeunt DONA JOVITA and STARBOTTLE.
Morton (aside). A froward daughter of Baal, and, if I mistake not, even now concocting mischief for this foolish, indulgent, stiff-necked father. (Aloud.) Your only daughter, I presume.
Don Jose. My darling, Don Alexandro. Motherless from her infancy. A little wild, and inclined to gayety, but I hope not seeking for more than these walls afford. I have checked her but seldom, Don Alexandro, and then I did not let her see my hand on the rein that held her back. I do not ask her confidence always: I only want her to know that when the time comes it can be given to me without fear.
Don Jose (leaning forward confidentially). To show that you have not intrusted your confidence regarding your wayward son—whom may the saints return to you!—to unsympathetic or inexperienced ears, I will impart a secret. A few weeks ago I detected an innocent intimacy between this foolish girl and a vagabond vaquero in my employ. You understand, it was on her part romantic, visionary; on his, calculating, shrewd, self-interested, for he expected to become my heir. I did not lock her up. I did not tax her with it. I humored it. Today I satisfied the lover that his investment was not profitable, that a marriage without my consent entailed the loss of the property, and then left them together. They parted in tears, think you, Don Alexandro? No, but mutually hating each other. The romance was over. An American would have opposed the girl, have driven her to secrecy, to an elopement perhaps. Eh?
Morton (scornfully). And you believe that they have abandoned their plans?
Don Jose. I am sure—hush! she is here!
Enter, on roof of corridor, STARBOTTLE and JOVITA.
Col. Starbottle. Really, a superb landscape! An admirable view of the—er—fog—rolling over the Mission Hills, the plains below, and the—er—er—single figure of—er—motionless horseman—
Dona Jovita (quickly). Some belated vaquero. Do you smoke, Senor Commander?
Starbottle. At times.
Dona Jovita. With me. I will light a cigarette for you: it is the custom.
COL. STARBOTTLE draws match from his pocket, and is about to light, but is stopped by DONA JOVITA.
Dona Jovita. Pardon, your Excellency, but we cannot endure your American matches. There is a taper in the passage.
COL. STARBOTTLE brings taper: DONA JOVITA turns to light cigarette, but manages to blow out candle.
Dona Jovita. I must try your gallantry again. That is once I have failed. (Significantly.)
COL. STARBOTTLE relights candle, business, same results.
Dona Jovita. I am stupid and nervous to-night. I have failed twice. (With emphasis.)
COL. STARBOTTLE repeats business with candle. DONA JOVITA lights cigarette, hands it to the colonel.
Dona Jovita. Thrice, and I have succeeded. (Blows out candle.)
Col. Starbottle. A thousand thanks! There is a—er—er—light on the plain.
Dona Jovita (hastily). It is the vaqueros returning. My father gives a festa to peons in honor of your arrival. There will be a dance. You have been patient, Senor Commander: you shall have my hand for a waltz.
Enter vaqueros, their wives and daughters. A dance, during which the "sembi canca" is danced by COL. STARBOTTLE and DONA JOVITA. Business, during which the bell of Mission Church, faintly illuminated beyond the wall, strikes twelve. Dancers withdraw hurriedly, leaving alone MANUELA, DONA JOVITA, COL. STARBOTTLE, DON JOSE, and CONCHO. CONCHO formally hands keys to Don Jose.
Don Jose (delivering keys to MORTON with stately impressiveness). Take them, Don Alexandro Morton, and with them all that they unlock for bliss or bale. Take them, noble guest, and with them the homage of this family,—to-night, Don Alexandro, your humble servants. Good-night, gentlemen. May a thousand angels attend you, O Don Alexandro and Don Culpepero!
Dona Jovita. Good-night, Don Alexandro. May your dreams to-night see all your wishes fulfilled! Good-night, O Senor Commander. May she you dream of be as happy as you!
Manuela and Concho (together). Good-night, O senores and illustrious gentlemen! may the Blessed Fisherman watch over you! (Both parties retreat into opposite corridors, bowing.)
MANUELA, CONCHO, MORTON, DON JOSE. JOVITA. STARBOTTLE.
SCENE 3.—The same. Stage darkened. Fog passing beyond wall outside, and occasionally obscuring moonlit landscape beyond. Enter JOVITA softly, from corridor L. Her face is partly hidden by Spanish mantilla.
Jovita. All quiet at last; and, thanks to much aguardiente, my warlike admirer snores peacefully above. Yet I could swear I heard the old Puritan's door creak as I descended! Pshaw! What matters! (Goes to gateway, and tries gate.) Locked! Carramba! I see it now. Under the pretext of reviving the old ceremony, Don Jose has locked the gates, and placed me in the custody of his guest. Stay! There is a door leading to the corral from the passage by Concho's room. Bueno! Don Jose shall see! [Exit R.
Enter cautiously R. OLD MORTON.
Old Morton. I was not mistaken! It was the skirt of that Jezebel daughter that whisked past my door a moment ago, and her figure that flitted down that corridor. So! The lover driven out of the house at four P. M., and at twelve o'clock at night the young lady trying the gate secretly. This may be Spanish resignation and filial submission, but it looks very like Yankee disobedience and forwardness. Perhaps it's well that the keys are in my pocket. This fond confiding Papist may find the heretic American father of some service. (Conceals himself behind pillar of corridor.)
After a pause the head of JOHN OAKHURST appears over the wall of corridor: he climbs up to roof of corridor, and descends very quietly and deliberately to stage.
Oakhurst (dusting his clothing with his handkerchief). I never knew before why these Spaniards covered their adobe walls with whitewash. (Leans against pillar in shadow.)
Re-enter JOVITA, hastily.
Jovita. All is lost; the corral door is locked; the key is outside, and Concho is gone,—gone where? Madre di Dios! to discover, perhaps to kill him.
Oakhurst (approaching her). No.
Jovita. Juan! (Embracing him.) But how did you get here? This is madness!
Oakhurst. As you did not come to the mission, I came to the rancho. I found the gate locked—by the way, is not that a novelty here?—I climbed the wall. But you, Miss Castro, you are trembling! Your little hands are cold!
Jovita (glancing around). Nothing, nothing! But you are running a terrible risk. At any moment we may be discovered.
Oakhurst. I understand you: it would be bad for the discoverer. Never fear, I will be patient.
Jovita. But I feared that you might meet Concho.
Oakhurst. Concho—Concho—(meditatively). Let me see,—tall, dark, long in the arm, weighs about one hundred and eighty, and active.
Jovita. Yes; tell me! You have met him?
Oakhurst. Possibly, possibly. Was he a friend of yours?
Oakhurst. That's better. Are his pursuits here sedentary, or active?
Jovita. He is my father's major-domo.
Oakhurst. I see: a sinecure. (Aside.) Well, if he has to lay up for a week or two, the rancho won't suffer.
Jovita (passionately). There, having scaled the wall, at the risk of being discovered—this is all you have to say! (Turning away.)
Oakhurst (quietly). Perhaps, Jovita (taking her hand with grave earnestness), to a clandestine intimacy like ours there is but one end. It is not merely elopement, not merely marriage, it is exposure! Sooner or later you and I must face the eyes we now shun. What matters if tonight or later?
Jovita (quickly). I am ready. It was you who—
Oakhurst. It was I who first demanded secrecy, but it was I who told you when we last met that I would tell you why to-night.
Jovita. I am ready; but hear me, Juan, nothing can change my faith in you!
Oakhurst (sadly). You know not what you say. Listen, my child. I am a gambler. Not the man who lavishes his fortune at the gaming-table for excitement's sake; not the fanatic who stakes his own earnings—perhaps the confided earnings of others—on a single coup. No, he is the man who loses,—whom the world deplores, pities, and forgives. I am the man who wins—whom the world hates and despises.
Jovita. I do not understand you, Juan.
Oakhurst. So much the better, perhaps. But you must hear me. I make a profession—an occupation more exacting, more wearying, more laborious, than that of your meanest herdsman—of that which others make a dissipation of the senses. And yet, Jovita, there is not the meanest vaquero in this ranch, who, playing against me, winning or losing, is not held to be my superior. I have no friends—only confederates. Even the woman who dares to pity me must do it in secret.
Jovita. But you will abandon this dreadful trade. As the son of the rich Don Jose, no one dare scorn you. My father will relent. I am his heiress.
Oakhurst. No more, Jovita, no more. If I were the man who could purchase the world's respect through a woman's weakness for him, I should not be here to-night. I am not here to sue your father's daughter with hopes of forgiveness, promises of reformation. Reformation, in a man like me, means cowardice or self-interest. (OLD MORTON, becoming excited, leans slowly out from the shadow of the pillar listening intently.) I am here to take, by force if necessary, a gambler's wife,—the woman who will share my fortunes, my disgrace, my losses; who is willing to leave her old life of indulgence, of luxury, of respectability, for mine. You are frightened, little dove: compose yourself (soothing her tenderly and sadly); you are frightened at the cruel hawk who has chosen you for a mate.
Old Morton (aside). God in heaven! This is like HIM! like me!—like me, before the blessed Lord lifted me into regeneration. If it should be! (Leans forward anxiously from pillar.)
Oakhurst (aside). Still silent! Poor dove, I can hear her foolish heart flutter against mine. Another moment decides our fate. Another moment: John Oakhurst and freedom, or Red Gulch and—she is moving. (To JOVITA.) I am harsh, little one, and cold. Perhaps I have had much to make me so. But when (with feeling) I first met you; when, lifting my eyes to the church-porch, I saw your beautiful face; when, in sheer recklessness and bravado, I raised my hat to you; when you—you, Jovita—lifted your brave eyes to mine, and there, there in the sanctuary, returned my salute,—the salutation of the gambler, the outcast, the reprobate,—then, then I swore that you should be mine, if I tore you from the sanctuary. Speak now, Jovita: if it was coquetry, speak now; I forgive you: if it was sheer wantonness, speak now; I shall spare you: but if—
Jovita (throwing herself in his arms). Love, Juan! I am yours, now and forever. (Pause.) But you have not told me all. I will go with you to-night—now. I leave behind me all,—my home, my father, my—(pause) my name. You have forgotten, Juan, you have not told me what I change THAT for: you have not told me YOURS.
OLD MORTON, in eager excitement, leans beyond shadow of pillar.
Oakhurst (embracing her tenderly, with a smile). If I have not told you who I am, it was because, darling, it was more important that you should know what I am. Now that you know that—why—(embarrassedly) I have nothing more to tell. I did not wish you to repeat the name of Oakhurst—because—(aside) how the Devil shall I tell her that Oakhurst was my real name, after all, and that I only feared she might divulge it?—(aloud) because—because—(determinedly) I doubted your ability to keep a secret. My real name is—(looks up, and sees MORTON leaning beyond pillar) is a secret. (Pause, in which OAKHURST slowly recovers his coolness.) It will be given to the good priest who to-night joins our fate forever, Jovita,—forever, in spite of calumny, opposition, or SPIES! the padre whom we shall reach, if enough life remains in your pulse and mine to clasp these hands together. (After a pause.) Are you content?
Jovita. I am.
Oakhurst. Then there is not a moment to lose. Retire, and prepare yourself for a journey. I will wait here.
Jovita. I am ready now.
Oakhurst (looking toward pillar). Pardon, my darling: there was a bracelet—a mere trifle—I once gave you. It is not on your wrist. I am a trifle superstitious, perhaps: it was my first gift. Bring it with you. I will wait. Go!
OAKHURST watches her exit, lounges indifferently toward gate; when opposite pillar, suddenly seizes MORTON by the throat, and drags him noiselessly to centre.
Oakhurst (hurriedly). One outcry,—a single word,—and it is your last. I care not who YOU may be!—who I am,—you have heard enough to know, at least, that you are in the grip of a desperate man. (Keys fall from MORTON'S hand. OAKHURST seizes them.) Silence! on your life.
Morton (struggling). You would not dare! I command you—
Oakhurst (dragging him to gateway). Out you must go.
Morton. Stop, I command you. I never turned MY father out of doors!
Oakhurst (gazing at MORTON). It is an OLD man! I release you. Do as you will, only remember that that girl is mine forever, that there is no power on earth will keep me from her.
Morton. On conditions.
Oakhurst. Who are you that make conditions? You are not—her father?
Morton. No but I am YOURS! Alexander Morton, I charge you to hear me.
Oakhurst (starting in astonishment; aside). Sandy Morton, my lost partner's father! This is fate.
Morton. You are astonished; but I thought so. Ay, you will hear me now! I am your father, Alexander Morton, who drove you, a helpless boy, into disgrace and misery. I know your shameless life: for twenty years it was mine, and worse, until, by the grace of God, I reformed, as you shall. I have stopped you in a disgraceful act. Your mother—God forgive me!—left HER house, for MY arms, as wickedly, as wantonly, as shamelessly—
Oakhurst. Stop, old man! Stop! Another word (seizing him), and I may forget your years.
Morton. But not your blood. No, Alexander Morton, I have come thousands of miles for one sacred purpose,—to save you; and I shall, with God's will, do it now. Be it so, on one condition. You shall have this girl; but lawfully, openly, with the sanction of Heaven and your parents.
Oakhurst (aside). I see a ray of hope. This is Sandy's father; the cold, insensate brute, who drove him into exile, the one bitter memory of his life. Sandy disappeared, irreclaimable, or living alone, hating irrevocably the author of his misery; why should not I—
Morton (continuing). On one condition. Hear me, Alexander Morton. If within a year, you, abandoning your evil practices, your wayward life, seek to reform beneath my roof, I will make this proud Spanish Don glad to accept you as the more than equal of his daughter.
Oakhurst (aside). It would be an easy deception. Sandy has given me the details of his early life. At least, before the imposition was discovered I shall be— (Aloud.) I—I— (Aside.) Perdition! SHE is coming! There is a light moving in the upper chamber. Don Jose is awakened. (Aloud.) I—I—accept.
Morton. It is well. Take these keys, open yonder gate, and fly! (As OAKHURST hesitates.) Obey me. I will meet your sweetheart, and explain all. You will come here at daylight in the morning, and claim admittance, not as a vagabond, a housebreaker, but as my son. You hesitate. Alexander Morton, I, your father, command you. Go!
OAKHURST goes to the gate, opens it, as the sound of DIEGO'S voice, singing in the fog, comes faintly in.
O yer's your Sandy Morton, Drink him down! O yer's your Sandy Morton, Drink him down! O yer's your Sandy Morton, For he's drunk, and goin' a-courtin'. O yer's your Sandy Morton, Drink him down!
OAKHURST recoils against gate, MORTON hesitates, as window in corridor opens, and DON JOSE calls from upper corridor.
Don Jose. Concho! (Pause.) 'Tis that vagabond Diego, lost his way in the fog. Strange that Concho should have overlooked him. I will descend.
Morton (to OAKHURST). Do you hear?
Exit OAKHURST through gateway. MORTON closes gate, and returns to centre. Enter JOVITA hurriedly.
Jovita. I have it here. Quick! there is a light in Don Jose's chamber; my father is coming down. (Sees MORTON, and screams.)
Morton (seizing her.) Hush! for your own sake; for HIS; control yourself. He is gone, but he will return. (To JOVITA, still struggling.) Hush, I beg, Miss Jovita. I beg, I command you, my daughter. Hush!
Jovita (whispering). His voice has changed. What does this mean? (Aloud.) Where has he gone? and why are YOU here?
Morton (slowly and seriously). He has left me here to answer the unanswered question you asked him. (Enter Don Jose and Col. STARBOTTLE, R. and L.) I am here to tell you that I am his father, and that he is Alexander Morton.
END OF ACT I.
SCENE 1.—Red Gulch. Canyon of river, and distant view of Sierras, snow-ravined. Schoolhouse of logs in right middle distance. Ledge of rocks in centre. On steps of schoolhouse two large bunches of flowers. Enter STARBOTTLE, slowly climbing rocks L., panting and exhausted. Seats himself on rock, foreground, and wipes his face with his pocket-handkerchief.
Starbottle. This is evidently the er—locality. Here are the—er—groves of Academus—the heights of er—Ida! I should say that the unwillingness which the—er—divine Shakespeare points out in the—er—"whining schoolboy" is intensified in—er—climbing this height, and the—er—alacrity of his departure must be in exact ratio to his gravitation. Good idea. Ged! say it to schoolma'am. Wonder what she's like? Humph! the usual thin, weazened, hatchet-faced Yankee spinster, with an indecent familiarity with Webster's Dictionary! And this is the woman, Star, you're expected to discover, and bring back to affluence and plenty. This is the new fanaticism of Mr. Alexander Morton, sen. Ged! not satisfied with dragging his prodigal son out of merited obscurity, this miserable old lunatic commissions ME to hunt up another of his abused relatives; some forty-fifth cousin, whose mother he had frozen, beaten, or starved to death! And all this to please his prodigal! Ged! if that prodigal hadn't presented himself that morning, I'd have picked up—er—some—er—reduced gentleman—Ged, that knew how to spend the old man's money to better advantage. (Musing.) If this schoolmistress were barely good-looking, Star,—and she's sure to have fifty thousand from the old man,—Ged, you might get even with Alexander, sen., for betrothing his prodigal to Dona Jovita, in spite of the—er—evident preference that the girl showed for you. Capital idea! If she's not positively hideous I'll do it! Ged! I'll reconnoitre first! (Musing.) I could stand one eye; yes—er—single eye would not be positively objectionable in the—er—present experiments of science toward the—er—the substitution of glass. Red hair, Star, is—er—Venetian,—the beauty of Giorgione. (Goes up to schoolhouse window, and looks in.) Too early! Seven empty benches; seven desks splashed with ink. The—er—rostrum of the awful Minerva empty, but—er—adorned with flowers, nosegays—demn me! And here, here on the—er—very threshold (looking down), floral tributes. The—er—conceit of these New England schoolma'ams, and their—er—evident Jesuitical influence over the young, is fraught, sir, fraught with—er—darkly political significance. Eh, Ged! there's a caricature on the blackboard. (Laughing.) Ha, ha! Absurd chalk outline of ridiculous fat person. Evidently the schoolma'am's admirer. Ged! immensely funny! Ah! boys will be boys. Like you, Star, just like you,—always up to tricks like that. A sentence scrawled below the figure seems to be—er—explanation. Hem! (Takes out eyeglass.) Let's see (reading.) "This is old"—old—er—old—demme, sir!—"Starbottle!" This is infamous. I haven't been forty-eight hours in the place, and to my certain knowledge haven't spoken to a child. Ged, sir, it's the—er—posting of a libel! The woman, the—er—female, who permits this kind of thing, should be made responsible—er—personally responsible. Eh, hush! What have we here? (Retires to ledge of rocks.)
Enter MISS MARY L., reading letter.
Miss Mary. Strange! Is it all a dream? No! here are the familiar rocks, the distant snow-peaks, the schoolhouse, the spring below. An hour ago I was the poor schoolmistress of Red Gulch, with no ambition nor hope beyond this mountain wall; and now—oh, it must be a dream! But here is the letter. Certainly this is no delusion: it is too plain, formal, business-like. (Reads.)
MY DEAR COUSIN—I address the only surviving child of my cousin Mary and her husband John Morris, both deceased. It is my duty as a Christian relative to provide you with a home—to share with you that wealth and those blessings that a kind providence has vouchsafed me. I am aware that my conduct to your father and mother, while in my sinful and unregenerate state, is no warrantee for my present promise; but my legal adviser, Col. Starbottle, who is empowered to treat with you, will assure you of the sincerity of my intention, and my legal ability to perform it. He will conduct you to my house; you will share its roof with me and my prodigal son Alexander, now by the grace of God restored, and mindful of the error of his ways. I enclose a draft for one thousand dollars: if you require more, draw upon me for the same.
ALEXANDER MORTON, SEN.
My mother's cousin—so! Cousin Alexander! a rich man, and reunited to the son he drove into shameful exile. Well! we will see this confidential lawyer; and until then—until then—why, we are the schoolmistress of Red Gulch, and responsible for its youthful prodigals. (Going to schoolhouse door.)
Miss Mary (stopping to examine flowers). Poor, poor Sandy! Another offering, and, as he fondly believes, unknown and anonymous! As if he were not visible in every petal and leaf! The mariposa blossom of the plain. The snowflower I longed for, from those cool snowdrifts beyond the ridge. And I really believe he was sober when he arranged them. Poor fellow! I begin to think that the dissipated portion of this community are the most interesting. Ah! some one behind the rock,—Sandy, I'll wager. No! a stranger!
Col. Starbottle (aside, and advancing). If I could make her think I left those flowers! (Aloud.) When I state that—er—I am perhaps—er—stranger—
Miss Mary (interrupting him coldly). You explain, sir, your appearance on a spot which the rude courtesy of even this rude miner's camp has preserved from intrusion.
Starbottle (slightly abashed, but recovering himself). Yes—Ged!—that is, I—er—saw you admiring—er—tribute—er—humble tribute of flowers. I am myself passionately devoted to flowers. Ged! I've spent hours—in—er—bending over the—er—graceful sunflower, in—er—plucking the timid violet from the overhanging but reluctant bough, in collecting the—er—er—fauna—I mean the—er—flora—of this—er—district.
Miss Mary (who has been regarding him intently). Permit me to leave you in uninterrupted admiration of them. (Handing him flowers.) You will have ample time in your journey down the gulch to indulge your curiosity!
Hands STARBOTTLE flowers, enters schoolhouse, and quietly closes door on STARBOTTLE as SANDY MORTON enters cautiously and sheepishly from left. SANDY stops in astonishment on observing STARBOTTLE, and remains by wing left.
Starbottle (smelling flowers, and not noticing MISS MARY'S absence). Beautiful—er—exquisite. (Looking up at closed door.) Ged! Most extraordinary disappearance! (Looks around, and discovers SANDY; examines him for a moment through his eyeglass, and then, after a pause, inflates his chest, turns his back on SANDY, and advances to schoolhouse door. SANDY comes quickly, and, as STARBOTTLE raises his cane to rap on door, seizes his arm. Both men, regarding each other fixedly, holding each other, retreat slowly and cautiously to centre. Then STARBOTTLE disengages his arm.)
Sandy (embarrassedly but determinedly). Look yer, stranger. By the rules of this camp, this place is sacred to the schoolma'am and her children.
Starbottle (with lofty severity). It is! Then—er—permit me to ask, sir, what YOU are doing here.
Sandy (embarrassed, and dropping his head in confusion). I was—passing. There is no school to-day.
Starbottle. Then, sir, Ged! permit me to—er—DEMAND—DEMAND, sir—an apology. You have laid, sir, your hand upon my person—demn me! Not the first time, sir, either; for, if I am not mistaken, you are the—er—inebriated menial, sir, who two months ago jostled me, sir,—demn me,—as I entered the rancho of my friend Don Jose Castro.
Sandy (starting, aside). Don Jose! (Aloud.) Hush, hush! She will hear you. No—that is—(stops, confused and embarrassed. Aside.) She will hear of my disgrace. He will tell her the whole story.
Starbottle. I shall await your apology one hour. At the end of that time, if it is not forthcoming, I shall—er—er—waive your menial antecedents, and expect the—er—satisfaction of a gentleman. Good-morning, sir. (Turns to schoolhouse.)
Sandy. No, no: you shall not go!
Starbottle. Who will prevent me?
Sandy (grappling him). I will. (Appealingly.) Look yer, stranger, don't provoke me, I, a desperate man, desperate and crazed with drink,—don't ye, don't ye do it! For God's sake, take your hands off me! Ye don't know what ye do. Ah! (Wildly, holding STARBOTTLE firmly, and forcing him backward to precipice beyond ledge of rocks.) Hear me. Three years ago, in a moment like this, I dragged a man—my friend—to this precipice. I—I—no! no!—don't anger me now! (Sandy's grip on STARBOTTLE relaxes slightly, and his head droops.)
Starbottle (coolly). Permit me to remark, sir, that any reminiscence of your—er—friend—or any other man is—er—at this moment, irrelevant and impertinent. Permit me to point out the—er—fact, sir, that your hand is pressing heavily, demned heavily, on my shoulder.
Sandy (fiercely). You shall not go!
Starbottle (fiercely). Shall not?
Struggle. STARBOTTLE draws derringer from his breast-pocket, and SANDY seizes his arm. In this position both parties struggle to ledge of rocks, and COL. STARBOTTLE is forced partly over.
Miss Mary (opening schoolhouse door). I thought I heard voices. (Looking toward ledge of rocks, where COL. STARBOTTLE and SANDY are partly hidden by trees. Both men relax grasp of each other at MISS MARY'S voice.)
Col. Starbottle (aloud and with voice slightly raised, to SANDY). By—er—leaning over this way a moment, a single moment, you will—er—perceive the trail I speak of. It follows the canyon to the right. It will bring you to—er—the settlement in an hour. (To MISS MARY, as if observing her for the first time.) I believe I am—er—right; but, being—er—more familiar with the locality, you can direct the gentleman better.
SANDY slowly sinks on his knees beside rock, with his face averted from schoolhouse, as COL. STARBOTTLE disengages himself, and advances jauntily and gallantly to schoolhouse.
Col. Starbottle. In—er—er—showing the stranger the—er—way, I perhaps interrupted our interview. The—er—observances of—er—civility and humanity must not be foregone, even for—er—the ladies. I—er—believe I address Miss Mary Morris. When I—er—state that my name is Col. Starbottle, charged on mission of—er—delicate nature, I believe I—er—explain MY intrusion.
MISS MARY bows, and motions to schoolhouse door; COL. STARBOTTLE, bowing deeply, enters; but MISS MARY remains standing by door, looking toward trees that hide SANDY.
Miss Mary (aside). I am sure it was Sandy's voice! But why does he conceal himself?
Sandy (aside, rising slowly to his feet, with his back to schoolhouse door). Even this conceited bully overcomes me, and shames me with his readiness and tact. He was quick to spare her—a stranger—the spectacle of two angry men. I—I—must needs wrangle before her very door! Well, well! better out of her sight forever, than an object of pity or terror. [Exit slowly, and with downcast eyes, right.
Miss Mary (watching the trail). It WAS Sandy! and this concealment means something more than bashfulness. Perhaps the stranger can explain.
[Enters schoolhouse, and closes door.
SCENE 2.—The same. Enter CONCHO, lame, cautiously, from R. Pauses at R., and then beckons to HOP SING, who follows R.
Concho (impatiently). Well! you saw him?
Hop Sing. Me see him.
Concho. And you recognized him?
Hop Sing. No shabe likoquize.
Concho (furiously). You knew him, eh? Carramba! You KNEW him.
Hop Sing (slowly and sententiously). Me shabe man you callee Diego. Me shabbee Led Gulchee call Sandy. Me shabbee man Poker Flat callee Alexandlee Molton. Allee same, John! Allee same!
Concho (rubbing his hands). Bueno! Good John! good John! And you knew he was called Alexander Morton? And go on—good John—go on!
Hop Sing. Me plentee washee shirtee—Melican man Poker Flat. Me plentee washee shirt Alexandlee Molton. Always litee, litee on shirt allee time. (Pointing to tail of his blouse, and imitating writing with finger.) Alexandlee Molton. Melican man tellee me—shirt say Alexandlee Molton—shabbee?
Concho. Bueno! Excellent John. Good John. His linen marked Alexander Morton. The proofs are gathering! (crosses to C.)—the letter I found in his pack, addressed to Alexander Morton, Poker Flat, which first put me on his track; the story of his wife's infidelity, and her flight with his partner to red Gulch, the quarrel and fight that separated them, his flight to San Jose, his wanderings to the mission of San Carmel, to the rancho of the Holy Fisherman. The record is complete!
Hop Sing. Alexandlee Molton—
Concho (hurriedly returning to HOP SING). Yes! good John; yes, good John—go on. Alexander Morton—
Hop Sing. Alexandlee Molton. Me washee shirt, Alexandlee Molton; he no pay washee. Me washee flowty dozen hep—four bittie dozen—twenty dollar hep. Alexandlee Molton no payee. He say, "Go to hellee!" You pay me (extending his hand).
Concho. Car—! (checking himself). Poco tiempo, John! In good time, John. Forty dollar—yes. Fifty dollar! Tomorrow, John.
Hop Sing. Me no likee "to-mollow!" Me no likee "nex time, John!" Allee time Melican man say, "Chalkee up, John," "No smallee change, John,"—umph. Plenty foolee me!
Concho. You shall have your money, John; but go now—you comprehend. Carramba! go! (Pushes HOP SING to wing.)
Hop Sing (expostulating). Flowty dozen, hep, John! twenty dollar, John. Sabe. Flowty—twenty—(gesticulating with fingers).
[Exit HOP SING, pushed off by CONCHO.
Concho. The pagan dolt! But he is important. Ah, if he were wiser, I should not rid myself of him so quickly! And now for the schoolmistress,—the sweetheart of Sandy. If these men have not lied, he is in love with her; and, if he is, he has told her his secret before now; and she will be swift to urge him to his rights. If he has not told her—umph! (laughing) it will not be a DAY—an HOUR—before she will find out if her lover is Alexander Morton, the rich man's son, or "Sandy," the unknown vagabond. Eh, friend Sandy! It was a woman that locked up your secret: it shall be a woman, Madre di Dios! who shall unlock it. Ha! (Goes to door of schoolhouse as door opens, and appears COL. STARBOTTLE.)
Concho (aside). A thousand devils! the lawyer of the old man Morton. (Aloud.) Pardon, pardon! I am a stranger. I have lost my way on the mountain. I am seeking a trail. Senor, pardon!
Starbottle (aside). Another man seeking the road! Ged, I believe he's lying too. (Aloud.) It is before you, sir, DOWN,—down the mountain.
Concho. A thousand thanks, senor. (Aside.) Perdition catch him! (Aloud.) Thanks, senor. [Exit R.
Starbottle. Ged, I've seen that face before. Ged, it's Castro's major-domo. Demn me, but I believe all his domestics have fallen in love with the pretty schoolma'am.
Enter MISS MARY from schoolhouse.
Miss Mary (slowly refolding letter). You are aware, then, of the contents of this note; and you are the friend of Alexander Morton, sen.?
Col. Starbottle. Permit me a moment, a single moment, to—er—er—explain. I am Mr. Morton's legal adviser. There is—er—sense of—er—responsibility,—er—personal responsibility, about the term "friend," that at the—er—er—present moment I am not—er—prepared to assume. The substance of the letter is before you. I am here to—er—express its spirit. I am here (with great gallantry) to express the—er—yearnings of cousinly affection. I am aware—er—that OUR conduct,—if I may use the—er—the plural of advocacy,—I am aware that—er—OUR conduct has not in the past years been of—er—er—exemplary character. I am aware that the—er—death of our lamented cousin, your sainted mother, was—er—hastened—I may—er—say—pre—cip—itated—by our—er—indiscretion But we are hereto—er—confess judgment—with—er—er—costs.
Miss Mary (interrupting). In other words, your client, my cousin, having ruined my father, having turned his own widowed relation out of doors, and sent me, her daughter, among strangers to earn her bread; having seen my mother sink and die in her struggle to keep her family from want,—this man now seeks to condone his offences—pardon me, sir, if I use your own legal phraseology—by offering me a home; by giving me part of his ill-gotten wealth, the association of his own hypocritical self, and the company of his shameless, profligate son—
Starbottle (interrupting). A moment, Miss Morris,—a single moment! The epithets you have used, the—er—vigorous characterization of our—er—conduct, is—er—within the—er—strict rules of legal advocacy, correct. We are—er—rascals! we are—er—scoundrels! we are—er—well, I am not—er—prepared to say that we are not—er—demn me—hypocrites! But the young man you speak of—our son, whose past life (speaking as Col. Starbottle) no one more sincerely deprecates than myself,—that young man has reformed; has been for the past few months a miracle of sobriety, decorum, and industry; has taken, thanks to the example of—er—friends, a position of integrity in his father's business, of filial obedience in his father's household; is, in short, a paragon; and, demn me, I doubt if he's his father's son.
Miss Mary. Enough, sir! You are waiting for my answer. There is no reason why it should not be as precise, as brief, and as formal as your message. Go to my cousin; say that you saw the person he claims as his relation; say that you found her, a poor schoolmistress, in a rude mining camp, dependent for her bread on the scant earnings of already impoverished men, dependent for her honor on the rude chivalry of outcasts and vagabonds; and say that then and there she repudiated your kinship, and respectfully declined your invitation.
Starbottle (aside). Ged! Star! this is the—er—female of your species! This is the woman—the—er—one woman—for whom you are responsible, sir!—personally responsible!
Miss Mary (coldly). You have my answer, sir.
Col. Starbottle. Permit me—er—single moment,—a single moment! Between the er—present moment, and that of my departure—there is an—er—interval of twelve hours. May I, at the close of that interval—again present myself—without prejudice, for your final answer?
Miss Mary (indifferently). As you will, sir. I shall be here.
Col. Starbottle. Permit me. (Takes her hand gallantly.) Your conduct and manner, Miss Morris, remind me—er—singularly—of—er beautiful creature—one of the—er—first families. (Observing MISS MARY regarding him amusedly, becomes embarrassed.) That is—er—I mean—er—er—good morning, Miss Morris! (Passes by schoolhouse door, retreating and bowing, and picks up flowers from door-step.) Good morning!
Miss Mary. Excuse me, Col. Starbottle (with winning politeness), but I fear I must rob you of those flowers. I recognize them now as the offering of one of my pupils. I fear I must revoke my gift (taking flowers from astonished colonel's hand), all except a single one for your buttonhole. Have you any choice, or shall I (archly) choose for you? Then it shall be this. (Begins to place flowers in buttonhole, COL. STARBOTTLE exhibiting extravagant gratitude in dumb show. Business prolonged through MISS MARY's speech.) If I am not wrong, colonel, the gentleman to whom you so kindly pointed out the road this morning was not a stranger to you. Ah! I am right. There, one moment,—a sprig of green, a single leaf, would set off the pink nicely. Here he is known only as "Sandy": you know the absurd habits of this camp. Of course he has another name. There! (releasing the colonel) it is much prettier now.
Col. Starbottle. Ged, madam! The rarest exotic—the Victoria Regina—is not as—er—graceful—er—tribute!
Miss Mary. And yet you refuse to satisfy my curiosity?
Col. Starbottle (with great embarrassment, which at last resolves itself into increased dignity of manner). What you ask is—er—er—impossible! You are right: the—er—gentleman you allude to is known to me under—er—er—another name. But honor—Miss Morris, honor!—seals the lips of Col. Starbottle. (Aside.) If she should know he was a menial! No. The position of the man you have challenged, Star, must be equal to your own. (Aloud.) Anything, Miss Morris, but—er—that!
Miss Mary (smiling). Be it so. Adios, Col. Starbottle.
Col. Starbottle (gallantly). Au revoir, Miss Morris. [Exit, impressively, L.
Miss Mary. So! Sandy conceals another name, which he withholds from Red Gulch. Well! Pshaw! What is that to me? The camp is made up of refugees,—men who perhaps have good reason to hide a name that may be infamous, the name that would publish a crime. Nonsense! Crime and Sandy! No, shame and guilt do not hide themselves in those honest but occasionally somewhat bloodshot eyes. Besides, goodness knows! the poor fellow's weakness is palpable enough. No, that is not the reason. It is no guilt that keeps his name hidden,—at least, not his. (Seating herself, and arranging flowers in her lap.) Poor Sandy! he must have climbed the eastern summit to get this. See, the rosy sunrise still lingers in its very petals; the dew is fresh upon it. Dear little mountain baby! I really believe that fellow got up before daylight, to climb that giddy height and secure its virgin freshness. And to think, in a moment of spite, I'd have given it to that bombastic warrior! (Pause.) That was a fine offer you refused just now, Miss Mary. Think of it: a home of luxury, a position of assured respect and homage; the life I once led, with all its difficulties smoothed away, its uncertainty dispelled,—think of it! My poor mother's dream fulfilled,—I, her daughter, the mistress of affluence, the queen of social power! What a temptation! Ah, Miss Mary, WAS it a temptation? Was there nothing in your free life here that stiffened your courage, that steeled the adamant of your refusal? or was it only the memory of your mother's wrongs? Luxury and wealth! Could you command a dwelling more charming than this? Position and respect! Is not the awful admiration of these lawless men more fascinating than the perilous flattery of gentlemen like Col. Starbottle? is not the devotion of these outcasts more complimentary than the lip-service of perfumed gallantry? (Pause.) It's very odd he doesn't come. I wonder if that conceited old fool said anything to him. (Rises, and then seats herself, smiling.) He HAS COME. He is dodging in and out of the manganita bushes below the spring. I suppose he imagines my visitor still here. The bashful fool! If anybody should see him, it would be enough to make a petty scandal! I'll give him a talking-to. (Pause.) I wonder if the ridiculous fool has gone to sleep in those bushes. (Rises.) Well, let him: it will help him to recover his senses from last night's dissipation; and you, Miss Mary, it is high time you were preparing the lessons for to-morrow. (Goes to schoolhouse, enters door, and slams it behind her; after a moment reappears with empty bucket.) Of course there's no water, and I am dying of thirst. (Goes slowly to left, and pauses embarrassedly and bashfully, presently laughs,—then suddenly frowns, and assumes an appearance of indignation.) Miss Mary Morris, have you become such an egregious fool that you dare not satisfy the ordinary cravings of human nature, just because an idle, dissipated, bashful blockhead—nonsense! [Exit, brandishing pail.
SCENE 3.—The Same.
(A pause. SANDY'S voice, without.) This way, miss: the trail is easier.
(MISS MARY'S voice, without.) Never mind me; look after the bucket.
Enter SANDY, carrying bucket with water, followed by MISS MARY. SANDY sets bucket down.
Miss Mary. There, you've spilt half of it. If it had been whiskey, you'd have been more careful.
Sandy (submissively). Yes, miss.
Miss Mary (aside). "Yes, miss!" The man will drive me crazy with his saccharine imbecility. (Aloud.) I believe you would assent to anything, even if I said you were—an impostor!
Sandy (amazedly). An impostor, Miss Mary?
Miss Mary. Well, I don't know what other term you use in Red Gulch to express a man who conceals his real name under another.
Sandy (embarrassed, but facing MISS MARY). Has anybody been tellin' ye I was an impostor, miss? Has thet derned old fool that I saw ye with—
Miss Mary. "That old fool," as you call him, was too honorable a gentleman to disclose your secret, and too loyal a friend to traduce you by an epithet. Fear nothing, Mr. "Sandy": if you have limited your confidence to ONE friend, it has not been misplaced. But, dear me, don't think I wish to penetrate your secret. No. The little I learned was accidental. Besides, his business was with me: perhaps, as his friend, you already know it.
Sandy (meekly). Perhaps, miss, he was too honorable a gentleman to disclose YOUR secret. His business was with me.
Miss Mary (aside). He has taken a leaf out of my book! He is not so stupid, after all. (Aloud.) I have no secret. Col. Starbottle came here to make me an offer.
Sandy (recoiling). An offer!
Miss Mary. Of a home and independence. (Aside.) Poor fellow! how pale he looks! (Aloud.) Well, you see, I am more trustful than you. I will tell you MY secret; and you shall aid me with your counsel. (They sit on ledge of rocks.) Listen! My mother had a cousin once,—a cousin cruel, cowardly, selfish, and dissolute. She loved him, as women are apt to love such men,—loved him so that she beguiled her own husband to trust his fortunes in the hands of this wretched profligate. The husband was ruined, disgraced. The wife sought her cousin for help for her necessities. He met her with insult, and proposed that she should fly with him.
Sandy. One moment, miss: it wasn't his pardner—his pardner's wife—eh?
Miss Mary (impatiently). It was the helpless wife of his own blood, I tell you. The husband died broken-hearted. The wife, my mother, struggled in poverty, under the shadow of a proud name, to give me an education, and died while I was still a girl. To-day this cousin,—this more than murderer of my parents,—old, rich, self-satisfied, REFORMED, invites me, by virtue of that kinship he violated and despised, to his home, his wealth, his—his family roof-tree! The man you saw was his agent.
Sandy. And you—
Miss Mary. Refused.
Sandy (passing his hand over his forehead). You did wrong, Miss Mary.
Miss Mary. Wrong, sir? (Rising.)
Sandy (humbly but firmly). Sit ye down, Miss Mary. It ain't for ye to throw your bright young life away yer in this place. It ain't for such as ye to soil your fair young hands by raking in the ashes to stir up the dead embers of a family wrong. It ain't for ye—ye'll pardon me, Miss Mary, for sayin' it—it ain't for ye to allow when it's TOO LATE fur a man to reform, or to go back of his reformation. Don't ye do it, miss, fur God's sake,—don't ye do it! Harkin, Miss Mary. If ye'll take my advice—a fool's advice, maybe—ye'll go. And when I tell ye that that advice, if ye take it, will take the sunshine out of these hills, the color off them trees, the freshness outer them flowers, the heart's-blood outer me,—ye'll know that I ain't thinkin' o' myself, but of ye. And I wouldn't say this much to ye, Miss Mary; but you're goin' away. There's a flower, miss, you're wearin' in your bosom,—a flower I picked at daybreak this morning, five miles away in the snow. The wind was blowing chill around it, so that my hands that dug for it were stiff and cold; but the roots were warm, Miss Mary, as they are now in your bosom. Ye'll keep that flower, Miss Mary, in remembrance of my love for ye, that kept warm and blossomed through the snow. And, don't start, Miss Mary,—for ye'll leave behind ye, as I did, the snow and rocks through which it bloomed. I axes your parding, miss: I'm hurtin' yer feelin's, sure.
Miss Mary (rising with agitation). Nothing,—nothing; but climbing these stupid rocks has made me giddy: that's all. Your arm. (To SANDY impatiently). Can't you give me your arm? (SANDY supports MISS MARY awkwardly toward schoolhouse. At door MISS MARY pauses.) But if reformation is so easy, so acceptable, why have you not profited by it? Why have you not reformed? Why have I found you here, a disgraced, dissipated, anonymous outcast, whom an honest girl dare not know? Why do you presume to preach to me? Have you a father?
Sandy. Hush, Miss Mary, hush! I had a father. Harkin. All that you have suffered from a kinship even so far removed, I have known from the hands of one who should have protected me. MY father was—but no matter. You, Miss Mary, came out of your trials like gold from the washing. I was only the dirt and gravel to be thrown away. It is too late, Miss Mary, too late. My father has never sought me, would turn me from his doors had I sought him. Perhaps he is only right.
Miss Mary. But why should he be so different from others? Listen. This very cousin whose offer I refused had a son,—wild, wayward, by all report the most degraded of men. It was part of my cousin's reformation to save this son, and, if it were possible, snatch him from that terrible fate which seemed to be his only inheritance.
Sandy (eagerly). Yes, miss.
Miss Mary. To restore him to a regenerated home. With this idea he followed his prodigal to California. I, you understand, was only an after-thought consequent upon his success. He came to California upon this pilgrimage two years ago. He had no recollection, so they tell me, by which he could recognize this erring son; and at first his search was wild, profitless, and almost hopeless. But by degrees, and with a persistency that seemed to increase with his hopelessness, he was rewarded by finding some clew to him at—at—at—
Sandy (excitedly). At Poker Flat?
Miss Mary. Ah, perhaps you know the story,—at Poker Flat. He traced him to the Mission of San Carmel.
Sandy. Yes, miss: go on.
Miss Mary. He was more successful than he deserved, perhaps. He found him. I see you know the story.
Sandy. Found him! Found him! Miss, did you say found him?
Miss Mary. Yes, found him. And today Alexander Morton, the reclaimed prodigal, is part of the household I am invited to join. So you see, Mr. Sandy, there is still hope. What has happened to him is only a promise to you. Eh! Mr. Sandy—what is the matter? Are you ill? Your exertion this morning, perhaps. Speak to me! Gracious heavens, he is going mad! No! No! Yes—it cannot be—it is—he HAS broken his promise: he is drunk again.
Sandy (rising, excited and confused). Excuse me, miss, I am a little onsartain HERE (pointing to his head). I can't—I disremember—what you said jus' now: ye mentioned the name o' that prodigal that was found.
Miss Mary. Certainly: compose yourself,—my cousin's son, Alexander Morton. Listen, Sandy, you promised ME, you know, you said for MY sake you would not touch a drop. (Enter cautiously toward schoolhouse the DUCHESS, stops on observing SANDY, and hides behind rock.)
Sandy (still bewildered and incoherent). I reckon. Harkin, miss, is that thar thing (pointing towards rock where DUCHESS is concealed)—is that a tree, or—or—a woman? Is it sorter movin' this way?
Miss Mary (laying her hand on SANDY'S). Recover your senses, for Heaven's sake, Sandy,—for MY sake! It is only a tree.
Sandy (rising). Then, miss, I've broke my word with ye: I'm drunk. P'r'aps I'd better be a-goin' (looking round confusedly) till I'm sober. (Going toward L.)
Miss Mary (seizing his hand). But you'll see me again, Sandy: you'll come here—before—before—I go?
Sandy. Yes, miss,—before ye go. (Staggers stupidly toward L. Aside.) Found him! found Alexander Morton! It's a third time, Sandy, the third time: it means—it means—you're mad! (Laughs wildly, and exit L.)
Miss Mary (springing to her feet). There is a mystery behind all this, Mary Morris, that you—you—must discover. That man was NOT drunk: he HAD NOT broken his promise to me. What does it all mean? I have it. I will accept the offer of this Alexander Morton. I will tell him the story of this helpless man, this poor, poor, reckless Sandy. With the story of his own son before his eyes, he cannot but interest himself in his fate. He is rich: he will aid me in my search for Sandy's father, for Sandy's secret. At the worst, I can only follow the advice of this wretched man,—an advice so generous, so kind, so self-sacrificing. Ah—
SCENE 4.—The same. Enter the DUCHESS, showily and extravagantly dressed. Her manner at first is a mixture of alternate shyness and bravado.
The Duchess. I heerd tell that you was goin' down to 'Frisco to-morrow, for your vacation; and I couldn't let ye go till I came to thank ye for your kindness to my boy,—little Tommy.
Miss Mary (aside. Rising abstractedly, and recalling herself with an effort). I see,—a poor outcast, the mother of my anonymous pupil. (Aloud.) Tommy! a good boy,—a dear, good little boy.
Duchess. Thankee, miss, thankee. If I am his mother, thar ain't a sweeter, dearer, better boy lives than him. And, if I ain't much as says it, thar ain't a sweeter, dearer, angeler teacher than he's got. It ain't for you to be complimented by me, miss; it ain't for such as me to be comin' here in broad day to do it, either; but I come to ask a favor,—not for me, miss, but for the darling boy.
Miss Mary (aside—abstractedly). This poor, degraded creature will kill me with her wearying gratitude. Sandy will not return, of course, while she is here. (Aloud.) Go on. If I can help you or yours, be assured I will.
The Duchess. Thankee, miss. You see, thar's no one the boy has any claim on but me, and I ain't the proper person to bring him up. I did allow to send him to 'Frisco, last year; but when I heerd talk that a schoolma'am was comin' up, and you did, and he sorter tuk to ye natril from the first, I guess I did well to keep him yer. For, oh, miss, he loves ye so much; and, if you could hear him talk in his purty way, ye wouldn't refuse him anything.
Miss Mary (with fatigued politeness, and increasing impatience). I see, I see: pray go on.
The Duchess (with quiet persistency). It's natril he should take to ye, miss; for his father, when I first knowed him, miss, was a gentleman like yourself; and the boy must forget me sooner or later—and I ain't goin' to cry about THAT.
Miss Mary (impatiently). Pray tell me how I can serve you.
The Duchess. Yes, miss; you see, I came to ask you to take my Tommy,—God bless him for the sweetest, bestest boy that lives!—to take him with you. I've money plenty; and it's all yours and his. Put him in some good school, whar ye kin go and see, and sorter help him to—forget—-his mother. Do with him what you like. The worst you can do will be kindness to what he would learn with me. You will: I know you will; won't you? You will make him as pure and as good as yourself; and when he has grown up, and is a gentleman, you will tell him his father's name,—the name that hasn't passed my lips for years,—the name of Alexander Morton.