In a Hollow of the Hills

by Bret Harte

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Of the great discovery in Sylvan Silver Hollow it would seem that Collinson as yet knew nothing. In spite of Key's fears that he might stray there on his return from Skinner's, he did not, nor did he afterwards revisit the locality. Neither the news of the registry of the claim nor the arrival of Key's workmen ever reached him. The few travelers who passed his mill came from the valley to cross the Divide on their way to Skinner's, and returned by the longer but easier detour of the stage-road over Galloper's Ridge. He had no chance to participate in the prosperity that flowed from the opening of the mine, which plentifully besprinkled Skinner's settlement; he was too far away to profit even by the chance custom of Key's Sabbath wandering workmen. His isolation from civilization (for those who came to him from the valley were rude Western emigrants like himself) remained undisturbed. The return of the prospecting party to his humble hospitality that night had been an exceptional case; in his characteristic simplicity he did not dream that it was because they had nowhere else to go in their penniless condition. It was an incident to be pleasantly remembered, but whose nonrecurrence did not disturb his infinite patience. His pork barrel and flour sack had been replenished for other travelers; his own wants were few.

It was a day or two after the midnight visit of the sheriff to Silver Hollow that Key galloped down the steep grade to Collinson's. He was amused, albeit, in his new importance, a little aggrieved also, to find that Collinson had as usual confounded his descent with that of the generally detached boulder, and that he was obliged to add his voice to the general uproar. This brought Collinson to his door.

"I've had your hoss hobbled out among the chickweed and clover in the green pasture back o' the mill, and he's picked up that much that he's lookin' fat and sassy," he said quietly, beginning to mechanically unstrap Key's bridle, even while his guest was in the act of dismounting. "His back's quite healed up."

Key could not restrain a shrug of impatience. It was three weeks since they had met,--three weeks crammed with excitement, energy, achievement, and fortune to Key; and yet this place and this man were as stupidly unchanged as when he had left them. A momentary fancy that this was the reality, that he himself was only awakening from some delusive dream, came over him. But Collinson's next words were practical.

"I reckoned that maybe you'd write from Marysville to Skinner to send for the hoss, and forward him to ye, for I never kalkilated you'd come back."

It was quite plain from this that Collinson had heard nothing. But it was also awkward, as Key would now have to tell the whole story, and reveal the fact that he had been really experimenting when Collinson overtook him in the hollow. He evaded this by post- dating his discovery of the richness of the ore until he had reached Marysville. But he found some difficulty in recounting his good fortune: he was naturally no boaster, he had no desire to impress Collinson with his penetration, nor the undaunted energy he had displayed in getting up his company and opening the mine, so that he was actually embarrassed by his own understatement; and under the grave, patient eyes of his companion, told his story at best lamely. Collinson's face betrayed neither profound interest nor the slightest resentment. When Key had ended his awkward recital, Collinson said slowly:--

"Then Uncle Dick and that other Parker feller ain't got no show in this yer find."

"No," said Key quickly. "Don't you remember we broke up our partnership that morning and went off our own ways. You don't suppose," he added with a forced half-laugh, "that if Uncle Dick or Parker had struck a lead after they left me, they'd have put me in it?"

"Wouldn't they?" asked Collinson gravely.

"Of course not." He laughed a little more naturally, but presently added, with an uneasy smile, "What makes you think they would?"

"Nuthin'!" said Collinson promptly.

Nevertheless, when they were seated before the fire, with glasses in their hands, Collinson returned patiently to the subject: "You wuz saying they went their way, and you went yours. But your way was back on the old way that you'd all gone together."

But Key felt himself on firmer ground here, and answered deliberately and truthfully, "Yes, but I only went back to the hollow to satisfy myself if there really was any house there, and if there was, to warn the occupants of the approaching fire."

"And there was a house there," said Collinson thoughtfully.

"Only the ruins." He stopped and flushed quickly, for he remembered that he had denied its existence at their former meeting. "That is," he went on hurriedly, "I found out from the sheriff, you know, that there had been a house there. But," he added, reverting to his stronger position, "my going back there was an accident, and my picking up the outcrop was an accident, and had no more to do with our partnership prospecting than you had. In fact," he said, with a reassuring laugh, "you'd have had a better right to share in my claim, coming there as you did at that moment, than they. Why, if I'd have known what the thing was worth, I might have put you in--only it wanted capital and some experience." He was glad that he had pitched upon that excuse (it had only just occurred to him), and glanced affably at Collinson. But that gentleman said soberly:--

"No, you wouldn't nuther."

"Why not?" said Key half angrily.

Collinson paused. After a moment he said, "'Cos I wouldn't hev took anything outer thet place."

Key felt relieved. From what he knew of Collinson's vagaries he believed him. He was wise in not admitting him to his confidences at the beginning; he might have thought it his duty to tell others.

"I'm not so particular," he returned laughingly, "but the silver in that hole was never touched, nor I dare say even imagined by mortal man before. However, there is something else about the hollow that I want to tell you. You remember the slipper that you picked up?"


"Well, I lied to you about that; I never dropped it. On the contrary, I had picked up the mate of it very near where you found yours, and I wanted to know to whom it belonged. For I don't mind telling you now, Collinson, that I believe there WAS a woman in that house, and the same woman whose face I saw at the window. You remember how the boys joked me about it--well, perhaps I didn't care that you should laugh at me too, but I've had a sore conscience over my lie, for I remembered that you seemed to have some interest in the matter too, and I thought that maybe I might have thrown you off the scent. It seemed to me that if you had any idea who it was, we might now talk the matter over and compare notes. I think you said--at least, I gathered the idea from a remark of yours," he added hastily, as he remembered that the suggestion was his own, and a satirical one--"that it reminded you of your wife's slipper. Of course, as your wife is dead, that would offer no clue, and can only be a chance resemblance, unless"-- He stopped.

"Have you got 'em yet?"

"Yes, both." He took them from the pocket of his riding-jacket.

As Collinson received them, his face took upon itself an even graver expression. "It's mighty cur'ous," he said reflectively, "but looking at the two of 'em the likeness is more fetchin'. Ye see, my wife had a STRAIGHT foot, and never wore reg'lar rights and lefts like other women, but kinder changed about; ye see, these shoes is reg'lar rights and lefts, but never was worn as sich!"

"There may be other women as peculiar," suggested Key.

"There MUST be," said Collinson quietly.

For an instant Key was touched with the manly security of the reply, for, remembering Uncle Dick's scandal, it had occurred to him that the unknown tenant of the robbers' den might be Collinson's wife. He was glad to be relieved on that point, and went on more confidently:--

"So, you see, this woman was undoubtedly in that house on the night of the fire. She escaped, and in a mighty hurry too, for she had not time to change her slippers for shoes; she escaped on horseback, for that is how she lost them. Now what was she doing there with those rascals, for the face I saw looked as innocent as a saint's."

"Seemed to ye sort o' contrairy, jist as I reckoned my wife's foot would have looked in a slipper that you said was GIV to ye," suggested Collinson pointedly, but with no implication of reproach in his voice.

"Yes," said Key impatiently.

"I've read yarns afore now about them Eyetalian brigands stealin' women," said Collinson reflectively, "but that ain't California road-agent style. Great Scott! if one even so much as spoke to a woman, they'd have been wiped outer the State long ago. No! the woman as WAS there came there to STAY!"

As Key's face did not seem to express either assent or satisfaction at this last statement, Collinson, after a glance at it, went on with a somewhat gentler gravity: "I see wot's troublin' YOU, Mr. Key; you've bin thinkin' that mebbee that poor woman might hev bin the better for a bit o' that fortin' that you discovered under the very spot where them slippers of hers had often trod. You're thinkin' that mebbee it might hev turned her and those men from their evil ways."

Mr. Key had been thinking nothing of the kind, but for some obscure reason the skeptical jeer that had risen to his lips remained unsaid. He rose impatiently. "Well, there seems to be no chance of discovering anything now; the house is burnt, the gang dispersed, and she has probably gone with them." He paused, and then laid three or four large gold pieces on the table. "It's for that old bill of our party, Collinson," he said. "I'll settle and collect from each. Some time when you come over to the mine, and I hope you'll give us a call, you can bring the horse. Meanwhile you can use him; you'll find he's a little quicker than the mule. How is business?" he added, with a perfunctory glance around the vacant room and dusty bar.

"Thar ain't much passin' this way," said Collinson with equal carelessness, as he gathered up the money, "'cept those boys from the valley, and they're most always strapped when they come here."

Key smiled as he observed that Collinson offered him no receipt, and, moreover, as he remembered that he had only Collinson's word for the destruction of Parker's draft. But he merely glanced at his unconscious host, and said nothing. After a pause he returned in a lighter tone: "I suppose you are rather out of the world here. Indeed, I had an idea at first of buying out your mill, Collinson, and putting in steam power to get out timber for our new buildings, but you see you are so far away from the wagon-road, that we couldn't haul the timber away. That was the trouble, or I'd have made you a fair offer."

"I don't reckon to ever sell the mill," said Collinson simply. Then observing the look of suspicion in his companion's face, he added gravely, "You see, I rigged up the whole thing when I expected my wife out from the States, and I calkilate to keep it in memory of her."

Key slightly lifted his brows. "But you never told us, by the way, HOW you ever came to put up a mill here with such an uncertain water-supply."

"It wasn't onsartin when I came here, Mr. Key; it was a full-fed stream straight from them snow peaks. It was the earthquake did it."

"The earthquake!" repeated Key.

"Yes. Ef the earthquake kin heave up that silver-bearing rock that you told us about the first day you kem here, and that you found t'other day, it could play roots with a mere mill-stream, I reckon."

"But the convulsion I spoke of happened ages on ages ago, when this whole mountain range was being fashioned," said Key with a laugh.

"Well, this yer earthquake was ten years ago, just after I came. I reckon I oughter remember it. It was a queer sort o' day in the fall, dry and hot as if thar might hev bin a fire in the woods, only thar wasn't no wind. Not a breath of air anywhar. The leaves of them alders hung straight as a plumb-line. Except for that thar stream and that thar wheel, nuthin' moved. Thar wasn't a bird on the wing over that canyon; thar wasn't a squirrel skirmishin' in the hull wood; even the lizards in the rocks stiffened like stone Chinese idols. It kept gettin' quieter and quieter, ontil I walked out on that ledge and felt as if I'd have to give a yell just to hear my own voice. Thar was a thin veil over everything, and betwixt and between everything, and the sun was rooted in the middle of it as if it couldn't move neither. Everythin' seemed to be waitin', waitin', waitin'. Then all of a suddin suthin' seemed to give somewhar! Suthin' fetched away with a queer sort of rumblin', as if the peg had slipped outer creation. I looked up and kalkilated to see half a dozen of them boulders come, lickity switch, down the grade. But, darn my skin, if one of 'em stirred! and yet while I was looking, the whole face o' that bluff bowed over softly, as if saying 'Good-by,' and got clean away somewhar before I knowed it. Why, you see that pile agin the side o' the canyon! Well, a thousand feet under that there's trees, three hundred feet high, still upright and standin'. You know how them pines over on that far mountain-side always seem to be climbin' up, up, up, over each other's heads to the very top? Well, Mr. Key, I SAW 'EM climbin'! And when I pulled myself together and got back to the mill, everything was quiet; and, by G--d, so was the mill- wheel, and there wasn't two inches of water in the river!"

"And what did you think of it?" said Key, interested in spite of his impatience.

"I thought, Mr. Key-- No! I mustn't say I thought, for I knowed it. I knowed that suthin' had happened to my wife!"

Key did not smile, but even felt a faint superstitious thrill as he gazed at him. After a pause Collinson resumed: "I heard a month after that she had died about that time o' yaller fever in Texas with the party she was comin' with. Her folks wrote that they died like flies, and wuz all buried together, unbeknownst and promiscuous, and thar wasn't no remains. She slipped away from me like that bluff over that canyon, and that was the end of it."

"But she might have escaped," said Key quickly, forgetting himself in his eagerness.

But Collinson only shook his head. "Then she'd have been here," he said gravely.

Key moved towards the door still abstractedly, held out his hand, shook that of his companion warmly, and then, saddling his horse himself, departed. A sense of disappointment--in which a vague dissatisfaction with himself was mingled--was all that had come of his interview. He took himself severely to task for following his romantic quest so far. It was unworthy of the president of the Sylvan Silver Hollow Company, and he was not quite sure but that his confidences with Collinson might have imperiled even the interests of the company. To atone for this momentary aberration, and correct his dismal fancies, he resolved to attend to some business at Skinner's before returning, and branched off on a long detour that would intersect the traveled stage-road. But here a singular incident overtook him. As he wheeled into the turnpike, he heard the trampling hoof-beats and jingling harness of the oncoming coach behind him. He had barely time to draw up against the bank before the six galloping horses and swinging vehicle swept heavily by. He had a quick impression of the heat and steam of sweating horse-hide, the reek of varnish and leather, and the momentary vision of a female face silhouetted against the glass window of the coach! But even in that flash of perception he recognized the profile that he had seen at the window of the mysterious hut! He halted for an instant dazed and bewildered in the dust of the departing wheels. Then, as the bulk of the vehicle reappeared, already narrowing in the distance, without a second thought he dashed after it. His disappointment, his self-criticism, his practical resolutions were forgotten. He had but one idea now--the vision was providential! The clue to the mystery was before him-- he MUST follow it! Yet he had sense enough to realize that the coach would not stop to take up a passenger between stations, and that the next station was the one three miles below Skinner's. It would not be difficult to reach this by a cut-off in time, and although the vehicle had appeared to be crowded, he could no doubt obtain a seat on top.

His eager curiosity, however, led him to put spurs to his horse, and range up alongside of the coach as if passing it, while he examined the stranger more closely. Her face was bent listlessly over a book; there was unmistakably the same profile that he had seen, but the full face was different in outline and expression. A strange sense of disappointment that was almost a revulsion of feeling came over him; he lingered, he glanced again; she was certainly a very pretty woman: there was the beautifully rounded chin, the short straight nose, and delicately curved upper lip, that he had seen in the profile,--and yet--yet it was not the same face he had dreamt of. With an odd, provoking sense of disillusion, he swept ahead of the coach, and again slackened his speed to let it pass. This time the fair unknown raised her long lashes and gazed suddenly at this persistent horseman at her side, and an odd expression, it seemed to him almost a glance of recognition and expectation, came into her dark, languid eyes. The pupils concentrated upon him with a singular significance, that was almost, he even thought, a reply to his glance, and yet it was as utterly unintelligible. A moment later, however, it was explained. He had fallen slightly behind in a new confusion of hesitation, wonder, and embarrassment, when from a wooded trail to the right, another horseman suddenly swept into the road before him. He was a powerfully built man, mounted on a thoroughbred horse of a quality far superior to the ordinary roadster. Without looking at Key he easily ranged up beside the coach as if to pass it, but Key, with a sudden resolution, put spurs to his own horse and ranged also abreast of him, in time to see his fair unknown start at the apparition of this second horseman and unmistakably convey some signal to him,--a signal that to Key's fancy now betrayed some warning of himself. He was the more convinced as the stranger, after continuing a few paces ahead of the coach, allowed it to pass him at a curve of the road, and slackened his pace to permit Key to do the same. Instinctively conscious that the stranger's object was to scrutinize or identify him, he determined to take the initiative, and fixed his eyes upon him as they approached. But the stranger, who wore a loose brown linen duster over clothes that appeared to be superior in fashion and material, also had part of his face and head draped by a white silk handkerchief worn under his hat, ostensibly to keep the sun and dust from his head and neck,--and had the advantage of him. He only caught the flash of a pair of steel-gray eyes, as the newcomer, apparently having satisfied himself, gave rein to his spirited steed and easily repassed the coach, disappearing in a cloud of dust before it. But Key had by this time reached the "cut-off," which the stranger, if he intended to follow the coach, either disdained or was ignorant of, and he urged his horse to its utmost speed. Even with the stranger's advantages it would be a close race to the station.

Nevertheless, as he dashed on, he was by no means insensible to the somewhat quixotic nature of his undertaking. If he was right in his suspicion that a signal had been given by the lady to the stranger, it was exceedingly probable that he had discovered not only the fair inmate of the robbers' den, but one of the gang itself, or at least a confederate and ally. Yet far from deterring him, in that ingenious sophistry with which he was apt to treat his romance, he now looked upon his adventure as a practical pursuit in the interests of law and justice. It was true that it was said that the band of road agents had been dispersed; it was a fact that there had been no spoliation of coach or teams for three weeks; but none of the depredators had ever been caught, and their booty, which was considerable, was known to be still intact. It was to the interest of the mine, his partners, and his workmen that this clue to a danger which threatened the locality should be followed to the end. As to the lady, in spite of the disappointment that still rankled in his breast, he could be magnanimous! She might be the paramour of the strange horseman, she might be only escaping from some hateful companionship by his aid. And yet one thing puzzled him: she was evidently not acquainted with the personality of the active gang, for she had, without doubt, at first mistaken HIM for one of them, and after recognizing her real accomplice had communicated her mistake to him.

It was a great relief to him when the rough and tangled "cut-off" at last broadened and lightened into the turnpike road again, and he beheld, scarcely a quarter of a mile before him, the dust cloud that overhung the coach as it drew up at the lonely wayside station. He was in time, for he knew that the horses were changed there; but a sudden fear that the fair unknown might alight, or take some other conveyance, made him still spur his jaded steed forward. As he neared the station he glanced eagerly around for the other horseman, but he was nowhere to be seen. He had evidently either abandoned the chase or ridden ahead.

It seemed equally a part of what he believed was a providential intercession, that on arriving at the station he found there was a vacant seat inside the coach. It was diagonally opposite that occupied by the lady, and he was thus enabled to study her face as it was bent over her book, whose pages, however, she scarcely turned. After her first casual glance of curiosity at the new passenger, she seemed to take no more notice of him, and Key began to wonder if he had not mistaken her previous interrogating look. Nor was it his only disturbing query; he was conscious of the same disappointment now that he could examine her face more attentively, as in his first cursory glance. She was certainly handsome; if there was no longer the freshness of youth, there was still the indefinable charm of the woman of thirty, and with it the delicate curves of matured muliebrity and repose. There were lines, particularly around the mouth and fringed eyelids, that were deepened as by pain; and the chin, even in its rounded fullness, had the angle of determination. From what was visible, below the brown linen duster that she wore, she appeared to be tastefully although not richly dressed.

As the coach at last drove away from the station, a grizzled, farmer-looking man seated beside her uttered a sigh of relief, so palpable as to attract the general attention. Turning to his fair neighbor with a smile of uncouth but good-humored apology, he said in explanation:--

"You'll excuse me, miss! I don't know ezactly how YOU'RE feelin',-- for judging from your looks and gin'ral gait, you're a stranger in these parts,--but ez for ME, I don't mind sayin' that I never feel ezactly safe from these yer road agents and stage robbers ontil arter we pass Skinner's station. All along thet Galloper's Ridge it's jest tech and go like; the woods is swarmin' with 'em. But once past Skinner's, you're all right. They never dare go below that. So ef you don't mind, miss, for it's bein' in your presence, I'll jest pull off my butes and ease my feet for a spell."

Neither the inconsequence of this singular request, nor the smile it evoked on the faces of the other passengers, seemed to disturb the lady's abstraction. Scarcely lifting her eyes from her book, she bowed a grave assent.

"You see, miss," he continued, "and you gents," he added, taking the whole coach into his confidence, "I've got over forty ounces of clean gold dust in them butes, between the upper and lower sole,-- and it's mighty tight packing for my feet. Ye kin heft it," he said, as he removed one boot and held it up before them. "I put the dust there for safety--kalkilatin' that while these road gentry allus goes for a man's pockets and his body belt, they never thinks of his butes, or haven't time to go through 'em." He looked around him with a smile of self-satisfaction.

The murmur of admiring comment was, however, broken by a burly- bearded miner who sat in the middle seat. "Thet's pretty fair, as far as it goes," he said smilingly, "but I reckon it wouldn't go far ef you started to run. I've got a simpler game than that, gentlemen, and ez we're all friends here, and the danger's over, I don't mind tellin' ye. The first thing these yer road agents do, after they've covered the driver with their shot guns, is to make the passengers get out and hold up their hands. That, ma'am,"-- explanatorily to the lady, who betrayed only a languid interest,-- "is to keep 'em from drawing their revolvers. A revolver is the last thing a road agent wants, either in a man's hand or in his holster. So I sez to myself, 'Ef a six-shooter ain't of no account, wet's the use of carryin' it?' So I just put my shooting- iron in my valise when I travel, and fill my holster with my gold dust, so! It's a deuced sight heavier than a revolver, but they don't feel its weight, and don't keer to come nigh it. And I've been 'held up' twice on t'other side of the Divide this year, and I passed free every time!"

The applause that followed this revelation and the exhibition of the holster not only threw the farmer's exploits into the shade, but seemed to excite an emulation among the passengers. Other methods of securing their property were freely discussed; but the excitement culminated in the leaning forward of a passenger who had, up to that moment, maintained a reserve almost equal to the fair unknown. His dress and general appearance were those of a professional man; his voice and manner corroborated the presumption.

"I don't think, gentlemen," he began with a pleasant smile, "that any man of us here would like to be called a coward; but in fighting with an enemy who never attacks, or even appears, except with a deliberately prepared advantage on his side, it is my opinion that a man is not only justified in avoiding an unequal encounter with him, but in circumventing by every means the object of his attack. You have all been frank in telling your methods. I will be equally so in telling mine, even if I have perhaps to confess to a little more than you have; for I have not only availed myself of a well-known rule of the robbers who infest these mountains, to exempt all women and children from their spoliation,-- a rule which, of course, they perfectly understand gives them a sentimental consideration with all Californians,--but I have, I confess, also availed myself of the innocent kindness of one of that charming and justly exempted sex." He paused and bowed courteously to the fair unknown. "When I entered this coach I had with me a bulky parcel which was manifestly too large for my pockets, yet as evidently too small and too valuable to be intrusted to the ordinary luggage. Seeing my difficulty, our charming companion opposite, out of the very kindness and innocence of her heart, offered to make a place for it in her satchel, which was not full. I accepted the offer joyfully. When I state to you, gentlemen, that that package contained valuable government bonds to a considerable amount, I do so, not to claim your praise for any originality of my own, but to make this public avowal to our fair fellow passenger for securing to me this most perfect security and immunity from the road agent that has been yet recorded."

With his eyes riveted on the lady's face, Key saw a faint color rise to her otherwise impassive face, which might have been called out by the enthusiastic praise that followed the lawyer's confession. But he was painfully conscious of what now seemed to him a monstrous situation! Here was, he believed, the actual accomplice of the road agents calmly receiving the complacent and puerile confessions of the men who were seeking to outwit them. Could he, in ordinary justice to them, to himself, or the mission he conceived he was pursuing, refrain from exposing her, or warning them privately? But was he certain? Was a vague remembrance of a profile momentarily seen--and, as he must even now admit, inconsistent with the full face he was gazing at--sufficient for such an accusation? More than that, was the protection she had apparently afforded the lawyer consistent with the function of an accomplice! "Then if the danger's over," said the lady gently, reaching down to draw her satchel from under the seat, "I suppose I may return it to you."

"By no means! Don't trouble yourself! Pray allow me to still remain your debtor,--at least as far as the next station," said the lawyer gallantly.

The lady uttered a languid sigh, sank back in her seat, and calmly settled herself to the perusal of her book. Key felt his cheeks beginning to burn with the embarrassment and shame of his evident misconception. And here he was on his way to Marysville, to follow a woman for whom he felt he no longer cared, and for whose pursuit he had no longer the excuse of justice.

"Then I understand that you have twice seen these road agents," said the professional man, turning to the miner. "Of course, you could be able to identify them?"

"Nary a man! You see they're all masked, and only one of 'em ever speaks."

"The leader or chief?"

"No, the orator."

"The orator?" repeated the professional man in amazement.

"Well, you see, I call him the orator, for he's mighty glib with his tongue, and reels off all he has to say like as if he had it by heart. He's mighty rough on you, too, sometimes, for all his high- toned style. Ef he thinks a man is hidin' anything he jest scalps him with his tongue, and blamed if I don't think he likes the chance of doin' it. He's got a regular set speech, and he's bound to go through it all, even if he makes everything wait, and runs the risk of capture. Yet he ain't the chief,--and even I've heard folks say ain't got any responsibility if he is took, for he don't tech anybody or anybody's money, and couldn't be prosecuted. I reckon he's some sort of a broken-down lawyer--d'ye see?"

"Not much of a lawyer, I imagine," said the professional man, smiling, "for he'll find himself quite mistaken as to his share of responsibility. But it's a rather clever way of concealing the identity of the real leader."

"It's the smartest gang that was ever started in the Sierras. They fooled the sheriff of Sierra the other day. They gave him a sort of idea that they had a kind of hidin'-place in the woods whar they met and kept their booty, and, by jinks! he goes down thar with his hull posse,--just spilin' for a fight,--and only lights upon a gang of innocent greenhorns, who were boring for silver on the very spot where he allowed the robbers had their den! He ain't held up his head since."

Key cast a quick glance at the lady to see the effect of this revelation. But her face--if the same profile he had seen at the window--betrayed neither concern nor curiosity. He let his eyes drop to the smart boot that peeped from below her gown, and the thought of his trying to identify it with the slipper he had picked up seemed to him as ridiculous as his other misconceptions. He sank back gloomily in his seat; by degrees the fatigue and excitement of the day began to mercifully benumb his senses; twilight had fallen and the talk had ceased. The lady had allowed her book to drop in her lap as the darkness gathered, and had closed her eyes; he closed his own, and slipped away presently into a dream, in which he saw the profile again as he had seen it in the darkness of the hollow, only that this time it changed to a full face, unlike the lady's or any one he had ever seen. Then the window seemed to open with a rattle, and he again felt the cool odors of the forest; but he awoke to find that the lady had only opened her window for a breath of fresh air. It was nearly eight o' clock; it would be an hour yet before the coach stopped at the next station for supper; the passengers were drowsily nodding; he closed his eyes and fell into a deeper sleep, from which he awoke with a start.

The coach had stopped!


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