صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

had relaxed into an expression of gratuitous and imbecile cheerfulness, -"you see, boys, I was mor'n two miles away when you passed down the road. I thought you might pull up here, and so I ran the whole way, knowing nobody was home but Jim,

and and - I'm out of breath and that lets me out."

And here Miggles caught her dripping oil-skin hat from her head, with a mischievous swirl that scattered a shower of raindrops over us; attempted to put back her hair; dropped two hair-pains in the attempt; laughed, and sat down beside Yuba Bill, with her hands crossed lightly on her lap.

The Judge recovered himself first, and essayed an extravagant compliment.

" I'll trouble you for that har-pin,” said Miggles, gravely. Half a dozen hands were eagerly stretched forward ; the missing hairpin was restored to its fair owner; and Miggles, crossing the room, looked keenly in the face of the invalid. The solemn eyes looked back at hers with an expression we had never seen before. Life and intelligence seemed to struggle back into the rugged face. Miggles laughed again,

again, - it was

a singularly eloquent laugh, and turned her black eyes and white teeth once more towards us.

“This afflicted person is ” — hesitated the Judge.

“ Jim!” said Miggles. 6 Your father?” “No." “ Brother?" 6 No.” “ Husband ?”

Miggles darted a quick, half - defiant glance at the two lady passengers, who I had noticed did not participate in the general masculine admiration of Miggles, and said, gravely, “No; it's Jim.” There was an awkward

The lady passengers moved closer to each other; the Washoe husband looked abstractedly at the fire; and the tall man apparently turned his eyes inward for self-support at this emergency. But Miggles's laugh, which was very infectious, broke the silence. “Come,” she said briskly, “ you must be hungry. Who 'll bear a hand to help me get tea?

She had no lack of volunteers. In a few moments Yuba Bill was engaged like Caliban in bearing logs for this Miranda ; the

pause.

expressman was grinding coffee on the veranda; to myself the arduous duty of slicing bacon was assigned; and the Judge lent each man his good - humored and voluble counsel. And when Miggles, assisted by the Judge and our Hibernian “deck passenger," set the table with all the available crockery, we had become quite joyous, in spite of the rain that beat against windows, the wind that whirled down the chimney, the two ladies who whispered together in the corner, or the magpie who uttered a satirical and croaking commentary on their conversation from his perch above. In the now bright, blazing fire we could see that the walls were papered with illustrated journals, arranged with feminine taste and discrimination. The furniture was extemporized and adapted from candle-boxes and packing-cases, and covered with gay calico or the skin of some animal.

The armchair of the helpless Jim was an ingenious variation of a flour-barrel. There was neatness, and even a taste for the picturesque, to be seen in the few details of the long, low room.

The meal was a culinary success. But more, it was a social triumph, — chiefly, I

think, owing to the rare tact of Miggles in guiding the conversation, asking all the questions herself, yet bearing throughout a frankness that rejected the idea of any concealment on her own part; so that we talked of ourselves, of our prospects, of the journey, of the weather, of each other, - of everything but our host and hostess. It must be confessed that Miggles's conversation was never elegant, rarely grammatical, and that at times she employed expletives the use of which had generally been yielded to our sex. But they were delivered with such a lighting up of teeth and eyes, and were usually followed by a laugh- a laugh peculiar to Miggles -- so frank and honest that it seemed to clear the moral atmosphere.

Once during the meal we heard a noise like the rubbing of a heavy body against the outer walls of the house.

This was shortly followed by a scratching and sniffling at the door. “That's Joaquin,” said Miggles, in reply to our questioning glances; 66 would

you

like to see him ?” Before we could answer she had opened the door, and disclosed a half-grown grizzly, who instantly raised himself on his haunches, with his fore-paws hanging down in the popular at

titude of mendicancy, and looking admiringly at Miggles, with a very singular resemblance in his manner to Yuba Bill. “That's my watch-dog,” said Miggles, in explanation. “Oh, he don't bite,” she added, as the two lady passengers fluttered into a corner. “Does he, old Toppy?” (the latter remark being addressed directly to the sagacious Joaquin). “I tell you what, boys,” continued Miggles, after she had fed and closed the door on Ursa Minor, “ you were in big luck that Joaquin was n't hanging round when you dropped in to-night.” “Where was he?” asked the Judge. “ With me," said Miggles. “Lord love you! he trots round with me nights like as if he was a man.”

We were silent for a few moments, and listened to the wind. Perhaps we all had the same picture before us, — of Miggles walking through the rainy woods, with her savage guardian at her side. The Judge, I remember, said something about Una and her lion; but Miggles received it, as she did other compliments, with quiet gravity. Whether she was altogether unconscious of the admiration she excited, — she could hardly have been oblivious of Yuba Bill's

« السابقةمتابعة »