“Oh, God!” she sobbed, “what else is there in store for this poor, miserable, injured life of mine?”
“Restitution,” whispered the major softly—“if you will let me make it, or try to make it.”
The weeping woman looked up inquiringly, and said only the words:
“My first wife?” answered the major. “Dead—really dead, Louise, as I hope to be saved. She died several years ago, and I longed to do you justice then, but the memory of our parting was too much for my cowardly soul. If you will take me as I am, Louise, I will, as long as I live, remember the past, and try to atone for it.”
She put her hand in his, and they left the gopher-hole together. As they disappeared in the outer darkness, there emerged from one of the compartments of the cave an individual whose features were indistinguishable in the darkness, but who was heard to emphatically exclaim:
“If I had the dust, I’d start a live daily here, just to tell the whole story; though the way he got out didn’t do me any particular credit.”
* * * * *
For days the residents of Happy Rest used all available mental stimulants to aid them in solving the mystery of the major and the wonderful lady; but, as the mental stimulants aforesaid were all spirituous, the results were more deplorable than satisfactory. But when, a few days later, the couple took the stage for Rum Valley, the enterprising Spidertracks took an outside passage, and at the end of the route had his persistency rewarded by seeing, in the Bangup House, a Sister of Charity tenderly embrace the major’s fair charge, start at the sight of the major, and then, after some whispering by the happy mother, sullenly extend a hand, which the major grasped heartily, and over which there dropped something which, though a drop of water, was not a rain-drop. Then did Spidertracks return to the home of his adoption, and lavish the stores of his memory; and for days his name was famous, and his liquor was paid for by admiring auditors.
The questioner looked pleased, yet not as if his pleasure engendered any mental excitement. The man who answered spoke in an ordinary, careless tone, and with unmoved countenance, as if he were merely signifying the employment of an additional workman, or the purchase of a desirable rooster.
Yet the subject of the brief conversation repeated above was no other than Bill Bowney, the most industrious and successful of the horse-thieves and “road-agents” that honored the southern portion of California with their presence.
Nor did Bowney restrict himself to the duty of redistributing the property of other people. Perhaps he belonged to that class of political economists which considers superfluous population an evil; perhaps he was a religious enthusiast, and ardently longed that all mankind should speedily see the pearly gates of the New Jerusalem.