“Certainly, I do,” replied the sorrowful lover; “and I’m sure you can learn to love her; she is simply an angel—a goddess. Confound it! you can’t help loving her.”
“You really believe so, do you, my boy?” asked the major, with fatherly gravity. “But how would you feel about it?”
“As if no one else on earth was good enough for her—as if she was the luckiest woman alive,” quickly answered the young man, with a great deal of his natural spirit. “’Twould heal my wound entirely.”
“Very well, my boy,” said the major; “I’ll put you out of your misery as soon as possible.”
* * * * *
Never had the major known an evening whose twilight was of such interminable duration. When, however, the darkness was sufficient to conceal his face, he walked quickly across the street, and to the door of the Wittleday mansion.
That his answer was what he supposed it would be is evinced by the fact that, a few months later, his resignation was accepted by the Department, and Mrs. Wittleday became Mrs. Martt.
In so strategic a manner that she never suspected the truth, the major told his fiancee the story of the lieutenant’s unfortunate love, and so great was the fair widow’s sympathy, that she set herself the task of seeing the young man happily engaged. This done, she offered him the position of engineer of some mining work on her husband’s estate, and the major promised him Rose Cottage for a permanent residence as soon as he would find a mistress for it.
Naturally, the young man succombed to the influences exerted against him, and, after Mr. and Mrs. Doyson were fairly settled, the major told his own wife, to her intense amusement, the history of the letter which induced her to change her name.
How he came by his name, no one could tell. In the early days of the gold fever there came to California a great many men who did not volunteer their names, and as those about them had been equally reticent on their own advent, they asked few questions of newcomers.
The hotels of the mining regions never kept registers for the accommodation of guests—they were considered well-appointed hotels if they kept water-tight roofs and well-stocked bars.
Newcomers were usually designated at first by some peculiarity of physiognomy or dress, and were known by such names as “Broken Nose,” “Pink Shirt,” “Cross Bars,” “Gone Ears,” etc.; if, afterward, any man developed some peculiarity of character, an observing and original miner would coin and apply a new name, which would afterward be accepted as irrevocably as a name conferred by the holy rite of baptism.
No one wondered that Buffle never divulged his real name, or talked of his past life; for in the mines he had such an unhappy faculty of winning at cards, getting new horses without visible bills of sale, taking drinks beyond ordinary power of computation, stabbing and shooting, that it was only reasonable to suppose that he had acquired these abilities at the sacrifice of the peace of some other community.